by Ashley Weeks Cart
Last night, I took a CPR course.
Last month, during that 30 seconds that it took for me to get my mother conscious and breathing, during seconds that moved like hours, my brain frantically searched, scanning the depths and histories of my knowledge base, desperate for those years of CPR training gone by. I was trained in CPR every summer from age 15 to 24, my years spent teaching sailing requiring such certification. But then I had children. And um, well, that’s actually the dumbest excuse ever to not be certified, because when better to be trained in CPR than when welcoming helpless, dependent human beings into your home? However, lapse in judgement aside, my yearly training went by the wayside.
Had it come to it, I’m certain that decade of training would have kicked into gear, but the panic and fear I felt with not having it immediately at the fore of my consciousness was debilitating.
As part of my own healing process, my therapist and I determined that I needed to take a CPR course, and be reminded of those skills, those life-saving skills. Last night, I did just that. As I suspected, the training came back quickly and it wound up feeling like a refresher. Except, this time, I very tangibly understood what was at stake after witnessing life in the balance so recently.
I was incredibly grateful that our instructor, a security guard for the College where I work and volunteer firefighter, talked candidly about PTSD. He took the time to explain the resources available to us in the aftermath of an emergency, should we ever be called on to use our skills. He spoke about his own personal experience battling anxiety in the wake of a fire where a life was lost. He referenced the Employee Assistance Program, an incredible resource offered by my employer that offers free, confidential counseling for employees and their families. A resource I called upon in the wake of my mother’s emergency.
I’ve found people’s reactions to my candor about seeking mental and emotional counseling and support troubling. Many act surprised (appalled?) that I’m so comfortable openly talking about my need for therapy and even the support of pharmaceuticals to manage the anxiety and fear that took hold of me in the aftermath. Others tell me how “brave” I am to have gotten myself help so immediately. People shouldn’t be surprised. They shouldn’t think I am brave. I sought the medical help I needed when I was not feeling safe. When I was not myself. Just like I would for a broken limb or a sore tooth. My mental and emotional health is tied up in my physical well-being. There was no way I was going to let my anxiety get control of me, and impact not only my everyday, but my family’s, my children’s.
I deserved to feel safe. I deserved to get help.
We all do.
And we shouldn’t be fearful. And we shouldn’t shame those that need the support of mental health services, whatever the reason. And we shouldn’t judge or cast doubt on those that recognize when they are struggling and make use of the resources at hand to feel more themselves. To feel better. Safer.
I am so grateful that I no longer wake up in the night screaming. That I no longer relive flashback after flashback. That I’m not consumed by What Ifs. While the experience has changed me forever, I am feeling more in balance. I am finding my way back to me. And I know, with continued help and support, I’ll get there.
Please consider getting CPR certified, too. Resources and information for a course near you here.