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I Like it Here

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The last week or so since I wrote Welcome to My Vulnerability has been pretty good.  I’ve been staying pretty busy…very busy actually.  This time of year gets pretty hectic with all of you in school and the Upward Sports season starting up.  Throw in some of the other ministries I’ve committed my time to, and I just don’t really have the time to sit down and spend much time writing.  I miss it.

As I write this, I’m watching Bubba play cars on the chair beside me before we leave for school.  I was clearing memory cards from the camera last night, uploading pictures and making room.  We had pictures dating back to the fall of 2010 on there, so I was getting a first glimpse in several years at what life was like back then  So much has changed since then.  Life is pretty good right now…even for all the hectic nonstop action we have going on during any given week.  I often think back on the times when y’all were kids and wish we could go back.  To a time when you were still learning to walk and talk.  After browsing through pictures last night, I realize I’m good.

Perhaps it’s because I have been so focused on preparing for the basketball season…so wrapped up in my rather large and ever-growing to-do list…that I just haven’t had the space in my head for much else…for any negativity.  I like it here.  I like being right here.  Right now.  In the moment.  I don’t want to live in the past.  Or dwell on it any longer.  The funk I’ve been in for much of this past month has kept me from truly enjoying every moment for exactly what it is.  Our life.  I’m ready to push the memories of that incident aside and move forward.  I like it here.  I like the present.  I like watching you play.  I like playing with you.  I look to the future with hope and confidence.  And with one eye on the future and one eye on the present, I have no eye left for the past.  And I’m good with that.  I like it here.

Love,

Dad

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Welcome To My Vulnerability

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To my friends and family in the EMS community,

Thank you for taking a moment from your day to drop by. I am honored and blessed that the creator of our Facebook page “EMS for Christ” allowed me to become an admin for the page. It has been a blessing for me to step out of my comfort zone and share some of my walk of faith with you. And I’ve enjoyed watching the “fan base” grow to just over 900 at my last check-in. I have been reluctant to share my personal blog on our Facebook page’s wall much, because I don’t want to come across as though I’m pushing my blog for my own prideful gain. I just don’t want to come across that way at all, because it’s not who I am. Most of what I write here is written as notes to my children, so they’re not things that are necessarily “appropriate” to share on our Facebook page, given the mission and goal of the page. But I’m having such a difficult time processing my emotions following a recent incident at work, that my last four blog entries have been devoted to this alone, and not really addressed to my children. Which brings me to why I invited you here today.

There was some great discussion on our recent post about dealing with on-the-job related lost-traumatic stress. I’ll be honest, I asked that question somewhat selfishly. I responded this incident about two weeks ago that started affecting me almost immediately, and the last two weeks have been a whirlwind of emotion…emotions I’m not comfortable with, and feelings that are overwhelming. My partner and I were on the confined space entry team to perform this recovery, which is about all the incident-related specifics I can share here. I posed the question on our Facebook wall, in part because I’m looking for some reinforcement for myself…but I also know that with over 900 followers on that page, there are others out there who are dealing with this too, or have dealt with it in the past. My goal was not only to help myself a little bit, but to maybe help someone else who’s in a similar season, or will be in the future.

You see, although I feel isolated and alone, I know I’m not. I know others in our “family” have gone through their own post-traumatic incident-induced stress. And I believe in drawing upon the strength of those who have walked through a similar valley. We who work in this field, be it EMS, fire, police, dispatch, hospital, public, private or military are unique. The people around us don’t get it. Honestly, I don’t blame them. Until you’ve walked side-by-side with death, you can’t understand. We truly are a family of our own, regardless of whether we work together or not. Quite honestly, I’m closer to my crew than I am some of my own flesh and blood family, not counting my wife. Love ya’ baby. 🙂 But there are some things I can’t share with her. I can’t share the specifics of my incident with her, for her own sake. She and I have talked in general about my battle, and she’s completely on board with supporting me in whatever capacity I need. But our EMS “family” can help each other in ways even our spouses cannot.

For me, I’ve had a rough couple of weeks, and I’m plowing through this minefield of emotion in several ways. I was able to seek guidance from my senior pastor two days afterward. The perspective offered by a neutral friend, who is also a believer is priceless. It didn’t hurt that he served in the field prior to being called to pastor. I’m also good friends with a new pastor who recently left our department after over ten years as a firefighter to answer God’s call to pastor a church nearby. I’m blessed to have these two great resources. I’ve also tried running to burn through the stress. Exercise helps me to focus my mind and my thoughts into something understandable. And I’ve blogged. About this topic and how it’s affected me, I’ve blogged a lot in the last two weeks.

I’ve been encouraged to share my writings in a wider circle. And I believe some of what I’m dealing with during this time of my life may resonate with someone out there on the job. I could be way off here, but I hope not. You should know, though, I’m certainly not the man with the answers. I am the WORST of the worst sinners, and I don’t consider myself worthy to help guide a fellow believer along his own path, because more often than not, I’m the one that needs the guidance. I am who I am only through the saving grace of my Savior Jesus.

I don’t like putting myself “out there”. My site here is pretty simple and quaint. I have a small following, mostly family and friends. And I’m comfortable like that. The thought of opening myself up to a bigger world is scary. I don’t like being vulnerable. And yet I believe God is asking me to do just that. To allow strangers into my little world, so someone somewhere can see that they’re not alone either. Because trust me, I feel alone and isolated in my feelings right now. I know I’m not, but that doesn’t change how I feel.

So here goes a leap of faith. If you’re walking through a post-traumatic stress-filled world, you are NOT alone. Seek the help and support you need. Reach out. To someone. I know reaching out to people at work is not always feasible. I get that completely. I haven’t shared what I’m going through with any of my coworkers yet. I think only one or two might actually take time to read my little blog, which is fine. This is part of the scary part of opening myself up like this, because I do know that several of my coworkers “like” the Facebook page, so they’re seeing this for the first time, and I’ll be honest…I’m not sure I’m completely ready for this next part of the ride. But it’s a leap of faith for a reason, right?

Whether you are in the valley now, have been there or will be in the future, I hope you can find God’s voice talking to you in what I’m sharing. Remember, I’m not the man with all the answers. But I know the man who is. He suffered everything we’ve ever suffered and more…endured everything we’ve ever endured and more. Felt everything we’ve ever felt and more. Walked everywhere we’ve ever walked and more. His name is Jesus Christ, and you can know him too if you don’t already. You can catch up with me on where I have been, and see where I’m going, by visiting my new page dedicated to this new part of my life’s journey.

Thank you for stopping in and allowing me the opportunity to share my most personal, vulnerable thoughts and emotions with you. If you are walking in the valley right now, seek support. You can comment or email me through here. You can comment on our Facebook page, or send a message to the page’s admins. You can share a general prayer request or be as specific as you want to be (and can be in a public forum). We are here for you. We are in this together. We are not alone.

“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” – Ecclesiastes 4:12

I will continue to share my walk along this particular path with you on our Facebook page, for as long as you’ll allow me. I pray you don’t see it as a selfish pride for me, but as a desire to 1. Help in my own healing; and 2. To be an encouragement for someone else’s healing. Have a blessed day and be safe out there.

Jay

Looking for Hope

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Although I cried again today just reading through my previous note, today I’m not feeling like I did when I wrote that. The weeks following the incident that started me in this crazy spiral of emotions had me feeling something different than what I feel today. For the past three days, I’ve felt a disconnect from reality, like I’m not part of what’s going on around me. I’ve had a rage filling up inside me. A rage I cannot explain. An anger that I’m finding it difficult to control. A frustration that is consuming me. I cannot get the images of that day out of my mind. But my anger is unexplainable. It’s as though I’m mad at the world…for what I don’t know. Mad at you…for something you didn’t do. Mad at myself…for feeling this way in the first place. I cannot explain why this incident is affecting me the way it is…and that angers me. It’s not the first time I’ve dealt with death on the job. I’ve held a lifeless child in my hands and not been affected like this. I’ve performed CPR on dozens of people who didn’t make it and not been affected by this. I’ve extricated people from cars who were mangled and without life and not been affected like this. Why this one? Why now? Why?

It’s only two days after the eleventh anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and I’m angry at myself because what I am going through pales in comparison to what the responders and victims went through on 9/11. What I’m dealing with is not even on the same hemisphere as their pain and loss. How selfish of me to allow this incident to affect me like this. I had a good conversation with a pastor friend who reminded me that this is my own personal battle, that I have no right to try to compare it to what others face…because this is hitting me right here and right now in my world. Each person has to deal with their own, and comparing ours to theirs is not fair to us.

Yeah, okay…which hits home with me that I know all the typical answers. Logically, I know I’m going through a post-traumatic stress, triggered by this event. I know what stage I’m in. I knew what stage I was in when I wrote the above note immediately afterward. I know what stages lie ahead for me. I knew I was affected the moment I came out of the stupid hole. I knew when I sought guidance from my pastor the following day. I knew when I shared my burden with your mom. I know where I am in the progression of what I’m dealing with. What I don’t know is where to go from here. How do I carry this burden? How do I move on with my life? How do I walk through this? What good does God have in store for this? How do I get past this anger and rage to a place where I don’t feel like throwing my hammer through the wall of the house again?

I ain’t gonna lie here, child. I’m having a hard time with this. If I had known about days like today…months like this…when I signed up for this I can’t say with certainty I would have still done it. I can’t imagine pushing papers somewhere, or working a 9-5 desk job…or making widgets in a factory all night. I love what I do, and I’d go back in that cursed hole again tomorrow if someone down there needed me. I just don’t know how to get through this. I want to, and it angers me that I can’t…because I don’t want this to affect you. All I know to do is pray.

I pray that God would either lift this burden from me, or strengthen me to carry it. I pray that He guide me through this and help me move past this season. I pray that God’s will would be done through this and through my life. I pray that you don’t remember this season when you’re older. I pray this season is short. I pray that there are no more seasons like this on the horizon. I pray that if you do remember, you can forgive me for putting you through this with me…you’re the innocent victims in this…I had a choice, you did not. I pray that my words can be an encouragement to someone else…if the purpose of my burden is to help someone, then may He help me to carry and to share it. Just writing this has helped me some. I pray that when you face something similar in your own life that you struggle with (and you will), you would find some encouragement in knowing you’re not alone. Because it can feel like you’re alone. I feel isolated and alone in this. I know I’m not, but knowing that doesn’t change how I feel.

I’m looking for encouragement in the Word, and I’m moved to tears every time I listen to “Redeemed” by Big Daddy Weave. Tears of my own personal redemption. Tears of my scar being reformed. Tears of pain. Tears of hope. A hope that is only found in God.

“Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” – Hebrews 10:22-23

I will continue to place my faith and hope in the Lord, for I know He is faithful to see me through. I will press on, forging my way through this. And I’ll pray. Because it’s all I know to do.

Love,

Dad

My Scar Revealed

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I have to start this note with an apology. To my dear children and my wife, I’m so sorry. You didn’t get a choice in who your dad is. I wasn’t a firefighter when I met and married your mom, and I’m not sure I even mentioned it was a dream job of mine before she married me. I chose this career after we married, and I was doing it before you were born. You, my dear children, were born into this. If I’d have known then what I know today…known how I would feel today, right at this moment…I can’t say with certainty I would have still chosen this life path. No one told me when I started my career that there would be days like today…weeks like the past three weeks. I did not have enough foreknowledge to know that this job would be so mentally and emotionally taxing on me…and I did not have the forethought to see how it would affect you, my precious children. I was not able to predict that you would be the collateral damage for the choice I had made. For that, I am sorry. For who I’ve been these past three weeks, I am sorry. For the person I’ve morphed into the past three days, I am sorry. I don’t want to feel this way anymore. And I feel powerless to change it.

I haven’t written much since the day this all started for me. I think part of that is because I wrote something that I haven’t shared yet. I sat down three days after that event and wrote what was on my heart and mind. It was raw. It was real. It was what I felt that day. And it scared the living hell out of me when I went back and read it. I chose not to share it at the time because it frightened me…and I knew it would alarm others. I wasn’t ready to share this scar with anyone who didn’t already know how badly I was suffering. It was just too personal to allow others to know my frame of mind. Today, though, I’m feeling something different. Unfortunately, something much worse. So in an effort to move through this pain, I’m doing what I know how to do. I’m writing. I’m uncovering my scar, and I’m sharing what I wrote three days after the call:

August 31, 2012:

My ears have heard the cries of immense pain. My nose has smelled death. My eyes have seen the unthinkable. My hands have done work that was difficult, but necessary. My lips have tasted the sweat and blood of the burdens I carry.

Daily, I walk through this life with the scars of the emotional and psychological pain I carry. A pain so deep, it threatens to suck me into the depths of my own personal hell. The burden of daily facing the memories I try to keep buried deep within the recesses of my subconscious is more heavy than I can bear alone. When I close my eyes, I see it. When someone says something totally random and unrelated, I see it. When I smell something that is similar to a smell I encountered that day, I see it. And when I see it, I’m right there again…reliving it all over again. I cannot put it out of my mind. I cannot seem to forgive myself for what I had to do to get the job done. I cannot seem to forgive myself for letting this bother me, other incidents have not. I pray that God would take this burden from me…and yet I know that it may be in His plan for me to carry this burden for the rest of my life. I pray it’s not, because at times it seems more than I can hold. If it is His will that I shoulder a burden so heavy, I pray He strengthen me for the task of doing so…because I am weak. Too weak to shoulder it alone.

I’ve cried more in the past three days than I have in the last three years. At the most odd times and in the most odd places, for no apparent reason…just that it’s so much of a burden that my heart is overloaded, and the outpouring of my pain cannot be contained. The rest of the day, I feel like a zombie…like I’m catatonic and not able to move. Honestly, if I could crawl back in bed and just fall into a deep sleep, I would. It seems the only way I can imagine living without constantly facing the memory. And yet each time I close my eyes, I’m right there back in that hole…back in the moment…reliving it all over again. I long for a day when this feeling goes away. I long to find joy in life again. I yearn for a time when I can smile again…and genuinely mean it…to feel the smile within my soul, not just on my lips.

God led me to this passage today, and I believe He did so for a reason. I find my encouragement for today, my “Daily Bread” in the words He’s given me today:

“I will rejoice and be glad in Your faithful love because You have seen my affliction. You have known the troubles of my life and have not handed me over to the enemy. You have set my feet in a spacious place. Be gracious to me, Lord, because I am in distress; my eyes are worn out from angry sorrow – my whole being as well. Indeed, my life is consumed with grief and my years with groaning; my strength has failed because of my sinfulness, and my bones waste away.” – Psalm 31:7-10

And I find encouragement in what the Psalmist says later: “But I trust in You, Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ The course of my life is in Your power; deliver me from the power of my enemies and from my persecutors. Show favor to your servant; save me by Your faithful love.” – Pslam 31:14-16

I need your favor Lord. Please save be by your faithful love. Please either lift this burden from me or strengthen me to carry it. Amen.

Love,

Dad

There you go…my scar uncovered and vulnerable. That was then. Today is much different. You can read where I am in dealing with this scar here.