Friday, September 15, 2023

PTSD for First Responders and Active Federal Service Members (LEOs)

A common rumor with PTSD is that it is somehow reserved for the military community. I even hear this among First Responders, such as EMTs, police, firefighters, and emergency dispatchers - even though our First Responders are on the front lines here at home every day. 

Many of my fellow Veterans are drawn to continue their service as a First Responder in their community, or as in active federal service, or in federal Law Enforcement. I want to take a minute to dispel some myths and give you some real talk about PTSD in our First Responder and LEO community.

Many civilians believe that only military members can suffer from PTSD, and, within the ranks, many Service Members believe that only ops folks or combat Veterans can have PTSD. Very often, I hear clients say something to the effect of, “I don’t ‘deserve’ to have PTSD.”

Let's start off by saying: that is not a thing; that is fundamentally not how PTSD works. You don’t have to be a trigger-pulling, pipe-hitting mother-trucker for PTSD to whoop your ass (although you certainly can be). 

Then there’s the idea that PTSD is reserved for those who have “earned it” or somehow "deserve it." Let’s have some real talk: I don’t deserve to have the flu. I’m a really nice person and good looking. But flu doesn’t give a shit about that. No one deserves to have malaria or HIV or schizophrenia, but we don’t get a choice. PTSD is same-same.

PTSD can develop in anyone after experiencing a trauma. Trauma is defined as, "actual or threatened exposure to death, serious injury, or sexual violence." That is a pretty big umbrella. According to research, over 80% of First Responders report experiencing traumatic events on the job, and it is estimated that 10–15% have been diagnosed with PTSD. Because these are self-report measures, I am going to guess that these numbers are low simply because the rumors about PTSD are so powerful.

The bottom line is that anyone can develop PTSD after a trauma, and First Responders and feds spend a lot of time around death, injury, and sexual violence in the course of their work every single day. If this is you, I want to encourage you to get help. PTSD is something that happens to us; it is not something wrong with us. We absolutely can come back from our PTSD and reclaim our lives.


If you believe change is possible, you want to change, and you are willing to do the work, you absolutely CAN get your life back.”

The best way to start is to identify the problem. Download my free workbook and take a No-Sh*t assessment of where you are at today.

Friday, September 8, 2023

Toxic Shame and PTSD


In the 1960s, psychologist Silvan Tomkins coined the term “toxic shame” to refer to a deep and debilitating pathology that results from traumatic experiences of being repeatedly humiliated, rejected, despised, and treated as worthless. 

In 1988, counselor, speaker, and author John Bradshaw brought Toxic Shame into public awareness in his self-help book, Healing The Shame That Binds You. 

Shame is a feeling of diminished self-worth that is not related to any particular action.

Guilt is a negative feeling related to a particular action. 

A personal favorite of mine, BrenĂ© Brown, who has spent decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy, describes shame as, “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging - something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.” 

Toxic Shame has its roots in criticism. Most criticism is intended to correct a behavior, however, when the focus of that criticism is that you, rather than your behavior choices, are the problem the seed of shame is planted. 

The aggressor in this situation is not trying to correct choices. They are focusing their negativity on the survivor, selecting things that are out of the survivor’s control to use for a personal attack. Toxic shame is prevalent in family situations. Parents who may have endured treatment like this when they were children often replicate the behavior with their own children. It is not always easy to see the intent of criticism when it is delivered, and that is why this cycle of shame can go unnoticed, becoming toxic.

While it is more commonly seen in the parent/child relationship, Toxic Shame can show up in any close relationship with another person. 

When shame is used intentionally, it is emotional abuse. It is done with the intent of keeping their survivor powerless and at the mercy of the abuser. If the survivor’s sense of personal value has been diminished by toxic shame, they feel worthless. And because they feel that they are worthless, they also do not feel they deserve the help they need.

Let’s stop right here. Take a moment and read the following statement: 

You are not worthless.

You deserve to feel comfortable in your own skin.

You deserve to heal. 

Read it again. Keep reading that statement until you believe it, because, friend, you do deserve to heal. And until you believe it, you cannot begin to heal.

What is your experience with toxic shame? We value your feedback and ideas! Reach out on our Community Facebook Page!


If you believe change is possible, you want to change, and you are willing to do the work, you absolutely CAN get your life back.”

Get your copy of The Soldier's Guide to PTSDThe Soldier's Workbook

or Acknowledge & Heal, A Women's-Focused Guide to PTSD

Friday, September 1, 2023


Cyberbullying, which is a modern form of social bullying, has introduced another level of unique concerns which have significant impacts on children:  

·         The current social media environment increases the spread of hurtful information or harassment beyond the local community setting.

·         Digital devices offer an ability to immediately and continuously communicate making it difficult for children to find relief from online harassment.

·         Most information communicated electronically is permanent and public, if not reported and removed.

·         A negative online reputation can impact college admissions, employment, and other areas of life.

·         Teachers and parents may not overhear or see cyberbullying taking place, making it harder to recognize unless reported. 

Research shows that females use more relational aggression, while males engage in physical bullying.

Gender stereotypes play a role in bullying because they directly influence the socialization of young children into gender roles. Males are socialized to be strong and independent, while females are socialized to be understanding and sensitive. We’re not saying that females won’t be physically aggressive or boys won’t exclude others, but the statistics seem to follow the gender trends. 

The 2019 School Crime Supplement (SBS) to the National Crime Victimization Survey (National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice) shows that, nationwide, about 22% of students ages 12–18 experienced bullying. 

The 2019 Youth Risk Behavior SurveillanceSystem (YRBS) shows that, nationwide, 19.5% of students in grades 9–12 report being bullied on school property in the 12 months preceding the survey.

Females tend to bully other people indirectly or by using social or relational aggression. This type of bullying includes verbal assaults, ostracizing, spreading rumors, and gossiping. One of the biggest problems with this type of bullying is the ability to disguise their actions through passive-aggressive behavior, which makes this type of bullying more difficult to spot. 

In general, girls do not bully on their own, they tend to belong to a group, where everyone follows shares in the behavior. Remember Mean Girls, the 2004 American teen comedy film directed by Mark Waters and written by Tina Fey? That’s exactly the type of clique-style bullying we’re talking about here. 

Because of the socially geared nature of the female gender, or those identifying as female, many young girls engage in bullying because of peer pressure and the desire to be part of the popular group. Girls may also engage in relational aggression as a result of jealousy, low self-esteem, boredom, or learned behavior from others. 

Females also experience sexual bullying more than males. This includes spreading rumors of sexual activity and direct sexual harassment. 

Sexting—sending or receiving sexually explicit messages or images between electronic devices—is becoming increasingly common. Research shows that among kids between the ages of 11 and 17, 15% of them sent sexts and 27% received sexts; the prevalence of the behavior increases as adolescents age.

When sexts are sent without consent, such as when private nude photos or videos of an individual are widely shared among a peer group, it can lead to sexual bullying and even sexual assault.

The impact of being exposed to this cyberbullying comes with potential long-lasting consequences. Those who have been on the receiving end of bullying often develop hyperarousal symptoms, feeling like they could be attacked or criticized at any time. Even if the abuse stops, they may live in anticipation and fear, waiting for the next incident to occur. This combination of restless feelings may lead to performance decline, isolation behaviors, and low self-esteem. 

Have you or a loved one experienced cyberbullying? We value your feedback and ideas! Reach out on our Community Facebook Page!


If you believe change is possible, you want to change, and you are willing to do the work, you absolutely CAN get your life back.”

Get your copy of The Soldier's Guide to PTSDThe Soldier's Workbook

or Acknowledge & Heal, A Women's-Focused Guide to PTSD