Today’s #SameHere Hero is someone I have a ton of respect for – a career firefighter from up in Canada, BC. Most of our hero stories have focused on the traumas we sit ringside to in our own lives, and the lives family and friends. Brad witnessed trauma on the job, as he and his teammates worked to save the lives of others. Imagine the toll those stresses and traumas take on you.
Brad is a former big time baseball recruit, and as you can see in the picture, a real “sporty dude.” He’s not someone you’d expect to be open about how stress and trauma have afected him, bc society tells guys like that – you’re tough, you’re strong, you don’t feel any of this. Well, as you read Brad’s story (here and in the link in the bio), you’ll see a lot of similarities to what many of us have faced, who have dealt with complex PTSD: cognitive dysfunction to the max!
Brad is such a good dude that now, after retiring, he’s gonna spend the rest of his life focused on helping others with MH, with obviously big expertise in how stress and trauma affect first responders. For that reason, I’ve invited him to be the newest member of our #SameHere Advocacy Alliance! From Brad’s submission, this is very humbling: “One thing I was searching for and felt like was missing was a tribe or group of like minded people to share stories and people that really understand what it’s like and that it really is ok and a normal part of being human. I’ve found my tribe. So for that, I thank you! Anyway I can be part of what you’re doing to inspire and help other humans, I’m in. — Brad #SameHere”
Brad’s Amazing Story:
“I am now 46 years old, but I started firefighting as a volunteer in July 2001. In January 2005, I was hired full time! Best day of my life. I worked so hard for over 3 years to get the job that I truly wanted at that point in my life. Stability, pension, physical work and a locker room mentality which I have always been comfortable in.
I loved it for many years and thought I was living my best life. What I didn’t know and what no-one talked about, was the effects untreated, repeated exposure to trauma would have on me. The effects were not only mental, but as we know now, there are massive physical reactions inside your body from trauma. So all this, accompanied by being newly married, a son on the way, and after years of old school ways of being taught: ‘suck it up, be a man, you don’t need help do you?everybody’s good right?’ etc., things took a toll.
Little did I know, I started a downward spiral of coping, keeping busy, avoiding, hiding, depression, anxiety, nightmares, sleep deprivation, outbursts, and eventually being suicidal, thinking I was a burden to my family and they would be better off without me. And, I justified it by thinking that they would be fine because they would get my pension and never have to worry about money. Then, it happened. My ‘a-ha’ moment. Sitting in my office contemplating suicide, it just came to me and I have no idea how or why, but I just literally gave my head a shake and said WTF are you doing? And from that moment on, the healing began. A holistic approach to healing – a whole body, foundational approach is what has worked for me.
All of the UNTEATED repeat exposure to trauma over time from the job, was sending me into an uncontrollable downward spiral that ultimately led to a diagnosis of PTSD. After over a year and a half off work, a permanent disability, never to return to the job I once loved but one that hurt me and my family in ways I can’t even describe – I had turned into someone who was in constant survival mode, having almost zero cognitive abilities to rationalize thoughts and an emotionless zombie with no compassion left in my heart.
One day in September 2016 at work, I was struggling really bad after an incident from the previous March where a tree fell on a woman through her house, right onto her while she slept. I was devastated and I believe this is where I started to feel like I was ‘CRAZY.’ I didn’t know what else to call it. I started crying on the drive home every day, for no reason, or what I thought was no reason.
So, rewind back to September, I was struggling to keep it together and then it just literally felt like a light switch in my head turned off my brain. That was it. I was done. I was scared, confused and had been struggling too long, so I just didn’t know what to do. I was walking around in circles in the hallways and saw the health and safety board with our EAP program card on it. I just reached up, grabbed the card, walked into the gym (where I felt safe) and called the EAP.
I said, I don’t know why I’m calling, I don’t know what’s wrong, I think I’m ‘crazy’ and need to talk to someone. Even though I still struggled and kept working after that until December 2016, that day was the day that started my healing process.
I initially started with learning to live in the present moment, which is a struggle when you also have anxiety and depression as a result of the trauma and PTSD. I started to meditate using an app which was so helpful! I was able to feel safe and really learn to be in the moment. I have meditated now around 500 times. The more I’ve healed, the more I have evolved with meditation and mindfulness but I still do some mindfulness everyday.
I also read two books, ‘Kindness, Clarity and Insight’ and ‘Bhagavad Gita’ which both helped me centre myself etc. I walk everyday and I exercise 5-6 days or at least do what I call purposeful movement, which could be walking, stretching, yoga, mobility work; whatever I feel my body needs. I focus on nutrition as part of my healing and for me, a mostly plant based diet which has also helped, along with traditional chinese medicine, remedy my gut issues from trauma.
I have been treated with traditional psychology, EMDR, and timeline therapy, all which have helped me get to where I am but the treatment that literally helped save my life was and is the ‘Mental Strength Training’ program. This was originally developed for athletes, which I still consider myself to be, and this program (designed by a friend) helped me because the approach is about solidifying the foundation…the roots. It just made sense to me that if I truly wanted to heal, and not just cope with bandaids, that this is how I needed to heal.
This program is a one on one counselling program designed to get to the ROOT CAUSE , to overcome and actually help change behaviours for your desired outcomes and personal wellbeing. It’s based on The New Game Plan (by my friend Stephens Raghoobarsingh MA, RCC, at point8 Training and Development) and is founded on the Alderian Psychology principle of Social Interest.
It really works, because, look at it like this: If you build a beautiful $2million dollar house on a foundation of mud, over time, through exposures and deterioration, the house will begin to crack and break down. You can put another million into fixing the house, make it look good on the outside, but this is a temporary fix and eventually, over time, it will begin to sink and crack again, and again, and again. However, if you tear the house down rebuild the foundation on a better base, and the build your house back up, this provides a permanent foundation that now, if your house breaks down a little or needs repair, it’s a small job because you have the foundation. This is why I believe this program is what literally saved my life.
Ive been very open about my story as it was healing for me, and I just believe that I don’t want anyone to ever feel the way I did. If me talking about it helps one person, then I know it was worth it. It’s very easy for me to talk abut it now because I’ve accepted it as part of me but it doesn’t define me. So in a way, I’m proud of what happened and how I’ve been able to conquer these obstacles and now, I just truly want to help inspire, educate, support, and help people thrive and live the lives they deserve, and be there to show them that they’re not alone.
My story and journey has been on my social media, my podcast, and I talk about it all the time. One thing I was searching for and felt like was missing was a tribe or group of like minded people to share stories and people that really understand what it’s like and that it really is ok and a normal part of being human. I’ve found my tribe. So for that, I thank you Eric! Anyway I can be part of what you’re doing to inspire and help other humans, I’m in. — Brad #samehere