I have…

pulled a little boy from his car seat as paramedics worked on his overdosed father.

lied to people and told them they were going to be alright as they took their last breath.

painfully fought away families as their loved ones laid in the street.

held a towel over the gunshot wound of an 11 year old who had just been in a shootout.

seen a paraplegic firefighter who took his own life.

seen a teenage girl’s body parts spread across the highway.

seen a grandmother rolled up in a garbage bag for a social security check.

seen a baby with a gunshot wound to the chest.

brought a happy-meal to the man on the corner holding a cardboard sign near the interstate.

gone into a canal to save an abandoned pit bull.

covered the eyes of a child looking down at his older brother’s body.

saved the life of a drug dealer who had been shot in the head.

been punched, kicked and shot at.

been squeezing the trigger about to take a man’s life as he finally came to his senses and stopped reaching.

been in the middle of a violent crowd as they protested my very existence.

been close to death more days than not.

played real-life Frogger during foot chases across the interstate.

chased armed subjects over brick walls and fences.

fought entire families in the street as we tried to arrest their son.

drove in ways that would make you pray to help another officer.

had close calls with dirty needles and deadly diseases. 

had countless high-speed car chases with violent felons and cold-blooded killers.

had women jump on my back as I was arresting the man that had just brutally beaten them.

had several men try to kill me and even more who said they wanted to.

sent many “I love you” text messages just in case what I was about to do led to my death.

heard the bagpipes play and bowed my head over more fallen officers than I can count on my two hands.

dealt with the guilt of my partner being shot and killed six hours into my vacation.

sat in my car and cried before returning to my fiancé.

found myself at the bottom of a bottle with another on deck.

won and I have lost.

sacrificed pieces of me.

watched many do the same.

mental illness

And while all that was happening.

I wasn’t…

swallowing my pride and talking to someone.

managing my physical, mental & emotional health.

considering how it affected my loved ones.

sleeping and eating properly.

writing and processing those events.

putting myself first.

police officers

Instead, I was…

ignoring my thoughts and feelings.

allowing myself to become negative and cynical.

drinking to numb the pain and forget.

pushing forward without looking back.

assuming that because those around me seemed okay that I should be.

losing my love for people and humanity.

law enforcement suicides

(Courtesy DanSun Photo Art)

I share this neither to boast, nor for your pity, but to motivate those in a profession that makes it challenging to prioritize self-care. With that being said, I will leave you with this.

That was only five years. What I have seen and done would change any man, but imagine the damage twenty or thirty years could do without attention to self-care. No matter the profession, you have to learn to put you and your family first. Take care of yourself mentally, physically, and emotionally. If you find yourself in a state of unhappiness or depression and are unable to get out, something needs to change. You have to figure out what that is and act on it. For you and your family.