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Family Story: ‘It’s okay to talk about the challenges of being a first responder’s partner’

I’m the partner of a first responder, and I talk openly about the fact that it can be hard. I like to share the good bits too, but it’s the difficult parts that we tend to keep to ourselves – and I want that to change.

There are many people in my situation who find it difficult to talk about how hard it is for them.

Maybe they feel like it’s only them going through it, or that there’s something wrong with them because it feels hard.

Maybe they’ve opened up once before and someone’s told them, ‘You’re supposed to be supporting the first responder, and you’ve got it easy at home’. But it’s not actually easy at home.

They’re in the same shoes as me, and I want to normalise that, what they’re going through. I want to make it known that there are hard parts to this role.  

At home, we’re the ones who will see the first signs of things going wrong for the first responders. And we’re often left without any information or resources or guidance for how to deal with that. Sometimes I feel a bit lost in that, like I’m in the shadow of the badge.

If we want first responders to be well, and to thrive in their careers, then those who love them need to be included in their support systems.

That’s what’s drawn me to Fortem – they’ve realised that the whole family needs that connection. We’re the ones who are caring for the first responders, and we’re are also affected by this.

There’s so many people out there who don’t have that support or understanding with their immediate families or friends. They might be getting advice that, because a first responder is grumpy or irritable or never helping out with the housework, then you should leave them. But they don’t have an understanding of what your life actually is as a first responder family. For example, not getting off the lounge can actually be a symptom of coming down from hypervigilance – they’re on alert for that whole shift, and all of a sudden they go down to the lowest of the low because they’ve been running on adrenaline for 12 hours. Sometimes they’re trying to numb their brain from all that’s happened at work.

I want our silent minority to have a voice. 

As told to Fortem Australia

Thanks to the author of The Police Wife Chronicles for sharing your story