Monday, July 16, 2007

One more Sunrise

Okay, so another month slipped by me yet again. Part of me thinks that it is just because of everything going on at the Firehouse etc, and that is at least partially true. We got through our inspection (two years of reports re-entered), handled our semi-annual big standby and somehow two more people got turned over as leads. Hell, we even got ourselves someone through the National Registry process as an EMT-I. There is a general up-tick in morale for the first time in a while among the EMS providers and it is actually starting to spread. I'm starting to dare to think that this 'thing' may work. The 'thing' is the general remake of the way we get things done, and working on the little things to help make the Firehouse the place we know it can be. I know, sounds cheesy, but there it is.

I know that all of these things would be reasons to blog more not less, yet here I am months from a posting. I promised a while back, both here and in person to some people to post why I really run. In light of the things going on right now, it is more 'why I kept running'. See, almost every EMS provider I know, certainly every Medic seems to go through this period. Call it burn-out, worn-down whatever. The truth of it is that we start to struggle between wanting to go in to duty because of the things we love, and wanting to stay home. It becomes a job, a weight, whatever. A friend of mine is still in that right now, others are coming out of it. It is almost impossible to explain how you can love running the calls, meeting the people, being with the crew, and still dread the next call, the next night of broken sleep, the next BS run that you know you need to care about, but somewhere inside you really don't, maybe it is the needless politics surrounding the one thing in our lives that is clearly 'a good thing'. I've been there, seems everyone gets there. It's different for everyone, and it comes at a different point for everyone, but on average, I'd say "Show me a Medic with 5 years on, and I'll show you someone who knows what I'm talking about."

So, why stay. Everyone has their own reasons, but when confronted with it, as a friend recently put it: "I love this….I'm afraid if I leave I won't come back". That works. It is possible to wonder if the love of it is enough. Been there, asked that. This post is about my answer to the question, and why I stayed. I'm glad I did now, but at the time, this is what drove me. I have had this post in me since I started this blog well over a year ago, and it is the one I have hesitated to post, the one I don't know how you will take. This is my post, and what's in it I have only told a very few. Hell, Cat was married to me before she knew the whole thing. I don't tell people as a rule, and I don't push the ramifications on it on anyone. This story is mine and nobody else's, take it or leave it, it's mine all the same. But, it is time (even if I don't know why it is time now). If only because I seem to be up against a world-class writer's block and every time I start to post, and this is the one that sticks in my mind. Maybe it's my calling….

I was in college and EMS had never entered my mind. My whole life was laid out in my mind though. I was majoring in Astrophysics and engaged. I was going to graduate, get a job saving the world by killing ballistic missiles and get married to what I thought was the person I was meant to be with. The world was very black and white to me. Apparently, that wasn't to be. My fiancée left me for a fireman in the town surrounding her college, and everything I was so sure of crumbled. I dropped into a deep, and clinical depression. I missed classes, slept all day and generally was miserable. My grades slipped, my health declined, my friends didn't really want to be around me, and I didn't blame them. In truth, it got the better of me. Weeks went by, and nothing seemed right. So, one night I took a lot of pills. I won't say of what here as now that I'm a Medic it seems silly, but at the time I wasn't so sure. In fact, that was kinda the point. I felt pretty sure that what I took could kill me, but I wasn't sure. I took the pills etc, and went to bed. The 'plan' such that it was, was to go to sleep and possibly not wake up. Did I really want to die? Now, I dunno. Like I said, I wasn't sure if I would or not. I did think about family and friends dealing with it, but really, at that time, the foundation of what I believed was shattered, and I just didn't have the reserve to count on them. I just wanted to stop hurting.

So, I climb into my bunk, and lay down. And I prayed. I didn't pray to live, or to die really. I had stopped praying to 'fix' the relationship a while before. I prayed that I didn't know what the point was, and if there wasn't one, that God would forgive me for being weak, and giving up, and accept me broken as I was. Being raised Catholic, suicide has some serious implications. I don't know everything I said in that prayer but I do remember one part. I didn't know if I'd make it or not, but I said, "God, if there is some plan, some purpose to my life, some reason I should stay here, then let me see the sun rise. If not, then let me end it here."

Well, I cried for a bit, and called to say goodbye to my Ex. A literal call for help a shrink may say, but I swear that I had no intention of letting on what I had done. In fact, I don't fully recall the conversation. She clued in to something in the end, I think she once said that I said goodbye instead of good night and it stuck to her. Anyway, she would not hang up and pressed for what was going on. Eventually I told her, though not everything. She was hanging up and coming over. I hated that she thought that that is what I wanted, but then, looking back I resented that she never showed either. She called my parents (Narc…grin) and they called another girl I knew from High School who was at my University with me. She came over right away, just to sit and to talk. My folks were on the road, 2 hours away. It took a lot longer than that, they had to stop and compose themselves several times I heard later. Sherri, the friend, stayed up basically all night with me. Just talking, and not much about that night even. Eventually, my folks got there. I don't remember it really. I guess I grabbed some things and Sherri said she'd talk to my roomies, and I was headed home. (I had made myself vomit out whatever I could)

It's two hours home, and I don't think much was said, I can't remember now. In fact, I don't remember much of the surrounding days to be truthful, but I do remember this. I was staring at the back of the car seat heading home. In my own world, just in a daze, and something had me turn my head. The night was over, and the sun was rising. The sky was a classic, orange/pink/blue combo with wisps of clouds like a painting, and not thirty seconds after I turned my head, the top edge of the sun broke over the horizon. I knew then that I had made the deal, and I'd have to keep it.

That day, or the next I was evaluated by a psychologist, and incidentally, when in that situation and the doc asks, "Are you on any medications?" the proper response is apparently NOT, "Well….I've been known to take [insert OD med here]" No matter how much you have to stifle the laugh, and even if your mom chuckles, it is NOT funny. Even if it was the first sign that others saw that you were nose up and climbing again. I was in therapy for a few months and learned to feel not just observe life. Funny lesson that and I'm not explaining it here. Trust me when I tell you that I FEEL life as I live it now, and I think those who know me know what I mean. Therapy was a good thing and eventually I was cut loose. (See, this IS me well adjusted!) But the whole time, I knew that it was just a matter of 'getting better', that there was no going back. I mean, I made a deal with a God I wasn't even sure was there, and it was met with a literal verbatim response. I didn't pray "let me live…" or "let me wake up…" or whatever, I said, "Let me see the Sun rise." I never imagined that it would happen that literally. SO, while I think I only mentioned it once during the sessions, and as I recall it was kinda dismissed, I knew then that I was going to have some purpose, some time, some where.

Now, does that mean that when I started EMS I had this big "AHA" moment and said "this is it?" No. Even I'm not that sappy. But I do get the feeling that it is something I'm SUPPOSED to do, even if I only ever express it as "It's called Duty, not 'wanna be there?'. I do feel that it is a purpose, even if I don't get to know if it is THE purpose I saw the Sun rise. Deep down, in the place I don't share because I'm not here to push any belief on anyone, and I'm not out converting people, (hell I'm nobody's saint), I see it like this: I made a deal that night and I gave up my ownership of my life…maybe by saving a few I get the grace I need for giving mine up. I don't get to ask anymore, but then I don't need to, I've already been answered. And that's why I kept showing up. I still feel that sense that this is where I need to be, even if now I get to feel pride just in helping other folks get what they need to do the job night after night. When/if that feeling stops, then maybe I will stop too, maybe not.

In the mean time it is enough to give a few people every year one more sunrise.


At 5:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chris, I for one, am glad that there was at least one more sunrise. I am a new EMT in Virginia and your writing has taught me a lot. It has been amazing that some of the topics we covered in class where in your post. It has helped explained in a more personal way what it was all about.

I enjoy reading what you write. And thank you for your candor, thoughts, experiences and sharing.

I check your blog often to see if you have shared anything more. Keep it up please!!!

At 8:01 PM, Blogger DTXMATT12 said...

CHRIS: You have to get past this post! I'll talk to you face-to-face about the content, but get back on the blog, man! If you leave it hanging like this, people are going to start talking. (Grin) To help you out with some motivation, I wrote about your genius stroke with the 0-50-100 shoe-removal rule. To everyone else, come see it at the dtxmatt12 blog, which is linked on Chris' main page. Take it easy, and I'll see you around the WWW.


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At 9:38 AM, Blogger RC Huder said...

Your honesty is staggering. We all face the burnout period. Some get through it many don't. I am retired now after 26 years. Out of my class of twenty some medics two of us lasted to retirement. You have to find your own answer to keep going. My answer was the simple act of doing a job that needed to done as good as I could. If I was able to "save" some along the way then that was gravy. But providing good care to people who need it no matter what the reason or decisions put them in that position is a enough in itself. Find your own reason and hold on to it. It is not always easy.


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