Braving the storm

“When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what the storm is all about.” – Haruki Murakami

Personal reflection below. Please note it discusses the death of a first responder.

I recently found out that someone I loved, but had fallen out of touch with for a variety of reasons, had died several months ago. Despite the fact that we hadn’t talked in a number of years, he was someone that I truly loved always hoped for the best for. He had his demons, and I have my own, and those demons were definitely contributing factors to us parting ways as it was too easy for us to fall into unhealthy habits with each other when we were near.

The circumstances of his death are unclear, in that no one will ever truly know if it was an accident or something more intentional. I know he struggled with PTSD for a long time, a direct result of his service as a first responder. Although the job hurt him, he was fiercely proud of what he did, and when he was medically disqualified from working in the field a little part of him broke, and I don’t know if he ever recovered.

For a number of years I watched him fight, the system, himself, and his PTSD. I tried to fright beside him. Hell, I tried to fight for him. I spent many days so incredibly angry at the systems and organizations that broke him, but were doing so little to help put him back together. But at the end of the day it became clear that as much as I loved him, some of these fights were his alone.

He was someone who hurt me, but someone I always wished the best for. I hoped he would put in the work, and turn the corner, and finally be happy and healthy again. I never actually allowed myself to think that we wouldn’t cross paths again some day, what would be, in my mind, a cheerful reunion, where we would both be thrilled to see the other person, to share a hug, catch up, and meet the new important person in our lives.

The last while has been hard. I’m in a much better place on all levels than I was when we parted ways in 2019, thanks to a lot of personal work, therapy, and support from folks I love and who love me. I’m trying to give myself space to grieve. I’m trying to remember that it’s okay to love someone and give yourself space from that person. I’m trying to remember that people make decisions that we may not understand. I’m trying to believe, that maybe, he is finally at peace.

That was one of his storms. Now this is one of mine. And I will face this storm, as I have faced so many others. I am not the same person I was before it. But I will make it through.

As cliche as it sounds, we get into these professions to take care of people. It takes a brave person to do this work, and a braver person to recognize that we need help too. We need to realize that it is our responsibility to take care of each other. We signed up to help people after all.

Finally, please remember, if you are struggling, be courageous and reach out to someone. I promise you are loved by so many more people than you could ever imagine.