Exhausted from the weekend, I tried to get to bed early on Sunday night. I had spent the weekend with family, but had not really done anything too much out of the ordinary.
Just as any other night, I took the medications my doctors prescribed me to help with sleeping and nightmares. I had gone to bed around 9:30 or 10:00 PM that night and fell asleep very quickly.
I gasped as I woke around 11:30 that same night. I was covered in sweat and felt as though I was drowning. My heart was racing, my breathing was heavy and my muscles were sore as if I had just been in a fight.
Although I do not remember the specifics, it was clear I had woken from a nightmare. It took me two hours and another dose of the prescribed medication to calm enough to where I was finally able to fall asleep, again.
A NEW DAY AND … MORE FEAR
I woke the next morning in fear – although I could not describe exactly what I was afraid of. I was terrified!
As I lay in bed, I could not shake the feeling that something horrific was about to happen to me. I could not articulate why or what, but I just knew something bad was in my future.
From years of experience dealing with these types of intrusive feelings, I knew that laying around, ruminating over these feelings was not a successful method for coping. Laying around would only lead to a deeper depression and I knew I could not let that happen. Instead, I got out of bed, although I did not want to, and I began my daily routine.
GETTING SHOT CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE
I have struggled for years with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The cause: I was ambushed and shot in the line of duty. I have learned to rely on daily routines put in place for this exact situation.
When the entirety of my being tells me to give up, I was able to go into “auto-pilot” because I have practiced these routines. I got out of bed, took a shower, made breakfast, and before I knew it, I was walking to the gym. Just like we train muscle memory into our firearms training, we can do it in our daily life, as well.
Although I was functioning, I was unable to shake the fear that day. I found myself “peering” around each corner through the hallway of my apartment building and down the street. I felt as though someone would jump out from behind the next tree or, the driver of the next car was going to attack me.
I made it to the gym and began my workout as I do every morning. As I did, I thought…
I thought about the reason why I felt the way I did. I thought about how my feelings where affecting me and I thought about all the things I was missing out on, due to fear.
DON’T LET FEAR CONTROL YOU
Fear … Everything I was experiencing originated out of fear.
While fear can be unbelievably valuable (pointing out the obvious, it keeps us safe), it can also be extraordinarily harmful. At one time or another, fear has stolen from me happiness, peace, and love. I believe this single emotion to be one of the strongest emotions one can feel.
Fear has the power to cause one to lock up, refuse to act or shrink their entire world to the point the individual becomes a shell of what they once were. Fortunately, we each can learn to recognize what causes us fear, rationalize it, and then redirect the energy to help us push forward.
Luckily, fear is hierarchical. This means that certain fears will outweigh other fears. By actively working to change our perception of what we are afraid of, we may be able to rewire ourselves to fear things worse than someone jumping out at me from the next corner. By re-evaluating our value structure, we may learn there are things worse than our fears that continue to hold us back daily.
POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER IS NOT A JOKE
I would not wish this ailment on anyone. Unfortunately, in law-enforcement, we each experience continual trauma as individuals. Each of us does our best to keep our little corner of the world safe. As we do our job, jobs we swore to do with our lives, we find ourselves scared to talk about how these traumas affect us.
Since my shooting, I have been afraid nearly every moment of every day. I fear that I will be attacked again. I fear the nightmares, the depression and the anxiety. I fear how others will look at me as I explain how scared I live…
Although I fear these things, I fear losing more of my brothers and sisters to suicide even more. How many more suicides do we need before we decide being afraid to talk with one another is less frightening than losing our loved ones?
“Above all, it’s about going home at the end of the shift … “
We couldn’t agree more.
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