Welcome to Episode 49 of The Things We All Carry. In this episode, we sit down with Mike, a firefighter/paramedic from Rhode Island with over 20 years of experience in the fire service. Mike shares his story of struggles with mental health and the challenges he faced on his journey to becoming a Lieutenant.
Mike’s journey is one of resilience and determination. Despite the obstacles he faced, he was able to rise through the ranks and become a leader in his department. Through his experiences, Mike has made it his mission to ensure that no one else in the fire service has to go through what he did.
Join us as Mike shares his story and sheds light on the importance of mental health in the fire service. As he says, “Ultimately, the only thing that is important is to share our stories. I hope to share mine with you.” Don’t miss this powerful and inspiring episode of The Things We All Carry.
welcome to episode 49 of the things we all carry. Mike is a firefighter paramedic from Rhode Island with a bit over 20 years of experience in the fire service. He’s been a career firefighter for 18 years and has spent the last 11 in Rhode Island. He has also worked in Albany and Schenectady New York, as well as fall river, Massachusetts.
He first reached out to me on Facebook and the, mystory@thethingsweallcarry email address. One of his opening lines was that he’s” a freshly minted Lieutenant who should never have been promoted because of my mental health issues.”
With an opening line like that. I had to find out the rest of the story. Uh, Mike has taken the struggles he’s faced and decided he wants to make sure that no one needs to follow the path he took. He wants to help ensure that those brothers and sisters in his own department, as well as those surrounding him, never feel alone.
He ended his email with this statement. Ultimately, the only thing that is important is to share our stories. And I hope to share mine with you.
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 email@example.com to 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.
joining us today is Mike. He’s from Rhode Island. He reached out to me and just said he, he had something he wanted talk about, and so we talked for a while the other day, and now he’s here to record a show.
Where are we
finding today, Mike? I am currently on the waterfront in the town I live in. It’s very famous for movie scenes and actually I can just about throw a rock at Jay Le, one of Jay Leno’s homes. It’s also one of the most beautiful spots, I think, in the country, but it’s a spot that has had tragedy for me as.
So before we get into that tragedy, cuz I know we talked about that the other day and it definitely was a tragedy. But before we get into that did you grow up in that area or where are you from originally?
Yeah. So I was born in the town I work for and currently live back in 1984. Lived there, lived here until I was 10.
Moved up to upstate New York with my mom around that time. Back in when I was, like I said, when I was 10 years old. And then I bounced between upstate New York and here in Rhode Island from there on until I turned 18 and then moved back to Rhode Island permanently.
So what was family life like for you then growing up?
It took me long time to get through, past all of it, but and I don’t wanna come off as a victim, but I come from a broken home. My parents met a, basically as a, almost a one night stand from what I can gather from my mom and my dad. My mom got pregnant with me. She didn’t know for a couple months.
She found out. then found my dad and my dad disappeared until about a month before I was born. I guess from the stories my mom says. Parents got married when I was four, divorced when I was like six or seven. My father was an abusive alcoholic to my mom. That very stereotypical broken home story.
I always hate sharing it that way. , there’s always someone that had it worse. And for the struggles that my parents gave me, they also provided me a lot more than a lot of other people. So like I said, my dad was an alcoholic. We don’t talk anymore, even to this day now. But he has his struggles with substances throughout my life.
My mom has always been a. Hotel manager my entire life, and she is a basically, I hate to say this, but a functional alcoholic you wouldn’t know that she drinks a lot, but to this day she can drink basically anyone I know under the table. But she at this point in her life is keeping herself together and has always kept it together for the most part.
So it was. An interesting way of growing up, say the least.
In your upbringing you mentioned it is better than others, but not as good as others as well.
And I think that’s, that parallels what we talk about in the show. Really, if you think about it. It is not a, I don’t think it’s a matter of whether it’s worse than someone else or better than somebody else. It’s how it affects you. That matters
to an extent. Yeah. And the, I think it’s not the way it affects me, it’s the way I perceived it.
And that’s why up, up until just a couple years ago, I really thought I was a victim of all my circumstances. I thought the world was out to get me. Nobody loved me, nobody liked me. And it, that’s the kind of dynamic that. , my upbringing gave me I was always, I always felt like I was an afterthought to my parents and inconvenience.
But again, my mom was a hotel manager. I grew when we moved up to New York, her hotel was tied to a ski, a little ski resort that’s now shut down. But so I learned how to ski. And then my dad paid for sailing lessons down here during the summer where I live. And those things that even though my parents weren’t necessarily the best of parents at times, they provided me a lot of opportunity that showed me that there’s more to life than what I had seen.
I, in my therapy sessions, I talked to my therapist about some of this stuff and she said, people in my position, the upbringing that I had, they go one of three ways. They either become complete losers, end up in jail, drug. So on and so forth. They flounder the, the middle third kind of flounders and doesn’t necessarily go to the jail route, but never really succeeds in life.
And then the other third kind of pulled themselves out of it. And that’s what I did. And I think a lot of that is because in the failings of my parents, they also. Raised me to be somewhat self-sufficient and provided me opportunities that I think, others didn’t have. Which showed me a side of the world that I don’t think some people can appreciate or understand that we’re in my position.
, are your only child?
I do have a younger brother. Okay. He’s 11 years younger than me. He’s a half-brother. And again, perception it is sometimes hard because from my perception, he
one of the men that abused my mom. His father he never knew that until he was maybe a teenager. My mom, that was just something my mom and I carried. He, my mom met my stepdad who passed away a few years back now when he was five or six. So he only grew up knowing my stepdad. And, but he grew up with my mom and my stepdad in the house that he owned and had a school and.
My mom gave my brother a lot more stability, even to her own admission. And in my opinion, and he gets, he got mad at me for saying this, but I feel like he got coddled a little bit more than me. She went out of her way to make sure that he was taken care of and he. Made some bad choices in life. He’s cleaned up now, he’s had a couple senses in rehab.
And now he doesn’t talk to me cuz I’m not exactly sure why. I’ve tried to talk to him. But it’s un it’s unfortunate I see it from my perspective that he was raised better than me, had more stability than me. He didn’t grow up. My mom got beat by multiple men in my life and I grew up witnessing all that.
My mom would smoke pot when I was six or seven years old, actually at the rocks that I’m looking at right now with her friends, in front of me, like letting me just run around and play. The dynamic was so much different, and yet I’ve been able to forge a a life and create a family, and he’s had much harder struggles than I.
When it comes to his own personal growth. So perception is important, but it’s also important to be as objective about yourself too. I can’t explain the difference between him and I. I can only say that there are differences , for me, it’s about how you pick yourself up when you’re in your lowest points.
That’s I just can’t articulate it well enough, I think. No,
I think it was articulated well. I it is. It’s how you play those card that are dealt at times. Yeah,
exactly. So what was, again I didn’t figure that out until just a couple years ago. I’m , 38 now, and up until my mid thirties, I still played that victim.
I, I was a victim of circumstance. Nothing ever went my way. That was such a misguided view and perspective of life.
All right. So what was school like growing up?
Again? I was the I got bullied a lot. I’m not trying to make excuses. I have adhd so I’m pretty spastic. Not, I don’t focus well.
and I have something that my dad diagnoses, diarrhea of the mouth which I keep in the back of my mind all the time. And basically whatever comes into my brain comes outta my mouth instantaneously. There’s no thought behind it. It’s something I work on to this day. But it got me in trouble a lot at school with the other kids.
But I think the best blessing that ever happened to me was moving up to New York. Because when I moved up there, my graduating class in high school was 28 kids. 29 if you include the foreign exchange student. We were kindergarten through 12th grade, all in one building school with roughly 350 kids in it.
So there was the social struggles there and then, , my mom, being a single mom and going through her woes, and again, being an afterthought my grades were never great. And even there were times like when I would hit honor roll and my mom would be like, oh, okay, great. And then, leave it alone.
And I was never encouraged to pursue my grades. With that lack of encouragement from my parents, I was never driven. to do better in school. So went through high school went through, middle school and high school in upstate New York. Wanted to become an architect geared my actual high school curriculum towards that.
took a lot of classes like that were offered at my school. Drawing technical drawing and things of that nature. And I really enjoyed all that. But again, without the encouragement of my parents, I didn’t know how to go and visit schools. I didn’t really understand how to apply to schools and all that paperwork and the chaos of my life.
I just never could gather my thoughts enough to actually underst. , Hey, you gotta actually go visit these schools and you have to fill out these applications and write essay. I just didn’t understand it. Like I knew it, but I didn’t comprehend it all. But I’m very blessed to have gone to a school like that.
Between my junior and senior year of high school I was down here with my. and my mom calls me up one day and says, Hey, I’ve got some news. And I’m like, oh, what’s up? She’s I moved. And I’m like, what do you mean you moved? She’s I moved in with my stepfather at the time and.
Jen and I just moved up here and we’re gonna sell. I’m gonna sell the house. And I’m like, wait, like what do you mean? What about me? It’s my senior year of high school. Are you gonna make me restart? Start school like at a new school? And she said she had arranged a place for me to live.
Long story short, like a week before I am supposed to come home to finish out my senior year at, with basically some. Living with them and going to my original school, they had no idea what I was talking about, . So I ended up actually finding a living arrangement for myself. I lived with a friend and her mom, who they had their own struggles.
I was actually sleeping in their dining room for probably about four or five months. And. That situation got untenable for multiple reasons. And it takes a village to raise a child, and that’s what my village did. Some people, some friends of mine had talked to their parents and their parents had heard about my situation about basically just about to become homeless.
And at the time, pastor Ron Lakai, I’ll just say his name out because he’s an amazing human being reached out to me. Had a Christian community and in, in the town and said, I have a room. Come move in. And he took me in. So I was able to finish out my senior year of high school at school that I had been at for six, seven And I count my blessings for that every day. And that’s why I’ll proudly say Pastor Owk, cuz he, he’s a beautiful human. .
So during your junior, junior year of high school, I know that was a pivotal moment because you were in New York when nine 11 struck, correct?
Yeah. . I think it’s good to go through the whole story.
I had a good friend, Natasha first period announcement said Come, she got called down to the office. She came. and we were just getting ready to go to our, her and I had two classes together in the morning and she comes upstairs and she’s Hey, I was down in the office and the they had the news up.
They said, A plane hit the World Trade Center. And I’m like, and I actually, I was just listening to one of your podcasts and I’m laughing cuz the guy said the same thing that I said to myself. I’m like, ah, it’s gotta be like a small test. No, somebody just being dumb, no big deal. And our next class was history.
and it was mi with Mrs. Mrs. Sandra Ganci and it’s important to say her name because once, she’s just one of the best teachers I think anybody could have ever had. But we walked into her office or her room. She had it up on the tv and you can see the first tower just smoke, filling it out, filling out of it.
And we’re like, all aw. . And so we’re watching the news and we’re listening and we watched the second clean hit . And I always choke up talking about it. I just remember there was th four of us in that classroom with the teacher, cuz it was a very small class for whatever reason. And I was dumbfound and right away Mrs.
Ganci was, this is a terrorist attack. And I’m like, nah, no, there’s gotta be something wrong. Like I, I was just so dismissive of it because it was just so surreal. Come to find out, Mrs. Ganci’s brother-in-law was Chief Peter Ganci who was the chief of F D N Y that day. I highly recommend anybody that gets the opportunity listen to the stories.
About Peter gk. I haven’t heard or read about anybody else that could meet the leadership qualities that he had. Being one of the 343 firefighters that died that day, he had the opportunity to leave. He was in a command set post with Mayor Giuliani and the fire commissioner and all these other guys, and they took off.
They said, Hey, this building’s coming down and. , let me reset this a little bit. He was part of the collapse in the first tower when the first tower went down, dragged himself out, went to another command post, and as they realized that the second tower was coming down, he told everybody to leave. And when they said, Hey, you need to come with us, he said, no, you need to stay with my men.
I don’t know what kind of leadership somebody would want from someone. that could beat that that, that is a man that I admire now and I will continue to pursue to learn more about. So I strongly recommend anybody look at that. But like I said, I was a junior in high school. I didn’t even take all that in at the time.
This whole tie in of FDNY and Mrs Ganci. I understood it, but I didn’t tie it all in until well into my adult age. But I was lost. I, my grades weren’t the best at that point. My parents weren’t really encouraged me to go to college. And soon after that, my local volunteer department started a explore program.
My godfather was a firefighter for a town next to the one I served now. So I under, I had seen the fire service a little. . And once I became a volunteer I fell in love with it. There was no college education needed. The schedule the whole thing, I just, it, it seemed like a blast.
And that’s where life took me at that point, and I’m so happy it did, the beauty and the tragedy, like I’ll talk about later.
Nine 11 will always affect me. I’ll always tear up. I don’t know if you’ve made it to the memorial yourself. I’ve been there twice now. I can’t make it without crying. But it’s a beautiful sight and for me, it’s probably one of the most pivotal days of my life because it put me to where I am.
So that was
what, roughly 18 years ago that you, you joined the fire service or career? Fire service? Is that 1919
now? It’s 2023, so it’ll be no, it’ll be. It was right at, it was still 2001, so 21 years ago, . So
the fire service in general was 21 years ago, but a, as a career, 21, 22. Yeah.
As a career medic and firefighter. It’s been 18, is that what you
said? 18 now, yeah. 18 as a
career of medic. Yeah. Not to discount your volunteer service, and I apologize for that. I just remember us talking about 18. No,
no. And again, my volunteer department did 450 calls a year. , it, the, there are some awesome volunteer firefighters and there are guys that are so motivated in the volunteer side of things that I admire it. It’s the same job, just most of the time it’s low call volume, less demand, and they can fill it, with volunteers, which is beautiful.
I wish the world could be like that. Thankfully, we need to have career firefighters in this field, and I’ve had that opportunity to take that on.
So where do you start that process? I know you start with the volunteer. They have a, an explorer program. Yeah. But where does it go from there?
Again, after that I fell in love with it. I started doing a little bit of research and I actually got my emergency medical respon first responder or emergency medical responder in New York at s. Liked that. So I go through high school, just dabbling, basically, I’ll say in the fire service and get out, realizing that I’m gonna go to a community college, work on a fire science degree, and start taking the test to become a firefighter.
My first semester I took an EMT basic class and really enjoy. The following year, that summer it was summer of 20 of 2004. I had an apartment. I was 19. I had an apartment. I was teaching sailing on a lot of levels. Life was pretty awesome. . Being 19, having your own apartment and having roommates that are over 21 doesn’t always end, end in the best scenarios either.
I started drinking a lot living in a lifestyle that I just wasn’t mature enough for. And at the end of that summer, I got kicked outta my apartment. And once again, I got a little lost. I didn’t go back to my community college, cuz again, I just. I didn’t comprehend things at the time and didn’t know how to sign back up, basically to make an excuse for it.
And I moved back up to upstate New York with my mom to dry out, basically, just to get away from this chaos of drinking and sailing. And it was fun, but it’s, I needed more structure in my life Move up there. I was gonna be a ski instructor at this lo local mountain near my mom’s house.
In between or for the fall, I decided to take a job at Walmart. That’s where I met my now wife, . And we started dating, and as the ski season came to an end, my wife pointed out this article or this ad in a newspaper for a local ambulance. In the capital region of New York, wh which is where we live near.
And I applied and they gave me a job. And I started March, actually March 18th, 2005. And they had the 9 1 1 contracts for Chen Connecting and Albany, New York. So they responded, they respond with the fire department. Fire departments provided the paramedic, they provided the transport. , those are really crazy cities.
A lot of shootings, a lot of stabbings. It’s a constant just barrage of just really crazy calls. After a few months of working there, I realized that being a paramedic was probably the best course of action for me in life. And I. starting the fall of 2005 at my paramedic program. Got my New York State paramedic in January of 2007.
And after that I started, I wanted to always, my plan was to always come back to Rhode Island. I kept my license in Rhode Island. I kept my residency in Rhode Island because I just, I love it here. This is my, . So I think actually an important part to add to all this in this portion of the story is that my wife and I were engaged at the time.
I did everything very young. I pushed hard early in life and I was 21 or 22. And I had a job opportunity actually at the fire department that my godfather had just retired from. And I ended up failing the psych evaluat. . So I had already moved back down to Rhode Island. We had an apartment.
My wife was getting ready to move down like a month after I had moved in. Moved in, and I failed the psych eval for the fire department and I didn’t get the job and I was.
I remember breaking down to her and saying, I get it. If you don’t want to move down here, I get it. If you don’t wanna be with me anymore, and she’s stuck by my side. Now, I think a lot of people would take that as something like you, shit outta luck. You’re never gonna get on a fire department again.
And I had those thoughts, but it was too stubborn, I guess I don’t know what it was. I had talked to you earlier. I am good at tripping myself up. I have a lot of stories like that. Failing a psych eval, bad interviews that I was guaranteed the job. I failed a police investigation in essence because I had an argument with a supervisor one time, and I was honest about it and they failed me on the police background investigation.
These are all things. You would think would stop a person after the first one. And I just kept going. I didn’t know what else to do. But I had my paramedic and I was working private ambulance companies. And then I took a job at a third service third service, EMS service up in Massachusetts about 30 minutes from where I live.
They had four rescues ambulances doing. 15,000, 16,000 calls a year, if I remember correctly, somewhere in that range. Two of their trucks at the time basically were always in the top 50 busiest apparatus in the country. Doing 4,500 calls a year in each. And that’s really where as a paramedic I matured.
There was , one of my, like in the last year that I worked there, I remember one night we had four heroin overdoses within two hours. You literally are finishing up your paperwork and another one came in. It was a great place to cut my teeth. One of the calls that I had there that has always haunted me and, I think it’s important to share at this point is there’s this, we had a motorcycle accident and I.
kind of giggle because I think the guy was trying to miss a dead squirrel on the road. It was late at night. He was going down this road and all of a sudden he just hit his brakes and you could see the street going past squirrel that was run over by a car previously. And then he must have hit the curb or something, and his body flew probably about 150 feet.
Hit the side of an, like a mid nineties Impala. I don’t know if you remember how those things were built, but Yeah, I re I remember, oh yeah, th those things were basically tanks and his body indented a good six, eight inches onto the quarter, rear quarter panel. And we walk up and his face is just gone. His hairline’s there, his neck is there.
Maybe a little piece of his chin , but everything else was just gone . And I remember, like I, right away, I walked up, I looked down bent over, hands on my hips and looked up at my partner. I said we’re not doing anything. I said, let’s get outta here and. , I think I still hold some bitterness to my partner because he’s no, we need his information.
And he starts digging through the guy’s pockets and I was ready to write it up as a John Doe, and I just wanted to get outta there. I just remember being so uncomfortable, being like, I don’t, this is not a, this is not, it wasn’t okay , , his motorcycle went another like almost 300 or probably went about 300 feet from the corner of the street where the impact happened to where it landed.
And I’ll always remember this, there was a side road that went off the road that he was traveling on that was perpendicular to it, and his helmet was 30 feet up that side road, so his, what ended up happening, you could see the blood on the telephone. His face smacked off the telephone pole, which Ricks his helmet off his head, sent it up the street and his body and the bike flew the other direction.
So the whole thing is just crazy to me. And again, that call just sticks with me. It doesn’t, I don’t, it doesn’t bother me so much. It’s just such a crazy dynamic and it, Ended up when my stepfather passed away, I got his motorcycle. And I drive that thing as often as I can, and I love the liberation of it.
But it’s dangerous. And that call reminds me of that. So do
you deal with that? Do you deal with that call at the time or how’s that handled?
No. Again, and this is why I reached out to you it’s business as usual after. . And I think that’s basically with every service, there’s no opportunity to catch a grass.
Prior to that I worked for another service couple years actually before that happened. And I had a I think he was four years old and I still remember his name. Dad had bought him one of those little pocket rockets from Walmart and he had been riding it around in this like football field with his dad watching them.
After, like he had been riding it for a while, but after a while, he lost contr, hit a bump, lost control, and basically whiskey throttled it and hit the side of a school building head on. And when he did, the handlebar turned and he impaled himself just below his sternum on the handlebar.
That call was just that call. I broke down after, like my partner was writing the report, I’m cleaning up and I just remember sitting there in the airway seat, just holding my head, trying not to cry. He ended up pulling through. He had an illustration of the liver, had a little head injury, but he was fine, thank God.
Right after that call, we finished cleaning up. We got a call. A woman who at a beach who had slipped on a boogie board and her knee hurt. And both my partner and I were just so pissed off cuz this woman had such a ridiculous complaint in our eyes. Again, perception being what it is.
And we still hadn’t even decompressed from watching this four year old basically, almost. , and it’s the same thing after that motorcycle call that was probably eleven thirty, eleven midnight, something like that. And it was just next call. What was the next call that we had to go to? At the time I wasn’t in therapy.
I really wasn’t, I wasn’t on any medications at the time. And I just handled it. You just, again, it’s that old story that I think a lot of guys. That have come up, from my time we’re told of it’s the stones in the backpack. That was just one more stone. You put it in that invisible backpack on your back and you carried it with you and
you forged through.
So let’s let’s jump forward for a minute. When you get to where you’re working now and that you get that job in 2011, correct? Yep. in between that time, that at that time you had actually started seeing a therapist to work on childhood traumas. If I’m not mistaken,
basically the childhood traumas.
I had my, my whole life is, got married at 22, bought a house at 23, my first home at 24, my second son at 26, I had an agenda and I hit all those check marks.
never taking care of my own mental health or trying to actually emotionally better myself for my children before I had them. And after a couple years after my boys were like two or three years old, I realized I started having a lot of anger issues. I was working 80 hours a week. I was working 2, 2, 2 EMS jobs including at the fire department that I’m at now.
I always worked 80 hours a week. So I realized. I needed to start seeing someone to start trying to be better for my kids and my wife of course too. .
. So basically I recognized that there, I didn’t think it was necessarily fully job. I didn’t think it was job related. I’m thinking to. Honestly, none of that. All these stories that I shared with you, like
even now, I don’t feel like they bother me. They’re just, they’re memories that I know have not taken a toll, but are things that are important for me to have witnessed. So I had never, basically the way I handled things at that time. I had a bad call, I’d tell my wife and when I was home, I would drink for two or three days after.
A lot of people. One thing that I can attest to is and I’m gonna butcher the name of it. A lot of people talk about ptsd. I think something that we do need to really start focusing more on for first prescribers is acute stress disorder. The first 48 to 72 hours after a.
you can actually have the same symptoms of PTSD. Yeah, that’s, and you’re still
processing these calls. That’s important to point out. And I think Dr. Gregory pointed out on the show I did with her when she talked about that, or, and I don’t, maybe I’m mistaken about being Dr. Gregory, but most of the people don’t have P T S D.
They have acute. Syndrome and it’s because of that first 24, 48 hours, you’re feeling like you have those P T S D type symptoms. But it’s not ptsd, T S D cuz actually ptsd, T S D doesn’t come, can’t be diagnosed until 30 days out.
Exactly. And even, even after that, like it, it’s all about how you process all this stuff.
And I’m not a I’m not a mental health profess. But I don’t like labels either. And PTSD to me always worries me. Cause once you have a label, it’s hard to shake those sometimes. And a disorder is something that I feel like is a long-term lifelong problem or typically is where if you put in the work and you really want to get better, I feel like there’s a lot of opportunity for you too.
You know what I mean? . So again, I’m not a mental health professional. This is just perspective from, this is my perspective path that I’ve taken. But at the end of the day, like I wanna be better and I wanna stay in my career. If it really comes down to it, like I made sure that I have an out, I’ve made sure to, if this job becomes too much, it’s okay to tap out.
I haven. Hit that point yet. I don’t think I’ve come too close. But at the end of the day, that’s, those are the things that we need to appreciate. So back to the acute stress disorder thing, my answer to it was I’ll drink for a few days, just numb the feelings, push ’em to the side and we’ll go on.
So again, it just another stone to put in the backpack and. Got easy to put in with a little bit of alcohol. Not saying it’s right, but even now, I still, I’ll still occasionally do that if I’ve had a bad couple of days at work. I tell my wife like, Hey, I’m just, I need to veg out for a day or two.
I do it more purposely and consciously now. But, and I always have the intention of making sure that I deal with the DR with the trauma. have and my reason for it. But I wanna come out of that making sure that I’ve dealt with it.
So let’s jump forward to summer of 2018, because this was something you, you brought up to me immediately when you first reached out to me.
What happened on that call? What happened during that summer? Again,
I was in therapy. I. We had just had a couple guys get promoted from my station. And my shift, and again, this, I was still in this victim mentality, and this is why I talk about it a little bit. I didn’t think any of the guys liked me, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
You know what I mean? Guys don’t like me, so I feel alienated. My alienation makes me seem standoffish. Maybe, whatever. However, I present to other people, I don’t know, I can’t speak for others, but I know that I felt alienated, maybe even if I wasn’t. And that exacerbated some things. I had some stress at home dealing with like simply put my boiler broke down.
I was trying to get it they had no more parts for it. It was a company that was no longer around and I was stressing out about it. And again, I’m in therapy, but I’m not dealing with this stress. I’m just stressed. So I’m coming to work. I’m stressed. I’m getting stressed at work because the social dynamic for me is hard to navigate and I end up one night
Taking on acting lieutenant after on our second night. So we work a two day, two night rotation at the fire department. And my first night I was on the dispatch, so I basically didn’t get any sleep that night. Didn’t really get any sleep during the day. I come back in that night and I’ve got all this stress, and we get this really.
Hard call. This guy is sick, like super sick, doesn’t wanna go to the hospital. He’s in the town visiting. And long story short, I’m trying to get this guy to go to the hospital and after an extended period of time, my superior officer shut me down and just said, that’s it. We’re. The dynamic is, was weird though.
I understand. The dynamic was weird though because I’m the, I was the only paramedic on the scene. Everybody else is basically an advanced m t it’s called the cardiac level in Rhode Island. And I was really worried about this guy getting sick and dying. And the issue being is if something happened, I overplayed it in my head, but it would all fall.
and this officer shut me down and I had a temper tantrum. In short, I had a temper tantrum. I asked this officer that since he had made a command decision to write the report, and he dismissed me and he’s no, man. This is you. I said, no you’re overriding me. And I just threw the laptop across this hotel hallway.
In front of four or five police officers, about seven seven coworkers at the fire department and who knows how many, or how many civilians there was. Got back to the station and I just couldn’t cool off. I was too angry and the officer tried to talk to me and I said, that’s it. I’m going homestead, and I stormed out of the station.
I tell guys all the time, I should have been fired legitimately. I believe very much, especially as I’ve gotten older in professionalism and that is one of the most unprofessional things I could have done. And not only that I really alienated, I truly alienated myself from the rest of the department.
I was not somebody to talk to . And I say that, but at the same time, there are a few guys that I work with that truly saved my life because even after that, they didn’t ask questions. They didn’t ask about it. They just stayed as brothers. And I can’t thank them. I truly like not to be dramatic and I was never suicidal.
But I do feel like I owed them my life because if I had not felt that, I don’t wanna say camaraderie. If I had not felt wanted and accepted by these few guys, I don’t think I would’ve made, I think I would’ve made bad choices during that time. I own firearms. I am a huge firearm enthusiast, but I recognized where I was at mentally and I gave my firearms to a friend of mine and I didn’t even tell the wife until after.
I was like, I just said, Hey Carl, I need you to take these. I said, I’m not in a good place. And he said, no problem. And he took him for me and kept him outta my reach. And that’s again, I always get in my own way. That was pretty rock bottom in my life. Definitely career wise. Alienated myself from most of the department. I was ashamed of myself for the way I acted, and it was a light bulb that I was like, man, I’m still not dealing with all the, all this stuff.
I had been seeing a therapist for five years at that. What am I missing here? And it took that event for me to really start taking a, an introspective look at myself and look at my own actions and how, what I need to do to be in a better place. So what did you do? A lot , and I’m still doing it today. Primarily what I did was I hid, I had the opportunity to go to a different station still on the same shift, but I put my tail between my legs, I put my head down, and I hid. I got out of the most stressful of situations, and again, I went to a place where, you know with the guy who, who took my firearms I ended up, he was the other private on this engine that I ended up on for a temporary assignment.
And that gave me enough time to at least, I don’t even wanna say breathe, but at least catch my breath a little bit. And I took this introspective look and this is when I started, I had just started listening to podcast. And I found Joe Rogan, and then I heard about this guy. I don’t know I’m sure everybody’s heard about him in the fire service, but I heard about this Jocko Willens guy, an extreme ownership, and I read the book and I said, oh, it’s on me.
If I get a bad call, it’s on me to handle the emotional toll that it takes on me. It’s on me to be the best at my to perform at my best level for that P person. You know what I mean? And that just doesn’t mean just emotionally. That’s physically and mentally, and training and all that. All of it.
I have to be a hundred percent for my job. And then after that, it was Jordan Peterson and the 12 rules of for. . And then David Goggins book and I started listening and that’s why like earlier when I talked about my childhood, listen to David Goggins. I don’t know if you ever have his book can’t hurt me.
I can’t explain it. Like I said, like my life was hard. My mom never pulled a gun on my dad. My, my dad didn’t keep me up until two in the morning to clean his. And then I had to have to go to school the next day. Someone’s always got it worse, but I started realizing that there are things out there or that I realized that nothing is gonna fix my problems except me.
It’s, I have to fix this. and there’s no magic pill. There’s no two day seminar. This is me taking the time to be a better person, and to most importantly, subside my ego to realize that I need to fix it, but I don’t have the tools alone to do it. I need to find the resource. and I need to keep pushing to be that better person.
And that’s why it’s important to say that I’m still working on it to this day. Soon after that, I did something called mdr therapy for the childhood trauma. And I, I. emphasize enough the importance of doing that therapy for people that have traumatic experiences. My therapist we were doing co cognitive behavior therapy with my regular therapist and she’s Hey, go try this out.
And after three sessions, the childhood trauma that I had been feeling, it was gone. I can’t explain it other than Childhood. Me, my the inner child in me was no longer scared and no longer afraid. And it sounds woo-hoo sometimes to people, and it’s hard to explain, but like they, they do say your emotional maturity is stunted at the age of your trauma. And I got past a lot of it, not all of it. I don’t know if I’ll ever be over all of it, but I got.
the parts that really made me stumble a lot because I was able to connect with that child in me that had seen all that trauma and say, Hey, we’re moving forward. We’ve got this. And just it’s to describe it, like I don’t feel that emotional childness in me anymore. Not all the. and I feel like that child that, baby Mike is holding my hand and enjoying the ride with me now.
Rather than being scared in a corner and me having to drag him out.
Hey guys, quick break right here. Just to check in and thank each of you for listening to the show. Your support has been paramount. And I appreciate all of you. I have one request though. I need you to share the show with everyone, you know, help me get the word out and spread these stories as far and as wide as we can.
Uh, while you’re at it, please leave a review of the show wherever you happen to listen. Feel free to reach out to me at any time to share your story, to talk or to pass on suggestions. Let’s get on with the rest of the show.
And so that brings us to 2020. Yeah. August of 2020. And this you referenced you referenced this at the beginning when you talked about where you are and what you can see from where you’re sitting.
So what happened in August of 2020? What was this call that, this is the one that I think really you ki you do carry
This is a call that man I will always carry and let me promise all this with it’s okay not to be okay. And I think that’s is helping me through all this. Like I don’t know if I’m ever gonna be over it, but I know I can handle the emotions of it and I know that I’ll be all right and that this victim that you know I’m gonna share will always be with me.
But August of 2020, this is full-blown Covid. Everybody’s on lockdown. We get a call for at this popular jumping spot. Again, I’ll reference that movie, me, myself, and Irene. The final scene where the Jim Carey asked Jim Carey’s character as Renee Zellweger’s character to merrier Miriam is the road that I’m sitting on now.
Is the road that you take to get to this popular jumping spot here. And it’s varying heights, but the highest cliff is probably 30 ish feet, 20 to 30 feet high. It’s a lot of fun, so we get a call there, which isn’t uncommon. Multiple people have passed there over the years for multiple people in the water struggling to swim.
, we were all in the station that was down the road probably about two miles down the road. The captain gives a quick breakdown, all right, I want you to do this. Let’s get this, you get that. And I was gonna get dressed and be the rescue swimmer. So I get the wetsuit on. We get there, and as we get out with the rescue some people walk up to me and they’re like, oh, everybody’s out of the water.
And I’m like, all right. And I look down the cliffs and there’s this ledge, and it looks like a perfect. And there’s this young man with two other men that seem to know him with him and then 20 or 30 other people all over the cliffs. So I climbed down there and I started talking to him and I said, Hey, what’s going on man?
And I remember he was a little blue with the lips. He was a gentleman of color African American and. He’s man, I feel like I can’t breathe. And I touched him. I remember reaching out a little bit. I’m like, Hey, man, I got you. You’re gonna be all right. And I paused for a minute and I wanted to make sure that everybody was outta the water.
And I just said, Hey, hold on. And I looked up and I scanned the water. And as I did that, a girl behind me said, somebody better start c P r. And I say it with bitterness cuz I still am a little bitter and realize that unfortunately the, he let’s say his name was Jay and Jay had flashed his, he had gone into pulmonary edema.
Basically, you know what we describe as maybe a secondary drowning salt water is bad to get in the lungs. And Jay proved that.
So right away I cleared everybody off the rocks except his brother and his cousin, cuz it was just me and these civilians at the time, while the guys were getting everything set up to, we had to do a high angle rescue, we had to get the medical equipment ready to go and they’re setting that all up.
So I’m there by myself and I looked at his cousin and his brother, I said, , I need you to start working with me doing c p R. Do you guys know how to do it? And they’re like, ah. And I’m like, we’ll work through it. And we started working Jay at that point on these rocks and equipment’s getting passed down now.
And we’re doing everything we can for Jay, right? And
we carry him up, get him in the rescue. I intubated him. I sar suction. Froth out of the tube as best I can. And we worked him all the way to the hospital.
And, again, I, you gotta find the funny moments in life sometimes, just like I talked about with that guy with the motorcycle, I think he was missing a dead squirrel. I had gotten changed in the back of the rescue and I had taken my clothes off and put them on the stretcher, in the moment, not really thinking about it.
My best friend on the job, was there. He took the stretcher out and he is like, why are their clothes all over the stretcher? And he flung ’em off to the side. So we’re working on, I took my wetsuit down in my waist, so I was topless and my shirt’s gone. So I walk into the ER working this kid with no shirt on, in my little scuba, Steve.
Wheeling into the ER for all the nurses and the doctors to see me in my beautiful dad bod. Jay never had a chance. Once you get salt water in your lungs enough to make you, flash pulmonary edema like that, there’s no coming back. There’s no chance. But it was Jay’s 25th.
And he was there with.
And his cousin enjoying his 25th birthday, cleaning up from the call. His mom comes and, it’s like a scene in a movie. She’s yelling at the kids, everybody, he’s got multiple family members there. And she’s emotionally upset, understandably I can’t imagine. And Part of me wanted to not get involved, and part of me wanted to be involved.
Either way I helped her up off the ground that she was, she collapsed, down in a heap on the ground, in, in the ambulance entrance, in the doorway. Me and this other nurse the male nurse that works at the ER that we go to helped her up and it. It sticks with me.
We all watch those movies and we see the scenes of the family member freaking out, over the death of ano of this person. And in real life it does happen that way. But you don’t get that. You can’t feel that emotion through a screen. And when you see it in real life and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.
There’s nothing you can do to make it better. One thing I’ve had to hash over in my own head with this over the years now since is realizing that it was my own arrogance that set me up for this situation because I’m a very confident paramedic. I am not the best, I am good at my job. And I really thought, ah, he’s talking to me.
I can I can fix the world from here. And in that arrogance, he died. And in my head, I should have stopped again. There’s no way. But I should have stopped.
And so this is during Covid, correct? Yep. And. You had mentioned to me, and just for sake of the story, you had mentioned to me that you, your drinking had increased a bit during Covid just because of the ease and the availability of time basically.
Exactly. I’m not I’m, do you have children?
Yeah, they’re for sure they’re older,
but yes. My kids were younger. But anybody who had kids in grade school or they probably understand. , five o’clock became three o’clock for a cocktail. , because you’re at home, you can’t go anywhere, you can’t do anything.
Kids are at home. You’re going crazy because, they’re not crazy about doing, schoolwork to begin with, let alone through a computer. There are a little struggles there. And, hey, three o’clock, why not crack one, one beer Now. . And when you crack a beer at three o’clock, instead of it only being three beers before you go to bed, now you’re talking like five, six beers before bed.
And so how’s that? How does that start affecting you?
My wife will argue with me. . I, my wife noticed a decline in my emotional state in the sense that I was just becoming more and more miserable. I didn’t see an. On my emotions myself. And she really started harping on me about my alcohol, like consumption.
So to me I’m like, listen I’m going to work every day. I’m, bringing home dinner or, bring, bringing home the money for us to live. I’m here with the boys helping them through distance learning. Everything’s fine. You’re overreacting.
And , after Jay
I was in therapy still. I was, I thought I had dealt with it all and. , I was drinking more and a little bit more, and it just crept up. And again, it never became a full-fledged problem of alcoholism. It wasn’t like I, I had two night, we, I worked two night shifts. I didn’t drink those days.
But when I was home, I would have 4, 5, 6 drinks.
that affects your emotional health over time. Because even if you drink two beers I don’t think people like quit drinking for a week, just a week. And you’ll notice that if you have two beers, there’s a light fog the following day in your head, you, maybe you didn’t even get drunk, but alcohol’s a toxin and your body treats, treats it as such.
So all of that was, I. Feeling good emotionally. I was drinking more, which was making me feel worse physically, which was making me feel worse emotionally. And it just becomes, again, this vicious circle. So fast forward a year later August of 2020. One my best friend is finally getting married.
I’m excited. I love his now wife. , we go to the wedding, it’s open bar, which makes me super excited. And we’re having, I’m having a great time and I’ve never been cut off at a bar that I can remember. And I get cut off. And when I got cut off, my wife got very upset cuz she had been harping on me for all this time about my drinking being an issue and blah, blah, blah.
And we had already had some underlying issues. this night, it all just came to fruition and we had this blowout argument. She, thank God I didn’t drive but she took off in the, in, in our car and I was like, you know what? I’m gonna walk home. The wedding venue was across the bay. Where we live.
So I was just gonna grab the water ferry and take the water ferry over to the other side of the harbor and walk home from there. We’re talking like two, three miles at most. And that was my plan. And then my best friend’s brother his wife and my best friend’s mom see me walking and they’re like, Mike, what are you doing?
And I’m like, Hey, what’s going on? And. They gave me a ride home. I get home to my wife we talk a little bit more. Nothing was going constructive was gonna get done. She goes to bed and I’m in the kitchen and I’m just revved up. And again, going back to the PTs thing, flashbacks to me had always been this like, Questionable thing.
I’m not saying that it’s not possible, but I’m like, come on man. Really? Jay ends up on my kitchen floor being held up by his cousin in front of me in my kitchen, and I looked at him and I said, dude, I am so sorry. And I cried and I said, I wish I could have save you and I wish I could have helped you and I wish I had done.
But then the other side of me is also looking and I remember like looking to the, like Jay was to my right and the kitchen door was to my left. And I remember looking to the left saying, this isn’t real, Michael. This isn’t real. But there he was on my kitchen floor
and trippiest moment in my life. Now again, a lot of emotional stuff going on outside of “J”. And a lot of “alcohol that night. A bad combination. And that was the result my brain was saying, Hey, let’s rewind back to this point. I think, here’s something we still haven’t processed yet. After that night, my wife and I looked at each other and I said, Hey, I think I’m gonna go live in the, we have a travel trailer, a small travel trailer.
I said, I’m gonna go live in the travel. and she said, yeah, I think that’s a good idea. and I lived in our travel trailer for a couple of months. I continued with my therapy. My wife went to therapy for a little bit. And we started reprocessing things a lot and we were able to kinda, or we weren’t able to we got back together and we have been able to again, forge our relat.
back together and make things good again. Nothing’s perfect. But we really were able to focus on being there for each other a lot more. But it made me realize that even with going through therapy, even thinking that. Made peace. That’s, I think, the best way to describe it. I thought I had made peace with Jay and I hadn’t, and it poked out in that moment, and that’s me was a huge wake up call.
To go back to that original day when Jay first passed, I was in the middle of a 36 hour shift between. a couple over time shifts and shift swaps. That was the end of my first day shift. So then I worked a night shift and then I worked the following day. I was never offered any critical sistance stress debriefing or anybody else on that was there with me.
A few people reached out to me a few of the brothers. . Even a friend of mine who was a sheriff here in Rhode Island had heard about it and reached out to me, which was beautiful, and I appreciated that. But it was all by text and nothing more was really asked of it, nobody checked in with me.
A couple weeks later or a month later, nobody’s, nothing was ever done again, fall back to, it was just one more storm to put in the backpack.
after my wife and I got back together I got promoted a few months after that. And what I realized is the blessings that I’ve been given through my, through these opportunities when I should have been fired, when I’ve had bad thoughts and have been at my lowest of low. I’m still able to come out of it.
I’ve decided to pivot and make sure that my career focuses on the wellbeing, the mental wellbeing of all those guys that I, the guys that I work with and work around, you know? And that’s becoming an officer. That’s gonna be my focus. I shouldn’t be, I shouldn’t have my job, let alone be promoted.
And the only way I can give back is to make sure that nobody goes down the. that I traveled because it’s rocky man and I’m never gonna stop everybody from doing it. But if I can create programs and assist brothers and sisters through dark times so they don’t have to make the stumbles that I did,
I would say that is the best repayment that I can give for the opportunities that I have. So to
that end, what are you doing?
I, it’s a lot, there’s a lot of, I’m working on a peer support program. You talked about the doctor from OMA Fire Department documentary I’m working on we’ve always had a peer support program at the state level in Rhode Island.
And those guys do a good job. And there’s only a couple of them though. . I’m working on a program where I wanna get our guys trained. I have a few guys from my department that are ready to be taking like the I A F peer support class. And we’re gonna develop a program where a brother or a sister can be there at a time when we have this bad call and we’ll have tools and resources and say, Hey, you guys just experienced this bad.
let’s chat about it. Let’s do a quick hot wash about it. Let’s get this all out on the table. Cuz they’re showing that’s what’s best for us. Let’s get it all out there. Let’s talk about this. And then be able to have resources for therapists. I have, I’ve started making phone calls to therapists that I have three or four therapists that are willing to take a a referral from us within 24 to 48 hours.
Cause. If one of my brothers reaches out to me and says, Hey, I think I wanna see a therapist. I don’t have a week. I don’t have five days, in my opinion, for that guy, for that person to come to that point and be willing to ask for help, we have to capitalize on that quickly. So we’re processing that.
I’ve also started working with other local departments, police and fire. to try to pool our resources. Cause we’re a pretty small community. We’re geographically somewhat isolated. And working with those guys, we’re hoping to have a one 800 number for people to reach out to. And one of our peer support training guys will answer the phone twenty four seven and say, all right, you’re having a bad day.
And we’re not therapists, but we’re here to listen. And direct guys to the right resources, and I’m working on developing a lot of this right now. None of it’s going to happen overnight. I’ve been working on it for almost a year now, but I’m making progress. But my reason for reaching out to you is.
because people have asked what can I do now? I sat down with my chief and had a discussion with him about some of this stuff, and he said, Mike what can I do now? And I said, chief, just share your story. Share your struggles. Because when we walk in the fire station, everybody is either cracking jokes or grumpy and there’s nothing in between.
We, like we don’t share what’s going on in our lives in depth, we. Share our emotions where, it’s this alpha male community that we’ve been, that we’re in. And I’m not saying that everybody needs to share their emotions. I’m not saying that you should share your emotions all the time, but we need to make sure that we’re comfortable with each other and that everybody has a safe place to just break down sometimes.
Because if you don’t break down and you hold it all in, it’s gonna come out. . Next thing you know, you’re gonna be throwing a laptop across a hallway. Don’t be that guy.
Where are you with your own therapies and stuff today?
What is the, are you continuing with therapy today? Are you, are, what are you doing for yourself?
after my wife and I got back together. Honestly, emotionally, I’ve never been, I’ve never been in this place. It’s weird to be happy. . I’ve never known what it’s like to not allow the stress to overtake me in.
So I’m not in therapy on a regular basis anymore. , my therapist is on speed dial, if I do need her I do text her every once in a while. I’m like, Hey, can I have a quick meeting? And I meet for within an hour and just to help me process things sometimes. Last time I met with her I was trying to process some really great stuff that I had going on with my peer support movements.
But it was a lot, I was meeting with people and talking to people and I was overwhelmed and I processed that with her. More and more I realized that, like I said Jay’s still with me. So I’m probably gonna set up an appointment for EMDR and do a few sessions of the EMDR therapy to really process Jay.
And again, I don’t mind carrying Jay for the rest of my life because I hope he had a good life up until that. and I hope he knows that I poured a lot of love into him, cause I wanted to give him the best that I had. And I’m okay with all that. But hopefully I can kinda ease that tension a little bit more.
From there honestly I’m researching therapies. I’m very interested, again being a Joe Rogan listen. And listening to other like special operations podcasts. There’s a lot of good research going on right now about psychedelic therapies. I can’t remember the name of the website.
There is a guy, I think he might be out of Canada, if I remember right. But he is doing working on psychedelic therapies for first responders. . That for me is something for personal growth, not anything to do with the fire department, not any, it’s a pursuit for me for spear more spiritual reasons.
It’s very important for me that I put it all in this context of a spiritual and emotional journey. But there’s a lot of promise. , whether it be mushrooms or psilocybin or ayahuasca D M N T IVA gain ketamine therapy is out there. I don’t know if you guys are carrying ketamine where you are.
We just got ketamine in my department recently for broken bones and for excited delirium. I’ve used it. I think it’s a fantastic drug, but it’s also being used now as a psychedelic therapy for depression. There’s a lot out there and I’m investigating those and really trying to make sure that I understand how it all works.
And probably I’m hoping within the next year going to do an Ayahuasca retreat. , there are actual Ayahuasca retreats in the country that you can go to legally it’s a, like a religious exemption thing. And it’s usually like a little weekend. But they’re like a few hundred bucks.
Three to 600 boxes is the price range that I’m seeing. So I’ve a little cost prohibitive right now. . And then after that some of the other things that I’ve been doing that are important to me one I ski I’m going skiing hopefully for the first time this season this week. And then I usually get about 10 to 20 days a year.
My motorcycle is another important thing to me. One thing that I realized is my life has always been this. ride that’s not really controllable sometimes it’s just so chaotic. And the only time that I truly feel at peace is when I’m on my skis going down a hill. I have myself clocked at excessive speeds, like highway speeds on my skis.
And there’s something there where know. one pebble in the snow. One mistake, and it’s gonna be a bad day for me, but I can control it, and it’s a tempting fate thing. It’s the same thing for my motorcycle. And I think a lot of first responders have that as well. It’s this idea that we wanna test that invincibility that we’ve.
or think we’ve had in the past. We’ve all been in fires and you’re looking around going oh man, this is a little weird, a little crazy. But we all come out and we’re like, yeah, nothing happened. And I like that feeling.
I think our job. Learning how to handle stressful situations in the moment and they’re life or death situations, typically, when you’re really getting tense, it’s because it’s a life and death situation. Whether you are, working a cardiac arrest or have a really complex trauma call or you’re extricating someone, or you’re cutting a hole in.
This is life and death type of situation. Jiu-jitsu, you’re learning how to defend yourself while getting choked by someone else, and you don’t have control over that other person, and you have to be able to literally, while you’re losing oxygen, it’s, I haven’t gotten passed out yet.
I’ve had my vision narrowed. As that blood flow gets restricted to my brain and I’m trying to process what’s my next step? Where do I go from here? And that processing under pressure has helped me so much. And I, the emotional release is amazing as well. And again, it helps on so many levels when it comes to that.
So I, anybody out there any martial art, but especially jujitsu where you get to every class, we get to spar you’re going full-blown sparring sessions every class and it’s liberating. And on top of that, like there’s a camaraderie there. Cause you’re trust you’re trusting someone else, at any point if that person decides, they don’t wanna let your arm go when you decide to tap out, they can just break your arm, if they decide that they just wanna make you go to sleep, they can do that. And there’s a trust there that is amazing and I think very important for people to see.
. So I’ve been loving the jujitsu side of things and the tie-in to work.
So let’s, I know there’s a quote you want to wrap up with. And so before we get to the book and before we get to the everyday, Carrie, give me the quote that you wanted to share with us,
I know I got it right here. The patty, the Batty ble is a current U ffc fighter. About six months ago, he had a fight and he won it. He did a really awesome job. He gets done with it. He is a comical character.
He basically t bagged his opponent after the win of the fight. So he’s this ridiculous character, but at. During the post-fight interview, he doesn’t even talk about the fight. He shares a quick story dedicating the fight to a little baby, and then he shares that the morning before the fight at four in the morning, he got a phone call that a friend had killed himself.
And I’m just gonna read the quote verbatim. There’s a signal in this world that men can’t. Listen, if you’re a man and you’ve gotta wait on your shoulders and you think the only way you can solve it is by killing yourself, please speak to someone. Speak to anyone. Patty said, I know I’d rather my mate cry on my shoulder than go to his funeral the next week.
And I don’t know for you. I know from my experiences I know either have known someone. or knew someone, like one person removes, like from a different department or I knew a few people that have committed suicide in this career. I would say it’s probably in the ballpark of 10 or 15 people that I knew or we were in the same circles.
And that’s not normal . That is not okay. And I think. People in our career don’t necessarily understand that they’re not seeing the forest for the trees that is. And, talking to my wife, I don’t, my wife doesn’t know anybody that’s ever committed suicide. My, I was talking to my mom the other night and she said the same thing.
She’s I can’t think of anybody that I knew that has committed suicide. And I can probably name, I can definitely name four or five people off the top of my head that I interacted with. that I worked with, that I had spent time with, that killed themselves. So let’s not fool ourselves here in, in thinking that, oh, people just commit suicide.
No there’s a huge problem in, in, in the first responder community, and we have to recognize that. And I would rather have somebody crying on my shoulder balled. And give them that opportunity to get it all out, then be there, Paul bearer.
That’s a perfect spot to stop right there and get to the, those last two questions cuz I think you’re very right that, that’s exactly the sentiment I think across the board.
Yeah, speaking of, we need
to get everybody to be comfortable with that. But,
so speaking of those two questions, let’s get to ’em. What’s what’s your everyday, Carrie, something that you don’t leave home without?
So I always have my wallet on me, like most people do but in my wallet, I have a note. That I got from a a little boy. His name was Wally Joe. He was three years old. I was teaching at a mountain a ski mountain in New York. And his parent, he, Wally Joe, really liked skiing with me for some reason.
So every weekend that season, Wally, Joe and I had a private lesson together for an hour, and one of the last times I saw him, he gave me a. and it’s just this plain white piece of paper. And I don’t know what it says. I don’t know what he drew, but I carry it and it has been in my wallet for 20 years now.
And Wally had outside of just, maybe it was just one, just being. I really enjoyed skiing with him for three years old. The kid was parallel skiing was easy to teach, and he cared enough to give me a note to say thank you,
and it hasn’t left my wallet ever since.
So you made an impact on his li on his life and he returned it and made an impact on yours?
Yeah, I guess that’s, I, for me it was. Knowing that somebody cared. Again, in that time in my life, like it was really hard to feel accepted and wanted by people and what pure love from a three-year-old to get a note saying, Hey, Mr.
Ski instructor. Thank you. So what, impactful, what
about a book, what book do you wanna suggest to the audience?
Again I mentioned ’em a little earlier. . I’m a huge Chaka Willings fan. I’ve read all of his books. I think the ones that I didn’t, the one I didn’t mention, I think the one that impacted me the most and has helped me the most was Jason Redmond.
I think it’s the Trident it’s his first book. He’s now like a, he’s a former Navy Seal. Obviously we don’t have the same careers, but our stories parallel each other. He got promoted to, he was a private, went to became a Navy Seal, became an officer, and nearly lost his job. And Fortune kept him employed as a seal, and
the parallels were just uncanny to me. The book itself is a book of ownership, taking responsibility for your actions. But one of hope too, because he actually ended up on his last appointment after his temper tantrum. His meltdown, he got blown up. And Afghanistan, I believe not blown up.
He actually got shot with an rpk. And if you see a picture of him now, his face is deformed. He became famous because there’s a, he wrote a note that Michelle Obama actually put out there on her social media at the time while he was at the hospital. She came to visit him and he had this note up and she snapped it out there.
And even after that, he didn’t want sympathy. He didn’t want anybody to feel bad for him, and it made him angry. And now he takes his experiences and shares those, shares, those with others. , in a great way that, that’s the first book I would definitely recommend. The other one I’m gonna recommend two I’m still reading it, but I’m gonna give a quick shout out to Travis House.
I’m finishing I’m about halfway through his book. I’m actually reading about the Charleston nine right now. Again, a guy who was just plowing through life, plowing through this career and com had a moment of anger blacked out and next thing he knows, he’s sitting outside of the fire station and has never entered it.
and lost his job because he never dealt with being the guy, finding his friend, and dragging and taking him out of this horrible tragedy. And he shares this, those stories of these guys and I, that’s, I’m trying to emulate him in a lot of ways. He’s share, he’s bearing himself. He’s got nothing left to lose and he’s bearing himself so his brothers and sisters.
Follow down the same path. And I think I, I haven’t been with one of his conferences. I’m hoping maybe one day I can get him up here to Rhode Island. But I think he’s got a very powerful story and I think he shares it really well.
So if you’re, if you want to learn a little more on Charleston nine, you could check out one of my guests and I’ll have to look and see which episode it was.
But Dr. David Griffin was one of my guests, and he was the first in engine driver that day on Charleston. Oh yeah, it was the first fire he’d ever had to pump on as well. And so he he tells a, he tells it from a different point of view, not that Travis is wrong. I’m not saying that cuz Travis’ story is Travis’ story, but David Griffin’s story is pretty, pretty enthralling as well.
And what he’s done after that is pretty, is very interesting. Both have gone on to do great things from that.
And again, I think, Let me have, let me stand on a soapbox a little bit here. One of the most important things out of all of this, I think is important for people to take away is we need to be more vulnerable with each other.
We need to put aside the egos what one person sees. Maybe another person sees differently, but at the end of the day, There’s no need to get ego involved in anything in life, and I think too many guys want to leave their mark on the department or leave their mark in the fire service. And it’s, it just creates a toxic environment for all of us.
We can all disagree, but at the end of the day, just learn to turn to the person you’re disagreeing with. and give them a hug because that person may be dragging you out of a fire one day, or you may have to drag them out of a fire one day. And that’s, that sounds dramatic, but that’s the frank truth of it.
And too many guys want to have this ego, and it’s and myself included, trust me, , I, I’ve had way too much ego in this job until, and even now I struggle with it sometimes, but at the end of the day, man, We are a family. We are brothers and sisters. We’re gonna squabble but just be with each other and appreciate the life that other person has.
And that’s perfect. I think that’s the perfect spot to, to end on and man, I appreciate the conversation. ,
thanks for letting me rant and rave man, and I sharing my story. And like I said, that’s the most important thing is just share, man, sharing the station, share with your family, share on a podcast.
And I’m not gonna lie to you, I’m nervous about this is outta my comfort zone, but I gotta practice what I preach now. You did
and you did fantastic, man. I’m telling you. It’ll come out good. You’ll hear it, it’ll be out in a few weeks and I’ll let you know when it’s.
I listen, I appreciate that man and much love to you.
And just know that what you’re doing is exactly what we need to be doing right now. And I’ll be sharing your podcast with everybody you know, as much as I can and trying to push it out there. But just keep it up man. And if you need a hand with anything, don’t be afraid to reach out. Cause I, I believe in what you’re doing.
Awesome. I appreciate it. Go enjoy the rest of your day, decompress a little bit and we’ll be in. No problem, brother. I’ll talk to you soon. All right, man. Take care. Bye. And we’re out.