I have been a police officer for 23 years, during that time I’ve witnessed and experienced a lot of traumatic incidents. As with many emergency services personnel I was able to separate my personal life from my work life, I felt I could rationalise what I had seen in a shift as long as my home life was stable and I was not directly involved.
However, this all changed in 2016 when my wife suffered a catastrophic brain injury after being involved in a near fatal vehicle collision. Life becomes very real when a Dr tells you, “There’s nothing we can do for her, would you like to say goodbye”?
I remember my whole mind just shut down and auto pilot kicked in, I lived hour by hour watching my wife fighting to hold on to life in a coma. I was by her side when her body shut down and she nearly lost the battle, I watched her vital signs flatten and then stop.
The blur of watching medical staff fighting to bring her back to life has always stayed with me. Finally after weeks in a coma she suddenly woke up, Beyond everything I could have hoped for she survived. Rehab was a long road and a hard struggle but the alternative doesn’t bear thinking about.
The support I got from my colleagues and supervisors at the time was fantastic and it really highlighted the power of peer support to me.
When life started to return to normal I began to struggle with the trauma. I made the difficult decision to accept some counselling but it didn’t work, it actually barely scratched the surface. I didn’t know what else to do so I just buried the effects and experiences deep at the back of my mind, I tried to get on with life and work but it was always there in the background.
I came to Surfwell as a participant in 2021, I had come as part of a team day that was being run for my department, I didn’t really think I would get a huge amount from the day but in a conversation with my instructor I decided to relay my story. I told her information and feelings I hadn’t told another person, not even my wife, almost immediately she said “We need to deal with this if you are happy to let me help”.
There was no hesitation from her, there was no “ YOU” it was all “ WE” and I felt a level of supporting empathy I hadn’t had for a long time. Thanks to Surfwell I got the professional help I needed through the program without fuss or rigmarole and now find myself in a much better place.
I think that if the Surfwell program had been available back in 2016 I would’ve embraced it, it would have sped up my recovery tremendously from years to months. The instructors speak from a position of experience and have been to the dark places your mind takes you. It shows you aren’t alone and that help is available.
Sometimes asking for help is one of the most difficult things to do, but if a participant embraces the process the Surfwell instructors will guide a person on the road to recovery.
I joined Surfwell as an instructor in 2022 and I am really proud to be able to put all of my life experiences to such good use helping my friends and colleagues in the emergency services.
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