A little over a week ago, I walked a woman through CPR. She was a nurse. I stayed on the phone with her, counting compressions until first responders got on scene and took over. She knew that her husband was dead. He was stiff. Cold. But yet, I knew that she needed to fight and do something.
A year ago, a little boy passed away. He died a hero several days after he was shot at school. When the events of that day unfolded, many people felt helpless. Many of my coworkers answering the phones and monitoring the radios felt helpless because they were not there on scene fighting back. And yet they fought.
With everything they had, they fought, because that is what we are trained to do.
Nobody ever warned me how difficult dispatching would be. Nobody told me the struggles of answering the phone and assisting caller after call.
You fight with all your effort to save that one life and it gets passed off to the responders on scene. You hang up the phone and it starts ringing once again. It never stops.
And in those moments, you have to fight.
I struggle some days. I’ve gotten frustrated with the little ole ladies who call in every time that the wind blows or the shadows move. I’ve gotten an attitude over the radio when a medic asks for the house number after we’ve already given it three times before. I’ve yelled at callers who refuse to listen or answer questions, refusing to tell me where they are.
There are mornings when I get back to my apartment and I question every decision that I made throughout the night. I lay awake in bed and listen back to their voices, trying to find what I may have missed.
When I first started working in dispatch, I was told that everyone that worked there was medicated. If it wasn’t a prescription, it was self-medication. I was told that if I wanted to survive in this field of work, I needed to find my medications.
They laughed when they heard that I didn’t drink alcohol or take any medication. I was told that it wouldn’t last that long.
And yet, still I fight.
I have an amazing group of guys from my community group that I meet up with every week, where we dive into each others lives. We seek out God together and are learning to fight for one another. To stand shoulder to shoulder through difficulties and struggles.
But many times it is hard to tell them about the battles that I face each night. How do you tell someone that you are struggling when you can’t find the words the describe it to yourself? What words could be used to express the feelings of helplessness and despair that creep in as questions and second thoughts?
While it would be easy to hide behind the silence or glance over the struggle with vague deflections, I have discovered over the years that it is better to face what is stirring in your heart and fight to bring it to light.
Years ago, after I found myself returning from the devastation in Joplin, I didn’t know how to process what I saw when I responded with my team from AmeriCorps NCCC. I didn’t know how to talk about all the things I saw and the stories I experienced.
It took me years to comprehend everything, but I learned that no matter what, I had to fight.
The fight may not be something you notice. It may just be the feeling that you can no longer sit still and do nothing. It may be an urgency that fills your thoughts or a struggle that consumes you.
For me, it is the darkness that threatens to overtake me when I believe that I am not good enough. It is the fear that I missed something or didn’t do everything that I could. My fight is the questions that creep in, guiding me away from who I know that I am.
When I returned to the Denver campus after seeing the debris field of Joplin stretch across the horizon, one of the staff members gave me the chance to learn to fight. As I started questioning if there was more that I could have done, she rephrased the question and asked me what I had done and if I had done that to the best of my abilities.
I learned that there are some things out of my control. I can do everything that I am supposed to do and ensure that I do everything correctly, but things may still happen. And as long as I know I did everything I could to the best of my ability, there are some things I needed to let go.
I still second guess myself. There are times when I wonder if I could have done more. But I know that I fight every day to be my best, to trust in my training and my experiences.
And I fight because sometimes, that is the only thing that keeps me from being consumed by the darkness.