When I began writing a few years ago, it was initially to just get stuff out of my head. I had left the Fire Service and was financially forced to sell my Falconry business in France, which was my alternative contrast to service life. The more I wrote, the more I found some clarity. Reading it out loud to my wife brought up emotions that I didn't even know I had. All had been squashed down and ignored, not even giving them a second thought.
Hell, I was far too busy!
These scribblings I eventually posted these as a blog after my wife suggested that it may actually help others too. Journalling it down was definitely helping. To my amazement, the feedback was positive and obviously needed by others too. So it grew and grew. Blogs became posts and then I had scary ideas of not only a web page for blogging but a new Face Book and Instagram page and YouTube page and then podcasts.
Each time building more confidence and allowing myself to be vulnerable and be seen. In a world full of criticism and blame, I have jumped. Unsure of the outcome and ridicule, or snide comments and hate, yet recalling my days in charge of a crew, where you are there to make decisions and be held accountable, I know that not everyone will resonate with what is said or written. This isn't anyone's fault. I remind myself that some people just aren't ready to deal with things yet. Everyone has to do it their way in their own time when they are ready. I keep telling myself that, what I have to say may be exactly what is needed for others at that time.
Fortunately, when I have had doubtful days and questioned why am I bothering, is the message actually reaching anyone? I have out of the blue been contacted by people I didn't even know were following and had comments that have really moved me. Kind and honest words of support.
You see, none of us know who needs support and encouragement when feeling down.
It might be a song or music that lifts the mood, or eye contact from a stranger, followed by a smile.
They have been acknowledged, seen even if just for a moment.
This is inspiring and heartfelt. Making a connection and helping with nothing in return is priceless.
So, I have continued and challenged myself beyond my limits of technology and have not only written but I have published 3 books. In a bid to show others what they may be experiencing is real and somewhat normal for what has been experienced, and not to feel isolated or alone.
To offer Signs and Symptoms that I have experienced and talk about possible Triggers that could set you off. And finally, discussing openly the Breaking of the Stigma of Therapy, plus giving you alternative therapy examples, mainly through exercise.
This not being for personal gain, as donating the proceeds of book sales to charities.
Then I had another crazy notion to help highlight Raising Awareness of PTSD and Mental Health. I was already cycling to get fit and gain headspace, so why not join the World Firefighter Games in Lisbon with a cycling kit? And if that wasn't enough, let's do another the following week in the Algarve in Almodovar. Both times creating a chat among fellow Firefighters, Police, and civilians. Allowing them to be heard and offering encouragement to them. All dealing with similar issues.
You see, we all need each other. We all contribute in various ways, however small, people are assisting and helping.
So, I ask, what would have happened if I didn't step into my unknown, outside of my comfort zone?
Next comes another idea of cycling across the Algarve in 1 day, 174km to raise funds for the Alerta (Bombeiros firefighters in the Algarve,) and The Firefighters Charity in the UK. Wow, this was a huge challenge. Organizing a new sponsored kit from doTERRA Healing Hands Foundation which is amazing, and thank you so much. Bringing together other riders and coordinating stays on Fire Stations and support vehicles. The language barrier was truly tested and I am forever grateful for the help to resolve and overcome it all. The loaning of bikes and equipment from 2 bike shops and physio's being on hand for any riders. I look back at the resolve of everyone for making it happen. It is when we are facing our doubts, is when it needs someone else to step up and take over, giving us a breather and thinking space.
We made it happen, raising money for both charities and completing the event.
It was my first ever 100 miles and the same for my son who had previously only ever cycled 30 miles distance. Cycling next to him saying, " just 1 more hill after this one" either gave him determination or encouragement. But he was relieved when it truly was the last hill.
The point here is that everyone was contributing to all whilst cycling. Just cycling next to you, shows you that you are not alone. Having a support vehicle and crew with food and water was so incredibly reassuring. Both had taken the day off from duty to assist, and one of them went in on a night shift that evening, bless you.
And now I am considering something new again, but all will be revealed later.
I am becoming more comfortable in my uncomfortable places. It can be said that of Fire situations I guess. When you have training and experience, the risk factors are lessened.
Studying more outside of the physical, including PTSD, REBT, CBT and Meditations, Trauma Informed Somatic exercises, Yoga, and Depression courses goes to show that we are never too old to stop learning and evolving.
5 years ago I was leaving as a saturated Leading Fireman, literally seen enough and soaked wet through from plentiful buckets of water being thrown. A fitting send-off from great mates and colleagues. Now, I feel I can step back and contribute from a healthy perspective and approach.
And yet my cause and drive is to help more and feel I haven't done enough yet. Yes, the physical activities are in planning and others are taking up the cause and supporting by wearing cycling tops and running tops from FTE, which is amazing. The more people see this, the more people may begin to open up and talk, which will lead to healing. But there is more...
Something that I could not have dreamt up years ago and imagined I would be considering, and that is coaching. Yes, I have coached and instructed for years, but certainly not in this field.
So, what if I just keep quiet and keep it to myself?
How will others benefit?
How will others learn and adjust to their struggles if they are not informed to make better choices?
Some or most when dealing with mental health issues are already narrow-minded and have tunnel vision, unable to see a way out or possible alternative options. Again leading by example.
Most people already know the answers, but taking that initial step is the biggest and scariest of them all. Some have been so overwhelmed that they have become 'comfortable' in the 'uncomfortable.' Stepping into an unknown.
Enliken this to a smoke-filled house, we have no idea of the layout, obstacles, and dangers ahead, but with training and skills, we push on and make ground. Ultimately to save a life.
Your life is just as important as anyone else's.
So, a big leap was made the other day when I wrote to an International Rescue Group asking if they had things in place to aid the rescuers on their return. I am not expecting anything, however, I know that I have to offer. The choice to take me up on it is theirs to make.
Nothing is easy and at times throwing the towel in and walking away to protect my own health has been challenging, again, however, I know I am making small contributions to others' lives and helping. Either by way of supportive and inspiring words or actions, they can follow.
Whatever you are doing, do it to better yourself, do it with intention and awareness.
And do it to make yourself happy.
Doubts are there to help you question things, to rule out the dangers.
And to search for new possibilities.
Don't let them hold you back.
Like your fears, face them and ask why you are fearful.
If you are better informed, would the decision be much easier?
Healing takes action and should be carried out regularly.
Remember, we are never too old to learn and evolve.