by Gary Rubie
My journey started over 28 years ago working in law enforcement, 19 years of them plain clothes, covert and all alone. In 2009 I was knocked almost into my grave by the crippling affects of PTSD-related depression, concurrent disorders and related cross-addictions. I experienced anger, rage, fury, deep sadness, anxiety, panic attacks, heightened alert, disassociation, isolation, lost confidence, insecurity, loss of self worth, shame, guilt, bankruptcy, recurring night terror and sweats, insomnia, crippling fear, three attempts on my own life.
August 26, 1984 was the first on-duty murder of a Peel Regional Police officer. The next day was my first day as a recruit Police Constable for the Peel Regional Police Department. This was the start of my career.
I learned immediately that to live with stress was commonplace. To cope with it alone was, too. I was fortunate to have met with early success in my policing career and to have the opportunity for rapid movement throughout the Police Department and its various bureaus. Assignments over my career included enforcing street level narcotic and liquor violations, detective work, emergency response, murder trials, undercover drugs, outlaw motorcycle gangs, internet child exploitation and child porn, and terrorist trials, to name a few.
All of these experiences and 10 lifetimes of darkness and pain were buried deep inside of me. In 1998 while working in undercover drugs, I suffered what I believed to be a small nervous breakdown or minor burn-out. I was treated by my doctor for depression and anxiety. I began to notice my temper shortening and my panic and fear growing. It was then that I began to suffer night terrors and recurring dreams. The following year I transferred to a “safer” unit, but never regained my self-confidence. I lived in constant fear. I was suffering alone and quietly. My drinking escalated, and in 2000 I joined a 12-step recovery program.
I lasted another seven years with the police department until being diagnosed by several psychiatrists and clinical psychologists with severe, job-related, career-ending post-traumatic stress disorder. In 2008 I was placed on disability and in 2009 I entered into two lengthy treatment programs.
In treatment I was cared for, understood, loved, handled gently, given hope, taught about PSTD, given some coping mechanisms. My medical team advised me they would not sign a return-to-work letter, advising that I would likely never return to policing due to the severity of my PTSD. The Police Department, however, fought my WSIB application and it was denied.
I was then asked to create a document that would assist in proving my case to the WSIB. I began this document and titled it, The History of Trauma. This work required me to sit alone on my living room floor, with no outside support, and go through several hundred notebooks, one page at a time, one day at a time, recording every disturbing incident I had experienced as far back as 1984. While in the throes of full-blown PTSD, I was forced to relive my entire career alone and retraumatize myself.
I completely relapsed, began abusing my prescription medications and drank heavily. I became homicidal and suicidal and on May 18, 2010 I exploded. I sent the 43-page document to the lawyer and the union, and then set out to find a gun. Full of fear and paranoia, I drove north with a yellow homemade noose around my neck, intent on driving to Port Elgin, where I planned to drive my truck into Lake Huron. After several phone calls and interceptions, a chase, and a couple of near fatal head-on collisions, I finally crashed my truck and suffered a closed brain injury. I was arrested and charged criminally.
I was also charged under the Police Services Act. I felt I was being punished by the organization that caused my PTSD. I took full responsibility for my actions, but it was my PTSD that caused me to act in this suicidal, homicidal manner. No one seemed to recognize this!
Several months later my WSIB application was again declined; however, I was told it would be reviewed further if I could provide yet more information. This was more than I could bear and, once more, I set out to end my life. I was again arrested for drunk driving and for breaching the conditions of my previous charges. After being physically mistreated by the arresting officer, I was incarcerated, denied bail and held for six days in segregation in Maplehurst Jail.
Shortly afterwards I was finally awarded my WSIB claim for-job related PTSD. I hope to retire in 2014 with a reduced pension.
Will we ever break the stigma within the ranks? Perhaps not, given the nature of the profession. Policing is a profession for hardened men and women. On the surface there may be “help available,” but once one has admitted “perceived weakness” through mental health issues, things will never be the same.
People are affected differently by stress and trauma. What affects one person may not affect another — not everyone falls into the same mold.
So, in my opinion, preventative measures are extremely important — early recognition, diagnosis and treatment. One may still become labeled, but early recovery may prevent a person from slipping as much as I did — having suicidal and homicidal thoughts, becoming addicted and devoid of all hope and self worth, and experiencing bankruptcy and incarceration.
I am now recovering, clean, sober, shameless, vigilant in my self-care. I live with hope. I move forward one little step and one day at a time, slowly and quietly, alone but no longer lonely. I have a caring family and friends. I am recovering, slowly. Little broken pieces have been placed in the right order and the glue is slowly drying. I am healing, I have hope.