The Cost of Service

The following is a personal testimony from a Police Officer who when suffering from PTSD sought help from the Legacy Place Society, an organization War Doll is proud to be partnered with for our next clothing campaign.

LPS is a non-profit charitable organization that serves to strengthen Peace Officers, Firefighters, Emergency Medical Services, 911 Dispatch & Military Personnel & their families by building legacies of hope, mutual respect, trust & longevity to withstand the challenges of their profession within the communities they serve in.

"I was fortunate to go on to become a high-ranking and highly decorated officer with the RCMP. During my 34-year career, I attained the rank of Superintendent, and I was twice decorated for outstanding service to Canada. I didn’t realize it at the time, but in the fall of 1999 I was embarking on a journey that would forever change my life.

Due to my background as a criminal investigator, I was seconded to help the United Nations restore law and order in war torn Kosovo, Yugoslavia.

My initial job was to set up the major crimes program for the Kosovo police service, teaching them how to investigate serious crimes.

Shortly after my arrival, I was appointed the new Canadian contingent commander, which made me solely responsible for all of Canada’s policing interests in the Kosovo mission.

We were exposed first-hand to the graphic horrors of genocide, constant gunfire and incredible violence. I was living on an emotional razor’s edge and was incapable of calming myself.

Besides ensuring my own personal safety, I was now directly responsible for 100 other Canadian police officers who were part of the contingent in Kosovo. During the initial stages of our mission, morale amongst the contingent members was severely taxed.

In fact, the overall success of Canada’s participation in the mission in Kosovo was in serious jeopardy.

After leaving the mission in June of 2000, I was put in charge of the RCMP detachment in [redacted]. I can honestly say that I pushed back or repressed any memories I had of my experiences while in Kosovo.

That is, until about a year later when I took my daughter to a medical appointment. When I looked into her eyes and saw a very scared young girl, I instantly had an image of a young boy who had stepped on a land mine and had his legs blown off. It all came flooding back. I could immediately smell the burnt flesh as well as the smell of the burnt gunpowder.

For about three years, I wasn’t sure what was happening to me. I honestly thought I was going crazy. Without warning, I would be overwhelmed with a debilitating feeling of helplessness and anxiety; I would wake up virtually every night crying and in a cold sweat having experienced horrible recurring nightmares.I just couldn’t get the look of the little boy’s eyes out of my mind or the smell of the burnt flesh and gunpowder.

I turned to alcohol thinking that I could drown out the nightmares, but it only made things worse. Looking back, I feel so bad for my family, as they had to experience my extreme mood swings and tirades without ever knowing what was going on.

Making matters worse, I was a high-profile community figure holding a position of authority. Sadly, I never told anyone what I was suffering from. Finally, after the loss of a member’s life under my command due to a police boating accident, I didn’t know how much more stress I could handle. I was at my mental and physical wit’s end.

I finally reached out for professional help, and it was no surprise to me that I was diagnosed with acute Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

I remember telling my therapist that I didn’t want to take any medication. I had witnessed firsthand members of the RCMP becoming addicted to anti-depressants while battling PTSD and I vowed that it would never happen to me.

I just knew that I didn’t want to become the person I was becoming. I knew that the person I was becoming was not me. I needed help. At the time, I felt that the senior management of the RCMP looked upon those suffering with PTSD as being weak, which is why I never told anyone about my diagnosis.

Although I never thought about taking my own life, I know why some victims suffering from PTSD want to end their lives. Those suffering from PTSD have an overwhelming sense of helplessness and despair.

Although it took about two years, with the help of some professional guidance I developed good, sound coping skills. These skills, coupled with my understanding of the power of thought and belief, helped me to function at a high level once again. I no longer had the constant emotional toll of being alone with the symptoms of PTSD.

As a society, it’s paramount that we understand that PTSD doesn’t just affect members of our armed services. It can affect people in virtually every walk of life. PTSD does not only impact the victim, it’s devastating to the victim’s loved ones as well.

Sadly, from my own experience, I know that there are several hundred, if not thousands, of emergency responders suffering from the symptoms of PTSD, and they don’t even realize it.

PTSD is not a personal weakness or a flaw in one’s personality. It truly is a killer, and unless we ensure that there’s proper awareness of the disorder and increased access to professional help, we will continually see victims taking their own lives because they fear having nowhere to turn.

People with PTSD should never have to suffer in silence. Encourage them and support them in their time of need."

To learn more about Legacy Place Society, visit their website at www.legacyplacesociety.com

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