I Made the Call to Make Things Better
November 8, 2016
By Scott Geiselhart
Reprinted from the NVFC’s Helpletter
My name is Scott Geiselhart. I’m a 20 year veteran of the Frazee (MN) Fire Department, a father, and an auto repair shop owner. And I am a PTSD, meth, and suicide attempt survivor.
During my time as a firefighter, I had responded to countless calls, including auto extrication and ice water rescue, where I witnessed many deaths and other losses. It was all part of the job. But it affected me. I was angry all the time and yelled at my girlfriend and kids. I was having nightmares, flashbacks, angry outbursts, and was isolating myself. I was doing meth − a line an hour or more so I never would go to sleep and have nightmares. I thought I had a split personality!
In July of 2014, I had enough! I couldn’t go on. I was so confused not knowing what was going on in my life − why was I like this? I had to stop myself from hurting my family. I felt I needed to eliminate myself; they would be better off with me not hurting them. I went to my shop and found my favorite, most reliable revolver, put it to my head, and pulled the trigger. The hammer came down… and just clicked. I threw the gun down in shock – it had never malfunctioned before. None of the rounds were touched!
I started to type on my computer keyboard and put these words into a search engine: nightmares, yelling, flashbacks. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) filled the screen! I’d heard about PTSD before, but thought it was just something that affected the military; I didn’t even know what the letters stood for.
I couldn’t believe it – this condition was treatable! There was help out there. This wasn’t something I had to live with forever. I went to tell my girlfriend and kids as fast as I could, but it must have seemed like I’d lost it – I was so excited to tell them I’d found an answer that I was yelling, and they were scared of me and wouldn’t listen.
I went back to my shop, heart broken. I didn’t know what else to do. I found a number for a suicide hotline; I called 12 times and no one answered. I called three other phone numbers that the fire department had provided, and they were disconnected. I called a police officer friend, and he said they were going to come pick me up. I didn’t want to be taken to a mental hospital, so I decided I was going to try a few more numbers and then I was going to make my second suicide attempt. I called a local counseling center and they said they could see me in a week and a half. Finally, I had one last number left to call: 1-888-731-FIRE (3473) – the Fire/EMS Helpline.
Someone picked up right away, and after I told him what happened, he said, “Scott, we’ve got you.”
Finally, someone was there, and understood what I was going through! It was as if he reached through the phone and was holding me in his hands! The amazing person on the other end of line was Mike Healy. Mike works with American Addiction Centers in conjunction with the National Volunteer Fire Council to provide this free, confidential hotline to first responders and their families.
The next day, on Mike’s recommendation, I was getting Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy. EMDR is a type of psychotherapy that helps process negative memories through sounds or movements while you talk about the trauma. EMDR was incredible!
It took some time, but thanks to the right treatment and effort I’m back and loving life! No more nightmares and flashbacks. I walked away from meth and haven’t been angry in 22 months. The peace I feel now is awesome! Now I’m able to share my experiences and help others by speaking out and informing emergency responders about PTSD, mental health, and suicide awareness and prevention. I want other emergency responders to know if they are struggling they are not alone, and there is help available.
Watch more of Scott’s story at https://youtu.be/NEBf_M_lr18.
If you are struggling and need help, call the Fire/EMS Helpline at 1-888-731-FIRE (3473). Find additional resources from the NVFC’s Share the Load program here.