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Thursday, 1 March 2012

The Personal Journey

Angelina's  Leg - We still have to smile


The decision to get into one of these three professions is a very personal one. It takes great intestinal fortitude to be able to even qualify for training, let a lone finishing. There is a great deal of pride in your accomplishments and you continuously strive to improve your skills. One of the most seriously misunderstood ailments these professionals sometimes get is, a mental health issue. Using myself as an example, I never lived in one time zone. I was always flying somewhere and being a heavy transport pilot, my destination was never close to home. It would be daylight there and night here and my body never got a circadian rhythm. That rhythm I spoke about is, going to bed at night and getting up in the morning. Eating 3 times per day, usually at or near the same times, your body clock in otherwords. Shift workers have this problem too but, someone on call, never knows what time they have to go to work or what time they will be home. Tough on you and your family.

When a mental health issue comes up, these self driven individuals feel that it's nothing, and they will work through it. Strong as they may be, this one they can't beat alone. It would be so much easier if I were missing a leg or arm. Then at least people could understand the hurt and pain. The problem comes when there are no outwardly signs of physical trauma. All the damage is internal. PTSD is evident when the person's coping abilities are overwhelmed. They resort to ways to release the pain. I was struggling badly. I was so disgusted with the military and how I had been treated, I had to leave, get out. A pilot with 8,000 plus hours of heavy transport flying combined with the multitude of qualifications I had, in monetary terms, was worth millions and millions of dollars to the military. Having to go out this way, was devastating to me. I didn't even want to pick up my commendations from the Prime Minister, I just wanted to go away and forget everything bad that had happened. When I was at the end, I had a slim 10% chance to live.

This type of situation is very serious and the person hurting has to be treated as a whole person. In other words, My particular coping techniques were caused by a culmination of very traumatic situations. None I could talk about. Some because of legal reasons others because they were unbelievable to the every day person on the street. Over time, it wore me down. I was more afraid of seeing the doctor because once you say you have a problem as a pilot, you lose your job. Your dream. The one thing you love to do. I would have rather flown through a Thunderstorm rather than see a doctor. Sad but true. In my case I couldn't ask for help because it would be the end of my career. An impossible position to put a person in. Totally unfair to the individual on so many levels. They give you everything they have and more and if in mental distress, can't ask for help because they loose everything they worked their whole life for. If you could only have job security while you get better, I'm sure the stats in mental health would go up dramatically.

The picture shows the long lonely journey each of us in these professions must walk by ourselves. Either to get into our profession or recover from the effects of it.