Wow, this statement is a strong one for so many reasons. I could add don't lose your sense of humour too, as I had almost finished this post and hit delete by accident. That's my mistake for chubby finger typing and rushing I guess! I lost the lot except the title. So when I talk about acceptance, I had to chunter to myself and finally accept I would have to write it all out again.......take 2 as it were! As an opportunist, I can try and make it even better than it was before.
For so many years I have been in the dark, a heavily dense smoke-filled room dealing with fire situations and putting myself at risk. This is exactly why I joined.
To save life, to save property and render humanitarian services.
But many years has taken their toll on my body physically and my mind mentally.
How many of us are truly comfortable sitting in the dark? Allowing thoughts to come and go.
Imagining so many scenarios and on heightened alert to any noises and sounds. There comes a point when you are overloaded with thoughts and emotions. Saturation point. I had reached a point where I could absorb no more and no longer wanted to be in a dark place, physically or metaphorically.
So what's it like in a house fire?
Imagine then, you are in a room and it's so dark you cannot see your hand in front of your face.
This is what Fire Fighters are facing regularly around the world. The heat is bearing down on you and the crackling of the fire is heard. To have got to this room, you will have entered from outside, pushing yourself into the heat and dense smoke. Shuffling along, sweeping movements with your arm and leg, looking for obstacle and landmarks, (items of furniture to identify and build a picture of the layout of this building,) whilst searching for any casualties or pets as you go. You enter through another doorway and the fire sounds louder. Still, no sight or light except your flashing of your ADSU, (automatic distress signal unit,) designed to go off if you stop moving. 110 decibels for those to hear outside and deafening for you if wearing it, but hey you are trapped and on the floor so does it matter. This is designed to save your life. We enter as a team of 2 minimum and have a safety backup outside. Everything is about teamwork. This ADSU light is bouncing off the smoke like headlights in the fog. Pretty annoying really so many of us would tuck it under our armpits.
You push on and something is there vaguely in front of you. Your brain is trying to make sense of it all and find a logical solution. As you move forward the light gets clearer. No longer are you in the dark, a feeling of being secure comes over you. Reaching the light source you then recognise it to be a TV, left on as the occupants ran out in a hurry from the fire.
Being in the dark plays so many mind games on us all and depending on our situation at that given time we will all come up with alternative thought processes. As a BA Instructor, you are inside the firehouse waiting for the BA team to enter and carry out their search pattern briefing. You are there to ensure they don't hurt themselves in the fire room or fall downstairs or run out of air.
So we train to work in the dark, removing our sense of sight. As a BAI we are usually shuffling around backwards, keeping out of their way, often they don't even know you were there with them.
These Firefighters are going about their search patterns and fire fighting, and mostly doing well. But it's when they are under pressure that will make a huge difference. They may already be tired from working or going through difficult times and their coping capacity already near its limits even before entering this building. Physically and mentally they are being pushed, they have searched and gone past the TV and into another room. Located a casualty or dummy in this case and working their way back out. This is where mistakes happen, even more so than going in. You are fatigued and sweating, drawing air from your cylinder and struggling. Your casualty isn't getting out without your help, but how close are you to going down too?
You don't have to be in the Fire Service to feel like this. Who hasn't had dark times? I have been at times, pretty low for different reasons, and I have been alone in the dark, literally and I am ok with it. I have had some training remember and it isn't an unusual place. Thoughts will come and go and I will acknowledge them for what they are. Deal with what is in front of you not what you think it is in front of you. I have trained my body and am now training my mind. This process is a conscious effort.
Following this BA team, it is clear they are lost. Comms between them is sharp and they have plenty more swear words. Their safety sweeps diminishing as they progress. Has the floor collapsed since they searched it earlier? Or has furniture been knocked over by other teams? Hazards await as they move along.
This is precisely when they have to be at ease with being alone in the dark. They have to stop, take a knee and a deep breath and logically think.
Where were they when they knew exactly where they were in the building? That glimmer of light from that TV. The TV was in the living room and on the opposite side of the entrance door. Accepting that mistakes had been made and accepting that they needed to stop, forget what could happen, and concentrate on making this happen. The TV was a landmark and on the route in. This is the way out too.
We would have lost so many which is why we train regularly and a safe place to do so. We push ourselves beyond our limits and would do so every day if it means others can have another chance. Yet it is a sad reality that Fire Fighters are not superhuman and sometimes pay the ultimate price. Physically under so much stress, but mentally it isn't easy to distinguish or identify. Hiding most of my stuff was easy, I smiled a lot. Yes, I am a happy person most of the time, but it leads people off the trail. Don't interrogate or analyse me, you'll get a harsh response or blocked.
"How are you keeping mate?" followed by my answer of, 'I'm good, how are you and the family?' Distraction technique. I am also an open book and it had to come out to the right people, those who I trusted and knew would understand. My colleagues and close mates.
We have all helped each other deal with so much over the years. An incredible bond of friendship.
Don't get me wrong, coming out of a building with a casualty or pet and giving them a second chance is an amazing feeling. We don't need praise, but being acknowledged goes a long way.
Acknowledgement that sometimes we aren't ok. We may just need to take a knee, rest a while, but ultimately, be heard that we are struggling. A listening ear and acknowledgement of your situation isn't being fixed or advised on, it's being listened to.
Being in the dark means so much to so many and completely different to all of us.
Don't worry if you find yourself in the dark, maybe it's to remind you that you have your own inner spark within you. Capable of lighting up a room with positive energy.
For a casualty waiting to be rescued, the sense of hope from a torchlight piercing the dense smoke from the BA crew makes a huge difference. Now they have hope and a chance.
Maybe being in a dark place allows your mind to slow and think logically. Who hasn't woken up in the night and had a thought and a solution pop up in their head. It's a time when there are no other distractions coming along.
Remember how far you have come on your journey.
Remember that your spark is unique.
Don't let anyone dim your spark.
Sometimes it takes someone else to show you how bright you can shine.
Being lost is where you may find yourself too.
I hope this helps you and inspires you to see how amazing you are.
Shine and shine brightly within, even on a dark day, your spark may be just what someone else needs to see.
Together we are all here to help each other when needed.
We owe it to ourselves to heal and be happy.