The struggles I had in the military and law enforcement didn’t come from a single traumatic event. It was the accumulation of hundreds of incidences. There is a slow deterioration of your soul that takes place when you see, hear and smell the atrocities of our world. On the job you can’t react emotionally when you encounter violence, injury, abuse, neglect, tragedy and death. It may be appropriate to go home and cry your eyes out after-the-fact, but in that moment, as you perform your job, you naturally push the fear, sadness, despair, anxiety and anger deep down inside.
I did that so often in my profession and service in the military, that after a while, I didn’t feel anything. I became almost completely numb. If my children fell down, I felt no compassion. I would respond with anger, “What are you doing? Get up! Stop crying.” If my wife was upset, I would have no empathy. When she needed support, she would get a blank stare from me instead of a loving husband.
I never stopped to deal with the emotional stress I had been through and was continuing to experience. What I learned was that those emotions don’t go away just because you hold them back. Eventually, something small would set me off and I would have a huge blow up. I felt so much shame for the pain those blow ups caused my family. My coping behaviors became more and more unhealthy and I reached a point of despair where the only thing I felt was pain.
My wife wouldn’t give up on me. She was able to help me believe that not all was lost. She is the best thing that has ever happened to me and I will be forever grateful for her patience, love and unwavering support. I started seeing a counselor, which was an important turning point because I found that I wasn’t alone and that I could heal. It’s been a long rough trip and I still have my moments where I feel a bit off. But I feel really good today. I’m still on my feet – so I’ll keep moving forward.