The ‘It’s Not as Bad as’ Mindset, and Why It’s Dangerous
Did you ever hear that you should be thankful for what you have no matter what you’re going through, because someone always has it worse?
That may very well be true, but it doesn’t mean that what you’re going through isn’t “bad enough” for you to be upset about. Yes, it’s good to try to focus on the positive and to be grateful, but sometimes things aren’t ok. Sometimes you’re not ok. And that’s ok.
Part of the stigma surrounding police and their reluctance to seek out help when it’s needed (physically and mentally) is the “it’s not as bad as” mindset.
“Oh, yes, I was in a bad car accident and it even hurts just to bend over and tie my shoe, but it’s not as bad as that other cop that was shot four times last week.”
“Yeah, I’m having trouble sleeping and I’ve been pretty sad lately, but the things I’ve seen aren’t as bad as what those other officers had to deal with the other day.”
“Sure, I have a few drinks every night after my shift, but that’s not as bad as that other cop that drinks an entire bottle every night.”
This is not a healthy way to think. For so many reasons.
Everyone handles things differently. Everyone’s body, brain, chemicals respond to stimuli differently. Everyone has been through different experiences. There’s not even a way to measure whose situation- taking into account their history, their family, their support system or lack there of, their habits, their traumas, etc.- is “worse,” or who needs help more than someone else.
One officer may make it through 21 years as an officer in a high-crime area, seeing and dealing with horrific things, seeing the worst of people, and get into retirement with no issues. Another officer may be on the job only a couple of years and see some traumatizing things that cause him to have severe PTSD symptoms and ultimately force him to retire.
That retired officer isn’t better or more well adjusted. He’s not stronger. He’s strong, yes, but not more so than another trauma-ridden officer that asks for help.
Someone else’s experiences are just that: someone else’s. Yours don’t get invalidated because someone else was shot and you were “only” hurt in a foot pursuit. They don’t disappear or cease to matter because you saw a 10-year-old struck and killed by a drunk driver, but someone else saw it happen to a toddler.
If you need help, you need help. Your family deserves you to be at your best no matter how many people have it “worse” than you. You deserve to be healthy, mentally and physically, even if someone else was in a “worse” incident than you were, even if someone else’s trauma is “deeper.”
Maybe another cop was shot four times last week and you were “only” in an accident. But eventually, the person who was shot will start to heal. If you don’t get medical help or take care of yourself, you won’t.
Maybe another cop saw a “more traumatizing” scene than you did. But what happens the next time you get to a traumatizing scene and you haven’t dealt with your symptoms from the last scene?
Maybe that other cop who drinks a bottle a night is more dependent on alcohol than you are right now. But do you think he has always been that way? No- he started out with “just a few drinks” after their shift too. Then they likely saw someone who had it “worse,” so they neglected to get help.
And the cycle continued.
Don’t let it continue any more. It’s time to break the cycle. It’s time to see your traumas for what they are: traumas. It’s time to see your injuries for what they really are: injuries.
If you’re waiting for your agency to approach you and get you help, you’re going to be waiting a long damn time. Agencies, for the most part, don’t give a crap, as long as you show up, do your job, and don’t get them sued. That’s just how it is.
If you’re waiting for another officer to ask you if you need help, unfortunately you might be waiting just as long. Same thing with your family. This isn’t for as callous of a reason as with the agencies, but it’s still true. Some officers don’t know how to approach it. Some of them don’t want to, because then they may have to face their own issues. Some family members don’t understand the issues or where you may be coming from with them. They may be scared to talk to you, to upset you, or they may be too scared to find out what you’re really going through, because they themselves won’t be able to handle it.
If you’re lucky, you’ll have a co-worker or a family member or friend that can help you through your issues. If you’re like many other people, though, you won’t have that luxury.
Let me tell you exactly who WILL be there for you no matter what your issues are: Peer support advocates. I’m personally involved with The Wounded Blue, so I’m going to focus on that organization because I know more about it. But we’re by no means going to tell you we are the only advocate group out there or the only ones who have peers ready and willing to help you.
But we are an organization filled with amazing officers, former officers, and spouses who have a wealth of knowledge, compassion, empathy, and training and who truly want to be there for you and get you connected to the resources you need.
The one thing we can’t do, though, is force you into getting that help. You have to do that. You have to take that first brave step and let us know you need someone to guide you, or you just need to vent.
We are passionate about maintaining privacy and confidentiality so that we can make sure you’re able to feel safe talking to us without anything getting back to your department. I know that fear is what kept me from getting help for literally years- YEARS of my life I could have spent not being over anxious, depressed, and hyperalert if I had known about or had the connection to an organization like The Wounded Blue.
So please, learn from my mistake, also made by so many others like me: If you need help, ask. It’s not a weakness to need help, it’s how humans were designed. We weren’t mean to suffer alone or in silence, and we shouldn’t try to. It’s a sign of incredible strength to be able to admit you need someone to guide you, help you, listen to you, hear you, work with you.
And if you’re an officer who sees a coworker struggling, or a family member who sees your officer hurting, give them a nudge. You may not know how to help them, but we do. And we want nothing more than to do just that.
Someone, somewhere may have it worse than you do, but we don’t want to talk to anyone as badly as we want to talk to you.