Search

Paramedic Nat

A Blog About My Mental Health Journey

This Stethoscope…

50411424_10161550552965624_7371372303344467968_n.jpg

This Stethoscope… Was bought in 2001, when I was a paramedic student;

Has listened to thousands of lung sounds;

Has made sure the nebulized epinephrine was working on a pediatric patient;

Has listened to heartbeats after bringing people back to life;

Has been around my neck while I crawled into crushed cars;

Has pronounced many deaths;

Has listened to the cries of a newborn baby;

Has dangled around my neck while doing CPR;

Has been at a double murder, and auscultated the chest of the murderer;

Has helped to perform blood pressures on patients having a heart attack;

Has heard nothing sometimes, causing me to perform chest needles;

Has been wiped clean of blood after treating a patient with shotgun and stab wounds;

Has been around my neck while I told families that their loved one had died;

Has been dropped in a ditch where patients in a rolled over car waited for extrication;

Has been present for many air ambulance calls on the highway;

Has shown students how to trust that they hear no air entry;

Has been present in thousands of stranger’s homes;

Has been hidden under protective equipment at hazardous material calls;

Has been with me while driving lights and sirens more time than I could ever count,

Has been there when I held many patient’s hands;

Has been with me when I cried after after pediatric calls;

Has been present when I treated patients with strokes, diabetes, and amputated body parts;

Has been hidden in a box for a while now;

Has represented so much loss for me for a long time;

Has inspired me to tell this story;

Now hangs on my wall in front of Bill 163;

Doesn’t make me cry anymore;

This stethoscope will be a memory holder for the rest of my life and I will not hide it anymore.

Walter Loves Pastels Too

Depression vs Sadness

img_9424-2

*Important note about this post – if you are feeling suicidal or like you want to harm yourself, please reach out and ask for help. Call 911 or your local crisis line. You are not alone. Help is out there. Canadian Crisis Line

Sadness: It seems nice outside, maybe I should go for a walk.

Depression: You may say it’s nice outside, but all I see is darkness.

Sadness: Maybe I should eat something to cheer myself up?

Depression: What is food and water?

Sadness: I will just go for a drive to take my mind off of things.

Depression: Drive where? And why? My thoughts are with me wherever I go.

Sadness: I will go to a friend’s house to chat about gratitude.

Depression: Gratitude is just a word, because I don’t know how to feel it.

Sadness: I’m not suicidal, I’m afraid of death.

Depression: I welcome death. It’s all I think about.

Sadness: A bubble bath will cheer me up.

Depression: I haven’t showered in a week and I definitely don’t care.

Sadness: I know that there are good things in life.

Depression: I am incapable of feeling joy even if ‘good things’ are all around me.

Sadness: There’s a light at the end of this tunnel.

Depression: The light at the end of my tunnel is very different and ominous.

Sadness: Hope

Depression: Despair

Sadness: Often attached to a sad event.

Depression: Comes. Out. Of. Nowhere. And tackles me to the ground. Every muscle in my body is frozen and moving a finger feels like I’m lifting the hate-filled universe.

Sadness: Breathing is slow.

Depression: Breathing hurts; mentally and physically.

img_9414-1

Barrie Originated Wing of Change’s 3rd Anniversary – Special Thank You To Katherine Pomerleau

49578054_1218206758348443_1398030842898415616_n.jpg

Once upon a time, 3 years ago, I (Natalie Harris) had a peer-support dream. I had been diagnosed with PTSD as a paramedic, and after I spent seven weeks at a rehabilitation hospital named Homewood, in Guelph, I went home and felt very alone. There was no group that I could attend to share my emotions with people in my career/culture anymore. So I reached out to my friend named Dawn, and we thought to ourselves, “Let’s change this”. So we made a call out on social media for people to help, and many people from all across Canada came forward to create what is now called Wings of Change. We are grateful to every single one of them!

One of the main peer support leaders for this group was Syd Gravel, a retired staff sergeant for the Ottawa Police Department and a member of the Order of Merit for Police – he knew his stuff, and told Natalie that she didn’t have to reinvent the wheel and that she could use reading from his book 56 Seconds at her Wing of Change meetings.

After this, Jim Harris, the Director of the Barrie CMHA chapter at the time, provided the location for the first inaugural meeting to take place, and Wings of Change Peer Support was born.

 

Natalie and Syd

But that’s only the beginning! Wings of Change took off! Pun intended – and Syd and Natalie needed some help with the growing demands for the program. But alas, Natalie had an instant idea about who could come to their rescue – the talented, the lovely, the driven, Katherine Pomerleau! She is the perfect Program Coordinator and since Katherine has joined the team she has accomplished SO MUCH…and all by volunteer hours. Wings of Change is always free and all of our amazing facilitators generously give their time every month (sometimes several times a month) to make sure that meetings are held and that community heroes know that they are not alone, but Katherine goes above and beyond her role to make sure that this program excels and follows guidelines set out my the Mental Health Commission of Canada. Katherine’s model has even been named a Thriving Peer Support Organization in Canada by Peer Support Canada and Wilfred Laurier University! 

38241968_1108375575998229_1102345464377769984_o.jpg

Among many things, Katherine has:

  • Created a peer support knowledge exchange;
  • Organized and facilitates peer learning for the facilitators;
  • Established guidelines based off of the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s best practices for peer support;
  • Developed templates for presentations;
  • Developed Google classrooms where facilitators can obtain video guidance and trouble-shooting examples;
  • Developed a framework to help grow chapters across the nation.

She makes sure that every meeting has at least two qualified facilitators, and has grown the Wings of Change family to include the following cities:

Ontario

Barrie
Bracebridge
Brantford
Chatham-Kent
Grey Bruce
Goderich
Kitchener
Lindsay
Mississauga
Niagara Falls
North Durham
Northumberland
Orillia
Ottawa
Peterborough
Sarnia-Lambton
Southern Georgian Bay
Sudbury
York Region
Woodstock

New Brunswick
Dieppe
Miramichi

Prince Edward Island
Charlottetown

 

WE ARE WORKING TO LAUNCH NEW CHAPTERS ACROSS CANADA. STAY TUNED FOR MORE DETAILS
Calgary, AB
Kelowna, BC
Langley, BC
Petawawa, ON
Portage la Prairie, MB
Red Deer, AB
South Durham, ON
St. John’s, NL
Trenton, ON
Vancouver Island, BC
Windsor, ON
Whitehorse, YK
Whiterock, BC

Without Katherine’s dedication and unwavering commitment to Wings of Change, we would not be where we are in three short years!

I would love for people to share a testimonial (anonymous if you wish) about how Wings of Change has affected your life! Let’s let Katherine and the amazing facilitators know how much their hard work is paying off!

You can find more information about Wings of Change here.

 

Dear Paramedic Student,

IMG_6608

To the paramedic student,

You will think you can save everyone; you can’t.

You will learn how to eat an entire meal while walking from the station to the ambulance; who needs to chew anyways?

Nightgowns will be your nemesis; trust me.

You will question if you can defibrillate in the rain; can you?

You will hold many stranger’s hands; respect this opportunity.

You will question humanity after a pediatric VSA; that’s ok – you are not alone in this.

You will think that talking about your feelings makes you weak; it doesn’t.

You will learn the ‘vomit-look’ and be able to unwrap an emesis bag faster than you can blink an eye; you’ll know you have ‘made it’ when you can do this.

You will have your hands frozen to the metal of the stretcher when you are on the side of the highway in a snow storm; be grateful for quick-connects.

You will run out of sterile water when you are irrigating a burn; thank God for pain meds.

You will wonder how the heck could the senior guy/girl know more about anatomy than you? Remember, they have put anatomy back together on the side of a road; they know their stuff.

You will get lazy and not wash the truck; wash the damn truck.

You will step in things you cannot recognize; don’t wear your boots in your own home.

One of the best sounds you will hear is a newborn crying; then you will breathe.

You will wade through bloody mud to reach a trapped driver; they have been waiting to see your face.

The last sense that leaves an unconscious patient is sound; talk to them.

Google ‘agonal breathing’; you need to know what this looks like so you don’t mistake it.

You will think you’ve seen it all; trust me, you haven’t.

You will think you are the luckiest person in the world to have the career you do; you are.

~Nat

The Benefits of Sharing Your Recovery Story – with Matt Heneghan

On this episode of BrainStorm I chat with my friend and retired paramedic Matt Heneghan about recovery and our love for writing.

Check Out These Books Written by Natalie Harris

📚 Brainstorm Revolution: Here

📚 Daily Lessons from Save My Life School: Here

📚 Save My Life School: Here

This episode of BrainStorm is brought to you by The Homewood Health Clinic Mississauga 

➡️ BrainStorm by Natalie Harris is proudly produced by PodcastWagon.com

Snow

winter-snow-nature-animated-gif-26

As I watch the snow fall gently outside of my window, I am taken by its beauty. Twinkling in the reflection of my porch light, each flake appears to be like a delicate jewel falling from the sky. In this moment I am also aware of my ability to do just this – to just watch and ponder, and more so, to enjoy.

Enjoying life a few years ago was seemingly impossible to me. I lived in a swampland of depression and PTSD. Nightmares and daydream-flashbacks were so often that I began to lose track of day and night; time no longer existed – it was just darkness. Always darkness. I forgot how to watch the snow. I forgot to feel the coolness as it landed on my face and hands. I forgot how to see the beauty of its reflection in my porch light; I was so sick and injured that snow only equalled a storm brewing to me. But now, it reminds me of how far I have come in my recovery. It reminds me that there is always hope.

Coping Tips For The Holidays

On this episode of BrainStorm I share some of my tips on how to make it through the holidays if you are feeling down.

Check Out These Books Written by Natalie Harris:

📚 Brainstorm Revolution: Here

📚 Daily Lessons from Save My Life School: Here

📚 Save My Life School: Here

This episode of BrainStorm is brought to you by The Homewood Health Clinic Mississauga 

➡️ BrainStorm by Natalie Harris is proudly produced by PodcastWagon.com

Living In The Wish

48411311_10161435456255624_8029668975958818816_n.jpg

I have a necklace with a ‘wish’ inside; a dandelion seed to be exact. It’s beautiful, and I have made an actual wish while holding it. My wish was…wait, I can’t tell you, or it won’t come true. Isn’t that the way wishes work? Well, what if I told you that you are already living in the wish? What if I told you that your adversities will become your biggest triumphs? What if I told you that every birthday candle you blew out, every wispy dandelion you caused to drift in the air, every penny (when we still had them) you tossed into a fountain, didn’t make magic happen? What if I told you that you are already living in the wish.

I can’t take credit for the phrase, “already living in the wish”, my friend said it one night as we travelled a dark road to be speakers at a 12-step meeting. We talk about life a lot, (I love those talks), and after I taught him what, “as the crow flies” meant (that’s a side-bar), he remarked about how much of a gift it was to share our recovery stories with others, and how wishes don’t need to ‘come true”, because we are already living them now.

This phrase reminded me of a tool I learned when I was a patient at the Homewood Health Centre for my treatment of PTSD and alcoholism, called reframing. Simply put, it refers to viewing the world covered with light, instead of darkness. Now let me be clear, this is not an easy task for many! And sometimes it can be physiologically impossible to do so if you suffer with depression; I know this because I have suffered with depression for many years (gratefully it has been in remission for quite some time now), and when I was in this phase of my life, nothing could convince me that a smile wasn’t fake. Nothing could teach me how to ‘look on the bright side’. In fact, while I was in depression mode, if someone said to me, ‘look on the bright side’, I would have needed to restrain myself from punching them in the throat. The bottom line is, I am completely aware that sometimes it’s impossible to see happiness when the world is draped in a cloak of sadness.

However, sometimes we fail to see any positivity in this world even if we don’t battle with a clinical illness. Sometimes we don’t see that we are living in the wish. We stop trusting the universe’s brilliant ability to put exactly what we need in front of us. Caught up in daily doom and gloom, we stop letting our gut lead the way, and we in turn we travel down a road filled with wishes that don’t ever seem attainable. What I have learned from contemplating, ‘living in the wish’, is that my life right here, right now, is the wish. And that every mountain I have climbed has allowed me to see a new horizon. Every tear I’ve shed has washed away pain. Every sleepless night due to my PTSD has brought me to my role of being a City Councillor and has made me a better mom. Why you may ask? Well, because I have learned resiliency through these moments. I have learned how to feel my emotions and trust that they will always pass; good or bad. I have learned that I can demonstrate that recovery is possible, and that our wishes are coming true as we speak.

So, right now I challenge you to have faith that the universe is holding your hand. I encourage you to put a new frame around your sadness, and to trust that there can always be hope in any tribulation. I have swam in the deepest darkest waters of sadness, and I am so grateful to see that those difficult times in my life were my wishes slowly coming to fruition. Like a lotus flower blooming from the mud, my granted wishes were always there, they were just difficult to see sometimes.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: