As a firefighter I always enjoyed learning from the people that had been on the job for a number of years and had gained knowledge from their own experiences. During the training you could ask questions or you might even ask them to provide you with an example of what they were talking about and the more experienced firefighters could typically answer your question with ease.
When it comes to dealing with mental health I feel I would much rather listen to someone who has been in the darkness verses a person who read about mental illness in a college class they took. I feel that life experiences will provide much more solid advice. Over the past few years I have listened to countless hours of podcasts dealing with mental health and the agriculture industry. It is a pretty common occurrence to hear people say farmers only want to talk to farmers, the general consensus is that farmers feel only another farmer can understand what they are going through. I personally do not agree with that assessment. I could be completely wrong, I mean I often question things my wife tells me and I am going to assume I don’t really need to go into great detail about how far that gets me, right?
So let me explain my observations from my own personal experience before you throw me to the wolves, I want to pass down a little food for thought for you to digest. Last week I was very hard to live with, I had such bad anxiety over something so stupid, yet I let it control me and it made me a hard person to be around, it really was hard for my wife, she did not know what was going on, but she knew something wasn’t right. She never asked me what the problem was and I was too stubborn to reach out for help. About half way through my episode I had made a post on twitter about how I hate the days when mental health can flare up at unexpected times, much the same as an auto-immune disease can. Three or four people reached out to me with some kind words of encouragement, and those words became the light at the end of the tunnel, it was enough to bring me out of this slump. None of those people were firefighters, they were all farmers.
So looking back at last week I thought to myself it wasn’t people that understood firefighting that helped me, it was people from a different walk of life that bailed me out. Maybe helping one another actually has nothing to do with our professions, maybe it’s just that we are all humans, we all feel and hurt and suffer the same no matter what we do for a living. Personally it is easier for me to talk to a complete stranger about my anxiety than it is to tell my wife and family or fellow firefighters, but why is that? According to what I have learned over the past couple of years I should find it easier to talk to a firefighter than a farmer because a firefighter should understand my life more than a farmer would. Maybe it’s just because by nature farmers are naturally caring people, they care for the land, they care for the animals and they care about you and me, but then again firefighters by nature of caring people as well, they care for the sick and injured on a daily basis. I really don’t have any good answers for why, but if you are hurting and not comfortable with talking to someone of the same trade, maybe focus more on finding someone who has been in the darkness and less on what it is they do for a living.
In closing one of my dear farmer friends asked me why I didn’t reach out, I told him I hate feeling like a burden, it’s in a firefighters blood to want to help others, not be the person who needs help, his advice was STOP FEELING LIKE YOU ARE A BURDEN……and reach out next time this happens!! Don’t waste an entire week of your life trying to fix this yourself, ask for some help, it’s what we are all here for no matter what our professions are, we are all here to help one another. I learned I need to practice what I preach, next time I have doubt I need to reach out, and if you think someone is struggling, it’s okay to ask that person if they need to talk or need help, its amazing what a few kind words can do to a soul, a few words may be all a person needs to get back on track.