EMS & PTSD: Behind the Mask – A Blog by Tales From The Boo Boo Bus – A Battle Lost

Well it’s been quite a while since I've posted a blog on here. Sorry about the extended hiatus! Life happened, and you know…reasons. 😉 As a bit of a refresher, this blog is written by Doc Reaper, from the Facebook page, “Tales From The Boo Boo Bus”. She is Paramedic in the USA with 8 years total experience in EMS. She is also a Combat Medic in the US Army National Guard with 9 years of experience there. Doc Reaper battles PTSD daily and cannot reveal identity for fear of repercussions. THE MESSAGE: Does the anxiety, fear, and pain ever truly leave us? Do we ever recover completely? Is it possible to turn ragged scars back into smooth warm skin? I wish I knew the answer to that. All I know is my present and my past. I see that I have come many miles in my journey to finding peace. However, I still have a very long road to travel. scars “A BATTLE LOST” Drill weekends are typically fantastic for me. I absolutely love being a Soldier, Sergeant, Squad Leader, and Combat Medic. I am among brothers and sisters that will give their lives for each other at a moment’s notice. There is no more secure feeling. Unfortunately, a Soldier had moved into my Platoon that had been accused of a role in a sexual assault incident. I knew this, only because I had been the NCO that received the report of the incident. It had been kept under wraps, on order of our Commander, to protect the victim’s identity, as they did not want to file an open report. This was absolutely shitty timing, as I was NCOIC (Non-Commissioned Officer In-Charge) of a Combat Life Saver course that we were running for our Battalion, and had no use for extra stress. The private knowledge I kept of the incident left me very distressed and anxious. I could barely tolerate that Soldier’s presence. Every moment I was on high alert. I had to check around corners before proceeding, and in general felt extremely unsafe and afraid To top it all off, I was continuously fighting off flashbacks. I would be teaching a medical class, and in the middle of instructing on how to perform a Needle Chest Decompression, I would be caught by a fleeting image of Him pummeling my body with his fists. I’d close my eyes, shake my head to clear the image, and continue as if nothing was happening to me – as if nothing had happened to me. In between classes, I would lock myself in a bathroom stall, drop my head into my hands, and breathe as deeply as I could in an attempt to physically exhale the demons torturing me. Then I’d walk back out, laugh and joke with the students and instructors, and get the next class rolling. I've developed an excellent mask over the years, if I do say so myself. fear-dark-girl-black-gloves_678 And that’s how the three days went. Mask in place, hiding the anxiety, fear and demons. Teaching, directing, and training Soldiers. My instructors put on an excellent course! When our Company Commander, First Sergeant, Battalion Commander, Adjutant General, and Command Sergeant Major made rounds during Trauma Lanes, they all said it was the best CLS course they had ever seen. More importantly our Students said it was the best course they’d ever been put through! But isn’t that how many of us that battle PTSD do? We develop one Bad Ass Mask, slip it into place, go to work, and make shit happen. No one else would ever know our work performance is all a brutal act that we’ve developed. It’s a horrifying song and dance of accomplishing the mission while avoiding triggers and the dark reality within ourselves. Sunday came and we were two hours from final formation. My platoon all sitting in a circle, conducting a review of the drill. And just like that, I snapped. The dam I had in place broke open and flooded my brain with emotions, visions, and sensations that I’d been shoving back for so long. I stood and bolted for the door, choking out, “I need to step out for a minute,” as I went. I collapsed into sobs on a couch in the office, much to confusion of two Soldiers occupying it at the time. “I-I’m ha-ving a pa-pa-nic attack.” I told them, through racking sobs. I curled into a ball, buried my face into my knees, my hands guarding my head, and cried unstopping tears. Scenes and images overtook me. I was being attacked and assaulted again. I was in so much pain- real, physical, intense pain. It felt like my skin was on fire, I had crushing chest pain, and I could feel every blow that my body had taken several years ago. I felt all the emotions again as well. Terror, confusion, betrayal, anger, panic, and defeat. I wanted to be snowed with Ativan so badly; to feel nothing was better than this. panic At some point one of the Soldiers went and got the unit Shrink. Meanwhile, the remaining Soldier was at a complete loss of how to help me out of the hell I was in. “P-please hold me.” I cried to her. She gathered me tightly to her chest, and I remained in a fetal position, racking both our bodies now with my guttural cries. I explained what I was seeing, hearing, and feeling to the Shrink- not an easy task with one foot in the present and one in the past. Over the next hour I exhausted myself to a point that deep breathing techniques began to take effect, and my brain slowly released me from the darkness. I thanked my friend and the Shrink, and returned to my Platoon just in time for final formation. After we were released, I gathered my Squad around and apologized for having to step out. I explained to them, “I have PTSD from an assault and some other things. Today I had a panic attack, and that’s why I had to run out. If you see me having a hard time in the future, it’s ok to pull me aside and ask if I’m OK. I’ll talk to you about it.” My Soldiers gave me a hug and went home for the day. Hopefully my willingness to talk about PTSD with my Soldiers and Co-workers will help. I hope it will help spread understanding and awareness. I hope it will help those who fight similar battles as me to remain strong. I hope that it will allow us all to reach out for help when we need it, and not be so afraid of our own darkness anymore. We will lose some battles, but we will not lose the war. knight_on_horse_by_anand108-d5kkylh -Doc Reaper

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