The next day, I sent Andy an email thanking him for participating in the chat to help further educate the masses about behavioral health issues. Andy wrote back and said that the healing effect of helping (peer supporting) fellow firefighters is in and of itself a paradox. Andy, not only is this a paradox, but also a very cathartic (cleansing) experience as well. I said this once before: the more you tell your story, the easier it becomes. Tom Howard has recently answered this call to action.
In my personal experience as a peer supporter, I have seen and heard the relief (in the eyes and voices) of a brother or sister in need when they realize that someone else out there just like them, has felt the same raw emotions of this career. Today (9/3/15), I was bestowed another God-given opportunity to cleanse the echoes of my mind when I participated (along with several other members of the team) in the filming of a video about our group. I was asked to tell my story, how I am healing, and what involvement in ILFFPS means to me. I held it together up until the very end when I talked about my best friend in the whole, wide, world: my wife Judy who rode the rollercoaster of PTSD emotions with me for over 16 years. A lesser person would have walked away from this, yet she did not. My love for her grows stronger with each passing day as I am still in awe of her courage to face this head on.
The paradox that Andy spoke can be simply stated as this: we are given the gift to help others in need and at the same time, heal from our own wounds. How great is that!!! My new friend Dr. Deb, in a recent tweet, captured the essence and mission of what ILFFPS is all about and I quote: “Peer to peer support provides mentoring & positive role models on the journey of healing & recovery.” I leave you with the latest installment from the Zac Brown Band that eloquently states the key ingredient needed for both the success of our team, and personal growth as individuals. Enjoy.
Stay safe and be well,