I too am a civilian with PTSD, but back in the day – for me it was called Occupational Stress Induced Trauma. Oddly enough though I was a civilian pilot who would support the RCMP officers by flying them into Northern communities on first response calls when their own resources were not available. As a result I was exposed first hand too many of the traumatic incidents that you officers are exposed to on a daily basis. I later flew Air Ambulance from the north and was further exposed, and then again had been exposed on several incidents where I was a primary witness to a couple of accidents where death and severe injury were involved, and my efforts to help were in vain due to the severity. My story/life was further traumatized when I became an actual Victim of a violent crime which left me injured and in a coma for 4 days. Unfortunately there are no groups or organizations that support people like myself, who, although were technically present in first response, still go through all the same emotions and trauma, yet don’t fall into any particular category such as RCMP, Military, Medical, etc. So help has been limited to the clinical professions – which are limited!
The reason that I am responding to this is that 2 years ago I met a new RCMP recruit fresh out of depot. She too was deployed to Alberta. I fell head over heals for this officer, but sadly, was never able to talk to her about the PTSD incidents that I was suffering from. I find that a casual, non-detailed mention is all that I can muster. Even when I found that true love had blossomed for me, I was unable to talk about the incidents. I found also that I was unable tell her my feelings because I discovered that I was hesitant to commit to her, not as a person, but to her – as a police officer! I only discovered this about myself after she herself was exposed to her first truly horrific accident, of which many of her fellow members commented that even with their many years on the force, they had not witnessed such a horrific scene. At the time I expected that she would receive some kind of support from the force. There was nothing offered or given to her, and I began to see the early symptoms in her – of that which I was only too familiar! I found myself in a situation where now I would become a secondary PTSD individual as well as a Primary.
I sought further counseling on trying to deal with this new scenario I was faced with, but in doing so, I learned very quickly that there would be little or no support from the force for her, and none for myself as a future spouse. If I were to continue with this relationship I would have to become her support mechanism, her Rock, so-to-speak, which given time, and I believe I was close – I would have been able to fulfill that role.
To make a long story short – she broke off the relationship with me before I was able to achieve this, thinking that I was unable to express my feelings for her or unable to commit to our relationship. The very thing that I was striving to achieve actually became the very thing that broke us apart. Sadly, I still am unsure if I could talk to her about what I have experienced – as talking about it still brings back that which you are trying to forget. For that I have failed her, and unfortunately, will likely never get the chance to explain to her.
But the sad part is that I believe that as a spouse I would have been able to support her better than most, simply because I am a “survivor in the making” of PTSD, and understand the trauma that she would be going to face in the future of her career.
The sad part of this story is that the force does not support their members, and as the member stated above “I had career goals and promotional opportunities” but he was labeled as a “Faker, slacker, drain on the system”. Members are aware of these overtones, and it only adds additional stress to the already Very Stressful working conditions. It is time that the force recognizes that this is an occupational challenge that their staff lives with daily. Those with the power still have the attitude of “Suck it up”! Perhaps it is time for them to “Suck it up” when it comes to the truth about PTSD within their ranks! It is real – and my hat goes off to all these officers who make my life safer despite it on a Daily Basis! Unfortunately I have seen only a small part of what they live with – and I cannot imagine looking forward to going into work knowing what may face you that day!
Name withheld upon request