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Paramedic Nat

A Blog About My Mental Health Journey

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depression

Depression vs Sadness

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*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.

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Snow

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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.

Living In The Wish

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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.

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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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.

Stigma – Facebook Live Chat

During An Anxiety Attack

On this episode of BrainStorm: I record this episode during an anxiety attack to let you hear how it affects me, and so you might have a better understanding of your own anxiety or for someone you know that suffers from them.

Note: this episode has minimal edits to give you a true representation. 

 

Books

Daily Lessons from Save My Life School: Here

Save My Life School: Here

BrainStorm by Natalie Harris is proudly produced by PodcastWagon.com

 

Ben Dionne

On this episode of BrainStorm I speak with Ben Dionne who gives his perspective on mental health and shares about his journey. Ben was diagnosed with Schizophrenia when he was seventeen, he become an advocate for his own mental and physical health, has overcome many challenges, and now lives without the label and, has a clean bill of health. 

Ben is the host of his own podcast called Fireside Chat with ben Dionne 

Follow Ben, Instagram: @bennydjetts & @fs_chats

 

Pre-order my New Book: Here

Get Save My Life School: Here

 

BrainStorm by Natalie Harris is proudly produced by PodcastWagon.com

The Layers Of My Depression

On this episode of BrainStorm: I describe the four layers of my depression.

Pre-order my New Book: Here

Get Save My Life School: Here

 

BrainStorm by Natalie Harris is proudly produced by PodcastWagon.com

 

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