Recently a neighboring department had a fire that involved 2 structures. The department called for mutual aid from 2 neighboring departments and together made a great stop with no one getting hurt. Later, after the situation was mitigated the Chief used social media to express how proud he was of the team for their aggressive stop.  Well as happens many times on the internet it lead to a discussion about why must we be aggressive…..aggressive gets people hurt…….its irresponsible to risk firefighter lives.  It led me to consider is being aggressive reckless? In a time when we fight fewer structure fires and have faster burning buildings is it wrong to be aggressive?

As I delved into this topic I feel like we must first understand the meanings of “aggressive” and “reckless”.  The Webster Meriam Dictionary defines Aggressive as:
1a: tending toward or exhibiting aggression
aggressive behavior

b: marked by combative readiness
aggressive fighter

2a: marked by obtrusive energy and self-assertiveness rude, aggressive personality

b: marked by driving forceful energy or initiative : ENTERPRISING an aggressive salesman

Webster also defines reckless as:
1: marked by lack of proper caution : careless of consequences

2: IRRESPONSIBLE reckless charges

Notice these two words are not synonyms, neither word is in the definition of the other. They in fact have no where near the same meaning.

So can we be aggressive without being reckless? First what is an aggressive fire department? In my mind an aggressive department is a culture. The upper level command staff has empowered line officers to be decisive, supports their decisions, and provides them the training to make sound decisions. This “aggressive” department trains their firefighters from day one to be prepared. they spend time on topics like building construction, fire flow path,  pump operations, scene size-up, and understanding engine and truck company ops. You won’t hear phases like ” That won’t happen here” ……” I took that class years ago”….. or my personal favorite” We’ve done it this way for 25 years.” They are always striving for perfection knowing its unattainable.  When these firefighters pull up on scene he come off the truck, dressed out, tool in hand, ready to go to work. The officer makes a size-up, The engine guys stretch the line to the door, the truck company prepares for the search and ventilation.  Decisions are made and everyone is working off the same sheet of music. How many time have you been on a scene that was like a grade school band concert? You know what I mean, yeah, all the kids are playing their instrument and the notes on the sheet but the timing is off and it doesn’t sound right. Well, an aggressive department works and trains so the timing is right and everyone knows their job and when it needs to be done.

What is a reckless department? I don’t think there are many intentionally reckless departments out there. I think most departments are well intentioned. I do feel like a department that doesn’t spend time on the previously mentioned topics may end up making reckless decisions.  Without understanding building construction or flow path how can IC make the determination whether and interior offensive attack is appropriate,  whether to send a vent crew to the roof,  or are there tenable spaces for potential victims.  Not having skilled firefighters who are well trained and having set procedures regardless of conditions is reckless, not having well trained officers is reckless,  having to wait for Chief, Assistant Chief, or Battalion Chief to start identifying strategic objectives is reckless. I was standing with a group of firefighters one afternoon at an event. A longtime firefighter whom had been an officer was telling me of an incident where they rolled the engine with himself, a 6 month probie, and a guy who was issued gear 3 days earlier. They arrived on scene and made an interior, offensive attack. When I asked why his response was that that’s the way they fight fire and you need to be aggressive with your attack…….That’s not aggressive, its RECKLESS!

I will go to battle with an aggressive firefighter who comes off the truck, tools ready and is smart enough to recognize potential hazard. A passive, unconfident firefighter make me nervous. Many time we see a professional athlete injured when the outcome has been decided and the effort is not where it should be. I want my crew to be giving 100% effort 100% of the time.  I want them to be knowledgeable, physically fit, and confident. I want them to be AGGRESSIVE.

35 years ago, my department had very little to do with Public Education. There was a Prevention Division, but no real accountability on what businesses got inspected or how often. It was not uncommon to have a business go for seven or more years without a visit from an inspector. In the early 1980’s, a Public Education Program was started. First a traveling puppet show to educate children on fire safety practices, and later, involvement with engine companies that assisted the Pub Ed personnel and even did some education on their own. It was a start.

Very soon after we started a Smoke Alarm program and gave away and installed thousands of them. Ten years later we wanted to start over but had no real record of where the first ones were installed. Now, 30 years later, we still do not have a smoke alarm in every residence. And even today you can find officers and firefighters who believe we should only roll out of the station for alarms (And of course for groceries).

So what happened? We started out like gangbusters and after many years it just faded away. There are several reasons.

First, it starts at the top. The fire chief has to have a vision regarding public education and he has to convey that to personnel every chance he gets. He has to live it. And it does wonders to actually show up at some events or education programs. Second, whenever there was a budget cut to be made, the first positions the chief usually looks at is the civilians in Public Education. I have heard this over and over at seminars and at National Fire Academy classes. See #1, it starts at the top. Leaders today have to get creative. Find the money elsewhere, for example, does the department really need all of those secretaries, do we really need all of those reserve vehicles, can overtime be trimmed, can the cost for supplies be trimmed, and how about using three firefighters on a 40 hour workweek whose job it is to do public education. And in between, they could still be available for calls.

Third, apply for grants. Especially now it might pay to hire a part time person to just write grants and probably get most of their salary paid for with a grant. Prevention supplies, safety props and safety trailers can all be purchased with grant money. Fourth, have a real Public Information Officer. Some departments have one but they only report on an event if they are available or something happens when they are on duty. There are so many outlets to publish articles sand photos and these garner valuable support for the department. Other people will not know what your department is doing if you don’t tell them. Other people include the Mayor, City Council, news media, other fire departments, and other internal departments.

I started a newsletter that was published once a week that included only four or five fire or rescue events that occurred in the week prior. This was sent to all other internal department heads, Mayor and council, other departments, and all of the fire stations. After just a few short weeks, if we missed one, council members called to see what happened. This was free to produce, no grant money, just some typing. And now there are two other departments in the county that are doing the same thing.

It doesn’t take much to get the prevention ball rolling. But it does start at the top. Where do you as a leader stand on the issue?  Or are you still sitting waiting for the next alarm? Smokey says “Only you can prevent forest fires”. Modern thinking adds, “Only you as a leader can turn the opinion tide around and get the fire prevention/public education ball rolling”.

Stay safe. Everyone goes home.

trust-honesty-respectTrust. Only a five letter word, yet it carries so much weight.

When we leave home in our own vehicle for work or travel, we automatically are trusting of the other drivers on the highway. On a two-lane road we trust that the driver coming towards us will stay in his lane. On a larger highway or interstate, we trust that the other drivers that we pass or the ones passing us, will stay in their lane and not pull into our lane. Of course in both instances it certainly is not blind trust. We watch the other guy for signs that he can’t be trusted. But for the most part, other drivers get our OK.

When we take our vehicle in for servicing, we trust that when they bring our vehicle back everything they say they did, they actually did. Sure, I check under the hood just to be sure, not that I know what I’m looking for. But it makes me feel good. For the most part, I trust the guy to do his job.

Yes, we place our trust in strangers’ every day, expecting that others will do what we expect them to, just as we are doing what they expect.

Why then is it so hard for many leaders to trust those that work for us. People that we know far better than the driver that is going the other way, someone we likely will never see again. A division chief told me he trusted those that worked for him. In the next sentence he explained how he had GPS devices installed in all of his divisions’ cars. Trust? It just went out the window. Of course any department head will tell you that these devices help to track mileage and shortest routes, all in the name of saving money. Now don’t laugh. This is what leaders are supposed to tell their personnel to get their buy in. I have found that in many cases, those that work for us know a lot more than we do. They can read too, and reason, and understand and they know when someone doesn’t trust them, just as we do.

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So do you as a leader have the trust of your subordinates? It can only happen if you really trust them. How can you tell? I find that when personnel that work for me trust me, either as a Company officer or as a Fire Chief, they will open up to me, share family stories, come to me with problems, share ideas about a better department, and really act like you’re not just a boss, but a friend too.

Trust encompasses other things such as honesty and integrity. Be honest with your personnel, all of them. Show others that you have the integrity that your rank demands.

Be a leader of value, practice what you preach, never make promises you know you can’t keep, and whatever you do, don’t say one thing and do another.

Stay Safe – Everyone Goes Home.

Motivation can be defined as a term used to explain behavior. Motivation drives people’s actions, desires, and needs. A motive is what prompts the person to act in a certain way, or have a tendency to exhibit a specific behavior. So, how can we, as leaders, motivate our people? Here are two schools of thought.

One, the leader will manage to get their personnel to do the things they want by motivating them to do it. President Eisenhower stated, “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.”Eisenhower was right about the leadership part. But that is also motivation as described above.

For those of us who are faced with the prospect of motivating out personnel, usually on a daily basis, I subscribe to the idea that we cannot motivate anyone. What we as leaders can do is tocreate an environment where our personnel see the benefits of a program or process to the organization and make up their minds to get the job done. That, I think, more closely mirrors what Eisenhower said. But how do we do it?

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Recently at a theme park while we were walking down Main Street, the strong aroma of fresh baked goods hit us in the face like a tidal wave. Without a second thought we were in the bakery looking at all the food we shouldn’t be eating. I noticed what appeared to be a manager type standing to one side, greeting people and making pleasant conversation. I asked her how they manage to get the smells of all those baked goods out onto the street with the doors closed. Simple, was the answer. The store has huge fans that blow the smells from the oven area out onto the street. After that, we just wait for the aroma to do its job. Simple and effective. No one suggested to people on the street to enter the store, no signs directing anyone, they just use one of the human senses to convince people to go in. They created an environment in which those of us on the street let our nose lead us into the bakery.

Sounds simple but it’s not always that easy, which is why Eisenhower said that it is an art. How do you get your people motivated?

I have found that if you create an atmosphere where personnel are rewarded and recognized for the work they do, if you show them their ideas are valued and they are respected, if you take an interest in their personal lives, if you as the leader take responsibility for mistakes that are made, and if you create programs that let them show off their talents, then you will have a created what I call a motivational environment. You will find that it is easier to get programs moving because personnel will see the benefit to the organization that they feel they are a valuable part of. In the end, you will find that you actually can get others to do what you want because they want to, not because you told them to.

Stay Safe – Everyone Goes Home

“Leadership is the privilege to have the responsibility to direct the actions of others in carrying out the purposes of the organization, at varying levels of authority and with accountability for both successful and failed endeavors”.  What leader made this statement? It sounds modern and something right out of current leadership books. Actually, the statement is from Attila the Hun.

Attila the Hun was a barbaric tyrant, whose armies ruthlessly destroyed the beautiful countryside while on their way to plunder and pillage numerous cities and villages inhabited by the more civilized people of European nations. However, even the most dreadful of people, if they are the leader of a group, use certain leadership principles that can form an effective base on which to build other skills important to success.

It has been said that to lead, one must simply have followers. When Attila became Chieftain, he was faced with a number of disorganized tribes that he forged into one nation of Huns. This was not accomplished simply because he was the chief.  Attila’s leadership was inspiring, he was a great listener and communicator, and he had a vision. Leadership principles that are sound, reasonable, and proven will work for anyone who has the skill to use them properly.

Attila knew the leadership qualities that were necessary for the success of his organization. They included;

  • Loyalty
  • Courage
  • Desire
  • Decisiveness
  • Timing
  • Responsibility
  • Empathy
  • Credibility.

It is no coincidence or surprise that a leader like Attila would expect the same qualities in his time that are expected of a leader of a successful organization today. Even as King, Attila was forward thinking enough to realize that even his decisions would not be accepted by everyone. Leaders today should expect no less. However, like Attila, successful leaders press on with the self confidence that their plan will succeed. Self-confidence begins with a desire to lead, a want-to-be-in-charge attitude. For leaders to be successful this self-confidence must be evident to the organization around them.

As a leader, you must have a passion to succeed. This passion must be obvious (Lead by Example) to your subordinates and is the quality that effective leaders use to inspire employees to want to accomplish bigger and better things, to seek results that make the organization a success. Effective leaders exhibit by their actions the standards the people within the organization are expected to uphold. Leaders establish the morale, integrity, and sense of justice of their subordinate leaders by their own actions. Attila recognized the fact that he was not the only leader in his organization. However, he expected his subordinate leaders and the entire organization to perform at the highest level and to abide by the standards he set and exhibited.

The people of the organization are important to the success and longevity of the organization. Attila realized this early in his career and expected his subordinate leaders to hold the same belief. Attila realized that providing small tokens of appreciation would result in a more dedicated and committed army of followers.

And finally, Attila had a vision for his people. He was able to effectively communicate this vision to his organization by setting the example for expected standards, by his actions as a warrior, and by his ethical positions in regards to the importance of the tribe. Attila ensured everyone in his organization knew the history of the Huns, their survivability, their warrior skills, and the long line of ancestors. His vision included the past and built on that to create a vision of the future. With this vision, Attila was able to energize his people to accomplish great things.

Attila was able to accomplish many things during his tenure as leader of the Huns. He brought numerous separate tribes together and formed one nation. He ruled with an iron hand but was well known for his fairness. He involved his subordinates in creating the plans for the future. Attila possessed many of the qualities that effective leaders of today possess. These qualities are tools for any leader to use to keep their organization on the road to success.

If you have a formal book review group or policy, this one is a good source for leaders at any rank.

Remember, Stay Safe – Everyone Goes Home

Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun Paperback

February 1, 1990

by Wess Roberts

ISBN: 0446391069

ISBN-13: 9780446391061

leadership-secrets-of-attila-the-hun-book

Much has been written about what leadership is, how management is different than leadership, and what you can do as a leader to improve your department. Do we remember what it was like to be a firefighter and how we reacted to the many different leadership styles we were exposed to? I remember thinking, in some cases, that the behavior my superior was exhibiting is a good behavior to forget. In other cases I saw the benefits of different styles and felt I would easily remember them. Basically we all learned good things and bad things from the many leadership or management styles we were exposed to. With that in mind, here are some and certainly not all behaviors that the personnel who work for us should expect from us.

Practice honesty, be fair, and treat personnel in a consistent manner. At the very least, personnel management is a difficult job. However, by consistently enforcing clear and concise guidelines and defining a course of action for personnel in various circumstances, it will eliminate unfair treatment and strict enforcement of department policies as personnel know exactly what is expected of them. Nobody likes surprises; whether you are the Chief or a firefighter recruit.

As a rule, and with very few exceptions, Firefighters are mature and professional. These are the same men and women who are buying a house, paying monthly bills, getting their kids to school, and planning for the future. Why then, in so many cases, does it seem like the administration staff makes decisions that are based on the assumption that these same men and women are uninformed or just not sharp enough to understand. Firefighters are on the job because they want to be, paid or not, and as leaders we should remember they are our number one resource. Remember how we felt when we were there? Did you ever think no one was listening? They probably weren’t. We need to listen and understand what our personnel are saying. They have a lot of very good ideas. We need to lead by example and set the standard. I believe they expect that.

Whenever possible, we should take a personal interest in our people as individuals. A simple question about their significant other makes a difference in how they perceive you. And how our personnel see us as leaders is more important than how we see ourselves. Identify signs of stress, talk about their worries at home if they have any, and let them know you care. Theodore Roosevelt put it best when he said, “Most people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

Firefighters can be fiercely loyal, but only if they have a trust in you as a leader. As a group, we have been called a fraternity, a close knit group, and an extension of one’s family. Firefighters look to their leaders for dependability, confidentiality, allegiance and reliability. These attributes combined are the mortar that holds your team together

Firefighters expect that their needs are anticipated and provided for. We need to provide adequate resources to accomplish tasks such as training. Many of these needs are met through the budget process, but we can still be pro-active in providing for the never ending and forever changing needs of our personnel.

As the leader of our organization, or even as a company officer, we need to make and convey clear-cut, positive decisions and orders which are not constantly changing. This is part of our responsibility. We should only ask our personnel to accomplish those things which are commensurate with their capabilities. It is important to know the talents individuals possess and challenge them in their thinking and in their tasks.

Finally, firefighters want their good work to be recognized and publicized where appropriate. A simple, sincere thank you or a pat on the back for a job well done goes a long way. In today’s social media world, it is a good idea to research these outlets for information sharing. If we don’t, somebody else will and has. Whenever possible, get photographs and send them in with a story to local news outlets. These will be published in many instances.

Our number one resource looks to us as their leaders to provide and promote their interests. It’s part of our job.

Stay Safe – Everyone goes home.

Idea from an article in Responder magazine, 1998, written by Assistant Chief David Fulmer.

To summarize so far – As part of the National Fire Academy (NFA) Executive Fire Officer Program (EFOP), the student is required to author an Applied Research Project (ARP) within six months of completing each of the four classes. For the executive Leadership class ARP, I sent a  survey to 50 metropolitan departments including my own department at the time. I then compiled the results and completed an ARP that culminated in describing the top 10 leadership qualities that my own department and outside fire departments felt were important for their leaders to have. In this, the last installment in the series, the last two qualities are presented.

2.  Approachable

Be approachable; Listen to both good news and bad news. Be aware of what your body is saying. We all speak with body language, and you don’t have to actually say anything to communicate a message to others. Unfortunately, your body may not always say what you want it to. Approach others. If people aren’t approaching you, why not go to them? Nothing makes you look more outgoing and approachable than actively seeking out people and talking to them. Compliment others. Ask questions. For success, you should be good at making others feel comfortable and important while feeling comfortable yourself.

1.  The number one quality identified by other departments, business leaders, and my own department at the time is Integrity. Today if one performs a google search for top leadership qualities, integrity, honesty or being trustworthy are at the top of almost every list.

As a leader, or as a first year firefighter, one should practice honesty and integrity and treat people the way we would want to be treated. People want to do as good as job as possible. We need to supply them with the tools and allow them to perform. As leaders, a climate of trust and participation is much more important today than ever before. Build ownership by building trust. As a leader, you should never shed the cloak of honor, morality and dignity. As a leader, you should hold a profound conviction of duty above all else. By your own actions, not your words, you establish the morale, integrity and sense of justice of your subordinates. You cannot say one thing and do another.

While there are many definitions of leadership that are published each year in hundreds of books, one thing remains certain, we do seem to think that we know leaders when we see them: they are those individuals who, in their inimitable ways, inspire confidence, undermine despair, fight fear, initiate positive and productive actions, light the candles, define the goals, and paint brighter tomorrow’s.

It has been observed over the years that countries, provinces, cities and lesser organizations rise and fall on the strength of their leaders and on the ability with which their leaders carry out the responsibilities of office – seeking first the good of the people. The fire service in general has strong traditions that bind all of us magically together.

Leadership is not for everyone. If you become one or are one, the rewards can be great and the act becomes fulfilling.

Stay Safe – Everyone Goes Home

BOOKS

Roberts, W. (1989). Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun. New York: Warner Books

Hersey, P. Dr. (1984). The Situational Leader. New York: Warner Books

Bennis, W., & Nanus, B. (1986). Leaders: The Strategies for Taking Charge. New York: Harper

& Row.

Smith, P. (1998). Rules & Tools For Leaders. Garden City Park, New York, US: Avery

Publishing Group.

Ziglar, Z. (1986). Top Performance. New York: Berkley Books

Maxwell, J.  The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader

To summarize so far – As part of the National Fire Academy (NFA) Executive Fire Officer Program (EFOP), the student is required to author an Applied Research Project (ARP) within six months of completing each of the four classes. For the executive Leadership class ARP, I sent a  survey to 50 metropolitan departments including my own department at the time. I then compiled the results and completed an ARP that culminated in describing the top 10 leadership qualities that my own department and outside fire departments felt were important for their leaders to have. In the next few weeks I will present these qualities and in this article are qualities four and three.

4.  Consistent

A leader must constantly adhere to the same principles, course of action, and ethics. Our personnel want decisions that are consistent with those decisions made in the past. For any organization, a consistent leader will stay the course, make decisions based on facts, and changes course when presented with new technology or faced with uncontrollable outside forces. Consistency of purpose, of objectives, decisions, and character are all important for successful leadership. While his actions are arguably “the right thing,” President Reagan understood that it’s not necessarily the direction (the angle you take), that counts, but sticking reasonably to the direction you choose.

3.  Educated

In the broadest sense, education includes all those experiences by which intelligence is developed, knowledge acquired, and character formed. For most people today, education means training for a particular career. It is expected that the leaders of our organization will be educated. Formal education (college), seminars, technical bulletins, fire service magazines, and job experience are all means of receiving an education. How the individual uses that education is a decision each one has to make.

Are you the leader in your organization? Are you consistent with decisions or courses of action? As a leader, every decision you make is being watched for consistency. Stay the course. Do you keep up with the latest technology? You should be at least be aware of the basic ideas of new technology. If you haven’t considered the National Fire Academy, at least research it. Start teaching, it is the best way to stay educated. Remember, all eyes are on you.

The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined efforts of each individual in the organization working toward common objectives. These objectives should be realistic, should be clearly understood by everyone in the organization and should reflect the organization’s basic character and personality. Author Unknown

Stay Safe – Everyone Goes Home

To summarize so far – As part of the National Fire Academy (NFA) Executive Fire Officer Program (EFOP), the student is required to author an Applied Research Project (ARP) within six months of completing each of the four classes. For the executive Leadership class ARP, I sent a  survey to 50 metropolitan departments including my own department at the time. I then compiled the results and completed an ARP that culminated in describing the top 10 leadership qualities that my own department and outside fire departments felt were important for their leaders to have. In the next few weeks I will present these qualities and in this article are qualities six and five.

Through research, we learn that no single management style or leadership trait is the best. Situational management and flexible leadership are descriptive terms for the best suited style for a given situation. There are good managers and good leaders; however, very few of those in a supervisory position do both well.

6.  Confident

Managers at various levels of organizations seem to share a respect for the abilities of their colleagues, and the belief that they enjoy the confidence of their superiors. This atmosphere of pride andconfidence is infectious. Self – confidence is critical to decisiveness, for without it, an officer loses his following in challenging situations. Proper training and experience develops in officers a personal feeling of assurance with which to meet the inherent challenges of leadership. Those who portray a lack of self-confidence in their abilities to carry out assignments give signs to their subordinates, peers, and superiors that these duties are beyond their capabilities. Wear confidence on your sleeve.

5.  Decisive

Making the right decision at the right time has always proved to be an elusive prospect. While it is possible to do so, as a leader you will also make incorrect decisions. Many of these decisions will have little or no effect on the organization as a whole, but if you are fortunate enough to reach upper levels of management, the decisions you make will affect an individual, a group, or the entire organization. Decisiveness is a learned skill. Through experience, past practice and precedent one can learn not to repeat the same errors as those before. Initiative in decision making is not sufficiently demonstrated by an officer when it occurs only in relation to easy assignments. It must be exhibited when facing difficult and high risk tasks as well. A resolve to do the right thing is characteristic of good decision making. Responsible decisions are hard to improve upon and the perfect decision is rare. The best decisions are usually the more prudent of the logical alternatives. Every decision is an opportunity to improve the conditions of the organization. Officers must learn to be decisive, knowing when to act and when not to act, taking into account all facts bearing on the situation and then responsibly carrying out their leadership role. Procrastination confuses and discourages your subordinates, peers and superiors.

The responsibilities of leadership are great. In the end, vision, drive, energy, singleness of purpose, wise use of resources and a commitment to the mission of the department become a characteristic of an officer who excels. A leader should always put forth their best effort, listen, learn, walk the talk and be committed to the organization.

Remember – Stay Safe – Everyone Goes Home

So I have really never considered I have had PTSD, but some of the symptoms have been coming more evident as the years go by. I had started to notice I was a different person that what I can remember of myself before the start in public safety. I have always been a champion of mental health services, but have never really taken advantage of them myself. That all changed this week.

As my fiance and I go through pre-marriage counselling, I noticed our counselor had several books on EMDR. For those who aren’t familiar, EMDR stands for eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. I had heard of it through a chance meeting of another firefighter in Upstate New York.

I met Scott Geiselhart, a firefighter from Minnesota, was the Keynote Speaker for the New York State Fire Chief’s Association Conference. He spoke to us about who and what we do. He explained his story and how EMDR changed his life. At the moment, I didn’t really think about it at the time.

So as my fiance and I were sitting in the counselor’s office, I asked him about his EMDR books. He went on to explain how EMDR works and the studies on the benefits. I then proceed to explain some of my symptoms I have noticed and my fiance have noticed. Our counsel thought it would be pretty beneficial to try the EMDR treatment.

So, this week I started my first EMDR treatment. It was quite an experience and I really was nervous on how this was going to work. So we started out talking about what I wanted to get out of our therapy. I said I’d like to become less stressed and anxious would be nice. We then start to talk about some of the calls and incidents that had left a lasting image in my mind. We finally start to narrow down what we would work on during this first session. One incident that had left a heavy burden on my mind was a suicide we had when a juvenile shot himself in the head with a large caliber rifle. I will spare you the details, since this article really isn’t about the war stories. I go on to explain how the incident made me feel about and how I felt about myself afterwards.

My counselor makes some notes and we take a break as he gets the EMDR light bar set up. So, the way this treatment works is you are placed in front of a light bar that goes back and forth while listening to an audio que. The goal is to just follow the light with your eyes and that movement helps bring the brain into a RIM sleep like cycle. During RIM sleep your brain is able to process and file memories, so this treatment help process previously unprocessed memories. Now I will say that this treatment doesn’t make the incident go away, but puts you in peace of what happened.

So my treatment starts, my counselor reads me a statement “I feel like I have no compassion for others and I am cold to others”. I head to rate the statement on a scale of 0 to 10 where 0 was untrue and 10 was true. To be honest, as I started to bring up these memories, I really felt like that was 100% true. He marks down the score and he starts the light bar. I can remember thinking, “Is this going to work” and “Am I doing this right”?

As I continue my treatment, after a few minute my counselor asks me what I am feeling in a couple words. As I give him my responses, he writes them down. Then he asks the previous statement and want me to re-rate it. This go around, I feel better and rate it a 6-7. We continue on and as we continue a sense of clam comes across me. I feel more relaxed and at peace with the feeling I had with the incident. 

The he asks a final time fro me to re-rate the previous statement, and to be truthfully honest I felt it wasn’t as true as I felt in the beginning of the session. I felt better about the whole incident. I did have other memories come up, but I really felt much better about how this incident went and there was a relief from what had been bothering me. I can’t say that this has cured all my PTSD symptoms, but it has definitely helped.

I can say this about PTSD, don’t think that you are alone in this. Just because you only have a few symptoms doesn’t mean you have to fight this alone. I encourage anyone who is having problems to seek help. It’s ok to not be ok. Reach out to someone especially if you feel like hurting yourself. We are all in this together and we are each other’s keepers. Don’t hesitate to reach out to someone close to you or anyone, even me. I hope that if you read this you found it interesting or helpful. I will continue to update as my treatment continues. Until then, take care of yourself and your fellow brothers/sisters. We don’t want to lose you or anyone else to suicide.

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