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The Need to Heal

Jun 10, 2020

As a former firefighter, it didn’t matter to me who called 9-1-1. My job was to show up and try to mitigate the situation.  The most verbal abuse I ever received at scene was actually from the family of a female Caucasian after the hospital called the code (CPR) we had been working for over 45 minutes in a rural location. We “let her die”, and no amount of reasoning with her family was going to take back those words.

So, what is the lesson here? Once things happen, once words are spoken, they can’t be undone. That is one of the burdens of post traumatic stress. You can’t un-hear those things. You can’t un-see those things. You most certainly can’t un-smell those things.

It’s not how the traumatized brain works. It holds onto things that horrify, so overwhelmed that it can’t process that packet of information, and file it away into long-term memory.

This is why telling someone to “just get over it” doesn’t work. The brain has essentially misfired and will continue to run rough until it gets a tune-up, so to speak. Trust me, that was not the worst incident I ever responded to. But it most certainly was one of many that stacked up over the years, filling my backpack as it were.

It’s been almost five years since I responded to the call that threw me headfirst into a post-traumatic stress injury. I’ve done a lot of work to get to where I am today, relatively healthy and happy. I look at many events nowadays, though, through the lens of trauma.

Yes, I’m talking about #blacklivesmatter. Yes, the vast majority of police interactions are, at their worst, neutral in tone. Most cops are relatively good people trying to do the best they can. Most people of color are also relatively good people trying to do the best they can.

I’m looking at this situation, as I said, through the lens of trauma. Both sides are carrying trauma in their backpacks. Science has proven that trauma can be passed from one generation to the next.

I don’t know what the right answer is for moving forward, other than through the lens of trauma, and my 30+ years of work in the fire service.

Stop hurting each other. There is more than enough work to do to heal the wounds that already exist. Until some of those wounds start to heal, that glimmer of hope that is needed for moving forward will be obscured in the dark, foggy rhetoric of conflict.

Want to meet for a virtual coffee?  I would welcome that.

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