PTSD and what I have learned about my own flavor of crazy sprinkles

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Celebrating Canada

Yesterday was July 1st, Canada Day and for the first time in my own lifetime, I didn't celebrate the way I normally would have. Yes,...
  • Pattie

Yesterday was July 1st, Canada Day and for the first time in my own lifetime, I didn't celebrate the way I normally would have. Yes, things have been impacted by COVID these last sixteen or so months, but that wasn't why. With the findings of the graves believed to belong to the aboriginal children of residential schools, we as Canadians are as polarized as we have ever been. To me, and not to oversimplify by any means, it comes down to how Canadians treat Canadians, and from there the global population.

Every country has parts of history they are not proud of, and part of moving forward is to learn about these things so that we don't repeat them. We don't want to erase these reminders OR glorify them, we need to remember both the rights and the mistakes of our pasts in order to make better choices in our collective future. What comes to my mind is keeping Auschwitz Concentration Camp open to locals and to tourists. Not because it is something to celebrate, but to remember how easy it was for people to be turned against each other, and to have some of the biggest historical depravities happen in the name of some twisted view of social justice. People travel there by the thousands each year to remember and in remembering have a greater awareness of how easy it was to turn neighbor against neighbor.

That said, as people grow they evolve. Hopefully for the better. Hopefully, the morals of today aren't the same morals that led to the creation of residential schools and hopefully today we identify more as one people of many colors who can SEE one another. See the differences to be celebrated, the wounds not yet healed, and the difference in perspective that help us all to grow....but only if both sides are willing to listen. Hopefully.

This year, as I celebrate a country that I am proud to call my own, I do so knowing that the people under this flag are not now nor have ever been perfect people. Wonderful innovation and horrible actions alike have been carried out under the flag of our nation. What I believe is that knowledge of our own history as Canadians are there to set our own moral compasses by. Do we continue to set it by the ethics of the past or do we continue to evolve? Do we identify by the color of our skin, or as people? I know that for me, moving forward, I want to evolve. I am not a perfect person either, I am simply Canadian.

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This week, I have turned over my blog to Nicole Carnegie who eloquently expressed what many of us are feeling. Without further ado, here is Nicole's message:

My husband has had 4 critical incidents in the past 3 years, so our family is very familiar with the emotions that can be experienced during these difficult times. Just a warning - it's long! As I sit here in tears after viewing the video memorial of yet another one of my husband’s brothers in blue, the second one this month actually, I am racked with emotion. My heart aches for the families that are left behind. The loss of a husband, a father, a son, a nephew, an uncle, a friend, a fellow officer. How to we even begin to express our condolences? Their loss is so immeasurable, so life changing, so final. When we, the families of police officers say goodbye to our loved ones before shift, we say things like “Stay Safe” and “I Love You.” The truth of the matter is that these brave men and women are going to work with the sole purpose of helping others and keeping the public safe. We are lending the public our husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, son and daughters so that in their time of need they have someone rushing to their sides to help them, to keep them safe, to make a horrible life changing event just a little bit less daunting to handle. The problem for us is that when they return home to their families, they are never the same person. How can an individual not be changed and affected by the constant loss of life, the abuse and neglect, and the tragedies that they witness? It is impossible. Every single experience that these officers have, every call they respond to, every tragedy they witness, every family member they console, every time they must use force, this stays with them. It does not magically go away! They must struggle to compartmentalize this pain, this trauma, this constant negativity in order to survive. For some, the pain is too great. We the families of these officers are at home eagerly awaiting the return of our loved one. We look forward to the two weekends per month that we can spend together as a family, we look forward to eating dinner together less than 50 percent of the time, we look forward to sleeping soundly at night not constantly worrying about our loved one who is out there working. I am sure that this expectation also puts pressure on our officers. Pressure to hide their pain, pressure to put on a happy face, because let’s face it – one wouldn’t generally choose to do this job if they didn’t genuinely care for others. This year has been hard. Hard for everyone. We have all made sacrifices for the collective good of society. The media has done a good job at focusing on the negative, and those that do not respect their jobs and abuse their power. They have also done a good job of telling one side of the story and showing one half of the video footage. Instead of focusing on the good, what positive things are being done during this global pandemic, all we hear is NEGATIVE press. Constant criticism, ill informed suggestions, judgement, hate. So – what does this do to our already tired and emotionally affected officers? They lose sleep, they lose self-worth, they question why they chose to do this exceedingly difficult job – and all of this while they are still expected to show up, be strong, help others, save lives. So, in closing I leave you with this: When I watched the video remembrance of both officers who have been lost recently, I felt overwhelmed with grief and empathy for the families and fellow officers affected by the loss of their loved one and brother in blue. I also felt very connected to their pain. But mainly, I felt an overwhelming sense of pride. What a beautiful display of respect, love and unconditional support shown by the members of the WPS during these exceedingly difficult times. Their professionalism and true dedication to their police family is unmeasurable. Thank-you for your service. Some of us do see you, do appreciate you, and are glad that you are only a phone call away always. Respectfully, Nicole Carnegie

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  • Pattie

How do you parent with PTSD? The answer for me is that sometimes I didn't. Sometimes even now, my husband is a single parent. And when I was first injured? I would say that for the first year and a half, he was not only a single parent to our two teenagers, but also had a third dependent in me. As a society, we talk about "in sickness and in health" but what about when your spouse is physically capable, but their brain breaks? In our situation thankfully my husband stuck by me and did his best in dealing with his own fears as a husband and father and did his best by our kids. No one knew what they were doing, there's not exactly a contingency plan for things like this, and no one got what they needed.

That first year and a half, I was in a deep depression and suicidal, I had pretty severe agoraphobia where leaving my room was often accompanied by a panic attack if I could even leave the room. I cried and slept a lot that first year, and both my memory and focus were gone. I had to re-learn how to read, couldn't speak a sentence without getting distracted, and would ask the same questions over and over because I couldn't retain the answer. And didn't realize I had already asked the question. Our kids did their best to be understanding and we had a lot of family dinners in our queen size bed because I couldn't leave our room.

I have never been the kind of parent I wanted to be, probably like most parents. I can't even imagine how much harder this would have been had I been a single parent, and if I was alone during that time I don't think I would have made it.

So how to move along the path of recovery from PTSD and still parent. Well, the thing I have in common with other parents is that we all screw up. And as I grow and learn about who I am now, I do own my mistakes and eventually I forgive myself for them. I don't brush them off, and because my kids are older, I tell them where I messed up and why that was wrong and I apologize with full sincerity. I try not to tell them why I did that because I don't want them to feel like I am making excuses. If they ask, I do tell them where my wrong thinking came from but as their Mom that is aside from the point. The point is that I made some pretty bad decisions with the best of intentions.....and despite my intentions I was so very wrong. But I can't dwell there. To dwell in that space means that I become the victim and I have the right to OWN my mistakes, learn from them and move on.

So, this has been part of my process. I know that "I did the best I could at the time with the tools I had available to me." And I can either flog myself for those regrets or I can move forward and model who I am now. I am not perfect and never will be. That I am continuing to "do my best with the tools I have" and am gaining more tools as I grow. And when that day comes when my kids need to voice their hurt, I will receive what they are saying and give them what they need on that day because this is also part of their story.

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