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Paramedic Nat

A Blog About My Mental Health Journey

Covered in Art

I love getting my hands covered in art.

Bill C211 Reaches Royal Assent

On this episode of BrainStorm I talk about what the Royal Assent of Bill C211 means and i share my experience in Ottawa.

 

Check Out These Books Written by Natalie Harris

📚 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

People Who Spread Hate Are Hurting

On this episode of BrainStorm I discuss bullying and how to not carry resentments. 

 

Check Out These Books Written by Natalie Harris

📚 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

Steps To The Podium of Gratitude

Three steps onto the stage. Four more to the podium. Each step before I speak carries such a profound meaning. Since I was diagnosed with PTSD and alcoholism, I have been sharing my recovery story with the world. Most of the time behind a computer screen, but also from a mic on a stage – earlier this week was the latter. Allow me to take you on a journey through these steps.

As I wait in the audience to be introduced, I see the stage steps…they really mean something to me today…and I know why. I am speaking to employees from my rehab, Homewood Health, and the steps it took to get me to this day were with them and their belief in me and my ability to embark on a beautiful journey of recovery. They saved my life and having the opportunity to speak this make me so filled with full-circle gratitude, that I can’t help but to reflect on what each step to the podium means to me today.

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First Step – Like a lost soul in denial I was too sick to see how sick I was. I was an alcoholic and an addict and I didn’t want to admit it. My body shook every morning from withdrawal. I hid bottles of wine all over my house. I blacked out many times – once in my hot tub and almost drown – but still I didn’t want to come to terms with my reality. I didn’t want to accept that I was slowly killing myself and hurting everyone around me.

Second Step – While at Homewood my daughter gets sick at home and I am so sick myself that I can’t leave to see her in the hospital. Broken and ashamed I FaceTime her and bawl so uncontrollably that I am convinced I may stop breathing. My eyes burn with salt water and sadness. How am I supposed to call myself a mom when I can’t even be with my sick daughter? It’s time for me to open my eyes.

Third Step – I fall to my knees – literally. Like a wall being demolished, I crumble to the ground. I need to see how sick I am. I need to be a mom. I am ready to surrender. I am no longer willing to die. I need help and I am ready to accept it.

Fourth Step – I accept the help they are offering me. Clearly what I have been doing to heal isn’t working – it was time for me to listen to the lessons. Cry the tears of locked up emotions in my heart. Talk to others about my pain. And be a student willing to learn.

Fifth Step – I start to breathe. I walk the labyrinth outside and sit alone – something I hadn’t done without alcohol in as long as I can remember. I shed tears of heartbreak from love lost and ask God for help. The trees sway in the wind and the sun sets in front of me and I know that I will be ok. I still have some work to do – but I will be ok.

Sixth Step – I practice what I am taught. How to feel emotions and let them pass without covering them up with vices. How to not be codependent. How to accept love and how to laugh. How to forgive myself and others. I make amends to those I have hurt. I value my new found health – free from the wrath of alcohol.

The steps are steep some days, making them challenging. But that’s ok. I’d rather walk up difficult steps than lay alone in a dark pit of hopelessness and pain not knowing how to escape. I didn’t know that there were steps at all before I went to Homewood, and I am so grateful that they showed me that they exist.

Final step to the podium – deep breath in, take in the room, deep breath out – thank you.

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Stigma Alive And Well

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When did it become a competition as to who has worse mental health and who deserves help more?
These are photos from a post made about my daughter. Stigma is still alive and well – sadly.
This person is sick too and deserves help. But hate doesn’t need to be spread – no matter what.
Lessons I have learned over my recovery:
1. People who spread hate are hurting and need help and compassion – but that doesn’t condone their actions.
2. You are allowed to make healthy boundaries. You can always send love from afar.
3. It’s ok to take space and not reply to posts right away – that doesn’t mean you don’t appreciate and value them.
4. You will never please everyone.
5. Resentments only make pain worse. Forgiveness takes strength and brings peace.

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Mental Illness Stigma Hurts

On this episode of BrainStorm I talk about the courage my daughter had to share about her mental illness and the backlash she got from someone because of it. 

 

➡️ Want to support Caroline? please click here ➡️ mental-health-for-c

 

Check Out These Books Written by Natalie Harris

📚 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

Mental Illness Stigma Hurts

Whoever made up the phrase, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me”, is so wrong! Names (and words) do hurt, a lot. And seeing your children experience such hurt is infuriating. Allow me to explain.

There is a mask that people with mental illness wear. A mask on so tightly that even the individual who is wearing it often forgets what their real face looks like underneath. The mask is not comfortable – oh no – it is heavy and difficult to keep on. It portrays happiness which doesn’t exist. Social media pages like FaceBook and Instagram are filled with said masks. I have posted many pictures of myself wearing this type of mask – you know the kind … perfect selfie angle and filter to make everyone think that I’m happy and that life is just tickey-boo. Alas, life is hard, for everyone – I get it – but today it’s really hard for my daughter Caroline, and I’m so sad that what she experienced is even possible.

My daughter is 21, beautiful and smart. She makes a room light up and has a witty sense of humour that instantly draws people in; it captivates them. But there are many days when she wears the mask of mental illness. Her hair may be straightened and her highlights on fleek, but behind her aviators, in many of her pictures she is wearing a mask that is so hard to remove. It takes tremendous courage to take that mask off and show the world that you don’t always have it all together. It’s difficult, especially in today’s picture-perfect society, to show the tears that have washed away any trace of makeup that may once have given you a fake glow. Its difficult to peal away a mask that fits you so well for so long. And yesterday my daughter did this brave act and removed her mask for all to see, in hopes of not only helping herself, but in hopes of helping others as well.

This is what she wrote: (Papa, get a tissue!…)

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Mask. Off. Here is my beautiful daughter, brave and kind, sharing something that shouldn’t require courage, but for now it still does. Sharing with the world that she needs help, just like so many others, and that she’s ready! Amazing.

Coming to terms with the fact that you need help is one thing, being able to afford it is another. Until Canada, makes mental health as much of a priority as physical health, there are many Canadian’s who will go untreated because of lack of funding. The cost of most psychologist visits is approximately, $150/hour and without private insurance, treatment facilities that specialize in things such as EMDR, cost thousands of dollars. I have been fortunate over my recovery to have had insurance cover the cost of my care, but because Caroline is too old to be on my insurance plan, she has little to no coverage for the care she requires.

Enter Caroline’s friend Josh into the picture. Recognizing that the intensive therapy and treatment Caroline requires costs thousands of dollars, he crafts a gofundme page where people can donate to Caroline’s care. I swallow my pride and gratefully accept Josh’s offer to do so (it’s extremely difficult admitting that you may need help as a parent), and Caroline, also happy to potentially take away some of the financial burden from me, posts the gofundme excitedly and mask-free.

And then this happens:

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This person’s words made Caroline scramble for her mask. This person made her feel bad and selfish. This person caused Caroline to breakdown into tears and beg for Josh and I to remove the gofundme page. After she picked herself up a bit (mask now tightly affixed again), she reached out to this person and made sure that he was safe and tried to offer support as he is clearly hurting too – that’s just what Caroline does. Broken and in pain, she still made sure this person was ok.

But why does this have to happen? Would anyone say, “if you weren’t so flashy with your diabetes”…or “look at your insta pics, you don’t look like you have coronary artery disease…” no. But, sadly stigma around mental illness still exists and causes so many people to resort to the uncomfortable masks they wear rather than being ridiculed for their honesty. This needs to change. And Caroline, you will be a part of this change because you shared your beautiful face – mask-free. I am so proud of you.

If you are interested in learning more about Caroline’s GoFundMe, click here.

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Your Potential For Happiness Is Indestructible

On this episode of BrainStorm I contemplate a lesson I learned that states that “the potential for ultimate happiness is indestructible”. I explore how it is difficult to find happiness when depression descends. 

 

Check Out These Books Written by Natalie Harris

📚 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

Career Fulfillment

The feeling of career fulfillment – ahhhhh – like a post-turkey-dinner nap, or a gold-star-stamped exam – it feels wonderful doesn’t it? In essence it satisfies our being – and who doesn’t want that feeling? I know I sure do.

I had that feeling for many years as I zipped up my black steel-toed work boots and buttoned my advanced care paramedic epaulettes onto my uniform shirt. I had that feeling when I showed a paramedic student how to start an intravenous (IV) line and when I saw their eyes light up when I placed their hands in the proper place to feel that a patient’s pulse had returned. I had that feeling when I held a patient’s hand in the back of a bumpy ambulance as we drove them to the cardiac care centre to have the blockage removed that was causing them to have a heart attack. I had it when a healthy baby was born, and even when I stood frozen from the cold wind on the side of a highway waiting for a patient to be extricated from a car.

For me, career fulfillment didn’t come easily. It took a lot of endurance and hard work to become a paramedic, and alas, it was fleeting. What fulfills my life has changed since I was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after a double murder call I was a paramedic at in 2012. And finding that feeling of fulfillment again took me quite a long time because sadly I placed all of my worth into being a paramedic and forgot that I was still a human being under my uniform.

The truth is, just when you think life has set you on a path of endless happiness, an unexpected fork in the road appears, and pulls you down a path you didn’t choose – or did you? That path may be dark, and filled with thorn-covered, tangled vines in which you have to navigate around, through, and under, careful not to cut yourself or get suffocated with. At some point the path may be filled with hopelessness…until one day a glimmer of light appears through the mess, and you suddenly remember that life can be fulfilling again.

Career fulfillment has returned to my life – I now I share my recovery story with the world. I let people know that there is hope and happiness after a major career change; sometimes happiness you never could have imagined if you didn’t make that change. I now have the opportunity to watch people grow through peer support meetings I helped to create called, Wings of Change, (a free solution-based peer support model that demonstrates to the meeting goers that they are not alone and that recovery can be a beautiful path.)

Now I get to listen to stories of enlightenment when someone finds a break in the binding chains of PTSD. I get to witness heartwarming moments of recovery. I get to say I have a voice again, and best of all, I get to witness other’s find theirs. I may not walk in paramedic boots anymore, but I have been blessed to now walk beside those who still do.

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