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Paramedic Nat

A Blog About My Mental Health Journey

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contemplation

Where On This Earth Am I?

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I’ve been owning the seconds of my life. I’ve been embracing them like a small baby in my arms needing comfort and security. I’ve been recognizing the frailty of it all; time, love, honesty. So mush so that I often feel like I needed someone to talk me down, and get me out of the rainbow-coloured alleys, and butterfly chases – when just like that, a second happens to knock me down. There comes this second when I don’t want to open my eyes because a relationship is immanently about to change as trust goes over the edge of a cliff. I can’t stop it from going over – I’m just a spectator – the leap is not mine to be had. Then, during the next second, the universe is torn and my heart is on the floor bleeding hot, angry blood.

I need to own my seconds again – somehow. I need to stop thinking about the cliff. It’s airy silence reminds me that it’s not mine and that I should pay no attention to it. I had to look hard to find this relationship – and now everything is gone. Time to turn life off for another day. I can’t stop thinking about what we used to be. That I loved you – that I chose you. Now all I can see are stars in the sky reminding me that another second to be owned will come…eventually.

I will be thinking about us. And life moves on with yet another lesson I never asked for or saw coming. Like being sideswiped on the corner of a street by a speeding van – this relationship loss has hit me hard and fast. I have to stand my ground – trust deserves the splendour it is entitled to. Trust is everything. Until my tears have soaked my shirt with tears of truth, I will continue to look for another perfect breath. Chasing stars and hope. Backing away from the cliff at the very last second.

Gratitude

On this episode of BrainStorm: I share what I am grateful for during the holidays. 

Books Written by Natalie Harris

Daily Lessons from Save My Life School: Here

Save My Life School: Here

 

BrainStorm Podcast Sponsor —->

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

 

BrainStorm by Natalie Harris is proudly produced by PodcastWagon.com

Looking To Smash A Broken Record

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I’m still searching for some meaning here. I’ve been ‘here’ before – figuratively and literally. I’m at Save-My-Life Summer School, where I hope to bump up my grades. “What grades?”, you may be asking. Well, my grades in coping with life and PTSD symptoms. I’m so grateful, don’t get me wrong. Like SO grateful. But no matter how you look at it, summer school sort of sucks.

I have a feeling that I will have a breakthrough – but alas, it’s only day three for God’s sake. I need to be a bit gentler on myself.

I actually bored of writing right now. No epiphanies to share. I’m numb. Completely numb. Like a robot walking the halls, emotionless and cold. I wish I had some feeling of connection to this life beyond being a mom; that connection is inherent. I mean a connection to a person or an experience. A connection to a feeling.

There were lots of spiders outside this morning. One even crawled onto my hand. A baby one. I passed it to my neighbour and he passed it to his. Without words, just passing spiders so delicately, like balancing a fragile egg on our finger nails, fearful that it would fall. It was moved safely to the seat beside us to go on with it’s merry day. It’s funny how none of us even came close to killing it. We’ve experienced enough trauma that even killing a spider is too much to bear. Well at least that’s my view of the experience.

I get so tired of feeling like a skipping record when I share what feels like the same story over and over with yet another nurse or doctor. I’m grateful – but I’m tired. The skipping record laughs at me and taunts me. Just when I think I’ve reached the end of the damn record, it skips and starts again. I wish I could just smash that record! Smash it into smithereens. Jump on it and scream for it to never play again. The pieces wouldn’t even deserve to be swept up. They don’t deserve my attention anymore. They don’t deserve my breath, my energy, my time. And I don’t deserve to be a broken record. Maybe I will smash it over the next eight weeks. It would feel so wonderful to have a different story. This one seems so pointless now.

5 Ways To Help Put The Life-Saver On Ice

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I have a new mission. I’ve chosen to accept it. I want to stop referring to my events and myself as “paramedic” Nat. I won’t be able to completely get rid of the adjective (I think it’s an adjective), because it’s my social media handle in many cases, and that’s ok, but I do feel the need to be just me again – a mission that hasn’t been an easy one. That doesn’t mean that I don’t still love the profession of paramedicine and most of my experiences as a paramedic, but I feel the need to just be me now – whatever that is – I’m still soul-searching.

I’m not alone in feeling the difficulty of putting the ‘life-saver’ side of me on ice – not even close. I have people reach out to me almost every day sharing their own struggles with separating from their life-saving persona. Whether it’s because of retirement or injury, leaving the profession of saving lives can take a toll on our own. Let’s face it, first responders and healthcare providers are cut from a different cloth – they have a passion for helping and for running ‘into the fire’, and learning how to stop doing that can be a delicate and difficult process – trust me, I know.

Five ways to help put the life-saver on ice.

  1. Allow for a grieving process to occur. This may sound silly, but I can tell you whole-heartedly that I have had to grieve the loss of my career. All five stages of the Kubler-Ross grieving process have been a part of my life over the past few years: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. And when I realized that this was occurring, it helped me to recognize that a process was taking place and that each stage takes some time. It gave me permission to not have to be accepting of the loss over night.
  2. Take time for mindfulness. First responders and healthcare providers are trained to live in the past and future. We go to a call and collect information about what has happened, and prepare in our minds how to be one step ahead with how we will treat a patient. Always ready for the next…anything, and researching how we can improve on past-practice. I found that when I started to practice living in the now, I was able to enjoy a part of life that had been obscure to me for a very long time. Living in the now is a beautiful thing. This is not to say that you can’t live in the now while you are still a first responder or healthcare provider; if you can that’s amazing.
  3. See that you are still able to help people. When I wasn’t able to put my uniform on, I felt like a part of my value and self worth had vanished. It took me some time to see that I was still able to help others – on a very large scale in fact. My passion to help people and to be of service never left when I stopped being a paramedic on the road. Consider volunteering as a wonderful way to potentially fill that void.
  4. Get back to the things you love. If your busy shift-worker schedule took you away from the things you love, try to add them back into your life. Easier said than done! I still can’t drag myself to a yoga class. But writing and drawing has added joy to my life again.
  5. Enjoy eating slowly! And pee whenever you want to! Sometimes the little things can be big things. Until I was off the road I didn’t realize that for over eleven years I never knew when I was going to eat next because a call could come in at any time. And I definitely didn’t have a washroom to use while at a multiple car accident on the highway for hours. Sometimes I sit in the washroom for a few extra minutes now because I can! Too much information? – Nothing is too much information from me anymore – LOL.

Putting the life-saver on ice doesn’t at all mean that I need to forget the love I have for my past career. It was part of who I was for so long and I carry many amazing, positive memories with me forever because of it. But the fact of the matter is what I do is different now, and it’s ok for me to be ok with that.

You Can Preorder My New Book!

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Click Here!

This inspiring book of quotations from Natalie’s Harris’s raw and gripping account of her mental health journey, “Save-My-Life School,” offers daily motivational and thoughtful lessons.

 

Wish Upon A Star…

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Did you know that there was a meteor shower tonight? My kids and I just came in from watching it. We saw about four meteors (aka shooting stars) and a candlelit moth or two that tricked our ever concentrating eyes. Together we laid on blankets and pillows on the deck and starred into the satellite filled sky waiting to see the show. Like usual, Walter snuck popcorn out of the bowl as we giggled and farted and listened to Adam teach us how our galaxy is shaped like a pancake. The city sounds were muffled by my earplugs, but my anxiety still raced in unison with each motorcycle that graced us with its presence on the road out front – but that didn’t matter because nothing could stop the happy memories formed when you can ‘make a wish’ with your kids after cheering that “we saw one!”.

Starring into space tonight was peaceful overall. Normally ‘space’ and its vastness causes my brain to over think and speculate. But tonight it was just a night of citronella candles and Caroline yelling at Adam to stop shining the flashlight in her eyes – some things never change.

I can’t tell you what my wishes were, because then they won’t come true. But I can tell you that four wishes in one night will never be taken for granted by this girl.

Good night. May all YOUR wishes come true too.

 

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.

 

I Had A Shower Today

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I had a shower today. Seems like a normal and simple task, right? Well, not for those who battle mental health illnesses and injuries such as depression and post traumatic stress. Having a shower after somehow emerging from a downward spiral that seems like it will never end (unless you end it) is in my mind equal to the feeling of winning a gold medal. Moving to a mental space where you can lift your head from your pillow, and no longer contemplate peeing in a cup because the washroom feels hundreds of miles away (legit I have never done this before…but I have come close to bladder explosion when my mind is dark) is definitely worth a friggin’ gold medal!

One of the worst parts of a deep depression is that when you’re in it, you can’t see how bad it really is. Hence, peeing in a cup seeming like it’s not that bad of an idea. What happens to my mind when I am in a dark world is that I relentlessly try to get my brain to co-sign my own bullshit. My inner dialogue goes sort of like this:

Me: Brain, I know I shouldn’t pee in a cup…but if I do, it’s not the end of the world right?

Brain: It’s not a good idea Natalie. It will make a mess. You’re not a boy.

Me: But if it does make a mess, it’s my pee, so who cares?

Brain: I’m still thinking that it’s a bad idea.

Me: Well it’s not like I want to shit in a cup! Now THAT would be bad!

Brain: You’re still not selling me on this one, Natalie. You should just get out of bed and go to the washroom. The time we have spent debating this has taken longer than it would have for you to go and come back.

Me: Ugh, I hate you brain.

…and then I go pee in the washroom.

I could use so many examples in that same conversation with my brain. It’s torturous and exhausting. Yes I am using some comic relief to lighten the read, but overall these relentless internal conversations can get very dark, and when that happens I decide to sleep. I still feel guilty sleeping so much, but that method of numbing is MUCH better than the alternatives I used to use. So anyone who thinks I’m lazy can kiss my ass! I’m alive, sober, not hospitalized, and able to quickly rationalize that taking my own life is NEVER a practical option for me! A shitty decision like that will never get co-signed by my brain, because I don’t let the conversation even start. That to me is gold medal worthy all day long.

 

Alien Contemplation Time

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I was at my therapist appointment yesterday (whilst hovering between layer 1 and 2 of my depression), and she said that maybe we could work on me not calling myself an alien anymore – maybe we could choose a different word for the out-of-this-world sensations I experience while I’m in those layers. I replied that I was a nice alien (for fear that she was thinking that all aliens are bad), and she politely laughed and said she knew that, but with one eyebrow up, she still thought that maybe there was still a better word. I sat there in silence, because I didn’t know what to say, as I sort of didn’t mind the word. Although I knew her intensions were good, her remark made me feel alone, and it reminded me that she (like so many others) has never felt like an alien before.

Maybe my silence caused her to feel my uneasy energy as she quickly changed her point of view and said that maybe I didn’t need to change the word ‘alien’, but that I needed to learn how to cope with, and accept, the sensations that descend when I feel like I’m out of this world – that sounded like a better plan to me.

You see, my alien sensations have been with me for many years, but peaked while I was at Save-My-Life Boarding School when I was recounting traumatic experiences. I don’t experience them as often, but they ARE a part of my life. I haven’t liked to experience them because they make me feel different. They remind me that my brain works very differently than other people’s brains, and that the best blog or book can never truly articulate what it feels like to be in that different realm – a dissociated realm. The best way I can describe it is that I feel like I’m outside of my body and that the world and all the human beings on it are in a slow-motion movie and seem like ants on auto-pilot. It’s not a happy or exciting movie – it has a glum filter, and just seems to keep going and going relentlessly.

Today that feeling is gone, just like that! I don’t know why, and I don’t know when it will return.

I plan on documenting more about how I feel this way. And I hope that with time I can accept that when it happens it will pass, and to stop comparing myself to other people who I think are ‘normal’ – because what the heck is normal anyway? Maybe it’s a gift to be able to feel like an alien?…I’m still on the universe-fence about that one.

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