I think the absolute most rewarding part of writing this book has been the ability to reach out to people on a personal level and put my ability to minister to the test (unintentional consequence of the book, but maybe God sees something that I need to explore). This one in particular has absolutely floored me. We have a very similar history in the locations that we worked, but our paths never crossed. She feels damaged, bullied, lost, and is looking for something greater. She has not been afraid to take a break when things got tough, but then what was the price of that? To be chastised and made uncomfortable by the employer? She has pulled so hard on my heart strings, and she has challenged me to reach deeper and minister to her in a way that connects to her, music. I told her she was not allowed to message me again until she heard the song “Truth be Told” by Matthew West. When she responded, this is what I received (used with permission, edited to remain anonymous):
“Thank you so much. I needed to hear that even though I cried. The message is so powerful. I wish I could find a church that embraces that. Every church I’ve ever been to has been about keeping appearances up and keeping up with the Jones. It’s why I’m so disenchanted by organized religion. I feel spiritually broken and have been for a long time. I believe in Jesus but I haven’t connected with him and God in a very long time. That’s the truth. I feel incomplete and often lonely. Over the years I’ve turned to men to try to fill that hole I thought was from being single. I’ve allowed men to use me for money and sex just to try to feel close to someone and feel accepted and loved, and it always leaves me feeling more empty inside. I’ve tried using my career to fill that emptiness and let my professional success and acceptance in the workplace fill that void for me. That works until things go wrong professionally and then I’m back to feeling empty and lost. Things going wrong at work and workplace bullying have preceded both of my residential psychiatric stays in the past two years. I don’t know what to do to feel whole again. Maybe going back and giving church another try would help. Perhaps finding a local celebrate recovery would help to find Christians that also struggle with chronic mental health issues.
I grew up with an emotionally abusive alcoholic father and co-dependent mother and I don’t know if I even know what a normal relationship looks like. I was molested as a child and I’ve been sexually assaulted as an adult. I’ve always felt like damaged goods. I was abused by other kids and bullied all throughout school and told I was ugly and fat. The boys in school used to bark at me like a dog. I had a teacher in elementary school that would make the boys sit with me as punishment if they misbehaved. I was in a constant state of worry and panic as a child due to undiagnosed OCD from age 4-14. I can’t begin to describe the mental anguish of always feeling like you or a loved one will die if you don’t perform compulsive tasks over and over again. Then the depression hit at age 14 and in college my dad’s drinking escalated. My first EMS chief was my only stable father figure through most of college. In EMS I’ve always felt like part of a family and part of something greater. The adrenaline has been the only thing I can feel at times when I can’t feel my emotions. This bullying in the EMS workplace I’ve experienced at two different organizations now hurts really badly. When you aren’t accepted as part of that team, where else do you belong? When your family is so frustrated by your chronic depression that they distance from you, who is left?
Seeing a local school teacher and coach my age, struggling with the same depression I was, hang herself on a call preceded the 2nd inpatient psych stay. Back then, I had nightmares that I was the one hanging in her basement. I couldn’t tell my employer because they found out about the 1st psych stay and were already shunning me. How could I tell them I was having nightmares after a call.”
How can a provider struggling with the emotions of this line of work be left out to dry? Chiefs, take care of your people. Here is a provider whose life could be changed with just some simple kindness. Instead, she is completely ostracized by her coworkers through her employer. I’ve met a lot of managers in my life and it was made clear to me how important they are, but I’ve also met more leaders who have made it clear how important I am.
Somebody else I know suffered a whole lot of persecution. No matter how hard he loved and no matter how many lives he reached out to change, the only thing he got in return was hate. Imagine what that must be like to love until it physically hurts and not receive that kind of love back. It’s hard to imagine until you look at the cross. Jesus saved us from worldly death. If you want His love, all you have to do is ask and accept Him. It’s that easy. His plan for us isn’t always easy. He chooses very interesting people to do his work. If you don’t think you are worthy of a relationship with God, just remember. Noah’s Ark was built by a faithful amateur. The Titanic was built by professionals.