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"My Story" by Kevin Hale

I started out as a corrections officer in the local county jail. After 7 months in corrections, I longed for the adventure of the street. I was only 19 years old when I tested and was hired as a police officer for the local police department. I worked on the street as a patrolman for 4 years with this department. During this time, in 1986, I was elected as the president of the Fraternal Order of Police lodge #86. I still hold this position to this day. In 1989, after the four year tenure at the city police department, I tested and was hired as a deputy sheriff for the Logan County Sheriff Department in Logan, West Virginia. My first 4 years on the department were average as far as police work goes. I dealt with my share of tragic incidents day after day, month after month, and year after year. I delivered my share of death notices, worked homicides, worked traffic accidents, just like all police officers do one time or another during their careers. My last two years on the depatment were spent in the narcotics division, where I made a total of 107 undercover drug buys leading to the arrest and conviction of 27 drug dealers. My final two years of law enforcement came as a white collar crimes investigator for the State of West Virginia. I noticed about 1986, I had started developing some serious sleep related problems. I could no longer go to sleep like a normal person, but my nights were filled with tragic dreams and sleep interuptions. When I finally did go to sleep, I woke up several times during the night and felt this compulsion to make sure that no one was in my residence and that everything was ok. My greatest fear was that the tragedy I had seen happen to others would effect my family. I later developed bouts of long term depression and my work started to deteriorate. I started getting aggitated and irritable and would jump when others walked into the room. Eventually, I became frightened when the house was totally dark. I would lie in bed and listen to every sound and wonder what it was. It bothered me to the point that I would finally get up and proceed with my ritualistic checking of the home and status of the family. I would have nightmares and quick flashbacks that related to traumatic events that I had experienced during the course of my career. I was finally diagnosed with PTSD after suffering from it for two years. Several incident led to my chronic, delayed onset PTSD diagnosis. The accumulation of traumatic stress day in and day out had taken it's toll on me, but I did not want to believe this could happen. I became anti-social and did not want to be around anyone because of the illness. In the early 1990's, I responded to a call in a rural neighborhood which was coded as a domestic disturbance. I chose to wait beside of the road for backup before proceeding to the scene. My back up was several minutes away and while I was waiting, the husband was shot and fatally wounded. I remember the event every day. I have lived with the giult of the decision to wait for backup for several years and have experienced flashbacks and nightmares about the event several times. I had been shot at before, but never actually shot a suspect. I felt as though I had killed a man that night and for these many years since the event. My department did not have a chaplain or a critical incident stress debriefing policy, therefore, I had to live with the feelings of guilt and still do to this day. I am now disabled due to the incident in combination with a thousand other events like this. My goal is to educate others about PTSD, it's effects, symptoms, and treatment. PTSD is treated best when it is treated in the early stages. I found this out the hard way.

Kevin Hale © 1998
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Read some of Kevin's other stories at Living with PTSD