Let me just start by apologising, this post won’t be a manicured scripted piece of literature, in fact far from it, it will instead be just some of the overwhelming constant thoughts spilling onto the page, a page that I can no longer just stare at.
I have written and deleted this many times already as I’m genuinely unsure how to write what I want to say.
I’ll start by saying this isn’t easy, I’m not one to be a frenetic boding social whiz constantly posting, in fact the complete opposite. I’d go as far to say that putting my thoughts out there terrifies me as I worry what people will think. You will normally find me holding down a nice comfortable corner trying to avoid the crowds but it’s now at a point where as petrifying as it is to speak out and maybe even lay myself bare it’s a price I’m willing to pay.
I have spent my whole career protecting those that are the closest to me and then ones next to them and so on right down to people I haven’t long met just what the non Hollywood version of this job is actually like. No matter how many times I have heard the scone jokes or ‘what movie did you watch today’ I haven’t retaliated. I have refrained from piping back with a justifiable example of the countless emergencies that I have attended, ones that cruelly will forever haunt me and be part of who I am now and never leave my side.
I’ve done my best to protect my family from what we see and what we do as I know they would worry about me and if they were being honest wouldn’t really want to be told the truth. To them I’ll always be there little bro or the baby of the family. I have put up with them being upset with me and making the comments that I’m avoiding them or what have they done wrong now, as they haven’t seen me in a while and yet the stark reality is that this job robs you of most occasions you might have with those family and friends outside your immediate household.
I lost my Dad when I was fourteen. Let’s just for a second imagine if I was to tell the likes of my Mum and Sister that on a constant basis I watch people loose a loved one that meant as much to them as my Dad did to us and that every time I witness this it brings those emotions back to the surface. All this for an aspect of the job that didn’t exist when I first joined, an aspect that no Firefighter had any say or choice in accepting.
My girls have only ever known me as a Firefighter and because I protect them for the realities of the job they have always thought that their Dad has the best job in the world. Unfortunately little girls don’t stay little for forever and my two are just starting to find out some of the truths. My youngest which is 10 doesn’t want me to go to work at nights anymore and often asks was anyone hurt today that you had to go help. I also have to find a way of not hating myself because I have let them down and not been fair to them cause I have been angry or semi vacant due to a bad incident that even days later I’m still trying to process. One of the things that hurts the most these days though for me is that they have stopped telling me about events or activities they have coming up as they just assume I will be working and won’t be able to go. This is due to the track record we have unfortunately left imprinted over the years.
I would like the people who have let us get to this point know the true impact they have had and are leaving. Don’t worry, I’m a realist and understand they won’t care!
The job already comes with stress and a weight that you start to carry without really knowing. Over the years it slowly gets heavier and heavier. Not only do we worry about the age old problem of money and that hopefully we get enough overtime in this pay. We then have the worry of fighting the guilt that that very overtime is time away from our family. You also start to worry more and more that over the years you begin to loose the line of where genuine fatigue starts and stops to the point where fatigue becomes the constant norm, so when you do actually feel more tired than normal it is in fact bordering on unhealthy exhaustion. The fact we now assist the Ambulances in cardiac arrests, no good stories in with the bad for us, just bad story after bad story adding to the invisible weight. The list goes on but on top of all of this we now have the enormous weight of having to enter into a standoff to fight to be able to do our job properly and be valued enough to have that reflect in how we are treated.
I have always ALWAYS felt honoured and humbled to be a Firefighter. I have never taken it lightly or for granted when putting my uniform on for every single shift. I know the realities of what being a Firefighter means, these being that I may change a life that day, whether it be saving one or just being that person they need in that moment where they are vulnerable and scared. I also know that when I put on that uniform there is a chance that I may be injured or worse not get to come home. I have done all this for sixteen years now. I did it because I believed in what I was doing and why we were doing it, I believed the sacrifices were worth it, I believed I had so much to give, now for the first time ever I’m not so sure….