Flashing lights, burning buildings, “Police Line Do Not Cross” tape, make shift medical scenes, devastation and destruction.  Our job is to respond when people are in the midst of an extreme crisis. While some call us heroes, we’re really common folks called to a profession that deals with the brokeness of this world.I know first hand the every day struggles faced by First Responders. I am one.

We’ve seen people die before our eyes, helpless to do anything. We’ve responded to violent robberies, domestic disputes, homicides and suicides. We run into the dangerous situations that everyone else runs away from. We’ve rang many door bells and comforted the families while telling them that their loved one has passed away.

The sights, smells, sounds and carnage of our job can haunt us. We are trained to have answers and control situations.  It’s hard to drop it all from your mind when you walk through the front door to your family at the end of the shift. There is a stigma around admiting help is needed to mental health concerns. Heroes aren’t supposed to have emotional breakdowns, not in front of their families and especially not at work.

I tried my best to live a normal life outside of work, but I’ve suffered anxiety over simple “normal things” that remind me of horrendous situations that I’ve been called to. Sometimes I’ve slept poorly and the pent up frustrations become overwhelming on my family.

My spouse was living a roller-coaster existence, never knowing when I would be called out, uncertain if or when I’d be home. At home I was often disengaged, distant and really trying desperately to recover from the trauma of the job. My kids avoided me because of my anger. One day it became too much for my family and I found my bags at the door and told to get help. I realized I needed help but how do I do it without being judged or navigate thru the difficult depths of the situation I was facing.

I had heard of Legacy Place Society in it’s support to First Responder and Military Families but I still didn’t feel that it was something that applied to me. But stubborn me, I’ll figure it out on my own. I don’t need to talk about this emotional or relationship stuff to anyone. Guess how long that lasted.

Legacy Place Society provides confidential accommodation support for us. A quiet place, away from triggers that allows us to figure things out. Others also seeking this support understand where we’re at as they too had to make this courageous step.  We don’t have to “put on a happy face” for our kids or hide away our feelings. We can freely speak about what’s going on without fear of being judged or losing our jobs. This is a place where rest and healing can begin.  A place of support and encouragement.

Yes the first days were tough, fighting the urge to walk away, fight off the fear I wasn’t going to make it through this. But after wiped tears and conversations, and time with professional counseling, I realized I can and I will become victorious over this blip on the radar. Through tough decisions and behavioral changes, I’ve grown stronger in so many ways, including going back to my family and sharing this new resiliency from within and sharing it with my co-workers. I realized for myself and also others around me, it’s not a matter of if this same experience will happen but when.

I am grateful for the support and patience from my family and Legacy Place Society.