A week and a half before my wedding, I experienced the worst call of my career. As a result, both my employer and a physician recommended I take time off to allow my mind to process everything that occurred. In truth, I felt okay. I was at peace with the call but mentally I was exhausted. For the first few days I slept 12-16 hours a day and was irritable while awake. Every so often I would have flashbacks. I was told these symptoms were normal with most operational stress reactions. My mind was processing it all. During these first days my fiancé was my rock. My main concern was how do I transition from witnessing the pinnacle of human suffering to experiencing the happiest day of my life within such a short period of time? I shot one of my groomsmen a text (a fellow first responder) and we headed to the Kawarthas the next week. I didn’t know what to expect or what I might gain but in the end I found all I needed.
We decided we wanted an easy paddle to blow off steam so we decided on Crab Lake in the Kawartha Highlands. We loaded our gear into the canoe and we set off across Wolf Lake. With each paddle stroke relaxation set in. The occasional intrusive thought gave way to beauty of the lake. We portaged onto Crab Lake next. The only sound was the wind gently blowing across the lake. We made camp just before a thunderstorm came across the lake. We stashed our firewood underneath the canoe and rode out the storm in the tent. The power of the storm was invigorating. I then noticed that the mental fatigue I had been experiencing for the last week had finally left me. We unzipped the tent fly, cracked a warm beer, and watched the sheets of rain make their way across the lake. View from the tent onto Crab Lake
The storm passed. We spent the rest of the day swimming and hiking. In the evening, another storm made its way around the edge of the lake. In a sense it was symbolic. The storm passed me by just as the burden of human suffering had.
We packed our gear and paddled out in the morning. As we passed a male and female loon, I smiled, excited for the coming weekends events. The short time in nature had put my soul at peace and my mind in the right place.
The Bottom Line
To my fellow first responders,
We all experience calls that rattle us to our core. If you haven’t then it’s coming. There is nothing wrong with taking time, talking to someone, and getting away from everything. Let your mind and soul reset and reframe over time like they need to. Don’t catch yourself wishing you had spoke to someone sooner. Nip it in the bud and get back to being the best you can be for your citizens, your patients, your family, and most importantly for yourself.
The wedding turned out pretty amazing too!
My rock. I Couldn’t do it without you