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

Welcome to our third blog post! Once again, thank you for all the support and encouragement. Please share these posts and help us reach more people. Thank You All. -Doc Reaper and Bandage-one --Brought to you by the Facebook Page: Tales From the Boo Boo Bus THE MESSAGE: I am going to steer the direction of this post in a bit of a different direction. I want to talk about triggers. My triggers. And all the batshit crazy ways that I react to them. I need you all to bear in mind that I have PTSD from multiple incidents. In summary, I have been  physically assaulted and nearly killed, shot at on scene, had a gun held to my face on another scene, and dealt with a lot of dying and dead people, as most of us have. So here are a few triggers I experienced the past year: "SHOTS FIRED" I pull under the concrete awning and call in our arrival. Hop out, walk around to the back and assist my partner out of the back of the rig. Turning to open a door farther I hear, “BANG!” I react purely on instinct. I forget where I am, what is happening. We are taking gunfire! I drop down and roll around behind the side of the Unit for cover, scanning frantically for the shooter and planning my attack on their position. I have to keep my patient and my partner safe!!! I am prepared to throw my body in front of them, should the shooter advance. There is no thought going through my brain, it’s pure instinct that I am reacting with. It is not fear I know, but anger. I will kill the motherfucker hunting us! …All of that. Every word I just wrote, I experienced in less than 3 seconds. As I rolled around the side of the unit and experienced that, I also immediately realized it was NOT gunfire, but the tailgate falling. My partner had kicked it up, but it fell back down and the concrete awning we were under made the noise sound like a shot from a handgun. I burst into tears immediately. Tears of Relief. Tears of Misery. Tears of Joy that I was still alive, Anger that I was so stupid, Resentment that I was exposed in the past to something so violent that it caused me to over react. Way over react. My partner walks around the corner and asks me if I was OK. “I thought it was a gun.” Came my strangled reply. He is military as well. “OH HONEY!” He says, and hugs me tight. I take a deep breath, and finish the job. I calmed down about five hours later.   “RUNNER” I was shopping at Wal-Mart, walking through the aisles. Picking up groceries and cleaning stuff. Minding my own damn business. “ATTACKER!!!” My brain screams at me! I thrust my cart towards the person sprinting at me. He had just come running from around the corner. I jump back hastily to create more room between him and I, and immediately have an escape strategy and an attack strategy. If I choose to escape I will double back around the aisle and zigzag out amongst clothing and toys. If I choose to attack I will---He sprints past me. Away from me... I shudder with relief and drop my arms that I had raised to defend myself without thought. I walk up to cart. Pull over to a semi-secluded spot and take deep breaths and pace back and forth until I’m calm again. Sort of anyways. I finish calming down with a beer at home. The nightmares that night were horrendous. "BRAKES" SCREEEEEEEEEECH-BAAANG!!! I cower down low and cover my head, trying to stop the movie playing in my head, and focus on the movie on the screen. But the scene in my head is winning. I'm back on that county road with all the curves and trees. Freshly twisted metal scattered around me, and screams from the burning car ringing in my ears. I am on the scene of an MVC - Car vs. Deer, no injuries. Just after arriving a vehicle going way to fast through the road loses control as they fly through our scene. Brakes squeal and I close my eyes and brace myself, praying there is no impact to go with it, but expecting it still. The vehicle skids by me, missing my body my a matter of inches and then BANG! It crunches into the tree and almost immediately goes up into flames. The occupants are screaming as I run over to try and get them out. But the frame is bent and the doors are jammed. I bust the window open and reach in to pull one of them out, but the seat belt is still on. I scramble for the buckle as the flames lick at my arms and hands. I don't feel the heat or the pain, I am so focused on saving these people. Suddenly I'm being dragged away, and I start screaming, "NO! STOP! I HAD IT, I CAN GET THEM OUT!!!" I struggle against the two Firefighters restraining me and dragging me backwards. The screams from the occupants intensify as the vehicle becomes engulfed. I break free for a moment and sprint towards the car, but get tackled a second later. They won't let me up, and my body is being crushed into the asphalt. I can feel the cool roughness of the road being pressed into my face as the screams fade away... Suddenly, I'm back in the movie theater. Eyes closed and balled up in my seat with a white knuckle grip. My husband didn't notice, since I was only lost for a few seconds and he's enraptured by the movie. I get up, tell him I'm going to the bathroom, and nearly run out the theater - shaking as I go. I walk around outside, taking deep breaths, wiping the tears from my eyes. I can usually watch movies with accident scenes as long as it is expected. Like Fast and the Furious. You know they are gonna wreck. I can anticipate it. But when it's random it is much more difficult for me to maintain my composure. So I am very careful and screen most movie I go to see, so I can be prepared. Otherwise that shit happens. “THUNDER” I’m outside talking to my friend, and there’s a storm front rolling up. All of a sudden I hear gunfire in the distance. I drop low and look for the source of the gunshots. I scan and maintain a crouched position, utilizing the vehicle as cover, thinking my friend is an idiot for not doing the same. “Umm, that’s just thunder.” He says. I pause, realize he is correct and stand up. Then another wave of gunsh—no. THUNDER. It’s Thunder.  He tries to continue the conversation but I cannot focus. Each wave of thunder I am fighting with my mind. I’m telling it what I know to be true. It’s just Thunder. But my brain keeps talking back. I can’t relax. “Let’s go inside.” I say, and start heading for the door. Will I ever be normal? Will I ever stop over reacting like a psychotic nut? Will I ever be able to just know that a bang is the tailgate. That a person who is running towards me is NOT running at me. That brakes squealing are just the movie playing? That the low rumble of the thunder is just that…thunder. I don’t think so. And, I suppose I don’t want it to, in some respect. Because one day it WILL be more gunshots. It WILL be another assailant. It WILL be another gun battle in the distance. And If I lose the instincts that were grown to keep me alive, then I won’t survive the next time. So this is it. A blessing disguised as a curse. -Doc Reaper

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