When it comes to firefighters and relationships, there’s a lot that gets left unsaid.
Something about girlfriends not being the same as a wife, and how the people in charge need to spend time, money and resources on fixing the communication gap between those people that are already married instead of talking to new couples about what could happen with PTSD.
And of course, people are afraid that if we talk about it to girlfriends that we’ll scare them away– instead of it being about starting a relationship with a good foundation.
So i’m here to tell you a bit about what you need to know about PTSD when you are dating a firefighter, what to look out for, and where to get help if you need it.
It’s time we stopped hiding in the dark about this- because it’s really not that scary when we see that there are solutions and options for healing and growth!
*** Please note- this is not medical advice, nor to I pretend to know everything about PTSD, mental health, or the education that medical professionals have. This is my personal experience with my family and the mental health professionals we have talked to over the years. I strongly encourage you to get help if you or a loved one is suffering from PTSD, suicidal thoughts, or you need help. For immediate issues, call 911.
HEY firefighter girlfriend! This is what you’ve got to know about PTSD
There is no one size fits all when it comes to PTSD. I think if it were easy enough to solve with a few simple steps then it wouldn’t be much of a problem at all.
The first thing everyone needs to know, is that anyone can be effected by a traumatic event. Even one they weren’t directly part of.
Yes, it’s true and the events of September 11, 2001 are an example of a situation where people had (and still have) PTSD from an event they might have been a thousand miles away from.
People were afraid to get on planes, afraid to travel, afraid of certain ethnic groups- and for many people those feelings lasted years after the event. A form of secondary PTSD.
And it’s not just about the worst call your Firefighter has ever been on. It’s so much deeper than that.
PTSD can build in layers- as in cumulative PTSD. . One event can lead to another. One event can trigger another. It can build up over time like ‘death by a thousand cuts’. For more information on the micro versus macro trauma (and how it all adds up to PTSD) I highly recommend this informative article.
Unfortunately PTSD is a multifaceted pain in the side.
In the MOST BASIC OF TERMS- It can present in several ways, and it can be bottled up and ignored for many years.
It also impacts your relationship
This is one of those unfortunate side effects of falling in love with a first responder.
Sometimes the work follows them home, and not in a good way.
I’m talking about the things that are big and small.
Like nightmares that wake you up in the middle of the night.
and random outburst of anger that make no sense, came out of nowhere, and aren’t related to anything you are doing right then.
And emotional avoidance, not being able to (or not willing ) to talk about what’s bothering them- even if it’s not related to work.
And a change in intimacy. Either wanted more than you can give or not wanting it at all. Or being totally hot and cold.
PTSD can show up in many different ways
This is why it’s really helpful that if you suspect PTSD in your Firefighter (or yourself from trauma you’ve endured or secondary trauma) to get some help from a trained mental wellness professional.
Not the scary kind of doctor that threatens to lock you up- no- we’re just talking about licensed therapists and psychologists that can provide some options for healing and help you see problems you didn’t know existed.
The thing about PTSD is it’s not one size fits all.
It’s unpredictable. Some people manage it with success for years on their own before they reach a breaking point.
But the most important thing is getting honest so that you can get better faster. The quicker we address what’s bother your brain and body, the quicker we can start to work on solutions that make everyone better.
PTSD is linked to Suicide Risk
This is the cold hard truth, and my least favorite subject, but one I can’t help but talk about in case it save’s someone life.
When you have PTSD (diagnosed or undiagnosed) you have a higher risk of suicide.
We could talk statistics all day long- but at the most basic level, when you are struggling with your mind, some people view ending their life as a solution.
The issue with suicide is it causes a lot more problems than PTSD. It isn’t a cure, because the person is dead, when they could have been treated for their problems.
If you or a loved one is struggling, please reach out! Save a life.
(and we talk about treatments and cures for PTSD below!)
There’s lots of options for you and for your Firefighter
The best news is saved for last. Despite PTSD and anxiety causing a lot of issues for someone and their family, it doesnt always have to be this way.
There is no one size fits all, because each person has gone through their own unique traumatic experience(S). We don’t know what they’ve seen or had to deal with (or how many times they’ve had to deal with it!).
So when I say curable, I want you to understand that’s the best case scenario, the worst case scenario is that your First Responder learns how to manage the PTSD.
Both of those are good things.
What’s not good, is unchecked PTSD, because as we’ve looked at, it can morph into other mental and physical health issues and it can drive someone to take their life.
Sometimes this might mean that a first responder retires early, but if it saves their life, then that’s what matters!
There are counseling options like various forms of psychotherapy, EFT, medications and natural options. For us personally, we’ve tried everything but medications, as the ones that were recommended had some side effects in the form of black box warnings (like depression and suicide risk) that we felt might make the recovery worse. That said, not all medications are bad, and you can talk to your health care provider about what options are good for you.
Just know that one single pill doesn’t fix everything. There’s multiple things and steps that go into treating PTSD and every person’s progress will be different and unique.
If your Firefighter is dealing with PTSD- I want you to know that you are not alone. Many many many firefighters and their loved ones have gone through this and survived.
There is even a push to recognize PTSD as PTSI- post traumatic stress injury.
It is an injury from some small or big events and it is something that can heal with time with the proper care and treatment plan.
Welcome to the Fire life. It’s messy and wonderful and tons of fun (with a bunch of BS thrown in) we’re happy to have you and hope your relationship works out for the best!