Tuesday, 9 May 2017

'Compassion for Cops' - #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek

I'm actually quite shocked looking at how long ago it is since I last wrote a blog post.

Over a month?

I have been aware of a hesitation to sit and write, because I have been feeling a little lost, a little unsure what the point of my voice is, in such a loud over populated environment.

Mental Health is all of a sudden the buzz phrase, taking centre stage, in the spotlight and all power to that, but as a consequence I have felt a little disconnected. That combined with my therapy sessions (detailed previously) and a very close friend dying have all come together to result in me feeling just a bit numb, in fact I'm a little unsure what I am meant to be feeling right about now!

This morning I made a comment on another post that seemed to spark emotion in others so I am going to concentrate on that for today and who knows it may light a fire under my own backside!

PC Dave Wise @CopThatCooks posted:

'Chances are that one of your shift mates is struggling with mental health. Be there for them. Be a friend.'

He made the post under the hashtag of #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek

I responded,

'How very, very true. let's ditch the bullshite bravado fellow cops and find our compassion for one another'

This response to these posts seemed well received and it got me thinking that we really do need to make a huge push to empower our colleagues to understand that

'Compassion for Cops' is hugely important.

Yes we all have our own shite going on, yes we all have bad days, but is there someone close to you at work who is over reacting at jobs, maybe getting really angry really quickly. Losing their temper where once before they would have laughed. Or like me, permanently tearful, be nice to me I welled up, shout at me I welled up, leave me alone I cried from loneliness. Being overwhelmed by our emotions, unable to hide behind our normal level of camouflage is a danger sign for depression sufferers. Some of us higher functioning anxiety sufferers can keep on going, juggling life's detritus but it can often only take one or two extra things to knock us and unlike others with a degree of resilience we have none and our worlds come tumbling down super quickly.

I talk from experience, I used to drive to work in tears, compose myself to walk up to my office from the car, start crying again as my heart pounded and I approached the office. Compose my self again and then enter the office head pounding, eyesight blurring, feeling nauseous and so exhausted it felt like bed time. There I would sit doing what was quite a stressful job, plodding along keeping a heavy workload moving until someone would say or do the slightest silliest thing and all of a sudden I would feel overwhelmed, like a wave had engulfed me in a strong sea and instantly I would feel vulnerable and afraid.

It's at times like this that force's will come to know and appreciate the benefits of a peer support group. When I was suffering there was nothing, no port to hide in during my personal storms. The toilets were my respite, a cubicle was a good place to sit, regain ones composure knowing you're safe and not going to be disturbed.

The triggers for us depression and anxiety sufferers' may seem like the most inconsequential events to others however it's just as the saying goes 'the straw that broke the camel's back'
Often it's not about the particular event in question at all, it's often something else, something darker, more personal and the trigger event is just a sign of an overflowing emotional reservoir.

If you know your crew mates you'll know if their behaviour has changed and I'd ask you to show them compassion not cynicism. Love not logic. Support not sniping. You don't actually have to do much. Just show them support, trust someone who knows, just knowing someone is trying to 'get' it, trying to understand and has your back is a milestone enough.

You are not expected to solve this situation. Digest that statement fully!!

Cops expect to bring order where once before chaos reigned. We're programmed to sort things out, make decisions, mend situations. As such we shy away from colleagues with mental health problems for two reasons, one because we secretly see them as a weak link which breaks our unwritten mantra of  'I've got your back' and secondly because we don't know how to mend them, or bring about order, we feel the need to find a way to quieten their inner chaos.

Nobody is expecting you to know how to mend them though! You really do not have to solve this problem!

I'm five months into sick leave, working with therapy and I still don't know how to mend myself!!

But compassion does goes a very long way. Balls to bravado people, us cops need compassion for one another and ourselves.

Compassions counts on a personal level too you see. Once you accept we are all imperfect human beings who make mistakes and that there is not one person alive that has not ballsed up at some point from your Chief to the new probationer you will be in a better place to live a happy and healthy life. Humans are fallible. What sets people apart is how they deal with their adversities. Making mistakes is what life is all about.

I'm currently trying to learn that if  I face my mistakes, accept them head on, live with them a while, process what's happened logically, no self blame, then choose to move on I'll be all the better for it. But burying crap, hiding it, carrying it around in your personal rucksack of burden for years becomes exhausting! This I do know from experience! If only we were all compassionate to ourselves and others the world would be a better place.

Listen people suffering with depression and anxiety look just like everybody else....that's because we are everybody else!! Seriously though we become experts at masking the pain that lurks just below the surface. we smile, we laugh, sometimes we even make ourselves the centre of attention for people to laugh at, because that way we get to affirm the feelings we feel inside that tell us people are laughing at us behind our backs. Trust me lots of sad very depressed people become/are clowns.
(Robin Williams was a classic incarnation of this as was Kenneth Williams, or even Peter Sellers)
I always used to try and put myself down before others did, gave me a feeling of control some how.

Anyway if a colleague approaches you or confides something in you feel proud, not panicked. Just feel good that they love and trust you enough to do so. Remember they are not looking for answers or solutions, they are looking for your compassion. A smile and an accepting nod will be a good start. A few kind words if you can find them.  You could in time work with them to find help, but mostly they'll just want your support, that smile and your compassion and understanding.

So you cops trust me it's not rocket science, and it's not scary. It's also not the appropriate subject of parade room banter, and it's not unusual to be discussed in public.  If you think the opposite then get with the times dude as you are sadly in the wrong decade.

The other little secret I'll leave you with,  is that whenever the depression sufferer tells you was when they first realised they had a problem that will be a lie, double the time frame suggested and add another year!!

We try to minimise, we try to pretend it's a new phenomena! Partially we believe ourselves, but its a protective white lie to test the reactions we get, but when we start trusting people, we start being wholly honest and then you'll come to know when the black dog first made contact with us.

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