Monday, August 24, 2020

A Flight Paramedic Writes...

"Coffee Talk.....or in my case Beer Talk..... Real talk for a moment and this is gonna be long so if you give zero fox or don’t have the attention span then keep scrolling, no judgment. This is just something we all need to remember, especially right now. 

My husband took me out to lunch today to one of our favorite spots for a burger and beer because he felt like doing something sweet for me. Not because he wants something from me but because I have been making an extra effort to be and do sweet things for him like making his favorite soup, getting him a Happy Day gift, and just being all around more affectionate. We talked about things we wanted for the future and plans we wanted to start working towards, which was nice and something we haven’t done in a while. 

For me, it’s hard to be vulnerable and show emotion even to my kids and my spouse. Working in public safety for so long, especially being brought up in older school public safety, you learn early that you have to compartmentalize and show no emotion....especially being a female in a predominately male field. It is drilled into you. You have to be able to turn off emotion to work efficiently in times when you see things no human being should ever have to see. You have to be better, work harder and be stronger. Working like this establishes you as a paramedic and not just a “female”, as well as preserves your mental state enough to be able to continue working. 

What you don’t realize early on though, is that this will bleed over into your personal life as well. You become closed off, reserved, and quiet. It gets harder to show emotion on your days off, and harder not imagine all the ways things could “go wrong” in any given recreational situation. It gets harder to turn off your “public servant” brain and turn on your “human brain”. Being a manager/supervisor/leader makes it that much harder because you have to be the strong one people can come to, trust, and rely on amongst all the other factors this profession already entails. In my work life, I strive to be the mom/big sister figure that my people can come to knowing that it will be without judgement but also that hard truths will be told if need be. I try to always greet my people with a smile, try to make them laugh when appropriate and be strong for them when they need me to be. 

I am also human, and what most people don’t see is the tears that I shed for them, our patients and sometimes myself. I have had my moments sobbing in the bathtub or screaming at the night air by myself. I suffer from depression, anxiety, self harm and PTSD not just from public safety but from other factors of my life as well. (Whoo that’s not easy to say out loud!) I have to remind myself that it’s ok to be emotional and show emotion at the appropriate time. 

We have to constantly work on ourselves not to get lost in the “this is just who I am now” mindset and remind ourselves to be outwardly vulnerable, sweet, loving and kind to the people that we love and care about. Luckily I have a partner that not only understands because he’s been there, but reminds me to be Jennifer and not just the paramedic or the supervisor when I get lost in it. It’s so important to be cognizant of yourself and see when you need to remind yourself to be you again. 

I have overcome a lot in this profession, from being a single mom going through paramedic school on an EMT Basic salary to being sexually assaulted more than once on duty, to having my reputation trashed for reporting one of those assaults, to having my superiors protect my assailant before me, to being told I couldn’t do it cause I wasn’t a man, to being held back from promotion for standing up for what’s right, to being told I got as far as I did only because I was pretty, to being told I will never make it in this career, to now....a 17 year veteran, a flight paramedic, being promoted to my current level after less than two years at my current job, to now out ranking that same person who tried to hold me back from that previous promotion. 

I did this while being a mother to my kids and a wife my husband can be proud of. It’s hard, it really is. I work at it every day. Some days I fail but others I surprise even myself and prevail. It’s up to you to be happy and make your life what you want it to be. It’s up to you to remember who you are and to work everyday at being the person you want to be.

“I hope you remember that if you encounter an obstacle in the road, don’t think of it as an obstacle at all....think of it as a challenge to find a new path on the road less traveled.”

Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk. You may now rejoin your regularly scheduled scrolling. 🤣✌🏼"

To this we say, Thanks, Jennifer for opening up and sharing your thoughts. There might very well be some young person struggling--right this instant--with the exact issues you discuss, and we hope they derive comfort and strength from this.

Thanks for everything you do, every day.