Feb 22, 2009

I'm facing the truth, and getting the better of it (as I see it anyway)

I have been debating this post for a while now.

Should I put my feelings to words? Should I then post these words on the web for anyone to read? Should I open myself up in such a way that leaves nothing to hide? I have started and erased this post a dozen times now.

Finally, I have decided to open up about a few things. But first, there needs to be a bit of back story:

On December 2nd, 2007 I got my ass kicked. This isn't some metaphorical way to say I lost a card game. Nor did I take a beating in the stock market. I was assaulted by someone who was clearly not thinking straight and wanted nothing more than to hurt me.

I was training a new employee. Less than 10 minutes before this event took place I had been telling him how, in our profession, you have to be prepared to deal with anything from day 1 on the job. Many jobs start you off in a room with a computer and a training program. The idea is you can make mistakes that won't effect the company, and hopefully learn from these mistakes and not make them again. There is no real threat of any harm in this kind of training. In the type of training I do, there is a very real threat of harm from the moment you walk through the doors.
I heard a noise coming from the room next door and left my trainee to deal with the what he was already doing. I found two people involved in some sort of physical confrontation. Here I thought I knew what to do and how things would go down. I separated the two, and gave clear directions to both. Both followed my lead. I followed one, and when I was about to close him in his room I simply asked his name.

He began screaming at me, "You know my fucking name! Look it up yourself!" I was taken aback a little. Then realized he had a roommate. Figuring the guy was too hot to be locked in a room with a roommate, I ordered him out and to face the wall. My partner was joining me now. I directed the person to put his hands behind his back, which he did. My partner (I don't think I will refer to him as a trainee anymore since his future actions showed a far greater level of experience) had handcuffs out and was about to put them on this person.

What happened next was something of a blur. Our detainee turned on us. It happened so fast, and later accounts from witnesses say I was hit in the face and fell to my knees. I have absolutely no recollection of this initial hit. My partner was struck as well. Before I knew it, I was on my knees. I knew my partner was somewhere close by but I couldn't see him because I was being hit repeatedly on the back of my head and neck.

For anyone who is not sure of whats happening here, its an ass kicking. People, in the midst of some sort of critical incident, talk about how time slows. I don't think I ever really knew what that meant until this incident took place.

I was doing my best to defend myself, and look for a way to make some distance between me and my assailant. And during the course of this, the following things went through my mind (and it amazes me how, a year and a half later, these thoughts can be recalled so clearly):
  • I couldn't see my partner. I knew he had been hit, I knew he was bleeding, but given my current circumstances I was unable to look for him.
  • I remember thinking these exact words: When is this guy going to stop hitting me?
  • I heard my partner get on his radio and say these exact words: Code 3, top tier 529.
  • I remember thinking these exact words: Wow, for a new guy, that was an excellent code call.
All these thoughts probably happened in less than a second. I was reaching up above me with one hand to try and grab hold of the assailant and drag him to the ground. With my other hand I was doing my best to deflect the blows that I couldn't even see coming. As soon as my partner got out our distress call he jumped into the fight. Our assailant was taken to ground, directly over my head. Now he is on his stomach and I thought we might get the upper hand. He continued to fight though. My partner was struck repeated in the face and I was doing my best to avoid getting kicked in the face. Eventually our assailant was able to escape our grasp, and I saw my opportunity for a little bit of tactical space. I pushed him away from me, stood (and I'm not even sure how I was able to do this after the beating I had just taken) and drew my Taser.
The assailant turned again towards us and started to advance. I turned on the Taser and took aim, a LED light aimed at the center of his chest. The effect of the Taser LED is extremely effective. It seems most people, even those who are somewhat disturbed, fear an electric shock. The assailant, at my directions (which involved me yelling, cursing, and spitting because I was so mad) went to the ground, on his stomach, with his hands behind his back. We placed handcuffs on him, just as help was arriving.
The whole thing probably didn't take more than a couple minutes. But most people have never had someone attack them. I'm not talking about a little resistance, I'm talking about a full fledged attack. And he hit me hard. I had a hard time moving my neck for about 2 weeks, but physically I recovered.
Which brings me to the point of this post.
Its been nearly a year and a half since the incident. Physically I am fine, however, mentally I don't know that I am. I have experienced a growing sense of anxiety about my profession. I have started having what has been called panic attacks at the weirdest times. I have not been sleeping well and having nightmares. I started taking benedryl at night in order to help me sleep without waking 4 or 5 times.
Why am I spilling all this now? Partly because I'm tired of bottling it up. Partly because I know those who follow this posting habit of mine are people whom I trust and love. And partly because I need to put my feelings into some sort of words in order to overcome them.
About four weeks ago, I was so despondent about my situation I cried on my wife's shoulder, not able to take it any longer. So I ended up doing something I thought I would never do:
I'm seeing a shrink.
Doc, as I will call him, is what I would call a stereo-typical head doctor. He wears glasses, he has a mustache, he wears black turtle necks under sweaters and sport coats. And he talks with this odd sort of sound that says (in my head, anyway), "I'm a PhD, I'm very smart and you are lucky to have the benefit of my knowledge." Of course, he is actually fairly pleasant, if you can get past the quirkiness. But it has certainly been beneficial to talk in a "safe environment" and come to grips with these things.
A fellow blogger, who I have been religiously following since I found my voice here, recently posted about labels, and the importance of not letting a label rule you. Apparently, according to Doc, I have PTSD. I guess its not just for Vietnam vets, its for me too. He believes going to work where I do forces me to confront the "trigger" on a daily basis, and has brought me to where I am today.
So I am seeing a shrink. I suppose I should refer to him as a therapist, as shrink might seem somewhat derogatory. Its helpful. It takes a lot to admit that. Where I work you don't talk about these things. People might see it as weak. Or people don't want to talk about it, hoping it will never come to be. But the truth is I am seeing a shrink. I am working on my issues. And I'm going to be fine.
I have friends who support me, and as I said in an earlier post, I will never be able to truly express my appreciation for them. I have a wife who loves me. I hope I can manage to at least express how much I love her. And I have a shrink, err, therapist, who wants to help me.
(Now I am done expressing, as it can be a messy task)
I'm pretty sure there isn't much that can't be fixed with support like this.


  1. Adam, I have been there (under slightly different circumstances) and I can promise you that it gets better with good help and support of those that love you. We do.

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  3. Welcome to the club man! It takes a lot of strength to admit you need help and then to seek it out. Good for you! I hope you never encounter another such incident.

    I'm with Christy, I think this is a family trait and I think more suffer than will admit (even outside our family). Best of luck!

  4. Adam:

    I too have been there (also under different circumstances) and what your dad said is true.

    I'm suprised that your agency does not have a Peer Counseling program, which in most cases would have kicked in right after the initial incident. In the majority of cases this would have prevented what you are now going through.

    We love you,
    Uncle Stan

  5. I admire you and your willingness to be true to yourself. I'm so glad you already know that your happiness is worth clinging to even if you have to work at it sometimes.

    Know that you are loved Adam.

  6. It is important to get help and I applaud you for taking that step. Own it and never be ashamed. Your experience has changed your life and in return you will be better for it. I am glad you have a supporting, loving wife.

  7. If only we could all admit that we sometimes need help. It's never good to keep something bottled up inside. It only festers and takes a dark turn. Then it becomes something that can't be born alone. You're blessed to have such a wonderful wife. We can see the love and devotion that you have for each other. Cling to all the love, keep up your sessions with the "shrink", and don't let those "anxiety family genes" get you down.
    Keep us posted on how you're doing.
    You are loved,
    Aunt Karen

  8. Obviously, my friends and family are the correct forum. Thanks.

  9. I commend you on your will to overcome this. Many people, to often sit and wallow in self pitty and never take that extra effort to deal with situations that need that little extra umph. You are in fact now weak, but a stronger person for realizing you needed help. If you ever need anything our door is always open.

  10. I feel that just doing this post is already the first step to some how putting this behind you. That may be the wrong way to say it, but it is out there now, eveyone knows, it may be a little easier for you to deal with. Im glad you are seeking help, I know this will make you feel better. Im sorry this had to happen to you, you did not deserve that.
    Stay strong, we are all here for you!

  11. So its quiet right now and I read your post. You are so brave.....I dont think I would have even went in the other room to begin with. But besides the point. No matter what you tell the therapist remember you have someone on your side that knows exactly how you are feeling, hes free and always available any time of the day, and he can help. Alma 7:11. In my darkest hour....and I mean dark! He saved me with this verse. I know you are far from him now....but he is not far from you.
    love ya!

  12. Hi Adam -

    The fact that you're asking for help, and being willing to tell our story tells me that with time, you're going to be A-OK. And it sounds like surrounded with good people who love and support you. You're definitely on the right path, my friend.

    Take care. Be kind to yourself, and don't forget to be patient. Sometimes in healing it feels like we take 2 steps forward, and the 1 step backwards. You're gonna get there.




You went to all the trouble to get yourself here, you might as well say something about it.

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