I hate Christmas
People usually think that I am joking when I say this. I am not.
While the roots of my dislike for Saturnalia probably come from childhood, and a birthday a couple of days before Christmas (here is one present for both birthday and Christmas…) there is more to it than that.
For essentially all of my adult life, I have been an ambulance officer, and for most of that time, I have worked during the holiday season. This has exposed me, over and over, to the dark side of the festive season. Christmas for me has become about everything broken.
Broken bodies, to be sure. The ridiculous, never ending carnage on our roads, driven by largely by stupid decisions, drink driving, speeding, and fatigue, leaves a trail of broken bodies across the state. And we are the ones who have to deal with this, struggling to get the broken, dieing or dead, out of the twisted sarcophagi they are entombed in, hoping that this time we will have a win, this time we can get someone back.
These broken bodies leave more broken people in their wake, as paramedics have to tell families that their loved one won’t be there to open their presents this year, or ever again. With appalling regularity we deal with the broken hearts of families left without a son, daughter, mother, father.
Broken bodies and the subsequent broken hearts take up a great deal of a paramedic’s attention this time of year. Unfortunately, so do the broken people and broken minds of our society.
I can only imagine how the sad, lonely, bereft and desperate people at the margins of society feel during the Christmas season. Already alone, struggling and desperate, to be bombarded relentlessly with images of happiness, togetherness, and belonging must feel like society spitting in their eye. And inevitably, their hearts and minds scoured, flayed, excoriated beyond any imaginable threshold of coping, many take refuge in drugs, alcohol, or all too often, perhaps the only peace they can find.
Often this leaves yet more broken hearts behind for us, and others to try to comfort. Worse than that though, all too often these routine tragedies leave no ripples at all.
So, why this depressing diatribe on this, the allegedly happiest time of year?
Because you are out there dealing with all of this as well. And you need to know that you are not alone in facing the awful things that you must deal with too, now, and all year round. I know it can weigh heavily, and I know that we are not good at admitting this, or seeking the help that we need.
I know that it is busy. I know you are dragged from job to job with little time to collect yourself in between. I know the added frustration of dealing with the broken bodies, broken families, broken hearts, broken minds, only to be sent next to someone who has an ingrown toe-nail. A system that places equal weight on such trivial calls as the true, life ending, or life altering catastrophes we feel we are here for, adds to the feeling of hopelessness we feel. I have spent the last two nights trying to help, trying to mitigate this indignity, but I know it is not enough.
So please, while you are bearing witness, mopping up the grief and loss, and bringing what comfort you can to those you come across, remember to take care of yourselves. Do whatever you need to do to find yourself again amongst the terrible, unending carnage you are dealing with. Make use of the services that are available to you: the peer support, counselling services, or chaplaincy services. Decompress when you can. Debrief with your partner. Hug your children. Talk to your wife, husband, boyfriend, girlfriend, or best friend. Listen to music. Exercise. Sleep. Go easy on the booze. Listen to Weingart’s podcast on the Mind of the Resuscitationist, Post Resuscitation. Read a book. See a movie. Eat with friends, talk and laugh.
Most of all, look after your mates. And if someone asks if you are ok, be honest. If help is offered, take it. But don’t wait, make sure you help yourself as well.