The “Ghosts” in my Darkness

This is not an easy blog for me to write, but I’m feeling called to expose my secret for the sake of those who may be suffering in silence.

I have been diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) that has been linked to my career as a Correctional Officer. Think of me as you will, I am no longer concerned with stigmas and shaming. Believe me, this condition is as real as any physical disorder and just as devastating.

No, I’m not looking for sympathy. I want to reach out to those who are ‘there’ and feel that they have nowhere to turn. I’m sorry if it sounds like I’m yelling the words below, however, these are from personal experience and cannot be stressed enough.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

YOU ARE NOT WEAK.

YOU ARE NOT A BURDEN TO YOUR FAMILY OR ANYONE ELSE.

PLEASE TALK TO SOMEONE AND GET HELP.

IF YOU THINK THAT YOU ARE FOOLING THOSE WHO KNOW YOU BEST INTO BELIEVING NOTHING IS WRONG, YOU ARE ONLY FOOLING YOURSELF. THEY NOTICE, TRUST ME.

YOUR LOVED ONES MAY NOT ‘GET YOU’ BUT THEY WANT TO HELP.

YOUR FAMILY MAY NEED TO SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP AS WELL, BECAUSE PTSD IS TRAUMATIZING TO THOSE WHO LOVE YOU. IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT THAT YOU HAVE PTSD, BUT IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO SEEK HELP AND WORK AT RECOVERING.

SUICIDE OR NUMBING WITH DRUGS, ALCOHOL, OR WHATEVER POISONOUS “COPING” MECHANISM YOU MAY CHOOSE, IS NOT THE ANSWER.

My pride got in the way and I waited too long. In fact, if you want to talk, I am available at markbierman3@gmail.com. I promise confidentiality and lay no claim to being a professional counsellor, but I will do my best to give support and listen. I want you to know that you are not being intrusive if you email me to talk. I have friends who are dealing with PTSD and it is therapeutic to share with others who ‘get it’.

I’ll spare you the gruesome details of how I came to this point, that’s not what this blog is about. I’m currently off on disability for my condition and receiving professional help. I will say one fact that came as a surprise to me. In spite of all the violence, death, and life-threatening situations that I have endured, the biggest contributor was the feeling of betrayal at the hands of those who were supposed to protect me and my coworkers. They were negligent. There is a geographical and bureaucratic detachment, combined with ignorance of the realities of our job. In addition, there is also, what seems to me, an apparent lack of concern because we are deemed unimportant. I will stop there, because I become angry just thinking about it.

PTSD can be caused by a single traumatic event, or, in my case, cumulative events. It is not just an issue for first responders, anyone can be afflicted.

No one has the right to tell you to, “Suck it up, it’s all in your head.

That’s complete bulls**t!

I’ve lost six coworkers to suicide over the years and there are more that I did not know personally. I have also seen too many drink themselves to death, all to numb the pain. If that is what “sucking it” up means, count me out!

If you need immediate help because of suicidal thoughts, please contact a help line or the police. You can get better, there is hope and help in the darkness.

Here is a poem I wrote sometime ago that sheds a bit of light on what living with this issue can feel like. I composed this at my worst. I am glad to say that I no longer feel this way most of the time.

What Haunts Me.

Morning light through window shines, but I wish for darkness to remain,

For with the light, come the demands of life, far too much

“Take your meds!” they preach. “They will help to reduce the pain.”

I swallow them down to banish the ghosts, yet never escape their clutch

What happened to the man I used to be? Full of life and no dark stain,

He’s but gone, a phantom from another time, never to return again.

We are all different, and I know we have different values, beliefs and situations, but here are a few things that have helped me on the road to recovery.

My belief in God.

My wonderful and supportive friends and family.

Prescribed and monitored medication.

Professional counselling.

Leaving the situation (work).

An attitude of gratitude, yes, concentrating and giving thanks for the blessings in my life.

Regular physical exercise.

Volunteering as much as I can in these strange days of COVID.

Good nutrition and sleep (not always easy but it will come with time).

Being outdoors, especially enjoying nature.

Pets.

Avoiding the news and social media, at times.

Your thoughts control your emotions, so I’ve been taught to practice a technique called CATCH, CHECK, CHANGE: If you have a bad thought capture it, check the rationale behind it, change it to something positive. This one takes some work.

This list is not exhaustive, and you will discover your own path to healing.

Just one more thing before I close. I want you to know, especially the wonderful friends I’ve made at Rave Reviews Book Club , that if I don’t respond to comments in a proper time frame, participate in supportive activities, blog, or retweet, I’m probably having a rough day and cannot focus. It’s nothing personal. It’s taking me forever to write my second book because of this.

I’m on the mend and fighting back, and someday I’ll finish that book. 🙂

Please take care of yourselves and your loved ones. You deserve a great life and there is always hope.

Published by

markbierman

Born and raised on a farm near Brockville, Ontario, Mark Bierman's childhood consisted of chores, riding horses, snowmobile races across open fields, fishing trips to a local lake, and many other outdoor adventures. He was also an avid reader of both fiction and non. Transitioning towards adulthood also meant moving from the farm and into large urban areas that introduced this country boy to life in the big cities. After a short stint as a private investigator, he moved into the role of Correctional Officer, working at both Millhaven Institution and Kingston Penitentiary, until it closed.

55 thoughts on “The “Ghosts” in my Darkness”

  1. Mark, I cannot imagine how difficult and exceptionally challenging these years have been for you. I know that sharing your story will make a difference to others since you ‘get it.’ You also share many tools to help on your path of healing or at least manage and fight back. As you know, the writing community is very supportive and not judgy.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you Erica. Yes, it has been a difficult time, but I have learned so much and people are far les judgemental than I initially believed. I tried to hide my problem but like a fire covered by dried hay, it became a blaze that everyone could see. General anxiety disorder and PTSD are far more common than many think and I hope that this message reaches those who need it.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Well said. An honest and open approach.
    Reaching out to others to help them in their time of need with
    what you have learned in your own suffering.
    God bless and guide you, always!

    Sent from my iPad

    Liked by 2 people

  3. PTSD is life changing. Without support, it can be life ending. Catch, check and change is easier said than done, but often more successful with the help of someone who understands. Your generous offer of assistance to those who need a friend could be life saving. God Bless you!

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Thank you for sharing so personally, Mark. It wasn’t until I began working with veterans returning from Afghanistan that I understood my own experience. I met the specter that could paralyze and leave me in the grip of terror and its name is PTSD. I was at home with these vets and they with me. We never talked about our experience, but we knew. Over time, the symptoms have subsided, but I have also learned to avoid or leave situations or groups in which I feel controlled or belittled or marginalized. And, I cannot watch movies in which women or children are violated. Part of my recovery emerged as I became skilled with a weapon. That may seem an odd confession for a person who is deeply spiritual, but there is freedom in knowing I can defend myself and others. Thank you for stepping forward, Mark. I honor you, your experience, and your courage.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Thank you Gwen, for sharing your own experience. I am so glad that you are healing. You undertsand very well the devastating effects of PTSD but you also have learned coping skills. There is nothing wrong with learning to fire a weapon, because it is both a distraction and empowering, and that brings healing. I have learned and enjoy firing weapons too.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Mark, your raw honesty touched my heart deeply. My late husband suffered from PTSD after fifteen years of confinement in Leavenworth prison. Yes, he was on the opposite end of your spectrum, but it was real. He struggled to control it. His generation didn’t ever admit the struggle or seek help. This part isn’t in my books, but more than once, I diffused a suicide situation. So, my heart is with you. I admire you greatly for stepping forward and for seeking the help you need. One thing you said that really rang a bell with me is the simple act of gratitude. The results of that one action can cancel out a ton of negative. I use the term, ‘Cancel, Clear, Delete.’ In my latest finished WIP, a soldier who returned from Afghanistan missing part of a leg is forced to find ways to deal with his PTSD. I wrote it from the personal experience I had with my husband. As you offered, Mark, I too, am here if you want to talk (rijan21@gmail.com). Virtual hugs across the miles. Sending healing vibes your way!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hello Marc, thank you for your open hearted posting. I am sorry for you, and yes, some people can not really understand what it means as a human not to work as a machine. Hey, we are humans! All we are doing is most time re-action on our community, and what we got hurt in the past. Its good not worring about people can not understand. Be well, and stay save! Michael

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Wow, Mark… This is such a powerful and compassionate post. I take my hat off to know because writing this couldn’t have been easy, but you did it anyway. It’s sharing like this that can help so many people, and I think you’ve done an amazing job. The poem is also hauntingly poignant.

    I don’t know what you’ve been through and nobody will ever be able to fully appreciate what you feel now, but I will say that I’m sorry for what you’ve experienced, and for the betrayal of negligence on top. PTSD is indeed a very real and potentially disastrously damaging condition to deal with. I was surprised to find that, after a psych review, the therapist diagnosed me with PTSD and severe depression. I think when you’re in deep with something you don’t always necessarily realise it. PTSD can arise from all number of experiences, and what you’ve been through cannot be compared. Bravo for speaking up and also for getting help. I hope the professional support you’re getting is beneficial. Take all the time you can to work through things at your own pace. It’s so incredibly kind of you to reach out to others who might need support even with what you’re going through yourself. If ever you want to talk yourself, I’m around too. No pressure, just so you know that you’re not alone either.

    A truly fantastic post, Mark!

    Caz xx

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Let me start by saying how much I admire your raw honesty and your desire to help others by sharing your struggles. I do not have PTSD (per se), but I do have a diagnosed anxiety disorder that developed from events at work. I have regular therapy visits and have also been treating it through neurofeedback sessions (for about 4-5 years now). I also spend a lot of time meditating and learning about meditative strategies to deal with stress and anxiety.

    Your poem is haunting and provides true insight. It took me a while to admit I was struggling, even though my closest friends and family were well aware of it. Now, I speak openly about it. I find it actually helps me accept my anxiety and show myself more kindness and compassion when I hit the rough times.

    As for taking the time and space you need when you need it, you do you! Self-care is priority number one. Only then can you truly enjoy life and give back to others. I will be sending positive energy your way. Take care! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Hi Mark, I am so sorry to read this post and I wish I could do more to help you than simply commenting here. My oldest son suffers from PTSD and OCD. He has 18 awful operations between the ages of 1 and 6 which triggered his symptoms. He is a very clever and special boy with a loving and kind nature. If I tell his teachers about his illness they don’t believe me because of his high marks in the 80s and 90s. I liken it to having you emotions and mental health in a wheelchair. If that were so, people would understand better. It is also taxing for the families of sufferers so I suggest you wife and children have a few sessions with a counselor so that they cope better. That is what I did. My husband and younger son also had a few sessions and it’s kept our family strong. Hugs

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I’m glad you wrote this, Mark and are doing better. I grew up with the suck it up mentality and know from experince it doesn’t work. My kids are so much more open to discuss mental health and find help when it comes to depression and aniexty. You have a great list and plan for healing. Thank you for sharing this and offering hope. Sending hugs.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. A powerful share, Mark. I’m sorry that you’re going through this, but so relieved that you’re getting help. We’d ask for help if we had cancer or a fractured leg, and this is no different. Your post will make a difference in the lives of others, and what a wonderful and empowering gift you give when you share your experience and hope. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Wow! Mark, that is very brave of you to bare your soul and share your pain. I know you aren’t looking for sympathy, but rather looking to help others by sharing. That’s awesome. Your poem was so touching and real. Skillfully crafted words can reach people that sit in silence and darkness. My philosophy is “Sharing is caring.” You’re doing it. Bravo!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Thank you for sharing! I love the poem – I can relate. PTSD is no joke and can be a horrible thing for anyone to have to go through. Most of the time it’s something people go through alone because it’s “embarrassing” or they don’t have the proper support. Great information here!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Good luck on your further path! From my own personal experience with PTSD please let me just tell you that there are many therapeutic approaches in this ugly field. So far I have tested Somatic Experiencing, EMDR and Hypnosis starting from early 2013 till late 2017. I have also learned Reiki during this time – although being secular it is working with me. The hypnotical technique can be used without therapist also and is my favourite and most helpful mental technique which I use also in ugly daily situations of daily life (dentist, full underground line, etc.). My own PTSD has not been healed 100 %, but to the actual possible greatest and acceptable extent, a real big step and great progress for me. So it is worth doing something really! All the best # Ulli

    Liked by 1 person

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