Many nights my dreams are invaded by countless cold nights tearing metal aware from around the poor unfortunate souls that have met with tragedy on the black top.
My once peaceful dream state is now a dark movie theatre that plays fifteen years worth of people's darkest moments over and over.
While I no longer have a peaceful place to rest and recharge, I do slug along, trying to live a life of normalcy.
I am a veteran of the fire service and I have post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I also have no issues with telling this to the world. We owe it to ourselves and to our fallen comrades who have fallen victim to an accumulation of suppressed pain and a "man up" mentality.
One thing I learned very quickly in the early days of firefighting is that we have to do whatever it takes to get the job done. Trying to extinguish choas is what we signed up to do; therefore, there is no one else coming to do the job, we can't go home and we have to go beyond the door to finish the fully involved structure fire ranging inside.
It's exhausting and unrelenting at times. Whether we are rendering aid in the middle of a natural disaster, tracking up hill to fight a forest fire or putting in countless hours exacting people from a car wreck, it demands our energy and when it's done doing that, it demands even more.
But isn't this what we do? Sacrifice ourselves for our communities? Well, if we can do this, than why not for our own well being?
The way I see it, PTSD and fighting fires are a lot a like. Both of. Them require us to do whatever it takes to get it done, to end the pain and to make life livable once more.
I have spent my entire life putting out fires, now it's time to put out the fires of my own. I am the guy at the door, the one who must act quickly and decisively to sleigh the beast that has taken me captivate.
Oddly enough, I never thought I'd still be putting out fires after I ran out the doors of the station but I've been doing it ever since.
With all that said, at least I'm not doing it on my own and nor should you. I have support, both professional and personal. That's what we all need because we can't beat PTSD on our own.
Jonathan Arenburg is a published author in the book Lemonade Stand III and a contributor to the my local paper on mental health issues. He is also chief writer and owner of the blog The Road To Mental Wellness. He also spends his time as a political activist with a focus on mental health policy.
Go to theroadtomentalwellness.com to read more.