Back in April I was contacted by my VPD field trainer, Sgt. Keiron McConnell, to do a presentation. He wanted me to speak to his third year criminology students at Douglas College about my policing experience and the events that had led up to my resignation. And, ready or not, I committed to the opportunity: it was time to start telling my story. There were, of course, many reasons for doing the presentation as a public service but what drove me forward was the personal aspect of it. I felt validated. Here was my field trainer, a person I looked up to as a recruit, saying, hey, I still believe in you, your experiences are important. It gave me the courage to move forward and share a part of my life that can still be painful.
During the presentation one of the students asked if I still had PTSD. My reaction was immediate. I could feel myself pushing away from her words like a dish of food I didn’t want. Take it away, it’s not mine! Then the tough part of me emerged like a tank rolling over the terrain: I am unbreakable; I can do anything. My reaction surprised me. Why does a part of me still resist the diagnosis? Any diagnosis for that matter: depression, anxiety … PTSD. I sat with the question for a few seconds while my emotions fought for control and then answered the woman as truthfully as I could: I don’t want to sit in the diagnosis and I don’t want to own it. I just want to move on.
Later that evening while writing this blog, I revisited that moment in class. I realized, despite my conflicting emotions and the knowledge that I can still struggle with some PTSD symptoms, I am doing well. More than that, however, was the realization that I am not the same person I was at the beginning of my policing career or, for that matter, at the end of it. I am stronger in ways I couldn’t have imagined before. This comes from knowing myself better—from sitting down and accepting who I am. I support myself in my goals and dreams, successes and mistakes; vulnerabilities and disappointments. More to the point, this strength is not based on how well I bring down a bad guy or compete in a triathlon, it’s about kindness and compassion, most specifically, towards myself. PTSD was, in its own strange way, a gift: one that has not only renewed my passion for life but has helped me support others in finding their own way to wellness.