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Am I too emotionally weak for this profession?

I'm no veteran to this life as a firefighter, but I'm no rookie either. I've seen messed up things in life doing this job just as much as the next firefighter, but sometimes this job really gets to me. I don't know what's down this road anymore. I know I'm not the only one who feels this way, but sometimes it seems like it. I try to stay strong and show it doesn't bother me, but I think it's really getting to me now. I guess it got to my husband as well. From one of my previous blog posts some of you read that we were having troubles because of my job, well I guess he finally had enough because he filed for divorce two weeks ago. I love this job more than anything in life, but I guess this is one of those jobs that doesn't always love you back. A few weeks back I got called out to the scene of a car wreck. The patient was an older male who had his six year old daughter with him in the car. The girl was okay, just a broken arm and some bumps and bruises, but her father wasn't wearing his seat belt and went through the windshield. He was already deceased when we made it on scene. This particular call has really messed me up. I just keep imagining that girl and thinking of myself when my dad passed away when I was ten. I keep wondering how she's going to handle it. Every time I think of that little girl I think of the night I lost my dad. A night I still have problems with to this very day. It just seems worse now. I rarely sleep and when I do sleep my nightmares of that night have returned. I'm really depressed. When I'm at work I try my best not to let it show, but I think it's slipping through and starting to show. I just wonder if I'm cut out for this job. Ever since I started this job I shoved my emotions to the back of my existence and ignored them, but for some reason it doesn't seem like I can anymore. Will it pass? If anyone has some helpful words or something, anything, please share.

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Comment by Scott Thompson on March 2, 2009 at 5:04pm
Bobby may slap my hand for this, but get the February issue of Fire Chief Magazine. There is an excellent article called A Father's Grief, written by a chief who lost his son. I hope this helps.
Comment by Todd McKee on March 2, 2009 at 12:03pm
It seems that you are going through rough times right now, never be worried about asking for help! Here is my number if you ever need an ear to cry upon or if you need to have someone that will listen. Please call me day or night! 740-507-8802.... We are family and family supports each other in the time of need. Your NOT weak, but you are going through some significant issues.... WE ARE HERE FOR YOU! The above suggestions should really be considered to get you through this. I MEAN IT if you need someone to listen I am here or you. TAKE CARE.. Todd McKee
Comment by Ben Fleagle on February 28, 2009 at 4:46pm

Our beloved profession exacts a toll for our service that we cannot ignore, fully repair or walk completely away from. Many, many, many firefighters have emotional scars that go unnoticed or undiagnosed. You are definitely not alone. My wife is of the opinion that my emotions have become more frail after nearly twenty years, but on duty you would never suspect that. I really struggle when it involves children, ...nothing new there. I have found myself squeezing the life out of my little ones, with tears streaming down my face, unable to explain why I can't let go of them. Sometimes rage.
Todd, Lee and Joe have all given you the answers to this, and the smartest thing was to ask for help. Just writing out what you did took guts, integrity to yourself, and probably helped to begin forgetting this particular call. Disaster strikes. There is often little we in the fire service can do but stabilize the mess. We are not fixers we are stabilizers. The fact that you can look into this, analyze it and work it through shows strength, because a lot of your peers simply bury it. It goes deep, and comes out in unmanageable ways. Many of the men standing next to you simply cannot express how they feel or contain the rage they sometimes find within.

I would suggest one of the following steps:

1. Like the others said before me: See if you can get CISD counseling from your department. Its no longer the "weakness" stigma it once was.

2. Talk with the other firefighters from that tour and see if this helps to give you peace about it, you may find someone to go to CISD with you.

3. If CISD is not available, may be you have a chaplain or a local church you can go to, and ask for someone to speak with, to air your feelings and help you put it to rest. Many churches are willing and even eager to help with this.

I wish you well, Sis.
Comment by Todd Trudeau on February 27, 2009 at 2:00pm
Definately talk with your crew from that night. Like Joe said, they may be feeling the same or worse, yet feel they may look weak if they say anything or ask for help. It's not a sign of weakness, it's a sign of strength and being human.

CISD is a great resource and if your dept. doesn't have an organizaton set up to assist you, now is the time to establish it for anytime anyone needs it.

As far as your other delema, he probably will never understand what we do or why we do it. I know that doesn't take away the hurt, but this job is "in you" and you'll never be able to "just let it go"

Good Luck and stay strong
Comment by Lee Waterson on February 26, 2009 at 9:18pm

Joe's given you the right path, but here's a little more.
When I went to my interview for my department my Chief provided me with this.
We talked about accidents, reviewed pictures etc. Things I would see etc.
Then my Chief asked me to make this promise.
There will be runs that go home with you. We are human and you can never forget that.
The runs can go home with you for a little while, but they can only stay for a little while.
You have to promise me that if anything stays more then a week, that you will come to me
and talk about it. Do you have a support system, because sister this has stayed way to long.
Then on top of this, the one person who is to be there for better or worst has left.
It can get better, but you need help to get there.

It took me a year, after my husband left me standing with three kids, working part-time
and going to school to become a firefighter. Oh and the best part of it all was he was seeing
(l'll put it nice) one of my friends, the person who I was sharing my problems with etc. So it was a drop kick and then some. I'm proof that you can come back, but first you have to find yourself some help.Don't let a short term problem cost you something you've worked so hard to get.
Remember why you go into firefighting and focus on that.

Be Strong Sister.
Comment by Joe Heim on February 26, 2009 at 8:42pm

If you are having problems with that particular call ask for the help. We see way too much in this job to always try to put it in the back of your mind and try not to remember it. I am a firm believer in Critical Incident Stress Debriefings. In our department if we had a call like that we would make sure everyone was okay and request a debreifing right away. We have too many good brothers and sisters in the profession to let them go by the wayside. If that call or any call for that matter is bothering you get help, this is the GREATEST JOB IN THE WORLD and don't let emergency calls get to you without having a debriefing if you think you need one. Always remember you are not the only one that particular call may have bothered, other brothers and sisters probably are having the same feelings.

Stay Safe and Be Strong Sister!!

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