Bearded Cop & Mental Health -remembering is part of the healing

-There is no doubt that I have PTSD and Depression. “This must be distinctly understood or nothing wonderful can come from the story I am going to relate” (Dickens, 1922, p. 2). –

Viewer discretion is advised. The description of the following events is somewhat gruesome and may be difficult for some readers. For those who prefer not to read the graphic descriptions, jump forward to the discussion topic. Details such as date/time/location/sex/age may have been omitted or altered to protect the privacy of those involved.

Scene 1:

The sun is blaring, the city is buzzing with its normal sounds of traffic, construction, people chatting etc.  Bang!!! What was that? Oh my… an explosion? A gun shot? A collision? I’m a few blocks away in my police cruiser but I heard that loud noise as clear as day. My partner and I share a brief stare as we were chatting about……it doesn’t matter; it’s game-time. Time to go deal with whatever that noise was. Suddenly the in-car radio pipes up. There have been multiple reports of a gunshot at first. New reports of someone lying in the middle of traffic? Wait, ah yes, now the story is coming in through follow-up calls from several witnesses calling in to our dispatch center. Someone had jumped off a balcony of a high-rise building. That loud noise, was the sound of that person’s body slamming into the pavement like a loud violent belly flop. Upon arrival, I can see the body of the person lying face first in the middle of the street. It looked as though half of their body had melted. For a brief moment, my focus is on the lifeless shell of that person. I can’t look at anything else, I can’t hear anything. Everything is silent and for that brief glimpse of fleeting time, I see the world in slow motion. Then it all comes rushing in at once; the noise, the sight of people around, the honking cars of angry drivers in the distance, the sirens from other police/fire/paramedics making their way. Once the situation is dealt with…. What just happened? A suicide. How am I? How am I feeling? Questions I don’t have time to explore because there are dozens of other police calls waiting to be answered.

Scene 2:

I’m dispatched to a medical emergency call. Why police? During a medical emergency, police are often sent in addition to paramedics and fire services. We are all first-aid trained and have some tools to assist in a situation. This call seemed different that the rest from the very beginning. I was sent to a medical emergency inside a small doctor’s office. Huh? Isn’t there a doctor already on scene? Upon arrival, I observe 2 paramedics doing CPR on a baby in the corner, 2 adults crying in the corner while screaming and being held back by another officer and…..wait….a baby? No time to think, I need to help control these parents who are understandably upset in order for the medical personnel to help the child. During the situation I learn that this baby is only about 8 weeks old or months old (To this day the only detail that really stuck was the number 8). The parents had brought their child in to the doctor’s office for a regular checkup at which point it stopped breathing and went unconscious. A few moments go by, and the baby is pronounced dead. It had later been determined that the cause of death was Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The parents are in shock. I can’t begin to imagine how they are feeling at this point. My emotions are shut off.  I need to focus on the task at hand. This doctor’s office is now to be held as a crime scene until it is released by the investigators. My job now is to keep the parents separated from the baby until they are spoken to by the detective. What do I say to them? Do I even speak? She’s screaming. All they want to do I see their child but they aren’t permitted to see the child. I’m their physical barrier to their deceased baby. I can still remember the mother’s eyes; shining due to the tears, but there’s no anger there, it’s all pain….so much pain & sadness. Worst of all, she was looking at me, this 25 year old officer for answers. Those eyes haunt me still today. Once I get released from the call, I get approached by the sergeant in charge asking if I’m ok. I ask him to repeat because I was taken aback. I had been only working for 3 years but have taken thousands of calls and have never been asked that question before. The sergeant asks again, if I need to talk to anyone. I’m surrounded by other officers on the call. I sort of giggle at the silliness of the question and responded “I’ll be fine sarge”. Why would I need to talk to someone? This is my job. This is part of what I signed up for.

Scene 3:

It is 2am in the dead of winter. I can still remember my fingers freezing as they were wrapped tightly around my drawn firearm. I’m down on one knee because I don’t know what’s going on or if there’s another threat around the corner. My partner and I shouting commands to stay on the ground and not to move as the warmth from my breath escaped into fog dissipating into the air. 5 men who had just been involved in a gang-level shooting were on the ground in the empty parking lot of the hospital. One was moaning and sporadically yelling but not making any sense. Blood was gushing out of his head. The top part of his skull was missing. He had been shot in the head but was somehow still alive. We need backup! We ask for it but the other officers are tied up on other emergencies. We yell out to the hospital until a nurse comes running out to see what the commotion was about. She runs back in and comes out with a whole medical team and hospital bed on wheels. The guy with the giant hole in his head is rushed into the hospital……

Discussion:

These are just a few samples of several traumatizing incidents that I’ve responded to while working as a police officer. It is safe to say that most officers have attended similar calls throughout their careers. The nature of the task of an officer in North-America doesn’t always allow for those traumatic incidences to be processed properly.  After responding to a stressful call, I didn’t have time to sit down and think about what I just experienced or the emotions that I was feeling.

Furthermore, it should be noted that three people may be present during a traumatic event, all three will experience them differently (Brillon, 2013).

Why write in so much detail? Because omitting details and suppressing these types of memories is exactly what contributed to my PTSD and Depression. When it comes to mental health, silence is not an option. The details are important to help me remember and process these events. Our human brains need to digest traumatizing and stressful events in order to better cope with them later on (Brillon, 2013). I should be able to better identify negative emotions or thoughts that arise from stressful events. Once the negative emotions/thoughts are identified, I must try to acknowledge them without obsessing or judging and let them leave; as a leaf floating down a steady stream. Note I use the terms “should be able to” and “try to” since I am currently in a healing process. I am not a victim. I will not be silent. Let’s end the stigma.

Thanks for following me on my journey. Stay tuned for more.

Beard on!

Your Bearded Cop

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2 thoughts on “Bearded Cop & Mental Health -remembering is part of the healing

  1. Thank you. Thank you for sharing. Thank you for feeling. Thank you for sharing your journey in healing.

    Thank you for being part of the solution removing the stigma of those who deal with mental health issues daily.

    Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It must be really hard to write this stuff.
    There are a few cops in my family although I am not one. I’m a veterinarian and friends in my field often talk about how the horrible stuff we see is easier for us because it involves animals rather than humans. That said, the constant death and witnessing of grief are hard. And, there are some things that I can’t un-see, no matter how much I want to. Also, that need to hold yourself back from someone else’s grief (so many somebody elses) kind of makes you feel dead inside.

    Keep writing. I’m going to keep reading. Your writing will help everybody else who is struggling.

    Liked by 1 person

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