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Loving an EMS provider with PTSD

A first responder’s partner shares what it’s like to stay strong from the sidelines, waiting for their loved one to ask for help


By admitting you need help, you’ve started the road to recovery. But I’m still fighting back tears.

Photo/Wikimedia Commons

This story is reprinted with permission from The Code Green Campaign. Code Green accepts stories from EMS providers, firefighters, dispatch personnel and law enforcement officers who have experienced stress, trauma or mental health issues. Submit your story today so that other first responders can see they are not alone.

Hi, I’ve known you had problems since I met you, and I’ve loved you all the same. I’ve stayed strong as things have gotten out of hand, knowing that it was the only way we (as a “we”) could survive.

Sometimes you’ve seen my distance as a lack of compassion, which I guess is a reasonable conclusion. But, until today, it’s always been easier to be distant and stone-walled than open and vulnerable. I finally lost it the moment the therapist from the insurance company said you could call back at any time.

When we hung up you asked me why I was crying. I couldn’t explain it then, so let me try now. I cried because, while you may be the one battling the demons in your mind, I’ve been forced to watch it all from the sidelines. Hands tied. Hope diminished. Waiting for the day you ask for help.

I cried because, while you weren’t suicidal this morning, two months ago I had to pry the shotgun from your hands. You were so drunk that the next morning you couldn’t remember anything of what had happened, so of course, you refused to get help for a problem that you thought didn’t exist. I cried because I’ve watched as you’ve spiraled out of control, and perhaps, a bit selfishly, I cried because I finally knew I wasn’t alone anymore.

I lost it again when I called the chaplain. I cried because he was the fifth local therapist I’d called and the first to actually answer his phone. I cried because, even being a total stranger, he was able to get me to open up in a matter of seconds. Telling him the truth, even the cliff notes version, was cathartic. I cried because, while he knew I was calling about you, he knew to ask about me.

Until him, no one had thought to ask about me. By admitting you need help, you’ve started the road to recovery. But I’m still fighting back tears. I know this is just the beginning of a very long, very treacherous descent down the highest mountain we’ve ever faced.

We reached the summit the minute you were willing to ask for help, but part of me dreads the days ahead as we navigate this uncharted territory. I love you. I will continue to fight for what you, and us, need as this journey continues.

Love, Me

– Story written by “your other half”

The Code Green Campaign calls a ‘code alert’ on the mental health of EMTs and paramedics by breaking the silence about mental illness in EMS by sharing the stories of those who have been there. The Code Green Campaign has selected this story and we are glad to share it with EMS1 readers. Learn more about the Code Green Campaign.