Tomorrow is never guaranteed. We’re only ever guaranteed right now, in this moment. So often these moments get wasted. I’m guilty of doing that myself, far more often than I’d like to admit.
I was thinking about this today and it hit me pretty hard. As humans, we tend to assume that we can say or do what needs said or done, tomorrow. The truth is, tomorrow is never guaranteed and there’s no such thing as the perfect time.
I’ve found that it’s often easier to avoid or put off dealing with things, than it is to face them in the moment. I’m guilty of that myself.
For some reason, I’ve been talking a lot about my time as a medic lately. I don’t really know why because I never talk about it. Every so often I come across a person who can relate and I’m able to open up. I think that sorta opened up this can of worms and inspired me to find the courage to share my experience.
One of the calls that changed my life took place 15 or 20 years ago. It hits me just as much today as it did back then. To be completely honest, I really should say haunts me just as much today as it did back then.
I know it impacts me and can influence my behaviors or how I react to certain things. It’s not something I think about. It’s just sort of a triggered response. I don’t think I’ve talked about this here, and certainly not this openly. So this is a big thing for me.
I was called to a home of an elderly couple. When I got there, the couple was fighting, like an old married couple, actually. She was worried about him cause he had heart problems and she wanted him to get checked out. He was angry because he didn’t want to go and he thought she was overreacting. They were both yelling and saying hurtful things to each other. I felt he should probably get looked at because of his history and his symptoms. He finally agreed but he refused to speak to her while we were loading him up in the back of the ambulance. She was going to meet us at the hospital as soon as she could.
We got on our way and it was about a 45 minute drive to the hospital. That’s a nightmare scenario if things went bad so that was weighing on my mind. He was talking to me and seemed okay. I was still uneasy but he was stable and doing fine.
About 15 minutes into the trip, he went downhill fast, and I mean fast. He grabbed my hand and barely able to speak, asked me to tell his wife how sorry he was and that he loved her so much. He never spoke to me after that. I got him to the hospital alive but unresponsive. I never learned the outcome and I was never able to deliver the message to his wife because we got called away before I could. That’s eaten me alive since then.
That’s why I can sometimes have this pathological inability to walk away from an argument or give someone space when they need it. In the moment, I immediately return to that old man, in the back of the ambulance, so scared because the last words spoken to his wife were in anger.
It makes me scared because what if I walk away and something happens before I have a chance to make things right or resolve the problem? That call impacted me so profoundly, it changed me at a core level. It’s just so deeply ingrained in me that I don’t even realize I’m doing it when I do it. It’s not all the time but sometimes a really emotional situations can trigger that response. I just want to resolve whatever is happening in the moment, so neither one of us are angry, or hurt, and we can leave on good terms. That way, if something happened, at least they knew I loved them or that I was sorry, or whatever else, and our last words weren’t hurtful. At the very least, I would maybe I would understand what was happening, so I don’t find myself in the same place as the elderly man, in the back of my ambulance, who so profoundly changed my life.
There’s only a handful of people on this planet who know that story because I don’t like talking about it. I do know that some of you out there have probably been on the receiving end of this baggage I’ve carried with me for so long. For what it’s worth, I’m so incredibly sorry and I always mean well, but it can sometimes come across as pushy or impatient. The reality is, in that moment, I’m absolutely terrified. I want to end the fight or disagreement and at least understand what’s happening.
I always think I’ll talk about this tomorrow but I never do. Today, for some reason, I became very aware that tomorrow is not guaranteed, and the only way I can actually get this out there is to just say it.
Maybe some of you can relate to this. Maybe some of you have first hand experience with me, while I’m trapped in one of these moments. I’ll be the first to admit that it can probably make me a pain in the ass at times but I’m working on it.
If you know someone who’s been a cop, fire/medic, a soldier, or someone who’s been through a trauma, chances are there’s a tremendous amount going on beneath the surface, that you don’t know about because we don’t talk about it. It’s easier to just say everything is okay, even if sometimes, the truth is, we’re barely hanging on.
Keeping this stuff inside, only makes it worse. It leads to insecurities, emotional baggage and it can even push people away. People that you need and want in your life. People so important to you that you would never intentionally push them away and yet it happens.
As someone who’s been diagnosed with PTSD as a result of all the things I’ve seen, that I can never unsee, I realize that I can’t keep this stuff to myself. I have to be more open about it. People can’t understand if they don’t know or if I don’t give them a chance. Maybe they will never understand but at least I won’t be going through it alone anymore.
I can’t explain how amazing it feels to know I have someone in my corner, during my darkest hour. They don’t have to get it or understand what I’m going through. Their presence is enough to help me once again find my breath and footing.
I’m painfully aware that it’s hard to talk about these things. For me, I rarely talk about the calls where I lost a child. I didn’t even want to write that sentence. I don’t want to think about it but the truth is, it impacts me on a daily basis. It impacts my parenting, my relationships….everything.
Letting people in will help them to understand what’s happening beneath the surface. That will help them to better and support me.
I know it’s kind of a leap of faith but I absolutely regret not opening to some of the people in my life. I can’t go back in time and change the past but I can commit to being more open as I move forward.
I’ve talked about a lot of things over the last 10 years but this was by far the hardest for me to write.
This is personal as I have ever gotten on this site. I’m really uncomfortable publishing this but maybe it will reach someone and maybe they’ll be encouraged to open up or perhaps it helps someome better understand the reactions of someone in their own life.
I really hope this helps.