Joining the Police in 2000, I signed up for a 30 year stint. I had no real qualifications and was prepared to give my entire adult working life to one job. I had no other plan, no other interest and therefore, if it all failed, no other career direction I could go in (talk about eggs and one basket).
Rush forward 19 amazing years and I found myself being medically retired from the job that I had once loved and was my entire life, as my career hit a brick wall. Stood on the cusp of having nowhere to go, no other job option and no clue what to do, I was in a state of complete panic.
Regardless of my mental health (PTSD was the reason for retirement) this blind panic was something I could not control. I held on to my job with my fingernails, hoping that everything would change and I could find a way to complete my service. This was not to be, I was being tossed from the organisation to make way for new, undamaged recruits that could do my job, which I could no longer do.
Speaking to literally hundreds of other cops since that time, all at differing years in the job, I know this is common practice and has the same fear factor for those that are being targeted. A feeling that many have, is the inability to cope with life, the unknown outcome and the feeling of having to do this ‘alone’.
I had held on to my job for four years, hoping for it to change, yet those last 6 months were the hardest. I was told that I was going to be put up to be medically retired but with no update on the progress, there was no regular contact from someone inside the organisation that should have been helping me through the process, I was a problem and was left in limbo. For those that do not know, I was put up twice for ill health retirement having to endure the process twice. The first time was when my PTSD was not deemed to be a ‘permanent’ illness. I was thrown back to the office to get on with it however when that clearly did not work and my condition got worse, I was put forward again for a second time. These were only 18 months apart and I had no support or therapy in that time. As there was no change in my condition (shocker) this resulted in a second process (if one is not enough).
Knowing I was up again to be medically retired, weeks and months passed and I was being kept in the dark, fear of the unknown, the inability to plan the next stage of my life, things got very thin and a thought passed my mind. I was lucky, I held out as a decision came in October. I got a phone call and was told I had four weeks and then I was gone. Part of me felt a relief but the rest of me was in a tailspin. I had no idea what my life was going to be like. I was only 44 and had another 20 years to go before I officially retired. An ill health pension would not be substantial enough to pay for a mortgage and living expenses, I knew I had to do something but had no clue where to start.
With the fear growing deeper and deeper, I was frozen, unable to make a decision or take action. I was petrified and unable to cope whilst I watched the timer count down.
For four weeks I was a mess, a real and total loss of function. I could not think straight and all I could do was watch the date for I when I was ‘out’. This time should have been spent looking and preparing for the outside world, perhaps with the support of an organisation that had got me into this state in the first place, but I knew this was never going to happen so it was on me but I had no capacity to deal with it.
When the 4th November came, I was set free. Instead of the crushing reality that I was expecting to hit me, I felt total relief. My journey to this point had been hard and I was worn out, nothing left in the tank. I had to now look after myself. I worked on my CV, looked at my transferable skills and tried to make a decision about what I should do next but it was a pointless exercise as there was no passion for me to do it.
For the next three months, I did very little. I half heartedly put myself forward for a few jobs but there was no way I was ready for the working world and I did not even get a reply from any of the employers. I decided to look after number one and to go easy on myself. Then one day, when I had taken the pressure off, it clicked. I knew what I wanted to do and how I was going to do it, then everything fell into place.
Finding a job that I valued and wanted to do, I was ready to put myself back into the world. I was rested and had found the reset button that I needed. I put myself back out there and applied for a few positions. This time I had focus, I even bought a new suit to put me in the right state of mind, only then did I started to get interviews. Only on my third job interview I landed a job, which was not as bad as I thought. All the other recruiters wanted me as well (but they took too long).
Roll on a year and a bit from being medically retired and with the power of hindsight, I am happier, more relaxed and my life has changed beyond recognition. My PTSD is still there and I struggle with daily triggers but they are more manageable and for me it is a healthier way to live. To those that face the uncertainty, I hope my story is full of support and is motivational enough to help you keep going – you are not alone.
I can promise that you will find it hard, but as a cop we have something that is taught to us in bucket loads that no other job in the world has. Resilience and patience. If you look after yourself, take the time that you need and are willing to use these skills properly, I believe you can turn it around as well. Life does get better, mine will never be easy, but it got easier the day I left the ‘Job’.
If you ever need a hand or a chat, drop me a message and for those that need further inspiration and a good starting point, I would suggest joining a Facebook group – Blue Light Leavers and asking to speak to Andy.
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