When insomnia seems a blessing rather than a curse, I know that it's time to take a break. When sleeping leads to dreams, nightmares, that wake me up, sometimes it's better just to stay awake. It's then that I know that I need to step away, albeit briefly. For some reason, working the day (well, two nights) of the strike last week, led me to exactly that point.
Working those shifts led to a torrent of emotions, from fear to pride, from anxiety to hatred, from fulfilment to total despair. Finishing my shift on the morning after, I got home and was ready to throw my uniform away for good. I was exhausted and frustrated, and calls that I would normally deal with on a regular basis, and that would have no lasting effects on me, suddenly turned into difficult calls. I heard of other calls that night, calls that I thank my lucky stars that I didn't attend but that colleagues, friends of mine did, because I think that having to deal with those calls as well, would have left me a broken shell. It seems that the world was going all out to make it as difficult as possible to do our job. Fewer ambulances, more calls, more serious calls.
And I left work that night with the image of a smiling child burnt into my mind. A picture that was hanging on a wall. A child, no older than my youngest, with a grin like a Cheshire cat, holding a trophy, beaming with pride. That child was about to have their world crumble all around them, as soon as the police had done their job - a job I didn't envy one little bit.
It all conspired to leave me wondering whether it was all worth it, with what the police officer in the blog I've linked to refers to as an involuntary slide show. The politics, the trauma, the arguments, the abuse, the emotions. I had to step away, just for a few days. Not read any blogs or write them, not think about the ambulance service, not talk about it, not consider the possibility of working some overtime. I had to spend some time with friends and family, some time not seeing things in perspective, but seeing them through slightly rose-tinted glasses.
The image of that child will, I'm sure, stay with me, even though I never met them in person. One day, I might write about the call itself, but not yet. For now, I'm ready to go back to work, if a little anxious. The tensions of the strike are no longer there, everyone is just there to do what we do best: saving people's lives. Or at the very least, improving them.