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Being a First Responder Doesn’t Make You Invincible

I just listened to this episode of #armchairexpert with guest #annakendrick and it resonated with me a lot.

It hit hard because I too have been in a long term relationship that in hindsight, was unhealthy, toxic and emotionally/psychologically abusive at times.

Why am I mentioning it here…? Because at the time, I was a cop.

I had a commanding job where I had to take charge, be prepared to engage in physical conflict, attend domestic disputes between people twice my age and be expected to give them advice or take action on their behalf, know the law, conduct long and short term investigations, train junior members, come to the aid of the public when they needed me, drive a vehicle at high speed in pursuit of offenders and be prepared to use my firearm in a situation if necessary….

And yet, in my private life, I was not in command. I let someone be disrespectful, lie to me, emotionally and psychologically abuse me, scream at me, treat me like absolute shit.

Why did I put up with it? I was in love. I thought we were meant to be together. I didn’t think I deserved any better. I didn’t have the courage to leave, even though deep down I knew I didn’t belong with him anymore and outgrew him years ago.

Then, when things got really bad and scary, and his behaviour escalated to a dangerous point involving cruel attempts at psychological manipulation, stalking and unimaginable lies about fatal illnesses….I was embarrassed. I couldn’t face calling the people who did the same job as me for help. I was ashamed of letting it get to that point, where if I’d attended “us” while on the job, I’d know exactly what to do. I would have such clear, unambiguous, rational thinking, but while trapped in the middle of it, I couldn’t. I was afraid of how his behaviour might evolve further, that he might threaten suicide again or try to physically harm me. Or what I saw as worse still, would become vindictive and try to damage my career and reputation with more lies, with me losing the right to carry a firearm if he made the “right” kind of accusation.

I can’t cast all dispersions on him however, I must shoulder some of the blame. Not the psychotic, crazy end, but the relationship as a whole. I was in no way perfect throughout this relationship either; I certainly have my faults, I acted poorly at times, didn’t have the right communication skills I needed or the maturity to understand (that now I know all too well) I should’ve left ever before there were houses, dogs, engagement rings and wedding plans thrown into the mix.

However, I can also see why I didn’t. 7 years of being treated in certain ways, as well as other psychological baggage thrown in for good measure from childhood, doesn’t equip you with the confidence to leave until something catastrophic happens. It doesn’t make you believe you deserve any better, you feel ashamed for letting it get to this place, you lack the self worth and respect to know how much better you DO actually deserve or the self compassion to forgive yourself for any of it.

What I’m saying is, just because you are a First Responder, doesn’t mean you are immune to toxic, psychologically damaging behaviour in your relationships. You can be strong and courageous at work and have nothing left in you to fight when you get home, so you put up with it. Even though, deep down, you know you deserve better.

Being a First Responder doesn’t make you invincible.

If this is you, I implore you to LISTEN to that little voice, trying to speak up and be heard. You can survive the awful trauma you are exposed to and must endure at work, you can survive this too

I know, because I have.

Get in touch if you’d like to work on improving your relationships with others, as well as yourself, or you need support to overcome a difficult break up.

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