17 février, 2020

I’m alive today because I found my voice.

Robin Ferrie on why he chose to serve and protect beyond the badge.
Mental Health | In the Barber Chair
1 MIN À LIRE
 

My dad always had a big presence. He was my first “superhero,” someone I looked up to. He was a strong man who took care of the family and with whom I felt very safe around. His love and protective ways were so prevalent. He taught me a lot about life, love and compassion. Humour as well, he was a funny man. To this day I’m still told “oh you’re so like your father.” I take this as a huge compliment. 

One Christmas, while my family was playing games, my dad went to bed early complaining of a headache. The next morning, he woke and couldn’t move his left side and his speech was off. He had suffered a stroke in the night but the determined (and possibly stubborn) man he was, got his speech back and most of his mobility. After the stroke, however, things started to worsen. He grew frailer, walked with a cane, and began to lose weight. One morning, I came downstairs for school and my dad was on the couch when normally he would be at work. He physically couldn’t speak. I didn’t know this, but my dad had been showing signs and symptoms of illness without going to the doctor for a long time. Finally, on that morning, he had no choice. My dad had lost so much blood it caused him to lose his speech and although he did gain it back the damage was done. 

My “superhero” father was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 1991 when I was 15 years old. I remember my mum and dad telling me at the hospital. I sat there at a round table outside of his hospital room and listened to my father tell me he had colon cancer and that it was incurable as it had already spread. My dad was going to die. 

I lost my father to cancer nine months after that conversation. This is a big part of my fight but not the only reason I choose to serve and protect beyond the badge. There’s also a mental health side to my story. 

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My dad, mom, and brother have suffered from mental health issues, namely anxiety, my whole life. And I was on the brink of suicide before I finally got help. 

I wasn’t always a cop, I wasn’t always so silver up top, and I didn’t start out with PTSD! When I first started as a police officer in 2008, I was fresh faced and ready to save the world one call at a time. Some shifts flew by and some felt like they would never end. Loving my job and proud of who I was, I smiled always. I loved to talk about my job and the people I’d helped.  

But before long the smile faded, I didn’t want to talk about it. Shifts turned into thoughts such as: ‘is this my time?’ and ‘Is it today that I die?’. Then came the thoughts and dreams; no, not dreams, nightmares, faces I couldn’t get out of my head, memories I couldn’t escape that haunted me. 

I’m a police officer, man, father, brother, son, uncle... and I have PTSD. I was diagnosed in February 2017 but suffered for many years before, always too afraid to come forward and talk about it. 
I felt alone and afraid of myself. Then, more sinister thoughts came. Thoughts of ending my life because I knew I couldn’t live with the memories, thoughts and suffering. I thought about suicide. 
Thankfully, these thoughts of suicide scared me more than the stigma I felt around mental health and what people would think of me. And then someone reached out. A fellow officer saw the signs and confronted me. She spoke to me with such compassion I didn’t care if anyone thought I was “weak” or if they took my gun away. Heck I was terrified to put that thing on my hip every shift at that point. 

 
“I’m a police officer, man, father, brother, son, uncle... and I have PTSD. I was diagnosed in February 2017 but suffered for many years before, always too afraid to come forward and talk about it."
 

I swore and took an oath “to serve and protect,” but who was going to protect me from myself? I knew I couldn’t sit silent any longer and with the most courage I’ve ever conjured up, I opened up. 

Over the last five years, I’ve seen two of my fellow Ottawa Police Officers take their own lives. I knew there was more I needed to do for the people out there that haven’t found their voice yet. In October 2019, I went public with my diagnosis and began my advocacy to raise awareness for mental health and PTSD. Not all injuries/scars are visible so let’s not judge others for their struggles. 

I still struggle and have bad days, but I feel the will to survive and tell my story so that others understand that they are not alone. We are not alone. 

I’m alive today because I found my voice.