In first responder life, you’re faced with emotional situations every day. You see people in their worst moments but, for you, it’s a time to pull together and do a job. It’s a job of boots and tears, but it seems clear in training that first responders are not the ones allowed to cry.
[Trigger Warning: Aspects of emergencies which trigger PTS for some are mentioned.]
First responders are meant to be tough, trained to handle the most drastic and traumatic moments with calm and focus. After all, it’s not your emergency. That’s not your house. That’s not your mom. It’s not your kid. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get going. Do the job.
The job is not humane. The job is extreme. Your job is to handle the worst case scenario in the blink of an eye and walk away to take on another job of possibly the same calibur. Boots, gear, equipment, even training can only protect you from the physical elements (and you hope they do.) But there’s more to the job than physicality though; there’s the human side.
Truly you see the emotions pouring out of your patients, your victims, all those you’re dealing with. Most of the time, you don’t question why they would cry or lose it at a time like this. Why, then, do you hold back your own tears? Why do you feel like you need to rise above it like you’re some kind of super human? Can’t let the public see these traumas affecting you, right?
But they do affect you. You go home and see the faces, the scars, the fear. You hear the screams, the sounds, and you smell the smoke and burning. Maybe you don’t even want to sleep anymore. You push it down hoping it won’t resurface, yet off you go to another call. How long can you do this before it affects you?
The reality is not long. It’s affecting you now, right now. The only way to heal a wound is to clean it and tend to it. The more you ignore wounds, deep wounds that emotional trauma brings, the worse they get. They become infected, even gangrenous, until you’ve separated yourself from friends, family, and maybe even gotten fired. At this point, a physical wound could lead to losing a limb. For emotional wounds, this could lead to losing a life. So the question is, do you care for your inner, unseen wounds like you would for your external, physical wounds? Do you balance your boots and tears?
If the answer is yes, hopefully you’re caring for both in a positive way so you find proper healing. Let’s face it, some of us are bad at both. If the answer is no, let’s do something about that! Your whole being deserves to be healthy! It’s vital that you clean out those wounds too or they will fester. Everything surfaces at some point, no exceptions. Your inner self needs healing as much as the rest of you.
Coaching, therapy, or peer support are great starting points. Involving someone else is crucial because you need another human to see those wounds. Find a person or group you trust and start caring for the whole you. After a while, those boots won’t feel so heavy and those tears won’t feel so burdensome.