“Ah wow! You must have seen some sights. What’s the worst thing you’ve seen?”
Because I’m meeting lots of new people, my past employment has come up a few times in conversation lately, and the above is the usual response. Even people I met months ago have asked when they find out.
I’ve not yet found a polite or sensitive way to tell them that “the worst thing I’ve seen” is actually part of the reason I don’t do the job anymore, and I really don’t want to have to remember it again. I know their intentions are innocent, but even though I have mostly come to terms with the things I did and saw, recounting them as stories can still sometimes still trigger unwanted memories.
For that reason I have my list of stock stories I tell. Some gruesome, some funny, some “sad”, but all detached from my emotions long ago.
But sometimes they want more. They ask probing questions and those aren’t helpful.
I recently applied for a different job with my current employer. Basically it was to run a hospital simulation suite where future medical staff might get as close to realism as they can before they are dropped into the big bad world.
During the interview I was asked why there was an inconsistency in my job history after leaving the ambulance service, a few different jobs, all short term. Feeling brave and thinking maybe it’s time, I mentioned the possiblity of PTSD. One of the interviewers jumped on this and asked if I’d be able to cope with the job I was applying for because of this. Completely thrown by the question I stumbled a bit and realised that the interview was over and it was pointless continuing!
The public don’t know most of what medical staff see or go through, from the person who takes the 999 call to the person who discharges the patient. Sometimes just a smile or a “good for you” is enough when you find out what someone’s history involves. Often they don’t want to talk about the specifics. It will definitely have affected how they see so many things in life, but let us volunteer that. Let us choose when and what we share, when we choose to. Don’t try to remind us why we don’t do it anymore.
The other thing I often get asked is “Who is Moreton Rhodes?”. No, it’s not my real name…obviously. Moreton is a toy mouse that has been round the world with work or leisure trips. Rhodes was probably the worst holiday I can remember. There’s no significance in either but I thought they sounded good together.