Struggles with Relationships, Stigma, and Nutrition

Kelly Lynch is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, personal trainer, and nutritional coach. She has been an EMT since 2003, and she worked in commercial EMS in Connecticut for 10 years prior to becoming a therapist.

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A Conversation with Kelly Lynch, LCSW, EMT, CPT, PN1

Kelly Lynch is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, personal trainer, and nutritional coach. She has been an EMT since 2003, and she worked in commercial EMS in Connecticut for 10 years prior to becoming a therapist. And during her decade on the road, Kelly was also an FTO for four years.  Kelly specializes in treating Acute Stress and Post Traumatic Stress Injuries in EMS professionals and other first responders. It is Kelly’s hope to contribute to the ‘conversation’ of normalizing mental wellness in public safety, to change the stigma of asking for help, and increase access and availability of appropriate support services to all professional and volunteer first responders.

 Kelly has a wealth of knowledge in several topics, and we talked about dual first responder relationships, combatting the stigma with struggle and trauma, how first responders can take care of their body, and buddy checks.

 The Pros and Cons of being a dual first responder couple

First responders typically know that it is hard to do what they do and don’t want to burden others with what they do and see.  When they are in a relationship with someone who is not in public safety, there is a concern of burdening or that a spouse will not be able to understand.

Are they going to really get it?

Are they going to understand the way that this made me feel?

Are they going to understand why I’m in a crappy mood right now?

Are they going to understand why I don’t really sleep that well?

“When you have a significant other who is in public safety, you don’t have to explain that part because they already know because they’re in it with you.”

On a negative side, both partners struggle with mood changes and a lack of understanding what causes the mood change. There are the arguments for no apparent reason. Trauma experienced by both starts to bleed into the relationship and create enmeshment and codependency issues, arguing, and a whole host of different kinds of issues.

“You don’t get paid for what you do on shift.  You get paid for what you might have to do.” Kelly Lynch

Codependency in dual first responder couples

Codependency when Kelly sees it in first responder relationships presents as, “I don’t know what to do without you” or “I don’t know who I am outside of this particular role or relationship or dynamic.”  It’s the idea of needing someone else to feel complete or whole.  Kelly stated that first responders can become so consumed by the role of being the protector or the helper that they don’t know who they are or what they are or why we are outside of that. “We’re constantly trying to show up in this role of, ‘but it’s my job to take care of you, but it’s my job to support you and help you and guide you through this’ or whatever the case may be.”  When that is suddenly removed because maybe a spouse doesn’t need that part from their partner, there can be a loss or confusion which can create a codependent dynamic.  The codependent thought is, “I need you in order to be me.”

Combatting the Stigma of Struggle

Kelly stated that the first concept she unpacks with clients is the idea that being impacted by what you do daily makes one weak.  They are having an emotional reaction to seeing things that are not normal to see.  When it becomes normal to see really messed up traumatic situations, first responders become desensitized to them.  The community tries to “stick it in a box” and call it normal and do not give people the space to process and talk about what happened or say, “I’m not actually ok with this.”

“Just because you’ve normalized it, doesn’t make it normal” Cyndi Doyle

The Impact and Nutrition

The nature of first responder work is moving from periods of boredom to moments of panic, moving from hypervigilant states to hypo-vigilant states.  The key is making different choices.

Meal Prepping: What kind of foods can you bring with you to shift that are going to support your body and fuel it in a healthy way?

Hydration: Drinking water improves the function of the frontal lobe which will impact impulsivity and objective thinking.  Drink more water, make better choices.  Water flushes out cortisol and reduces the chance of obesity.

Gut Health: 90% of serotonin is manufactured in our gut.  Go by the 80/20 rule and eat healthy 80% of the time so you can have 20% of the time to have fun.

Buddy Checks

Kelly emphasized the importance of “Buddy Checks”.  Ask these two questions of your buddy:

1.       How are you sleeping?

2.       What kind of changes have you seen in your mood?

You aren’t going to plant a seed that isn’t already there when you ask someone, “how are you?”

Expressing Concerns

Kelly gave some great language on how to approach someone when you are concerned.  Here is what she said, “Hey man, I care so much about you and I really value you as my partner and as my friend.  You’re different lately from how I’ve always known you to be.  Are you ok?  I hope you know that you can trust me and I’m here to help.  I can be a shoulder to cry on if you need it.  But please talk to me.”

Contact Kelly Lynch at [email protected]

FB & IG @Iamkellylynch

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Struggles with Relationships, Stigma, and Nutrition

Kelly Lynch is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, personal trainer, and nutritional coach. She has been an EMT since 2003, and she worked in commercial EMS in Connecticut for 10 years prior to becoming a therapist.

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