What happens to the family of a first responder when tragedy strikes? Well, it depends on the tragedy. If an officer gets a physical injury while on duty, there will be support from all over. I can remember when we endured our first shooting, there was a sea of officers from one end of the hospital to the other. In the following days and weeks, people brought food, cards, helped with the children, and much more. It was a very difficult time for our family. The support made it so much easier on all of us. There was a constant flow of messages, visits, cards, etc. We knew we had support. There were still difficult days, but the support was there.
A few years later, when PTSD crept into our lives, there was utter silence. There was no one coming with food. There were no cards. There were no messages. People avoided us like we had the plague. As he slipped deeper into PTSD, I found myself completely isolated and alone as I tackled daily life. My days were spent working, caring for the children, cleaning, cooking, running to practices, and all the while trying to determine his mental state every day to determine what would be of utmost importance that day.
Towards the end of our marriage, I laid awake at night listening to him pace the floor to know if he was nearing the gun safe. To this day, I am not sure what my plan was if he did actually go to the gun safe. I just laid awake listening, frozen as I laid there. I spent my days at work calling him and texting him to make sure he had not killed himself. If I didn’t get a response, I found myself making excuses to leave work to run home and make sure he wasn’t dead. All the while, no one asked me if I was ok. No one asked if our children were ok. We weren’t ok.
By the time Safe Call Now was brought to our attention, we were dealing with suicide attempt number two. I found myself completely alone. How did we get here? The day I put him on a plane for treatment, I sat in my car and cried. I came home to our children. There was no sea of officers. There was no barrage of support. There was crickets. Slowly, I began to see where my support system was and where it was not. I had to fight for everything including myself and the children.
Looking back, I see so many opportunities we could have gotten help. I was calling every local therapist in our state and surrounding states for months with NO answers or help for PTSD. I had no idea Safe Call Now even existed. If we had gotten the help in year one, two, three, or even year four before PTSD consumed him beyond recognition, maybe we would have had a chance. Although, the ugly truth is that even on year five as far as it was, he could have done the work to get better. He didn’t. He made that choice. He fought getting help every step of the way. I would make him appointments, he would not show up for them. I would drive him there, he would lie to the therapists. He finally went in for treatment, but he walked out. I finally had to let go of trying to force him to get help. The choice is and always was his choice to make. That is the ugly truth. Yet, here I find myself still apologizing for his lack of effort in his own treatment.
What I say to those of you out there is this. Step up. Reach out. Do the work. Get better. And let your family heal TOGETHER. It may be hard, but it is not half as damaging as letting PTSD spiral in your family.
The things my children had to see and hear will forever be etched in their minds. They should have had the opportunity to see their father heal and to heal with him. Instead, they have to heal without that because he made the choice to not take the help given to him. These children visit their father with an escape plan in case his PTSD kicks in and he hurts someone. Children should not live like that. As adults, we have an obligation to get healthy to give them stability and security. Is it hard to reach out and get help? Absolutely. Is there the concern that people will talk about you and think you are weak? Let me ask you this, what should be more important……those people ……..or your children seeing their parent step up and put in the work to give them a better life and the healthy parent they deserve??
Myself and my children will answer that question for you. Reach out, do the work, get the help. Your family is more important than anything else out there. Stop waiting. Stop letting it spiral.
If you, someone you love or someone you know needs help, call:
Safe Call Now: 24 Hour Confidential Hotline: 206-459-3020
For more information on the First Responder Wellness Program: Click here
Or call Shannon Clairemont at: 661-466-6352, or Vanessa Stapleton at: 304-651-3008
To verify and confirm your insurance benefits and receive a more comprehensive explanation: Click here