There are different definitions of insanity. Webster’s describes it as “a severely disordered state of the mind usually occurring as a specific disorder”, or for legal “unsoundness of mind or lack of the ability to understand that prevents one from having the mental capacity required by law to enter into a particular relationship, status, or transaction or that releases one from criminal or civil responsibility”. There are people who define insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. That quote has been credited to so many different people I will not even try to give the credit.
The version that I think we have heard when we joined the fire service is that insanity is being a firefighter. When there is a burning building and all the rats and roaches are running out, we are the ones running in. And we do that willingly.
We have many self-destructive tendencies, according to the public. We willingly put ourselves into situations that people do not want to see, or acknowledge that they even exist. We have seen people who did not survive fires, all ages. We have seen people mangled up in car wrecks. We have responded to calls with our Brothers and Sisters as the victims. We have responded to calls at our loved one’s houses. And we do this because we have the skill set that is required.
We have said “hello” to emergency services and “Goodbye” to the age of innocence. We at times take on so much that it affects us. Maybe not at the scene, or the next one, or the next, but we forget that stress affects us cumulatively. How many of us may have the whiff of a smell that brings us to a bad call? You know the smell that brings you back.
Do you avoid certain parts of town or certain holiday celebrations? I recall on Christmas morning, when I first joined, we had a house fire at about 0800 hours and the house was fully engulfed. We found out after the fire that the homeowner perished within three-feet of the door.
We need to find ways to correctly process these thoughts and memories. I have recently spoken with someone who found a member of his station dead in their station, apparently by his own hands. The person who told me this still told it with tears in his eyes, but he was able to deal with it.
When a life is taken, so much is lost, so much knowledge, humor, love. If we look at it from one side, the person has spent so much time in training and has so much experience that it would be a shame to lose all of that. But the human side of me says, that was someone with a family, mom, dad, brother, uncle, aunt, sister, son, daughter, instructor, mentor, friend, Brother, Sister, someone that we may have answered many calls with. What is that person worth to you? Would you be willing to open up your mouth to help them? Are you willing to ask them what is wrong, when they do not look or act right?
I had a friend who died a while back. He always taught that the human needs a certain amount of hugs a day to thrive. I forgot what the number was. Does it really matter? We all need human contact, a sign of affection. Are you willing to let someone cry on your shoulders? Do you have someone that is close enough that if you need to cry, that you can cry on their shoulders? Don’t worry, you do not have to do it in front of a crowd, if you are not comfortable.
I had someone tell me that their father said that real men don’t cry and that he was never allowed to talk about the problem. Wow, the father basically cursed the son for thirty years. I gave him the safe zone to talk about it. He cried on my shoulders, first time in thirty years. Do you how much that helped and started him in his healing process.
It is okay to hang up your Superman cape, once in a while, so that you take care of yourself. Maybe you need to talk with a peer, a chaplain, a crisis team member, a crisis line, or a psychologist or social worker. It’s okay. Your family will thank you. You will thank you. Please take care of it instead of picking up the bottle or something worse.
Please stay safe,