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Deb Nelson’s Story – 911 Dispatcher, London Police Service

You don’t think too much about your future physical and mental health when you join a police service in your 20’s, at least I sure didn’t. I was full of enthusiasm, wonderment and pride to be part of such an exciting profession.

In roughly my 20th year of service as a 911 police dispatcher, I started to experience physical and mental symptoms that I would recognize 8 years later were symptoms of PTSD.

The toll of years of attacks on my nervous system from constant adrenaline bursts, hyper arousal, shift work, and fatigue as well as dealing with traumas and members of society that most people avoid, were starting to become problematic for me. You think you can tough it out, maybe take a vacation. You just try to get through your shifts until your days off, but even time away from work doesn’t abate the symptoms of anxiety, depression, insomnia, hyper vigilance, tachycardia, tingling in the hands, unexplained outbursts, fits of rage, and so on.

It starts affecting your relationships with your spouse and children, and other family members. You withdraw from society and dread the thought of being out with the public. You become intolerant and impatient with everyone, and then feel like the worst human being as a result.

When I received my diagnosis, I had trouble accepting it. I didn’t think I was worthy of it. I hadn’t been in battle, hadn’t actually seen any horrifying events, crime scenes, dead bodies or abusive homes. I didn’t understand how my physical symptoms were connected.

That being said, I was at a point in my life that if I didn’t get professional help, I was not going to be able to continue to cope or live through the misery my life had become.

Two years after my diagnosis, I’m happy to say, through a lot of anguish, therapy, support groups and being able to educate myself, I’m living a life I deserve to live… that we ALL deserve to live. I’m grateful to my husband for his constant and unwavering support, the understanding of my children, and my friends who did not judge me. I am lucky also to have a very kind and compassionate Association Administrator and Civilian Representative who were my advocates and helped guide and support me.

None of us can do this on our own. We all need to have a community to support us; there are many initiatives available to us now to get the help we need. We just have to take the first step, become vulnerable and share our pain with someone we trust. We can become healthy, peaceful and joyful again.

A wise Association Administrator once told me we work hard throughout our challenging career and we deserve to retire as whole people. To me this includes our body, mind and spirit.

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