Hello all, just wanted to get a couple of things off of my chest. As of early December, I am getting long-term disability (60% of salary) for a max of 2 years. While I am certainly appreciative of getting a benefit many people don't, things are falling apart. With two little girls and a wife who will eventually get tired of the stress of my OCD – PTSD – anxiety issues, money is tight and things are beginning to crumble. I worked as a career firefighter and paramedic for 15 years, and although I am striving to get back to duty, the possibility of that happening dims with each passing day. I am beginning to find out that once outside of public safety, I am all of the way out. There seems to belittle of the brotherhood that is touted in public safety, and I am beginning to feel the separation of the only career I have ever known really begin to tear at me. I had a career I loved and wished nothing more than to retire from. Because of the rumored (and somewhat factual) reasons for my absence from the fire department, I have become something of a punch line. If you are killed in the line of duty, you are memorialized. If you are seriously injured, you are fondly remembered for your sacrifices. If you are pensioned off due to mental illnesses, you are laughed at behind your back.
Honestly though, I just couldn't do it: I couldn't drug my way through life, and I was afraid if I started drinking, I would find a warm place in a bottle that I may not crawl out of until it was too late. Suicide is now a hot-button topic within the fire service, and I have had several friends and acquaintances within the fire servicewho have committed suicide. Some were from the stresses of the job, others were for reasons most of us will never know. Still, I couldn't do it; I thought about it many, many times but I couldn't get the picture out of my head of what my wife would tell my daughters as to the reason I had left them at such early ages. So, I told my department of my continuing struggles, and after a million questionaires, psych tests, etc., here I sit at my kitchen table without a job, wondering what in the hell I have done to my life.
My therapist and psychiatrist are both optimistic to my prognosis, and believe that I can still work. I am happy for that; there seems to be a lot of satisfaction for me knowing that I provided for as long as I did and that I am still employable. I feel there is more good I can do with my life, and I am trying to get there. Although many people with OCD and other disorders are unable to work (and I am in no way condemning or putting down those who cannot work), I still think there are things that I can do.
At the end of the day, I know I did the right thing by "coming clean" with the problems I have with mental illness. I never once refused a fireground order, although I think I was getting closer to one day just freezing up. I just couldn't pretend that things didn't bother me the way they really have for the past several years, and I did not feel right getting paid for a job that requires the total mental commitment I was beginnig to lack. I couldn't stand the though of getting a co-worker injured or killed because my head was no longer in the game, and I could not live with myself if I ever couldn't follow orders and a civilian was hurt.
So, there it is…what in the world did I do to myself? What am I going to do with myself? My wife is near her breaking point, my children are too young to understand, and I just don't know what to do anymore. Any thoughts?