It was a very slow day at work. But it all started out in complete chaos.
The day started with me holding a guy down in the ER waiting room. The guy was involved in a domestic who was attacked by a family member. He was really hyped up on drugs and alcohol and blood was everywhere from his sizable wound he sustained on his arm from the fight prior to arriving at the hospital.
Some days don’t start that way, some days do. That’s just what I go through at work.
When I train new officers in the department my main message is “at the end of the day, you have to do what it takes to make it home in one piece. No matter what you see on the job just remember do whatever it takes to keep your sanity.”
The law enforcement job isn’t easy. And worst of all it’s not suppose to be.
I’m still considered new to the world of law enforcement. I work with seasoned vets on the force from prior agencies all around the state. One thing that they couldn’t really prepare me for are the things that working at a hospital police agency has in store.
Over the past few years I was involved in a fight that almost ended my life. I also experienced holding someone while they died in my arms. I’ve seen battered victims come through the hospital barely hanging on to life. Carrying men and women while they bleed out all over me trying to keep them awake. People who were out celebrating their birthday’s with friends only ending with bullet holes through their stomachs. Telling family members that their child will be okay when things look bad. Trying to decide whether or not to fight back the dad who just lost his 15 year old son who is expressing his anger and sorrow on us because he has no idea what else to do. A family who has been fighting a losing battle with their drug addicted daughter. Pulling a mother away from her child because I had to get her out of the way from the doctors who were trying to help bring her child back to life. Lying to myself and them that it’ll all be okay to see if I can bring some sort of comfort to their lives.
It’s never fun. It’s never easy. I would be a liar if said I haven’t sought some sort of professional help.
The second year was a bit easier. You start to realize how to handle yourself. You hold your composer. You find the right words to say instead of staring blankly into the person trying to form some sort of words to say. You learn to joke about certain things that normally shouldn’t be joked about because its the only thing that keeps you from going insane. No one else would understand unless they’ve been there themselves.
There are times where I just remember the faces of burn victims that I’ve held down to the bed because they’re in shock. Thinking about the little girl I brought in after being almost kicked to death while just enjoying a ride on her horse. Watching someone just drop dead after experiencing complete respiratory failure and trying to explain to the wife that her husband is being taken care of by the medical professionals.
One of my best friends was shadowing me today at work. I was just showing her around the place and talking about all of the things that I’ve experienced over the past few years. She was kind of in shock and awe. She works in our department as an assistant.
I explained all of the things that scare me the most. The things that I fear every day. What goes through my mind every once and a while. She was amazed at everything I was saying because all she could say was “but you’re the most charming guy here. You are the most kept together person I know who wears the uniform. Some how you manage to bring a smile to other people. I saw how you made an irritated nurse who was upset with you laugh at the end of your conversation with her. You just seem to have that effect I guess. You seem to be really good at what you do. It’s really weird when you are in a bad mood. That’s why I was surprised last week when you just weren’t your normal happy self. I guess it kind of makes sense now that I know this.”
The only thing I could really say was “hey… Sometimes you gotta fake it till you make it. I’m not happy all the time. I’m not always going to be cheerful. There are some days where I get angry that I don’t get paid enough for what I do. There are days where I wonder why I didn’t pick another career path. But then I realize that sometimes it’s not for the money. For every bad depressing sad story I have for you there are a million good ones. The ones where I let the kid sit in my patrol car and play with the lights and sirens. Where little kids say they want to be like me. Parents thanking me for the job that I do. Helping people has no price. It’s just what makes me happy I guess. I can suffer as much as I want but at the end of the day as long as I can make someone laugh and smile then I did my job. It’s not about taking down the bad guy and throwing them in jail. It’s about making people smile.”
She agreed that I need a vacation to take a break.
It was nice to know that someone understands what I go through and how I handle it. We’ve had so many people leave the job because after a month they get burned out. They can’t handle the stress, the scene, the every day hustle and bustle of the environment.
We all have to learn to have that inner switch. One moment you are taking down a crackhead in the ER and the next you’re helping an old lady find her car. You bring in a kid who’s been shot to being on your lunch break an hour later. You just happen to be sitting down and next thing you hear is an officer screaming for help on the radio after you just wrestled a massive guy back to his room.
I guess that’s why I act mature and immature at the same time. I like to be a role model figure but at the same time have do a lot of kid fun stuff. I like to joke around like a teenager. I like to keep my uniform clean and presentable. I make stupid fart jokes and at the same time express my compassion with a patient who is just seeking real help in life. It’s what keeps me somewhat in line.
I’m just proud that I haven’t had to seek any mental counseling in months. I’ve been able to handle all of my inner emotions about how to control them. The thoughts and faces of people start to fade away.
With the support of my family, friends, and most importantly my girl I know that I don’t have to explain anything to them of what I do or what I’ve seen. They just know that I’m okay and are there when I need to talk.
I don’t need to lose sleep over the thing’s I’ve witnessed. I just know that there is someone at my job who is waiting for my smile and I hate to keep people waiting.
Maybe that just adds on to why I am so dang chipper at times. It’s not just for who I interact with. It’s also for me. If I am happy, or even pretending, I make others happy as well. Even when I fake it seeing them in a better mood makes me feel that much better.
One thing that I want to pass over to you is that no matter how much of a crap day you have there is always someone who has it worse. No matter what you just went through, no matter what you just saw, no matter what you just did there is always someone who needs you to be strong for them.
A smile is worth more than any word anyone can say.
So smile and make your happiness contagious.
I’m sure no one will blame you if they catch it 🙂