“Largely Facebook is full of c**p but I do find it cathartic at times so I am going to share a story with you lovely listeners seeing as it is mental health awareness week.
In 1995 I joined The Police or as some would call them, the pigs, the filth or the po po..
I was sick to death of hearing of all the bad things happening on our streets and rather than leave it to someone else to try and sort I decided to do my bit.
The first 15 years I absolutely loved.
Trust me when I say there is no better feeling than arresting someone for something naughty and seeing them go to court.
I had a range of roles on response, neighbourhood and different squads including surveillance.
During that time I dealt with and witnessed some pretty horrific stuff.
I’m talking about the stuff you folks see on TV like murder, rape, child sex offences, domestic violence, drugs and a whole host of other things that humans do to other humans, oh and animals.
I’ve had people come at me with fists, feet, knives, lengths of wood, a hammer, bodily fluids but thankfully never a gun.
I broke my arm trying to apprehend two scumbags trying to break into a shop.
I suffered cuts and bruises on a regular basis whilst apprehending people.
I have been spat on, vomited on and been threatened with a used syringe by someone who was HIV +.
I’ll let you into a secret too just so you all know, police officers do not get training when dealing with a great deal of things.
There is no training for seeing your first dead body, or the second or third and so on.
There is no training for seeing the lifeless body of a 6 month old baby that has been suffocated by its mother overnight as she rolled over on it whilst both were asleep in a single bed.
The smell of burning flesh and bodies that have decomposed over time is a smell that has never left me.
I can smell it now as I type.
I don’t want sympathy at all, this post is about something much bigger than that.
There is no training for finding a man in his flat on Christmas Day who had collapsed and fell on his electric fire and basically cooked himself over a period of about 2 weeks.
There is no training for delivering death messages to family members.
You get law inputs and procedural stuff but most of the stuff you learn is by watching and listening to others and finding your own style.
You do get lots of training on how not to upset people by using naughty words though.
In 2009 I got promoted to Sergeant.
It took me 4 years of hard work but I did it and I was proud of myself. I wasn’t one of the boys so I did it the hard way. I was promoted into a role I had no training for, working with CPS.
When people have a go at the police, on many occasions they are actually having a go at CPS or the courts.
The 3 things are separate and work against each other frequently.
It was a stressful time for me as I lost my mum during this time too. I was in this role for about 2 years and then I was posted into another role I hadn’t had any training for.
My health started to suffer at this time.
Headaches, blurred vision, anxiety to name a few.
I collapsed a few times at work and had a couple of stays in hospital as it was thought I had suffered mini strokes or TIAs.
Luckily it was severe migraines that mimic a stroke but good news at least. I was told that stress was the catalyst to me feeling bad and that unless I made changes in my life I would be very ill.
I now know I had been very ill for a long time.
I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in 2014 which actually answered so many questions for me. Without getting too political, from that time policing took massive hits in funding and staffing reductions.
The stress at work was becoming horrendous as senior managers made decisions that defied all logic. Do more with less and do it better. Anyone knows it can’t be done.
I was feeling pretty sh*t every single day, physically and mentally.
My mind started racing and flying off in random directions. I had some very dark thoughts. I started having nightmares, I still have them. They are always violent with me as the victim.
I have been stabbed, shot and assaulted in these “dreams” and lash out and scream in my sleep. I have witnesses. I was diagnosed with PTSD and depression by a police psychologist.
I have had lots of therapy but have been told that although medication and talking therapy are probably my friends for life, so are depression and PTSD.
I call them my friends because they haven’t killed me yet and they aren’t going to. I was medically retired last year from the job I did love but began to hate.
Almost 24 years so I can truly say I have served Queen and Country. I have the scars to prove it.
So if you are still with me then thanks.
The point of doing this is that I am 5 months on from leaving my job. I have good days and bad days, I have bad dreams and weird thoughts still.
I take medication just to keep me balanced as without it, well I don’t want to go there to be honest. I am ok though, I am surviving and I’ll be damned if I’m going to lose this fight.
If you are struggling, tell someone, if you feel down for a long period of time, tell someone.
Don’t sit with it and tell yourself that tomorrow will be better.
It might be but if tomorrow isn’t then maybe you need an intervention of some kind. Don’t do as I have which is battle on and on and end up in a cul-de-sac not knowing how to get out.
Share your thoughts with somebody or if you see someone struggling then ask them how they are.
If you had a broken leg you’d go get it sorted so why not your head?
There is an epidemic of mental health problems in this country and wider afield and the only way we are going to get grips with it is by talking and sharing.
As one of my heroes, Robin Williams once said, “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about, be kind always”.