Perseverance Through Catharsis

Regular readers know that try extra hard not to mention too much about my work. This morning - I am going to make a therapeutic rant, and perhaps tie a couple of loose ends together for some readers...

Let me apologize ahead of time for a slightly disturbing, stressful post, and the (perhaps corny or bizarre) way I cope with it all.

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I'm pretty good about dealing with the stress of my job. This morning - it caught up with me just a bit.

This morning, a co-worker and I were talking about one of our "regular customers". This is a person (and I use the term "person" loosely) that we have dealt with (as a subject, suspect or having been arrested) over 250 times in their nearly 30 years of existence.
Yup... TWO-HUNDRED AND FIFTY!
This "subject" has been locked up for several months, and was recently released (yet again) after serving his most recent sentence. We were talking about him because my partner had spotted this person dining at a local eatery, and was surprised to see that they had been released already.

Minutes after we finished that discussion, I answered a 911 call.

A father (it's usually the mother that calls - maybe that is why this one is sticking with me a little more than most)... but I took a phone call from a father who discovered his five month old son not breathing, blue, and cold to the touch just seconds before calling.

(Thankfully) Very few people have to ever hear (let alone have to function, and function to the degree that is expected of me while dealing with) the raw human emotion of such a situation... It literary takes your breath away. (Linda (another 911 dispatcher, and regular here on FOF) may be able to empathize with me a bit here...)

I will let you imagine how very upset he was. (But, don't try too hard.. It's a dark, ugly, hurtful place..)

I had trouble providing him the assistance I would normally provide someone in his circumstance, as he had hung up on me. I called him back wanting to provide him some "pre-arrival medical assistance". When I did, he could hardly talk to me. His voice was a mixture of tears, hyperventilation, and gagging. He was wrought with emotion. I did the best I could for him, but had to move on to the next call.

Sometimes you don't have the opportunity to be able to reflect / cope / adjust / or even transition from something as traumatic as this to the next call. You just (emotionlessly) answer the next phone call like nothing happened.

Forty-one minutes later, the "time of death" was announced on the radio for us to "officially log", and then all the regular notifications that needed to be made were started.

Several minutes after all the required steps were taken, and things started to calm down a bit, I started to reflect on the past hour... The call... The family... The father I talked to... The baby that would not have a opportunity to become a boy, or grow into a man, and then.... the conversation we had prior.... the one about our "regular customer"... and I got pretty upset... I questioned why such a person (who has victimized literary HUNDREDS of people) continues his existence, while this innocent baby passes away.

It's times like these that make my job oh-so-not-worth-it.

I know it's wrong, but I do not know how to not question God on this. I struggle with not passing judgment on my fellow man. My faith has be believe that as a mere mortal, I am unable to grasp the whole picture, and that even though I do not see it, I am to have faith that God has a master plan for all of us. Yet, my mere mortal mind just cannot understand. So, in a vain attempt to cope... I keep trying...

Perhaps this may help clarify to anyone who does not understand why I would listen to the music of "Hatebreed" - just why I do, and what it means to me..

It is cathartic. As in, it brings me catharsis...
Catharsis - a sudden release of emotional tension after an overwhelmingly vicarious experience, resulting in the purging or purification of the emotions.
Let me explain through the use of lyrics to Perseverance...
Perseverance - Continuing in a course of action without regard to discouragement, opposition or previous failure - a persistent determination to adhere to a plan of direction; insistence
BOLD - Lyrics
(Italics - In Parenthesis) - My commentary on what this song or lyric means to me)

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(Links to YouTube Video)

I know your fear of loss
(I deal with "loss" every single day... Even the loss of a child (a fear of mine))
And your struggles with faith
(God, can you please help me understand why you would allow this travesty to occur??)
And how it takes everything that you have to face the day
(Just try and deal with this level of emotions - day in and day out....)
The virtues you possess now bring you eternal pain
(I have learned how to shut my emotions down. Imagine yourself with the "virtue" of being able to show no emotions...)
All you have is contempt for a life you can't obtain
(A life where dirtbag criminals take the place of undeserving innocent babies...)
All your heroes have failed you
(Police, Fire and EMS were unable to bring this baby back...)
Yet you try and prevail
(I'm still here... Hoping the next "baby not breathing" call will end differently...)
Face your torment and dismantle your doubt
(That is what I do to be able to continue doing this job. I face my torment, and I dismantle my doubts)
Refuse this legacy of shame and deceit
(Well, ok.. Not every line has meaning... I DO NOT live with a legacy of same and deceit)
Cause the only real truth in your life that you know is hostility
(Again, a line I am unable to find true applicable meaning for given the situation)

REFRAIN:

Perseverance
(That is what I do... I persevere)
Against all opposition
(I persevere against all the things that try to keep me from doing so... Like emotions)
Crushing all limitations
(I cannot allow limitations... Limits on my coping skills will limit my ability to handle this level of stress)
Pure strength through solitude
(Not many can (or would) do what I do. Few understand what it is like. I deal with this quietly, often alone in my own solitude.)
Discipline and determination
(I deal with the stresses though discipline... Learning to control my emotions - and determination - determination to not let this job eat me alive... Determination to continue to help those in need - even at my own costs.)

- - - - - - - - - -

Hence.... Perseverance Through Catharsis.

I am not sure how healthy this coping method is... But it works (99.9% of the time).
I am (usually) able to get past that what tries to bring me down (emotionally).
Tonight, on the way home, you can expect to hear Hatebreed through my car stereo. Then in complete contrast, #3 of 5 and I will be attending a live musical event. I'll talk more about that later.. I do not wish to "taint" that experience with the ugliness of this event. My hopes is that tonight's more melodic content will also help provide a different sort of catharsis.

Now that I have upset everyone, and taken them into the sometimes dark and frightening aspects of my life, I'll get back to my regular schedule of "strength through solitude", and return FOF back to it's normal family oriented , and lighthearted subject matter... Because Humor is another favorite form of catharsis for me!

Thanks again everyone. Thank you for allowing me to "Persevere through Catharsis" via this blog post....

3 comments:

  1. This post is everything I have tried to put into words when people used to ask me, "What's the best and worse part of your job?" FOF - There is no way to explain what things happen the way they do, it is a way of life that is way above our heads and totally out of our control. I have felt these same emotions time and time again. Small children, toddlers and infants are the HARDEST calls to take, I don't care what anyone else says. If I know you like I know you, you WILL preserve and move on because that's you. Don't forget, it's okay to be affected by these things, you are human. Thank you for your hard work and dedication to this sometimes terrible job!

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  2. Author Michael Perry in his book "Population: 485" describes the dispatcher's job as a lot like being a football coach stuck inside a windowless room, trying to call plays into a game that he cannot see, based on phone calls from agitated fans. I thought of you when I read that.

    Thank you for caring enough about your neighbors to serve them in this capacity.

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  3. lisa bonnie morgan6/5/08, 8:50 PM

    Honey, as much as we like to connect things. Sometimes they just happen. God (even your god)doesn't call the good ones home or punish the evil ones with suffering and death. Good people die, good people live. Bad people die and bad people live. They aren't swapped one for the other. This life (whether or not it is ruled by a benevolent creator) doesn't have to make sense.

    You are a good man. You do important work. You help everyone the very best you can when they need you. Even the bad ones. You hold their hands through the scary and horrible things they're calling about. That is the good you do, whether you can save a life or not. And it's so, so worth your time. Thanks for doing it.

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