An Illawarra police officer sat in a rest room one night and considered drawing her Glock, turning it on herself and squeezing the trigger.
Images of her family stopped her.
The thought of colleagues having to deal with the mess of suicide also swayed her back from the brink. But those workmates proved not to be real mates in her time of need.
"For a little while some people contacted me, but it dwindled as the ones I thought were mates have no longer bothered with me," Sarah* said.
"I constantly woke through the night to check on my children ... I was up about 10 times a night."
"It appears the only time the police family shows its face to support someone is when an officer is killed in the line of duty. Sad, but true."
So after 14 years in the NSW Police Force, Sarah was discharged on medical grounds and, like hundreds of others, left to cope alone.
Her hell was just beginning. Next came her epic battle with insurance companies and to this day the drawn-out process and covert tactics used against her are causing just as much anguish as any front-line battle.
"My family and I are under surveillance by the insurance companies and they've even gone as far as coming into the gym while I was with a support person just to stare at me," Sarah said.
"They followed me to my child's school, which is 200 metres away, only to cause more distress to me. This exacerbated my condition and I wouldn't go anywhere.
"Just because people see me at the gym with a support person doesn't mean I am not suffering, it means I'm following doctors' advice and trying to do normal things and have a normal life, whatever that means."
For Sarah, regular activities like going to the shops are a struggle.
"I mainly do online shopping so I don't have to attend those places. Driving on certain roads gives me panic attacks and causes arguments between my husband and I."
She joined the police because she wanted to catch crooks and help victims.
She was stationed in southern Sydney before transferring to the Illawarra and worked in general duties, detectives, child protection and other specialist areas.
In 2010 she visited a psychologist because she wasn't sleeping and couldn't cope with watching any violence on TV.
"The news, anything really, even just hearing about things set me off," she said.
"I constantly woke through the night to check on my children. In general, I was up about 10 times a night."
Sarah was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and given a pamphlet. She left the office and never returned.
Later she found another psychologist and after three months of treatment, she felt OK.
"My PTSD is triggered by stress and anxiety along with numerous other triggers. I haven't just had one incident, mine is accumulative," she said.
"Work knew about my PTSD and did nothing to assist me."
She would ask colleagues not to talk about "certain incidents" but got replies like: "It's part of the job, deal with it".
"So I would constantly walk out of the room when topics came up that I knew would affect me. That is one of the reasons I kept quiet and tried dealing with it by seeing a private psychologist."
Eventually in 2011, Sarah broke down at work. She had chest pains, diarrhoea and couldn't function.
"During this time, I certainly wanted to end the pain," she said.
In hindsight, her chances of ever returning to work were minuscule.
Her boss had what he called "the departure lounge".
"Everyone knew about it and there were several people sitting on it, waiting for their discharge, so this is the type of assistance you got."
Her boss's words of advice also stuck in her head: "This is not your trauma, it's someone else's".
"It may not be my trauma, but I was there and saw those people dead in the car, and I cried when I took a statement from a family who lost their newborn to SIDS," she said.
At her lowest point, Sarah was admitted to hospital and consequently discharged from the NSW Police. She hasn't stepped inside a police station since.
"Don't get me wrong. I loved my job and I loved to work out on the road locking up the crooks. I was good at my job.
"When I was discharged, I was given no payout, although I have income protection, but we are still not sure when that will end. When you are discharged no-one is there to explain what happens next - you are left in limbo.
"As soon as you receive a notification you are being discharged, the police are on your doorstep taking all your uniforms and badge."
In 2012, Sarah put a claim in to Metlife and TAL insurance companies for a total and permanent disablement. After 2½ years her claims remain unsettled with no end in sight.
"By dragging the process out, it keeps people like me in a state of anxiety, uncertainty, stress, anger and frustration and that's why some take their life or pull the pin on their claim," she said.
"I am now waiting for my next lot of surveillance when, and if, Metlife reopen my claim."
The NSW government needed to step in and stop insurance companies from interrogating injured workers and their families and ensure claims were dealt with in a timely manner, she said.
"Police and ex-police going through this process have enough trauma and stress to deal with on a daily basis, yet these insurance companies go above and beyond to traumatise the injured and their families more," Sarah said.
"While this process is ongoing, you can't recover."
* Not her real name.
Support is available for anyone who may be distressed by phoning Lifeline 13 11 14; Mensline 1300 789 978; Kids Helpline 1800 551 800.
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