I received this sincere, heartfelt letter from a former police officer this week about their struggles. This is why I began my work with Law Enforcement Distress Syndrome (LEDS). This is why I am conducting ongoing research for former and current police. It is my goal to reveal to everyone the hidden cost police officers are paying, and to help those who do, or have done, the job of a police officer. It is my goal to further understand this phenomenon and then increase awareness and training around LEDS. It is my goal to find and develop resources to manage and treat LEDS for officers who need help. Here is one officer’s experience:
So I retired from a very busy urban PD…statistically one of the most dangerous cities in the US every year. Your LEDS description is a picture of my life or I guess better described as my life now. I know the changes began long before I retired but it is after things slow down a bit when you finally realize how much your career has changed you, even I would say destroyed the person you use to be.
I do not have issues with drugs or alcohol … but the rest of the symptoms described all fit and I would say in a extreme amount. That is with the exception of suicide in any serious manor (I say serious manor only because I could not say the thought had never crossed my mind).
I have exiled myself from most of my life long friends and even family members (outside wife and children). I have about a 30 minute limit to comfort even in family gatherings which will result in me having to leave or seclude myself if at home during any gathering. Stereo typical in any public place with head always on a swivel, back to the door, become extremely anxious in crowds, ETC ETC ETC… Even at home with family I have my space, small office where I go to relax and I hate to use the term because what it means in today’s generation but, My Safe Space.
During my career and previous time in the military I did everything… SWAT, Riot Team, Marine Unit, K-9, Anti Terrorism anything more exciting the more I wanted it and never failed to achieve those goals… As I reach the Supervisor rank and the high risk jobs became less and less my personal life became skydiving and even started Tree Climbing/Tree Removal for the adrenaline fix and at home when I could not do those things I would play Online First Person Shooter games like Counter Strike or Battlefield for that adrenaline fix. Lack of that now I feel leads to much of my anxiety or rather it was my way of combating the anxiety I never recognized.
I was also a magnet for the SHIT calls several of which would make even a salty cop shake their head in disbelief. I now find that idle time is my enemy to the extent that even going to the bathroom (for a sit down) I have to have something to occupy my mind. I can not go to bed without the TV on because I need to have the stimulus to occupy my brain just to get to sleep. Sleep which of course is usually in 30-60 minute segments at best partially due to the brain and partially due to the damage I have done to my body over the years.
Oh and my absolute best friend is my German Shepherd who I have had for about a year… Prior to him I had a Lab that past away at almost 15 the loss of him crushed me to the point where I remember thinking that I did not think losing a family member (except my wife or kids) would not have bothered me as much.
Currently other than my dog the only other place I find peace is on my bike (road bike cycling) and this usually means going out on a 20-40 mile solo ride… I have tried riding with coworkers and friends and found this takes away from my enjoyment a bit because I prefer to be alone.
Long and short I guess my overall feeling is I do not like the person I have become… I loved the job, the majority of the people but hate what it has turned me in to… My opinion is the worst part is you do not recognize this until it is too late and like in my case you have moved on. People look at our pensions and think we do not deserve it, I now think it wasn’t worth it… My only saving thoughts are that there are several people alive today (both officers and civilians) that would not be here today if I did not go to work of a few certain days… This helps but I still want me back… But mostly feel that will never happen, so I learn to try and live the best with me now for my family and myself.
Thank you for your service officer! Thank you for sharing! So much of what I hypothesized about LEDS is proving correct, but I still need more information. Current and former police officers participate in my study regarding LEDS HERE. Share your experience and find out more about LEDS at www.SteveWarneke.com.
Steve Warneke is a speaker, broadcaster, police expert, and author. Find his book From Boy To Blue and more from Steve at www.SteveWarneke.com.