Battling the dark cloud of PTSD

I would like to start out by saying thank you guys for your service, your military service, and your continued service by inspiring those of us that need to hear words of encouragement and inspiration.
I have been a Paramedic in EMS for 22 years, and 4 years prior to that were spent as an EMT. Needless to say I’ve seen, smelled, and touched things that most people won’t and shouldn’t have to experience. I was grinding along when 8 years ago I hit an obstacle that lasted for 4 long years.
I received a call for GSW ( Gun Shot Wound ) at about 03:00. The victim was in his 20’s and prone in the middle of the intersection. He had been shot six times from the back of his head along his spine down to the lower back. I looked into his lifeless windows to the soul known as eyes ( which is usually a no no for reasons known to us ). Later I found myself wondering what he had done to deserve this and where is he now? Did he have family? I thought about the families anguish. I saw him in dreams and at times woke up in a sweat cuz he was chasing me yelling for help. I had many sleepless nights, along with questioning myself what the heck was wrong with me. This has never happened before why now? I pushed the thoughts way way down and buried them.
A few months later something happened one night. After talking to my wife and kids about Christ and going to bed I couldn’t sleep. I felt fear, I felt as if my soul was being torn from me. I woke up one night on my hands and knees drenched in sweat with one arm behind me. I had dreamed that these black figures were trying to drag me away and I was fighting them. I woke up in the position I was in my dream. During the four years I went through this, I would see my life, my families life, my patients would haunt me, I walked around like Jesus had forsaken me. I found myself four times sitting on the edge of my bed with my Beretta 92FS in my hand held to my temple to end the misery and nightmares. I withdrew from my family, friends, and coworkers only after reaching out to them without them understanding.
At the same time I would get up everyday for my shift and drive in to work. Something way down inside of the darkness I was in told me to move on don’t give up, put the gun down. I would find myself crying and pleading to God for his help and asking him why? At times the darkness would give way to a little bit of light and would think ok maybe it’s going away, only to go to bed and have the same nightmares, and wake up feeling lost. I felt my wife and kids and everyone I knew would disown me. The rock I had in my wife and kids were no longer that rock for me, as I felt I could no longer rely on them. Not realizing what I was putting them through.
I went to a couple churches and would try to talk to the Pastors for help but to no avail. They couldn’t or wouldn’t help. I didn’t want to see a counselor because they wouldn’t understand either and I feared being put on a 5150.
I don’t know how I went to work having to help others during that time, but I did. I some how knew I needed to provide for my family. There were times I would lash out at certain patients that would call 911 for us to take them to get their meds refilled. I found myself being scared of almost everyone or everything, and yet I struggled on day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. Things like fishing, hunting, traveling, being with the family, that made me happy, no longer made me happy.
Thoughts that Jesus no longer loved me were always present. That he had given up on me were also there. Yet somehow I had the push to not give in. To not leave my kids without a father and my wife without a husband was there as well.
I would read or try to read the Bible but I couldn’t focus on reading and would put the Bible down. I couldn’t focus on conversations either. I struggled with taking classes to keep my Medic license for lack of focus and being able to pay attention. Again somehow I would pass.
Then one day I realized that the thoughts were lies and coming from one place, and not Jesus. I realized I had to fight the thoughts and so I began to fight back those thoughts. When they came at me hard and I could not get rid of them, I remembered that Christ said, “ In your weakness my strength is made perfect. “ I would then ask him for help in fighting the evil thoughts. I did this day in and day out almost minute by minute. The thoughts would get easier and easier to battle and little by little eventually they went away and I found myself not being afraid or depressed! I was laughing again and happy. Fours years in the darkness fighting for my soul and my life, God helped me through. I wasn’t having nightmares, waking up drenched with sweat, and screaming. The light was shining once again on me thanks to God and believe me I thank him everyday.
Then Dec. 2, 2015 the San Bernardino terror attack was perpetrated by two individuals sympathetic with ISIS. They killed 14 wounding 22. Yes I was there it’s in my backyard and in my AO, as you guys describe it. Seeing victims alive in the triage area one minute and dead the next was hard to witness. I had a job to do and did it. It did bother me and still does to this day. I didn’t know how it bothered me until the Las Vegas incident occurred. I broke down and wept uncontrollable again I couldn’t sleep. I called the national EMS and Firefighter hotline and spoke with a Firefighter in NY. Those 15 minutes on the phone with him was like talking with a brother. He new what I was going through and was able to suggest I get help from a PTSD counselor specializing in EMDR. So I called around and found a counselor that said they specialize in PTSD. So I scheduled an appointment. My wife went along with me. Once again she was my rock she was all along but for me she was there again with me by my side. So I went to two sessions with this counselor. On the second session she made me worse to the point I wanted to hit her. I didn’t of course. But this woman supposed to be helping me told me that I shouldn’t help neighbors in need when they bring their kids to my house when they are sick or hurt. I was to tell them I’m off duty and go away. She told me that my neighbor lady who lost her husband, reminded me of someone in my life and I shouldn’t have gone to help. I had to pronounce her husband deceased. I remember walking into her living room, from her bedroom, where her husband was, looking out the window and seeing the wife in the grass on all fours being comforted by my wife and another neighbor lady. I stood there not wanting to give her the news. I finally walked to the door after praying, I opened the door, she stood up with a look that I was going to give her good news, she had the look of hope on her face. I shook my head no and watched her face change from hope to anguish and despair. Just like that. I walked over to her and cried with her all the while telling her her husband had died and there wasn’t anything that could be done. This counselor said I should’ve stayed away! Tell her to call 911. That she reminded me of someone in my past. Are you kidding me! She asked why I would do that. I replied I’m a Paramedic and it’s my job and duty. I got up told her we were done and walked out with my wife never to return.
I finally found the right counseling and I’m not on meds, I don’t drink, or use drugs. They helped me get through the PTSD. The right counselor made all the difference in the world. I have since helped a Vietnam vet still struggling with the demon of PTSD. I shared my story with him and his wife and we all cried. I gave them the number to the right counselor which made the wife cry even more along with me she couldn’t thank me enough. Her husband shared with me he had a similar experiences with counselors since being home from the war.
Others followed suit after that day. It helps them and me to share the stories and similar experiences.
I now am getting trained to be a counselor myself to help coworkers deal with PTSD.
I have good and bad days still. There are triggers but I’ve learned how to deal with those through God.
I didn’t give up and quit God, my family, my friends, my coworkers, and my job. I plowed forward even when I was walking in darkness. I couldn’t quit God and family. I heard that voice telling me to not quit.
Then a week ago I was searching on Instagram for my military Hero Marcus. I found him and followed him. Then Instagram suggested this thing called Team Never Quit. I saw it but skipped right over it. I found others like Tim Kennedy, Dom Raso, Black Rifle Coffee etc. I was elated. Yet every time I would go to Marcus, Tim, or Dom this Team Never Quit would pop up. I honestly thought it was some touchy feelie thing all about peace, love, and not war. Yet this voice inside whispered check out Team Never Quit. I ignored it for a while, but the voice inside got stronger and my curiosity got to me. So I decided to take a chance. I read what Team Never Quit was about. Honestly when I saw Marcus was a part of it I was like Marcus has gone to peace, love and not war. How can that be? This warrior that flew down a mountain with his team, was shot, broken, beaten, but not down. Really??
Then I listened to the episode with the owner of Black Rifle Coffee. I was blown away! Marcus was on the air, with Rut, and the Wizard. I knew Marcus but not the other two. Then I found out that the Wizard and Rut were and are SEALS I was like WOW!! I can relate to the Never Quit mantra. I’m at home now with TEAM NEVER QUIT! We have different experiences yet I completely understand what Never Quit means. I listen now every morning on my way into work to be inspired and encouraged. Even before I go to bed and on my days off. I share with others about Never Quit. All have now tuned into the show and report they love it and the show has helped them. It took you guys saying how important it is to never quit for me to realize I knew that and have been living it all along. You guys are a blessing from God and I believe God called me to listen to your show. He lead me to you no one else did. I’m glad he did.
Sorry for the long story. Thank you for what you guys do and most importantly God bless all of you! May he keep all of you and your families safe. May he continue to use all of you for his purpose. May he draw more and more to you for encouragement and inspiration. May he grant you all continued strength to keep moving forward.

Author: Marc