I Took The Red Pill

I went through a box of old pictures today, and took that trip down memory lane to happier and simpler times. There was one of my second grade friends and I sitting on a brick wall in the park, sticking out Kool-Aid technicolor tongues. Another featuring my eight-year-old sister and I, horrifically sunburnt, carefully sculpting our sand castle–no, impenetrable sand fortess–on a July day at the beach. Fast forward several years, and there I am at 15 with a sports medal around my neck, a boyfriend’s arm around my waist; laughing at something I can’t remember. Towards the bottom of the box, there’s one of  me squinting into the camera, with a 6-year-old toothy grin pushing dimples onto my freckled cheeks.

I know I’m looking back at myself in these pictures, yet I feel like an entirely different person. And I can’t help but wonder…Would these girls in these pictures still feel like such strangers to me if I had made other choices? Would they feel more like memories, and less like different lives? Would they be proud to see the young woman they would go on to become? The young woman that became an EMT?

Maybe, if I hadn’t been an EMT, I never would have left the sports I’d loved. Instead of fighting my way through a community college nursing program, maybe I would be a college athlete now at some university. Perhaps, I’d be majoring in English, pursuing my life-long dream of becoming a writer.

On my breaks, maybe I’d come home and work at the grocery store, or a diner. I’d watch the clock as I worked, counting down the hours until I could go spend the evening with my friends. Instead of having friendships consisting mostly of adults, all of my companions would be stressed, idealistic kids my own age. Instead of trying to find the words to say when hearing about divorces, children, and financial issues; my friends and I would groan about our papers due next week. We’d excitedly share the news of that internship we worked so hard for. We’d look forward to graduating, gazing through dreamy veils at the perceived freedoms of adulthood.

Maybe, if I hadn’t been an EMT, I’d meet some great guy. Instead of constantly apologozing for and juggling my hectic schedule, maybe I’d actually have time to spend getting to know him. Maybe I’d have days to go out and evenings to stay in.  Maybe I’d have someone to say, “I love you” to before I hung up the phone. Instead of hearing, “I can’t do this anymore. We’re done,” maybe I’d hear “I love you” back.

Maybe, if I hadn’t been an EMT, I’d never read the obituary section of the newspaper. I’d pull over for the flashing lights of an ambulance, briefly wonder what happened, and then continue back on my way without giving it another thought. Instead of hearing the screams and cries of those involved echo inside my head when watching the evening news; the stories would only cause sighs of dismay and temporary grief, before drifting back to the dusty corners of my mind, soon to be forgotten.

But, maybe not. I will never know. Sometimes, I look into the pictures of my younger self and think, “God, the things you’re going to see. The things you’re going to hear. The things you’re going to do. If I told you, would you believe me?”

Three years ago, I made the decision to go into the emergency medical services. Unknowingly, I chose a life that would never be “normal” again. Sure, I could quit and change to a regular 9-to-5 job; but the experiences I’ve had will never leave me. Funny thing is, I don’t think I’d ever want them to.

I chose an experience, a brotherhood, a life like nothing else. It wasn’t expected or planned. But despite its occasional ugliness, I fell in love with this field. There’s no turning back now. I will never know what it’s like to have the “traditional college experience.” I’ll never know what it’s like to fumble my way into adulthood hand-in-hand with peers of my age. I will never know what it’s like to have a college sweetheart. I will never read the paper or watch the news the same way again. But, I will live my life knowing I made some small difference in my corner of the world. I will know, as tough as it can be, I did what I absolutely loved.  I will know a great many things about life, mankind, and the human spirit that most people will never understand.

It’s true…some days, I look back at my younger self and say, “What on earth did I get you into?” But I know, I wouldn’t trade this for anything.

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(Image credit)

Healing Is Not A Linear Process

I’ve learned plenty of things as an EMT. I’ve learned what the top and bottom numbers of a blood pressure mean. I’ve learned how to splint a fractured bone. I’ve learned the proper way to talk on the radio. I’ve learned how to start an intravenous line. I’ve learned that real life is nothing like the textbook. In the textbook, you see calm, cooperative patients, neatly packaged in controlled, well-lit environments. Ask anyone who’s ever run an EMS call, and they’ll tell you the real world is nothing like that. But, there’s a quieter, more subtle difference between the textbook and reality; one that might not be realized right away. Once you experience it, however, you’ll never forget it.

You see, there are no pictures in the textbooks of EMT’s lost in thought, laying wide awake at night. There are no images of paramedics waking up with nightmares. There are no illustrations of providers crying, or torturing themselves with “Why?” and “What if?” These things are mentioned, though. But in real life, you only hear about it quiet whispers, if at all.

I’m willing to bet that most EMT’s and paramedics who truly love their work, and have some time under their belt, have had at least one call that stays with them. It could be a nasty trauma. It could be a medical call that got out of your control. It could be subtle details in an otherwise routine call that trigger something else. We don’t talk about it too much, though. Maybe we’re afraid, or we think we’re alone. Maybe we’re embarrassed. Maybe talking about it just isn’t helpful for some.

Everyone deals with their demons differently. Go do whatever you need to do to help yourself. Talk about it. Meditate. Write. Lift some weights. Paint. Run until you can’t feel your legs anymore. Shoot some targets. Spend time with loved ones. Play with your dog. Do whatever it is you need to so you can help yourself.

But, what if you’ve done that? What if you’ve done everything you can think of?

This is the other thing I’ve learned in EMS: healing is not a linear process. There are good days, and there are bad. You reach your peaks, and you think everything is fine…and the next day, you wake up to find yourself in a trough again. It doesn’t mean you are broken. All of your work is not undone when you find yourself hurting again. The ups and downs of your progress aren’t as important as the direction: forward. You may be down today, but you are further forward than you were yesterday. A straight line may be the quickest way to get from “unwell” to “well.” But there’s a reason why it’s called the “healing process” and not the “healing race.” There will be days where you will soar, and there will be days that you will falter.

Trust me when I say that you will have good days. You will have calls that make you smile, fill you with pride, and lift you up. These troubles that bother you so much now, will one day serve to strengthen and teach you; not haunt you. We all have those calls that we will never forget, but I promise you, they will not always cause this kind of pain that worries you right now.

 

The Breakdown (And The People Who Helped)

My mind was swirling with a nauseating soup of questions and uncertainties. I felt this sickening pull in my stomach. Yet, it was all muted. I was manipulating red hot emotions through thick welder’s gloves. I couldn’t name it, I couldn’t identify it, but I knew it didn’t sit well with me. I quietly engaged in superficial and meaningless conversation with my partner as we backed into the ambulance bay. I was just politely filling in the silence, while simultaneously trying to figure out what was happening to me internally.

Numb, I climbed out of the ambulance, paperwork in hand. I returned the other crews’ greetings, and headed into the kitchen to grab a glass of water. An officer nonchalantly followed me into the kitchen, and quietly asked, “Are you okay?”

I looked at him, confused. “I don’t really know. I think so,” I mumbled. He patiently waited, watching my face as my eyes nervously shifted around the room. How could I not even know what was going on inside of my own head? I sighed, “I know I’m going to need one of the quieter rooms to write this report. There are phone calls that need to be made about this one.”

His eyes widened, almost imperceptibly, before nodding once. He set me up with a computer in a room away from the commotion of the common area. “If you need anything…let me know. I don’t care what it is…someone to talk to–”

“No,” I fiercely interrupted. “No, I’m fine. I don’t know what my problem is. I’m probably just tired or something.”

“I’ve seen you tired. That’s not it,” He said, looking me dead in the eyes. I broke his gaze, fidgeting with my paperwork. He knew me too well. His tone softened, “If you need anything. Someone to talk to…food…music…I don’t care what. Whatever you need, let me know, and we’ll get it squared away.”

He left me to take care of what I needed to. I didn’t realize it at the time, but he was already working on helping me–even before I properly understood myself. Those strange, detached feelings continued to stir in my head as I went through the familiar monotony of creating the report. And out of nowhere, I just started to cry.

What is wrong with you? I asked myself, disgusted. There was nothing on that call that should elicit that response. I’d run plenty of calls just like that one. This wasn’t some horrendous, gory trauma. This wasn’t a call where the patient was rapidly deteriorating before my eyes. This wasn’t about playing catch-up, or not being able to do a single thing right. Why this time? Why this patient? Why now? Why are you reacting like this? How can you see people horribly mangled and not bat an eye, and then lose it over something like this??? What is the matter with you?

My narrative was getting incredibly long and unruly. While blinking away tears, I wrote about every, single, last, detail I could possibly remember. About halfway through, I just propped my elbows on the table, and rested my head in my hands. I was giving up on holding it together, and figuring out why I couldn’t.

My phone buzzed against the table. Taking a deep, steadying breath, I tried to compose myself and answer it as evenly as possible.

“You sound like hell. What happened to you?” The chief officer on the other end of the line asked. Apparently it’s pretty hard to shake the sound of an unexpected melt down from your voice. Particularly at 1:30 in the morning. I stammered, dismissed, and evaded. He was having none of it. Finally, I got him to hang up. I figured I’d won.

By 2 a.m., there were three of the highest ranking officers at my department were sitting in that room with me–in their pajamas, no less. I offered smiles, thanked them, and tried to dismiss them. But they stayed with me for more than an hour. They told me stories of their distressing calls from back in the day, and the seemingly inexplicable breakdowns.

“That call, for whatever reason, touched you. And it’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to be angry. It’s okay to be confused. It’s the strangest, smallest details of a call sometimes that just hits you. It doesn’t have to be these obviously traumatic calls,” One told me.

I was given heartfelt compliments. I was given reassurance that this call didn’t make me weak or stupid. It didn’t mean the end of my career if I didn’t want it to be. They gave me their personal cell phone numbers, and was given instructions to call them whenever I needed to. They gave me hugs. But most importantly, they gave me their time–even in the dead of night. They gave me confidence, compassion, and understanding.

I don’t know many high-ranking managers that would go to the lengths that these individuals did. They went above and beyond. It’s something I will never forget, and will always be grateful of. Managers or officers, especially those that go out of their way to take care of their own…I can’t thank you enough.

Are You Taught To Hate Your Field?

Why on earth is the healthcare provider education system so hell bent on burning people out before they’ve even got their license in hand?

At least that’s the way it seems. Maybe it’s just a regional thing. Maybe all the schools in my area are teaching using similar techniques, and all the teachers subscribe to a similar mindset. Or maybe I’ve officially lost my mind (I am certainly not ruling that out).

This post is going to mostly be about nursing school, because that’s what I’ve experienced. But, any new-grad paramedic I know has talked about similar problems.

For any of you that actually read my rambling, babbling, nonsensical drawl, you know that I am unhappy in nursing school. Yes, I do feel absolutely miserable. Every week, I find myself up in the wee hours of the morning on the verge of a mental meltdown. Every drive to school is filled with anxiety, and every drive home is filled with discouragement. It feels almost like a trap some days. The further into the program I get, the worse I feel, but the more obligated I feel to finish it. At my worst, I find myself panicky, physically sick, unable to sleep, and waking up with horribly graphic and disturbing nightmares. Sometimes I start wondering why I ever decided to go into nursing. In my stress, I start to look for other careers I could do. Maybe I’ll find my calling in something else. In the past, I’ve considered going to paramedic school. Currently, I have some wild aspiration to go into law enforcement…which I’m sure would be greatly discouraged by anyone who actually knows me. I have to stop and wonder if these aspirations are real, or if I’m just looking into them because it’s something other than what I’m going through right now.

I’m in an associate’s degree program, so it’s only 2 years long. Most paramedic programs are about that long as well. It’s a short amount of time in which to learn a lot of important things. It’s not like earning a typical degree…after we get out of school, our decisions could greatly impact the lives of others. The stakes are very high, and it’s incredibly important to learn as much as we can in the short time that we have. Maybe these programs are just too short to be reasonable. I find that students in these shorter healthcare degrees/certification programs are just so stressed out and inundated with schoolwork that they find themselves discouraged or disliking the career they are about to enter. It’s heartbreaking to work so hard towards something, and then to be almost directed to hate it.

Maybe I just don’t love my potential career enough. Maybe I’m not dedicated enough. And like I mentioned before, maybe it’s purely a regional thing. Regardless, something should change here. Maybe it’s just me. Or maybe it’s the healthcare system. Or perhaps something in between.

Are any of you having problems similar to this? Or did I really just plain old lose my mind.

Instead of asking, “Why?”

You don’t have to be an EMT to experience tragedy. Although, we tend to bear witness to it more often. We are professionals at maintaining a level of calmness in the face of crisis. We were called to help, to fix, to save, to salvage; not to participate. We protect our bodies with gloves. We protect our psyches with adrenaline and “it’s not my emergency.”

After the adrenaline subsides and the call is over, you’re left with the aftermath. Sometimes the stories can’t be stripped off with your gloves, or the memories thrown away with the syringe wrappers. Sometimes they stay with you. In this messy and hectic career, you’re bound to get some of the shards of people’s lives embedded in your skin. It doesn’t necessarily have to be something massive and catastrophic. Your partner on that call may not even remember it today. These stories stay with everyone for different reasons.

Eventually in your career, you will find yourself carrying around a few faces, names, dates, or addresses forever. And they will not all be war stories you will flaunt or boast.

With many of these stories comes a simple and powerful question: “Why?” It’s a big impenetrable wall between you and (what you assume will be) peace. If you ever find the answer, it may not be good enough to excuse or explain what happened. More often than not, though, the answer will never come. It will never be clear.  “Why” will haunt your dreams and shadow your days. You will bludgeon yourself with it over and over in dizzying circles, searching for answers that may never come, only to find yourself exactly where you started–if not even worse off. You will kill yourself with “why”.

I try to make peace with my “why’s.” In fact, I try not to ask the question at all. Instead of asking, “Why?” I try to say “Thank you.” Thank you for giving me the chance to help you. Thank you for letting me learn from this, and using it to help my patients in the future. Thank you for asking me to be there to do the best I could at that time with those resources. Thank you for allowing me to look at what I have.

I have a warm bed. I have a roof over my head–and a fairly nice one at that. I live in a safe community. I work at a job I love, and one that challenges me every day. I work with awesome coworkers that I care very much for. They make me laugh and grow, support me, challenge me, and encourage me. Although I complain about it, I’m well on my way to a great and exciting career as a nurse/paramedic. I have a knack for writing. I have a blog that people read, and has allowed me to make connections and friends I never would have dreamed of. I have a wonderful family that cares about and for me. I have friends that love me. As for the things I do not have: I have tomorrows to earn and attain them. I am not perfect, but I am better, and I am enough.

The Shards Buried In Our Skin

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?

How Do You Fight Burn Out?

I’ve heard numerous newer EMT’s and paramedics declare that they’ll get out of this business as soon as they burn out. I also know several paramedics that have burnt out, but came back, so to speak. They rediscovered their love for EMS, their compassion, or whatever else it was that they seemed to have forgotten or lost along the way.

I think I’m teetering on the edge of burn out, which must sound crazy to any of you long-term EMT’s and paramedics. How can I possibly be burnt out after two years? Especially in a rural environment? I don’t have an answer for you, much less for myself. I just have found myself changing in ways that I’m not so sure I like.

If I had to guess, a part of it is being stuck driving all the time, and never being given the opportunity to engage in patient care. Those who have been in EMS long enough say that it’s not about the blood, guts, and glory. It’s about helping people. It’s about being there for someone on what feels like the worst day of their life; whether they are trapped in a wrecked car, suffering from chest pain, clutching their broken arm, or simply just feeling lonely. There is something wrong, whether it is psychological or physiological. And it’s our job to offer them assistance in whatever way we can provide it. That’s what I joined EMS for. That’s what excited me whenever my pager went off. That’s what made me proud to tell people what I did for a living. But I haven’t been able to do that in months. And that truly discourages me. I miss going to work and feeling like I made a difference, however small. I miss meeting people, hearing their stories, and helping them get better. Now, I dislike going to work, because I know I will spend my entire shift looking in the rearview mirror, watching others do what I so badly want to do. It’s gone on for so long, I worry that my skills have atrophied too much. I wonder if I’ll ever have a call again where I feel like I did something to help someone. I wonder if that warm passion for EMS that used to course through my veins will ever come back. Feeling the way I do now is exhausting.

 I’m holding on, waiting for my opportunity to make a difference. Waiting for that spark to ignite in my heart. Deep down, I feel like I belong on an ambulance. Although there are days I toy with the idea of leaving, I know it will tear my heart apart to say good bye to everything I had loved and worked so hard for. I’ve never been one to give up, but there are days I am tempted, for sure.

I just want to know what you all have done to combat burn out. How did you make it easier on yourselves? Was the journey long and arduous? Was it worth it? What keeps you hanging on? I could use a mentor and a word of wisdom right now.

Nationally Registered Paramedic Chauffeur

I’ve been told a tale, a legend, a myth, that there are paramedics out there who drive and let their BLS partners handle calls. I would like to know exactly where such an animal exists, because it doesn’t live where I work.

There’s a reason why I waited so long to start driver training on our ambulances. I knew in my gut that the day I was signed off to drive would be the last day I would ever get to tech 911 calls. For a month or two, I was proven wrong. I didn’t tech as many calls as I used to, obviously, but I still got the opportunity to be in the back. But for the last several months, my original theory proved correct.

Although I work several shifts a week, I haven’t actually teched a call in months. It’s just frustrating when all I am allowed to do is drive. I didn’t fall in love with the field for the flashing lights and sirens. Driving an ambulance wasn’t the reason my body flooded with excitement whenever my pager went off. I became an EMT because I wanted to help people. I wanted to offer care and support when someone needed it the most. And although driving the ambulance to a hospital is a hugely important piece in what we do, that’s not what I came here for.

It’s getting to the point where I no longer get excited for calls. When the pager screeches, I sigh, listen to the dispatch information, and get in the driver’s seat. No paramedic wants to drive for much of the same reasons I don’t want to drive. They didn’t go to school to drive a truck. They went to school to help people too. But, because they have the higher provider license, they can make the call that I will drive and they will tech. After I help load the patient in the truck, I am expected to take my place in the driver’s seat and get us to the hospital.

Just for the record, this isn’t a rant about not wanting to be called an “ambulance driver.” Call me whatever you want, it really doesn’t bother me. I’m not looking down on the driver; I know getting to where we need to go is essential, and that’s a huge part of why we were called in the first place. And I don’t mind doing my share of the driving. I just miss teching. I miss helping. I miss caring. I miss using my skills, my head, and my heart. Right now, I feel like all I’m using is my right foot.

There’s Something In The Air: 911 Calls for Depression

I’d rather go to fifty 3 a.m. 911 calls for depression and suicidal ideation than respond to a single untimely secondary to suicide. I’ve been to far too many of the latter lately, and it’s starting to take its toll.

The depressed patient I can help, in some small way. I can be a nonjudgmental ear. Or a shoulder to cry on. Maybe just provide the social contact that we as humans need. Just giving her a ride to the hospital and removing her from house can be helpful.  To go somewhere different, where the walls are not splattered with sadness and there is company other than her depression, can be the first step on the road to recovery. Having a medical professional evaluate her depression can help validate her. This isn’t something she should just “shake off.” It’s not that she’s weak or stupid. An evaluation, and the associated validation, can help her feel she’s not alone and unheard. From there, the decision to send her to a psych facility, the encouragement to speak to her primary care physician, or the suggestion to seek help from a mental health specialist, are all more stepping stones to healing.

Have you ever responded to the residence of a person who called 911 for depression and just felt that something wasn’t right? As if the pictures, the carpets, the clothing, the furniture, just absorb the patient’s sorrow? Maybe I sound a little crazy for saying so. Sometimes when on these calls, it’s almost like there’s something in the air. You can just feel it in that 6th sense that has no name. You just know that the patient is emotionally hurting and feeling helpless. But, depression is treatable. Depression can be beat. Maybe that’s part of why some people don’t take these calls seriously.

Have you ever walked into the scene where someone committed suicide? There’s still something in the air; that near-palpable sadness. But there’s this terrible electricity to it too. There’s a true helplessness felt by all those in the room. Something was done that can’t be undone. There is no “back” button. There is no eraser. The permanence of what happened hangs heavily in the air. It seeps through and saturates the family and friends. The frantic horror, disbelief, anger, and hurt in the eyes of the loved ones is harshly unforgettable. That is by far the worst part of these calls. There’s something about that emotionally charged air that sticks with you, even after you clear the scene.

 Depression is a security blanket; the misery is comfortable in its familiarity. But this blanket is smothering. Asking for help and seeing things in different lights is brave. It’s scary to pull off that blanket that you’ve been holding onto for so long. But things can get better. So long as you are alive, there is always hope. There is always room and time for growth and change. The only time that stops is when you decide to let that blanket smother you completely.

If the way to start that journey to health and happiness begins with you calling 911, then call it as much as you need to, regardless of the time. I would be honored to help you fight such a tough and courageous battle. I’d so much rather be there in your hour of need than at your hour of death.

Burn Out is Kind of Like Love

Burn out is kind of like love. When people get all sappy and starry-eyed and start shedding cooties all over the place, they sigh, stare off into middle distance and dreamily say cliche and exclusive-sounding things like, “When you’re in love, you just know.” Well, guess what? When you’re burnt, you also just know. 

I feared burn out. I feared that I wouldn’t be able to recognize it. I expected it to sweep over me, take me and break me before I really had a firm grip on what was going on. Surprisingly, that’s not what happened at all. As much as I wanted to deny it, there was no arguing with it. When our tones went off, the pulling anticipation in my stomach would break into dread and annoyance, not the elated excitement I was used to. On my way to the truck, I fought to hide my frustration and aggrevation, instead of my enthusiasm and eagerness. To be honest, I wasn’t doing a very good job of it either, particularly around the station. I had a few concerned, “Are you okay?”s, but mostly I got some bewildered stares. I’m not a mean person. Get to know me, and you’ll find I’m one of the most empathetic people you’ll meet. But lately, as one friend and coworker coldly–but rightly–pointed out, I’ve been a bitch. The people I work with deserved better than that, as did my patients. I was burning out.

I didn’t want to believe it at first. I’d only really been in EMS two years, in what most would consider a relatively low call volume system. While I’ve heard that the average career lasts only five years, I thought I was far too early in my career to be getting burnt. Regardless, I knew it through and through. I was burning.

As for what did it…I think it was just one too many calls at 2 a.m. on my nights off to run a BLS transfer. One too many rides with verbally abusive patients. One too many runs where I felt like I didn’t make any difference at all.  For me, a good shift means that I’ve run calls with either my brain or heart involved–if both were involved, even better. There were too many shifts were neither were used. Combine that with the physical exhaustion from working far too many hours and the emotional ache of a personal life that was imploding, and you have yourself one over-cooked little EMT.

So that’s my excuse for falling off the face of the earth for the past several weeks. I needed a break from EMS in general, and everything that reminded me of it…..which is pretty hard to do when you fall into the trap of making it your life.

Now, I’m a little more rested. I’m learning to say “No” to covering extra shifts I’m too emotionally or physically tired to work. I’m learning to stick up for myself, and start to build the stronger, improved me. And piece by piece, I’m rediscovering the little reasons that caused me to fall in love with EMS in the first place.