I’m going to take a chance and throw this out there, and see what I might get back.
At times, I find myself worrying and believing the things others imply…that if you can’t handle the emotional toll of our calling, then you’re weak, and you won’t last. I hope that’s not true. I try to reassure myself, but in my hours of insecurity, those reassurances are fleeting and superficial.
I’ve been finding myself having moments where it will suddenly hit me; the awful things we have to see and deal with so regularly. We see so many life-shattering events. And then one day you realize there are little shards of these events that are buried in your own skin. There are so many things we can’t un-see, cries we can’t un-hear. In quiet hours, I sometimes ask the veteran paramedics that I trust, “How do you deal with this?” Time and time again, regardless of who it is, the answer is a resounding, “Take care of yourself. Everyone handles stress differently. Work out. Write. Make art. Listen to music. Go hunting. Fly a kite. Play with puppies. Do what works for you.”
Oddly, none of that is helpful. I don’t know what “works for me.” Other than writing, I suppose. But even then, I find myself trying to edit and make my writing more appropriate and appealing for others to read. No one wants to read some whiny kid moaning and complaining all the time. I don’t know if not knowing how to handle or react to stress is simply age-related…maybe it’ll get better as I get older and figure myself out more. But maybe it is something I should know now, something I can learn somehow.
I find myself doing what (probably) most are doing: shrugging away the memories. Not looking at the shards of lives embedded in our skin, the splatter of sorrow stained on our clothes. Just like what we tell victims with gruesome injuries, “Don’t look at it.” Looking at it makes it worse. It makes it uncomfortable. It makes it too real. Ignoring it, leaving it to the backs of our minds, makes it a dream. Something that can be shaken from our minds like an Etch-a-Sketch, and written off with a light, “Whoa, that we weird. Anyway. Back to reality.”
But it’s not a dream, is it? It’s real. It’s all too real. It’s only a matter of time before that catches up with us, isn’t it? Maybe it’s only a matter of time for those like me. Those who aren’t sure how to handle it all; how to officially put those nightmares to bed. Can you even do that? Should you do that? Do these demons serve a purpose after all? To prove we still have empathy and emotion? That through it all, you’re still human and have a heart that beats and feels, interacts and reacts with everything? Is to silence the demons in our heads to become catatonic? Unresponsive? Cold? Without empathy or passion? Without any of those bittersweet, double-edged attributes that make us human? Should we live with the recurring pain to remind ourselves that we still care? Or should we numb it to allow us peace, but at the risk that we stop feeling anything at all?