Write Two Posts, Call Me in the Morning

There's often great therapeutic value in the simple act of getting it off your chest. Talking to a loved one, a professional listener like counselor or clergy, or even a total stranger can be a great way to shed emotional weight and feel a bit brighter after a tough experience. Just ask San Francisco fire-medic Justin Schorr.

Schorr, better known on the EMS Internet as the Happy Medic, spoke at EMS World Expo 2011 on a personal topic: how his blog saved his life. That's a bit of dramatic flair, but there's no denying Schorr's becoming the Happy Medic was integral to his recovery from a serious on-the-job injury a few years back.

In December 2007, a ceiling collapsed on Schorr during a structure fire. With time off he recovered from his physical injuries, but emotional wounds from the incident lingered. He felt at a loss, he told attendees. What now? How do I heal? Frustration and depression began to mount.

A counselor suggested keeping a diary. Schorr started a blog. Behind such a veil of anonymity, the emotions at last flowed freely. It was, he said, like "screaming into an empty room." Whether anyone was listening was beside the point.

But people were listening. The Happy Medic began to draw comments and followers. With the interaction, Schorr, in turn, felt more engaged and energized--like being reborn, he said. Still anonymous, the Happy Medic could say things an SFFD employee might not.

The road out of anonymity began with a particularly unpleasant medical call--a dying cancer patient who had to be transported against her wishes. That led Schorr to help create the EMS 2.0 movement--an attempt to rethink how we deliver EMS, and start it over in a more functional way. That, in turn, led to spirited dialogue with U.K. medic Mark Glencorse, a blogger known as Medic 999, and ultimately mutual invitations to visit and observe each other's systems. With that, Schorr said, it was time to out himself to his chief.

San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White didn't stifle the Happy Medic, and Glencorse came to San Francisco. An appearance on the EMS Garage podcast led to the Chronicles of EMS project, and Schorr ultimately visited the U.K. as well. The exchange was well-followed across the EMS world, and with that, Schorr said, the final clouds of the 2007 accident lifted.

That's a happy story, but it's worth noting that social media can be dangerous too. Blogging and Facebooking and Tweeting providers have run afoul of patient privacy laws and said intemperate things that have caused them trouble. Schorr concluded with advice for other bloggers that included being careful what you say--chiefs are on the Internet too. When writing something, he said, imagine three people reading it over your shoulder: 1) your grandmother, 2) your chief and 3) the interview panel at your next job.

Blogging is a double-edged sword. Things said in haste can haunt you at their leisure. But sometimes, at emotionally trying times, it can be a very effective medicine indeed.