The recent announcement by the Ontario Minister of Health regarding presumptive legislation for first responders suffering from PTSD is a wonderful step forward, long overdue and necessary. It was a major story in the news bits on the radio all day long, as it should be.
I wish I could be more enthusiastic. I should be celebrating. I should be jumping up and down screaming, “YIPPEE!” but I’m not, and I am struggling with my own inability to be happy about this.
I’ve had a few people tell me I should fight for the benefits I’m owed, and all I can do is shake my head with a sad smile. I struggle to pay my bills even when I HAVE the cash because simple life-administration tasks like that induce such stress and anxiety in me that I become overwhelmed very quickly. How the fuck can I mount a fight when I can barely go out the door to get groceries?
Every time I heard the news today, all it did was inspire memories of the abject humiliation I felt when a WSIB investigator came to my house, or when I was tasked to go to Hamilton for an evaluation by a WSIB psychiatrist (who asked simple questions, then slammed his fist on the desk to see what my startle response would be like). The claim was denied, as I expected it to be, and they sent me my entire file so I would have it to pursue more appeals. I probably shouldn’t have read it, but I did, and in it was a statement by a Toronto EMS district supervisor who claimed to have been on scene for one call I listed as causing me trouble, and that he never saw any signs of stress in me at all. He was not on that call. He never showed up, and he never saw me that morning at all. His entire statement was a complete fabrication. Hopelessness ensued. How do you fight that?
I gave the file to the union official responsible for WSIB appeals, and had a sit down with him over it, and was told they would pursue it. And I never heard anything from anyone ever again, but for the City of Toronto who told me I now owed them over $23000. They had paid my salary pending the WSIB decision as per the collective agreement, but since the claim had been denied they wanted their money back. They refused to pay my salary the next time I went off on a claim for PTSD. That time I was out of pocket for 6 months until I could claim long term disability from my benefit package (which was quickly approved by the insurance company).
Every time I heard the news today, and every time I see a post about this wonderful step forward, all I feel are the things I felt when I tried to get my compensation and failed. I walked into my wee cave this afternoon and promptly went to the floor in a big puddle of anxiety, and I’m just glad I was able to make it inside first.
I don’t want to be a downer. My intellect tells me just what a massive leap forward for us this is and I bet there will eventually be recompense for people like me. The thing about Complex PTSD, though, is that the thinking brain has absolutely no say at all in how the lizard brain decides to react. Please, you wonderful medics, cops, fire-fighters, dispatchers, and nurses, raise a toast to this and rightly so. Forgive me if I don’t join you, though. It’s not because I don’t want to, but because my lizard brain won’t let me.