Welcome to episode 45 of The Things We All Carry. Roughly a week before Christmas, I had the pleasure of speaking with Ali Rothrock. Ali has roughly 17 years of experience as a volunteer firefighter. Her story is one of trauma, resilience and an amazing recovery. She’s also the founder and CEO of On the Job and Off, a platform dedicated to building resilient first responders.
Ali’s the Executive Director of First Responders Care an organization she uses. to educate first responders on how to recognize and report signs of child abuse, neglect and trafficking. She’s also the author of two books. Where Hope Lies and After Trauma: Lessons on Overcoming From a First Responder Turned Crisis Counselor.
Visit Ali’s Website
Find Ali’s Books on her website….Link above
Ali’s Book Suggestions
Welcome to episode 45 of the things we all carry. Roughly a week before Christmas, I had the pleasure of speaking with Ali Rothrock. Ali has roughly 17 years of experience as a volunteer firefighter. Her story is one of trauma, resilience and an amazing recovery. She’s also the founder and CEO of On the Job and Off, a platform dedicated to building resilient first responders.
Ali’s the Executive Director of First Responders Care an organization she uses. to educate first responders on how to recognize and report signs of child abuse, neglect and trafficking. She’s also the author of two books. Where Hope Lies and After Trauma: Lessons on Overcoming From a First Responder Turned Crisis Counselor.
In addition to all this, Ali is a certified trauma responder. And a behavioral health specialist. While simultaneously working toward earning her master’s degree, focused on trauma, resilience and self care strategy. A quick reminder to please help us build a community which not only recognizes, but supports each other through the struggles and recovery.
Reach out through Instagram @thethingsweallcarry Or email my firstname.lastname@example.org. The offer support and share your story. Please remember to leave a review on iTunes and give a shout out to any first responder, you know, love or care about y’all enjoy the show.
Allie, Rothrock. Welcome to the show. Thanks for joining me.
Ali: Thank you so much for having me. I’m thrilled to be here.
Stack: Yeah, this is awesome.
I’ve read your book and I’ve been, We’ve been playing tag with email.
for a little bit. And So I’m happy to have you on the show and spend some time talking to you today.
Ali: Yeah, I’m so excited to chat.
Stack: So why don’t you give us a little background? Tell us.
Where you’re from where your family life was like, and then we’ll go from there.
Ali: Sure. Yeah. So at this point in life, I’ve been in the emergency services for over half my life, which seems absolutely wild. I grew up in central Pennsylvania and started volunteer firefighting when I was 16. I didn’t have anyone in my family that was in the emergency services except for an uncle.
That was a dispatcher. And so everything I knew about. Firefighting before I started was from this show that ran forever on NBC called third watch. And it was, it covered like fire, EMS and police in New York city. And so that’s really what I thought. Firefighting. Was when I went to join.
And now when people are like, oh, I do. The fire service because of Chicago fire station 19, like we all roll our eyes, but those shows do get people involved in the emergency services. So that’s really what piqued my interest at the age of 16. And I started in October of 2005.
And have been, affiliated with in and around the emergency services ever since.
Stack: Also, it’s funny. You mentioned Chicago fire and third watch. We were at work yesterday.
and All day long.
It seemed every time we turned around the TV was on in Chicago, fire was on and we’re just, we’re.
Why is that even on, in the firehouse? We hate the show. Why is it on.
Ali: I know, and I always, it’s probably like doctors hate Grey’s anatomy. Like those kinds of things. And people really feel like they know what the emergency services is because they watch those shows and. While it’s sore, it’s eye roll, looking at it from our perspective. I do appreciate them because, like I said, they do.
Maybe pique people’s interest. That want to come, see if they have what it takes.
Stack: Yeah, I could see that.
I hadn’t thought of it that way. So I guess that makes sense. It’s almost a recruiting poster.
In a way, as long as people understand yes. So we’re not doing those things every day, but those are maybe once in a career experiences, not every shift.
Stack: Yeah. If you’re coming in expecting that you’re going to Be very disappointed with the 95%.
EMS calls that people run.
Ali: You’re going to be very bored.
Stack: So what was family life like?
Ali: If you haven’t. Great. I grew up mom, dad, and a younger sibling childhood dog.
I was in theater, I ice skated. I firefighting was not on the horizon for me at all, but mostly I was a reader and a writer. I wanted to be a writer when I grew up before I found firefighting, which is cool. Cause I still found my way to that. More than once. But yeah, it was a really happy.
Pretty carefree kid and was really supported by my family when I wanted to join the fire service, even though they were rightfully very confused because it just came out of the clear blue sky.
Stack: Yeah. So they had no idea what you wanted to do.
Ali: No. I really think it was like one summer. I watch third watch all the time. And then my junior year of high school in 2005, that October. I just walked into my local volunteer firehouse and, ask for an application. And that was that.
Stack: Did your family support you when you did it? Yeah.
Ali: Absolutely. Absolutely. They were rightfully so are we, can we talk about this? Are you sure this, This is, could be scary. This could be dangerous, all of these things, but they were really supportive. And I’m a pretty stubborn person when I set my mind to something there’s pretty much nothing that will keep me from accomplishing whatever that is. And so I think they also knew, like I was set on doing this.
And It was just easier. If they supported me from the beginning, which they absolutely did.
Stack: They know you’re doing. Excuse me. They know you’re going to do it. So just get out of the way and just. Just have your back throughout the whole
Ali: on board. Yup.
Stack: Which is perfect.
Ali: did. Yeah. Yeah.
Stack: that helps. That definitely helps to have your family support you, especially at 16.
Ali: Absolutely. It’s 16. It’s, that’s. I experienced so much at such a young age. And I really truly could not have gone through everything that I went through and come out on the other side without such a strong, secure base of my family and my parents to come back to you. So I’m grateful for that.
For them every day.
Stack: And So we’re going to get into that journey a little bit as we talk have it’s all been volunteer work or are you career anywhere? At any point in time.
Ali: volunteer. And I was paid EMT for a long while. But I’m so very passionate about the volunteer emergency services, especially the volunteer fire service. I just think it’s so special. And so I’m a proud. Volunteer for 17 years or whatever
Stack: I like the 17 years.
Can you start in 2005? So yeah that’s quite a commitment. That’s a massive commitment. Yeah. It’s an, it’s a commitment to do that as a career or a paid person. I do respect volunteers that do it for that kind of, that amount of time.
Stack: So you walk into the firehouse.
Ali: I do.
Stack: And what do you find when you get there?
Ali: I found two things. Pretty immediately. The first thing that I found. Was a love for firefighting, like a love that I didn’t even know. It was possible to love something that much. I just, I took to every aspect of it. So immediately and was just like head over heels in love with firefighting. And it took about a month for me to run my first call.
And that first call. Good luck, bad luck. However you want to look at it was a fatal car accident involving children. And so at 16, I, it’s my first call. I don’t know how to do anything, not even CPR. And so I just watched, I watched all these disciplines work together in this beautiful sort of.
Dance to get the children out of the car and who’s going in the helicopter and where’s the ambulance coming from and who, it was just this amazing thing to watch. And I realized in that moment, I remember asking myself, this is, these are dead children and you are basically still child.
Can you handle this? Yes or no. Can you handle this? Can you be the person who maybe next time you will have training and you will be tasked with doing some part of this work. Can you do that? And I decided yes, I can. So that love that deep love for firefighting was established in me right off the bat.
But the second thing that I found. Was an environment that was very confusing to me that did not make any sense to me. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced in my life up to that point. And it was this environment where I slowly started to realize, oh, I’m not actually safe here. I had lived a really privileged life up to that point where I was safe everywhere. I went home school.
It was always safe. And then in this new firehouse, I was being asked to do things that made me really uncomfortable in exchange for someone being willing to train me, or I was being talked to in a way that made me feel really uncomfortable. And my. 16 year olds. Reaction to that would was to say, don’t talk to me like that XYZ.
And nothing changed. And the more that I tried to establish who I actually was, and not who they saw me to be through the lens of the stereotype that they had for women firefighters. The worst things got. And so it was this dichotomy for me in the beginning of. Every time I went on a call and I, where I started firefighting, there were a lot of main interstates. We had a lot of fatal car accidents.
Every time I got to do something or learn a new skill or help someone, even if it was just to hold their hand or get their cat out of their house or whatever it was. I was reestablishing. Yes. This is where I want to be. This is what I want to dedicate myself to. But the environment that I was in, I just got worse and worse for me. And that was affecting my young.
Mind in ways that I didn’t understand at the time.
I think that’s a theme.
These guys And gals that I talked to who started at 16 as a junior firefighter and then go on to have.
a 20 year career that, that the trauma that they experienced it that young age is what really sets the stage for what, how they deal with it later on.
Ali: It does. And I think my story is not unique at all. But it is different than what some people might expect. The first fire call that I ever ran that I mentioned that call was not traumatic for me. And what I mean by traumatic means it did not overwhelm my ability to cope with it.
I was able to see that and absorb that and process it on my own because there were no resources offered. And that’s what I continued to do through all the other fatalities. And. other people’s tragedies that I witnessed the trauma. The experiences that were traumatic for me, that did overwhelm my ability to cope with them.
I came at the hands of other firefighters. And so that’s what is maybe different than what people expect when I stand on a stage and they’re like, Allie’s going to talk about mental health and it’s great. And then I get up. And I talk about some of the things that happen to me in the larger context of the emergency services. It’s a different story than people might expect, but I am not unique at all. What happened to me happens so much more often than people want to believe.
Stack: So when you talk about that on.
When you do your presentations, how Helen.
W, How do you describe.
that? How do you share that part of your story?
Ali: I think the reason why I’ve been able to share my story for over a decade and why I keep getting invited back to share my story and why people are willing to listen is because I don’t now. Or have I ever come. Nor do I speak from the place of. Blaming anyone that’s there in the audience. Like I don’t get up and I’m not mad at all. Firefighters. I’m not
Talking about how much I hate the fire service I get up and I speak from the perspective of, we all love the same thing and we all had different entry points into this. Discipline that we love into this job that we love, whether we’re paid or not. And I want to make sure that more people have a chance to experience the job that we love more people than what we might stereotypically think of as a firefighter.
I want the environment that they find. To be accepting of them or at least safe for them. And so I speak from that perspective and because of that, I think. That’s what helps people be receptive to what I have to say? And then when I get into the mental health piece, when I talk about. My post-traumatic stress disorder, diagnosis, and what that felt like for me and how long it took me to get help and how bad things got before I was willing to get help.
Now, with what my work includes now, which we’ll get into. When I talk about post-traumatic stress disorder, the first responders I am talking about it because I lived it. I, I’m getting my master’s degree in trauma and resilience right now, but I don’t talk about it. Like I’m reading definitions out of a textbook. I can really speak to.
What that felt like. And I think that resonates with people because I just get up and essentially be really honest.
Stack: At It does. It has to resonate with people.
And One of the things, another theme that I’ve found throughout these shows is that people that I talk to all say, I wanted someone that knew what I was going through. And so that’s that speaks to you saying I don’t come at them with textbook answers. It’s more of a, I, you can Intuit some of those feelings and experiences.
Ali: Exactly because our being in the emergency services. Things and experiences and people’s traumas from such a unique.
Specific lens. That through, through the last decade or so, or maybe the last four or five years that I’ve really been doing. Work in the mental health space with first responders. That’s what our work. And our resources that we offer. I think why they work is because they are all by first responders for first responders. It’s a definite plus and needed. If you have.
If you’re a mental health professional, like I am, but it just doesn’t work if if you want to help a first responder, but you don’t have any experience or training in that realm, it just doesn’t work.
Stack: Do you want to talk about.
what your experience at the firehouse was?
Ali: Sure. Do you want me to get into more of the specific traumas? Do you want me to
I know that you weren’t.
From reading your book.
after trauma, I know that you weren’t welcomed with open arms.
Ali: Oh Lord
Stack: So why don’t we, why don’t you go ahead and describe some of that. You, Whatever you’re comfortable with.
sharing, go ahead and share, and we can just go from there and talk about that recovery after that.
Ali: Yeah, no problem. So like I said, my first call was that sort of doozy. Fatal car accident involving the kids. And I remember you. So I’m a month. I’m, I’ve been a firefighter for a month at this point. And I remember getting back to the firehouse and I was looking for someone to talk to me about what do we do now? What do we do with these memories? How do we help ourselves and each other? But instead as I walked around the station and where I was walking past different groups of people that were not interested in talking to me at all,
And I talked about this in my first book, a little bit more. All I heard were people saying. She’s never going to come back after this. Like we dodged a bullet. We got rid of her. You don’t have give her a week at most. If we just continue to ignore her, she will go away. And so I thought. That’s.
Surprising. Because you don’t, you think I don’t, I just had this image of firefighters as being these awesome people, which now the firefighters I know all across the country in the world are. But that first group really did not want me there. And as I’ve gotten older and.
Had a lot more training and education on a lot of the aspects of this. I can now see that the way they were reacting to me was what they were coming at me from a place of anger and fear. Because I did not make sense to them. They talked about their wives and their girlfriends and their daughters as just objects that belong to them. They didn’t even use their names when they talked about them because they didn’t matter in their minds. And so back to the place that they had.
For me in their mind. And so when I showed up as a 16 year old, And said, I think I can do the exact same job that you can, and I think I can be good at it. That was incredibly threatening. And I thought if I can just be better, stronger, smarter, more, well-trained get as much experience as possible that will show these people that I’m good at this. And, you can trust me to have your back and then I can be a good firefighter.
But the more well-trained I became. The things got worse and worse because that threat in their minds became even bigger. And so I experienced everything from firefighters refusing to run calls with me like literally refusing to get on the firetruck. If I was on there porn put in my locker and they can picture sent to my phone.
They would park outside of my house, outside my bedroom window at night. And I was always told, if you tell anyone we will XYZ hurt your younger sibling. Blah, blah blah. I went to high school with all of these firefighters kids. And so high school became a place that Wasn’t safe for me anymore, where I experienced really bad bullying and harassment from the kids of the firefighters. And so my life, my little town, my home, which had once been this just safe place where I moved around as I wanted to became this battleground where I felt like, although I had supportive people in my life, like my parents.
You use experiences were so incredibly isolating and I felt embarrassed for what was happening to me. Like I should have been able to see it coming or have been able to stop it in a way. And so I experienced that environment of. My gear being destroyed, my gear being messed with just constant sexual harassment porn being played. As soon as I walked into a room being compared to the women on the screen.
It was constant sexual harassment. It was every day. And I just thought this was the fire service. I thought third, watch the TV shows left this part out because clearly this is just what the fire service is because I didn’t know it to be any other way. And so I experienced the fire service in that way for a couple of years.
And then I joke about it now because I am truly okay. But the sort of cherry on the, trauma Sunday cherry on top was the attempted gang rape that I experienced in a different firehouse in a different state. When I went there on a ride along. So desperate to just experience one positive thing, one nice firefighter, or even just to be mostly ignored would have been okay at the time, because it would have been such a nice difference.
To being terrorized. And with what I know about trauma now, I’m shocked that my brain held in there as long as it did, but at the end of those three years, I was a firefighter in that first place from I was 16, 17, 18. Experience at attempted gang rape. And then I moved away and went to college to get my first degree in fire science later that year.
And so when I experienced that attempted gang rape and. The feeling of suffocation and the feeling of Not, I remember very clearly. And I wrote about this a lot in after trauma of not being surprised. When it was actually happening because I had been told so often. If you do not give it to people, they’re just going to take it.
So just give it or it’s going to get taken.
Stack: So that was just repeated. Oh, over and over in your firehouse.
Ali: Constantly. And I knew that was bullshit, but when it was happening, I was so tired. Not just physically. I was so mentally and emotionally exhausted that I did have a moment of just get it. Over with, so I can just walk away from the emergency services. And never ever come back because I.
Stack: almost a moment of. Resignation to it.
Ali: Absolutely because I thought there’s three of them. There’s one of me. I could not possibly get out of this. If I wanted to, it was pitch dark. I couldn’t see if anyone had. Weapons or what was happening, but by the absolute grace of God the fact that they were as drunk as they were helped me.
It helped me get them off of me. And I think that’s, that really was to my benefit. And when I was able to get out from under them, I ran and locked myself in a bathroom. And drove home from the ride along the next day and thought I’m done. I’m done. I will never step foot in a firehouse again. I’m literally gonna pretend like those three years didn’t happen. I’m going to change my major. I don’t want to go to school for this anymore. I’m absolutely done.
And that’s where I thought my relationship with the emergency services would end, but that’s not what happened, thankfully.
Stack: So you drive home the next day.
and you’re convinced you’re done. How do you, how. How does it start to affect you from that next day on.
And when do you first start noticing those things. The things that, the hallmarks of what the PTSD.
Ali: Yeah, the triggers. My triggers were mainly around alcohol. And the smell of alcohol and just basically anyone who was drunk. That I didn’t know. So I went, I got my first degree at bucks county community college, and PA it’s really close to the city of Philadelphia. And so I remember Going into the city with my friends on the train. And I remember like it was five minutes ago, some drunk dude on the train. Who’s obviously drunk. He goes to jail and he started throwing up everywhere.
And I was like going to crawl out of my skin. I felt like. I felt like he was about to come at me and try to rip my clothes off. And I had no idea. That was a trauma trigger. Like I had no idea that my reaction made complete sense because of the experiences that I’d had. And so what do we do when something like that happens to us that we don’t understand.
And we don’t feel like we have a place to go with it. We just bury it away and pretend that was weird, but hopefully that just won’t happen again. And I experienced the attempted gang rape. In 2007. And I did not get a PTSD diagnosis in 2012.
Stack: So five years.
Ali: five years now, I wasn’t. Triggered all the time. I had a great life. I went to college. I wrote my first book, but I would fit in my honor science classes with retired Philly firefighters as instructors. And they would say, who has. Fire service experience. And I would not raise my hand because I thought if I just pretend like none of that ever happened, I can start.
New. And I was just in this constant battle with myself mentally. Where these things are trying to come to the surface. I was so screaming metaphorically to be heard and to be validated for what had happened to me. But I had been told for so long. By these firefighters that what was happening to you was my fault that I had asked for the treatment that I was receiving by simply being there. And then if it was that bad, I should just leave.
And I can. C Y sixteen-year-old alley. Hung in there as long as she did in 17 and 18 year old, Allie did. But all staying in that environment did it? Didn’t prove. Them wrong. It didn’t do anything other than hurt me more. And I can see why that environment wasn’t serving me at all or helping me for a really long time.
And I stayed. And that really made me feel like I don’t. I’m not going to be believed. Because I shouldn’t have ever gone to any of those firehouses in the first place. I am complicit. And responsible. For what happened to me. And that’s really common with trauma survivors. I’m a domestic violence and sexual assault counselor these days.
That’s a really common belief is I’m somehow responsible for this and the blame rests, at least partially on my shoulders. And so I’m in college. And. The one thing that I had, like the thing that saved my life, the one positive coping skill I had before I understood what those were. I was a daily.
Journaler. I would write every single day about what I experienced at the firehouse I experienced in school and really quickly, almost immediately. Like I had my first day as a firefighter, I filled out my application. I did all these things that got my gear. I came home and I wrote down about what all that felt like.
And so I had this habit in the first couple of weeks of just this love that I was feeling for this job. But then those pages became the only place where I was telling the full truth about what was happening to me. And the responsibility that I felt for fixing it or changing people’s minds. And so by the time I went to college,
I had three years of journals that was like 22, 23 journals. Everything that had happened to me was documented. And when I was in college, I remember looking back through all of those journals and. Feeling like there is more that I need to do with this story.
And I don’t know what that means or what that looks like, but I want to go back to the beginning and see if I can make some sense of. Why I’m such an angry person now, why I’m someone who deals a lot of fear all the time? How can I get rid of this anger? That’s pretty constant. So I went back to my very first journal and opened up a word document on my laptop and just started.
Writing. And I did that for two years, from 2008 ish to 2010 ish. And that’s where my first book came from.
Stack: So you’re writing this and you’re using the skill. A lot of people use as an effective tool or an effective coping mechanism. Without even realizing what you’re doing.
Ali: Exactly. I didn’t know what narrative therapy was. I didn’t know how important it is for all of us to find cohesion in our life stories, which is something I teach in my writing workshops. Now, I didn’t know all of that. I was just following my instinct and my instinct told me. I’m never going to get closure.
If I wait for it to come from the people who hurt me. I will never get it. And I will spend my whole life. Just being their victim. And I have to figure out how to somehow. Change the balance of power in my mind and draw some sort of finish line to these experiences. And so that is what motivated me through.
Writing what became my first book.
Stack: And I’m going to link to the books. If you want to give a title right now and let people know during the body. Podcast, go for it.
Ali: Yeah, it’s called where hope lives. I still published it in 2010, worked my butt off for about six months to be able to afford to self publish. There weren’t as many options for it as there are now. But I’m very proud of that story of what, 20 of what sense 21 year old alley made of all of that.
And yeah, it’s called where hope lives.
Stack: Tell me a little bit about the trip to San Francisco.
Ali: I love San Francisco. I love the firefighters there. I love fire department there. That city saved me in so many ways. I was like battling it out with the firefighters in my first firehouse. My mom took my sibling to the orthodontist. One day. There was a time magazine sitting there. There were.
Women in positions of power interviewed. And written up in the magazine and one of those women was the who’s now the past chief of the San Francisco fire department, chief Joanne Hayes, white. And my mom came home and told me about this woman. And my parents were like, you have to talk to her. Like we have to figure out how you can talk to her because.
She made it, like she made it through this thing. That she made it through the fire service up into this incredible position. And so I somehow found like her secretary’s email online and emailed her secretary long story short, the chief. Email me back and we scheduled a time to talk. And I remember I was so nervous. I had my questions written out.
That I wanted to ask her. And she was I, now I know how busy Metro chiefs are. I can’t imagine what it took for her to find that time in her schedule, 42 stations, however many hundreds and hundreds of firefighters use in charge of, but we spoke and. She was fantastic. And she invited me. This was in 2008. She invited me to come to the city.
And she said, if you can get yourself here, I promise you that I will introduce you to every single woman firefighter who was working that day. And we will, you will live in firehouses and you will see. That there is another side to the fire service that you just haven’t experienced yet. And so I went there and she made good on her promise. I may, I met every single woman firefighter that was working that day. I have a scrapbook that I made of that. And.
Just my face I’m so happy and it just looks like the weight of the world is off my shoulders. They took me on their fireboat and, we, we boat around Alcatraz and I was like the. The guest of the fire chief. So I got to go everywhere and see everything. And I got so many hugs and handshakes and high fives and.
Just got to meet people who were normal people doing a job that we both were passionate about, and that’s all that mattered to them. And so that city and that experience, I’ve been so lucky to go back and speak there. That really. Was so needed for me. And I will never not be grateful for that.
Stack: So You go there.
and you come back and How does that change?
life for you at home?
Ali: Yeah. Because I now knew. That I was right. That the fire service was good. That I just got unlucky with where I was born and my first firehouse, the only one that was available to me. This wasn’t the fire service. This was a bunch of insecure people who didn’t like women and that’s all that was.
And so I was able to see that experience through a different lens. By the time I went to San Francisco, the first time I came back, I was in my last couple of months in the firehouse anyway, because I was going away to college. And I was able to.
Just know that I was right. And I, the goodness that I thought existed in the fire service did exist. It just didn’t exist where I was at that time.
Stack: Where do you find it?
Other than San Francisco.
Cause, that’s a, there’s a country in between where you live and where you find it.
Ali: Yeah. So then that was my thought of okay. I go away to college. I have a brain full of trauma that I’m trying to cope with. But now I knew I could have the future in the fire service and the emergency services that I wanted. I just had to figure out like, where would that be? And so when I was.
In college, I didn’t join. A local volunteer firehouse or anything. I just kept my head down was writing, was trying to make friends, but I just felt so alone in the experiences that I’d had and just new. I’m going to have to cope with these somehow. And I remember. I did have a friend whose mom was a therapist.
And I mentioned that drunk guy on the train in Philadelphia. That was the biggest trauma reaction trigger reaction that I’d had up to that point. The fear that I felt seeing him. And I asked my friend’s mom, if she’d be willing just to chat with me. And we had a conversation. That was just like tip of the iceberg stuff for me, but it started to affirm that.
I needed some additional help with what had happened to me. But around that time, I decided to, graduate with my associates degree and then I’ve been writing long enough. Where hope lives that I wanted to see that through and I wanted to publish that book. And so I decided to move home.
And, and where I could live for free and get a bunch of jobs. Yeah, worked at Starbucks was wait. You’re saying to try to pay for that. And while I was doing that, a couple of years had gone by, I had gotten a lot of clarity through writing. And I thought.
I’m ready to join the fire service again? I did not know that I had post-traumatic stress disorder. I did not know. That so much trauma had not been dealt with.
But I decided I was ready to join the fire service again. And I believed that.
The active trauma, like new, bad things. I thought that I was done with that. But that.
did not turn out to be the case.
Stack: What do you mean by that? You thought you were done with a new trauma?
I thought bad things were done happening to me. I
Ali: I’ve had a pretty bad past couple of years as a young person. I am sure that, nothing bad. New is going to happen to me. So I joined a new firehouse. I met some awesome people. One of whom I would go on to marry. And. Had a great time for a couple of years. And.
Really, I thought. I’m experiencing like the true, good of the fire service. But that all stopped and changed. When the fire, sir, when the firehouse that I belonged to at the time Hired a man who, to this day is most violent and just, abusive. Firefighter that I’d ever known.
And my experiences with him.
Is what triggered the trauma and is what finally forced me to get help. And that is when I started in active trauma therapy for the first time.
Stack: So you said that’s the, when it triggered. That response for you? Other than the. The drunk guy on the train. This was really that trigger for you. Correct?
Ali: It was the biggest trigger and I synthesize it like this when I speak, I talk about how, so it’s called post-traumatic stress disorder, right? Like your thoughts are disordered. They’re not organized. They don’t necessarily make. Logical sense to someone who’s not traumatized, but to me at the time,
My thoughts were disordered. In the way that told me. People cannot be trusted. Everyone that says that look out for you. They’ll keep you safe. You’ll do these things. That can’t be trusted, so you’re just not safe around anyone. To the world is not a safe place for you. You never know. Who’s going to try to hurt you or who you’re not going to be safe around or what’s going to happen. And three.
Everything that happened to you is your fault because you keep joining the fire service. You keep walking into the new firehouses. You keep meeting abusive people. And that is your fault. So at that time, All of, the triggers came together and the trauma resurfaced. And became very present for me, both past trauma and current trauma.
And that was the way that I organized my life, that people were not to be trusted. The world was not safe for me, and that everything was happening. That was my fault. And it took me living that way. Uh, About six to eight months before I was willing to get help. I was not sleeping because the nightmares were so bad.
I was not eating because I was so hypervigilant and anxious and that’s where I feel stress is in my stomach. And. I wasn’t telling anybody what was happening to me because remember that main disorganized thought was, this is your fault. So why would anyone care? And so I lived that way. For so long. It felt like an eternity.
Stack: an exhausting way to live.
Ali: Exhausting way to live. Before I. Just got sick of it. I got sick of not seeing a future for myself. I got sick of only living life in two hour increments because that’s as much stress as I could manage. I just got so sick of living that way. That I texted our next door. My next door neighbor growing up, who I knew was a therapist. I didn’t even know what kind she was or that there were different kinds or anything.
And I texted her. That I needed help. And it was like the middle of the night when I texted her. And the next morning, I found myself walking to her office. I turned around a bunch of times because I just thought. didn’t want to give up the control. I think of what it was like, it felt.
It still felt manageable, and after trauma, I have this whole metaphor of being at the bottom of the ocean is what the trauma felt like. And I had stopped, I’d stopped trying to swim because it was too exhausting. I had stopped telling people what was happening to me because they never responded in a way that was helpful. I was just sunk. I was completely sunk.
And I knew that going to therapy. Might not change anything. I thought maybe, she’s going to tell me that I’m not, and what’s wrong with me as permanent. And she doesn’t know how to help me and I’m going to be, then it’s fine. I’ll be in the same position that I am in now. Or she’s going to help me figure out how to swim again. And that’s what she did.
Stack: How long does that take.
Ali: As it turned out, the work that I had done to find this cohesion and these experiences through writing more hope lives. Had done. So much of the work for me, because I was able to name. Feelings and experiences better than if I hadn’t spent two years trying to write it out on the page.
And so we met. Pretty consistently for a while there, and I’ll never forget the very first. Session that we had. And I wrote about. It’s one of my favorite parts and after trauma revisiting the conversations with her as I did, when I was writing the book was, is just one of my favorite experiences that I’ve had in recovery.
And she told me that I had something called post traumatic stress disorder, and I told her. That I didn’t think so because. That was something that other people had or people who go to war have, or whatever. And she literally got out the DSM, which is the big textbook that therapists use to diagnose people.
And she got out the DSM and she showed me post-traumatic stress disorder and she read me the definition. And I asked her about that recently. And I said, do you usually do that? Do you usually pull out the DSM? I’m getting my master’s now I use the DSM a lot. And she’s no, I don’t ever do that for people. But she said, I had the sense that you needed to see it medically, like you needed to see this diagnosis and walk yourself to the answer.
And so that’s what she helped me do. And her name is Jill and I just couldn’t love her more.
Stack: That’s an amazing way to do it because you come to that. You coming to that.
conclusion is so much more powerful than someone telling you.
Ali: Cause I just fully didn’t believe her. She has a double masters and, She’s so much more educated than me. And experienced and here I was telling her like, no, I think you’re wrong. And she was like, okay, just read it. Then read it for yourself. And that’s what she said. When we were reflecting back on that first experience, she said you needed to walk yourself to the answer.
And that’s what she helps me do.
Stack: That’s powerful.
Ali: I know, and I got so lucky. Findings such success with, the first person that I tried, like I just got so freaking lucky and,
A big part of the work that I do now is, finding and vetting and training clinicians. So first responders can get as lucky as I did with effective clinical care that, helps. Very quickly.
Stack: So you were going to get to that. But let’s talk about where your journey takes you after you find. Your therapy. And you find this diagnosis. And you start to accept it.
And you understand it. Some, what do you do with it?
Ali: Yes. For me. Getting the diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. Was what allowed my life trajectory to change in a positive way. And I know that people are like, I don’t want to go to therapy. I don’t want to get told I have anything. I don’t want to have labels. And I’m like, I get it. But the label of post-traumatic stress disorder is what changed my life because it gave me a name.
And a reason, and this validity that I did not have, I would not have had without it. The label. And accepting what that meant for my life meant that I was not the first person to experience something like this, that other people had experienced post traumatic stress disorder. That sexual assault survivors are actually the largest number of people that have PTSD. And that was the first time that I had thought of myself in that way, because the sexual assault was just like a trauma in the long list of traumas.
And so also seeing that experience through that lens helped me carry it differently and in a much healthier way. And so I really started to. Devour stories of people who had come through the other side of post-traumatic stress disorder, whatever that looks like for them. And so many of those stories.
That I read or people that I met or started to talk to is part of what I compiled in, what would become. After trauma. So I got the diagnosis. In 2012. And Starting to speak about my story. I got hired by this nonprofit in Philadelphia. That’s incredible. And their whole thing is, putting people in front of other people to share a story that might be relatable and to talk about.
How to get help and how to stay well. And so for the first time I had done it a little bit after where hope lives, but consistently, like I was speaking in front of a couple thousand people a week traveling my butt off and just really putting my own words to my story. And then I got married in 2016.
And we moved to Philadelphia. And I joined a fire department in Montgomery county. That was the fire department. I had been waiting for. for.
however many years, nobody gave a crap that I was the girl. It was just the best, most welcoming. Fantastic environment that I had ever been in, aside from San Francisco, but I wasn’t a firefighter there.
And in this new fire house in Montgomery county, I finally got to explore my love for technical rescue and always known what that was. But I hadn’t, I had always been prevented from getting extra training in that people saying you’re too slow or dumb or whatever to bother training you.
So I never got to really explore that. And through. My work in Montgomery county. I started working, as a paid rescue technician in lots of different tactical rescue areas. And so that time for me 20 16, 17, 18. Was just magnificent. It’s what I felt like I had been working towards since I was 16. And that, that positive experience is what really solidified for me like 20 16, 20 17.
Really solidified my healing and my recovery. And I’ve been on super solid ground ever since.
Stack: So that is something in itself,
but then you take it and you magnify that because you start to work outside of that and you start to work with other firefighters, you start to do some education and some workshops.
And it morphed into kind of, what is your life right now?
Stack: it’s it’s not just it is your life right now.
We were set. We were set to record last week and you texted me in the morning and said, I can’t, I have to go. And if, of course, she was like, yeah, you have to.
Stack: you have to do what you have to do.
I don’t know where you want to start.
Cause I I know you have. It’s on the job. Correct.
Ali: That’s right? Yes.
Stack: I don’t know. It’s also, I was reading about what is the cares.
Ali: Yeah, I have a non-profit called first responders care. Yeah, I can.
Stack: Yeah. You start wherever you want to start.
Ali: start. Yeah. All so when I started speaking about my story, like I said, after I saw published where hope lives and that became, over the next. Eight years. I started speaking on bigger and bigger stages for bigger and bigger organizations and the emergency services. And I was speaking about not only.
How to make fire stations and EMS stations safer for folks, but how do we help?
First responders, mental health, like there was no tailored education that was immediately accessible. There wasn’t, resources that were tailored by first responders for first responders, especially in the volunteer emergency services. And so I was speaking and I had this like one hour. Presentation that I did everywhere. And it was basically like a mental health awareness, just basic. What is post-traumatic stress disorder?
Or what’s supposed to chronic stress even. How does this affect our sleep? How does it affect our home life? What’s cumulative stress. What’s vicarious trauma, what’s compassion, fatigue. Just getting people on the same page about. These experiences that we’ve all had, we’ve all felt post-traumatic stress after a call, not post-traumatic stress disorder, but post-traumatic stress symptoms like.
Not sleeping well for a couple of days or your appetite’s off, or you’re really preoccupied with the call. That’s posttraumatic stress symptoms. And people feel that and they freak out because they think they have PTSD and they don’t. So much of that early education. Was just providing just some awareness about these things to get people on the same page, what language is helpful to use here?
What can I say if I might need some help? And then in 2008, it got to the point where I was doing that training so much. And in one week I would go from like Connecticut to North Dakota, to California, to Washington state. And speak and it just got, I I was working full time still. It just got to be too much.
And so I thought, how can I make this. This is working for whatever reason it is. It is helping people. And changing their understanding of these really important topics. How can I make it available for more people all the time? And so that’s when I started on the job. And we put that first course, which I called capturing the load. It is still our flagship foundational course.
Online. And we were so fortunate to get a partnership with the national volunteer fire council in 2019. And they paid on the job. And off to put 1001st responders through that first course. And I ask every single one of them. Is this working at all? Is this helping you at all? What can I do better?
Did the courses need to be shorter, broken up into more modules, do you want more or less of this? And if this is working, what else can I teach you? How else can I help you? If I can’t speak to it, I’ll find somebody who can. And so our course menu. It’s quite expansive now. And most of it came from what? Those first 1000 students, there was one, at least one in every single state.
What they wanted to know about and it’s everything from grief to sleep, to how to talk to your family about your job to suicide prevention, to managing critical incident stress, to had a bad call. Like I wrote a course, it was like, what did I need after that first bad call? What did I need to know?
What would have helped me? And so that’s one of our most popular courses. And so that was 2019. It was running the company 2019. 20 20, 20, 21. And, but then I was starting to see that there’s still a pretty significant gap here. We’re meeting people where they are with the education. We are providing that for them, accessible 24 7. But.
I was having a conversations with first responders, they would say okay, Allie. I took your post traumatic stress course. I took your grief course. I. Now realize I’m really not. Okay. And I need to talk to a therapist. And I would say I’m really proud of you. That’s a huge deal. I don’t know where to send you because nobody knows how to talk to first responders. No one’s available immediately. And so I started to see this pattern and knew that this was a significant gap and I needed to try to fix it. However I could.
And you talk about my crisis counseling work. I’m. Certified through the international critical incident stress foundation. I’m a certified trauma responder with the association of traumatic stress specialist. I’m a behavioral specialist with the medical reserve Corps and getting my master’s degree. Like I, I have the education there. I love doing crisis work.
And so Memorial day of 2021, there was an incident that really solidified for me. What on the job and off needed to become and what additional product we needed to offer first responders. So I’ll speak just really generally. Because the stories of the first responders from that call are not mine to share. But I will just say that there was a pediatric suicide.
I’m in a county where I was working as a crisis counselor. That happened on the Thursday before Memorial day. Friday, I love this as I’m debriefing. And then over the weekend, some of the responders that I was checking in with I realized we’re in pretty significant need of mental health.
It’s a holiday weekend. I was like, I can’t do nothing. I need to shore. I need to act and see if I can get these people help. And so I called a clinician friend that I had in the area. She had been a volunteer firefighter. She was super trauma trained. I really trusted her.
And I called her and I said, I know it’s Saturday. I know as the holiday here’s what happened. Is there any way that you can help these people? And she opened her office on that Saturday. She saw them like Saturday, Sunday, Monday. And all those responders are still working and they’re well, And so the county where I did that and basically said,
How did you do that? Because we can’t find clinicians. Ever our employee assistance programs are not sufficient because the clinicians are not trained in the emergency services. Do you think you can do that again? If you need to. And so I began to formalize what would become our first responder assistance program.
Where I take clinicians and I put them through a very intense one day course that I wrote called gearing up.
Which basically puts them in the position of learning about the ins and outs.
Firefighting, EMS dispatch, law enforcement corrections. And coroners.
And, we watch helmet, cams and body cams, and we listen to dispatch audio, and we hear first responders speak about.
No, the worst things they’ve ever seen and the clinicians have to ask themselves, can you engage with these types of stories? And can you be an effective help for these people? And so the clinicians that we graduate through gearing up. Go into our first responder assistance program network. And we formalized a partnership with the county of Cumberland in Pennsylvania in January of this year.
And now every single responder in that county has access to our clinicians and absolutely no charge to them. The county pays for it. And, we’ve had the program for just under a year.
And we’re able to get first responders connected with a clinician and under 30 minutes.
We’re able to get their first M intake appointment. The next day.
And most of our responders report notable positive progress around the third or fourth session. And that’s even after significant trauma.
So now we’re able to provide the sort of continuum of care for responders. Everything from. Just a basic awareness level class on what is stress?
All the way up to our technician level courses that have subject matter experts at doctors all the way through to clinical care. And right now the program is based on the east coast, but I am rapidly working to expand it.
Stack: I’m blown away.
at the fact that number that you mentioned, that you get first responders connected with a clinician in under 30 minutes.
Ali: We have two.
Stack: I agree it. It just, it. Makes me speechless to think about how fast you can get that happening for them.
Ali: It was a non-negotiable for me and working with the clinicians and the clinical practices that we contract with because you don’t use the example of a fire chief who had got into the program over the summer.
He had been meaning to call me for eight months. He’d been meaning to ask for help for eight months. And it was just too hard and I get it. And on the day that he finally called me. I had a clinician call him back and I think it was like six minutes. Because when someone is finally willing to say. I need help.
That help needs to be available, not next week or six months from now. Like it’s so often is, and as we work to expand the first responder assistance program, My main. The thing that cannot change is that speed of access. And that’s my job as the CEO of the company is to make sure that those metrics don’t change and that, the quality of our care stays exactly the same, no matter how many responders be served.
Stack: Yeah. It’s just, like I said, it’s it still blows my mind because I know what it takes to connect with a therapist and. Yeah, you’re right. It takes. Once you decide to interact with a therapist, it takes, it can take months to find one that you’ve actually can connect with.
Not to mention.
like you just said, this fire chief who took eight months to decide he was, he needed it. My own story is it took me years to decide I needed it.
Ali: And then on the day you decide it needs to be there and I’ll never forget. He called me back. And he goes that was faster than Jimmy John’s. And I said, Thank you. I, that is a high praise. Thank you. It has to be there. It has to be there. And I’m working right now. Like I said, to expand our program to make it accessible.
To responders in much, much bigger ways. And I’m really excited for what 2023 will hold. For this program and I’ve just been, I’ve just seen it be so effective with folks. Then, we ask our responders who come through the program to. If you want to write a testimonial.
Anonymous, of course, some people want. Want to be identified there. They’re proud of the work that they did, but. Th these feedback. These pieces of feedback that I get about, what tangible, help. Frappe offered to them. It’s just, it’s, it’s my life’s work. And I’m really proud and privileged to be doing it.
Stack: I want to ask you about two terms.
Cause you talked about we all know the term post traumatic stress. You mentioned compassion, fatigue.
Explain that a little bit.
Ali: Sure. Compassionate. Tega. He gives something that we see a lot in the emergency services. And it basically stems from something called the helpers paradox. And what that means is if you choose to work in a helping profession, whether that’s your full-time job or your volunteer, you’re probably a helper in a lot of other areas in your life. So maybe you’re taking care of parents. You’re taking care of kids.
You’re the go-to person in your community. Maybe you’re a volunteer firefighter and you work full-time as a nurse or you work full time therapist. So you are constantly giving. Your compassion and your sympathy. To people all the time. And that fulfills a lot of us that builds a lot of us up. I’m definitely someone who, is the helper.
And like all aspects of my life. And I love that. But what can happen and where the fatigue piece comes in. Is when. Things are particularly stressful in multiple areas. You have a sick child and a sick parent, and you ran a bad call at work and, X, Y, Z is happening. And you just feel if one more person calls 9 1, 1 for a non-emergency I’m going to scream in their face. That’s compassion, fatigue, where you see something bad happening to someone. You run a call.
Or your child needs help or something. And you just feel like I do not have any sympathy left. I’m done. I don’t have anything else to give. And I’ll tell you a time when I knew that I was experiencing this. I was working as a domestic violence and sexual assault counselor. I was firefighting. I was working on an ambulance. I was speaking full-time about my story.
So I had a lot happening and I was working on the hotline one night for our domestic violence shelter. Someone called it was a police officer who told me that he was there with a domestic violence survivor who had quote, screened in. And what that means in the state of Pennsylvania is there’s something called a lethality protocol that if a police officer.
Or domestic violence worker. Suspect significant as in a highly validy. A highly fatal domestic violence situation, the potential to be highly fatal. They ask these questions. It’s a set of questions. And if the person quotes screens in, it means they answer yes for a certain number of them.
And they would get priority in a domestic violence shelter or something like that. So this woman had screened in, I then have to talk to her on the phone and ask the same questions over again. I remember sitting there. Looking at the questions I’d asked her. And they’re rough questions to ask. They’re tough questions about really horrible, traumatic, violent things. Has this happened to you in the last 24 hours? Has this.
And you said yes to everything. And I just moved on to the next question as if I was like taking her lunch order. I gave her no. Compassion, none. And I got off the phone and, the police officer is going to bring her into shelter and she was going to be safe. But I realized in that moment, like I did not have anything to give her other than what I gave her. And that, to me didn’t feel like complete care.
And so I had to change my schedule around and maybe don’t go from the firehouse to the DV shelter, things like that. But it happens. It happens to us. It happens at certain points in our life when different things are happening. It’s not a permanent thing. It’s not a, it’s not a mental health disorder.
It’s just something that happens. That’s important for us to recognize that maybe we need to. Put some new things into our schedule for a time being to help us feel less, maybe needed and more fulfilled.
Stack: Yeah. And I can see where people might mistake that for PTSD.
Ali: And it’s not at all. It’s not at all. There are. There’s so much that we can experience that as not PTSD. And I’m obviously. A big proponent of people getting that diagnosis if it’s warranted, because I know the freedom that can come with it, but I also think in some contexts it can be. People diagnose themselves with it all the time. And I have responders that will call me and say I ran a bad call yesterday. I had nightmares last night. I have PTSD.
Ali: it’s like good news. No, you don’t. You don’t. That is a diagnosis that can come 31 plus days post a traumatic incident. And most people, most of the time, I do not ever get there.
That resolves on their own after the first couple of days, really the first week. And we get back to our baseline where we were before. Yeah.
I feel really passionate about talking about what PTSD isn’t, because I think it can help people with their stress and like that first week of we don’t need to panic. We don’t need to panic. This is not PTSD and let’s talk about how to make sure that it doesn’t develop into that.
Stack: The other one is the vicarious trauma.
Ali: Yeah. So vicarious trauma is about someone’s emotional proximity. To an experience, not necessarily their physical proximity to it. And we talk about vicarious trauma a lot with my work with dispatchers. Because they’re not physically there. They’re not physically there. Actively participating, with their bodies, with an incident, but you know what they’re experiencing, they have that emotional proximity to something.
Absolutely. And it also can happen when, say you run a call for example, and the person in the fatal car accident drives the same car as your spouse or as your parents. And it’s. I curious trauma happens when something about an incident feels just a little bit more personal to you. Then things did in the past and you start to really personalize it. And so the trauma didn’t happen to you.
But you are personalizing it in a way that makes you have a bit of a trauma response because of the way that it feels emotionally close to you.
that’s fascinating. Cause it definitely. A dispatchers is definitely. Oh, excuse me. I’m still getting over that flu.
Is so involved in the call and
Ali: Oh, my gosh.
Stack: but they’re helpless because they’re only on the phone.
Ali: They’re only on the phone and then now we have. Certain technologies advancing and dispatchers are able to now be a part of things through video chat or FaceTime or whatever. And so we’re going to have this new exposure.
That was not there before. And, still went on the job and off, we have a full course menu for firefighters. We have a separate, full course menu for EMS as in the courses and the content are the same. But I rerecorded all of them for EMS specific examples and situations. And we have a full course menu for dispatchers because their work is so unique.
But so potentially traumatic because of the nature of it.
Stack: So first responders care, what’s that about?
Ali: Yes. Ah, I love this organization. I got my bachelor’s degree, finished it up in 2020. Hi to the pandemic. So none of my internship options were available. The court systems were closed. We couldn’t. The crisis council at the hospitals. The only thing I could do. Was tag along with detectives at the local children’s resource center, which is where children would come. If they had been abused, neglected, or trafficked.
And so these are some of the heaviest conversations that I had ever been a part of. But the kids would come and they would have an exam from a forensic examiner. The investigators would be their children use. So the child only had to tell their story one time. And so my job. Was to provide them any on the spot sort of crisis counseling or anyone that came with them.
And what I started to see over the course of the six months that I did that internship was that. Like I was keeping this tally in my head of how many times. The child. In their active abuse was in proximity to a first responder. Yeah, there were no child abuse reports ever made. And I knew that because I was sitting with the detectives who had all the evidence.
And I could not figure out why that was. And so I went home and researched it and found out that there are only two states in the country that mandate firefighters as mandated reporters. EMS law enforcement are all mandated reporters, but. became an EMT in 2008. I couldn’t have told you. If I wasn’t a mandated reporter in other contexts, I couldn’t have told you.
What I was supposed to do, who I was supposed to call. What the timeframe was I needed to do that. And I think most of us can recognize like obvious physical abuse or physical neglect, but there’s so much more that could be happening to a child. That because of the nature of. The emergency services we’re in people’s homes. We’re seeing things.
That. Other people might not be seeing. And so I founded this nonprofit in late 20, 20 called first responders care. And I worked with international social justice and emergency service organizations to write. A course that I’m really proud of. It is 100% completely free on fr care.org. And I put together a board of people who are so much smarter than I am and.
We just, our whole goal is to get this course that I call the cares project cares, stands for child abuse, recognition and reporting and the emergency services. We just want to get as many first responders to take the course as possible. And we pulled our pilot data from the first 1000 students to take the cares project.
And the vast majority of responders. Reported that since taking the cares project, they realized that they had witnessed or seen. Abuse, neglect, or trafficking in the course of doing their job and did not realize that’s what they were seeing. And 95% of responders they’re more likely to make a child abuse report. They understand what they need to do that or how to do that.
95% or more willing to do that after taking the cares project, then they were before. And like I said, our main goal is just to get that course taken as much as possible. You can download a re a reporting protocol that state specific, it just says. Here’s what you need to make a child abuse report in your state. Here’s the phone number to call here’s the timeframe you have to do it. And we want people to just put it up in your station, put it on the kitchen.
You know their refrigerator so people can keep it front of mind. But yeah, that’s the cares project from first responders care.
Stack: And that’s awesome because you’re right. We are presented with some of that. And we some. Some of us. Majority of us. Wouldn’t recognize it.
Ali: You don’t recognize it. Or you might think someone else surely will call about that. And so we talk about why. Never expect that anyone else is going to do that. I’m really proud of. That course, like I said, it took me a long time, a couple months to write and properly research.
Yeah I’m incredibly proud of it. It’s. Been really successful. We’ve trained thousands of responders and we just want to keep, keep getting people through that course so we can try to get kids help when they need it. If we’re in a unique position to recognize something. So yeah, that’s first responders care and the URL is F R care.org.
Stack: Speaking of URLs.
If All that information.
can be found on your website and it’s Allie. W rothrock.com. Correct.
Ali: That’s right. A L I, yep. Allie w rothrock.com that links to on the job and off versus founders care. My books, my Ted talk, everything. Normally
Stack: I, at this point,
The show. I ask where are we at? Where are you at now?
And I think that you’ve covered that pretty well. I don’t know if there’s anything else you want to cover about where you are now with all of this. If there is feel free.
Ali: Sure. I’m just trying to keep the wheels on the bus with, on the job and off, and scale our first responders assistance program correctly. And our online education now is integrated into the therapeutic process. Versus before. It was just the only thing that we could offer. Now, if you come to see one of our clinicians.
You have complete access to all of those courses. And all of those resources. And yeah, after trauma came out in April of this year, I wrote that book over a decade. It took me a full decade to write. Getting a book deal, getting an agent, selling the book felt like winning the lottery. It will never not be like that.
I still can’t believe that it’s a book. You said you read after trauma and like that to me still feels like a miracle because having a traditional book deal is just so unlikely anymore. I’m just so grateful that my story gets to be, gets to exist in that context and that permanent in that way of permanence that.
Traditionally published books. Do. And yeah, I’m just, I’m getting my master’s degree. I do schoolwork every day from about five to 8:00 AM. Before the Workday starts writing other books doing lots of other things. So I’m looking forward to this holiday break that’s for sure. This is my literal, this is my literal last work thing to
Stack: I can imagine you’re very, you’re looking very much forward to it.
Let’s get you there and let’s finish up with my two questions. I’d like to ask everybody. And we talked about them briefly.
before we even started the show.
the show, the things we all carry and it’s based off of a a short story novella. And it was based in Vietnam and it was called the things they carry.
And it was The premise was.
these guys carried everything into war. So a weapon, an M 16, a radio, a med, a Medical bag or whatever.
but it was what they carried out that. that.
mattered more. And so that’s where the idea for the title of my show came from. So I, along those lines, I like to ask everybody that comes on. What’s something that you carry with you every day that you’ve feel naked without.
Ali: For me. Me. I carry.
An ever present reminder. That I am. More resilient. Than anything that life could throw at me. And this year I got a tattoo that says hope lives. And so on my arm and that’s how I sign. Every copy of my books, where hope lives. The name is in there. And. This concept of hope and of active resilience. That is something that I carry with me every day.
My husband is in the air force. We have had to spend. Long, long stretches of time apart. There’s always things that are challenging, but. What I carry with me and what I meet each day with whether that’s the challenge of running a business or, whatever it is, my dog ate a rock and has to go have surgery, like whatever.
Whatever that challenge is, I carry with me my ability to be more resilient than anything that could possibly happen to me.
Stack: Yeah. And that’s that. That was hard earned as well. I imagine.
Ali: Earned you are right about that.
Stack: What about.
a book? I know you have your.
two and I’m going to link to those in the show notes, but what, is there a book or two you want to suggest to the audience? That brings some value to them.
Ali: Oh, my gosh. This is tough because I. Read so many books. I read constantly. I have huge stacks of books on my bedside table, on my desk, in my living room. But one that I think would be relevant to your listeners and the emergency service community. When we’re talking about resilience, when we’re talking about.
Knowing ourselves better. Knowing how to communicate what we’re feeling, which is such a big. Barrier sometimes to getting help is when, we don’t know ourselves. We don’t know how to talk about these things. And a book that I would love to recommend. Is from it is a publication from the Harvard business review.
And it’s a book called on emotional intelligence. And it’s a compilation of the best articles that the Harvard business review has ever published on this topic. And I find it to be. Incredibly fascinating and helpful. And I would also really love to recommend a book called the obstacle is the way which was written by Ryan holiday.
I have that book sort of front and center at my desk, staring at me every day. And if there’s one book that I think everyone on the earth should read, it’s the obstacle is the way.
Stack: Okay. These are fantastic. Cause I’ve never heard of either one of them. And that’s rare for me. So I appreciate that greatly.
Ali: good. Absolutely. Yeah. The obstacles, the way is where I would say to start. Because that book is just, it’s really incredible. And you’ll see what I mean when you read it.
Stack: Wow. Thank you very much.
I have to say and again, thank you for joining me.
Thank you for sharing the story and thanks for what you’re doing.
Ali: Thanks for what you’re doing. It’s so important for there to be. A platform for people to talk about these things as much as with progress. As we’ve made and my time in the emergency services, Mental health is still so stigmatized and people aren’t willing to create a space for these conversations to happen. So thank you for what you do.
Stack: I’m a drop in the bucket, but I appreciate it. I definitely appreciate it. All right. I will let you, I will let you. I’ll let you get on with your vacation time and hopefully you can relax and enjoy it and come back refreshed.
Ali: You as well, be safe at work and have a good holiday.
Stack: you very much. Take care of yourself.
Ali: Thanks. You too. Bye bye.
Stack: And we’re out.