First-time author Matthew Heneghan is a former Canadian Armed Forces Medic, a former civilian paramedic, and a sufferer of PTSD and a former alcohol abuser. He is also a blogger and podcaster, sharing his story of recovery and day-to-day struggles to cope with his afflictions. Wintertickle Press has now published A Medic’s Mind, his memoirs and they are as good as they come when it proceeds to ‘baring all”.
While Mr. Heneghan was never deployed, he buried several of his colleagues who came back in body bags. This was the beginning of his troubles, as he turned to drink as a coping mechanism. Eventually, he found he couldn’t cope with military life and knew he had to get out.
“My time in the army was brief and brilliant, terrible and amazing. I did not get to leave the way I wanted to. I also failed to leave as a whole. But I did manage to leave with a hole, a cavernous wound within my soul.
I am a flawed man. There are things I would have done differently. And there are things I would not change. I will also be forever proud of earning the right to wear the flag upon my shoulder.
I was once a soldier, injured by an invisible round fired from a gun unseen. The lesion it left is still healing. It has been infected for a long time.“
The next uniform he wears is that of an ambulance paramedic. In the city of Edmonton, he witnesses numerous types of trauma, including that of a deceased baby, a fourteen-year-old who hung himself in his parent’s basement and others equally as horrific. All of this naturally accumulated traumatic stress needs an outlet, and for Mr. Heneghan, that is more drink. He hears of other medics who have committed suicide (as his own mother did) and requests to go on stress leave. He never returns to being a medic.
“I hate the world and the evil within it. I hate picturing t things I have seen and done. I hate knowing what lurks in the dark corners of our cities. I hate having PTSD, and I hate feeling like I gave it to myself—like I was too weak to prevent it. It doesn’t matter how often I am told it isn’t my fault; I still feel this way some days.
I hate no longer wearing a uniform. I see things most people don’t. My perceptions of people are distorted, and I am embarrassed. I hide from the world some days, staying inside my apartment, headphones securely attached to my ears, trying to drown out the world around me. I shop late at night, and I do laundry at impossibly early hours of the morning to avoid people.“
Eventually, he comes to the difficult decision to enter therapy for his alcoholism, hoping that with a clearer head, he can figure out the causes of his nightmares and use some coping skills to deal with them. Mr. Heneghan takes us into therapy with him, as he has done with other situations, many horrific, some humorous and all have defined his medic’s mind.
One must give Mr. Heneghan credit for putting all of this personal baggage out there for all to see. It is important to try and understand what first responders see on a daily basis, and why some choose to leave (or have to leave) their chosen profession. A Medic’s Mind is cleverly laid out; each chapter begins in the present, but something triggers a memory and he goes back in his mind to retrieve an incident. He openly talks about his therapy sessions and his thoughts on his family and his attempt to reconnect with an estranged brother and a mother who took her own life. Mr. Heneghan’s writing style is overly verbose at times and while it may be challenging for the well-grounded reader to relate, those that have experienced repeated traumatic events, suicides and alcohol abuse, will find much to identify with in Mr. Heneghan’s story.
About the author: Born in the United Kingdom, Matthew immigrated to Canada at a young age. He grew up in rural British Columbia where he learned the value of friendship and lending a helping hand. Matthew went on to join the Canadian Armed Forces as a medic. His career was cut short by the beginnings of post-traumatic stress disorder. He went on to become a civilian paramedic until he could no longer remain healthy in his job. A Medic’s Mind is his first book.
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