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PTSD and the British Cop

by Cirus V 4 years ago in ptsd
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A Hidden Danger in Modern Day Policing

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is defined as "a condition of persistent mental and emotional stress occurring as a result of injury or sever psychological shock, typically involving disturbance of sleep and constant vivid recall of the experience, with dulled responses to others and the outside world."

Sounds like a normal day at work...

British Police Officers carry a reputation globally for a number of reasons, but the majority being that of a positive one.

I am of no doubt that, across the globe, fellow officers will be experiencing exactly what I have been through and worse.

What is the reason for this? Well it's simple, really. We thrive on the misfortune of others.

Having spent ten years being exposed to the worst that modern society has to offer, witnessing firsthand the suffering and pain caused by the actions of others, I cant help but admit that the best jobs I have been to have ultimately had the most pain and suffering attached to them.

This is because I have been there to help people in their hour of need, whether it be consoling a mourning and distraught child wrapped in my arms as their father dies in front of them after a road traffic collision, or it is showing the greatest respect possible for the family of a child who chose to end their life by hanging themselves from a tree in the local park, subsequently the local park where I take my children to play.

I'd like to say that these are rarities, but I'd be kidding myself and you. They are all too common nowadays, and I've lost count of the death and destruction I have seen over the years.

And then there is the violence directed towards the police. It is all too common, whether it be a push or a bit of resistance, to the time I was lured into an address by a male who then attacked us with an ax. I escaped unscathed and learned a valuable lesson in running away. It was a close call, though!

The biggest problem being that we are always there, operationally ready for what ever life throws at us.

So how do I cope, or how did I cope?

I am fortunate enough to have a strong family behind me who support me outside of work, and I would often join in with the banter and the "black humour" that helps us all get through the day.

But most of all, I put it down to being one tough "son of a bitch." I take pride in being the first one through the door, capable of tackling anything thrown at me, and the one who everyone can rely on to get the job done.

So did I spend years ignoring issues that perhaps I should have been addressing? If you asked me a year ago, I would have chuckled at that question but now, well, yeah, definitely.

The best way to describe this is to imagine that our minds are like a bin. They are constantly being filled up with memories, both good and bad. We cant empty the bin, but we can find coping mechanisms to make it bigger. The problem with the bin being that, if we don't find our coping mechanism, then it will fill up, and worst of all, it will overflow.

So when did my bin overflow?

It started for me with some reoccurring dreams; seeing the faces of the people who had died over the years. It was a busy time at work and the amounting stress was clearly starting to build on me.

My mind began to piece together several different people to make them into one disturbing vision, like the reoccurring dream of a young child hanging by a dressing gown cord on the back of their bedroom door. Each time I would cut them down and perform CPR to find that it mad no difference.

The dreams would sometimes wake me up in the night and other times I would just toss and turn. I got to the point where I was making excuses not to go to bed at night, avoiding the issue.

But I could deal with this. I took it as part of the baggage of wearing the uniform.

As I used to joke with my colleagues by saying on socials, "Let's drink like police officers trying to forget a whole lot of shit." Makes sense now.

As time went on, these dreams became more frequent, but little did I know that there was more to come.

As I closed my eyes during the day, all I could see were the eyes of those who had suffered staring back at me; victims of hangings in front of me, the focus on their eyes—that chilling look up at me and through me. This would startle me and catch me off guard.

It left me gasping for air and feeling on edge. Whilst I could try and avoid sleeping, closing my eyes was a different story.

I then started to notice things out of the corner of my eye, as if someone or something was walking in my peripheral vision. At first, I put it down to being in a busy household. It must be one of the children or the dog.

But when I was in a room alone and something startled me, I began questioning what the hell was going on.

Before I had the chance to examine this in depth, I woke up one morning before anyone else in the house. I decided to get things ready for the day, make the wife a cup of tea, and start sorting breakfast for the children.

I walked into the kitchen. We have patio doors that look out to the garden. As I walked through the door, my eye caught something by the back fence. But this time there was actually something there.

As I stepped forward and focused on it, I could see a person—a young male all in black. He wasn't moving and seemed propped up against the fence. I took a few steps forward.

Oh my god, he's hanging from my back fence.

I froze. This male was as clear to me as everything else in my garden. A hundred things started to go through my mind. I could see he was dead; there was no hope for him. But I started to panic as I knew the children were in the house. I didn't want them to see this. What should I do?

I turned round to grab my phone, which I had put down on the unit, ready to dial those fateful nines, and as I unlocked my phone, I turned around and looked again.

He's gone?

I peered into the garden, but no one was there. What the hell is going on? I moved to the window that overlooks the garden to try and get a better view.

He's there, stood at the window, ligature around his neck, still very much dead, but staring. Just staring at me.

I had no idea what was going on and as I blinked, he was gone.

I stood there, sweating and confused as to what I had just seen. After a few minutes, the family came downstairs and I kept my cool, put on my tough guy ac,t and carried on with the day.

I was still choosing to ignore what was happening to me until a few days later after work. I was in the gym. It was midnight and I was on the cross trainer, trying to get my mind off the day.

The cross trainer is situated in front of a large mirror. As I looked up into the mirror, I noticed someone stood next to me. I turned to see who was there, but as I did, there was no one.

I glanced back to the mirror and there he was, stood, ligature around his neck, dressed in black. As before, he was clearly deceased, but staring directly at me. But this time I couldn't shake it. As long as I looked in the mirror, he was there.

I got off the cross trainer as quickly as I could and got out of there.

The drive home was a long one; a lot going on in my head. Am I losing it?

I finally confided in my wife and sought help at work through our Trauma Risk Incident Management service. They gave me someone to talk to and provided me with specialist counseling.

I am now by no means better. I still get the nightmares and the hallucinations, but I am learning to cope with them.

It's something that everyone in a pubic service/sector job will constantly face throughout their career. It wont stop me striving to help those in need. I wont shy away from the more difficult jobs to save myself from a restless night. It isn't in my nature. I joined to help people and I am damn sure that I will continue with that.

I will never lose those images or those experiences, as I can't empty my bin.

But I am on the right road to making it that little bit bigger.


About the author

Cirus V

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