I never experienced the fear which I now live with from PTSD, the mental anguish is far worse than any physical harm

Hi, my name is Rick de Gruyl. I am a former Canadian Forces Military Policeman and volunteer firefighter. In 2008 I became permanently disabled as a result of an injury while battling a forest fire. My injury is permanent and comes with lots of continuous pain. ( Not able to be repaired due to other health problems).

As a result of the injury I have limited weight bearing times while walking, and standing still is limited to a couple minutes. I take Opiads for pain control, 12 to 14 ice pacs a day and lots of elevation and sitting. Due to the opiads I can not legally drive for first 2 hours after consumption, thus driving to possible work not legal or safe for myself or others on the road. We live in a remote area with no jobs, (but lots of cheap homes).

For the past 5 1/2 years, Work Safe NB has been limiting my monthly disability to $505 instead of the $2,200 I made a month prior to volunteer firefighting accident/ disability. This because they say I can work in town, but I refuse to drive impaired by prescribed narcotics/ opiads which they pay for due to chronic pain. As a former policeman and firefighter I have seen the result and impact on families from impaired driving accidents. Most of the time the impaired driver walks away with only a scratch while leaving innocent victims dead or seriously injured. I WILL NOT DO IT! EVEN THOU IT COSTS MY WIFE AND I FINANCIALLY!! It completely violates all I worked for as a policeman and volunteer firefighter, not to mention it is a criminal code of Canada violation.

I survived numerous physical injuries as a Military Policeman carrying out my duties. Knives, guns, broken bottle free for alls in the bars and multiple assailant attacks etc. Just responding to some calls was dangerous and great care was required responding lights and sirens.

As a firefighter and Policeman, I attended attempted suicides, bad accidents, structure fires, forest fires, continual training, weapons calls, shots fired calls, domestics (one of the most unpredictable and dangerous calls you could go to), hand to hand fights and on and on. I was also assigned to a multiple agency undercover operation while just straight out of the Canadian Forces School of Intelligence and Security, (new face, no one knew me). This was a drug operation to gather intel on a biker gang distributing drugs to military personnel. This involved working as a bouncer in a biker establishment. Great work out but crappy hours.

As a result of this tasking I feared for my family safety and one night shift I was dispatched full code to shots fired at an my home address. The whole way there and to this very day I thought my family was being killed as a result of my job.  Turned out to be a suicide attempt in the neighboring yard. This call has haunted me to no end but was made worse 30 years later and resulted in suicidal thoughts and my own attempt. At the time I was the Director of Operations for VETS Canada NB, (Veteran’s emergency transition services). We had just finished a brutal week November 2013, (just a month after being established), 4 clients at the same time in NB and dealing with 3 out of province vets who were desperate. 2 of the clients in NB I was working with were suicidal and both have told me months afterwards that they would not be here today if I hadn’t spent that week with them getting them help and support they needed. I am the Atlantic Rep for the Pointsman Association and page admin.  This is for military personnel and retired guys/ gals. We have a large following worldwide mostly serving and retired police officers and we try to keep our soldiers abroad in touch with events at home so they feel a part of them. Our main purpose is to HONOUR & REMEMBER our fallen brothers and sisters.

After having been mentally worn down fighting with Work Safe NB for past 5 1/2 years about the impaired driving/ getting to work safely and legally thing, then being swamped with 5 suicidal vets in one week, all at the same time several military suicides happened as well as 3 police officer suicides and 2 paramedics and 1 firefighter. All this in the space of 3 months just wore me down to nothing, no feelings, not interaction with my wife and loved ones and military and first responder contacts. I again thought seriously about ending. It was the summer a few months earlier that I loaded the shot gun and aimed at my head, finger on the trigger, millimeters from being done with everything.

Now it is Christmas Day 2013, depressed, haven’t slept for 3 1/2 weeks, can’t eat much. I take the shot gun out to work shop, fed up with these thoughts constantly, I grab the shells and carefully disassemble them, then I proceed to cut up the shot gun in 3 inch pieces after busting firing pin. I put them in the wood stove melting them, no relief of thoughts, I am getting mad now thinking that cutting it up would make me feel better but nothing. I see my mobility scooter which we bought our selves used 2 years ago. It was broke down for past 2 months, (couldn’t afford to fix it as work safe nb would not buy one for us).  Another appeal underway. But the broke down mobility scooter we bought came to a melting point in a ball of fire, this being done out of frustration and inability to think clearly after past 3 1/2 weeks.

I finally reached out for help thru tema.ca to a RCMP doctor whom I met in Halifax months earlier. He directed me to sources of help thru Veterans Affairs and the OSI clinic. I am under initial treatment for PTSD now. Have some good days and still bad days. In time I hope and pray I will be able to handle this with help.  Thru out this ordeal my grandsons and wife Marian have been my reason for sticking around. She never left me although I would not have blamed her. I’ve heard of many wives leaving for a whole lot less reason.

I have faced death a few times during weapons calls as a Military Policeman and again as a Volunteer Firefighter. But I never experienced the fear which I now live with from PTSD, the mental anguish is far worse than any physical harm. One particular incident; in 2006 we were training in a live burn scenario to feel the heat to qualify for the practical portion of our level 1 firefighter training. We were in a room in an old house where a fire was burning in a metal barrel. Suddenly the room flashed over, the entire room, walls, flooring, ceiling and contents were now on fire. The tic, (thermal image camera) last reading was 1200 degrees, it then shut down. Fire Chief called evacuates room and radioed backup team to NOT SPRAY WATER. We exited the room following the hose line 30 feet to the outside, zero visibility. As I exited the structure I felt extremely hot, I saw several firefighters running towards me. I WAS ON FIRE! and the gear was melting off of my body.

They smothered the fire out and attempted to remove my bunker gear and scba and helmet. It was so hot they tried a few times before being successful. They could not touch my body for a few minutes as it was very hot, one said the colour of a fire truck. God had saved my physical life once again. The only burn I had was on my left ear were the fire had rolled up under my helmet and burned thru the balaclava. The regulator from the scba was warped and appeared to have taken in super-heated gases to my lungs at 2200 degrees. They should have been fried and it was by the grace of God that I walked out of that flashover. I trusted in my training, I believed in the instructors and relied on direction from Fire Chief Daryl Price. But the voice I heard that day was of God, who said; “everything will be all right, do not fear”.

Physical injury verses mental injury. If I had to choose between the 2? It would be the physical and its physical pain. There is nothing worse than the mental suffering a person with PTSD lives with and relives over and over. There are many more stories about calls as a policeman and firefighter. BUT with organizations like tema.ca there is a new hope for people to accept those of us living with PTSD and not fear us or disbelieve our injury because they can’t see it with eyes.

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One thought on “I never experienced the fear which I now live with from PTSD, the mental anguish is far worse than any physical harm

  1. You sir have my complete respect for your grit in dealing with both physical and mental hell. I admire your resilience to go on and acknowledge those that have stuck with you all the way your family. You are also part of a bigger family of disabled Millitary, RCMP, Police Services, Fire, EMS, Corrections all have walked your walk. We are a brother and sisterhood and we stand together. Again you have my admiration and you are an example to others that life will never be the same but can and will get better never the less.. Eric Rebiere (Former Cst. RCMP 37515 LSGC and Military Veteran)

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