Note from Chief Avsec: It’s once again my pleasure to welcome Asst. Chief (Ret.) Linda Green to our pages. Chief Green is a PTSD suffer/survivor who is a great example that shows PTSD truly knows no rank.
By: Linda Green, Assistant Chief (Ret.), CALFire
The day I was diagnosed with PTSD was the first day I took a step forward on this trajectory of post-traumatic growth.
When I last wrote a post for Fire & EMS Leader Pro (March 2017), I was freshly retired from my 32-year career. I was between therapists. I wasn’t taking any medication for my new friend depression. I was, in a nutshell, miserable.
There is a large schism between living and thriving. I was breathing, and that was about it. The world was very gray. Although the headaches and nightmares had finally lightened up, my mood most certainly had not.
In May 2017, I returned to the West Coast Post-Traumatic Retreat, this time as a peer. They were right. I was still about 75% client. I was required to attend all of the education sections again. Past practice had shown that most clients don’t remember the education very well. Although I recognized a few pieces, they were right. I didn’t remember much of my week there as a client. My brain was on fire then. The tension headaches almost forced me to the ER that week.
One thing that helped though. Most of the peers that were there that spring had also been there when I was a client. In 2016 I felt they were way too happy. In 2017, I thought they were normal because they had done the work and healed more.
During the course of a roundtable discussion, what I discovered was that most of them were on medication to alleviate either their depression or their anxiety. Their normalcy was drug-induced.
Mind you, like most first responders I was extremely resistant to taking medicine. However, I had to admit that at one time I had sworn that nothing was off the table when it came to my recovery. Nothing!
After the retreat was over, I reached out to a psychiatrist affiliated with the program and inquired on a potential course of action. I then met with my primary care physician to get the prescription. The dose has been adjusted a time or two since then.
Within weeks I was feeling better. Balancing my mood made my therapy more effective. I knew I was starting to feel better when I pulled a prank on my sister later that summer.
I bring all this up because there are many paths to recovering from a post-traumatic stress injury. I don’t know what’s right for you. PTS impacts everyone in a unique way. Therefore, the recovery path is just as unique.
The point I want to make is this: Never say Never.
Until you have explored a path, you won’t know if it’s the right one for you.
I quit drinking alcohol three years ago because I knew it wasn’t healthy for my brain. I had a brain injury. Drinking poison wasn’t going to help it any.
I finally agreed to take anti-depressant medicine because I saw the positive affect it had on other people.
I also fully engaged with my new therapist as the medicine started to take effect.
And you know what happened? I started to get better.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m forever scarred by my injury. But I’m the most alive I have felt in years.
Do the work, people. Recovery is worth it!
Linda Green served with the California Department of Forestry & Fire Protection for 32 years before retiring with the rank of Assistant Chief.
In 2015 she was the Incident Commander the first night of the Valley Fire, where she suffered her post-traumatic stress injury. Linda volunteers at the West Coast Post-Traumatic Retreat (WCPR) several times a year and is now on the Board of Trustees of the First Responder Support Network, the non-profit parent organization of WCPR.
She lives in northern California with her husband of 31 years, and their two rescue dogs.