Do You Know the Monster Within?

So your a hard charging, fire eating, truck ape … not scared of anything, as a matter of fact you fight what we fear. You tell your friends your job is snatching lives from the jaws of death, running into buildings that the roaches and rats run out of. Your collection of fire department t-shirts is only surpassed in awesomeness by the tattoos on your flesh depicting the 343 … your a mans man, and dam proud of it.
You hear the stories of brothers, and sisters who are claustrophobic and you chuckle. You scoff at the people not capable of making decisions, they seem to “freeze” when they are under duress. You “tch, tch, tch” the NIOSh report of the fireman who made a mistake ventilating, setting the stage for the burns sustained by another firefighter that lead to his death. You watch a video of our “brothers” on a fire where tactically they appear to not know what they are doing. This video spreads virally from Youtube, to Statter, to Facebook. The comments by all the other “hard charging fire eating truck apes” are often harsh criticisms, all in the name of better training, and tactics “killing fireman the old fashioned way” … you fall in line posting “train like your life depends on it, because it does”. You read an article about a fireman who rips his mask off in a fire, and standing up, he begins to run in an atmosphere he must know is toxic, and fatal. You shake your head incredulously wondering “what was he thinking”.
Then one day everything changes, something happens, and your world is turned upside down. What you were once so sure of seems to have abandoned you, leaving you wondering if you were ever that “good” at your job. Your breathing becomes accelerated at times, and the anxiety builds. Your ability to do the things you once were capable of doing has left you … your left feeling emasculated, you begin to avoid certain training exercises, maybe even making excuses for your new found “weaknesses”. These weaknesses seem to be gaining ground on you … maybe I’m just not drinking enough, or puffing enough weed … maybe I should conquer more infidelity to prove I am a man … and if all else fails, there is always rage, and if all else fails I’ll just isolate myself. No one will ever know my secret.
Sound familiar, or far fetched?
According to researchers this is not just an occurrence, but a very common occurrence in law enforcement, the military, professional sports, aviation, and the corporate world not to mention rape, and assault victims, or terrorism.
So why should the Fire Service be exempt? Ignorance.
The fire services dirty little secret is firemen get scared. Bad shit happens, and it effects us, it builds within us, and can have a synergistic effect. Then one day it happens, your armor cracks.
You try EAP (if your lucky enough to have it) and your told your normal … by a woman, or a mild mannered man with a sensible manicure (fml), neither who have ever made a hot smoky hallway. What do they know, PTSD my ass! I’ve never been to war.
The truth of the matter is they are right, your probably more normal than you think. How much tragedy can anyone see before it effects them? Who determines what a tragedy is? Maybe it is just a bad experience, and not a tragedy. Maybe you bare