It’s always hard to write about our field I suppose. I have been involved in EMS for about 11 years now. I first started riding the ambulance when I was 16 years old. I was a bored high school student who wanted to do more besides the normal after school programs. Back at that age you really don’t know what you are getting yourself into. I wanted to fit in, many of the other students in my school who pursued the emergency services field came in wearing cool uniform pieces and wearing pagers. I wanted to be amongst them.
Back when I was in high school I would always walk past my local ambulance squad after the bus dropped me off. The “volunteers wanted” sign was calling to me. The possible excitement of going fast, lights and sirens, saving lives. It was all I could have wanted. After consulting with my parents I put in the application to start riding. A month or so after I was in and hooked. I would volunteer every Friday night and frequently after getting off school. I was putting in so much time and effort into it. I had the adrenaline rush of a lifetime.
Nobody really warned me of the side effects of riding an ambulance almost every day. A few people said “you will get burned out” or “take a break every now and again”. That phrase was never taken into consideration with my adrenaline seeking self. I wish I took that phrase seriously now. After high school, EMS became my profession. I never regret my decision to get involved in EMS. I regret not taking that advice early on.
11 years of this field had me jaded and on the edge. There were several days where I had to call out just to have a personal day. I believe my lowest point I ever hit was just about a year ago. Working 2 paid ambulances and still volunteering. I also became the head operational officer for my volunteer organization which technically could have made it 3 full time jobs. I hated my life. I woke up every morning not happy and wishing I had finished college and pursued my dream job of working for the railroad.
Every day the little things at the workplace bothered me. The endless routine 911 calls for petty complaints. Police calling us constantly to pick up the drunks and get refusals from the fender benders. The frequent flyers bothered me to no end. On several occasions I was reprimanded for having a poor attitude towards my patient’s. I was stuck in this endless loop of having to work EMS to pay the bills and stay afloat with what little hope I had left.
Between the reprimands and some bad calls that stuck with me I was feeling more and more depressed every day. I had constant support from my family and non work friends. But with none of them working in my field they never could understand the things I’ve seen or done. I believe the calls that sent me over the deep end were in a short time frame after each other.
The town I was working in was a wealthy suburb. However within a month or so period I was sent on 2 or 3 suicide calls. Not easy ones either. Young kids, far too young.Those calls stuck with me. I found it embarrassing to feel like “the weak one”. Some of my partners were supportive, the others just said “man up” Management wasn’t aware of these rather tragic calls and wouldn’t care because keeping the shifts filled were more important than a employees mood.
I wanted the pain to go away. I wanted to be happy and move on with my life. But every day I would go into work and wonder where I messed up in my life. I never seriously thought about suicide thankfully. I had too much to live for. Family, friends, I had a tremendous life despite the one or 2 demons constantly haunting me.
That brings me to my conclusion. I realized I wasn’t doing well. I was embarrassed to come across as having these things bother me. But I got to a point where I realized that if I didn’t handle these demons now I was going to sink even further and past the point if no return. I began seeing a therapist on my own. Something about being able to just talk in private and being able to just let it all go helped.
While I still face my demons every day I have kept them at bay. I am open with my feelings with my partners. In return I make sure they are doing okay as well. I have made it my mission to make my partners and patient’s smile if only for a minute. We as EMT’s see a lot and go through a lot. Long hours, low pay, micromanagement. You name it, we are all in the same boat. We will always face these demons but the help is out there. Realize that there is nothing wrong with reaching out and talking to someone. It could just save your life.
– Story written by an anonymous EMT.