Retired Wildland Firefighter/Operations Safety
by Bequi Livingston
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.