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Paramedic Nat

A Blog About My Mental Health Journey

BrainStorm – Remembering Chester Bennington (Episode 002)

Welcome to my recovery. If you have been a follower of my blog and book Save-My-Life School: A first responder’s mental health journey, you will know that my mental health journey is ever evolving. My new podcast BrainStorm will take you even deeper into the mind of someone (me) coping daily with the darkness and difficulties of PTSD, depression and addiction. I will share raw experiences and opinions, as well as new treatment information I learn about along the way.

https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/save-my-life-school-a/9781894813914-item.html

In this episode I share:

  • Remembering the late band member, Chester Bennington from Linkin Park,
  • Thoughts about a past radio interview with him,
  • The “Layers” of my depression,
  • Ideas on how to react appropriately when we feel uncomfortable with talk about mental illness,
  • How I feel that suicide is not selfish,
  • …and more

BrainStorm: Welcome to My Recovery (Episode 001)

Welcome to my recovery. If you have been a follower of my blog and book Save-My-Life School: A first responder’s mental health journey, you will know that my mental health journey is ever evolving. My new podcast BrainStorm will take you even deeper into the mind of someone (me) coping daily with the darkness and difficulties of PTSD, depression and addiction. I will share raw experiences and opinions, as well as new treatment information I learn about along the way.

https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/save-my-life-school-a/9781894813914-item.html

In this episode I share:

  • Who I am and how I came to be diagnosed with PTSD and depression
  • Opinions about mental health in-patient hospital care
  • Current and upcoming PTSD legislation in Canada
  • …and more

 

BrainStorm – My New Mental Health Podcast

Broken and Beautiful

I got my butt back to the Buddhist Centre – finally. It’s been months since I have had any sort of spiritual renewal and the other night was a welcomed hour and half of peace. At the risk of sounding completely unspiritual, while I was there I was reminded that self-pity is a son of a bitch. And that I have been drowning in it for quite some time. Sigh. I was also reminded that we often ‘claim innocence’ with regards to what our minds think, and thus what our bodies feel, but if we take a closer look, we often have a hidden motivation as to why we think and feel the way we do. We are always getting something from our thoughts and actions, and in my case, my cynical outlook on my current unemployed situation was allowing me to wallow in self-pity, which in turn has been ‘giving me permission’ to sink even deeper into my depression. Deep breath.

The other day I was unpacking and I found this paramedic statue. It was broken when I packed it, and was suddenly much more broken when I unpacked it – and the symbolism of this hit me hard.

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I cried in secret for much of the afternoon, feeling sorry for myself and angry that I couldn’t be a paramedic anymore. But when I posted this photo on Facebook, I was reminded by a few lovely people that I could perceive this experience in a different way.

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Kintsukuroi is the practice of repairing pottery with gold or silver and expressing that this repair has actually made the pottery more beautiful. I also know that when a bone is broken it heals much stronger than it ever was before. Being reminded of this allowed me to see that I could repair the statue (again) and that it would be even more beautiful and strong.

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That night my son and I found some glue and repaired the statue together. She is sitting on my kitchen window sill now and not packed away in a box so that I can be reminded that I am ok and that yes, at times my spirit has been broken, and that self pity can seep into my veins faster than the blink of an eye, but with amazing friends out there who take the time to remind me that I am ok, I can learn to see my broken parts as beautiful again.

 

 

 

 

 

So What I Jerseyed A Girl In Walmart?

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My last few posts have been a bit negative and down – which has caused some concern (I appreciate the concern), so I felt that I would add some sugar to the sour taste in my mouth by sharing a story that depicts progress in my recovery, and will hopefully put a smile on your face.

Yes, I’m small. But I have been known to be mighty when my family’s safety and/or best interest is in jeopardy. So, even though I am 5’2″ and 120 ish pounds, I will tell Goliath to bring it if need be, and not even bat an eye. (I was also my grade 10 english class’ arm wrestling champion when my classmates and I felt like having said competition was more important than learning about Macbeth – Good lord! Sorry Mrs. Peconan – but I digress.) Anywhoo…I recently had the opportunity to practice my new, nicer, less eyes-go-black-like-a-great-white-shark attitude when I was shopping for a bed frame with my daughter yesterday. But before I get into that story, I need to bring you back twenty years ago when my daughter was a year old and my sister and I had the most embarrassing moment happen to us … in Walmart. Sweet baby Jesus, get ready to laugh.

One evening, I needed to buy diapers for my daughter, so my sister and I hopped into my parent’s van to make what we thought would be a quick trip to the nearby Walmart. When I pulled into the parking lot I headed for the perfect open spot close to the main doors when a car suddenly sped up from the other direction and took it. I was mad, (I think rightfully so), so I flashed my high beams at the culprit’s car to show my disapproval then proceeded to find another spot. As I was just about to get out of the van, I noticed a girl walking very briskly towards my window (clearly upset) and when I rolled the window down she proceeded to yell at me for flashing my high beams at her boyfriend’s car. I told her that she took my parking spot and to settle down as I’m sure my high beams didn’t damage his car, then rolled up my window to signal that I was finished with the ridiculous interaction…or so I had thought.

After the angry girl walked away, my sister and I went into the store and proceeded to walk down the main aisle looking for the diapers, but as we did, we noticed that this same girl was standing at the end of each small aisle with her hands on her hips clearly waiting to have more of a ‘chat’ about what had ensued. I sort of fluffed her immature behaviour off and avoided her until I had to go down a certain isle to get the diapers I needed for my daughter. As I walked towards the diapers, this girl who had clearly not gotten over the fact that I flashed my high beams at her rude gesture, stepped in front of me and put her hand in my face. Yelling and swearing, (and also about a foot taller than me), she got on my last nerve so I put my hand up into her face and told her to move out of my way. Standing toe to toe at this point, my sister got nervous and reached to move the girl’s hand away from my face – then all hell broke loose! Sweet baby Jesus, here we go! 

I’m not sure how all of the next set of event’s unfolded, but in a whirlwind of adrenaline, I did what any Canadian girl growing up playing road hockey and watching Tie Domi would do…I jerseyed her! It was the only thing I knew how to do! I pulled her jean jacket over her head, and as she tried to swing punches at me from around her jacket, I kept pushing her to the ground and moving her away from my sister. Just before I pushed her into a paint display, Walmart employees came running with their blue smocks blowing in the wind and broke us up. Like two hockey players headed to the penalty box, we were separated, and I couldn’t help but notice that her hair was now teased like a wasp’s nest on the top of her head and her day planner or journal was scattered all over the aisle. How the hell did that happen? “DID I DO THAT?” I thought? My brother is going to die when he hears that I just jerseyed a girl in Walmart! (I’m literally shaking my head right now! LOL.)

For what it’s worth, the employees kicked mean-jacket, I mean jean-jacket, girl out immediately and told my sister and I that they had heard/seen that she was the instigator of this royal-rumble. I chalked it up to being the most embarrassing moment of my life and I now thank the heavens above that YouTube had not yet been invented in 1997. I was THAT girl – there’s no denying it. The YouTube headline would have been: Canadian Girl Jerseys Rage Filled Jean-Jacket Chick in Walmart! …I probably would have made it on Leno.

Ok, now back to bed frame shopping yesterday with my daughter, (the same daughter who I fought jean-jacket girl for to get diapers twenty years earlier). As a frugal shopper I went to the discounted furniture area right away and found a nice bed frame, but it didn’t have a price. So I tracked down a sales representative to show her the frame and get a price, and when my daughter, the sales rep and I returned to the discounted area, another lady was holding onto the bed frame – my bed frame – the only one available. Right away I blurted out, “Are you wanting to buy that?”, and as soon as I did, my daughter started to slowly reverse out of the area preparing to escape before don’t mess with me mom appeared. But the thing is, that mom didn’t appear! Even when the lady said that she in fact was looking to buy the same bed frame, I calmly turned to the sales rep and asked her what the price was prior to dropping the gloves, and to both of our dismay we found that it was already sold. No right hooks or upper cuts required.

Now that I have a much different perspective on life these days, (and to be honest, much less energy), I have zero desire for combat. In fact, when I now approach a potential battle ground, I automatically use what I learned in rehab called wise mind before I react, and by doing so, much less harm and aggravation comes to me these days. Not only do I benefit from this, so do my kids. Yesterday my daughter was ready to hightail it out the door in embarrassment when she saw what used to be an opportunity for me to debate appear. But there is no need for her to run anymore. There’s no need to fight. It’s just not worth it.

Now, if the bed wasn’t sold, I still most likely would have reminded the other interested shopper that ‘I saw it first’ (juvenile but true), but if she was adamant on buying it, I probably would have backed off knowing that it wasn’t worth the argument, and definitely not worth my daughter’s embarrassment in me. And if I had known what wise mind was twenty years ago when I needed to buy diapers, I may have even avoided the jerseying encounter all together. (But damn it makes for a good story!)

While immersed in a life of recovery where completing even the smallest daily task is a huge accomplishment for me, I define defeat very differently now. Picking my battles is a daily adage I must live by so that I don’t burn out too quickly and overwhelm my already taxed brain. If I don’t, I can find myself in a depression vortex that is very difficult to escape. In the Buddhist culture they practice ‘accepting defeat and offering the victory’. This doesn’t mean that you begrudgingly give up, it means that you choose to take the higher road resulting in a more peaceful life overall. It means that you have the ability to have compassion for the other person and to see that they have demands, expectations and needs set upon themselves as well. When we are able to do this, our ‘enemy’ disappears.

 

Monotony Makes Me Sick

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Are any of us truly who we say we are? Beneath the uniforms, labels and names, who are we? Wandering through the monotony of life, waking to another day of ‘different’, that is really all the same. The same hours go by and the same tasks are done. Food is prepared, then eaten, then a mess is left to be cleaned up. Much like our lives, so much mess seems to be left to clean up. Even joy seems to leave a mess behind. And when you are depressed, all you can do is see the mess. All you can do is want to sleep life away so that you aren’t bombarded by the monotonous mess of life.

I’ve been in my layer two of depression for days. Stuck in what seems to be the slowest ferris wheel of my mind. High up, and helpless. Swinging in the wind. Hating how my stomach flips when I look down, but content with the possibility of the whole thing crashing to the ground. Content with feeling like anything but an alien any more. Screaming, but not making a sound. Being able to see for miles and wishing that I could enjoy the view, but all I see at that height is more sadness, and more pain. More animals without a voice. More of a world that is just so painful and angry.

I feel physically sick when I try to do anything. Going to the store is a mission I would rather not have to battle through. But things need to get done. People rely on me. So many people rely on me. But do you want to know what my mind focuses on when I do something as simple as go to the store? I think about the minutes I will have to be in the noise; the massive amounts of garbage that is made to package shit in; the kids that are screaming all around me that are sad and I don’t know why and I can’t do anything about it; how dizzy I am, and I don’t know why; seeing new couples buying house accessories who are just going to be divorced in a few years and will be bitching and complaining about who will get the friggin’ garlic press (like who the fuck even uses a garlic press?); the constant beeping of the cash registers and the minutes the cashiers must count down until they don’t have to listen to it anymore; trying to act normal when I bump into someone I know – and hating the stupid small talk that is all just total bullshit; searching, searching, searching for something to make me smile, something to cause a positive endorphin to release, and being so overly aware of the fact that even if I find something that will make me smile, it will only last for a second and I will be right back in hell again. Fun times right? Fuck.

Mental illness and injury fucking suck. I feel like I am in a jail. I feel like I am in hell. I feel like an alien who just doesn’t understand why anyone would build a ferris wheel in the first place. I just want to be better! I just want to be a happy mom! I just want to be ok! I’m really trying.

 

The Word Stealing Demon

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I have been blessed with many things. I live in Canada, and get to celebrate its 150th birthday in my new home, snuggled up with my fur babies and microwaved popcorn. The popcorn is a big deal as I haven’t had a microwave in four years (don’t feel bad for me – I could have gotten one if I weren’t so lazy), and I’ve missed the smell of popcorn in my home. Popcorn and fresh coffee – the best smells of all time. Anyway, I digress. Blessings, yes I have many. My kids love their new home and are settling in well. Walter let me tie a Canada flag onto his back for a picture. And I have made a huge dent in the unpacking process – success. But along with success comes stress. Some good (eustress) and some bad (distress), and as a human with PTSD, I find the eustress/distress border difficult to navigate.

No one will argue that moving is stressful (and if you do, I won’t believe you), but it’s supposed to be a good stress for me this time around. New start, cute house, happy neighbourhood – and all of these things are true. But my PTSD brain makes mountains out of mole hills causing what should be good, to be bad. The effects that any stress has on my brain is extremely frustrating, but also intriguing at times. As a human who used to revel in the fact that my brain had a good grasp on intelligent things, like being able to rationalize and formulate things quite well, my now injured brain can’t help but to stand back and ‘looks at itself’ when life gets stressful and it screams out to me how obvious it is that I  am not able to rationalize or formulate incoming information the way I used to. I can’t help but wonder why my brain’s ability to do certain things has changed so much.

When my pre-PTSD brain was presented with a stressful situation, it would soak it in and enjoy conquering the task at hand. But when my post-PTSD brain is presented with a stressful situation, it forgets how to even speak properly. I lose my words and literally can’t find them. I want to say shelf, but that word in buried in the dark abyss of my broken mind – literally gone. What seems like a simple task often forces me to play an embarrassing game of smoke and mirrors so that people won’t worry about me. If they only knew how much of a broken puzzle my mind becomes in those stressful moments. Trying to find the word ‘shelf’ feels like a demon is holding it tightly in his hands, hunched over it and snickering at me. “Go ahead and joke that your brain isn’t working“, he whispers to me, “but I will keep this until I choose to let it go, and no one will know how you feel right now, just trying to find a word“. In those moments it’s like electrical shocks fire all over my brain, faster than light, consuming my breath because of how tiring it is, trying to find a word that should be so easy to find. I know that some of you are thinking that you get it because sometimes you can’t find words too  – and I appreciate your kind attempt at trying to relate to my feelings. But the only people who truly get it are those with a broken brain. If you are not part of the ‘broken brain club’ (the shittiest club I know), you lose words like everyone does, but you don’t have a demon that steals them.

You may be asking yourself why I use the word demon when trying to describe many of my emotions in my blogs – don’t worry, you don’t have to call in an exorcist. I do because that’s literally what I feel like I live with some days. Brain injuries are evil in my mind (pun intended), and living with one feels like someone or something is in control of it. I could use a marionette (also creepy – sorry) to describe the lack of control I feel some days as well. I think a huge part of me loves to blog because it provides me with the physical time I need to find my words…the time my brain needs to feel less broken.

Who knew that not being able to ‘find a word’ could cause so much pain and confusion.

Feeling Lost and Alone in a Crowd

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I had the honour of receiving the John Graves Simcoe Medal of Excellence tonight from MP Alex Nuttall, in commemoration of Canada’s 150th birthday.

I want to share this picture with you and ask, “what do you see?”. You will probably say that you see me among many amazing Canadians who have made tremendous contributions to their community and country, and that I am proud to have had the honour to stand among them. This is true. But let me tell you what else see in this picture.

I see a woman who is scared because she is battling ‘looking normal’ while she stumbles her way through feeling alien and out of place because she is hovering between layer 1 and 2 of her depression. I see a woman wearing earplugs in order to be among the loud crowd. I see a woman who has slept the entire day up until one hour before this event, and who could barely drag her body out of bed. I see a woman who feels guilty for not being excited to go to this celebration – and a woman who doesn’t know why she can’t be. I see a woman who can put on the best smile and give a great handshake. Who can do a news interview on the spot without batting an eye. Who can confidently answer questions from anyone in the room about PTSD and mental illness and injury. Who may have hope in her eyes, but a disconnection from the world in her heart. I see a woman who is trying to take a group photo but needs to look at her friend to feel safe, and no one around her knowing that anything is wrong with her at all.

PTSD and mental illness robs me of being able to truly celebrate and smile. I wish that it was impossible to fake-smile. The world would be able to know who to help so much more easily.

 

Tips on How to Prune Your Mental ‘Chaos Garden’

https://www.facebook.com/natalie.harris.507679/posts/10159012843815624 

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