Living with PTSD

“Nobody knows why one gets PTSD and another does not. What we do know is that living with the symptoms of this debilitating disorder effects not only the victim, but everyone with whom the victim loves and interacts.”
Jeremy Scharlow
On May 7, 2016, Jeremy Scharlow was working patrol. He had been in his current department for more than nine years and was a SWAT operator for eight of them. He held his chest high, never lost a fight, and always caught his suspect. “I was a badass, invincible, and nothing could stop me,” said Scharlow. Then, at 2252 hours Scharlow muttered, barely audible, “METCAD 6g22, shots fired, I’m hit.”

Scharlow took a round to the right arm after being ambushed while trying to let a driver, politely and unofficially, know his head lights were not working. “He was not my attacker, his brother was,” said Scharlow. Although struck in his dominate arm, Scharlow returned fire landing two rounds on target. “I retreated to cover where other officers evacuated me to medical personnel. Unfortunately, my attacker got away.” After this tragic event, Scharlow began experiencing symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, commonly known as PTSD. “You’re useless, you couldn’t even do your job, you would be better off dead.” Scharlow expressed how these thoughts would circulate in his mind, leading him down a dark path.

“You’re useless, you couldn’t even do your job, you would be better off dead.”

- Hopeless thoughts are a common symptom of post-traumatic stress
“Is someone really saying this or are you imagining it? You have been angry for hours! Raging angry, beyond rationality.” Scharlow explained that he couldn’t understand why he was so angry and nothing he did helped. “Your mind is racing, you look around and see no one. Alone, again. Nobody understands, how could they? Nobody cares! You look down at your half empty bottle of whiskey. Dammit, you swore you would not do this again. You cannot even keep a promise to yourself, why try?” As Scharlow’s thoughts began to worsen, he realized he needed to ask for help. “I made the right decision and called 911 for help. I was belligerent, out of my mind, and running my mouth when they arrived. But, just like all good officers do, they rolled with the punches and eventually got me the help I needed.”

Scharlow wants to caution that he is not a doctor but can share the things he has tried and how they have helped him. “Obviously, I am still a work in progress. I would love to tell you that the first story, in which I was downright vile to the officers who came to help me happened shortly after my shooting, unfortunately, I cannot. This occurred last Monday.” First, Scharlow began talking with a psychologist that he refers to as a “shrinklet.” “This was one of the wisest decisions I made,” said Scharlow. “I had feelings which I did not even know existed and this man listened when he needed to listen, spoke when he needed to speak, laughed when we needed to laugh, and cried with me when I needed to cry.” Scharlow continued to express how “truly opening up about your event with someone may simply save your life.”

“Truly opening up about your event with someone may simply save your life.”

- Speaking with a peer or mental health expert is a recommended treatment for post-traumatic stress
Second, Scharlow began working out regularly. “I began working out for one hour a day, three days a week. I found the endorphin release amazing and I didn’t feel like absolute garbage.” The better he started to feel, the more Scharlow wanted to work out. “I wanted more. I began working out five days a week for one hour, then six days a week for one to two hours. Now if I do not work out in a day, it feels as though my day is ruined.” Why does Scharlow believe working out has helped him so much? “I think of it this way, I can continue to pop Xanax to get chemicals to make me feel better or I can bench press, release natural chemicals in my head, in a natural fashion, avoid the addiction, avoid the side effects, and I look a hell-of-a-lot better than I did, which makes me feel even better.”

In the end, Scharlow shares, “I do not write this article from some pedestal where I dictate what others should do. I sit here struggling with the same struggles you or your loved ones may be going through.” Again, Scharlow urges those of you who may also be struggling with PTSD to make the first step, reach out and get the help you need. “To your brother or sister, you are already a hero! Do not be too proud to ask for help, your life may depend on it and we still need you.”

"To your brother or sister, you are already a hero! Do not be too proud to ask for help, your life may depend on it and we still need you.”

- Jeremy Scharlow

Third, Scharlow emphasized the importance of becoming compliant on his medication. “How many times have you, as a cop said, ‘we got another one off their meds,’ let’s put our big kid pants on and take our damn medications.” Of course, Scharlow urges everyone to first talk to their doctor about the medication they need, rather than surfing the internet. Finally, “nobody knows why one gets PTSD and another does not. What we do know is that living with the symptoms of this debilitating disorder effects no only the victim, but everyone with whom the victim loves and interacts,” said Scharlow. He also reminds those affected to “remember to tell your loved ones and those in your support system they matter. If you are like me, you’re extremely hypervigilant, easily agitated, prone to bursts of anger, depression, anxiety, etc. We are not easy to deal with and we need to love those who put up with us.”
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