I’ve had an incredible response regarding my family problems from my April 2011 column. I truly appreciate it.
Ol’ Bullethead’s been dealing with some heavy doodoo. I went to see a shrink for a while on my own and so did Mrs. Bullethead. Then we graduated to seeing one together. I’ve figured out a whole bunch of stuff through this—one being that cops are screwed up. That’s right. We’re a mess. It’s a necessary part of our job and facing it will help us live longer, happier lives.
The Mrs. and I learned she needs me to be more emotionally available. Now Ol’ Bullethead’s been around awhile and I had no idea what this even meant. I’ve been trying to figure it out, but the results have varied.
Another Rough Day
Recently, the swing shifters had a crazy day: A double murder with one of our cops dumping the suspect when he got there. Just after, some lady wrapped her car around a pole and kicked. When we yard dogs showed up, we had the scenes, and I went over to speak with the officers.
The day before, I took a class where I learned some technical skills unrelated to dead bodies. In the scope of life, these skills are nothing compared to people being murdered. I was happy I was able to use these skills while at the murder scene, especially since it was the first time I’ve ever applied something that quickly and successfully. I was ecstatic.
While speaking with the officers, I noticed a body lying on the ground a few yards away. The body had a few holes in it from the shootout. I matter-of-factly asked the cop, “Is that the dead guy our cop smoked?”
“No, the victim and the other is over there,” he said pointing. “The one our guy dumped was scooped, and died at the hospital.” Without skipping a beat, we started speaking about the business at hand: “How long have you been here? Need any coffee, something to eat, bathroom?” The same sort of questions an office manager might ask their people after a long meeting or working on a big project. The difference is that they wouldn’t have two bodies with bullet holes in them spitting distance away.
I left the scene, not giving the victims or the loved ones they left behind another thought.
The next morning, I was driving home and I brought up all the events of the night before with the Mrs. I flippantly mentioned we had four dead people. Two of which I saw lying on the ground with holes shot through them. Then I went on about how happy I was that I applied the skill I learned. I spoke at length about how insecure I was to attempt the new, unpracticed skill. I was sharing my feelings and doing my best to be emotionally available—applying all the language and techniques the shrinks suggested.
Mrs. Bullethead asked about the dead people and said she was sorry I had to see such terrible things, and how it must have been a rough night. Rough night? Her response landed like a well-thrown Thai kick right on my chin. She must not have been listening to how it was a great night due to my success. I replied something similar to “Yeah, it sucks about all those dead people, but did you hear me share my success and how it made me feel?”
After a day of poor sleep and another night at work, I decided the way to be emotionally available was to tell the Mrs. that I still need armor to do this job. I realized that I have to be a certain way at work to survive all the crap we see and still come out on the other end in something close to one piece. I told her I was worried she wouldn’t accept my response to the things I must shut out to be a successful cop. And that this might lead us back toward old, unacceptable habits. But she was completely accepting and grateful I shared that with her.
What it comes down to: Cops are all screwed up. We see dead bodies as nothing more than props in a surreal murder scene while we talk about whatever keeps our attention away from the horrors in front of us. But we can accept this as not normal for humans, but necessary for us, and find ways to work around it. We can still be emotionally available to those we love. We can give them what they need to love us back and support us.
We all need to consciously accept this and explain it to those close to us. It’s paid enormous dividends for me and Mrs. Bullethead.
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