CISD – Critical Incident Stress Debriefing
OK GO – A band
After a stressful incident in fire and EMS we tend to use dark humor to work through our issues. It is a natural reaction to try to laugh instead of cry. It seldom works though and we feel a bit uneasy about making light of something so serious. This doesn’t have to be a minor injury like mine, or a major one like some of my co-workers have been through, but stress comes from any kind of event that causes us to lose control a little bit. Its that “WTF am I doing this for?” moment that begins the subtle flame of impending burnout.
As a defense mechanism most of us get tougher, try to grow a thicker skin and let it roll off our backs like it’s nothing. No matter how tough your co-workers pretend to be they are suffering just as much as you are, they may just not realize it yet. The longer you keep these emotions locked inside, the more that little flame grows until it spreads into other parts of your life. Ever wonder why the divorce rate is so high in emergency services? Some will claim it’s the schedule, but it’s the inability to control stress that leads to self destruction. I was on the doorstep of said destruction, not because I got hurt, but because I was having trouble externalizing the fear of what would happen to my family if the next ceiling that falls kills me. That thought lit the flame of my impending burnout.
My first response when that idea popped into my head was “Bring it. What ever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” I had no idea at the time that in retrospect long after the event (like me here right now) we can see how we learned from the experience is what makes us stronger. For a few weeks my fear of death was replaced by a hint of invincibility. If that ceiling falling that far only rung my bell, how bad could I really get hurt? I mean really? I always took full safety precautions, I didn’t have a death wish, but the little voice that often told me to be careful crawling down hallways, or to duck when the truck was breaking windows was drowned out by loud music in my mind to energize me to keep going without fear.
I felt invincible.
But we are not. Of course we know we are not invincible, but why are we acting this way instead of grieving properly? At this point it is a good idea to talk to someone who has experience dealing with stress. If unchecked, that growing flame inside you will soon be too big to put out without leaving some intense damage.
Next we’ll discuss which OK GO song reminds me of when I suddenly realized I had no idea what was going on and asked myself “WTF is happening?”