“Traumatic events, by definition, overwhelm our ability to cope. When the mind becomes flooded with emotion, a circuit breaker is thrown that allows us to survive the experience fairly intact, that is, without becoming psychotic or frying out one of the brain centers. The cost of this blown circuit is emotion frozen within the body. In other words, we often unconsciously stop feeling our trauma partway into it, like a Movie that is still going after the sound has been turned off. We cannot heal until we move fully through that trauma, including all the feelings of the event.”
– Susan Pease Baritt, “The Trauma Tool Kit: Healing PTSD from the Inside Out.”
There is a kind of cold you’re overcome with when you see your first dead body, and it has nothing to do with the temperature outside. You keep that cold with you for the rest of your life.
It was the summer of 2002 when I began my journey working in emergency services and, while I’ll never forget the things I’ve seen, I’m finally starting to feel far removed from it all now. It’s crazy how much your life can change when you really put your mind to it. It’s been three years since that pivotal moment when I realized that I could no longer continue down the path that I was on. It was a rude awakening and a harsh reality to face – which is probably why I’d put it off for so long, choosing to lie and deny the ever obvious truth to myself. Like a fish not knowing it’s in water, you simply learn to breathe… until you can’t.
On April 15th, 2019, the fragile facade of my perceived reality came crashing down. I remember it like it was yesterday. That was the day my life changed forever.
The events that occurred that day were unfortunate and tragic, but it is because of this experience (and the events that followed) that caused me to open my eyes to the reality of my situation. It made me realize that I could do so much better, that ignorance is not bliss, and I deserved so much more than the painful existence I had come to know as my life. I consider myself lucky that I had a few good friends to confide in and an incredible therapist, able to recognize the volatility of my state of mind. It is because of these few beautiful souls, and the open minds and hearts of the people I was about to meet, that I chose to step forward from that darkness.
There are some memories that never seem to fade, and I am not certain that they ever will? There is a kind of cold you’re overcome with when you see your first dead body – but it is not the dead ones that stick with you the most. It’s the mangled ones. The ones too ill or too injured to live, but who have yet to take their last breath and die. The ones you find who are still alive, yet unable to be saved. The ones who look like your mother, your brother, your sister, your friend. The ones whose time is running short, and who need more than what you can give. These are the faces that haunt your mind. These are the ones whose memory makes your blood run cold. You keep that cold with you for the rest of your life. It reminds you to live your life more cautiously, to cherish every beautiful sunrise and every smile from a friend, because no one really knows for sure what happens in that moment when our eyes go dark. You never know what you’ll be allowed to bring with you into the unknown… what if it’s nothing?
It’s crazy how much your life can change in just a few short years. April 15th, 2019 was, in fact, the day my life changed forever… because on April 15th, 2019, I made the conscious decision to change my life!