Around three years ago Cpl. Jeff Easingwood was on duty for the Prince Rupert RCMP.
As Easingwood was driving in his police vehicle he was involved in an on-duty accident, which was the incident that burst the dam open bringing every bad thought he had to the surface.
â€œThat was kind of the point where I was forced to face things I just kind of ignored and thatâ€™s when I started seeing a psychologist and also got hooked up with a psychiatrist,â€ he said.
Easingwood is currently on medical discharge from the RCMP and will be officially retiring from his position on Jan. 24.
Three years ago Easingwood was diagnosed with PTSD, and as a result of that, between his doctors advice and the support of family and friends he decided that it was probably best to leave his service with the police force.
Easingwood transferred to Prince Rupert from Saskatchewan after he decided to apply for a promotion following a nine year career serving as constable for their detachment.
Easingwood canâ€™t pin his PTSD on any one particular incident. It was an accumulation of on-the-job incidences that slowly built their way up like a mountain until one day he noticed the symptoms more and more.
â€œI love it here. I just love it here,â€ he said. â€œMy wife is a teacher here, she loves her job and it is a great community for the kids. Even though I am leaving the RCMP, right now we see ourselves staying here.â€
Individuals can experience a multitude of symptoms with PTSD, every experience differs.
For Easingwood, the first wave of symptoms came when he was unable to sleep, and flashbacks and nightmares of various incidents invaded his dreams.
From there his temper became short and he was easily agitated by the slightest miscalculation.
â€œYouâ€™re not yourself anymore. I think for a lot of people who have it, youâ€™re kind of in denial, you know that youâ€™re not yourself but you just donâ€™t want to face that. Itâ€™s not an easy thing to come to terms with,â€ he said.
Giving up the RCMP was another difficult thing for Easingwood to come to terms with. If you ask him to pinpoint the very moment he knew he wanted to be a police officer, he would not be able to tell you. It was just something he always wanted to do for as long as he can remember.
Now his PTSD is an opportunity to grow and expand into another passion that heâ€™s had since childhood.
â€œIâ€™ve always also just had a love for photography. I remember being a small kid, with my first camera, taking pictures of the Prince George air show when we visited. And so with this situation, it is an opportunity to try and expand my photography, or maybe turn that into a career at this point,â€ he said.
|Jeff showing off his photography of Prince Rupert on display at the annual Winterfest Craft and Gift Fair. (Jenna Cocullo / The Northern View)|
When he steps out into the landscape and wildlife, which often times entails long hikes and rides out into the open water, Easingwood feels a peaceful and calming feeling coming over him. The opposite of his nightmares and flashbacks.
Easingwood does not let his PTSD define him. It is no doubt a part of him now, but he prefers to call it PTS-growth, a term he learned from Project Trauma Support, a group in Ottawa that helps veterans and officers cope with their post traumatic stress.
â€œSo how do you grow from here?,â€ he said. â€œRealizing that for some people, they think itâ€™s the end of the road, but helping guys and girls realize that itâ€™s not, that they have a lot to give still.â€
Easingwood is giving back to the community of support that helped him navigate his way out of his PTSD by donating to the organization with some of the funds from his photography.
â€œItâ€™s about making connections to lean on each other, and then somebody thatâ€™s going through hard times again, remember that they have people to reach out to help lead each other out of it again.â€
Jenna Cocullo | Journalist
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