Dropping the Armor

I used to wonder if I was nuts. Four days a week, year after year I was surrounded with people sick, greviously injured, drunk, dying, psychotic, or dead. And those were the people I worked with, never mind the patients!


I used to worry;  why doesn’t  this bother me? How can I treat a motorcycle  accident victim at 11, see them crack his chest at 11:30, hear them pronounce him dead at 11:45 and sit down for lunch at noon?


Or barely have the blood from a gangsta washed from my hands, (gloves tear) before jumping on another shooting call?


Or delivering a baby to a crackhead who pushes it away seconds after the umbilical cord is cut, go in service for a “child injured,” (children don’t get injured at three in the morning in my world) take the child away from the drunken parents and go back for more before the department of children, youth and families arrives at the hospital.

I don’t worry about that stuff anymore. While I was on the streets I was protected. Because we have to, we protect ourselves with an outer layer of armor. Without realizing it, every fiber of our being; our humanity, empathy, grief control, horror capacity, revulsion, sanity, rage reactors and overwhelming  grief is buried under that armor.

I think of it like this; EMS is like being bi-polar. I was manic for over 20 years. Now that my guard is down, and the bells stopped tipping, and I have taken off the armor piece by piece all I have left is me, and the long suppressed reactions to over twenty years of reactions to life at its worst. I’m not manic anymore. I’m just depressed.

I just hope it doesn’t  last 20 years. There has got to be a middle ground somewhere. I plan on finding it.





  • Andy O'Hara says:

    Unfortunately, it CAN last 20 years or more. This is why it’s important for first responders to take advantage of periodic therapy both during and after their careers–to deal with all the “muck” that’s building/built up. This is for active and retired responders to do whether they see themselves as “healthy” or not–it’s too big a burden to carry. Best of luck!

  • CJ Ewell says:

    Please be evaluated for your depression. You may need medication, or counseling, or both. Depression left untreated may resolve inside of 2 years (natural history of the disease), but that’s a really long time. It may not resolve at all, or may relapse. Counseling can give you the tools to manage your emotions in a healthy way, which is good for you, your family, and your colleagues. You deserve joy. Get help.

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