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Jeff's PTSD no longer defines him

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PTSD doesn’t define me. Ontario Shores was there when I needed it the most.

As a new volunteer firefighter in Ottawa, I was told that the demands of the job would change us for the rest of our lives.

The Chief said the same thing five years later, during his speech at my full-time professional graduation. I dismissed it both times as a warning until I, too, sought treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and its associated symptoms as a result of a survey sent to my fire department by a university researching PTSD; it was then that I realized it was me. I had frequently justified my mental state as just the way I was wired, never realizing the underlying cause. I could go on about self-medication and denial for hours. I could go on and on about the sudden, overwhelming despair and nightmares I've experienced, or I could discuss the harsh realities I've witnessed and how professional success and happiness usually stem from the pain of others.

All I really want to say is that if you think you're sick, you probably are. As first responders, we are naturally strong and caring individuals. That is why we chose this work. We take pride in remaining calm and cool in the most challenging moments. It's undeniably difficult for us. We are aware that our lives and health may be forever altered six minutes after the tones. We understand the stress and responsibilities that come with our job. We get sick, but we can recover and return to work healthy and happy. The scars are permanent, but they are only scars; they are no longer open wounds for me. I was able to seek help sooner because of Ontario Shores.

I am grateful to Ontario Shores' First Response Assist Program for providing me with the tools to deal with PTSD while living a meaningful life.

First Responder Assist was started with the help of Wounded Warriors Canada. It is a group of professionals who work together to meet the mental health needs of all public safety personnel and first responders in the province. They do this by providing prevention services, crisis support, and both individual and group therapy.

Having this program available to me and getting help from it have been very important to my recovery.

PTSD no longer defines me. Because of donors like you, when I needed them most, Ontario Shores was there.

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