What do you listen to when you are sad, upset, angry, want to be happy, want to “prep for the club”, want to stay motivated at the gym, want to make the moves on someone you like? Is one to believe that music can actually influence the outcome of our decisions? Well, I am not a scientist by any means, but I am here to share my story of how music influenced my emotions when I was already in a dark place. Please take note that I do not blame music for my actions whatsoever. I just want others to think about their environment when they start to struggle and some of the things that might influence our mental state such as drugs, alcohol, music, social life, and our own minds.
In this blog, I will not get into any details about the terrible environment that I faced during my childhood, because it would be a lot to hit, and not my focus on this blog. However, to get to the point in my blog, I just need to make the readers aware that your past trauma can impact your mental health in the future.
Let’s start with the “big trigger” shell we. On a beautiful June day, I was heading to the gym when my fire pager dispatched EMS and Law to a male with a gun at a roadside park/ poss. Suicide attempt. The call quickly turned into a confirm suicide. Now, I typically turn the pager off because to be honest we have suicide calls every day. On this day, I decided for whatever reason to continue to listen to the call play out. I did not end up going to the gym because friends wanted to meet up at a restaurant. Again, I always turn my pager off when going into a restaurant and or bar. Again, I decided to let the pager remain on and hold the pager up to my ear to listen to the communications as I drank and laughed with my friends.
Now, I can clearly hear that the officer on scene was stressed on the radio, and something was not normal for this call. The officer stated that dispatch can cancel EMS, due to it being an obvious DOA. Soon after that, the radio went dead once the channel was switched over to a private talk group.
It would not be until around 2200 that night that I would get the call from my Fire Captain that my Lieutenant committed suicide, and we need to come to the station that morning for debriefing. It was instant for me to put the two events together. I literally set at the bar with my friends, joked and laughed, as I listened to my Lieutenant’s radio traffic of some of his last moments. It was instant mind altering for me. Yes, I am fully aware that there was just no way for me to know that it was him, but I literally drove past the roadside park on my way to town. The days and nights that would follow would just be a blur to me. The funeral was horrible as I listened to a son do a howl of cry over his fathers’ body. A howl that echoed the entire church. I am positive that I was drunk every night for about a month afterwards. Yet, no matter how much I drank and or how many pills I took, I could not get the radio traffic and his sons cries out of my head. Then like a flame getting a fresh breath of air, my past trauma started to slowly replay in my head. I witnessed so much death at a young age, but it was engraved in me to move on with life because it was a normal event in the ghetto streets of Southern California. Fast forward to 25 years, and now I am facing death and have to relive the events. I went dark and turned into a careless person who did not care who I hurt. I cheated on the beautiful mother of my children because I simply did not care who I hurt. I was drinking and driving non – stop. I was screaming on the inside, but no one could here. Do not get me wrong, people surely could see on the outside, and attempted to help. But a person that is not willing to accept help, will not get help.
I am a father of three beautiful girls, and love them so much and would never want to leave them like my Lt. left his kids. Actually, I told myself that everyday after the event. I am here to tell you that when you allow yourself to get to such a dark place and feed it with other influences that once that trigger is pulled, the trigger is pulled. We know this is true with first responders, because the evidence is there. We are losing first responders on an increasing rate. First responders that are loving parents, role models, and real as
you and me.
I started to turn to music, whiskey, and pills to “ease” my thoughts. To be honest, it mostly worked when 3 am came around and I blacked out or went to bed. Who else loves to listen to the rain in their car? Just sit there with some music on low, beer in hand, and the loud calming sound of the rain hitting the car roof. I can remember the events leading up to my trigger like yesterday. I was listening to a very dark song by Linkin Park that is actually geared towards Chester’s friend committing suicide. I was drunk and my carry weapon was under my seat. I would consider myself well trained in firearms, so I always keep my carry weapon loaded and ready for a threat. On this rainy night, the threat was my own mind. Now, here is where my memory slightly goes blurry. I remember, thinking in my screwed-up head that I would never leave my kids the way that my brother left his. That was the last memory I have before I came to with my .40 cal. carry gun in my mouth, and my trigger finger completely engaged, with the trigger completely engaged. Yet, my head was still in one piece and I was alive. I opened my door and threw up on the wet ground. I was floored with what I just did. I gathered myself, wiped my face with my muddy hand, and got back in the car. I inspected my pistol, and there was nothing in the chamber. Something that I never do. It is always loaded. By this time, Kristin came out to the vehicle and escorted me back into the house. It would not be for weeks later before I worked up the courage to tell her the events that took place in the car, and for me to tell others. If you would have asked me how I thought I would die months after that event, I would have answered you honestly and told you “from suicide”. Because I was so afraid of what I did, and that it could happen to me again if I DID NOT SEEK HELP FOR MYSELF.
If you get anything from this long blog, please just be aware of your environment when you find your self in a dark place. Is that dark song good for you right now? Is letting a concerned friend take you out for a drink/drinks good for you? Is that pill good for you? Are you good for you right now?
Just some words from a Fire fighter, EMT, father, son, friend, fiancé, and person.