-By Jennifer Halley
Brian and I did not meet on normal terms. We’ve been married for almost 19 years, and everything we have been through, together, has been as crazy as our first blind date. We were young. I had just graduated from college, the first time (!), and he was just beginning his career as a paramedic. We had literally, no clue what we were doing in this world, but 9 months later, we were married. The first few years of our marriage was rocky, as we were still learning about each other, and I kept chasing an unreachable dream of having a career in trauma. Brian and I actually took our Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) tests on the same day, in the same room, years before we met. I look back at those days and laugh, because today, trauma has an entirely new meaning.
When I grew up, I wanted to be a trauma Physicians Assistant (PA). I loved science and quick thinking, and I was good at a fast pace. When Brian came into my life, I had my EMT license and he had just completed paramedic school. We bonded over stories that would make most people cringe. This was our world until our firstborn daughter was born, 8 years later, and my so-called dream of trauma turned into diaper changing and a sales job selling books in West Texas. I loved every second. I let go of the trauma, but it still continued to follow me.
A job transfer took all three of us to Dallas, Texas where my job quickly turned back to medicine. We added another beautiful baby girl to our family, and I began to climb the medical, corporate sales ladder in record speed. I do everything at record speed. People like to call me “enthusiastic”. I say its me being stubborn and extremely hard to handle: get out of my way or I’ll run you over! As I climbed, I lost all focus of values, reality, and myself. The only thing my family could do was watch me fall.
It is probably important to mention I have been a mental health patient since high school. I struggled through a mentally and emotionally abusive relationship (unbeknownst to me at the time, but thank you therapy for shedding light on that wonderful subject), suffered from depression and anorexia, did a few months in out-patient rehabilitation for both, swallowed whatever pill my psychiatrist prescribed, and continued to conquer the world. Brian watched and helped me through all of this. Without his medical training and recognition, I don’t think we would have survived. Now insert all of these demons into every part of our lives, still today, add in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and look how it has changed us both.
My PTSD. Not his. One traumatic event, one day, one moment, inserted the demon led whirlwind that attacked my mind like a computer virus, took hold of every rational thought I ever had, fed on the building depression and anxiety that already existed, and rocked our world. I almost died. Not from the traumatic event, but from the days and months that would not let me, let go.
I’ve watched PTSD as an outsider before my event. I’ve seen the struggle and I’ve witnessed Brian walk through his battles, as a first responder, for almost 19 years. I can honestly say, I’ve been on both sides of this battle. I’ve buried friends. I’ve watched countless men and women, who because of social stigmas, are not allowed to show any type of emotions, crumble under mental stress demons, and I refuse to let any more die (emotionally and physically). My company, 3FTL (For The Love) was formed, initially as a mental health management company, but has expanded to a first responder support team, mental health management company. PTSD education (that does not include death by powerpoint), medical management, first responder counselors, employment lawyers, therapy locations, but most importantly, support. Support from first responders, who have been in the hell that only fellow first responders will understand, and have the heart to help others dig out of their hole. All this, done in confidentiality, outside the departments in which you work, as nothing is shared with the city where you are employed.
I have plenty of ‘why’s’ that all started 19 years ago, when Brian and I’s first conversation at a bar, moved to the word "trauma". I thought at that time it was a fun and exciting science. Today, I see that word as a mountain, that together, we will move.
God’s declaration to each of us is portrayed beautifully in the words of Cory Asbury’s song Reckless Love. It is also my declaration to you:
” There’s no shadow You won’t light up
Mountain You won’t climb up
Coming after me
There’s no wall You won’t kick down
Lie You won’t tear down
Coming after me “