Fighting For Those Who Feel Hopeless
I’ve spent 10 years as an EMT. I’ve also been a 911/police/fire/ems dispatcher for the same amount of time. In 2016 I ended up having a rough year. I was all over the place mood wise, going into work late, calling out and flat out not caring. I was getting written up for being late, with the one supervisor asking why I was going downhill. Finally, one day I walked into the office and cried “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’m drinking all hours, but not on the job and I just don’t care.” I was handed FMLA forms and voluntarily went to an outpatient program to get the help I needed.
I spent the first of 3 months annoyed with myself for going, hating myself for receiving the news of my new found medical issues, and having to now look at people—seeing their pain, no longer just hearing it. I cried and stated I didn’t want to do this anymore, I couldn’t handle it.
After speaking with the counselor and feeling awful about my reactions. I told her I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders and would spend the next day apologizing to everyone. It was at that moment I really felt like I needed to put my best foot forward. I learned a lot. At this outpatient program, it wasn’t about having a mental illness or disability and dealing with it, but a matter of coping and incorporating it into a person’s everyday living. I was also getting into trouble for still being concerned with others at the program rather than focusing on myself. However, this function, I couldn’t just shut off.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get paid for a month and begged to go back to work sooner under the agreement I finish my program. I went back feeing nervous, anxious and every other negative feeling you could think. I had a coordinator that already didn’t like me and denied my request for 40 hr. work week (despite seeing the doctors heading of what she does) and forced me into signing more FMLA. I worked a non-stress part time job to help assist in the loss of income and because of this—she off work hours set her sights on firing me. I had a union that thought I was overreacting over the whole ordeal and forced me to apologize because everyone that does, will be fine. I was never suspended or had ever faced such harsh reactions—that everything I worked so hard for to fix so I could get back to my old self at work was beginning to fall apart again. My union chief steward, whom I thought was a friend, kept telling me to “have a few beers, love the pups, you’re overreacting, just apologize.” I was alone and devastated.
Needless to say, upon a sit-down, what I thought was private matters, my medical history was read and I broke down crying. I was then deemed unfit, forced into an apology only to still be let go. I felt tossed aside like a piece of trash. It took until June to tell my friends and family about things start to finish. I kept thinking how if I never went for help I’d be okay. My mother felt awful because I was going through this alone. I pushed my friends away. I told them until I could understand, stop hating myself, and come to terms—there was no reason to discuss anything. My mother once said, “Look at the field you work in—you may not be suicidal, but who’s to say I wouldn’t be burying you if you didn’t get help.”
I am fighting for my job back and justice. However, I am currently working, still providing services as a dispatcher for 911’s. I am more vocal and open about my illnesses. I am pursuing a Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling/ Substance Abuse/ Behavioral studies because I know I can do more to help others then just sitting behind a desk. I have progress in opening up to my friends and having them see what I’m going through. My mom and sister support me fully and I have a boyfriend that doesn’t see me for my issues, but for the person he’s known me to be.
That’s the best part about my whole situation. I’m fighting for others, especially in the emergency personnel (dispatchers) field since we rarely go noticed. I want others to know: It’s OK to have these issues and shouldn’t be worried what others think or not feeling strong enough. The reality is you’re not alone.
I now see that despite these issues, I’m still me. I’m human. I’m still that strong, persistent, resilient, feisty, loving, crazy redhead. So, I had a bad year and fell off the beaten path. I came back a fighter and now speak openly for others in any way I can. I’m still doing well. I’m getting married next year and I still have the roof over my head and my health.
There is ALWAYS HOPE.
“The best part of hitting rock bottom is there is only one way to go and that’s up.” - Sing
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