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Paramedic Nat

A Blog About My Mental Health Journey

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contemplation

To Clara, With Love

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January 28, 2014 – Bell Let’s Talk Day. I was sitting in my living room watching TV with family members when Canadian Olympian Clara Hughes came onto the screen. I had definitely seen her before. I remember literally sitting on the edge of my seat cheering her on as she won medal after medal in both the winter and summer games. She represented so much strength and courage. She was OUR Canadian athlete! – And she had made us so proud! I wasn’t sure right away why she was on the news that night, but it was no coincidence that I was watching, because as she began to talk and share about her mental health struggles, I felt a sudden, incredible feeling of validation and rare happiness. Olympian Clara Hughes had been battling a dark road of depression, as I had been, and suddenly after hearing her speak, I knew that one day I would share my story too.

Oct 6, 2014 – The the first time I ever shared anything publicly about my dark world. I started a blog, and this is what I wrote.

Hi Everyone,

This is a big deal for me. This first blog will be short; but to me its HUGE. I’ve been battling a mental health illness and I feel it’s time to talk about it; but it’s not easy. Let me start by saying, today is the first day of my partial hospitalization mental health program. I have a long road ahead of me, which started years ago. I want to share it with you and possibly help anyone who has been battling a mental health illness with a stigma so big it often keeps our minds closed to the pain these illnesses cause.

Stay tuned if you would like. I will be posting often.

~MedicNat

Fast forward to today, March 28, 2017, and I have developed a friendship with that same amazing Canadian Olympian, Clara Hughes. She has written the foreword to my book Save-My-Life School, and after she sent me this (among many) shout-out, this is what I replied.

Dear Clara, ❤

I can say without a doubt that this book would never have even be even a figment of my imagination if I had not seen you on TV a few years back honestly sharing about your mental health journey!

YOU made vulnerability something beautiful to me!

YOU showed me that I didn’t need to hide anymore, and that every time I shared my own journey, stigma would melt away from me – and it did.

YOU encouraged me through messages and emails when I was battling the darkness that still grabs a hold of me sometimes.

YOU told me to never stop – and I won’t.

Over time my posts may lessen and my voice may not be as loud, but by inspiring me to have the courage to put my heart and soul into Save-My-Life School, my message will never be gone.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you. You are such a wonderful friend ❤

Sending you SO MUCH LOVE.

~Nat xo

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Here’s to many more years of friendship! Love you dearly Clara! XO

So Much Worry

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Why is self-care so difficult for me sometimes? I get so frustrated with the mental energy it takes for me to ACTUALLY do something.

This is my brain today:

Let’s see if it’s sunny out-I don’t want to get out of bed-I should pee now-I don’t think I have to yet-the cat is so sweet and laying on my legs so I must not move in order to let her sleep-how caring of me-I know that’s an excuse to stay in bed longer-if I get up I will maybe do some laundry-it depends, I should have a nap first-nap-wake up-the cat is still on my legs, how sweet-I will hold her hand for a while-I should post this on Instagram-take picture-post-I really have to pee now-I should take Walter and the kids on a walk somewhere-but where?-beach is too sandy-lakeshore is too peopley-stores are too loud-I think I see a snowflake-we should stay in, it’s safer-pee (finally)-I should NOT look at that first Facebook video-watch the video-it leads to another-and another-and another-how will I pay that bill?- I hate appointments-what food should I make- do people actually like making spring rolls from scratch?-I need to get the cats fixed- I do not wanting to talk to WSIB again- I dread listening to voicemails-the snow is melting and there is so much dog poo to pick up- I hate spring cleaning-when it’s sunny I will feel even more guilty that I don’t go outside-why are we here on this planet?-do other people think like this?-why is everything so hard?-why are people selfish?-why is time going so slowly?-what happens when we die?-is this all a dream?-there is so much bad in the world-how can someone kill another person?-how messed up is my brain?-I hate waiting to see how I will feel tomorrow-do people go outside and actually want to?-are there actually people in this world who like to do stuff?-do people really like to surf?-why would anyone want to surf with sharks?-do people go to the beach and not look at the time to see when they can leave and at least feel like they accomplished something that day, only to have to get their car so sandy and need to vacuum it?-do people really not mind vacuuming?-I wish I could be in their head-to feel what it’s like to like to do things-I only like to be in bed-I like to do my talks, but small talk is so hard-I worry that people think I’m ok-I don’t LOOK sick-I hate worrying-it’s so much…

Social Media Press Release 


https://www.prlog.org/12611759-gruesome-double-murder-leaves-lasting-effects-on-first-responder.html

Book Launch Jan 25th!

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FROM THE PUBLISHER
This intense and engaging memoir is based on the true-life of Natalie Harris. Mental illness, post-traumatic stress injury, overdoses and addiction are some of the demons this paramedic-turned-author deals with–stemming from a horrific double-murder call. This incredible story makes public the very private battles many face. This book is raw, honest and a window into the mind of someone facing mental illness. Although a serious topic, this biography is at times laugh-out-loud funny, poignant and simply a good, entertaining read. This is a must-have for anyone who wants a cover-to-cover book that keeps you on the edge of your seat. To me, it is a Bridget Jones’ Diary meets Girl Interrupted.

THE AUDIENCE
Obviously, this title will appeal to first responders such as paramedics, firefighters and police officers. However, this title will also be of interest to those suffering with or suffering beside people experiencing mental illnesses and/or addiction. In Canada alone, there are 4.5 million people with mental illnesses.

COMPARABLE TITLE
Last year, Jody Mitic released Unflinching: The Making of a Canadian Sniper. Like Natalie’s book, Jody’s had a specific audience as well as widespread interest. His book touched on PTSD; and akin to Natalie, he worked in a field with a very unique culture.
ENDORSEMENTS

Natalie and her writing are highly supported and endorsed by many people with influence. The foreword is written by six-time Olympian, Clara Hughes. In addition, all three levels of government officials have written endorsements for the book. This includes, Arif Khan, Barrie City Council, Ann Hogarth, MPP, and John Brassard, MP.

Link to Book on Indigo:
https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/…/sa…/9781894813914-item.html

You can also preorder at winterticklepress.com

I Was a Paramedic!

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I remember telling people over the years that being a paramedic was not the be all and end all of my identity. Yes, I loved my profession (and still do), but I was positive that I could take the good memories that I had and ‘move on’ to a different profession if need be. Wow, was I wrong! I am learning now how being a paramedic is deeply rooted in my psyche. For fourteen years it allowed me to feel like I was making a difference in the world every day. It gave me purpose and filled me with a passion for education. It allowed me to provide financially for my family. I was proud, happy and accomplished. I WAS A PARAMEDIC. Now…well I don’t know what I am.

I have come to the conclusion that I am without a doubt grieving the loss of part of my identity. So many people would give anything to stop doing their job, but I was never one of those people. Not to be insensitive to other professions, but being a first responder is more than just a profession, it’s a passion, and now having to accept that I may for the rest of my life be doing a job that I am not passionate about because I have a mental injury is very difficult for me. Allow me to elaborate…

I went from closing down highways so that helicopters could land, to closing the fridge on a good day if I choose to eat. I went from phoning base-hospital physicians to get permission to pronounce a death, to being suffocated by anxiety and not able to phone anyone at all. I went from performing life saving skills such as chest needles and intubations, to only being able to perform the life saving skill of taking my own breath. I went from teaching others how to run a dynamic cardiac arrest, to teaching others how to leave me alone so that I don’t get triggered. I went from feeling pride when I put on my uniform, to not being able to look at my uniform at all without bawling my eyes out. I went from racing to calls with the lights and sirens on, to the racing of my heart even while I’m alone in my house. I went from having friends at work to laugh with every day, to barely seeing those friends at all. I went from feeling successful, to feeling like a failure.

Don’t get me wrong, any job is a blessing, but being a paramedic is more than just a job, it’s part of who I amand rewiring that part of my conscious and subconscious world is exhausting, confusing and very difficult.

I’m not trying to sound like a complaining, ungrateful person. All I’m saying is that changing a part of me that I loved SO MUCH is not easy.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the 5 stages of grief, you can learn them by watching this super cute clip below. I think I’m close to number 5…acceptance.

 

Bill 163: Ontario Supporting First Responder’s Bill

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April 5th, 2016 will always be a day to remember! Seven years of fighting by SO MANY amazing people (of which I was only part of for 2 years) for the recognition of the toll our careers take on our mental health. There’s LOTS more work to be done.

Stay tuned for an upcoming article in the Canadian Paramedicine magazine documenting the time line of the PTSD Bill’s past seven years, and of the fight that Toronto Advanced Care Paramedic Shannon Bertrand so bravely started so that April 5th, 2016 could one day become a reality.

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Diving into the Ocean of Contemplation

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How deeply do you ‘think’ when you’re asked to ‘contemplate’ something? What does that mean to you? Does it mean that you simply ‘consider’ it? Or maybe it means that you just ‘give it some thought’? Well, tonight I want to challenge you to view contemplation in a much more powerful sense – a sense that is used in the practice of meditation.

Quite simply, we (a large portion of society) are not very good at deeply contemplating anything. That’s not to say that we aren’t intelligent enough to do so, we just can’t seem to go deep enough to approach contemplation without the pressure to gain insight; so we keep our thoughts superficial and above the surface in a safe, yet dramatically less enlightening, way.

Contemplating expands our view on, well…everything! Take happiness for example, the more we deeply contemplate, explore and feel this virtuous emotion, the more happiness begins to become our natural behaviour. In short, the more we take the time to immerse ourselves in an intention or a thought, such as happiness, the more it becomes our lived reality. Clear as mud?…Well, let me use an analogy to further explain the power of contemplation.

So you say you want to be ‘happy’? You want to live a life where happiness is your prevalent emotion. If only there was a way that you could rewire your brain to FEEL happiness more often and to get rid of the toxic, unnecessary noise that fills your mind 99% of the time. Well, what if I told you there is a way. – Allow me to take you diving…below the noise, in the ocean of contemplation.

You’ve ‘heard’ that it’s peaceful below the waves of life and stress that toss you around like a capsized raft, but no matter how often someone asks you to go diving so that you can actually experience life below the waves, you say ‘no’, because you’re too tired to do something ‘like that’, nor do you have ‘time’ to do something like that. But what you may not have realized is that the reason why you’re so tired is because most of your energy is spent clinging onto the raft for fear of ‘going under’. Ironic, isn’t it?

So take a chance and let go of the raft and give yourself permission to explore happiness by testing the waters in the ocean of contemplation. Even if at first this means that you have to plug your nose and simply put your face in the water (i.e.: close your eyes just THINK about happiness), you will quickly see how peaceful it is below the every day noise that fills your mind. When you give yourself this time, you will see the beauty and serenity that you have been missing while on noisy dry-land, and with practice you can become a master contemplation diver in no time. 

Every time you submerge yourself in this ocean, you rewire your brain to being able to feel happiness innately, even when you’re living life above the water. The stress of life doesn’t weigh as heavily as it did before when you were clinging to the raft, because you now know where to go to refuel and relax. As long as you can give yourself a moment to close your eyes, and mindfully swim in the ocean of contemplation, you know that you will be ok.

The hustle and bustle of life can wear us down so easily, but how wonderful is it to know that we are always standing on the vast shore of the ocean of contemplation, with all of the serenity and peace that it offers. So take the time to explored the waters of happiness, and when you are finished, I highly recommend the Sea of Love, the Bay of Compassion and the River of Giving. 

 

 

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