Depression is a terrible thing. It’s even worse when you begin to contemplate ending your life. And you’re probably filled to the brim with “awareness”. If anything, you are more acutely “aware” than most. I’d like to propose an alternative solution to coping with your demons. Maybe it’s time to consider moving on from EMS, Fire, or Law Enforcement.
I know. You’ve invested a lot of time and education, and you’ve poured your heart and soul into it, but are you getting back what you are putting into it, or is it slowly eating away at you? Are you able to be the person you want to be now? Are you able to separate your identity from your dedication to your work? Are all your friends also in public safety? Do you only talk about your work and the things you have seen? If public safety is also your off-duty identity, I submit the answer is quite possibly “no”. Maybe the Return on Investment isn’t so good anymore. When an investor sees that their returns aren’t worth what they are putting in, they move their investments to something that does return enough. They don’t keep funding a dying thing, hoping to get a little more return.
Hear me out. There are plenty of career alternatives. Photography, technology, sales, counseling, occupational health, public health preparedness (PHP), emergency management (EM), OSHA/MSHA, post-secondary education, educational upgrade to a higher level of care provider or specialist, and so much more. A lot of these options can be quite intrinsically rewarding. Personally, I found education, and both PHP and EM very rewarding. Career counselors can even survey your skills and interests and give you alternatives to evaluate too. You can also keep going in public safety on a part-time or reserve status, or volunteer for a DMAT or something.
But for your own sake, if your outside life is getting to be indistinguishable from work, you seriously need to take stock in yourself and be honest in your evaluation. We don’t need bitter old codgers and we don’t need people on the edge of losing it, one more call away from signing off permanently. You to be whole and compassionate, even for a simple lift assist or IFT, but most especially for yourself and your family. Burn-out is real and even I’ve been there for a time. I’ve asked myself why the hell I keep getting out of bed for this if I can’t get anything more than a paycheck (and not really a very good one at that). My family deserved better, and especially I deserved better. You do too. Be honest with yourself and do what is right for you. Don’t be the next last call. Don’t be the next reason we put a mourning band on our badges. You are better than that, and you have the power to prevent that and reclaim your happiness. You deserve it and don’t ever let yourself believe otherwise. You don’t have to force yourself to pretend to be happy in public safety. It’s a big investment in our lives to be here, but maybe the smart money is on diversification. The smart investor knows when it’s time to spread out his portfolio, and when it’s time to move on to a new thing.
It sounds cheesy AF, but a line The Gambler, by Kenny Rogers, really applies here…
“You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold’ em, know when to walk away, and know when to run.”