A Ticking Time Bomb..


If you've followed Ironfiremen.com for anytime at all, you have probably noticed a significant change in the style / subject matter of my writing over the past year. More recently, I've tried to get back to my "regular" type of postings in an effort to keep the mood and momentum (yours and mine) a little more upbeat and positive.

With that said, the Holidays are upon us and I want to talk a little more tonight about the topics that have consumed my life for the past 11 months … STRESS, DEPRESSION and PTSD.

I've received several comments, e-mails, calls etc over the last month or so from friends, fans, and followers saying how happy  they are to see me (the "old" Willie / Captain Wines) "back". They're happy that I'm "better" and that I made it through those "dark times".

Well, for the record; I am feeling and doing better. Thanks to so many of you, I have made some significant progress.

I have made some progress but you should also know (and understand) that I'm far from "back". I'll never get back … at least not the "old Willie" everyone is looking / waiting for. I think I've always known that but just recently realized the reality of it. Read more about that from a previous post in the link below …

Click HERE to read "Searching for a New Normal"

Like I said, the Holidays are here and that's one of the reasons I bring the topic of what Rhett and I call "Professional Wellness" back up.

TimebombThe Holidays are not "festive" or "happy" for everyone. Actually, for many; they are the worst time of the year. I'm in that category this year.

This will be the first Thanksgiving / Christmas I've spent without my Brother. Despite all my progress of late, I've also been dealing with the stress of knowing the Holidays were approaching and that I'd have to figure out a way to get through them without Jackson. I haven't been looking forward to it.

I've felt it building inside me like a "ticking time bomb" but I guess I have also been learning to deal with (and work through) these feelings. I think the biggest thing I've learned is that it's OK to have them (those feelings). It's OK to feel bad / sad and yes …. to even just break down and cry. I'm learning that I can have a "rough time" or a bad couple of hours yet still have a good (or at least decent) day.

I've been scared of it up to this point because my "lows" or "bad days" were VERY low /bad and they kept me in some dark places. I still have those feelings and go to those places but I'm not being pulled in as deep nor am I staying there as long. At one point, I wasn't so sure I'd even make it. Now, I have hope.

This may well be the "new normal" I've been searching for …. up and down days…. I just can't let the "downs" control the days or my life.

My counselor wants me to try to focus more on the "good" things. To think more about the family that IS around me this Holiday Season rather than dwelling on Jack's absence.

For me, That's easier said than done.

Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful and very blessed to be surrounded by a very large and loving family. It will feel good to be with them tomorrow at dad's house but my thoughts will also be looking towards Jackson's seat…. to the turkey leg and sweet potato casserole he would have eaten or the ball game (Cowboys) he would have been watching on TV. 

one door opensWho will sit in his seat? Who will eat that leg or casserole? Will Robyn even make it and would it be the same if she didn't? Will or should we turn the game on? 

Maybe it will be like a lot of the other things I've been learning. Maybe as one door closes, another will open.

This will be my first Thanksgiving with little Wyatt (my 2nd grandson). Maybe we will start some new traditions that the boys (The Buckaroo, Wyatt and all my nephews) can / will remember and carry on.

Maybe we'll leave an empty seat in Jack's memory so he'll stay in the boy's minds as well. Maybe instead of the game, we'll find another source of entertainment. Maybe I will be able to think about how much he loved the turkey legs and Robyn's sweet potatoes rather than the fact that he's not there. I don't know how it will turn out but I'm gonna go and see. 

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I'm fortunate to have the support group that I do. To have had the access to the treatment and help that I've received. Not everyone is as lucky.

Again, that's why I'm revisiting this topic. Suicides are  NOT more prevalent around the Holidays. They are actually at their lowest in December and peak in the spring  (read "15 Myths and Facts about Suicide and Depression" from Health Magazine..link)

valley_of_the_shadow_of_death_by_reyed33-d2zdga0With that said, it's still a time of year where many are (or at least feel) alone and certainly a time of year where our levels of stress and depression can become increased. 

Psalm 23:4 says "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me".

Often times, YOU may be the one providing the first "comfort".

Your "rod and staff" will be your knowledge of stress, depression and PTSD as well as your ability to get those affected by these illnesses to the help they need.

Do you know the signs and symptoms of STRESS / DEPRESSION / PTSD? Are you able to recognize them in your members  (fellow Brothers / Sisters)? Do you know what to do once you've identified them? (Click HERE to quiz your knowledge of Depression).

Read a previous post "When Firefighters Need Rescue" Click HERE

Here are jus a few of the WARNING signs and symptoms of stress ……

COGNITIVE SYMPTOMS: Memory problems. Inability to concentrate. Poor judgment. Seeing only the negative. Anxious or racing thoughts. Constant worrying. 

Physical Symptoms: Aches and pains. Diarrhea or constipation. Nausea or dizziness. Chest pains or palpitations. Loss of sex drive. Frequent colds.

Emotional Symptoms: Moodiness. Irritability or short temper. Agitation or inability to relax. Feeling overwhelmed. Sense of loneliness or isolation. Depression or general unhappiness.

Behavioral Symptoms: Change in eating habits. Change in sleeping habits. Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities. The use of alcohol, cigarettes or drugs to relax / cope. Nervous habits.

PTSDMaybe you see some of these signs and symptoms in yourself? Maybe you've had them for a while now and thought you were just in a "funk". Maybe you've know it was more than that but you weren't sure who or where to turn to. 

I always include these links in my "Emotional Wellness" posts so I'll add them again here. Once again I'll tell ya that I TRUST THESE SITES / LINKS (otherwise I wouldn't post them).

Safe Call Now . North American Firefighter Veteran Network . Help Starts Here . Firefighter Close Calls… Personal Survival . On-Site Academy . First Step Hope . Grieving Behind the Badge .

I hope you don't need them but I also hope that if you, or someone you know; does you'll use them. It's difficult from either end (reaching out for yourself or for a fellow Brother/Sister) but as soon as you do, you're no longer in it alone.

Here are some additional links that I'm sure you'll find helpful ….

Helping Firefighters Deal with Psychological Stress from Job's Routine and Extraordinary Events

Life Safety Initiatives (see #13)

New Trauma Screening Questionnaire for Firefighters 

Click HERE for the "TSQ" (Trauma Screening Questionnaire) in PDF

I wish you all a safe and HAPPY Thanksgiving. I hope you find it peaceful and surrounded by friends and family. I'd ask that as you give "Thanks" tomorrow that you also remember our Brothers and Sisters on duty, those who have served and fallen before us and, our Military both home and abroad.

Stay SAFE and in House!

Captain Wines