Being a “rookie”

It’s strange how we always want what we can’t have; when we’re a rookie were desperate for experience, envious of our superiors but when that slowly becomes us, do we become jealous of our fresh faced colleagues?

Recently, I’ve been working with a “rookie”. In my early 20s, and with just 4 years experience in the job I still feel and look like a rookie myself.

My “rookie” is a handful of years older than me and with what sounds like bags of life experience, but is still in his first few weeks in the job. Naturally, he is inquisitive and curious, he has lots of questions for me and I feel obliged to answer them as best I can. I feel the need to be honest with him, and begin to prepare him mentally for the job but, at the same time, I don’t want to scare him off.

He asks me how I cope with things, “do you get used to it?” I remember asking the same questions myself to my superiors not so long ago. 

I tell him you don’t get used to it, no. But you’re normality changes. You attend a vast variety of incidents and on such a regular basis, see things once, ten or a hundred times that some people won’t ever see. I renind him, and myself, that you cannot unsee the things you have seen.

Minutes after our conversation we are slowed by the traffic. The offside of the motorway is closed for a road traffic collision on our side. I think to myself “this is bad”. In my head I know somebody has probably died tonight, or they will, only a few miles ahead of where we sit amongst impatient drivers eager to get home.  Somebody won’t make it home. Meanwhile, my rookie is desperate to get to the front of the queue to see what’s going on, he gazes in awe at the helicopter as it flies off.

I realise that it is so much more than just not being able to “unsee” things. I realise that I cannot forget the knowledge I have gained through experience. I cannot change the way I perceive things. I’m the opposite of “used to it”. I’m scared of it. I fear it now. I know how true, how real and how likely it is. I’m no longer blind, I can’t scratch away the memories and resurface my ignorance, my naivety.

At the ripe old age of 22, I realise my 18 year old self who started this job is long gone.  I am reminded just how much this job has changed me and will continue to.

I’m not saying I necessarily want to change it, I love my job. But it is a little scary to thing I have changed, and now I can’t change back.

PTSD resurfacing

One of the worst things about PTSD, at the moment, for me, is the unpredictability of it. The anxiety out of nowhere, the flashbacks I struggle to contain in my head. The nights spent awake but exhausted. The dreams, the not dreams. The “have I slept?” moments; am I awake or asleep? Dreaming or daydreaming?The blurry line between fact and fiction, reality and catastrophic fantasy.
When your stress levels are really, really low, you can almost forget you have PTSD. I can see why people with my disorder retreat into a controlled, safe world just to maintain a homeostatic base stress level that has a safe buffer above it, between you and PTSD. I can see how easily you bubble back over into it when your daily stress increases.  How the days become so noisy and chaotic, how you find yourself slipping back into your head again, missing moments in reality whilst you’re lost in your own abyss. Busy places become overwhelming once more and you’re constantly on the defence. The tightening belt around your chest as you try desperately to breathe and forget. As contort away from the panic that wraps around you like a python, squeezing and squeezing. Trying desperately to fight between body and mind, between the dangers of getting lost in the psychology of a memory and the pain of remaining with the physicality.
The exhausting nights, the perpetual deja vu alongside the completely inability to grasp any concept of date or time.
And what do you see from the outside? Confusion. Forgetfulness. A short temper.
And what if I really can’t hide it from you? Pain. Pain rippling across my face.  Twisting hands. Panic. Blind panic and fear. Tension.
God I’ve missed you, PTSD.