Jess Virginia

Jess sat down and discussed childhood, the fire service, trauma, and recovery. I have to thank her for her openness and her willingness to be vulnerable. Be aware that this show has themes related to abuse and childhood trauma.

Jess T

Stack: Today? We're sitting down with Jess. She's out of Virginia. She's been a firefighter since 2011 I'm going to let her tell a little bit of her story, get a little bit of her family background and we'll go into her fire career and we'll find out what she's doing today.

How are you doing Jess? I am 

Jess: doing well. How are you? I'm 

Stack: doing well. Thank you. Welcome to the show. 

Jess: Thank you.

I grew up in a family of six. I was one of four children. I was the second oldest. It was an older brother, me and then a younger brother and a younger sister. , there was four of us within six years of each other. I grew up in Maryland in the country.

I think every once in a while, people know that because of my accent, it pops out here and there. So I grew up in the country of Maryland. My mom and dad were married until I was 18 years old. My grandparents on my mom's side, lived with us all of my life until I moved out. I think as a child, we pretty much had anything that we wanted. My dad worked two jobs and my mom was a stay at home and from the outside, looking in, we looked like pretty squared away. Good family. I was a nerd when I was in school. I played in the band and it was national honor society.

And club treasurer. If anybody knows what that is. Yeah. It was like community service. I was the treasurer of the community service crew. I played soccer growing up and I always played on my brother's team. So I always played on the guys team. So I've more of a tomboy from the get-go growing up. Just how I grew up. 

Stack: Alright, so your family of six, four kids, and you said dad worked two jobs. He wasn't around much. 

Jess: No, he was pretty busy. He worked for a gas, electric company of a Maryland, and then he had his own business removing trees. So he really wasn't around very much. My mom was pretty much the one that raised us.

And when I say she raised us, I think more, my grandmother raised us. My mom was the one that was home. Yeah. And she's the one that did all the running to and from all the sports and all that kind of stuff. My dad, when he was there, he would try and make it, but I sat for the most part, he was just busy providing for us and making sure we had anything that we wanted or needed growing up.

Stack: And when did you move 

Jess: out of the house? I moved out when I was 17. Move back in a couple of times until I was about 19 until I finally moved out and then we moved away. I came down to Virginia, not too long after that. And then I didn't join the fire service until I was 24.

So I had a little bit of a interim in there. But yeah, I think I left the house pretty much as soon as I was able to get out on my own two feet and do my own thing. So it was about 17 when I moved.

Stack: Do you want to talk about some of your childhood? I know that you've had, you had a you had a rough childhood and that's a lot of your story and it affects your fire service career as well. So w wherever you'd want to start with that, you can feel free and then we can get into some of it.

Jess: I grew up a kid before I say from the outside, looking in our family was pretty squared away, and we looked like a pretty good family. But they were always very good at putting on a show where we went to any sort of event. And I don't think anybody really knew what was going on behind closed doors with the family.

My mom pretty much was pretty well removed from being involved other than running us to and from sports. She really didn't have much knowledge about what was going on in our house. From the time I was eight, until I was about 13, I was sexually abused by two people in the household to the point where I was like sleeping in my sister's room to protect her and to protect myself, to make sure it wasn't going to keep happening.

And the, I think that was a big part of my childhood, a big part of what went on behind closed doors that nobody knew about. And it wasn't until I told somebody when I was 13, that they brought it to one of the people and said, Hey, this has to stop.

And then I was finally able to stand up to buy for myself to one of the people and just say, okay, this is enough. This isn't gonna happen anymore. Or I don't know, or else, I don't know, at 13 years old, I'm not really sure what or else meant to me, but that was it or else. That was a big part of it.

And then at, I was 14 and I found out I was pregnant and I let it go for quite a long time because I don't know what a 14 year old does when they find out something like that. But probably not the right choice when I finally did go and figure it all out and find out that I was my mom was the one who took me and She berated me, which I don't know.

You look at like having a 14 year old daughter two years ago, myself. I don't know what I would have done in this situation, but not that

took me down to an abortion clinic. Didn't even give me an option. Just told me this is what was happening by the time she found out I had turned 15. So I was just 15. And we went down to an abortion clinic and my mom signed me in under a false name and made the clinic do an ultrasound to give me a picture of the baby.

So I could remember what I put her through. And then afterwards, she made me go sit, watch my soccer team, play soccer and try and explain why I couldn't play soccer without actually being allowed to tell them what had occurred. And she basically told me I was a piece of crap and she disowned me and I disgusted her and really wasn't worth a damn.

So I was my age from age eight to age 15, which kind of pulled all together at age 17. It was like, I'm going to get the F out of here. Met up with a guy in college, who I thought it was going to fix everything and ended up getting pregnant by him at 18, having my daughter at 19. And having my son at 20 and found out that this was not the right decision or the move.

And I had pretty much just moved myself from one toxic situation into another one. At this point we had moved down to Virginia and I was pretty much isolated from all friends and all family and just struggling to find out where I was going to go. I had always been told that I wasn't good enough to do school or college.

And mind you, when I was in school, I was national honor society and a straight a student taking advanced classes, but I wasn't smart enough to keep continuing. So I felt like I had no way out. And that's where at 24, I finally found the fire service and was like, I always wanted to do emergency nurses.

I had tried a couple of different times for nursing school or for certified nursing and worked at a hospital and it didn't work out. For one reason or another, I wasn't able to, wasn't allowed to have a job. Not that I wasn't able to keep the job. I wasn't allowed to have a job. 

Stack: Your husband said you 

Jess: weren't allowed to have.

Yeah. And my mom's opinion was the husband provides for the wife. So you stay home and raise the children. So I didn't keep my jobs. So at 24, I got hired on with the fire service and decided that this was going to be my way out.

Stack: So what year was that? At 24 

Jess: 20 10 at Thanksgiving is what I applied. Okay. And then once I went through the whole process and got hired, I got hired in July of 2011. 

Stack: So you're living in Virginia, two kids married. What does your husband do? 

Jess: He was a police officer. . He's still some sort of cop thing.

I don't know what he does now, but he's still some sort of law enforcement. And how was the marriage? Tumultuous the best word? It was funny. I was actually talking to somebody the other day about the marriage and about how different it was. I had a certain role to uphold in the marriage and it was, I took care of the house and the kids and paid the bills and managed the finances.

And I wasn't allowed to go out or drink or do anything that would be considered an embarrassment. So I was pretty much confined to a couple of mom, friends who I think we're now looking back at it. I think we were all very similar and just putting on a facade for each other. Yeah. And it was a lot of emotional and mental abuse.

Even before we left Maryland, he assaulted my brother and that was a whole big ordeal because I had told him that this wasn't going to continue. I caught him cheating on me and said, this is it. Okay. I'm not going to live like this. And he wasn't able to assault me because I was holding one of the children.

So instead he knocked my brother unconscious and my brother ended up with stitches and then a concussion. So you could see the writing on the wall even before we moved to Virginia, but I didn't see any other options who was either go back to the house where I grew up or come to Virginia. 

For the most part, he was gone. So I felt like I had a house to myself and two kids and it was okay. And then when he would come home, it was just, it was awful. And it wasn't until I got hired with the fire service that he told me like when you fail out. Cause I think he knew like from the day I applied, I think he knew I was going to leave.

If I got all my own two feet, so it was all that emotional and mental abuse I went through the academy

with just no support.

Stack: Was it simply not simply, I'm sorry, that's a terrible term. Was it emotional mental only? 

Jess: No, it was a lot of intimidation. Anger. It got to the point where he would hit the wall next to my head and miss me by inches. And then the night I actually walked out after I graduated the academy and I told him I am leaving.

He asked on the day I graduated. I said, yeah.

It was Friday the 13th. I graduated the academy and he asked after graduation, he came up and he's so you're going to leave. I was like, yeah, that was why I got this job. That's why I did this was to leave. And then from there out, it just got worse. just every time we were together, there was, it was fights.

It was physical. It was awful. And then the night I decided I was actually leaving was we had an argument at the top of the stairs and he put his hands on me and I fell down. I fell down, quote the stairs. And when I landed at the bottom of the stairs, I was like, that's it. I can't come back to this house.

And I literally just took what was at the bottom of the stairs with me and just walked out. And that was that was the end of it. And that was in may after I graduated recruit school. So here I am brand new down in Virginia. Don't really know too many people. And now I'm going through a divorce with an abusive husband who I walked out and left the kids with.

Which came back to haunt me

the, because he didn't ever threaten the kids or injure the kids. The courts looked at that as I abandoned them and that he was stable enough to have them. So my first year of the fire service, I had nowhere to live and no friends, no long-term friends. I did have friends. I had people that helped no kids.

And when we went to court for the first time I showed up with a friend, they stayed outside and I walked into the court and my mom was sitting on. His side of the court against me and supporting him. And that was instrumental in the divorce because whose own mother would sit against them unless they were really that unstable.

And when we left there, she said to me she couldn't believe what I had become and women don't leave their husbands. So that's the kind of support I had from my family.

Stack: It's May now you've started your rookie year at the fire department. You've left your family because of your safety and sanity, basically. Yeah. 

Jess: Where do you live? For awhile couch to couch. From people that would just let me crash there for a couple of days,

I got a place. Oh, it was just renting a little place. The courts required me to have a single room for you to the kids. So I needed at least a three bedroom

and the courts were also requiring me to pay almost one whole paycheck to the X. So I very quickly lost that place and couldn't afford it. I think I was able to keep it for seven months and then I was back to couch and it went on for, I don't know, two years

I was able to get my dad to co-sign a house with me in 2014. So that's how long I bounced around.

So going through the divorce and everything, and he wanted to play everything dirty and drag all of our drama into the fire service, he did everything. He could help me lose my job. He's spread rumors. He spread gossip. I made poor choices. During that time, I had lost myself and lost pretty much everything that I knew.

And I don't know. I thought there for a while, it was going to be the end of my career. And then what choice do I have to go back? So I chose to go to paramedic class. I didn't feel like at my rookie station, I had very much support And I, it was personal stuff, so I don't feel like I shared a lot of what I was going through.

I think it was just like I don't know, you, you don't know me and I came in with a lot of baggage but I certainly didn't feel like I had support there. So I went to medic class to regroup and lay low and pursue the emergency medicine that I always wanted to do. Which kind of worked out in my favor because I do being a medic and that was my end goal.

Just was good timing to get away from everything. I think. So 

Stack: many classes a year, correct? 

Jess: Yeah, it was a little bit I guess it was 11 months and then we went out and did our like capstone stuff and then we came back and finished up. So it was right around a year, but about 10 or 11 months in.

Yup. And then I came out and I went down to Dumfries, was in Dumfries 

Stack: Dumfries being a little city, a little town. I won't call it a city on the east side of our county , socioeconomically depressed has a lot of gang activity, drug activity. A lot of calls, a lot of medical calls.

And it can, it's a lot of wear and tear on a person down there. 

Jess: Yeah, it was I was so mad when I got a sign there too. It was funny. I called somebody up and I was like, seriously, this is where they put me and looking in hindsight, like it was a good spot. Okay. I don't know if 20 years is a long enough time to lay low.

Stack: What do you mean by that 20 years? Isn't long enough 

Jess: time to lay low just to rebuild yourself and all of the stuff that I went through. And there's certain people that are like, oh, I had no idea, but there's plenty of people that are like, oh yeah, I remember when, so it just depends on who you interact with as far as what they know about you.

And so I think three kind of was like a blessing in disguise to go down there and just, I don't know, run calls and get better at my job and stay away from things. Stay away from the drama down at three rescue back when it was only that, the station was small. It was only. Three at most four people assigned to the shift and most days you only had two of us actually working.

So it was pretty small. You had 24 hours to do whatever you wanted. And the chiefs never came around because it was three rescue and nobody wanted to come down there. We're always on lock down or I'd watch because there was assaults or PCP patients or shootings, or it was always interesting and busy.

So I think in that respect, it was good. But but by the time I got to three rescue, I had already I lost myself, I guess I lost myself very early on. I have been drinking and a lot of those couches I crashed on, I was pretty much blackout drunk. And just relying on some new friends. Make sure I made it somewhere safe.

So I know when I got to three rescue, like I wasn't good, I wasn't squared away. And then when I was down at three rescue, we ran a handful of calls that kinda hit home and started bringing stuff back from my childhood. A lot of things that I think I had suppressed and just move past in my mind, but had never actually addressed or handled. The first call that kind of brought stuff back was this 14 year old girl at a school who was sitting there and accusing her stepdad of abusing her. And the mom's just standing there and saying, no, she's always been a liar. She, we don't believe her. And CPS is we're siding with the family on this one.

The girl needs help. And, but we don't think she's being abused. And so we got called in to evaluate her and see if she was medically stable to go home. And it was for all intents and purposes, it was an insignificant call. But

Stack: insignificant in the call nature 

Jess: itself, right in the medical needs. Like we assessed her vitals were fine and she could leave, but I think that call hit me. I know it did it hit you hard 

Stack: because of what she is accusing and claiming her father was doing right in 

Jess: the face. Here she is with no family support and nobody's listening to her and she's crying out for help at a commendable age here.

She is underage having to go home and live with these parents or face being taken away from these parents. And they're just ignoring her.

But I think I know when I left that call, I was so angry. Like we're required reporters, we're supposed to call CPS, we're supposed to get these people help. And this is what they do. They just ignore it, they side with the adults. And it just started bringing back a lot of like anger and frustration and times where I remember my mother was well aware of the abuse that was going on and.

Shut the door or turn her head or tell me that I was lying and making things up. All the kind of stuff that I just had suppressed

as a kid and just whatever, it's just a situation I went through and now I'm an adult and it's done, and it is what it is. And then that call really started bringing back

just how much it wasn't handled. 

Stack: So the repression wasn't so much that the abuse took place. It was what people knew about the abuse. 

Jess: Yeah. And I think I think for a long time, I didn't realize how much she had to have known. And then it was certain events coming back, certain timeframes and places where it had occurred, where she had been present or aware.

And those were the times that started coming back after that. And I was like, no, this is exactly what happened. And this is why people don't speak up because they did nothing for this poor girl when I was 18, I had already moved out. I was already pregnant with my daughter.

My sister put it all together and she was probably like 14, 15 at the time. She put it all together and figured it out and she reported it. And I just sit down and talk to the cops and my mom sat there and said almost exactly what that girl's mom sat there and said is she's always been a liar.

You can't trust anything that she says. And she's a storyteller and so on and so forth. It wasn't until months later because I wasn't a minor anymore. And I chose not to press charges on anybody. That one of the people followed through with the polygraph and came back and admitted that they had lied.

And they had failed the polygraph. And so it was kinda like, oh, see, I'm not actually a liar. I'm not crazy. But here this whole time, I'm being made to think I'm crazy. 

Stack: So you keep using the term people. Do you not like to name who it was? 

Jess: No. I don't want to name who it was. 

Stack: I'm not pushing you to, I just curious. 

Jess: No one of them never got addressed . I brought it up to my mom and told her what had occurred and she took it to her therapist and her therapist said it's no big deal. She's an adult now and has moved out of the house. So it's really not worth discussing or delving deeper.

So that was where that was left for our family. And that's, I live in Virginia and have nothing to do with my family. So that's where it's been left. . Yeah, so I think that call down to Dumfries was like, I can't say it was like, I don't know from the job, but the job definitely brought back things that I had experienced prior to being hired.

And then not too awfully long after we ran that call my partner and I got a call for a difficulty breathing at a supermarket for a child. Yeah. It upgraded to an unconscious and then upgrade you'll stop edge. There was a language barrier. So we went to the supermarket expecting to find this child like choking or having a seizure or something.

I don't know. And when I climbed out of the driver's seat, the mom met me right in the front of the medic unit and handed me this stiff cold blanket. I could just feel the kid inside. And it was just couldn't ever figure out what happened to the kid. Like it was over two, two and a half caught us completely by surprise and put us into a scramble and. We ended up trying to do CPR on it because it was a two year old and there was such a language barrier. And what are we supposed to do in the middle of a supermarket? So even though holding the child, it was, I used the comparison of holding a backboard.

It was so stiff and cold. It was just, you could tell it was lifeless. It was futile effort. And I was supposed to have leave that night at 1800. And of course his call came out at 1730. It was late. So I already knew we were going to be late. I already knew we were going to have to deal with this call and it was going to be a long situation.

And it already put a huge damper on the whole week, not just the night, but it was just you can never run it like a dead kid and just be like, oh, okay, let's go to dinner. But while we were up at the hospital, getting ready to restock, we were told to stay out of service, had come back to the station because we need a peer support to talk to us.

And it maybe laugh to myself a little bit. Like here I am having gone through all this other stuff and run more mentally significant cause then this one, but we're going to be forced to talk about it. And they ended up showing up and we didn't get to leave the station. Just me, my partner ended up staying, I think dig it to leave the station to like almost 10 30, 11 o'clock at night.

It was just

so frustrating and so aggravating to have to sit there and talk about something that I hadn't even really thought about yet. I had just been in like work mode and handled it,

but I wasn't allowed to leave and go deal with it with other people or how I wanted to deal with it. And you've got to look back at all. The other things that I had dealt with him had been dealing with, and it just kinda is almost ironic how just poorly placed the intentions were. 

Stack: And you say it was peer support that was brought down to, to talk to you.

So it wasn't necessarily professionals. It was like you said, just peers. It was 

Jess: just peers. Yeah. I just asking us to relive a call that we had just run with a dead kid and it's just, nobody wants to relive it. Period. Let alone 10 minutes after they've run it or for three hours. I was just so angry that night or that kind of was like the I'll never reach out to peer support because they don't even know what's going on or what we actually need here.

I am getting blackout drunk and sleeping on couches, but they want to come down and talk about how this kid affected me.

Stack: And what year was this call? 

Jess: It was probably 20 14, 20 15. . 

Stack: Still early on in the paramedic career and your fire 

Jess: career? Yeah. Yeah. And this was I had lost the kids at this point. I only had visitation. I wasn't, I didn't have a place, so it was probably 2014 right before I actually got my place.

Cause I didn't have a place yet for them to be able to come and spend the night. So I had started, I had a quote friend who was able to get me unlimited supplies of pain medicines. And I had started doing that. I can't even tell you the amounts that I took some days. Like I know. There's one day I got called out on it and that was out outside of work at home. I climbed a ladder to the roof to paint the trim because that's what I was like. Hyper-focused on in the moment. And I had eight Vicodin in my system when I climbed the ladder and was on the roof.

And I specifically remember that day because I just couldn't get enough to get rid of the pain.

So you were 

Stack: drinking, you were taking pills. 

Jess: I was taking Vicodins or Tramadols as many as I could get my hands on. And what I could get it. I was taking Xanax as well. So 

Stack: was there any professional help going on? 

Jess: No, not at that time. I think I was just self-medicating and taking care of it and I felt like I was functioning fine.

I was showing up for work every day and running calls and nobody knew anything different. So I didn't feel like I needed professional help. I felt like all the professional help I was getting was directed at the wrong things. So people reaching out and trying to help me deal with work or deal with calls or things like that, or I'm like I just couldn't even deal with life.

I was just trying to know at all. And I did it. I can tell you to sit down and Dumfries. I got promoted. She was impressive. I got promoted to the next level and they promoted me in place and left me down there. So I continue to run a Dumfries. I was down there for over four years and it wasn't until we ran this public service that I actually started getting help.

And it actually was months and months after we ran that public service 

Stack: public service being explained that call type 

Jess: real quick. It's a concerned family member. This one came in from police and it was actually just a come pronounced. The patient is what that one was, but usually it's a concerned family member or a third party caller say they can't get ahold of somebody.

They need you to come and check on them or help lift them up or a welfare check or something. Com make sure they're okay. Help put them back in bed. 

Stack: So not emergency 

Jess: type call. Yeah. It's just something basic. So we do, we saw all the computer. It was PDs on scene just needs help pronouncing the patient.

Patient's deceased. Okay, fine. So we get there and walk up. It was just, we just had our life back in our stethoscope because that's all you needed to pronounce somebody which after that call, I don't think I've ever done that ever again. But we walk in and this old ladies laying phased out in her bathroom and you could see there's like dark purple bruising around her , lower legs.

And she's got some litter arms and we call it lividity when it's like on the one side. And it's, it looks like the blood's pulling down towards one direction. So I was like, oh yeah, she's definitely dead. She's pale as can be. She's wearing a white nightgown. She's got long gray hair. Like definitely like that.

She'd knocked over the stand in the corner of a bathroom and it's laying on top of her. I'm like, yeah, PD stand in here. She hasn't moved. I have went to town to pronounce her and she picked her head up and just what? Help? Like barely even said anything creepiest. She said help creepiest moment of my career by far, she was not dead.

Scared the shit out of me. We did everything we could. I'm sure she died. I don't even remember her name, but after that call I started seeing her.

Stack: What do you mean you started seeing her.

Jess: We would run other calls. And I would look like by the patient, standing at the doorway would be her, this creepy zombie lady, half dead, that dead lady standing there. And what I would go to bed down at the bug group. And usually it was a male female. So I had the bug group to myself. She was in the bunk group night after night, I was seeing this person.

And I start holy shit up. Actually go crazy. Have either doing two Betty pills or I'm not doing enough pills. I don't know which direction, but I'm going crazy. And I think that was the moment with that. I was like, I need to actually seek professional help. Cause I shouldn't be seeing on those ghost.

Stack: Not that it matters, but was it only at work that you were 

Jess: seeing there? No. No. I saw her all the time. I told my husband now who I'm married to, I would tell him I'm like, do I see her all the time? It was everywhere. It was in the house. It was what I was out at a store. I don't know. I literally would.

She would just be there never threatening never already. They just a figure. And I just thought I said, I just thought I was going absolutely crazy. I was covering unhinged. So that's what I finally reached out. I probably saw her for about six spots and talked myself into it's. Okay. She'll go away.

It's no big deal before I actually was like, all right, I gotta do something about that. So I was able to actually get hooked up with a trauma counselor. Okay. To start working on what I had experienced at work at a lot of the significant calls I had run there. And then going back into the marriage and the childhood

had to try to map it all out and make sense of it. 

Stack: So what kinds of things did you do with the trauma counselor?

Jess: At first, what I got when I met her, I really thought she was a quack. I thought she was crazy. She wanted to do like these sand tray plays and draw out your emotions and close your eyes and pinpoint where this emotion actually is. And. I'm not religious by any means that I don't have these beliefs that somebody's going to come to me and be like, oh, this is how life should be.

So I just was like, this is ridiculous. I don't even know what you're trying to accomplish with this. And then it wasn't until she was actually able to give you like the science behind it and provide documentation of what these therapies did that I was like, oh, okay. Maybe I'll buy into it a little bit.

But I think it was more meditative and like

helped focus on a lot of the triggers. It dehumanize the traumas that I had been through in ways that we could look at it from the outside, looking in and step back and make them not so personal. So that way I could start approaching it figuring about,

but but while I was seeing her, I was having a really bad panic attacks like debilitating panic attacks to where I would pass out from hyperventilating so bad. And she recommended me to see a psychiatrist so I could get some medications to help control that. And so I found a really nice psychiatrist who had prescribed me more medicines, and I was able to keep my flow of clonopine and Xanax coming in because of my panic attacks.

So while I was working on myself, I was in the same time turning around and using it to benefit myself, to continue. Self-medicating.

And that was probably the better part of 2015.

Stack: So working on yourself, but still continuing some self-destructive behavior. Yeah, 

Jess: absolutely. Absolutely. It was easier to go there twice a week and talk about it and then just to be NOV the rest of the week. So that's how I just continued for quite a long time. And then a little bit after that, after I started seeing the trauma counselor and everything I reached out said, need to come out of the field. I don't think this is where I need to be right now. I need day work. I'm trying to get my kids. I'm trying to figure my life out. So a change would be good.

So I was able to get into an office position. So I felt like that helped a lot. I got to go in, add, actually go home and sleep. I got to have my weekends for the most part off, unless there was some sort of emergency being like a ride along, did show up where they needed to be. So not an actual nine 11 call.

And was able to step back and see my life and get some sleep and kind of figure out what exactly I was doing. 

Stack: You're in the office. Have you stopped seeing the zombie lady? 

Jess: No, I think it took a good while before I stopped seeing her. Gosh, I probably took, I saw her for about six months before I went to the tribal counselor and then I probably saw her for a good three, three or four boats afterwards.

So closing a better part of a year that I saw this lady. How was, it was like, there was always a Starbucks that I stopped at what I was doing, like the internship stuff and moving around and I told Ryan about it. I said it was really weird. So old, man came up. And I asked him about this the other day.

I was like, why did I tell you that old man set? I can't remember for the life be what he said, but it was something like it's okay, let her go.

I don't know what just happened, but then it wasn't for a couple of weeks that I like turned around and I was like, I haven't seen her. She's gone. So I don't know.

And that was it. I never saw the zombie lady again. 

Stack: So th this older gentleman in front of Starbucks said that to you. 

Jess: Yeah. And I told her, I was like, I swear to God, he was a ghost. I turned around to ask him like what he said, and I, he wasn't there. What the fuck. I'm so crazy right now that I called right immediately.

Cause it was a big deal. I was like Yeah, I wish I could remember what he said because it was something like that, but right. I even asked him and he was like, I dunno, it was let her go or it's okay for her to go. So 

Stack: during this time you're out of the field, you're in an office job. Are you're still using, are you still drinking.

Jess: Oh, yeah, I actually, I cut back a good bit. , but I was still drinking. There were still days where I couldn't handle things. And instead of going home to Turkey every night, I was just going home at your gate on a weekend or once a week.

I continued using pills for probably half of the time that I was up there. And then while I was down at Dumfries, I had met Ryan who's my husband now. And I think we together we're in a bad spot. It each other, get out of it instead of pulling each other down. And it took quite a while for B to get squared away, a better 

but I feel like he was definitely a huge part of it. And he do he knew I was taking the pills, so he would live it up or he would hide or take them. So eventually I was able to get it under control and stop.

I saw the trauma counselor for a long time consistently two times, three times a week for probably six to nine months. And then I was just like an as needed basis for about 18 months with her. So I felt like I did get myself squared away at that point and better. 

Stack: That trauma counselor helped you order things from childhood.

Jess: Yeah. She helped me like figure out what was worth even addressing with family and what was worth me, just working through all my own. So that was a big part of it. I think. But I think like a lot of the work that I did with the trauma counselor. Very beneficial in getting me to accept a lot of my story. Does it mean to, does it still bother me, but

That's just what's brought me to be who I am today. So I think that was a huge part of just accepting it versus ignoring it.

Does that make sense? Yeah. 

Stack: Cause for years you did just ignore it. Correct. And it's festered 

Jess: at every minor incident, I ran pulled things back out. So things I thought I had just buried weren't actually dealt with. So actually finding a counselor who was able to work with us or that kind of stuff, ed actually tackle.

It was huge.

So yeah, I feel like while I was at the office is what I got squared away started being able to step back and see, like I wanted to take my career further and do more things and not just be somebody who floated a log in their career. It just, just struggled. So I decided I was going to prepare for the lieutenant's test and see where that took me.

So I got moved back out of the office, into the field. I sat for the lieutenants has the first month I came out of the office. And I was one of the first people promoted off the list. So it was good. It was like things, world and upswing. So that was good.

Stack: So what year do you get 

Jess: promoted? I got promoted in 2019

and I was in the office from 2017

to 2018. And then I took the test in the fall of 2018. It got promoted when they made the first round. So that took effect to the 1st of January of 2019.

Stack: So you become a Lieutenant on a medic unit, correct? And do you move stations at that point when you're 

Jess: promoting? Yep. I changed the stations again, so I just got into that season and started to get to know my crew and then I got moved again. And then during all that time, Ryan and I had decided to start trying for a child.

So we had some complications and some struggles. While I was at the office, I had a miscarriage and then we ended up having to do IVF. So I think we tried for awhile a long time before we opted to do IVF. And I got promoted to Lieutenant and had just like we implanted on October 22nd. And I think I found out like the second week of November that I got promoted, so I just become a new\ Lieutenant and I was pregnant.

And I got moved station. So as you do station got a whole new crew again, when the field, until I was 35 weeks and then went out on maternity. And when I came back from maternity, they had shuffled crews again. So by the time I came back from having the baby, I had whole new crew.

So it was a lot of change in those couple of years just with crews which I loved working with all of them. I thought they were all fantastic. But there was no like continuity. So that made it difficult as a do Lieutenant. I think, just try to know how to supervise people when you're not giving consistency to learn how to supervise a lot of different personalities and things to try and figure out Yeah, that I did three years at that station.

And we changed schedule while I was at that station. We went from working a 48 hour week to work in the 56 hour week. And because Ryan and I are married, we we had the little ones we weren't able to be on the same shift. So we had to be opposite shifts to be able to deal with childcare because we don't have any family that's able to help.

So we changed the what to the 56 hour work week. And I saw him 10 days about, so that started to get really tough. Started reaching out and say, we can't do this. That, after everything that we've gone through and been through, I'd need to see him more than 10 days a month.

And it was just felt like it fell on deaf ears.

So I wrote an email and said, Hey, something needs to change, or I'm going to have to offer up my resignation because this can't did you. And I waited and waited, and finally it changed at a back at an office position. 

Stack: So you're back with a consistent schedule back 

Jess: with a consistent schedule 

Stack: where you're sleeping at home every 

Jess: night, able to see my family actually see them, spend time with them and attend the kids' sporting events and everything else.


Stack: And what else are you doing today for yourself?

Jess: I do a lot for myself, I think. And it's part of going through all the counseling and kind of figuring it out, fighting myself. I learned to be a little bit selfish and not apologize for it. So right now I've been nursing school. That's for me

yeah, so right now I'd be going to nursing school. So that's. For me I make sure that I find time for self-care and whether that's yoga or meditation, or

I don't know, take the day off and do whatever. We live outside of prince William, so that's a huge part of what we do now to stay removed and have our own individuality for the job. We have a little homestead out there. We have our miniature cows that aren't so miniature and our pigs and chickens.

and kids and cats and dogs.

Stack: You've got a farm. That's not a farm, 

Jess: We get eggs from our chickens, but we're working on its infancy stages. So we're working on to get the cows bred so we could get milk from them. And our pigs are going to be breeder pigs. So we get celled up, but we really don't kill it, eat our animals.

We just grow a bit pedal. , I think that's huge having a place to go. That's a way from where we work. That's like our self-care.

Are you 

Stack: doing any therapy today? 

Jess: No. I do have two therapists that I could call on a as needed basis and reach out to and they'll get me in within a day or two, if I needed to go see somebody, but I do feel like the majority of the issues that I've had have been addressed I feel like I know technique now or how to handle things better than when I started.

And even though I don't have anxiety anymore, but

like if something's going to be difficult that I just kinda just have to buck up and handle it. And I think that came a little bit with the therapy and a little bit with taking on a more supervisor role and just get set in myself. And this is just who I am and how it has to be handled.

So as long as I deal with things, as they approach I don't, let them fester, I feel like I'm pretty good on a day to day basis. 

Stack: . So no, no active therapy now yoga, meditation, farm, some separation from work and home, which is healthy for everybody. The the normal sleep schedule, which is healthy for everybody and just family life. Does that sum it up for what works for you right now? 

Jess: Yeah, absolutely. I feel like the farm is my therapy.

So go without care for the animals that, like you said, it's just family life that it itself is therapeutic.

Stack: . All right. So I have two questions for you.

The last two questions I do with everybody, the first one is about an everyday carry and we call the show, the things we all carry. We all carry things into a fire or a call, but we also carry things out. Those scars of the things that stay with us. So what's something that you carry in your everyday life, on your person that without it, you feel naked.

Jess: I really don't have anything like super personal that I carry with me. I think like I try not to be in my mind and coming from everything, I try not to be materialistic and that just comes back around to the past. But one thing I absolutely don't go anywhere without is my phone in that kind of I use it as a lifeline.

If I'm having a bad day or if I have a bad moment one, I use music is therapy. So I've got every different type of music I could listen to on there. But then if I need to reach out, I've always got it. So that goes with me everywhere. 

Stack: And that makes the music and everything on there. And like you said, it's a lifeline.

So that, that does make sense. And I think a phone is something that we all have close by. It's rare when you see someone that doesn't have their phone for us. 

Jess: Yeah. I think that's of course everybody has a phone nowadays. I'm like, ah, but mine's no, I'll panic if I don't have it.


Stack: . The last thing I like to ask people is about a book, a movie, a person, a podcast, maybe music that you just mentioned, something you want to share with people that make people aware of that they should listen to or read or pay attention to.

Jess: If I could go with. I would say popular monster. I found out who was biased by falling in reverse. That was a big song that kind of worked for me when I was going through a lot. Just it's not just me, it's popular enough that they put it in a song. And if I could say a book, I would say the heart of Buddhist teachings, which is one that I just keep it in my nightstand and just brings back, do unto others as you will have done to you, all that kind of stuff without being like religious based.

It's more of just being a good person. So that would be the book. All right. 

Stack: So I will put those two in the show notes. We'll link to it. And then the listeners can take a look and take a listen. Thank you very much. I appreciate the conversation. I appreciate the openness. And the, just the fact that you're able to be vulnerable.

And like I said, open up, I appreciate it. 

Jess: I can't say I enjoyed this.

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