My name is Jeff, I am a retired police officer of 28 years. I started when I was a young 21 years old and retired at 50, I suffer from complex PTSD. Those of you may not be familiar with complex PTSD, sometimes known as c-PTSD. Complex PTSD is caused by prolonged or chronic trauma. Those with complex PTSD usually have at least some of the symptoms of PTSD, but they could also have other symptoms. Most people experience at least one traumatic event during their lives, and about a fourth go on to develop PTSD. No one knows how many people have complex PTSD. Mine was there and I didn't know I had it because I didn't want to admit I had something wrong with me.
After my years in law enforcement, I never realized how much the trauma I saw, the emotional roller coaster I went through day and night, the smells and sounds of crime scenes and violence, death notifications, child abuse and sex abuse, the times I was assaulted and with all of this, just to name a small amount of what I saw. You just carried on to the next call with no down time, no debriefing, no time to gather yourself. It felt like it never stopped in my head, especially cases that would never leave my nightmares. Pulling a dead 15 month old from the bottom of a swimming pool, SIDS deaths, CPR on a 12 year old at middle school who dies in your arms in the school gym, things that a person should never see but in law enforcement, you see it over and over again and for some, it feels like it never stops playing a movie in your head. I didn't know how to control it but thought it was normal because your a cop and that's what you do. You have the other officers to make laughter out of it to help you hide the demons, alcohol after work or weekends, some commit suicide, and some get divorced. For me, I just pretended it didn't bother me. When I retired and didn't have my law enforcement friends anymore, it really hit me hard because I had nobody to share my thoughts with or stories with like I used to. Those scenes and incidents wouldn't go away, nightmares began, I started drinking heavily, I would drive by a place that reminded me of a call I went too and would get anxiety so bad I would have to pull over. A missing child or child death, motor vehicle accident, suicide report on the news would put me right back at work and it was pushing me so far into depression. I finally got professional help who diagnosed me with c-PTSD. I have been seeing my doctor for over a year now and I feel like I am finally at a place where I'm starting to enjoy my retirement, putting those demons behind me. Knowing that I can't change what has happened and I did the best I could to save lives or help at the time. Talking through the worst incidents, gunfire, death, trauma, or whatever causes me to freeze or have nightmares, one incident at a time with someone who understands what I feel and has the tools to help me made a difference. I also realized I have a huge support system with my wife and daughters, friends, and neighbors. I always thought I had to go through this alone because cops are supposed to be tough. I can guarantee, every officer out there has seen horrible things. Get help while your young and stay with it so when your at the end of your career, your not playing catch up like I did and have to leave my demons behind.