Although I talk about my past and such, there are many things that I don’t talk about. Not yet. If you know me personally you will know that I don’t talk to hardly anyone in my family. To be fair, most of the best ones are dead and most of the ones left well…. they are not for me.
If you know me very well, you will know that there are not many people on this earth who I truly Love. Life has made it that way.
Todays guest blogger is someone who I do love. He didn’t even know I existed until about 14 years ago. Imagine that…such a black sheep that you get removed from the family tree. How we found each other is a story in itself …and not the story for today.
If you know me very very well… you will know I hardly ever ask for help. Todays blogger is my cousin Gary. He is my big cousin and he is a policeman in Australia. (I kept that quite about a police man in the family! When ever thing go bad, its Gary I go to. If I need something…in the end I run to Gary. He is more than a cousin…he is the family who never judges me. He loves me unconditionally. Truly.
He is so big and brave and will tell me off and put my mind straight. He is my “Safe place”. If we had been kids together I wold have aid many times “Right…I’m going to get my big cousin Gary on you”.
So, what happens when one of the Hardest men you have ever known gets broken?
I would proudly like to introduce you all to my family, the one who will always be 10-foot-tall and bullet proof to me…. My cousin Gary Houseman.
I’M TEN-FOOT-TALL AND BULLET PROOF…?
We have a saying in Australia, “Ten-foot-tall and bullet proof”, it basically means that someone is tough, resilient, doesn’t show fear, deals with issues and goes places where others fear to tread.
January 1991, I enlist in the Police mustering with the Australian Military, I serve just over 15 years, eight of those handling German Shepherd Police dogs equipped with a gob full of sharp nasty teeth and weighing in excess of six stone, I have the ‘badges of honour’ to prove it, it used to be said that you weren’t a real doggy until you had been bitten. Yep I got mine, ten-foot-tall and bullet proof.
2006, I left the military and made the most logical progression into civvy street as a Police officer in the wilds of the Northern Territory. I was told I would be dealing with violent offenders high on alcohol and drugs, I would be pulling mangled bodies from road crashes, bodies of suicide victims, rape and sexual assault victims, domestic violence victims, on and on it went and don’t forget the bad guys will try to hurt you. But it didn’t bother me as I was ten-foot-tall and bullet proof.
2009, I’ve been in three years now, I’ve seen some pretty horrific stuff, but I’m dealing with it. It’s New Year’s Eve, what a relief that year is over. Members not on shift go out celebrating, after all they are human. An off-duty member is on the piss, he’s not worried about going to the local pubs and clubs and being seen by the ‘bad guys’, it’s only a small country town of 8,500 people its not like we are in a major city or anything and besides he’s a local copper, tough, resilient, ten-foot-tall and bullet proof.
He died five days later from a bleed on the brain sustained after being punched by an ‘out of town bad guy’. The copper fell to the ground and struck his head. The 100-member station was rocked to the core, emotions flared, sadness, anger, frustration, hatred, revenge, fear. It takes many months for the confidence to return and even then, there are doubts in the back of your mind, one punch is all it takes.
Life goes on, 2012, I become victim. A report of a drunk man banging on the door of a housing commission unit, the sole female occupant is scared witless. My partner and I attend to this innocuous job, just another drunk trying to get into the wrong house. Far from it, the man was high on alcohol and some kind of drug, his behaviour is strange but we have experience in dealing with intoxicated persons, there is two of us, we have all the Gucci kit and we are ten-foot-tall and bullet proof. It turns to shit in an instant, he manages to grab my thumb and tries to tear it from my hand, he does a pretty good job.
After reconstructive surgery I return to light duties, I am asked again and again by the bosses when will I be back on the road, we need you on the road. After a couple of months of physical therapy my right hand is strong enough to hold my baton and pull the trigger of my pistol and operate the shotgun if I have to. The incident forgotten, or is it.
I last another 18 months, and my time on the road is up, I need to do something else, I’m getting snappy, I avoid leaving the office if I can, I drive past drunks lying on the street instead of taking them into protective custody, why? I just can’t be bothered with the paperwork, well that’s what I tell myself.
March 2014, I move on to Prosecutions, an office job, no shift work, no ‘on the road’ duties, I’ve just got to deal with those pesky defence lawyers.
I spend just over 4 years as a Prosecutor, the Justice system doesn’t work, how can it when I am prosecuting an offender for his 13 breach of a Domestic Violence order, how can it when I am prosecuting an offender who has just assaulted his fourth victim, his ‘new’ wife’, after the other three left him. How can it when money is thrown at offenders for rehabilitation programs, anger management courses, educational programs, free health care, but the victims are literally left to fend for themselves. I can’t tolerate the defence lawyers, I hate their half truths and downright lies, I hate their whining voices bemoaning that the man, or woman, who just flogged their domestic partner with a shovel, bottle, axe, baked bean tin, bike wheel or any other object they can lay their hands on, is also a victim. I need a change, I believe I am ready for the road again.
May 2018, Cruising with my shift partner, equipped with the latest technology for communication, the latest bullet resistant and stab proof load bearing vest, my capsicum spray is new, my Taser is fully charged and my pistol fully loaded, ready for action, ten-foot-tall and bullet proof.
July 2018, I sit at my computer, it’s time to type up the job results of the domestic incident the Sergeant and I have just attended. Nothing special, the incident actually took place the night before so no danger to myself of my partner, no high-risk arrest to make immediately, no first aid to administer, just taking notes of the incident as reported by the victim.
It means nothing to me, my sympathy, my empathy, my emotions have been eroded away over the years, but I know how to play the part and I’m ten foot tall and bullet proof. So, I sit and take notes and ask relevant questions, the complainant is calm and coherent until she gets to the part involving her husband, their baby and a large carving knife.
I was rocked to my core, the horror, the fear, the desperation explodes from her, her body shakes, her voice breaks. Tears stream from her face, I turn to my partner, he has that WTF look on his face. In all my years I have never seen a more gut-wrenching display of emotion. The child is still with the father who is an illicit drug user and on mental health medication. My mind is in a whirl, scenarios of what could happen, the ‘what ifs’ of policing. If we attend and he sees us he might hurt the child, if we don’t attend immediately, he might hurt the child, what if he has already hurt the child and it needs medical attention, on and on it goes, scenario after scenario of possibilities involving an injured or dead child. And as always, hovering above it all is the fear that I, the Police officer taking the report, the officer assigned as case OIC, I will be the one held responsible if anything happens to the child.
Professionalism takes over, my thoughts crash back to reality and we continue the interview with reassuring words, advising her that all will be well, we will deal with the matter. She calms down and we leave her in the care of a friend convinced that we will save the day. We attend the station to make our action plan.
I start typing, a string of letters appears, its gibberish, multiple ssssss, rrrr, ooooo. I lift my hands and look at them, they appear alien, I can see at least ten fingers on each hand they are shaking that badly, my eyes are stinging, I become aware that the room is silent, I sit fascinated by my hands. My belt feels tight and uncomfortable, my pistol is sticking into my right side, my Taser and baton are sticking into my left side, the weight of my accoutrements is dragging me down into the seat. Slowly I hear a voice invading the silence, “…are you ok?”, I look over to the sergeant, he is staring at me with a worried look on his face, “Are you ok?”.
My mind forms a response “Yeah mate”, but my voice betrays me as a choked sob escapes and a voice not my own says “I can’t do this anymore”. I remove my glasses for fear of getting tears on them, I needn’t have bothered they are soaked, my cheeks and shirt are wet with tears, snot is running from my nose. This can’t be happening, I’m too experienced, I spent 15 years in the military, I’ve done 11 years as a copper, I’m ten-foot-tall and bullet proof.
The sergeant took control, said and did all the right things, he quickly removed my belt, just to make me more comfortable, smart move! In a short period of time I was able to make coherent conversation, the tears stopped flowing and the snot dried up. It was only then that he revealed he had been where I was now. I couldn’t believe it, I always believed he was ten foot tall and bullet proof.
Eight months have passed since that incident, I got help, thanks to the Sergeant, no thanks to the bloody Police Super. I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, I have been, and I am still seeing a psychologist and a psychiatrist. I have been unable to work, which is obvious I suppose, but what is not as obvious is why I have been unable to answer a knock at the door, when the phone rings I sit and stare at it willing it to stop, I shake and cringe if I hear a ringtone that is the same as the on-call Police phone. I avoid going out because I might have to help someone (I am after all a police officer and on duty 24/7 even if I am on stress leave). If I do go out, I spend all my time scanning the people around me to identify which one poses the greatest threat to me, where will the attack come from, I am hypervigilant, I analyse every sound, what is it, what could it mean. My sleep is broken by dreams that always end with me mortally wounded, as my eyes close and the light becomes darkness, I hear the sirens, too late!
The Police Force was provided reports by the psychologist and psychiatrist and through the insurance company they accepted liability for my condition and are paying for my therapy, so kind of them. What happened to me has taken years to appear, although the warning signs were there, the broken sleep patterns, the lack of appetite, lack of energy and drive, the lack of emotion, being unable to say something is beautiful, the inability to see the beauty and enjoy a sunset on the beach and the loss of intimacy with my wife amongst other things. I made excuses for all these things, I was just tired from the shift work, it was a hard shift, I’m getting older and don’t recover from shift changes or physical action as quickly anymore, but it’s okay and I can deal with it, I’m still ten-foot-tall and bullet proof.
I’m a fifty-two-year-old man, six-foot-tall and weighing a cup of tea and a biscuit short of 18 stone. Between the military and civilian Police, I have spent a total of 27 years of my life in a policing role, risking my safety, my health and welfare and yes, my very life, I have run towards incidents that normal people run from, I have dealt with some very bad people and some very emotional situations, I believed I was ten-foot-tall and bullet proof. I wasn’t and I’m not.
In the last eight months I have become aware that other officers, whom I know personally, are sufferers just like me, I am not alone, they are not ten-foot-tall and bullet proof either. But I never knew about them as mental health issues are confidential, not like having a broken arm or leg, or having the flu or cancer. Suffering a mental health illness is bad enough, but whilst being a Police officer it is a very bad thing, it’s not spoken about, so many officers feel alone, an outcast, me included.
There is still a stigma with mental health, the Police Force still has trouble dealing with it, they make all the right sounds with pamphlets and videos and online training stuff, but when an officer actually goes down they don’t do very well at all, after all they are a business and non-productive officers are bad for their budget, a superintendent does not like having a red tick in the members unfit for duty column. I have come to hate the executive of the Police Force, I have come to hate the people I have to deal with, I have come to hate society, social media, the news, life in general. A part of my brain says that this is just the depression and anxiety talking, your therapy is helping, you are not alone.
I want it all to end, the confusion, the anger, the despair, the therapy. I want to run away and hide in the remotest part of the world with no people, just my wife, who has put up with me for through all of my troubles, who has stood stoically beside me, who has weathered my nuclear explosions of anger and rage and who has wiped away the tears and snot as I lay curled in the foetal position.
I want to run away, but there is my cousin, the skinny, blonde haired, hard arsed bitch that won’t let me run away and hide, she won’t let me give in and she has threatened to track me down wherever I go and give me a right telling off. She convinced me that writing this may help, whether she meant me or others or both only time will tell. I do feel that I have got something off my chest, I don’t know the people who will read this and that makes it a bit easier to tell. I love you Kendra.
To those that take the time to read this to here, thank you.
I am not alone, I am not ten-foot-tall and bullet proof, and neither are you!