No, I’m not talking about wedding anniversaries, or birthdays, or anything pleasant like that. Almost everyone I know that is a combat veteran, firefighter, EMT, or law enforcement officer has at least one of those anniversaries. I’m talking about the date on the calendar that brings up difficult, upsetting, painful or sad memories.
Many have an “alive day,” a date where they were nearly killed. Many of these people came close to death and received life long devastating injuries. I consider it an honor and obligation to listen to anyone that wants to tell their story about their “alive day.” One of the emphases for the Law Enforcement Today Radio Show, is to provide a platform for these heroes.
I’m talking about the date on the calendar that brings up difficult, upsetting, painful or sad memories.
There are dates when a brother or sister was killed in the line of duty, like many law enforcement officers, I’m sad to say that there are far too many of those. There are dates when we handled a particularly vicious crime, as is the case with almost everyone that has spent a career in law enforcement, there are far too many of those too. (I’m very lucky; I have purposely done my best to forget those dates, but can’t forget the incidents).
It’s in the Past but Affects Today
Even after all these years, over three decades there is one date that always has an affect on me. No matter how hard I try it still has an impact on me. The reason why, or what happened on that date, is not the point of this article. What is important to me is how we handle these dates and the effects.
I hadn’t really given much thought to today’s date, and then slowly throughout the day I found myself getting agitated and short tempered. From the outside I almost always appear to be happy go lucky, even when the insides don’t quite match the outsides.
Today, as I began to get increasingly frustrated, irritated and angry, I just became very quiet and withdrew from people. And then I realized why, the anniversary is coming up in three days and then it all made sense.
Many have an “alive day,” a date where they were nearly killed. Many of these people came close to death and received life long devastating injuries. I consider it an honor and obligation to listen to anyone that wants to tell their story about their “alive day.”
For more than three decades this date has caused me some degree of upset, it is definitely better now than it was years ago. That is more than 30 years, where for 3 – 5 days surrounding that date that I’m not my usual happy self. That means a total of about 150 days have been ruined to some degree because of this date. I know, it’s not the date itself; it’s the uncomfortable emotions and feelings that accompany that date.
When these days come I have learned to do some or all of the following:
- Make a mental effort to recognize this for what it really is, just another day. It was the incident all those years ago that is upsetting.
- Focus on being as quiet as possible.
- Minimize interactions with others; I’m not talking about being a hermit. I found it is best to distance myself from negative people when I’m feeling like this.
- Tell my spouse, so she doesn’t think it is something she did.
- Pray and meditate. No, I’m not talking about advance Zen practices. It is as simple as trying to make an effort to not think. (It sounds much easier than it actually is).
- Distract myself, get busy doing other things, physical tasks, or tasks that occupy my mind; or doing something like watching a movie, to get away from my thoughts.
- Keep telling myself, “that was then, this is now.” And focus on something that is in my present situation.
- I’ve found for me that talking about it doesn’t help. It did in the early days, now it just brings more of those feelings caused by the incident to come to the surface.
- And last but not least, be easy on myself. I don’t beat myself up for feeling a bit off.
What do you do when those uncomfortable anniversaries come up?
– John “Jay” Wiley, partner and radio host, Law Enforcement Today