Retired Wildland Firefighter/Operations Safety

by Bequi Livingston
(Albuquerque, NM)

Hi all - I really appreciate this community and glad to participate by sharing my story. I was one of the pioneer women in Wildland firefighting starting my career in 1979 and retiring August of 2018. I absolutely did not plan to retire that soon and had hoped to retire when I turned 66 and eligible for full SS benefits.

That being said, my field was very stressful - physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually which eventually caught up to me when I experienced a breakdown in 2016 from everything and received little support from my agency or co-workers. Everyone was used to me being the strong, positive ‘go-to’ person.

It started when I was overlooked for a well deserved promotion, one that I was the most qualified. Perhaps because I was an older female?? No idea but they hired a younger male that had few of the qualifications.

That was devastating for me and the beginning of my unwinding. Because everyone knew I would get the position, that had hired someone else in my former position and no longer had a position for me to work in.

The agency luckily allowed me to work on a very limited work schedule due to my Complex Post Trauma Stress, but I was forced into an earlier than planned retirement.
Although I’m so very grateful to be removed from that toxic work environment, being retired has been so challenging.

I also deal with severe depression and anxiety and the ‘identity crisis’ that others talk about.

It’s hard because the depression gives me no motivation to get out and do much of anything, even volunteer. I’m so used to taking care of everything and being so busy that now I’m having to completely unwind that past life. I also deal with stress/trauma related health issues as well so that adds to the mix.

The hardest part is that I went from being a highly valued and respected employee and now I don’t hear a word from any past co-workers at all. It’s literally as if I fell off the face of the earth.

So, yes, this grief has been gut-wrenching and I literally put one foot in front of the other every day hoping and having faith that things will work out at whatever point they are meant to.

I think that retiring from a profession such as an emergency first responder or even military veterans does not get the support it needs. We have given service to others and our country and to be forgotten is a shame.

For me, I try to do kind things for others every single day and send out texts to others who are struggling just to remind them that ‘I’m thinking of them!’

Thank you for letting me share ...... bless you all.

Comments for Retired Wildland Firefighter/Operations Safety

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I fully agree
by: Nancy

You are so right. Veterans, first responders, firefighters etc. do no receive the support, help, and understanding they deserve. It is a true shame.

I so admire you for your career and thank you for your service. I am grateful for women like you who have blazed trails for the rest of us.

You will find the support you need on this website. I didn't find my way here until I had spent a year and half of a very stressful early retirement. But I was so gratified when I did.

What To Do?
by: Joe W.

It sounds like job burnout after being so faithful to a single employer.

What to do next?
If you think that you were not treated fairly did you go to your union to get some issues discussed? Ageism is a possible cause for you being turfed out unceremoniously. And your health issues might be the real event that gave your employer a good reason to let you go without suspecting the real cause was ageism.

Do you know of any other first responders in your workplace that were treated the same way as you have been treated?

If the answer is yes you might have enough evidence to startup a class action lawsuit against your employer. If not, I suggest that you could take your 'pension earnings' and startup a new identity after you achieve your personal goal of health and well being.

by: mildred/tn

Have u tried reaching out to the people u worked w? Not to be a bother but invite to a luncheon to have fun remembering old times- this was what happened to me and made me realize I was happy being retired.

try to make new friends, telephone buddies help me also because I am not one to go out much being 81 now. My x husband complains that our granddaughter never calls him but he could call her also I think.

We are here for each other because of the need.
by: Jane Curtis/Hawkins, Texas

This website provides us with a place to vent, share our thoughts; good or bad; and to be there for each other.

I agree there should be more support for first responders, especially after they have to stop doing it. Please hang in there.

You are just going through the transition we all had to go through. I have several blogs I have written about my own experiences with 'retirement'.

The 3 thing we all have in common;

1.. we are thinking about our retirement,
2 we survived until now, and
3 we are all here to help each other.

Wendy is an excellent coach. You are welcome to our little community. The sky is not falling you are just retiring.

Make sure you realize you are retiring from work but not from life. You will make it through... another thing we all have in common.

Keep writing. It helps too.

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