Tuesday, January 7, 2014



We've all heard about it, its negative effects, and how we think we're immune to it. I sure thought I was. That is, until I had a wake up call.

When I was a rookie, my dad and I were on the same volunteer fire department. An Episcopal Priest, my dad also served as the Chaplain. As such, he took a lot of classes on ministering to people who are overwhelmed by stress. My mom did too, because even though she wasn't a ordained minister (she is now :-) ) she did a lot of ministering to people who stress had seemingly overcome. As my dad was a fireman, and at the time I was a junior fireman, they went to chaplain conferences together, and then she and dad discussed a lot of what they learned on the subject of stress. I think they did it deliberately in front of me, so I'd hopefully listen.

The first fatality incident I went to was a fatal car wreck. I was still 16. We responded mutual aid to the county FD. The car was wrapped, roof first, around a tree. Oh, it was also 15 feet off the ground. Nothing like a challenge, right? All I did on that call was be a go-fer for the senior members, which suited me fine.
The driver died instantly.  Her sibling was trapped for several hours. They cut the floor pan off to get her out.  She had only minor physical injuries. I'm certain her psychological scars, however, took longer to heal.

That call was 25½ yrs ago as of this writing. I've seen way too many dead people since then. Car wrecks, fires, plane crashes, homicides, suicides, accidental overdoses, drownings, boat wrecks, falls, electrocutions, hangings, strokes, heart attacks, SIDS, ... , the list goes on. Overall, death doesn't particularly bother me anymore. I believe that we made an agreement with God and came to this Earth to partake, as spiritual beings, in a human journey. With that, we know, before coming to Earth, how we'll die. My friend Jesus assures me that, through a relationship with Him, we'll be back in Heaven after our early adventures are complete.

Back to those conversations with my parents. 

One thing that struck me as particularly odd was that stress can completely take your focus off your job. A fireman under extreme stress could be working at a fire and his mind not be in his duty. I was astounded to hear that. It'd been my dream since I could walk that I wanted to be a fireman. How can that happen?

Well, this year I learned that to be true.
2013 totally and completely SUCKED for me.  Last winter, Amy's grandpa died. He was like a grandpa to me too. A couple months later, a well respected fireman at the FD next door died in a wreck on the way to a call. A couple months later, Matt died. Then in September, Amy left me and asked for a divorce. So you see, 2013 totally and completely sucked.

Last month I had my annual review at work. While overall it wasn't bad, it was the worst one I've ever had. Ever. At any job. Ever.
Am I mad? No. In discussing it with my captain, I told him how I felt overwhelmed and don't know what to do. He stopped short of ordering me to go to the EAP. I think it's cuz I asked about how to initiate it. In either case, I'm going now. Still early in the sessions, but I think it's gonna be good.

Remember how astounded I was to hear that stress can make you not think about tasks at hand, like putting out a fire? I'm living proof. My company has attended several fires this fall and winter. At one in particular, while I stayed at my captain's side and did what was expected (humping hose, pulling ceiling, nozzle time on a fully involved room at one point), I knew what I was doing, but my mind was on my divorce. I'm sure you readers will agree with me that when you're in a combat firefighting situation, your head really should be on the job.

That fire was another topic during my review with the captain.  Not so much critiquing the job - we made a damn fine stop actually. More over on my mindset. He mentioned the EAP should be able to help, which it seems to be. I'll write more about it at a later time.
I never in my widest dreams thought I'd be a member of the multiple divorce club. I sure don't want to be, but here I am.  I'm not the first, and I dare say I won't be the last man to join this club.

The guys on my company have been awesome. Long before I realized I've got a problem, they saw it, and have been helping me thru it. I thank God for them. I've been short tempered (shorter than usual) and they've tolerated it, even helping me through it. I believe I'm starting to work through it. I hope and pray that I am. God sent them to me for a reason, and I thank Him every day.

One good way, according to the "experts", to deal with stress is to have a hobby or two. I love camping.  Sold the old camper a while back, but have recently replaced it. I also like to go to the gun range for "group therapy" - as in putting a nice grouping of holes on the paper targets! No competing, except with my last shot. Quite relaxing.

I find the best relaxation to be watching a beautiful sunset when I'm camping. Close to nature (well, IN nature actually) and watching God's painting in the late afternoon sky. 



  1. Get well brother. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  2. Captain Mark Von Appen of Palo Alto FD wrote a good piece, similar to this topic. I've seen similar, as many of is have, given our time in the fire service. I've also had similar BBQ conversations.