People often ask "How do you do what you do?" That question is usually followed by this statement; "You must see some pretty horrible stuff." Sometimes, that statement is even followed up with a question if curiosity such as; "What is the worst thing you have ever seen?"
I don't know about you, but I find it difficult sometimes to respond. Yes, I enjoy my job. But how does one reply to someone without making themselves sound cynical? I am sure the latent public wouldn't enjoy a response that goes something like this; "I love my job, I couldn't imagine not doing it. I do see horrible stuff, all the time actually. As far as the worst thing i've seen, it is hard to choose which horrific scene I have meandered into... but I guess if I had to answer, it would be the mangled body I had 2 months ago. That person not only killed himself but a family of 4 as well." I am pretty sure the look of shock and horror one would receive would easily make most people tuck their tails between their legs, and back away ever so slowly.
But to me, this poses a bigger question, are people really so naive that they can't imagine the horrors of everyday life? Are we privileged to witness the worst of life? Does it help us handle the small issues better, or does it make the simple issues harder to handle?
Earlier, one of our admins posted a fan question regarding how we handle the worlds problems, whether we leave it at work, or do we take it home.
Many of us like to think that bad calls stay at work, but in reality they don't. I find myself often thinking about patients. Whether it be a sick teenage girl, who is a frequent flier due to kidney disease who has felt more pain than anyone should have to endure, to the multi-fatal MVA we did 2 weeks prior.
Whether we like to admit it or not, we tend to hold in our thoughts and pretend things don't bother us. We imagine that we are subhuman, with no feelings. That is a far stretch from the truth.
I worry for my children, I sometimes find myself thinking about having to do CPR on a family member, I even go so far as to think up ways to scare my own kin into never drinking and driving based on the horrific scenes I have been a part of. I save photos of deadly accidents in hopes that when I show my own children these horrific images that they just may think twice before going on a midnight drive with a "road soda."
I can go on and on about the images I have had regarding the ones I love, but I am sure you all get my point and have at some point nodded your heads in agreement.
Do we take our jobs home with us? Absolutely. Sometimes I feel like I live in two different worlds. The EMS world, of which anything can happen at any moment... most of it being bad. Moments of happiness and joy on an ambulance are a rarity. Then there is the family life, the life of which we have to pretend we are as naive as the rest of the world, just to keep ourselves from smothering our children with helmets, and life proof body armor.
How do we deal with all this stress? You see, that is a loaded statement. Some bottle it up, and over time it destroys relationships and friendships. Divorce rates for responders is simply astounding. Some find sanity at the bottom of a bottle, others rely on that pain med prescription they received when they injured their back on a call. How many of us find ourselves trying anything possible to just simply fall asleep at night? Dealing with the stress of our work/personal lives is an everyday battle, but how we choose to cope is where it matters.
Now, what are some positive stress relievers? Exercise in the form of swimming, hiking, running. Getting on your ATV and being one with that old dirt path in the woods. Going to the shooting range and firing off a few rounds. Bringing your children anywhere and everywhere. I am sure you could think of a million positive outlets. For me, my outlet is this page. Just promise me this, if you ever feel like you need to seek counseling, for the love of coffee... DO IT!
I guess the point of this overly drawn out blurb is to put into perspective the negative aspects of the stress we endure, in hopes that it could possible help someone. You need to realize that this job does effect you, then you need to find a way that suits you to blow off some steam! Take care of yourselves folks!
RU- Responders Unite