Like anyone who has served in both the emergency services and armed forces, I have been exposed to my fair share of death & violence. I can pretty much remember the faces of each individual who, at the time of my meeting them, were no longer ‘with’ us.
In particular, I can remember the faces of each sudden deaths which I dealt with, during my time serving as a Cop on a 999 response team in the Metropolitan Police.
I remember one such call in particular, where my oppo and I were called to a flat in the East End by a concerned neighbour, who had not seen their friend for some time.
We arrived, and even though it was the middle of a warm summer’s day, all of the lights inside the flat were on and the front door was locked from the inside. Never a good sign…
Needless to say, we gained entry and found the resident of the flat, a male who was in his early 40’s, dead in the bathroom.
What stuck out in my mind, was the fact that his mobile phone kept ringing over and over again. It was his sister who perhaps knew that there was something wrong, but who did not yet know that her brother had sadly passed away.
Or the 999 call from a mother, stating that her son had murdered his girlfriend. The young girl, in her 20’s, was subsequently found dead in a suitcase.
I remember conducting house-to-house enquiries, and speaking to one neighbour who had recalled hearing a repeated “thudding” noise which turned out to be the noise of the murderer attacking his girlfriend with a baseball bat.
And I often remember, whilst serving in the armed forces, being sent to Sierra Leone in 1999 and seeing the tragic aftermath of entire families who were tied together on a bridge, with one of the family members being shot and thus dragging their other family members into the sea below. This barbaric act was carried out by the so-called ‘Revolutionary United Front’ in order to save bullets.
You cannot imagine the sheer horror and terror which would have gone through their minds.
I would say that not more than a few days goes by, when I do not see the ghostly faces of those with whom I came into contact with, during and after the darkest moments of their short lives.
Some people might say, that I have ‘post traumatic stress disorder’. Maybe they are right. Were the incidents traumatic? Absolutely. Did they cause stress and upset? Of course.
But do I consider myself to have a ‘disorder’? Absolutely not.
The human mind deals with these sort of incidents in its own way, depending on the individual. I have been able to ‘compartmentalise’ what I saw and experienced, so that I do not ignore the effect that such things have had on my mind.
I think that to try and bury these memories and experiences, would only act to delay their inevitable effect on my emotions.
Of course, there are many people out there, who would have experienced and witnessed far worse than I have. So of course, the effect of PTS(D) will differ from person-to-person.
But I think that to call post traumatic stress a ‘disorder’ is wrong. Why? Well, anyone who feels like they might have PTSD, will maybe be put off from addressing it, because no-one likes to be labelled with having a ‘disorder’. Especially so for those who still serve.
And I think that it is completely normal for the mind to keep replaying events which have occurred, that give rise to PTSD. After all, we cannot (yet) delete our memories.
So why not just call this after-effect: ‘post traumatic stress’, dropping the ‘disorder’?
I am fairly confident, that by dropping the ‘disorder’ from PTSD, then more people will seek assistance should they feel that they need or want such. I doubt the individuals who came up with this phrase, have actually experienced life on the frontline of the emergency services or armed forces; but I could be (and probably am) wrong.
If, however, they had personal experience of being on the front line, whether in the armed forces or emergency services, then they would know that the minds’ way of dealing with traumatic events, is to try and rationalise and understand them.
This process can often manifest itself by replaying the events which were witnessed. This process is not, in my own opinion, a disorder. It’s a perfectly ‘normal’ response.
99.9% of people who have served in the armed forces and emergency services, will assert that having a sense of humour can and does help with the effect of extreme stress (and not the sort of ‘stress’ that certain journalists working at certain papers ‘experience’ as they try and meet their deadline for their next anti-emergency services / anti-armed forces article).
Indeed, this is one of the reasons why we have our emergency services and armed forces related satirical fortnightly digital magazine, S__ts & Giggles. Its (hopefully) a way for people to let off some steam.
Developing a ‘dark’ sense of humour when serving in the armed forces or emergency services is also a perfectly rational way to process the things which you have to deal with – it helps the mind to ‘rationalise’ what the eye has seen, even where there is no apparent rationale explanation.
But, if you ever feel like the images in your mind get replayed too often, or that your wellbeing starts to become affected, then there should be no shame in seeking out people and organisations who can assist you.
After all, you are only human, and you have witnessed or been involved in extremely stressful and traumatic events.
And post-these traumatic events, you will undoubtedly feel stressed. But does this mean that you have a ‘disorder’? Not in my humble opinion. It just means that you are human….
Written by ‘Cop(ex)’. An Admin of Emergency Services Humour on Facebook, and a regular contributor of our Digital Magazine, S__ts & Giggles. CLICK HERE to find out more
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