Saturday, 4 June 2016

Spending Time with PTSD

     Time. We all think we have enough time to do all the things we need to do and most of the things we want to do. But do we? I have been busy posting and keeping up with the general buzz Redemption’s Bullet is making. But the recent death of a brother in arms had my mind drifting and looking back in time. To a time, I knew he was happy, and at the top of his game. So what happened? Time is what happened. 
I was doing some other family stuff in the city of Gori. I was in the back seat of the Mercedes and looking at the Beautiful Georgian countryside smear by, in that way vision gets affected by thought. Ray G. was a strong person. An Indo-Canadian man of strength and character made better by his culture and having to fit into our Correctional culture. It wasn’t an easy fit. I was there so save the peaches and ice-cream politically correct rear-view perspective. It is the pap the CSC brass serve the press. We broke everybody's balls equally so it can’t be called racist. But, we as a group forged each other harder. Pete’s big nose, Ray’s brown skin, my questionable friendship with senior managers, nothing was off limits. We used words to desensitize each other so nothing a convict might say could ever reach us. Or so we believed! This Mountain had broke. The image was almost as difficult to accept as my PTSD was. The evidence of broken mountains was just outside my window. Right in front of my face and I was missing it. The flow of water rending the mountains passing my perspective. Time and the substance of tears, destroying mighty mountains. 
Ray is not the first man left behind. I can think of ten more without really trying. Eleven people that could have been saved. Bernie, King, and others that I will not name. PTSD is a time amplifier for the suffering. It is having a greater impact on first responders now than in the past fifty years. I don’t believe this to be because we aren’t as hard as our ancestors. This theory is brokered around in HQ’s across all branches. My old man was a hard man. A loving father to be sure. But he was still as hard as the hammer that drove the nail. I watched him slice off three toes mowing the lawn. He stopped the mower. Picked up his severed digits. Pulling the mower, he returned to the house and called Mom and told her to get him a white towel. Mom asked why he needed a white towel for yard work? It was then I heard the stress of the event enter my father's voice. He just replied. “Edith, get me a goddam white towel!” Then he drove himself to the hospital. A twenty-five-minute trip. I offered to get a friend that could drive. He dismissed my offer saying the car is an automatic. 
Years later this hard man was driven to tears in my home theater. I had designed a great sound system and wanted to show it to Dad. Saving Private Ryan had just been released on video and in 5.1 THX. I put it in and as the opening scene played I saw this hard man disintegrate. Fifty years of time had passed since the D-Day landing. But for my Dad this movie and the realistic sound was too much. My father wasn’t on the beach in Normandy that day. But his comrades were. 
This was around the time I got involved in CISM at work. I was selected as I was the VP of the Union and on the ERT. The idea was driven by a Manager I didn’t get along with, but Nancy W. was the driving force behind the start of the project. I found out later it made her a bit of a pariah with other managers more concerned with budgets and not Hug sessions, as they perceived CISM to be. It wasn’t just managers that marginalized the program. Even Team Leaders held the program in contempt. I perhaps failed at this point and share the responsibility for the program not being adopted as completely as it is now. I failed to clearly show the benefit of the program. I didn’t want to be the nail the stuck out. It took me a few years to be that nail. So to the brothers, I could have helped, had I had the parts to stand up earlier I am truly sorry.
The program as it is now is good. It isn’t perfect as no system so large can be perfect. But it is not the answer. It is a coping device made to save lives and allow people to get help. The problem is the next step. I will use my case as an example. 
Our work is stressful, incredibly at times. But for me, it wasn’t a work incident that set the match. Don’t misunderstand me the PTSD was there from work. But it was a family tragedy in pairs that pushed me into the dark. I lied to myself and said I could handle it. I was my father son. I lived that lie for several months, getting worse. I had the training, skills, and knew the warning signs and yet I tried to swim out of the current myself. Time. Then a fellow CISM person asked me how I was doing. B was a little too perceptive, and sensitive for her own good. But for me it was the question I didn’t want to answer but, needed someone to ask. So after that “Walk and Talk” I decided to reach out. I called the mental health professional recommended. I was told it would be six to eight weeks to get an appointment. When I told them, I had unsupervised access to twenty machine guns, as many handguns, and 243 thousand rounds, a long pause followed. I got my appointment. It was in six days. 
I got the help I needed and got out of that downward spiral. It was my first, but it wouldn’t be my last. I wasn’t able to take sick days and as it wasn’t a condition recognized by WCB I had to work while working through it. But I got there. 
The Federal Government needs to get behind this program in a serious and measurable way. Across all departments and branches. But when a hero like Lt. Gen. Romeo D’Allaire can’t get any traction how can I. Well, I have more Twitter followers so perhaps with this new social media conscious Trudeau we have a chance. I didn’t standup years ago while inside the system. But I learned from that mistake and am standing up now. I am a hard man, and I will use anything in my power to add voice to this invisible killer that is taking our brave men. Prime Minister Trudeau, when I joined the Canadian Armed Forces a timeworn Regimental Sargent Major told the group of recruits that we were writing a blank check to the country of Canada. The amount might be everything, including our lives. When I continued my service with the Government, I didn’t put a hold on that check. Sir, respectfully I get you inherited this problem, but you stood for office. You were elected. Those, like me, that stood on guard for the Canadians that elected you need a blank check in return. 
My newest NonFiction is, in a roundabout way, about PTSD and one person's journey. How it gets written will depend on the progress the Canadian Government makes on this National Issue. Not just at the Federal Level, but the Provincial as well. This was made even more relevant last week. You see Sir, While we were burying our Brother Ray, a BC Ambulance member ended their life as well. Lost heroes, lost in time spent with PTSD. 


  1. Fantastic article brother. Obviously it comes from the heart.

  2. Fantastic article brother. Obviously it comes from the heart.

  3. Yeah part of dealing with PTSD is having an outlet. Writing is my outlet. It is probably a good thing I don't need a visa to return to Canada!!LOL! But yes it is from the heart. First responders need to be protected. All of us from soldier to paramedic and all the ones in the middle. Thanks for the public words.

  4. If only my words could freely flow out of me. Thanks for this amazing piece brother.

    1. It is a small thing to do for an incredible group of people that have earned it! I am nothing more than your old partner who has a little skill as a typing monkey! Hopefully the BRASS of all departments start viewing the people as the cornerstone of this endeavor and not a pissing post to tossed in the trash.