Editor, The Times:
I was a registered nurse. I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) too.
In listening to the many comments from people who attended Terrance Kosikar’s speaking engagement I realize how deep mental health stigma lives in all of us. And I challenge you all, Clearwater, to be compassionate for something that’s hard to understand.
For something you have never, maybe, even been exposed to before (when actually you have, you just don’t know it).
What is PTSD?
It’s a neurological, physical, mental, and emotional response to excessive and unrelenting stress that’s made permanent by the straw that broke the camel’s back. It’s something different for everyone who suffers from it. It’s also something one never ever heals from. Once the damage is done, it’s done. And one must simply learn to live with it whether one realizes or not. Because the “triggers” come out of nowhere and cannot be controlled.
So when you watched and listened to Terrance Kosikar, you were witnessing someone who’s living with PTSD. If he made you feel uncomfortable, then that’s good. Because we are all responsible for sufferers of PTSD. We are all contributors because we gave the government responsibility for keeping us safe. For providing workers compensation when we are legitimately injured on the job. And one should not have to fight to get workers compensation for a work injury.
Workers compensation is a safety net we all trust in. We expect it to be there when we need it. We’ve heard many stories of how an injured worker was given just that. But what you don’t hear is how a worker who suffers a mental health injury is denied.
This denial has the power to take away everything that’s dear to you. There’s nothing worse than not being able to work and being told that your injury is not severe enough, not valid, not compensable. That as a worker, you assumed the responsibility for that mental health risk on the job and now you’re reaping that outcome, unfortunate for you.
There’s no compensation at all. And so you lose your savings, you lose your assets, and you lose your home. Maybe you end up living on the streets or living in the bush. Never mind that you also lose your dignity, self-respect, and loved ones.
To the outside world, you look like a bum who can’t cope. You look like a street person. In part because this is exactly true. That person simply cannot cope with the excessive stress anymore. To rationalize what you’re seeing you make judgments about how that person must have deserved what happened to them because it’s unfathomable society could do this to a person.
I lost all my savings, I lost all my retirement, I lost my dignity and self worth. But most important to me, I lost my nursing career. They all turned their backs on me when they saw the bum, the derelict, who does not conform to society’s norms. And you’re so much better than that Clearwater.
Please remember PTSD does not go away. It’s simply something each of us affected has to live with. And that’s so hard to describe. Blindingly painful to describe. Locked on the couch suicidally, depressingly painful, to even contemplate describing.
Good job Terrance Kosikar for changing how PTSD is viewed for firemen, police, and paramedics.
If I had brute strength I too would turn a tire and get things changed, but all I have is the mighty pen. Nurses aren’t taught to be activists. They’re reassured that to put aside their own health in caring for patients is the nursing thing to do. That patients need us as emotional advocates as well as technically proficient computer analysts to set the IV pump when delivering the best care possible.
That’s what we do willingly and with pride. So when nurses fall, just like paramedics, police, and firemen, it’s on all of us.
The work isn’t done until PTSD is recognized for nurses and every other worker in British Columbia. Because shock and trauma can happen to anyone at work, at home, on the road, or on holiday. And we as a society must do everything in our power to mitigate that harm because we’re all responsible.
Dr. Lorelei Rogers, EdD AHN-BC retired