I have a workplace injury. Turns out that 22 years of working long hours of shift work and bearing the heavy weight of human suffering can hurt a person. On the outside, I don’t walk with a limp and I don’t wince in pain clutching my back when I bend over to pick something up off the floor. I don’t have aching joints or broken bones. When we talk, I’ll smile, I’ll even laugh. I’m an excellent listener. You can look long and hard into my eyes, but you won’t see where I’m hurt.
For 22 years, I have made a choice to protect the ones I love in my life from what my eyes have seen. I have buried the screams, pushed aside the tears, and tried to erase the terrifying images. I’ve taken the long way home so I don’t have to drive past the places where I’ve seen bad things happen. I’ve laid flowers on the road where I watched people die. I’ve held many children and hugged a lot of parents through their grief. My hands have helped to bring newborns into this world, and have also been the last touch a person feels when they take their final breath. As a human, I too, have suffered. In silence.
I didn’t hurt myself on one single call. I hurt myself on 22 years of calls. The emotions I thought I had been able to bury, erase, push aside, and deny for my entire career have decided it’s time. It’s time to grieve. It’s time to talk. It’s time to be honest. It’s time to stop judging myself. It’s time to no longer be afraid. Its time to no longer feel broken or ashamed. It’s time for me to accept that those 4 letters I struggle to say out loud define my injury, they do not define me.
I have PTSD but like any other injury, I will heal. I will recover.