Brotherhood in the Fire Service? ~ One Wife’s Point of View
by Becky Leveillee
My name is Becky and I am the wife of a great Firefighter/EMT. Chris has been a great husband and a great person. Unfortunately, for the last two years he has suffered from PTSD. This serious problem has changed him in so many ways.
In the past, he would do anything for anyone, loved his job, and loved his life. Since he started showing symptoms of PTSD he has changed in so many ways. He is depressed, full of rage, rude, can’t sleep, and has been in the hospital a few times for wanting to kill himself. He feels like a failure.
I know that there is PTSD in the fire service, but many would not agree. They are the people that are supposed to help others when no one else will. But most of the people in the fire service say “you have to just forget about what happens and go on to the next call”. They think that you are just going crazy, or went off the deep end. Ignorant! Even firefighters don’t believe this.
As his wife, there is only so much I can say and try to do to help. I take the brunt of his harsh words, not directed at me personally but they still come out that way. I try to cope by just learning to leave him alone when he is in his “moods”. I write in a journal, and then rip it up so he doesn’t see what I wrote. It helps me get things off my chest.
The saddest part of this is that I can no longer say that there is a “brotherhood” in the fire service. I have seen many of my husbands “friends and co-workers” totally avoid him. It hurt’s, it hurt’s both of us. He is lucky enough to have a few real friends that he has worked with stand by him and believe him, which in turn helps me because I know that if I need them I can call on them anytime.
People need to be taught that even if you can’t see this illness, it is real. It has real problems. It puts cracks in families that may not be able to be repaired. Chris does not get treatment for his PTSD because they dropped his medical insurance; actually, they dropped him all together.
The best that you can do is love them, stand by them, and stand up for them. When you can’t take it anymore call a friend, take a walk, and yell if you have to. If you can’t keep yourself mentally calm, then you can’t help them. I know it is not easy, but hopefully when this is more recognized in the fire service, there will be more help for both the firefighter and the spouse.
Editor’s Note: Thank you so much, Becky, for coming forward and sharing your story and that of your husband’s. This mindset within the fire service must stop! Wives and families of firefighters struggling with depression and PTSD will be very instrumental in getting archaic ideas and unsympathetic attitudes changed. I hope more spouses will step forward and share their stories.
I encourage everyone to read the following article that offers advice for helping your firefighter.