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September 14, 2017
While anonymous, this fire fighter’s struggle with depression is one that many IAFF members face. His advice? Don’t let hope be your only plan.
I have been a career fire fighter for 10 years. I love my job, I have a loving wife and two great kids. So why do I feel sad all the time? Why do I have no energy to enjoy any of it? I feel like I should be happy. I should feel fortunate. But almost every morning, I wake up and feel a sudden, overwhelming dread.
Today, my wife is going to work, which means I have the kids. I need to get them to school. I’ll go to the gym, then get some “honey do” chores done around the house.
These little details of my day are all parts of a life I’ve worked hard to achieve. However, the thought of all of these activities sucks the life right out of me. I go through the motions, pretending everything is fine. I drop the kids off and go straight home to sit on the couch. I can’t seem to motivate myself to do anything. I think of all I need — and want — to do. I should work out, but I feel so tired and stuck, so I decide to take a nap. After waking up, I regret not getting anything done. Later on, I lie to my wife about what I did today.
The night before a shift, I can’t stop thinking about going to work and all the energy that it will take to pretend I am fine and happy. I’ve become really good at putting on a front and telling the boys that life is great, my kids are awesome and my wife is wonderful. But none of it is true. As soon as I get a chance, I say I have to get caught up on some paperwork, just to go lie down in my bunk. I spend my time wanting and hoping to feel better and worrying about why I don’t. I know what I need to do, but can’t seem to accomplish it.
This is the day in the life of a fire fighter with depression. Friends and family remind him how fortunate he is, how happy he should be, but they don’t understand that he is drowning in dread. He can’t just shake it. He can’t just make a decision to feel different. If he could, believe me, he would.
When your back or knee is injured or sore, you take steps to treat, protect and strengthen it. The same steps are critical for someone who suffers with a behavioral or mental health condition.
Depression is an illness. It depletes your immune system. It needs treatment to get better. It does not just disappear. The important thing to remember is fire fighters all suffer depression at some point, and at different levels. But when it impacts our relationships, work and home, we need to take action.
Don’t let hope be your only plan. If you are diagnosed with depression, you should seek treatment and actively participate in it every day. When your back or knee is injured or sore, you take steps to treat, protect and strengthen it. The same steps are critical for someone who suffers with a behavioral or mental health condition. Don’t wait to see how bad it will get. Don’t wait for depression to “turn off.” Go to a professional and get the help you need to take the steps to get your life back.
If you’re struggling with depression, alcohol dependence, post-traumatic stress or any other behavioral or mental health condition, you’re not alone. The IAFF Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health Treatment and Recovery has helped members just like you get the treatment they need and return to the job they love. Contact the IAFF Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health Treatment and Recovery today.