Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is one of the most misunderstood diagnosed “disorders” in the world. The diagnosis is most often related to soldiers returning from the battle field and people reliving the harrowing experiences they faced during combat.
However, PTSD can be caused from a lot of things: sexual abuse, mental abuse, physical abuse, or any other type of traumatic event that a person survives. Since every person in the world is different, some events can trigger PTSD in one person, without triggering it in another. This can make it difficult to understand for both the person suffering and the person trying to diagnose the issue.
MOST COPS WILL GET IT
Most law enforcement officers will come to develop PTSD in their career as will most soldiers in combat.
The biggest questions which cannot be easily answered are:
- How much will each officer suffer?
- How can best it be treated?
- Is there a way to keep it from destroying lives?
I wish I had the answers to all of those questions, but I don’t. What I can describe to you is what it is like to live with PTSD and how it can change the way people treat and react to you.
I can also give some non-doctor advice on how I survived and what I still currently face on a daily basis. My hope is that it can help someone out there who is suffering, find the help they need and learn to live through the rough days.
Since this will be an involved subject with many components, I am going to separate the material into a few parts.
The FIRST article will be about my own diagnosis: what triggered it, what happened when I asked for help and the steps I took to fight and win my battle against the demons in my mind. I want to share this portion of my life so that others realize they ARE NOT the only ones going through it and that there is NOTHING WRONG with them.
Additionally, by sharing my story, maybe others will not wait as long as I did to seek the help and they can return to what we consider a normal life sooner than I did.
The SECOND article will concentrate on what those who observe someone struggling can do. What steps can a supervisor or fellow officer take when they see a co-worker struggling? This can be extremely difficult for us, as we try to butt into other officers’ personal lives, but we also have a duty to make sure they can do the job and that they are ok.
I’ll be honest on the one: there is no one single right answer for every situation. However, we can go over some techniques that may help and, in all truthfulness, could save the life of a fellow officer.
I will also discuss what NOT to do. In some cases, this can be even more important than what to do. Too many times we see fellow officers, supervisors, administration and cities do the wrong thing to “help” officers who are suffering and it can have a detrimental impact on the recovery efforts and on those who may need help at a later date and time.
The final article will delve into the misperceptions that others have about people suffering from PTSD.
It is important that everyone understand what it is truly like living with this burden and what can happen. Unfortunately, most people believe the stuff that Hollywood and television promote about PTSD, or what some half-wit politician says about it.
It is imperative that we overcome these fictitious scenarios and stop harboring the fear they promote. By understanding what a person suffering PTSD truly feels, perceives, and battles with, we can overcome the prejudices people have toward the diagnosis. This not only helps with recovery, but it also helps those suffering; they are far more likely to come forward for help if they don’t fear they will be ostracized for being diagnosed.
Overall, my desire for these articles is to reach everyone and help them understand this diagnosis. I want people to understand that being diagnosed with PTSD does not mean that life is over, your career is over, that your family needs to be scared, or that the public needs to worry that you are a ticking time bomb.
Again, I will not be writing this from a medical doctor standing. There are plenty of medical papers out there and you can read them until your heart is content.
I am writing these articles from a first-person perspective; someone who has been through it, faced the demons, thought about ALL of the options I could take, survived my diagnosis and now continue through my life not only surviving, but enjoying it once again.
I want every person out there, whether they are the person suffering from PTSD, the family member of a person suffering or the co-worker of someone suffering, to know that this “illness” can be treated, overcome and the person CAN WIN!
I hope you will read the articles with an open mind, knowing the information is coming straight from my heart, and that it is in no way meant to judgmental, only helpful.
“As long as my heart beats, you will NEVER fight the darkness alone.”
Sergeant John Tarr (Retired)
“Above all, it’s about going home at the end of the shift … “
We couldn’t agree more.
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