Coping with PTSD – Part 1

Posted: July 25, 2013 in EMS, Feelings, PTSD, Thoughts, Writing
Tags: , ,


I wrote this in early March of 2013. I just need(ed) to vent. I’m not looking for pity or anything of the like… I just want to get out my feelings (with a group “of my own”, if that makes any sense). It is directed more toward the general public but I digress. Part 2 coming shortly…

These eyes have seen the worst of people.

Mangled bodies of close friends and strangers alike, charred corpses, decapitations, eviscerations and amputations.

I’ve seen the effects of blunt objects and shotguns after a spiteful rage. I have the images of brain matter and hair splattered on white walls after a husband came home early and killed his wife and her partner before turning the gun on himself.

I’ve seen the body of a broken and bleeding 23 month old boy being carried from the living room floor of a mobile home to the back of our rig and fought back the tears and insurmountable rage while we worked his lifeless body en route to the trauma center… simply because his parents had beaten him one too many times.

I’ve watched the monitor as our patient’s blood pressure continued to drop as he slipped into irreversible shock, completely helpless and unable to do anything more for him other than offering very basic comfort.

I’ve seen the cold stare in my friends’ eyes, as we attempted to cut them free from the crumpled remains of their car after a beautiful day at the lake, surrounded by family and friends. And I’ve gotten the phone call hours later, still on duty, saying “I’m sorry honey, they didn’t make it”.

I’ve responded for my friends and I’ve responded for their family. Intense pressure, hurt and fear doesn’t even begin to describe how that makes me feel inside. The feeling kills me.

I’ve seen so many things that I will never be able to forget. No matter how hard I fight or how much I cry… I will never forget. The sleepless nights are just the surface of an everlasting internal struggle between my heart, my mind and these memories. If only my mind could forget the things my eyes have seen.

My heart aches every time I hear the words “Code Blue” on my radio, whether it’s my call to take or not. Someone is having a bad day… and usually it’s a large group of people sharing the same shitty feeling.

I’ve told children, parents and spouses alike, “We’re doing everything we can”, knowing full well it was a pointless affair and I was just lying to myself and to them… it’s all just a facade.

I’ve tried my best to comfort people in their last moments, while they take their last breaths… a couple were looking me right in the eyes, crying and full of fear while I squeezed their hand. I will never be able to forget that feeling of desperation, loneliness and despair.

I’ve desperately worked codes on people that were obviously DOA… just so their family looking on could rest easy thinking that “we did everything we could to help”.

I have heard the burning questions, “Am I going to die?” and “Is my ____ OK?” one too many times… and I have lied time and time again, without so much as thinking twice. It kills me. Now I tell the truth even if it may hurt.

“It’s bad but we’re doing everything we can so just relax for me, ok?”

The gouges in the asphalt are still there… and often, the holes in my heart are too. The smell of fresh dirt, burnt rubber and airbags makes me want to cry. The sound of an infant or child laughing makes me want to cry. The sound of agonal respirations ring out in my head nearly every night while I try sleep.

So what has all this taught me?

Life is too fucking short. Hold your loved ones a little closer, hug them a little tighter and love them a little harder. They may not be breathing tomorrow… and it happens more often than you would ever care to think.

A good night’s sleep is nearly impossible… either thanks to the endless recursion of nightmares or the constant fire in my lower back and shoulder blades.

I’m strong… but I’m tired. I’m driven but I’m weary. I’m losing my grip and I’m urging you… please don’t let it happen to you.


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