A Firefighter’s Struggle with PTSD

By: Nathalie Michaud, Firefighter and PTSD Sufferer

Back in the Fall of 2012, I started drinking wine every night, but then the quantity increased; by 2014 I was drinking 20151110_Michaud uniformevery night until I was knocked out. I remember sitting in my rocking chair, looking up through my window, watching the moon go by as the world turned.

Read the First Installment of this series, What to say about Firefighting and PTSD?

I started abusing prescription drugs and over the counter drugs and things went from bad to worse. In July of 2014, my doctor then diagnosed me as having major depression, pulled me off work and told me I should enter a facility for my drinking problem. Of course, I did not!

So, then September 2014 comes along and the PTSD diagnosis “grenades” lands itself on me. I got worse and did more harm to myself. My desperation and my need to “make it all stop” brought me to making the only choice I thought I had.

Sitting on train tracks in my truck waiting for the train so I wouldn’t, “be like this anymore.” Something happened where I was forced off the tracks and I drove home thinking, “I can’t even do this right”.

Substance abuse bottle and chainMy self-destruction kept increasing until the moment a very dear and trusted friend lovingly confronted me with a solution: an in-house therapy program, in a private center that helps only Emergency Workers and Military and provides therapy for PTSD. Thanks to him, I decided to give myself a chance. I went into therapy on November 2nd, 2014.

There, we all spoke the same language. Most importantly, I was “normal” and everything I was experiencing was too. I wasn’t alone and the healing began. I would stay there until November 29th, 2014.

See Related: Addiction Treatment for First Responders

Even though I struggle with many crippling symptoms daily, living with PTSD has become my new normal and I’m learning to slowly take control of my life. For a PTSD sufferer, 24 hours can be hell; just getting out of bed in the morning is an excruciating and frightening task.

I now speak very openly about PTSD. I give talks at conferences to fire chiefs, firefighters, and other emergency workers in hopes of shedding a small light for someone who is in the dark and feels like I did. Much positive has come out of these conferences. Good like the audience leaves emotionally drained, but now has a better understanding of how PTSD is real and how it can lead to suicide.

I want to help stop emergency worker suicides.

My mission is two-fold: bring awareness to all so that sufferers are no longer afraid to talk and ask for help; and PTSD brain imagemove both Canada and the United States to recognize PTSD as a presumptive illness for firefighters. PTSD is a brain injury that happens because of all that we see and must deal with through our jobs as firefighters and medics.

PTSD is not about what’s wrong with me, it’s about what happened to me.

Note from Chief Avsec: She’s going to take a short break from writing more on her life with PTSD, so stay tuned in for future installments in this series of blogs from Nathalie Michaud in her struggle to live with PTSD. One more thing, PLEASE share these blogs with your fellow firefighters and other allied public safety providers! There are more Nathalies and Nathans out there who need our understanding, help, and a friend like Wayne Jasper to reach out and help them before it’s too late.

About the Author

Nathalie Michaud is a PTSD Sufferer. Nathalie served for more than 15 years in a variety of Emergency Services roles20151110_Michaud headshotincluding EMS Paramedic, Firefighter, Fire Prevention Technician and Fire Investigator in the province of Quebec, Canada. She also served for 13 years with St. John’s Ambulance in positions that included: Regional Assistant Director; Provincial Training Team; and Master Instructor.

Nathalie has served for three years on the Board of Directors for the Canadian Volunteer Fire Services Association and was recently elected to the Board of Directors for FQISI (Quebec Federation of Emergency Responders).

She makes her home in Quebec where she continues her journey living with PTSD…every day.

About Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer

Battalion Chief (Ret.) Robert Avsec served with the men and women of the Chesterfield County (VA) Fire and EMS Department for 26 years. He’s now using his acquired knowledge, skills, and experiences as a freelance writer for FireRescue1.com and as the “blogger in chief” for this blog. Chief Avsec makes his home in Cross Lanes, WV. Contact him via e-mail, [email protected].