Sometimes in our lives, We all have pain, we all have sorrow…
Some of us have talked about this, and some of us are too afraid to and I understand that. However after the news of the Kansas City Firefighter who tragically died after suffering from the illness we all pretend doesn’t exist called Depression, I felt the need to write this down.
My cousin’s best friend whom I knew since I was 8 years old was also a Firefighter. We both volunteered in the same Township, hunted together, he was at family parties and eventually got on the job in our township as a career Firefighter. He unfortunately suffered from this disease, he tragically took his own life back in 2007. Many of us wept, many of us were stunned and others gossiped at the tragic loss of our young brother. We were confused, but were we really? Or were we simply pretending to be blind of a sickness that we are too afraid to talk about.
As firefighters we run into burning buildings, go into a car which is smoking and ready to burst into flames so we can hold c-spine while the other members cut the a-post so we can remove somebody. We see death throughout our career, we see mutilation and witness the loss of a person’s hard work when tragically their house burns. Yet we are cowards when it comes to talking about suicide. I am too, this is actually the first time that I will openly talk about such a taboo subject that unfortunately lives within our proud and historic fire service. I just like all of you would change the subject or try to (as we do in the fire house) joke about the issue; as if it wasn’t real.
I suffer from depression. There I said it. I have been let down, put down and as a result become my own worst critic. I like many “public speakers” or charismatic comedians use that gift as a crutch to cover up how sad I can be on the inside. I dismiss the thought of speaking to a “shrink” and try not to open up to others about what’s truly bothering me in fear that they will prey on it as a weakness. Hiding my depression can get the best of me; I will bottle it up to the point that I need to vent things out and I am only perceived as an angry person, which at times makes me feel misunderstood and leads to more depression. I try my hardest to be grateful for what God has given me; a beautiful supporting wife, and beautiful daughter, a house, my career, the opportunity to lead others and my next blessing of being a Father again (this time to a boy). I am blessed and I am thankful, yet sometimes I can get down, I can feel unwanted, unappreciated and unmotivated. It’s a crazy thing, depression. It lies doormat for a period of time but somehow surfaces and can take us to our knees. We pretend we don’t live with it, but I feel that the more we ignore it, the stronger it gets and I fear that the stronger it gets the worse it can be for us in the future. I guess this letter is my first way of accepting my depression, which hopefully will help me harness it when times get bad. As for the rest of you, I can’t speak for you but I can assure you that depression is a real thing, and in our line of work is an easy thing to surface as years go on. Be cognizant of your own feelings as well as your brother and sister firefighter’s feelings.
Throughout the world we preach this brotherhood thing, we hang the bunting on our fire houses and post the memorial patches on our social media sites yet we hide when it’s suicide. Why is that? Are we too afraid of the magnitude of its reality? Or are we depressed ourselves and worry that if we acknowledge that someone else is or was that we are admitting we are too. Scary stuff, right? But think about this, we are the ones that society depends on to figure it out when they are at their worst, yet we can’t help ourselves when we are at our worst. It’s time we shed light on this as we do for breast cancer awareness with the pink shirts. Don’t be ashamed to admit that depression is a real disease and without ever acknowledging its existence we may never conquer it.
…You just call on me, brother, when you need a hand, We all need somebody to lean on.
In all that you do, may God bless you and your family, stay safe and take care!
Passion in Leading, LLC