Warrior On Overtime
Many of us have the ability to rise to the occasion of being a “Warrior” when the occasion warrants it. If you are a parent and your child’s life has been at risk, you’ll have realized awakening the warrior within is possible. You may think you would never hurt anyone, but given the right circumstances we are all capable of hurting someone in the protection of ourselves or another. Your body can generate the driving energy required to become a warrior during crisis, and those that have experienced the need, would relate to the dramatic shift that they felt in their energy field.
When you’ve taken on a career that embraces the warrior archetype, there will be a multitude of incidents that require you to be a warrior. The warrior archetype represents physical strength. The warrior has the ability to protect, defend and fight for one’s rights or a cause they believe in. Although a warrior may believe he/she is invincible, these incidents can build up a large reservoir of unresolved emotions that we store in our memories. Many of us grow up believing that certain events will never happen to us. We realize the possibility is there, but we don’t spend a lot of time worrying about it. This assumption “that it won’t happen to me”, allows us to have personal invulnerability. For example, although I’m a police officer, I’ll never get shot or have to shoot at someone else.
When the event we believed would never happen to us, does happen, it is very shocking and disruptive to one’s life. We feel very vulnerable and become uncertain of the future. The “it won’t happen to me” has become “it did happen to me” therefore “it could happen to me again”. However, being a warrior can mean that you put your pain and confusion aside and forge on in your career. This is what society has expected of the warrior over the ages, to sacrifice their own safety and wellbeing for that of society. The origin of this adage “suck it up” seems to be uncertain although it may have originated as far back as WW1. But the general meaning of the idiom “suck it up” gained popularity in the 1970’s and still seems to have its place in society. Police are expected to be composed as they endure hardship, stand tall and carry on, in order to achieve their objective of protecting and serving society. I recall a judge stating in court a number of times, that police should be expecting to be assaulted on the job (as though it was part of what we signed up for). Following my husband’s shooting incident, his Inspector attended the hospital and immediately told him “you need to get back on the horse”. He was advised by his Inspector that once he was released by the hospital, he was to don his uniform and walk through the area where the foot chase had occurred, (that led to him being shot) with select media personnel. This was to show the public that the area was safe and boost the morale within the policing ranks (which had plummeted after the shooting incident). There was no consideration of the mental anguish my husband was going through at the time. He was advised to “suck it up, buttercup” and that if he didn’t comply he would be adversely affecting his policing career.
Not only is there the constant threat of danger and high exposure to societal conflict and negativity but you are constantly on public view and under the scrutiny of your superiors in law enforcement. There is also the aspect of living and working within a “fish bowl”. How can you ever let your hair down or your emotions to show when the public is always watching you, recording you or uploading a video of you onto youtube. Is it a wonder that a job that requires multi-tasking, laying your life on the line, “sucking it up” and being in the public eye can cause stress, personal conflict and psychological problems?
Law enforcement in Canada, is overseen by a special civilian agency the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) which investigates circumstances of serious injury, sexual assaults and death resulting from criminal offences by the police. Once a civilian is on the receiving end of an injury that has caused bodily harm or death, the SIU is called in and their investigation starts in order to determine if the police were involved in a criminal code offence. If you are a subject officer, you will find yourself removed from what is familiar and advised not to talk with fellow officers. We also have the Police Service Act (PSA) to abide by. Failure to comply with the many provisions of the PSA and regulations can result in professional discipline or loss of job. If a citizen does become injured or harmed and that results in death, there is then the inquest into the death to attend to. This can be a lengthy process often a couple years after the incident in which your actions are once again reviewed and examined by a panel of experts and the family of the deceased or injured.< As we continue on in our warrior lives and these memories build and stack upon themselves, we may not be able to recall them readily as we push them under and they lurk in the murky waters beneath the surface of our life’s journey. However these fragments can organize themselves with the right triggers (sounds, smells, physical sensations) and come back into the forefront of our memories causing us distress. When all the similar sensations of a previous trauma come together they can trigger a flashback of that event. The flashback isn’t modified by time and is why the trauma can remain the same to the person, although it’s been 10 or 40 years later. The passage of time is erased. Due to the sensations that have come together the person experiences physiological changes in the body that they can’t control (increased heart rate and blood pressure, increased adrenaline and stress hormones). There are also the changes that occur in the brain (the amygdala, the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex). Depending on the individual this can cause memory and attention problems (unwanted or re-occurring memories), irritability, sleeping difficulty (vivid nightmares), hypervigilance and avoidance (activities, people, thoughts or feelings). This can result in lifelong chronic physical disabilities (chronic pain, low energy, eating issues, sleep issues, sexual dysfunction), learning disabilities, relationship issues and emotional issues (anxiety, depression, fearfulness, panic attacks, irritability, emotional numbing and withdrawal). Is it a wonder that a warrior experiencing all this would want to disconnect from their bodies? Is it a wonder that a warrior in this state would seek to numb themselves out and turn to medication, alcohol or some other vice? How does one become secure and complete in their bodies again, after experiencing repeated trauma exposure? What’s the breaking point of the warrior? How long can the warrior be on overtime? If only we could shed our skin and walk away unscathed, feeling new and whole again, feeling safe and secure in our own skin after each traumatic momocall. Is it a wonder that those that can’t find any solace take their lives? Why shouldn’t the police officers that take their lives be included on the memorial wall? Didn’t they give their mind, body and souls to the job, bit by excruciating bit?
About the Author: Lynne Rusk – was a police officer for nineteen years before her diagnoses of PTSD took over and cost Lynne her career. Today, Lynne advocates, educates and works passionately to eliminate the stigma around PTSD.
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