I sit down with Brad from the Eastern shore of Maryland. Brad is a third generation firefighter with 22 years of service. He started as a volunteer and is now approaching 18 years with his career department. In this episode, Brad details his story of post-traumatic growth by shedding light on the topic of mental health. Today. Brad uses his experience of growth and personal development to help others in their efforts with their own journey with mental health.
Stack: Welcome to episode 52 of the things we all carry this week. I sit down with Brad from the Eastern shore of Maryland. Brad is a third generation firefighter with 22 years of service. He started as a volunteer and is now approaching 18 years with his career department.
In this episode, Brad details his story of post-traumatic growth by shedding light on the topic of mental health.
Today. Brad uses his experience of growth and personal development to help others in their efforts with their own journey with mental health. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
All right, joining us today is Brad. Out of the Eastern shore of Maryland, just a couple hours away from where I am. Unfortunately we were unable to hook up in person, so we’re gonna do this on the phone.
And it’s a gorgeous day out here, so he is sitting outside, so if you pick up some wind or some noise, just bear with us. He’s enjoying today and I can’t blame him for doing that. Brad, how you doing?
Brad: I’m doing pretty good, man. Appreciate you having
Stack: me on. Oh man. I appreciate you, first of all reaching out, and second of all, coming on and telling your story a little bit.
Like I’ve said before, I’m always amazed when people reach out to me, so it’s awesome. You wanna tell people where you found me.
Brad: I guess in my journey of the fire service and my, my p t PTs and everything else I got into reading and podcasts and things like that, and, one door opens another and another, and through one podcast I found you.
And I really like what you’re doing. So I reached out and hoping that I can help you spread your good word and what we’re all trying to do with mental health in the fire service.
Stack: I’m gonna give a shout out to that podcast cuz he means a lot to me cuz he, he was the first guy I spoke to about this show and he gave me such encouragement and he gave up a couple hours of a Saturday one day before I even started this show just to talk to me about the steps and the pitfalls and he’s just genuine human being.
And that’s James Gearing from Behind the Shield. So if you guys haven’t picked up James Show, go to Behind the Shield and take a listen. It’s a fantastic. .
Brad: Yeah, definitely a great resource.
Stack: Let’s talk about family. Where you from, where did you grow up? What was your family like and getting into all that?
Brad: Sure. So I grew up just over the Bay Bridge, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge probably like 10 minutes east of Annapolis. Lived there with my mom and dad and my younger brother. , we just grew up the cliche eighties and nineties latchkey kids and it was a pretty rural setting. So we had we had run in the neighborhood, the woods, everywhere.
We could ride our bikes for the entire day and play with all the neighborhood kids and. , parents somehow kept track of us and kept us alive. when we’re just out running around. But playing sports and, all that good stuff and slowly got into the fire department life.
Both of my grandfathers were volunteers. My mom’s dad was actually a chief at the Naval Academy, or retired as a chief at the Naval Academy Fire Department. And so my dad was a volunteer and I just remember being as a little kid going to the firehouse and seeing all the guns and bull and, all that stuff.
And I was just one of the little kids running around and I just knew that as a way of life. And I guess as we got a little bit older dad took time off from being a volunteer to really focus on us as kids and all the sports and my brothers and boy scouts. We were active all the way up to high school and that’s why I really started to, he got back into it, right about 12, 13 years old.
And something about it like just hanging out at the firehouse and seeing the camaraderie and the joking and everything else, I just thought that was the cool thing in the world. And maybe I grew up a little bit faster, just hanging out with people well above my age. , you just see the excitement, you see the adrenaline, you see the excitement on their faces when they’re going out on a fire call and, coming back and telling the stories and, that just grabbed me.
Yeah, in high school I was pretty dedicated to volunteer service. And at 16 I joined. I was actually officially a and I actually got to go into a vo-tech program in my junior year of high school. Where we were the first class to start it back in 2000. So we got out of school to go do firefighting stuff, EMT fire one, fire two, rescue tech.
It was two whole semesters. And it really set us up for, fire department careers. It set us up for being volunteers. So it was just it was really cool. We. Being the first class, we got away with a lot of stuff in it. Of course there was a lot of classes, but the teachers didn’t know about our program, so they just they would hear the local fire siren blow and we would get outta classes because they just thought we had to go.
So yeah we had some some pretty cool experiences with that. But yeah, 16 years old started. And that was like my new passion. So I went from wanting to be a major league baseball player to wanting to be a professional firefighter. Which is probably better cuz I wasn’t six foot tall. I couldn’t throw, a hundred miles an hour.
I wasn’t hitting home runs. I think I’m doing better off in the fire service anyway. .
Stack: Yeah you need a, you need some certain tools in the, to be a major league baseball. Yeah.
Brad: Like I said, I, I do the six foot tunnel and things like that. It just, it wasn’t in my cards. So I changed my focus and this was something that, that I could see, you know?
Yeah. I watched Major League baseball players, I can see the firehouse. I can, we would go across the bridge into Annapolis and stuff like that. And, my dad’s saying oh yeah, all these firetruck, most of these guys are paid guys and girls are paid. And I was like, wait.
so you’re volunteering. And I could go make this a job. . And once I figured that out, I was like, Nope, that’s what I’m doing. I knew in high school my mom really wanted me to go to college. She wanted me to go so well. But I knew then, I didn’t know what I wanted to be and how going to college was gonna make me better in the fire department.
She couldn’t convince me. And . dad was working at a local community college. So we got free tuition. All we had to pay for was like books and registration. I go to classes so I did, I had my senioritis. I went to, a couple semesters and just, it was not for me. I was done with school.
I didn’t wanna be there I was like skipping class to go be at the firehouse or work part-time. and this is, 2003, 2004. So it’s, post nine 11. And I was looking at it like, huh, I’ll just go to the military. That’s where I’ll get my free college. I’ll learn a job, I’ll do all this.
But I had about as much convincing my mom and going into the military and she handles me going to college. just kept working and grinding with applying to fire departments. I applied everywhere in the DC area Baltimore City all the way down into Lake Williamsburg, Virginia.
Had delusions at grandeur to go down and apply with Myrtle Beach. Just I wanted to be a professional firefighter somewhere. A friend of mine that I volunteered, He, he kept saying, we should go to paramedic school. Let’s go to paramedic school. I’m like, man, I am not going.
That’s the last thing on my radar. So he’s we’re, we need to get hired. If we wanna get hired, we need to be paramedics. That’s what the, that’s what they’re looking for, so and so forth. And he just, he couldn’t talk me into it. So I remember one day we went for a ride and he said he was gonna apply to the paramedic program, and he said, just ride with me.
We got nothing else to do. We show up to the community college and we sit down with a counselor and she brings out two packets of paper, and one of them’s for me, and I’m like, what’s this? He’s you’re signing up for paramedics while I’m not doing you. I was like, man, I don’t have the time.
I don’t have the money, I don’t have this. He’s but once you get hired, you’ll have all of those. So reluctant. We also good for pun school. Luckily my volunteer department at the time, they they paid for it. They paid for everyth. . So I was working full-time, going to school at nights doing all my ride alongs and everything else.
With that we kept applying to different departments and, I got picked up with the department I’m with now. So it was the summer that I finished all my paramedic stuff was the summer that the end of that summer I got picked up and got hollered. , according to volunteering you run all the calls, but you say it doesn’t bother you, but, you think it does, but you’re not sure.
But, growing up with it, I just realized, I just saw that everybody was, they were talking about a crash and a fatal, and, man, that guy was so messed up and I was right there, and oh, and then everybody’s one up in each other and telling the, more gory story. Oh. Oh, you had one fatality.
I had two. And so for me it was just oh that’s how you, that’s how you process that. You just, yep, I saw it. That’s what I’m supposed to see. And it is what it is.
Stack: Yeah. I was gonna, I was gonna ask you about that, because that’s a theme for the guys and guys I’ve talked to who joined at 15 or 16 years old and came in as a junior member and.
they were seeing these things at such a young age, and I’m sure you saw quite a bit at such a young age, it, was there anything at that, in your department to deal with that? And it doesn’t sound like there was, it sounds like it was just a let’s use some dark humor and shake it off.
Brad: Yeah I would agree with that. That like no, there wasn’t a process. There wasn’t, cism, there wasn’t that kind of stuff. I think like they talked about it. It was like that taboo, then it was like you can do that, it, like nobody really addressed it. And I vividly remember, the very first, nasty fatal crash that I saw and, it was a, it happened to be an out of town.
It was on, the one curve that everybody crashes. And we get there and the guys, he’s not in the car. And yeah, he was pretty mangled. But we had to wait for the ME’S office, the medical examiner, and, we just waited on scene until they got there and they took their pictures, did what they had to, and one of the guys was like, all right, kid, let’s go.
And I’m like, what are we doing? He’s we gotta get them out of the car. I was like, why do we have to do it? He’s we don’t, but you’re going to. And looking back I use that now as a company officer and mentoring young people. , you can’t force ’em into it. But then it was like, oh, here I’m getting my rite of passage.
I’m getting my, my first lump or, my first experience and now I can start telling those stories. So it was like, my 16, 17 year old mind, I’m like, this isn’t normal. But then that 16, 17 year old young man mind is like, Ooh, I get a badge of courage. I get a badge or a check mark or whatever you want to call it.
Stack: It’s, but it’s ironic that you talk about that because I was just yesterday I was talking to somebody about the fact that in a lot of the parts in my department when there’s a say there’s a suicide or there’s a, even a death by natural cause and you gotta go in our department, fire rescue goes in and pronounce this, pronounces someone dead.
We had the parameters we have to follow to pronounce ’em dead, but cops call us in and we pronounce the body. Very often you see someone go, okay, you send a rookie in, unless there’s a medic there to do it. But you send a rookie in because it’s tedious. It’s the boring work, but really nobody really wants to interact with dead bodies.
Sure. So it’s funny. So I’ve taken it, like you said, and kind taking it to my position in when I get to ride the seat, if you get something like that, then I’m going in. I’m not sending the young guy in to do it. So I just, I think there’s a matter of, with leadership, there’s a matter of protection at times as well.
Brad: Absolutely. and so yes, there’s a level of protection, but also you I feel like you need to set those people up, the newer people or less experienced, younger, whatever that, that person is. And you need to set ’em up with success. Hey, we’re going in to do this.
If this is something you don’t wanna see, you don’t need to see it. Unfortunately, there’s gonna be a time in their career where they may have to see it, and there’s that added shock factor. So y going with what you know and preparing them for it. And then the follow up after, I think is, the best of both worlds.
We still get the job done. We don’t tiptoe around the ugly part of it. But we also, build these people’s resilience and their confidence in it later so that they’re not so blindsided.
Stack: Yeah. And that’s a good way of putting it. And there is that, there’s that conversation around the whole situation and that is a huge piece of it.
I know Sure. The other day we had a shooting and it was a suicide and. And I know some guys want I want to go in there and see it. And it’s I don’t, I just don’t need to add more dead bodies to my brain, exactly. It was like we weren’t the first unit on scene and there was no reason for me to go in.
There’s no reason for any of my guys to go in there. It just, I just, it’s just, it’s extra that you don’t need up there. You’re gonna see your own shit. I’m not gonna bother with the extra. Sure.
Brad: Yeah, volunteering, we, we saw that stuff. We saw, I saw some stuff. There was a I did c P R on a guy that I’ve known, for a longer, a long time.
He was, friends with my dad and, neighborhood cookouts and stuff like that. You see him at the grocery store and I remember doing CPR and that was the first time I did a CPR on somebody that I knew. It was sad. It was, but I guess I was taught at an earlier age, like you didn’t put them in the emergency, so you can’t really tie yourself to the emergency in the situation.
Now you see the man’s wife in the grocery store and you’re like, man, the last time I saw your husband was not a real pretty scene. But again, that just goes back into that older mindset of it’s part of the job, it’s the cost of doing business. . So yeah, I guess through my teens, that’s where I started to notice that there was less of a shock factor to that, like to dead people to things like that.
You’re just, yep. It’s just another day on the job. Then I get, once I get hired with the fire Academy or with my fire department, I’m going through the academy. I’m like 20 years old. , probably in the best shape of my life. And now I’m going to an academy where we’re running, we’re doing everything like teaching, doing the classroom stuff, and.
I couldn’t be happier. I was, most of the older people that, had real lives and spouses and kids and real bills and all that stuff. They’re like, man, this is tough. And I’m like, you guys are crazy. This is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. And I was just I couldn’t be more proud just to be doing the job.
It didn’t matter where it was. I was just happy to be doing it and, finish finished fire school. And because I had my medic, I. Like right outta school. Right out right outta the academy. Graduation was on a Friday and I was working Sunday. We were on shift work then we were on 24 48.
We were going off for 24 72, but so we started on 24 48. And once I got cut loose to work overtime, I was like, wait a minute. Like my, I remember talking to a guidance counselor in. And I jokingly said that I wanted to find a job where I could make $25 an hour watching TV . And she laugh, she laughed at me.
And but I remember the first day that I worked overtime and I was like, I wish I could go tell her what I’m doing right now. And of course that’s not everything it is, just to sit there and eat dinner and watch TV and getting paid overtime, I was chuckled. . So yeah, I was a, I guess you could say like a naive country kid, and now I’m working in Brooklyn Park, which is like just south of Baltimore City.
So for me it was a complete culture shock. Just the things that I saw was like, oh my God, it’s a whole new world. Riding down the street, going to a call at two o’clock in the morning on a school night, and there’s kids just riding bikes up and down the street. Like little kids, 10 years.
So things like that just completely threw me for a loop. But my preceptor was a paramedic for 30 years. He’s been in the department for 20 years at this point, if not more. He also was a an EMS chief or a neighboring jurisdiction. And to say he was like gruff and rough and everything was an understatement.
But he was actually the best thing that I could ask for in a preceptor. Now like it’s just, you hit the glove, I’m running and you’re running all night and working overtime and working business. I feel like I didn’t have time to stop and think about it and I was just having fun doing my.
Years go on and you running the calls and I’m just really having a blast with work. Had a couple different assignments. I got moved into a driving position, so the station I was in we actually, I was a paramedic driver and at this spot it was only four of us. It was two of us on the engine and two on the medic unit.
We had an awesome group. We had it was a, it was tight knit, so those of you that are listening, like the bigger houses, the double houses where you have two and three staffed units and it’s 10, 15 people running around there’s never a dull moment. Imagine the same atmosphere with just four people.
You really knew each other. We you’re running bad calls and stuff like that. But we had, I felt at the time, like I had the coping mechanisms that was like, yeah, it’s a bad call. You just, you brush it off and you do it again. You run the next call.
Stack: So you say you said you thought you had the coping mechanism. . Yeah. If
Brad: you were to ask me then if I was coping well of course I was. I thought I was. But as I learned years down the road not so much. It wasn’t that great of a coping mechanism and thankfully my coping mechanisms didn’t lead to like alcohol or drugs or anything like that.
Just I knew that was bad coping mechanisms, but everything that I was doing in the meantime was not. So
Stack: What would you say were your coping mechanisms at that time?
Brad: So really it was more of isolating myself. I, I would hang out in my garage. I had, in the wintertime I had a little wood stove, I had cable tv.
I could go out and putts around in the garage or fix something, take something apart just to fix it. I could go out and, really whatever. I found things to do to keep my mind busy so that I wouldn’t think about it. But at this point in my life, I was . I had two kids two younger kids.
and, since that like just compounded stress of work and home and really a turbulent marriage at this point it was just I found things to do to keep myself busy and in hindsight I was just covering up what I had dealt with or what I had seen or what I was feeling. I was covering it up with something else and.
For lack of better terms, just piling shit up on a desk and not having any room to work, if that makes sense. No, it de
Stack: it definitely makes sense.
Brad: A and because I was in a turbulent marriage, not I was in a turbulent marriage my coping mechanism was pinning everything on my wife at the time and everything that went wrong I was starting to feel.
Like I was completely alone. Like I’m trying to discuss stuff and it’s just not getting across. Then I would get angry or I would just start working a shit load of overtime because people at work understood what I was thinking and feeling, even if I wasn’t talking about it. I felt safer at work. I felt more comfortable at work.
And if you’re if you’re at work, you know how joking around in a firehouse. probably a little bit more like a abrasive or more like dark humor and funny like that. But I’m not gonna go home and joke like that with my, four year old, I’m not gonna go joke like that with my wife because, we’re not talking because whatever the disagreement was
So now I’m like coming home angry. I’m coming home, irritable, and I’m not sleeping and things like that. Oh, my coping mechanism was, I’ll just stay up all night and work on this project. I’ll go out in the garage and fix this, or, just whatever it was. It was just to keep my mind off of things.
And then in December December 18th, 2014. I’m at work and I really couldn’t tell you much more about the day other than it was cold, but normal firehouse operations and we got dispatched for a call for a long fall. And on the way to the call, our dispatchers are telling us that they’re starting the early activation, which is from the Maryland State Police.
They do our aviation transport. For like trauma calls and specialty referral calls. So as we’re going I’m on the medic unit at this day, we’re oh, here we go. We got a trauma. It sounds legit. They’re, they’re upgrading things. They’re putting more units on it.
And so we get there and to describe the building, it was it used to be an. , like outdoor lumber yard. So it was just a, like a metal corrugated roof with a, metal frame kind of building. And then it was later closed in and they made a hardware store out of it, or at least the hardware store took over the outdoor lumber yard, and now it’s all indoor.
So with the coordinated metal roof, they had sections of the clear plastic corrugation that they used as skylights. When they redid the roof, they painted everything in the same color. . As we come into the call we go in and we’re taking all of our bags and we’re met with one of our retirees.
And the guy retired with, 30 some years on the job. He, everybody knows him. Really good dude. His brother works for the department. So I walk up and I see his face and it was just pure panic and terror. This is the man. And it seen everything. And then, , and he’s just pure p like panic.
So I’m like what’s going on? And he, all he can say is, it’s Kenny. It’s Kenny. And we’re like, Kenny, okay. Not thinking anything of it. and we walk into the scene and there’s, middle-aged man laying on the ground, big puddle of blood. We roll him over taking cine, we’re doing the whole thing.
And sure enough, we know this guy, he’s actually an off-duty lieutenant, but he works the station over from us. The next blood the shift after us. Now immediately I like, I’ve driven a fire engine for this guy. I’ve worked at his station before. I’ve worked with him. , he works close enough.
He’s such a good dude. Nobody has a bad word to say about him, but here we are, we’re seeing him in a bad way. For all the medical people out there, go to the chapter on head injuries and just read down all the signs and symptoms. It was there, everything. And I couldn’t tell you what we did on the call.
I couldn’t tell you who talked, who spoke, who directed, who did. , but I can tell you that everything happened like poetry, emotion. It was just like we had scripted it so we didn’t have to talk. One person’s on cine one’s, two people are doing the boarding college and it was just happening so fast.
So we, I remember I ran out to the medic unit and started consulting with shock trauma. I couldn’t tell you what I said. I’m probably cussed on the radio. , but at this point it was just like autopilot. We were just working and doing. So we get ’em loaded up, we get ’em to the lz, Hey, please come in.
We do all the transfer care. My partner ends up flying with M S P as a second provider and we load ’em up and everybody’s gone and they’re like, Hey, we’re done. So I drove the medicator back to the station and Back into the bay and I get out and I, at the time we, we had to wear our button up shirts all the time.
So we get back from this call, I got blood on me and I’m just like mentally drained, like I felt like I ran a marathon. I felt like I just sat for some big test. I just physically and emotionally drained. I’ll kick off my boots. I saw hum button in my shirt. As I walk into the kitchen, one of our division chiefs is standing there and.
He is a a former semi-pro football player, so he’s, a big dude. So I’m like hey boss, what’s up? And he is Brad, what can I do for you? And I was like, I have no idea. He’s what do you need? And I was like, I have no idea. He’s do you guys need lunch? Did you go to the store?
And I was like, no. What do you want? Feeling? Whatever you want, boss. How about pizza fun. And I can feel myself starting to get angry at him just by asking questions, and. in, in retrospect, I wasn’t mad at him. He was doing everything that he felt was right and I think still on the tail end of the old Cism model or as I like to say, he didn’t know what he didn’t know.
He didn’t know what the right thing was, so he was just trying to do something. But nonetheless, I’m getting more and more aggravated him getting and finally look at him like, chief, make a call, make a decision order pizza. I don’t care. What do you want on it? I don’t. And I was like, you know what? I need to get a shower.
Sorry, . I go back, I get a shower, come back in a clean uniform. I’m like, boss, I’ll pull. He’s Nope. Don’t worry about it. So now more and more people are starting to show up. Everybody knows it’s an off-duty guy, so it’s one of our guys. People are showing up, there’s chiefs everywhere, and it was just the more everybody keeps asking if we’re okay, the more I’m realizing I’m not okay.
Living that old stigma of yeah, I’m fine. Just leave me alone. Let the dust settle so I can figure it out myself. And again, like I don’t think any of the chiefs there were doing it as to be rude or patronizing or anything like that. They just didn’t know what they didn’t know.
And. So we were given the option like, Hey, if you guys wanna go who, you can go who? If you wanna stay, you can stay. If you wanna stay for a little bit and then go home the choice is yours. And I think if one of us would’ve left, we all would’ve left, but nobody wanted to. So we all stayed.
And from there I couldn’t tell you the rest of the. Except for the phone ringing off the hook, whether my cell phone, the station phone, everybody’s phones were just going off and it was just getting exhaust.
I, again, we, I don’t remember if we ran any more calls. I don’t remember what else happened, but I do remember the next morning when I was leaving for work or leaving work for home. I called my wife at the time and I said, Hey I’m turning my phone off. My phone’s going crazy.
It’s just so overwhelming. I’m going dark for a little while, but when I get home, I’ll call you from the house phone. and I’ll let you know I’m safe, yep, no problem. And I remember driving home for that hour and change and just crying the whole time. Like it was just so overwhelming. It’s two weeks before Christmas.
Let me back up. That the morning that we were waking up on our shift, so we’re still at work. We wake up, there’s a deputy chief for the department making coffee for us at 5 30, 6 o’clock in the. . And I remember coming outta the bunk room and I said this isn’t fucking good.
And he says, he goes, yeah, you’re right. He’s but have some coffee and hang tight. So once the whole shift woke up and, we’re, everybody was there he gave us the news that that Kenny had passed away. But they. Kept him alive long enough and the chief was reassuring us that we did so much that we were able to keep him alive long enough that they harvested seven organs from him that were able to help other people.
A as tragic as it was, it’s still, a silver lining that, he was able to help people. But, we wanted our guy, we wanted our guy to pull through like the guy that we knew. . Once we got that news, that’s when I was on my way home and I just remember crying, like crying about everything.
It was just like, it was like the, like somebody had been blowing a balloon up all day full of emotion and everything else, and it just popped and it was just there. I got home, I took a shower when I got home and I didn’t do anything. I laid on the couch, I cried all day. It was just like, that was my only way.
Like really digesting all of it. At the time I was still volunteering not where I grew up, where I’m, where I live now. And a guy that I was friends with then he was a career firefighter for another jurisdiction. He knew about it and, , our plan for that evening was, Hey, we’re gonna go sit in the garage.
We’ll drink beers. If you wanna drink beers. If you don’t, we don’t have to. If you wanna go for a ride, we can just ride around. We’ll go for a boat ride. We’ll do whatever you need to do. This guy at the time, actually he knew what was up, as a, he. He knew what was up and knew knew that something had to be done, but wasn’t pressuring or anything like that night we had a meeting at the fire house.
It was the elections. Those of you that are volunteers, you know how this goes. It’s the time of year. This place actually does a dinner to get people to come out for the election night. So you see people that you don’t see all year round. just to come out for the volunteer elections and everything’s over.
We’re eating dinner and I’m getting ready to go have a beer with my buddy and my daughter was running around the firehouse. She slips and bust her chin. So my wife at the time, she’s you have to take her. I have to work in the morning, and you don’t, so you’re taking her to the hospital. I’m not sitting there all night.
And I looked right at her and I was like, I am not going to the hospital. Like I’m not doing. , I’ve had a terrible day and I’m gonna go sit in the garage and take care of this. And she’s you ran one bad call in your career. You wanna fucking pity, pardon me? And that probably was more of a dagger into the center of the middle chest than running the bad call itself.
And I remember standing behind myself like an out-of-body experie. And I leaned in and whispered in my ear. I said, if that was my wife, I’d kill her right now. And then I remember oh, that is my wife. And I don’t, I didn’t know what to do. I was like frozen in fear, in, in hatred, in, I don’t know how many more emotions there were, but they hit me so fast that I was like, paralyzed.
So to avoid the whole conflict, I grabbed my daughter, put her in. driving up to the hospital and and I remember calling on the way there where I was more private, but giving a tongue lashing that I’ve never heard before, like saying such hateful things. And probably like screaming to the point of my voice, like almost bleeding, having a sore throat the next day.
And. I could have put my finger on it, that was probably the day that I knew my marriage wasn’t gonna last, but nonetheless, get my daughter stitches. And things just went by the wayside at this. This point, I’m more like I know nothing at home is gonna fix anything at work.
And if I come home from work in a bad attitude or a bad mood, or just a bad day, bad sleep. That’s not gonna have any swing at home. I can’t come home and say, Hey, I just, I ran all night. I’m gonna need a nap. Or, I’ve been busy at work, I just need to chill and relax. I knew that wasn’t gonna be any sort of outlet, but work is just going, it’s going as it is.
And we do the funeral, the whole funeral detail and you. My wife at the time was telling I need you to hurry up. You don’t have to be there all day. I dunno why this is so important. And I guess part of me was just thinking like, how heartless could a person be that one, you weren’t there and you’re gonna tell me how I have to feel, or two like you just have no concept of what this is and you’re gonna tell me.
I. . So a lot of stuff just, I just started feeling like that about everything. I would make a suggestion, no, we’re not doing that. Okay I must be the problem. I must be wrong. I’m the common denominator. I’m too angry. I’m too this. And I, because I was so angry, I went and saw a counselor and you used our work EAP and.
There, I feel like the EAP is a 50 50 and it’s either the best thing in the world or it’s the worst. And all of our stories that I’ve heard at work up to this point were negative, but it’s I don’t know what, I don’t know. I don’t know how this works. So I make some appointments. I go talk to a counselor about some anger management and.
The guy was he was good, but he was like, ohoh. Yeah. You’re very angry. So take a couple deep breaths and count backwards from 10 and try not to be angry. I just felt like it was very off the cuff as if like you bumped into somebody at a bar and they were just giving you a piece of advice.
Like it didn’t seem like there was any oomph. . went back maybe a week later and he’s so how have you been? I’m like, oh, today’s fine. I’m not angry about anything. He’s Hey, cool. That works. That was good talking to you. Out of an hour and 10 minutes in two different sessions, I felt like it was just a waste of my time.
Nonetheless, Now I’m work’s going, it’s going fine. I get an opportunity to work at our training academy
Stack: gonna break in one, one second. I’m gonna interrupt. What, and I know I’m not supposed to, I should just let you go, but I want to ask you about something that you hit on that I think is important, so Sure, sure.
We’re gonna get back to the training. When the accident happened, when Ken fell and you guys came back to the. Uhhuh . I remember you telling me when we talked last that you felt like it wasn’t your firehouse anymore. And you and I talked about that’s very similar sentiment to what TJ Beck in episode Ford spoke about when they lost a firefighter in to a, to L O D in a fire.
That it wasn’t their firehouse anymore. And I don’t think anybody was, I don’t know. You can tell me from your perspective in your situation. I just think it was, they just didn’t know what to do. correct?. It wasn. It wasn’t anything absolutely nefarious. It wasn’t anything hurtful or they just were trying to do, almost trying to do too much.
Brad: No, totally. I don’t think there was any malicious intent whatsoever. And I’ll explain it later when I get into like my recovery and everything else, but I think they were like, we need to do something sooner rather than later. And, almost at the fear of if we don’t show up, they’re gonna think we, we don’t.
And that’s why I’ll never hold any ill feelings to them on that because I think that’s exactly what it is. Like we just need to be present and we need to be here and let them know that we’re here and if we see something, we’ll do something. If they ask for something, we’ll do it. I think if we told ’em, we need two days off, they would’ve been like, cool.
Done. See you. Bye. We’ll drive you home. I don’t think that they were ingenuine with anything that they were doing, but I think it was just a matter. And I don’t wanna say showing face because they were just doing it like, oh, we just gotta show up and leave. I think it’s just a matter of being there and if we wanted to come back and, just have a big hug and cry fest in the engine bay while we’re dealing with it, we almost felt like there’s too many eyes on us.
If we were to do that what are they gonna say? Oh wow, they’re having an emotional breakdown. We should probably send ’em home. We might have to put ’em off for a while. They might have to be on late duty. What if they’re not fit for duty? . I’m only speculating in what their thought process was, but again, I think it’s that they didn’t know what they didn’t know, or they didn’t know what the right thing to do was, so they just did something.
And I couldn’t tell you how long they were there. It might have been an hour, it could have been two or three, but y yeah, we, like now we have to be on our Ps and Qs because we’ve got multiple big chiefs walking through the building, so we can’t, cut up with our dark humor.
Because we don’t want, the chief seeing us, maybe acting out or lashing out or anything. So yeah. Again I think you’re right that it didn’t feel like our firehouse, it, it wasn’t with like poor intent.
Stack: I, I just think it’s interesting because I think one of the points TJ makes and I don’t know if you mentioned you’re gonna talk about it in a little bit, but one of the points that TJ makes is.
It’s time for these departments to plan for it, not to be reactive when something happens, but be proactive and be prepared for something. Prepare for the worst. Obviously we’re not, we’re hoping for the best, but Sure. It’s inherently dangerous. We know that when we go into the fire department, we, fire service is inherently dangerous.
So you, you should have that response planned ahead of time. So it’s. Overwhelming for the crew. It’s not, yep. I don’t know. It doesn’t wear them down. It doesn’t make them alienated in their own firehouse where the, that’s the one spot they should feel the safest at after an incident
Brad: like that.
We pre-plan everything. We, from, a big mall fire to a school shooting to, EMS calls, mass casualties, multiple alarm incidents. Like we re we preplan all of those things and it’s time to preplan the stuff that we don’t do all the time. And that’s where, I’ve used my experience as we’ll get into later, I’ve used my experience to make those things better.
So yeah, now I’m I’m teaching at the training academy. I’m working Monday through Friday. And then at this point, you, my, my marriages on, really on the fritz were, were separated. The divorce proceedings are happening and. . For me at that point, I, that’s where I started to really struggle with just me.
And what I mean by that is, my parents, they’re married now for, 45 years. Both sets of my grandparents were moved for 65 years and. Now I’m going through a divorce and I, all I can think of is this career that I’ve worked my ass off for, that I’ve given, my, my teens, I gave up, going to parties and gave up all this stuff to be a career firefighter.
Now it’s having this huge impact on my career, or my career is having an impact on my life. Like now, I I only live and breathe the fire department and I’m not happy unless I’m at. . And now all that being said I’m really glad I went through my divorce. It needed to happen. would’ve been a very turbulent lifestyle for me for a long time.
And so it was a very double edged sword that I was pissed off and upset and scared because I’m going through a divorce, but I also knew I didn’t wanna be married to her. It was just, it was making me a bad person. And being at the training academy was actually really good for me.
It kept me busy Monday through Friday and it was doing what I really loved. By this time I’ve already been certified as a state instructor, so I’m teaching with the VO-tech program that, that I was the first class through. So that’s a pretty rewarding aspect. now I’m teaching the Training Academy.
And really just loving it. Having a blast. I was good at work again. I was, back on top. And as life goes on, getting back into the dating pool after divorce it was like, it was, that fresh stuff. I kind, thought Hey, things were getting better.
Then it’s like the same things are popping up. I’m irritable, I’m like hyper-vigilant. I’m like, I just feel like everything, if things don’t go right, it’s all my fault. I did something wrong, even if I had zero control over it. And, so a couple failed relationships just from, my emotional instability.
I started looking at counseling again and I’m like, okay. . My, my first marriage didn’t work. Now these relationships aren’t working and I’m still like coming home and yelling at the dog for silly shit. I’m yelling at the kids for being kids. I’m just pissed off about everything all the time.
And you know what’s Einstein’s role on insanity? If you’re doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different outcome, that’s insanity. So I start looking into stuff again, like, all right, may, maybe there’s something else. So I try the e a t again. And this time it was just for just general counseling and I meet up with a new counselor.
And when I walked into her office, actually, it’s like an office in the back of her house. I judged that book by the cover and. I’m wrong for doing that because I walked up and I was like, this is some hippie crop. This is earthy crunchy. This is just let’s light some incense and talk about our feelings.
And I was like, this is not gonna work for me. She is not gonna get this. And I was so wrong. I was terribly wrong. She was phenomenal. She did not have a whole lot of experience with the fire and policing military lifestyles, but she was phenomenal. I walked in and had a chip on my shoulder and as soon as we started talking, I broke down and let it out.
Like I couldn’t talk to her enough. And so yeah, she, she pulls things all the way back from the past. She brings the stuff from the current it. Ways of talking about things that really changed my paradigm on everything. And had four sessions with her and could not wait to go back and talk to her.
And unfortunately with our EAP you only get four sessions and then you have to either play the system and say that we’re gonna go and talk to the same person about a completely different thing and continue the old convers. or you have to go completely out of the network. So unfortunately she didn’t take my insurance, but she said, listen you’re in the right direction, but you need to keep going.
Like you, you’re open and your raw and you’re vulnerable right now, so you need to keep going with this stuff. And I was like, yep, okay. Let me see how I can get this to work. And then the EAP system failed me in that, that I was trying to get back with the same counselor. , they, it was too many hoops and red tape and all that crap.
So I’m like you know what, I’ll, I’ve got this book on complex PTLs. Let me, lemme just read that. I just started looking at whatever self-help resources there were. So I’m reading this complex P T S D book and it’s a little workbook and it’s helping reframe some mindsets and things are looking good.
Now I’m starting to read really whatever I can get my hands on in that mental wellness, mental health, like genre, just anything like that. Friends are good. But now, like I, I just, I couldn’t get a grasp on it. Like I, I knew I didn’t know what to do, but I knew what I didn’t want to do. And, but now I never had suicidal thought.
But like the ideations almost. If I was more reckless and something else happened to me and I didn’t do it then I can release myself from all this stuff. But I wasn’t the coward. I didn’t do anything and but it was there. So I, I remember being like at the training academy and we’re doing burn days, and I would be the igni officer and go in and light the fire and I’d just sit there and keep stoking fires, stoking the fire while I was still in the.
and one of my fellow instructors came in and she grabs me and she’s smacking, sensing me like, what are you doing? Like you’re burning yourself. Like your shoulders are red. Like you’ve got blisters now. And all I can remember telling her is at least I knew where this pain’s coming from.
I can pinpoint this pain and I know how to stop it. Like I’m in control of it. And for me, that was like the, at that point I just felt. . Like I I’m tarnished, I’m done Like, like I’m the black cloud. Like now it’s just hey, let me wear all of this. Everybody else move forward.
Leave me in the corner. I’ll be here when you need that gruff voice or that like almost like insensitive person, like, when you need that, call me. I’ll be back here. But if you’re having like those friendly conversations, I’m just gonna isolate myself. Sure. and that actually lasted for a few years.
Just almost like a loner. Nope, I can’t hold a stable relationship. I’m just always angry. I’m always at work. I’m working too much, but this is what I signed up for. So it was such a distorted reality that, it’s like you’ve been through all this stuff.
This is how you’re gonna be the rest of your career. , as a 16 year old kid. That’s what I remember seeing some of the older guys, they were just, you didn’t talk like the touchy-feely stuff with them. They they wouldn’t have it, they just they talked in cuss words and, yelling at people and I was like, oh, that’s just gonna be me the rest of my life.
At this point I’ve been promoted at work, I’m a lieutenant and it just kept eating and eating and eating and, . I finally got to a point that I had a conversation with my kids one night, and I may have had a beer too, just for some liquid courage to talk to.
I guess at this time they were, what, eight and four, seven and three. And I remember putting ’em on the couch and I knelt down in front of him and I said, I’m gonna ask you a serious question and. . There’s no wrong answer, and I promise I won’t be mad at whatever you say. I said, but are you ever afraid of Daddy?
And to watch them go from like curious to what I’m asking, to like panic in their eyes because they knew. They knew I was, they were afraid of me. I knew they were afraid of me, but I needed to hear it from. And I remember asking them, and I watched them go into panic mode and their eyes welled up with tears and I lost it.
And I just had to hug them. I had to I was like, Nope, I’m done. I can’t live this way. I can’t be a father when my kids are afraid of me. I can’t be a father when I’m just not being the right me. I can’t do it anymore. I just, I can’t. . Later that night I was sitting at the computer and I was doing research a bunch of people on your podcast have talked about the center of excellence.
I was like, that’s the only place that I can think of right now that has any clue about the theater service. Thankfully I sat there for a few hours and they have some little self-help quizzes. So there’s, do you have P T S D? You can do a quiz. Are you, do you have anxiety? Do you have depression?
Do you have this, are you, do you have substance abuse issues? Do all these quizzes completely anonymous? And it gives you a little scorer. And as I’m doing these quizzes, I’m like, oh shit, maybe I do have PTs. Like maybe you are depressed. Maybe you do have general. and I was just thinking okay, what’s the next step?
Like now you, all right, now I’ve got this. You’re telling me I, there’s a good chance that I have this, but how do I get through it? So I called the hotline and it was after midnight. So I called the hotline and I’m thinking, nobody’s gonna answer this phone. And if they don’t, I don’t know where I’m gonna go.
So sure enough, somebody answers the phone and the guy was I couldn’t remember his. But he was a paramedic in Florida and now he works for the Center of Excellence, and we get talking just like you and I are now. And it was so welcoming and he was like, all right, cool. Let’s do this. Let’s talk about it inpatient, let’s talk about that.
Let’s talk about like all these different resources. And he was like, so how do you wanna pay for this? And I was like, huh, but I don’t. And he’s you, we don’t take your, I. And I was like what’s the next step? He’s we can do outpatient. That’s cheaper. He’s but you still have to pay out of pocket.
And he’s look, we’ve got some scholarship funds that we can probably pull from and I’m gonna get some information. He’s you need to go get some rest. He’s but we’ll follow up in the morning. He’s I’m gonna call you sometime tomorrow. And we’ll go from there. And I was like, oh, cool.
So the next day he calls, he’s look, we’ve got this. There’s another center that we can try to get you in. You don’t have to worry about the insurance, so and so forth. We’re going down that route and now we’re starting to fall on deaf ears again. But I’m like, look man, like I’ve done four sessions of therapy.
I need to get moving. I need to keep going. I wanna learn, I wanna fix this. I can’t be doing this. But I kept falling on. Sorry. We can’t help. Sorry. We can’t help. Sorry. We can’t help. Look I’m really, I’m at a loss. I don’t know what to do. And so I talked to a buddy of mine. He was a cop or is a cop now, and he’s dude, like you might have to do this as workman’s cop.
you’re saying like, all these things have happened while you’re at work, you might wanna look into it. And I was I don’t wanna be that guy that’s just looking for a payday. I don’t want that. I just, he’s their job is to get you help.
And I was like, all I made a phone call and. Actually, it was a text message and I had a text message back in five minutes. I had a phone conversation in an hour and I had a meeting set up for the next day. So I ended up going to our health and safety department, or division to actually fell out a work an injury packet.
And it’s like the date of injury. And I’m I know. December 18th, 20. And they’re like but you have to have at least three for it to fall into a P T S D workman’s comp injury. And I’m like, all right, great. Now I gotta go sift through all these other calls that I have tucked away and buried for the last, 10 years.
Now you gotta rehash ’em and talk about ’em again. But I’m like, look, whatever. I need to get this, I need to get this out. They end up putting me off work for five or six shift. Cuz there has to be a date of loss. So I’m now the workman’s comp like kid, everybody sees that your own extended sick leave, so everybody’s calling you like, what’s going on, what’s going on?
I’m fine, everything’s good. No, I’m safe. Thankfully my battalion chief at the time was super supportive. My battalion chief that was in charge of health and safety at the time was insanely supportive. Text me every other day to make sure everything was good. Make sure I didn’t need.
So I go to a regular doctor. She prescribes me sleeping pills and pills for anxiety because, with her diagnosis, she’s yeah, I’m seeing you having, you have P T S At this point I’m like, when I say sleeping, getting two power naps in the middle of the night and I could probably sleep all day.
She’s alright, maybe it’s anxiety, maybe it’s this. She hands me a bottle of sleeping pills, and this is what I have a little issue with it. They she hands me this bottle of sleeping pills and she’s only take half of a pill. She’s don’t take any more than a half a pill and make sure you have 12 to 14 hours to sleep and you don’t have anything else to do.
And I, as I got in the car leaving, I’m looking at this bottle of pills, it was probably a hundred pills in there. , you just told me that I’m, I probably have P T S D and I’m depressed and anxiety and you’re gonna gimme the thought of sleeping pills and say, don’t take too many. And I just it baffled me for a while.
And thank God I was not in a substance abuse situation, cuz if I was, that would’ve been tragic, so it goes a couple days. I’m like, I’m not gonna take these sleeping pills. I’m not doing it. I’m not taking any. And I guess just from being so anxious of it, I was not sleeping at all.
Maybe 15, 20 minutes a night. And so in, in that first couple shifts that I was off, I was like, all right, I’m taking half a sleeping pill. And it helped me sleep. And I slept from maybe 7 31 night till like noon the next day. And I felt like absolute. . So I was like, Nope. Dumped them all out. I was done with them.
I wasn’t taking any more sleeping pills, just completely trashed them. And I, I’ve just seen in the EMS world what an injury with prescriptions can do. And I was like, I’m not gonna be that story. I also get linked up with a new counselor who does only fire police in military. He’s got a pretty extensive.
And same thing. I quickly judge this guy by his cover. was an older Jewish guy. He actually turned out to be really awesome. Like he was a counselor that would sit there and cuss with me and everything. He was he knew how to talk to fireman and police and everything else.
So I see him for six months and I’m learning so much more about me. I’m learning about. Better coping mechanisms. I’m learning I’m learning just to go read. So at this point I’m now reading a ton of stuff that’s helping me just change all of my mindset on everything I’m reading leadership books, I’m reading mental health books.
I’m reading everything and I can’t get enough of ’em. So now like all the workman’s comp stuff that’s all done and over with, and. , the chief that was in charge of health and safety, reaches out again. And he’s Hey man, like, how are you doing? What can we do? And I was like, look, I, if you got time I’d like to sit and talk about this process on how we deal with these kind of things.
Now that I’m, now that I’m on the positive side of it, it’s actually a whole lot easier to talk about. Now I realize like there shouldn’t have been any stigma behind talking about it. I shouldn’t never been scared or worried. For covering this up for years, it took me four years from, Kenny’s accident to me getting a diagnosis and getting true treatment.
and I said, chief, an ounce of prevention’s worth a pound of cure. I said, if I can keep somebody from going down this road, or at least supporting ’em while they are going down this road it’s gonna be exponentially better for everybody. And he’s you know what? He’s I was waiting for you to call me.
He’s because, I think you, you handled it and you’re very open about it now. And he’s what do you think about getting on the peer support? And I was like what do we do? He’s we handle like stressful stuff and you know when you have the bad calls and the Judaism.
And I was like I was like, I can tell you my experience with it wasn’t that great. And it wasn’t because of the people and they didn’t do anything, but I feel like there was nothing there for them to do. And he’s we’ve got all this new training, we’ve got these new courses that we’re taking.
We’ve got new people running it. He’s looking, we’re looking at a more proactive aspect. So I’m like, yep, I’m in. And I go take the training. We actually do it through the IC I s F and through the I a f the I f peer supporter and those classes, and they’re great. The I C I S F teaches theirs more from a, like a lay person cism model and not so much fire police, military.
We use it to the fire department’s advantage. We tweak our little bits so that it does fit in the fire department. And those of you that have taken the if f peer supported class, you know that’s run strictly for fire. Fire department personnel. So we take the best of both of those and mash ’em up together.
And our peer support team has designed or coined basically the hybrid model. We also teach mental health First Aid to all of our new recruits. We’re starting to teach it in paramedic research. And starting to go see seminars and courses and clinics and things like that where we can get extra training and bring it back to our members.
So with that I get on the team, I’m starting to go on call outs, and just by me telling my story, when you hear somebody at the station that’s starting to like, I, everybody that’s listening, that’s sat at a firehouse coffee table, you can see that one person. , something’s not right. Something’s off.
Like they’re arguing with their spouse and they’re having trouble at work, and they’re just always angry and they’re saying they don’t sleep and that they’re doing this. And I’ve used that to like him. Hey, you got a second? you okay? Everything good? And N 53 steak wheel on that, right?
So all the follower, police, military people that are listening to this, if anybody ever says, Hey man, are you good? What’s the first answer? What’s the first answer step? No, I’m great. Yeah, I’m great. And it’s no, you’re not. How you doing? Told you I’m fine. And then I give ’em a second and it’s no, but really how you doing?
And they, they know that, they know they can’t . It’s like that unwritten thing. You can see it. So when I get the third one and I’m like, no, who, how you doing? And they’re like, man, I just got a lot going on. I’m like, cool. I got two ears. Let’s go talk. talk. I.
Stack: Have you ever heard of Skulls for
Yes, actually. Yeah. It was in the one podcast.
Stack: Yeah. So I don’t know if you remember that part in his podcast cuz he he humanizes that question instead of saying, how are you doing? He’ll come to you and say, how’s Brad doing? . And it humanizes the question, it personalizes that question and it takes the, it makes it so specific that it, you tend to answer it a little more open.
Brad: Yeah. And a lot of the stuff that we started learning through where you can’t be too forceful with people, you’ll push ’em away, but the fire department’s built on all type A plus personalities, right? And we’re all fixers. We all know how to fix all the calls that we go on. That’s what we’re trained to do.
We’re trained to go and take charge and control the scene and make everything better. But unfortunately we don’t know how to do that for ourselves. And that’s where I really, that’s where I really grasped onto it, is that, man if only I had this stuff to talk about and, people that I could talk to about it, that I trusted and resources that I could read that were vetted and things like that, that it would’ve saved me years of grief.
So by me learning these things on my own and just like chewing through books, That actually my guys on my shift, they, they laugh with me and they joke about it. They’re like, what book are you reading this week? What book are we, they’re gonna hear about it at the dinner table. At the coffee table.
They’re gonna hear about the podcast that I listen to. The paramedic on my shift, he jokes. He’s I think every time you give advice, you say, in this one podcast I listen to, he’s it’s the new, this one time at band camp, kind of story, . And I said if it helps, if I listen to it and it helps somebody.
then it’s now you can pick on me all day long, pick on me all day long and leave somebody else alone. But if the person that needs to hear it hears it, that’s all I need. And so yeah that’s where I took it. I’m now a team lead for our peer support team. And I coordinate call outs that happen on our shift.
I coordinate, sometimes it’s coordinating off-duty things once, once we make a, like a touch on something. once we’re a little more involved with it now we just keep that continuity. We work with our neighboring departments and things like that. We’ve been called out, outta county to go help.
And I have a reading list that I share with everybody and I have little points on each book on, oh, this was really great for another, this was really great for this. And it’s cool because it started like this subculture where everybody’s like now passing books around through the fire department, the rookie on my shift for Christmas, I, that’s what I gave him for Christmas.
I gave him a book. When he finished his rookie book, I gave him another book. And, now I’m taking some 20 year old, 21 year old kid and building up his resiliency, building up his information cash that he can pull from so that hopefully he doesn’t go down the same roads that I went. . That’s where it’s really therapeutic for me because now I’m also reliving those things for me in the sense of, I’m giving advice, I gotta take my own advice.
I can’t give advice and not take my own. By helping other people, it’s concrete those things in me. And as they come back and they’re like, Hey, , like you said, this, that and the other. You showed me this, or you told me to read this book and it was great. It helped me out so much. That’s, when they can return that it’s, it makes me feel good about it.
And just being able to have that conversation and if having that conversation is me sharing my story with them that, Hey, here’s where I did things wrong and I don’t wanna see you do this. Let me help you, and keeping the confidentiality. They end up breaking their own confidentiality because then it’s, Hey, like I was going through this bad season and, she freaking all this in information and now I’m using it and it’s helping me out.
And I just had that happen probably a month ago at work. A buddy of mine he texted me and he said, Hey, working with you tomorrow. He’s not in the right head space. Something’s. . Like he, something’s off with him and he’s I’ve been talking to him, but he might talk to you, but if you see him acting a little off, that’s what’s going on.
I’m like, okay. First thing in the morning, I’ll get the gym in the station and I’m looking out and, he comes through the door and a bowl in a China shop, just barges in. And I’m like, Hey man, what’s up? And he’s you got a minute? And I’m like, I got 24 hours, man.
What do you want? He’s no, I’m just not feeling it today. And I’m like, you need to go home. And he’s no, I’m good. And I’m like if you wanna close that door and, let it rip. Tell me what’s up. He’s ah, and just spills his guts about all this stuff.
And he’s I, I made an appointment with this counselor and I don’t know, I’m kinda bullied. And as soon as he made that comment, but I made it, made an appointment with a c. . I got up from what I was doing. I walked over and I gave him just this big bro hug. And I’m like, man, I’m so proud of you.
And he was like, and he looked at me and he’s what? And I was like that’s the hardest part. I was like, you just made a phone call, made an appointment. Like you’re good. Like you’re, you are gonna be making so many better decisions. Like you’re, you don’t even, no. I’m so excited for you right now because I know that’s how I felt.
Like you have to go in and trust the process. I was like, don’t judge the book by the cover, because that’s what I’ve done a couple times. I was like, go in and let them do their thing and you’re gonna learn so much about yourself. You’re gonna feel like a whole new man in no time. And he’s really?
I’m like look man, I’m telling you right now, you call me whenever. If you want me to go with you, I will. If you want me to sit with you, like whatever you. I want you to go through this journey like you have to, I was like he comes from, a line of firefighters in his family also. And he’s a damn good fireman.
He’s a good driver. Like everything about him, he’s so awesome. I’m like, dude, you’re gonna be so much better with everything when you go through this. And he, the day he went to his appointment, he calls me and. . I was like, man, I’m going in, I’m nervous. And I’m like, dude, don’t be nervous.
, the water’s fine. Come on in. And he called me like two hours later and he was like, dude, I’m hooked. He’s I want the peer support team. I want this. I wanna tell my story. I wanna help people. He’s because I felt like I was so covered up, like I was hiding from something that I didn’t need to hide from.
He’s and now that somebody’s like listening to me and all this. So that’s why I’ve really taken. My journey is that, we had this antiquated cism model and we just weren’t using it to its full capacity. We were using it a reactive tool instead of a proactive tool. And, we start talking ideas and we spitball these ideas with all of the peer support members and we’ve actually brought in health and safety.
So we are turning it. Fitness and sleep and just mental health and mental wellbeing and stressful food. And we put all these things together and we use them synergistically, like they all mesh together. And that’s where we’re really taking it. And One of your other guests that you just had letter sleeping.
I went through his 62 Romeo program and , I praise it. I’m telling everybody about it. We do everything poorly in the fire service about sleep hygiene caffeine, running calls just burning our candle at both ends. We’re like, . That’s one of the reasons we’re all getting cancer too early.
That’s one of the reasons we’re having a lot of mental health issues. Once we get our sleep under control, we’re gonna be moving forward light years. And, once you see how all of these things are tied together in this giant web we’re gonna make the fire service that much better.
We’re gonna get every ounce of. Progress that we can put into it. We’re gonna get it all out and it’s gonna be so much better. And so just listening to different podcasts I’ve heard this one and then I’m like, oh, I really like how that was. And just like now pulling it all, if we can have as many resources available to us for all these things, we can keep people from going down the ugly road, that’s there that we’ve been doing for generations in the fire service.
But now since it’s more the buzzword, like now’s the time to really capitalize on all that and spread that word. So
Stack: I’m a, I wanna back up a little bit and talk about a couple of things. You spoke about the things you’ve done since being in, in therapy basically. . And you talked about that you’re providing mental health First aid to the recruits, correct.
Correct. What does that look like when you present to them?
Brad: So really it’s it’s a a course that was developed does exactly that. You can see, you can use characteristics of people in the green zone, the red zone, the orange zone things like that. So when you see people getting closer to crisis mode of, that person that’s not sleeping, that’s binge eating, or not eating at all, or drinking or using.
Really negative coping mechanisms. You, we can start to see that and then bring it back into the resiliency of just being aware, so it, we teach them, okay, the green zone is you and I having a good conversation today and you seem pleasant to seem happy, seem like things are going well, like you’re the green zone.
And I don’t wanna say I’m not worried about you, but it’s. A dramatic priority. And then as you see people wow, I see Brad showing up to work late. He’s never done that before. I see him, staying up all hours of the night, and that’s usually not like him. He used to work out all the time and now he’s not doing that.
He’s been on a really strict diet now. He’s eating like crap all the time. Like when we start to see these characteristics that people are, changing from their normal, that’s time for us to step in and almost do that. That buddy. Every firefighter says it to every other firefighter.
Hey, man, call me if you need anything. This is our time to reverse that and say, Hey, I’ve noticed this about you, and I’m really concerned. And that’s what we do with the Mental Health First Aid and not being clinicians. We can’t really step in and say, Hey, I think you’re depressed. I think you’re this.
All I can do is step in and. Hey, man, I’m concerned about you. Like I’m seeing these things and that’s not like you, like I, I’m concerned that these might be deeper issues and I’d like to see if maybe we can talk about some resources to help you do that. Sometimes, most of the time what I’ve found personally is that there’s, people just need a cathartic release.
They just need somebody to, vent to like, all this stuff is going wrong and I just need you to hear it. And this is why it pisses. and and I take a line out of Cole Powell’s book and one of his points of success is get mad and get over it. Sometimes that’s all we need to do. We just need to vent and be angry and be heard, and then at the end of it, you feel so much better.
So it could be that bad call, I could come home from Kenny’s call and be like, it just, it sucks that it’s the two weeks before Christmas. It’s this, it’s. And yada. And we did everything we could and it still didn’t happen, and yada would just go on and on and then have your accountability partner say, you’re right, man, that sucks.
And sometimes that’s all you need to hear is that what you’re feeling is valid. And that’s what we really push with that mental health first aid. It gets to the point that, Hey man, this is above my pay grade. I’m not a clinician, I’m not a psychiatrist, I’m not a doctor. I can’t help you anymore, but I can help you find resources.
That’s what we really push home.
Stack: The other thing we talked about, and I don’t think you’ve mentioned it yet, is the app that the your department purchased?
Brad: Yeah, actually we just launched that in December. So it’s a cortico cortico is the option from Lexapro and what we have.
Before all of our resources for peer support were on the Google Drive, right? The only way to get to it is through somebody with peer support. And that was working, but it wasn’t as out in front. So with the app, we actually have it’s completely anonymous. It’s a single login and password. It’s available to all of our members, all of their family retirees and new family, as well as volunteers within the.
and all of their families. And you go in and you have right up front is a get help now. So if you are in crisis and you need help immediately it sends you to a hotline that links you to help immediately. There’s so many resiliency portions in inside the app. There’s things to help with sleep, like sleep sounds, ways to get good sleep hygiene, like what we should be doing, what we shouldn’t.
It has all the team members on peer support all their contact information. It might be news to some people, but I’m not everybody’s best friends. So if they go on, they’re, and they don’t wanna choose me, but they wanna choose you. They have that ability. So there’s that. And the best part is it’s completely anonymous.
And in the first 15 days that we had launched, we had 300 download. It, it does track the uses or the other way we call it is like touches. So if you go into a certain part of the app, it’ll track that somebody is there, but it doesn’t track who it is at all. And looking forward to seeing the numbers as time goes by, but it’s another thing that we’ve put out there.
And I know for me, listening to the podcast was my anonymous way of. Some sort of talk therapy just by listening to other people. It’s still talk therapy, but like I can listen to it on my own time in my car, my truck, like I have an hour ride to work to and from work, so I have plenty of time to sit and listen to the podcast and nobody has to know.
Nobody knows what I’m listening to at that time. So the anonymity is huge and if you have the ability to look through this, act anonymous. like I did through the Center of Excellence website that night. If you have that ability, it takes that that fear factor out of it. Like now you can do it without people knowing.
And we’re really hoping that the numbers are climbing. And that report should be out soon for for the Jan, the month of January.
Stack: When you get the numbers, I’d like to hear what you guys find and Absolutely. And just how, where you go with it from here, because it sounds, it is just for your department, correct?
Brad: So yes. The app that we have is just for our department, but there’s major departments across the country that are using it.
Okay. Yeah big departments. I don’t. I don’t remember exactly what they were. I wanna say a couple in Texas, a couple in California like big major departments that are using it, and I think there’s even smaller departments, police departments and things like that. It’s not designed specifically for our department but it’s a.
It’s like a canned app that can be titrated to your department,
Stack: so Understood. Okay, cool. All right we’re coming to that part of the show where we’re gonna talk about the final two questions. Sure. And we’re gonna go with an everyday carry first. And I, a couple times on this show, I’ve gone more a couple almost every time on these episodes have gone into why I call it an everyday carry.
So what is something you can’t leave home without, that you feel naked?
Brad: I gotta steal a line from a couple of the other guests that you’ve had. I have my daughter’s footprints tattooed on the inside of my arms. And that way they’re always under my wing, even though some days I wanna strangle ’em.
You know how kids are. But if it wasn’t for that night where they were brutally honest with me I don’t know where my path would’ve taken me. Because they help push me to where I am. They’re, they will always be there. What,
Stack: this is funny because it tattoos are coming quickly, becoming one of the favorite answers, and it’s obvious.
You can’t leave without it. You can’t leave your house without your tattoos on but I almost feel like I need to just say, all right, tell me your favorite tattoo and then tell me your favorite, your everyday carry. So I might have to change this question up a little bit. Sure. Because we, I think any of us in.
I would, I don’t know what the numbers would be, but you know that the book Tattoo and Tattoos and Trauma obviously explain why we do it, why we get these tattoos. And anyone that’s been through something in their life probably has something to show for it on their skin. Yeah. All so you gave me a list of books.
Now I’m gonna limit you, and I know that’s gonna hem you up a little bit, but I don’t care. It’s my show. That’s right. I’m gonna limit you to one book that you’re gonna suggest to the audience, and then if it’s a book that’s already been suggested, I’m gonna pick one and ask you to describe it for me.
Brad: I don’t think this one’s been picked on your list. Ego is the Enemy. Okay.
Stack: No, it hasn’t. Go
Brad: for it. , I liked it because it’s it’s multifaceted in being helpful. I liked just being in the fire department with a bunch of people being in type A personality environment and really, going through the.
the PTs side of life I really had to put my ego on a shelf. I had to stop, I had to realize that I didn’t have all the answers, that I didn’t know what to do. That, really had to put that aside and then dive into listening to other people. I think for a leadership book, it’s great. I think as a self-help book, it’s great.
And yeah, that would. one of my top fives, but obviously today it’s only my, it’s my top one.
Stack: But I had two in mind when I looked at your list that jumped out at me. Okay. And the mission, the men and me. Oh, another great one. And that’s by, what’s his name? Pete Blaber Blabber.
I’m not sure how to pronounce it. I’d
Stack: to look that up. I have the listener in front of me and it’s spelled B L A b e R. So I’m not sure, I’m not sure how to pronounce it, but tell me about that. The mission
Brad: in me is I guess like the old adage horse, gun, soldier, if you know as a company officer, the chief has set forth her expectations and it’s not about what I want, it’s about what she wants or whoever your fire chief is or police chiefs.
They’ve set the mission. If we all work towards the mission, then it’s all team effort and we move forward. The men or the wo men and women as a company officer, I have to take care of them. I’m not driving the fire engine, I’m not pulling the hand line. I’m not in the back of the medic unit.
They have their jobs and their responsibilities. My job is to make sure they have everything they need to do their jobs, whether that’s tuning tools, equipment, time off, you name it. I have to take care of them first and then. . So unfortunately in the peer support world, we like to revert back to those that have flown and they talk about the oxygen mask.
They always say Put your mask on before you help anybody else. So unfortunately the mission that many and me goes, again, it’s a little counterintuitive in that aspect, but when you see the mission and you see the men and the women working, then there’s less that you really have to take care.
And if you take care of, if you take care of the men and the women, they will take care of you. I could probably write a book of little one-liners and how it pertains to the peer support world. And one of my favorites is from Teddy Roosevelt. They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
So if you take care of your people will take care of you and. . So that’s why the Mission Man and me works. If you take care of them, they will take care of the mission. They will take care of you, and everything’s synergistic.
Stack: All right, the next one that jumped out at me was no time for spectators.
Brad: Again, that’s another one of just I think it preaches to all those go-getters in the fire department that wars don’t wait for us to be ready. We have to train, we have to practice. We have to be ready because. the fires. Don’t wait for that. The B calls don’t wait for that.
So it’s very much about being forward in, in what you’re doing. And I like to say that really separates the ones from who, who’s here to be a firefighter and who’s here for the free t-shirts, who wants the free t-shirts and a half off their Chick-fil-A? We don’t have time for them.
We have to be, we have to be proactive all the time. , we can be the best people for the job when the time comes. Perfect. I
Stack: love it. Those are, I’m gonna link to all those in the show notes when the show comes out. Awesome. I’m looking at a few weeks from now dropping this show. So I’ve got my 50th show planned for next week, so I’ve got something coming up.
I’m actually gonna sit down and record it right after we get finished talking. And then a couple weeks after that will be your show coming out. Very cool. I appreciate your, It was, it’s been a great conversation and thanks for reaching out to me and thanks for jumping on board with a, with what I’m trying to do here.
Brad: I’m glad I could be part of it. I appreciate you having me on and I just like seeing all this stuff coming out of the shadows and being more proactive, so I’m glad I can help.
Stack: Look, keep in touch, man. Tell me, let me know how the app does. Let me know how things are going and absolutely you’re right up the road basically.
And I’ve got another guy Kevin is out there that I recorded early on in the podcast, and he’s on the Eastern shore as well. So maybe we’ll have a little little Eastern shore reunion out that way sometime and we can just get together and talk. Sounds good, man. All right. I appreciate you go enjoy the rest of your, what is it, Monday?
I don’t, I’ve lost track of days again, . So go enjoy the rest of your day. It’s beautiful outside, as and we’ll talk to you later, sir. All right. We’ll talk to you. All right, man. Take care. Yep, we are out. Bye.