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TLC Nonfiction Review: Flashpoint by Christy Warren

Title: Flashpoint

Author: Christy Warren
Year published: 2023
Category: Adult nonfiction (memoir)
Pages: 288 pages
Rating: 4 out of 5

Location: (my 2023 Google Reading map)USA (CA)

SummaryFor twenty-five years, paramedic and firefighter Christy Warren put each tragic, traumatizing call she responded to in a box and closed the lid. One day, however, the box got too full and the lid blew open—and she found herself unable to close it again. Her brain locked her inside a movie theater in which film after film of gut-wrenching scenes from her career played over and over again; she found herself incapable of forgiving herself for what happened at one call in particular. Caught in a loop of shame, anger, irritability, and hypervigilance—classic signs of PTSD—she began to spiral, even to the point of considering suicide, and yet still she was reluctant to seek help.

In the end, it took almost losing her marriage to force Christy into action—but once she began to reach out, she found a whole army of folks waiting and ready to help her. The team of people supporting her eventually grew to include an EMDR therapist, a psychiatrist, her peers at a trauma retreat, and a lawyer who made the case for medical retirement and workers compensation. Along the way, Christy learned the vital truths that made it possible to keep going even in her darkest moments—that post-traumatic stress was literally a brain injury; that suicide and alcohol were not the only ways out; that asking for help was a sign of strength, not weakness; and that although it was ultimately up to her to do the work to change the dialogue in her head, she was not alone.

Review: I figured that this would be a powerful and interesting book and it was. It reads easily and I felt like I was listening to Christy tell her story to a group of people. Is this the best written book I've read? No. Christy is not a writer first, but the power is in her story.

I don't know much about being an EMT, Paramedic, or firefighter so those aspects of the book were really interesting: how the rotation schedule works; what it's like when the alarm goes off; the ins and outs of calls and how they are viewed by the first responders; and how they all interact with one another. And, sadly, how the calls affect them as they take home both the calls that went well and the calls that didn't.

I don't know how we expect any of them to be ok after what they deal with on a daily basis. It seems like weekly therapy for all first responders would be a smart idea. Give them time to process (individually and in groups) what they've dealt with during the week so that it doesn't just get "put in a box" as Christy did. Perhaps therapists would catch problems earlier and save many of them and their families heartache. I had no idea how high the suicide rate is for this group.

Christy's journey post PTSD diagnosis is a powerful one. The hoops she has to jump through to get treatment covered, the way she feels during it all, the toll it takes on her marriage and other relationships, and the connections to her childhood experiences are all well described.

Challenges for which this counts: none

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