Transcription of Episode 2
Melissa Martin: Thanks for tuning in to another episode of Addiction Unscripted, brought to you by Trafalgar Addiction Treatment Centres, virtual intensive mental health and addictions outpatient treatment program, residential treatment in the comfort of your own residence. Here at Addiction Unscripted, we’re having candid conversations on all things addiction, rehab and mental health. And I’m your host and mental health counselor, Melissa Martin. Today’s podcast does come with a trigger warning for graphic content. We will be talking about trauma, violence and suicide in our conversation. And some may find it disturbing or upsetting. So now maybe the time for you to stop listening. If you’re unsure, if you want to continue. I have put the entire transcript of today’s podcast on our website so you can scan this over by going to www.trafalgarreseidence.com/podcast and look for episode two. For a number of reasons we rarely get an inside glimpse or details of the experiences of the people whose job it is to protect us every day. So many first responders are routinely exposed to varying degrees of trauma. And what they are seeing and feeling doesn’t just go away when they take their uniforms off at the end of the day, in 2017, a study done by the Ruderman Family Foundation found that firefighters and police officers are five times higher than the general public to develop PTSD and depression.
And more firefighters and police officers died by suicide than in the line of duty. Many experience major depression, panic and anxiety disorders and substance abuse and addictions, which are having devastating effects on them as well as everyone around them. And many suffer in silence. So what does PTSD look like? How does that affect someone’s thinking or mood? For someone who has been diagnosed with PTSD, how is the view of their world altered? My guest today is here to help us understand just that. Sergeant Tammy Morden has served the Niagara Regional Police Service for nearly 30 years. Her postings have included uniformed patrol, the traffic unit, fraud investigations, the training unit with use of force and executive services. In her current role, she was recently awarded the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Award. A part of her healing and in hopes of helping others see that they are not alone, Tammy is here sharing her no holds barred experiences, which led to a PTSD diagnosis and how it’s affected her life. And not only is Tammy a first responder, she’s a woman I personally admire and respect and she’s also one of my dearest friends. And I might add we were able to make it through without any shenanigans.
Tammy Morden: Hi.
Melissa Martin: So, I am lucky to be here talking to my friend Tammy.
Tammy Morden: Am I close enough to the mic?
Melissa Martin: You’re close enough to the mic.
Tammy Morden: All right.
Melissa Martin: And Tammy, what do you do?
Tammy Morden: So I am a sergeant with the Niagara regional police. I am the sergeant in charge of policy and risk management. And I hold the diversity, equity and inclusion portfolio for the Niagara regional police.
Melissa Martin: That is a mouthful.
Tammy Morden: It is a mouthful.
Melissa Martin: And you’re getting ready to retire
Tammy Morden: In a little over eight months. Yeah, it’s pretty exciting that makes 30 years. That’ll be my 30 years. And I’m going to get out of Dodge. Yeah, so it’ll be good.
Melissa Martin: It’ll be good. So you’ve seen a couple things in your line of work?
Tammy Morden: Yeah. So I think we kind of we said we would talk a little bit about the PTSD thing.
Melissa Martin: Mm-hmm.
Tammy Morden: So, that all came about I guess two and a half years ago. Three years ago?
Melissa Martin: Close to three.
Tammy Morden: Close to three, the quote on quote the precipitating event, all these fancy terms. Right. The precipitating event happened almost three years ago. But, you know, there was, a 29-year lead-up or 28-year lead-up to that. And some of my own personal history leading up to that as well. So I have a diagnosis of moderate to severe complex PTSD, which my understanding means that it wasn’t an acute one-off incident. It wasn’t one thing that set it off. It was an accumulation of things that caused it to happen. So any one of the things that I’ve seen or done or experienced in and of themselves would not have caused this. But the accumulation is, you know, like the proverbial straw on a camel’s back. Right.
Melissa Martin: So over time.
Tammy Morden: Right, so a little history. I spent most of my time in the service with a uniform. I’m not in uniform now, but most of the time I spent in uniform either on the road, in traffic. I did five years in training, so I taught firearms and defensive tactics for five years. I’ve worked in undercover capacities. In different formats and done all sorts of really interesting things. I have moved around the region. So one of the great things about this job is they call it the greatest show on Earth because you really get to see a little bit of everything and you get to go places that most people don’t get to go. You know, I can talk about looking for a bomb. For a bomb call down at the Rainbow Bridge. And I got to crawl down through one of the manhole covers on the bridge and walk the catwalk underneath the bridge, checking to see if there were any unusual packages or anything like that. And I met the American contingent halfway out and said, hey, dude, and turned around and walk back again. And that was really neat. And there are things like I said, there’s you know, you get to go places and see things that most other people don’t. The downside is that you go places and see things that other people don’t like.
Melissa Martin: And there are a lot of things that nobody talks about because how can you sometimes?
Tammy Morden: I think sometimes we talk about them and we’re very cavalier about them, you know, and it’s a coping mechanism. You know, you’ll hear, you know, and I’ve certainly been guilty of it. That morbid sense of humor. And humor comes out at inappropriate times. You know, you’re at something that’s a terrible, terrible scene. And, you know, somebody will crack a joke about something. And it’s not because we are disrespectful or we’re trying to downplay or minimize the impact of this horrific event. But we have to cope somehow. And I think sometimes that inappropriate humor just takes a little bit of the edge off because it hurts, you know, and it hurts to see somebody, especially a child or somebody, hurt or dead in a car or somebody that, you know, isn’t going to make it. You’re watching their last moments and those are hard because you feel helpless. And that really was, in the end, was I believe is what really got to me was that helpless feeling like I just couldn’t get there in time.
So I guess we go back a couple of years. I’ll talk a little bit about the precipitating event, which was the suicide of a friend of mine. So my sister-in-law had died not long before that of something else. And so there was some trauma in the family and a close friend of mine committed suicide. And the way that she committed suicide was that she did it in a way that almost ensured that we would find her. So her and her husband had separated. My boyfriend and I were trying to help both of them work through this. Her estranged husband was over for dinner and she sent him messages. And I looked at the messages and went, oh, that doesn’t sound right. We should go check on her. And so when we got to the house, you know, the cop kicks in, right. So I go in and I’ve been at a lot of calls where people are at their wits end. And, you know, if they haven’t been successful, then they’re angry. And I didn’t want anybody else to get hurt. So I went in first. And not only that, but if she was successful, then they don’t need to see that either. So I went in, sort of cleared the house. And as I’m clearing the house, we didn’t think she was home and I thought maybe she’d gone somewhere else. It turned out she was upstairs and I found her. But in the meantime, as I’m clearing the house to try and find her, you know, I’m thinking of all the other things I’ve got to do, all the checks, you know, boxes I got to check off to make sure that we do what we’re supposed to do when we call the the the local police because I was outside of my jurisdiction at the time.
So I found her did CPR on her for a little while. We were close. We were really close. I know one of my other friends got a message from her while we were en route to the house. So we missed her by minutes. So did CPR on her. And when the fire department came in and the ambulance came in and they hooked her up, you know, they hooked her up. I knew I was doing the CPR. Right, because I could see the blip on the screen, you know, I could see the blip, you know, with a heart where the heart blips. I could see it on the screen every time I did a compression. But she wasn’t coming back. So the next few days were a blur of trying to help with funeral arrangements and stuff like that. And her estranged husband was just devastated and stayed at our house. And I can’t tell you how many times I stood outside the door, the bedroom door, listening to him snore because he snores a little bit, listening to him snore, because if he’s snoring, then he hasn’t done something himself, because my fear was that he would. I was afraid that he was going to kill himself as well. So honestly, not by far, not the worst call I’ve ever been to.
Melissa Martin: Hmm.
Tammy Morden: The difference is, it’s not a call.
Melissa Martin: No.
Tammy Morden: Right. This is a friend. But, you know, in my head, this is not the worst call I’ve ever been to. It’s just another day. And, you know, it’s sad and it’s tragic and it’s, you know, it’s horrible. But, you know, you carry on. And then I started having nightmares. So I’ve always had nightmares, but they got really bad. And I would wake up crying or screaming. At one point I said to my boyfriend, I said it’s just nightmares. You know, everybody has nightmares. And he goes, No, not everybody has nightmares. OK, well, lots of people have nightmares. So, but these ones were like I was flailing, you know, crying and, screaming for somebody to stop, don’t do it, you know, like that kind of thing or get out of my way, stuff like that. And then I stopped sleeping. I was afraid to go to sleep.
Melissa Martin: Were you remembering your nightmares at that point?
Tammy Morden: Some. Yeah, like a lot of them were. You know, these dreams you hear people talk about where they’re running down a hall and as you’re running down the hall, the hall gets longer. Well, it was kind of like that. Only what I was reliving was I was reliving all the calls that I’d been to where I just couldn’t get there in time. I was reliving a call where a four-year-old girl had strangled on a purse cord coming down from a bunk bed. Because I police in a fairly small community. I knew her like I grew up with her parents. So I knew her. And I went to her post-mortem in Hamilton to make sure she was treated respectfully. And they were, I mean, they’re consummate professionals when they do these postmortems but, you know, it was hard to watch. So I relived that trying to get to a call, knowing that somebody was teetering on the edge, you know, only to find them already jumped. So they’re already on the ground. Car crashes where I’m trying to hold somebody together waiting for the ambulance to get there. And they aren’t getting there fast enough. A guy who got hit by a forklift, his head got hit by a forklift. And I remember looking at him and he was talking. And when I got there, he was talking and he was lying on the ground. And we’re just trying to keep him still waiting for the ambulance to get there. And he’s talking and he’s starting to slur his words. And I’m like, oh man, just stay with me. Just stay with me. So those are the kinds of things that I started reliving. And funny enough, nothing to do with this friend of mine who committed suicide. Not one of them had to do with her.
Melissa Martin: But it was a similar theme that triggered.
Tammy Morden: It was a lot of stuff. It was a lot of I can’t get there in time.
Melissa Martin: Can’t get there in time.
Tammy Morden: So anyway, then I was sitting in the office, I went to work, so I was going into work. I was maintaining ish, and it was right around Christmas time. So its lead up to Christmas, you know, we’re having Christmas parties and whatnot, and they had a Christmas luncheon.
Melissa Martin: And this particular incident had happened in November?
Tammy Morden: Yes in November. And so it’s the end of November, beginning December. And we’re having a Christmas luncheon because they had one earlier that year. Everybody was supposed to bring an ugly Christmas sweater. And I forgot. And one of the other women in my office that I don’t always get along with all that well. I usually, you know, I’m able to sort of maintain a semblance of some sort of control there. But she came in giving me grief about not being festive, not wearing a sweater. And I remember holding onto my desk because I thought if I get up from my desk, I’m going to hurt her. And I can remember I had these graphic images of knocking her to the ground and punching her teeth into the back of her throat. Really, really graphic. And most people who know me know I’m fairly passive, like not passive. I wont say passive because I’m a cop. Good God. But –
Melissa Martin: I see sweet and gentle.
Tammy Morden: You know, I’m not sweet and gentle, but you know, like, I do have a level of patience. Right. And self-control, you know, and that may not have been necessarily true, you know, in the first few years of my job, being on the job. But it develops fairly quickly. Over time, you find out that it’s much easier to talk your way out of a fight. It’s much easier on your body to talk your way into getting somebody to do what you want them to do.
So really, like if I close my eyes, I can see it graphic. I’d also had issues with it because I stopped being able to play the radio on the way to work because I would get emotional with the music that was playing. Some stupid song would come on and I’d get all like emotional. It didn’t matter like Thrasher music would get me emotional, right? Like I mean, I tried all sorts of things. Right. And then like, you know I was getting Nazareth’s was, you know, was making me cry right like Hair of the Dog was making me cry. And then somebody would do something like, tailgate me because they were in a rush to get to Tim Hortons. And I would have to literally pull off to the side of the road and shut it off and let it go, because I could picture myself pulling them out of their car.
Melissa Martin: Wow.
Tammy Morden: And just pummeling them and really, really graphically. And that’s not me, right? That is just not me. I have much more self-control than that. I won’t say I don’t imagine it from time to time. But I have much more control over that. And I felt like I was losing that control.
Melissa Martin: So did you you recognize that when you started looking at it differently?
Tammy Morden: And so one of the things I did fairly early on was when this girl came into my office and give me grief, she walked out. I’m holding on to my desk still. And one of the other women who I work with, she came in and she’s our wellness person. And she looked at me and she said, Are you OK? No, really, I’m not. No, really, I’m not, I’m not OK. And I really I’m really not OK. And I think I need to do something about this because I’m scaring myself. Now, that said, I mean, so I never, I almost never had thoughts of self-harm, but I didn’t have any serious self-harm thoughts. But it was more I was losing my temper with my children. And at one point my son turned to me and I was angry and I yelled at him and he said, Mom, you’re scaring me. I had to take a couple of steps back. I never would want to scare my children. And I was scaring him. So I mean, they’re good with it. We’ve had long discussions, me and my kids, about what I’m going through, what it means and what it feels like and stuff. And as they get older, we come back and we have another discussion because they’re more capable of understanding what that means. And so anyway, I went to see my family doctor because I needed to sleep. I was not sleeping.
Melissa Martin: So up until That point, what were you doing to cope?
Tammy Morden: Bottling it up, stomping on it? Yeah. I don’t let myself drink to get rid of things, I’ll drink to have fun and occasionally drink to excess, but I will not allow myself to drink to get rid of something. I think that’s a really slippery slope and a bad way to go. I’ve seen too many people go that way. No drugs, no nothing. But I did go to my family doctor and try to get a sleep aid. So when this happened, it happened fairly quickly. Like we’re talking within a two or three week period. I slid really hard, really fast. The other part was that I had just gotten into the job I’m currently in, which is an office job. So I was off the road. I was in an office job. I knew at that point that I had three years to go to retire. I’ve always said I’ll put my 30 years in and then I’m done. I love my job, love what we do. It’s been really great for me, but I’m going to retire when I’m young and able to do all sorts of things with it. So I’ve always known what my retirement date was. So I went to see my family doctor and she said, I’ll give you a referral right to the local health system. And I said, OK. And then she gave me a prescription for a really mild anti-anxiety because this point I had had my first panic attack. And so I was talking about panic attacks and not sleeping and stuff. So she gave me a very mild antianxiety medication and then I went ahead with that. So I really don’t like taking, like I don’t like taking medication. I don’t like the idea of being dependent on something like that. So luckily at work, we have a group that we can go speak to. So I got in to see a therapist within, Once I said I was having issues I think I was in within a week, week and a half.
Melissa Martin: Do they supply someone through like in office or is that through employee assistance?
Tammy Morden: We have employee assistance. But because it was I think we were already looking at like when I went to see the therapist for the first time, she asked me why I was there and I said because I think I have PTSD. And she said, well, why would you say that? And I said, Well, because I was in the training unit and I taught this stuff like I taught this crap. And they’re all the classic signs of this. So I just need to deal with it so I can get back to work. So can we move this along right.
Melissa Martin: Interesting.
Tammy Morden: And she went, oh, OK. And they did some testing and came back with this diagnosis. And then it was funny because we went to sit down and, you know, I kind of really mechanically went through what had happened and stuff. But I think I was three or four months into therapy before I actually, like, got weepy in her office. I never actually cried, but I got weepy. And when I got weepy, she says, now we’re getting somewhere. But, you know, I could cry on my own and my poor boyfriend.
I mean, my goodness, I think his poor shoulder was soaking wet from time to time. But, you know, I was really fortunate I got into to have some therapy. So I did a lot of talk therapy. And then more recently, we’ve been talking about EMDR, eye movement desensitization. I haven’t got to that yet. You have to I think for EMDR, there has to be something that you’re focused on overcoming. And I have a hard time figuring out what that thing is. I get anxious and I get, you know, and especially if I’m trying to multitask, if I’m trying to do too many things, too many complex things at once, I get really easily overwhelmed. That was one of the most frustrating parts of this whole process, was the cognitive impact it took. I started reading again about three weeks ago, but I would read a book a night like from the time that I could start reading when I was a kid, I read voraciously. I have about 400 first edition hardcovers.
Melissa Martin: There’s a floor to ceiling, almost bookcase filled with books.
Tammy Morden: And I love books and I stopped reading. I couldn’t focus like I’d get through a paragraph and not be able to remember the beginning of the paragraph. And I stopped reading. And it’s that kind of and not being able to hold two tasks together at the same time. So I could do one thing as long as I could focus on it. And I still have issues with that. Sometimes, you know, I find it here at home. When you were coming over today, we were prepping some stuff and my boyfriend was like, OK, so we got to do this. Oh, and we got to do that. So I would start on on the this and then he said, oh, we got to do that. And then I would turn to start that, but this wasn’t done. And then he’d say, Oh and don’t forget we got it. And then all of a sudden I’m losing my mind because that’s too many things.
Melissa Martin: So you get overwhelmed very easily?
Tammy Morden: Very easily, and I used to be able to juggle, I used to be able to juggle like crazy so that that was very frustrating. When I come back to get a therapist, I was very, very fortunate with that. I haven’t had the same luck getting into a psychiatrist. So I finally, after about six months of therapy, have said, you know, so maybe I need to find some medication that actually works for me because the medication that I got from my doctor really didn’t do what it was supposed to do. But I’m scared of it. And I don’t want to turn into a zombie. I don’t want to turn into a mumbly and I don’t want to be staring off into a corner, you know, drooling somewhere. And I respond really strongly to medication at the best of times. So if is not Tylenol or Advil, It just knocks me for a loop.
Melissa Martin: And in all fairness, when you get prescriptions and you take medication and it gets monitored, so you know, you don’t see a lot of people walking around drooling.
Tammy Morden: No, this is true. This is true. But I’m just like I mean and I’m not saying that my thought process is logical. I know it’s an emotional response. Right. I don’t want it. I don’t want to find out two months down the road that everybody at work was like, oh, Tammy’s on a new medication. Tammy’s got some new meds and she’s not altogether there.
Melissa Martin: But at the same time.
Tammy Morden: Oh, no, I know. And like I said what I’m sharing is not the reality. It’s my perception of what I do or don’t want to experience.
Melissa Martin: But it’s a really good example of taking what you’re experiencing and not to take away from your experiences and magnify it, because like especially in the last year, I think all of the first responders and suicides and PTSD and trauma. Do you find there’s a disconnect because you’re talking about just a couple things that you told me, and that’s probably just a small handful of what you’ve seen. You’ve been exposed to trauma over and over again on several different levels.
Tammy Morden: Right.
Melissa Martin: Where does that go? Because that’s burned into your brain. So what do you do with that?
Tammy Morden: So I always say that you know, my all that, all that crap, all that emotional, psychological crap, in my head is kind of like a storage room. And there’s stuff that you keep on. You know, it’s a storage room full of shelves. Right. And there’s stuff that you keep down in some corner somewhere because it’s old and dusty and, you know, everyone’s while you pull it out, you look at it and it’s, it’s kind of cool. Hey, that’s my third-grade teacher or hey, that was my first prom, you know, date, you know, like that kind of thing. They’re not unpleasant memories, but they’re old and you don’t look at them all the time. Yeah. There’s the stuff that’s on the shelves at eye level. And those are things that you put on display. And probably those boxes are clear because you want to see them, you refer to them all the time and stuff. And then there’s the stuff that’s up on the top shelf and that’s the stuff where that’s the icky stuff. And you’ve put it in a box. And sometimes the box is a little bit leaky and gross looking and smells funny. And you put the lid on it and every once in a while you take it down, you open it up and go ugh and then you quickly put the lid back on it and you and you stuff it up on the shelf again. And I think, you know, when when I had this issue when it sort of came to the forefront, what it felt like was that that room went through an earthquake and everything just got tossed everywhere. And now I’m having to put things back where they belong. Right. And some things will never go back where they belong. All that icky stuff has been spread all over the freaking room. That’s probably about as good as I can get.
Melissa Martin: That’s an amazing analogy.
Tammy Morden: So, that’s the image I have in my head. So which makes my head sound like a really weird dusty, but I was able to get into therapy about it. So this happened in November. I was in therapy by the beginning of December. In February, I got a phone call from the local health system saying, hey, we got your referral. We’d like you to come in, in February. And I went, Are you kidding me? So, you know, when you talk about first responders and stuff, so my PTSD is a WSIB, because I’m back to work and they I think they figure if you go back to work, you’re done, you’re good, and it’s all better now. And that’s not really the way it works. But because I was a first responder, I was able to get in to see help right away. If I hadn’t gotten in to see help if I’d had to wait. Until February, I can’t imagine how far down that road I would have gotten and how bad it would have gotten and how much my family would have suffered as a result of my work, if I’d lost my temper, would I’d be up on charges, would I got suspended. Would I be spending my last couple of years having legal issues? All because the health system is so overwhelmed. You know, it’s certainly come out lately with, you know, with the with all the stuff with George Floyd and Black Lives Matter. One of the other things that’s come up is, is this defund the police and the concept. And it is really, really wildly unpopular that hashtag is wildly unpopular in my workplace, as you can well imagine.
Melissa Martin: I can.
Tammy Morden: But, you know, the reality is it’s because we are trying we are going through stuff that the system is failing people. The system that we have, the psych system that we have right now is failing people or the people are not getting in to see somebody when they need it. And that’s when I got the phone call. They were offering me a spot in March. They had an opening in March four months. So if I was in crisis for four months and they said, you know, like, well, if it gets really bad, go to the hospital. I can tell you as a first responder, I’m unlikely to go to the hospital. You know, like we have sort of a system worked out. So, you know, we aren’t doing things to say. But like, if I went into crisis, it’s unlikely that I would have gone to the hospital. And I should and I shouldn’t say I wouldn’t, but I would really, really, really think hard about whether I want to go to the hospital or not, because normally I’m the person bringing people there and I’m going to have to go back there with people on the job to deal with, the medical staff, and the patients. So for one of the patients to see me in there and then for me to turn around and try and bring them there again next, you know, in two months.
Melissa Martin: It’s not going to happen.
Tammy Morden: Right. Yeah. So it’s difficult. So anyway, I just wanted to make sure that was one of the things that I brought up was it would have been four months before I even saw anybody.
Melissa Martin: Do you feel that’s changed at all since?
Tammy Morden: Not really. You know, if we’re looking at a system that that’s going to work, you know, it’s great for people who have coverage. It’s actually pretty decent for people who have coverage. But for people who don’t have coverage, the system sucks, the current system sucks. You know, so you’re disadvantaging people who are already disadvantaged. So I took six months off of work. And at the six-month mark, I went to my therapist and I said, I think I need to go back. And she says, I don’t think you’re ready. And I said, Oh, I think I’m ready. Well, I may not be ready, but I need to go back. And she said, why do you need to go back? I think I need to go back because I’m getting to the point where I don’t really want to.
Melissa Martin: Oh.
Tammy Morden: So when I first went off, I was like, okay, I’ll take a week, you know, maybe I’ll take a week, maybe two weeks, you know, and it took a while for me to settle into the idea that I needed to stay off until I got better. So they never had to officially take my gun away. That’s always one of the things that is such a fear.
Melissa Martin: It’s a fear, isn’t it?
Tammy Morden: It’s a huge fear. You know, when I retire, one of the things I’m going to do is I’m going to hand my gun in. Now, I don’t keep it at home. For the most part, it’s locked in my locker. It’s you know, I don’t wear it when I’m off duty. But it is part of that professional identity, for whatever reason. It’s a thing. And so when that gets taken away, it’s like they’re taking part of your professional identity away.
Melissa Martin: Now, I’ve heard stories and maybe I think I don’t know if this is a conversation we had before or if this was something at Trafalgar because we do a lot of work with first responders and PTSD. When someone goes on antidepressants, that is one of the boxes that gets checked for taking a gun away. Is that true? Is that always the case?
Tammy Morden: I would suggest that work would have to find out about that.
Melissa Martin: Oh.
Tammy Morden: But no, not necessarily so.
Melissa Martin: Because I had a problem with that.
Tammy Morden: Absolutely. And we do say go ahead, get help. I think if you have suicidal ideations. Right, if you have suicidal thoughts, if you are expressing a level of depression that has gone into that suicidal peace, the self-harm, peace or harming somebody else.
Melissa Martin: Right.
Tammy Morden: Then it would be in everybody’s best interest. For me not to have my gun.
Melissa Martin: Absolutely.
Tammy Morden: But I wasn’t having self-harm thoughts.
Melissa Martin: So you can’t make that a blanket decision if somebody is being treated for mental health, whether it’s medication or not.
Tammy Morden: Correct.
Melissa Martin: That they should have their gun taken away.
Tammy Morden: Right. We have a number of officers who have gone through it, come through it, through on anti-depressants or whatever, and they’re back at work. So my service has been really great. I got to tell you that my service hands down. There were no questions about when I indicated that I needed help, I got the help. When I said I needed time off, I got the time off. And when it turned out to be six months, I wasn’t getting hounded to come back. WSIB pushes a little bit. Once you start to come back, they want you back full-time pretty quickly. They want to return to work plan and they want it to have a finite schedule. My work itself, they were incredibly supportive. Like I said, nobody was hounding me, bothering me, you know, that kind of thing. I got calls from time to time from the woman, from wellness and stuff and from my boss just checking in. Hey, how’s it going? You need anything, you know, that kind of thing. So they’ve been great. Like, absolutely fantastic. No complaints there at all. You know, others, you know, I’ve heard other people say that they’ve had you know, they’ve been, given the gears or whatever. But my service seems to have sort of embraced the idea that they need to step up to the plate on this one. It doesn’t help that we’ve had a number of suicides in our service.
Melissa Martin: In your division.
Tammy Morden: In the service. So in Niagara and both with their own service pistols. Well, a friend of mine years ago now we’re talking almost twenty years ago, he swallowed his gun about twenty years ago. And then a guy that worked for me, he killed himself two years ago. So not long ago, I guess. But may I am not sure how long after I went off and I felt really bad because I just couldn’t bring myself to go to his funeral. I just couldn’t do it. I got dressed, I got ready and I just couldn’t do it. That’s hard to accept because he deserved better than that for me. But yeah, I think it’s all gets better. I look at it like I blew my knee out, so if I talk to people about it, I talk to people about my experience with PTSD and stuff, it’s not an acute thing. So we had a few people that have been involved in shootings where people have been shooting at them or they’ve been shot, or we had a couple of officers that tried to get into a house to rescue a lady who was with her son. He lit the house on fire, had it covered in gas in the house, just went poof up and basically exploded in fire. And they got caught in it and got burned really badly. And they both ended up with some significant PTSD. And that would be, I guess, acute like acute onset. Like it’s one horribly horrific traumatic incident that that sets it off. Mine was not like that.
Melissa Martin: Repeated over and over.
Tammy Morden: Yeah. And not necessarily aimed at me. Right. Like I wasn’t the injured party. I try to explain to people that there’s two different very distinct things. But I look at it like if I had blown my knee out. So if I physically hurt, like I blew my knee out and I did rehab and I come back and I could probably go back to work, you know, depending on the severity of the injury, I may or may not be able to go back to work. But if I come back to work, I can probably do all right. But I may not strap on a 50-pound rucksack and run up the stairs. Right. That may be more than what my knee can handle. And yet I could have done that before I blew my knee. And so it doesn’t make me any less. It just means that I have to work within what I’m capable of doing. And so I look at this the same way. It’s a psychological injury. And I just have to recognize that initially, they said, oh, you know, you get some help and you’ll be back to normal. Everything will be fine. That injury isn’t always going to be there, but I will develop coping mechanisms and so on to be able to help deal with that. And then, you know, every once in a while things will start to go sideways for me. And, you know, we talked earlier. I’ve been having nightmares again recently, this past week or so. And I think it’s because I’m on vacation. So when I first when it first happened, I said, you know, I said to my shrink, why now? This whole thing with my friend that killed herself, like not the most graphic, horrible thing I’ve ever seen. I’m not, you know, seeing people decapitated, like eviscerated and all sorts of crazy. Why now? And she said, you know, you’re getting close to retirement. You’ve just gone into an office job, so you’re not on the road anymore, she says. You took a breath, you stopped to breathe, and I think that’s some of it is that you hold your breath. So at this point, I know my retirement date is only eight months away. And at this point, I’m impatient. I want to get there. And so you are kind of holding your breath in. And so I go on vacation and it’s like I breathe and all of a sudden everything piles in again because I let my guard down, because I stopped holding my breath. So I have to be conscious of that. I have to be aware of that on an ongoing basis. And, you know, I have to sort of make sure that I engage those coping mechanisms. So, I mean, I’ve been meditating every day this week. I meditated before you got here. My kids, you know, they say meditation, a.k.a. nap mom. Yes. Whatever you want to call it. But I mean, I think there’s a there’s a series of guided notations that I’ve hooked into and really enjoy. So they take me through, you know, breathing exercises and stuff like that. And yeah, at the end, sometimes I do fall asleep.
Melissa Martin: Yeah. It’s just an added bonus, just a true relaxation.
Tammy Morden: And I am totally sold on this whole siesta thing. I think there are things that we can take from all sorts of different cultures and the siesta is one of them.
Melissa Martin: So if somebody whether a first responder or somebody else is going through what you went through and feeling some of the things that you went through and what you were talking about, what would you tell them? Biggest takeaway advice you could give to somebody?
Tammy Morden: Just admit that it’s happening. You really admit that it’s happening and that you may need help to find the way to deal with that, to give you the coping mechanisms to talk it out. An independent third party that can listen to you talk it out. Talking to yourself in the mirror is not the same. Talking it out inside your head is not the same. When you actually have to say the words to another person and saying it to your spouse or saying it to your parents or children or a close friend because you aren’t honest with those people.
Melissa Martin: No, and the other thing is that you can’t be and with talking to a counsellor or a therapist is when we disclose and talk about what’s inside of our head, some of it isn’t true. We’re telling ourselves things that and have a belief system. Sometimes that isn’t true.
Tammy Morden: Right.
Melissa Martin: And then we tell ourselves it’s exaggerated.
Tammy Morden: And a Counselor will help you pull that apart and help you look at what that really is. You know, and there are things that, there are things that are entirely true in a but I mean, there are things that, you know, I as much as my boyfriend is fantastic. Right. He’s a fantastic support, but I don’t want him with those things inside his head. He’s heard some of them. He was there the night friend took her life. He’s got some of it I can’t unload on him. I shouldn’t unload on him and expect him to take it away from me, because that’s not right either. Then we are both just damaged and that’s not good. So that independent third party who you can share everything in anything honestly with, because you’re right, we have our own internal monologue that we turn around and say this is the way it happened and I can turn around to my counsellor. I might say to somebody, to a friend like if I was talking to you as a friend makes it bigger than it is. Right. That makes it more exaggerated or I might minimize something. I might be very cavalier about something. Oh, you know, it was no big deal when in fact, it really was a big deal for me. And that’s because we have a relationship that I want to keep after him.
You know, with my therapist. I’m not saying that I won’t keep my therapist, but I can walk away from my therapist.
Melissa Martin: And there are no bad feelings. Right?
Tammy Morden: Right. No, it’s not. And I’m not going to have, you know, Christmas dinner with that person. I am not going to go shopping with that person. I’m not going to go drinking with that person. There’s no risk to that independent third party. And that I guess admitting that it’s an issue and talking to somebody that’s independent is huge. And if you don’t find that person the first time, keep looking. I had a therapist to start with and she was fantastic, got me back to work, got me through the first six months, got me back to work, everything, you know, and so on. But everything levelled. Right now. I’m giving some thought to moving to a new therapist just for that different perspective. And I guess I would liken that to, I had a surgeon for my surgery, for my knee, but then I go see a physiotherapist afterwards. I don’t go see the surgeon for the physiotherapy. You know, those are. Two different things. So, you know, and I’m not saying the doctor can’t it’s just saying that, I might decide to go to somebody different.
Melissa Martin: And every counsellor or therapist has a different approach, brings a different perspective. They bring the same professionalism, but a new perspective in a new way to look at the same thing.
Tammy Morden: Right. Right. And there’s also chemistry, right. There has to be a sense that you can work together because it is a partnership. So and you can’t you can’t just be partners with anybody. So sometimes you have to find the right partner to work through all that stuff with. So that’s about it. That’s where my PTSD journey sort of evolved.
Melissa Martin: And thank you for sharing. And we’ve been friends for how long. And I still can’t say what you do. What is your job title again?
Tammy Morden: So I am the sergeant in charge of policy and risk management. And I hold the diversity, equity and inclusion portfolio for the Niagara Regional Police. So we’re policy in risk management means that I deal with all the policies, all the written stuff on what we’re supposed to do and risk management means I deal with all the civil lawsuits my unit does.
Melissa Martin: Okay.
Tammy Morden: And then I personally hold the diversity, equity and inclusion portfolio, which means a little bit of everything to everybody. So we’re hoping to make it more. We’ll see what happens in the future. But it’s good. It’s community outreach, creating partnerships. And that’s to me, community partnerships, both internally and externally, so that either members of the public or members of the service who bring unique different perspectives and different cultures, different backgrounds, all sorts of different things can feel like and know that they belong at the table.
Melissa Martin: Very nice. And most importantly, I consider you one of my dearest friends, and I get to hug you.
Tammy Morden: You do.
Melissa Martin: Thank you.
Tammy Morden: You’re very welcome.
Melissa Martin: Tammy will be retiring April 30th of this year, 2021, and we wish her so much happiness, love and all the fun times life has in store for her, you definitely deserve it, Tammy. If you or someone you know needs help, please know you’re not alone. And there are some amazing people and organizations available to help, for lists of local and national resources. Please visit our website at First Responders until next time. This is Melissa Martin and you’ve been listening to Addiction Unscripted. For more information on the amazing programs, Trafalgar Addiction Treatment Centres has to offer. Please call 1-855-976-9760 or visit www.trafalgarresidence.com
Episode 1: Theo Fleury