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Paramedic Nat

A Blog About My Mental Health Journey

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Thank you to the Barrie Examiner

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http://www.thebarrieexaminer.com/2016/04/06/paramedics-laud-ptsd-legislation

Wings of Change in the News

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A huge thank you to Fire Fighting Canada for this wonderful post in their magazine!

http://www.firefightingincanada.com/headlines/peer-support-model-makes-waves-in-canada-22883

Maria Church | Assistant Editor
Fire Fighting in Canada | Canadian Firefighter

This Is Only the Beginning…

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It may seem weird, as Bill 163 (The Protecting Ontario’s First Responders Bill) isn’t technically passed until tomorrow, but I wanted to talk about how this accomplishment is only a piece of the puzzle when it comes to protecting and fighting for the mental health and well being of ALL of our healthcare providers across Canada!

I have read a few posts today with regards to how Bill 163 should not pass yet because it doesn’t include certain workplace mental health injuries or healthcare professions. And while I certainly encourage discussion of the expansion of legislation in order to protect the greatest number of individuals, I DO NOT support the delay of this Bill. For a few reasons:

I do agree that there are members of our peer community that should be included in this Bill. In fact, that is why my Wings of Change Peer Support Group is all inclusive. However… I am very wary of delaying a Bill that WILL help so many immediately. People are dying and I know of MANY people who desperately need this Bill NOW. There are other legislations in the works as we speak that have the opportunity to address a broader spectrum of peers, but the world of politics is slow because so many legislations are being brought forward every day.

I will not stand by and see another peer battle PTSD without hope. I will not stand by and learn that my peer can’t afford their mortgage and needs to go bankrupt. I certainly will not stand by to hear another family cry when they learn that the demons of PTSD have taken their loved one away from them forever. That is why I do not support any delay of this Bill.

I wish our fellow healthcare provider peers didn’t feel ‘left behind’ in Bill 163’s process. The fact of the matter is that politics and legislations are not easy to steer, and at this moment we need to celebrate that Bill 163 is a blessing that will save lives. But rest assured, there is a bigger fight happening already. I am a stakeholder in Bill C-211 which is the Federal PTSD Bill, and I will be fighting to include ALL healthcare providers in this legislation.

If you would like to join me in this next fight, feel free to send me a message. ALL voices are imperative in order to keep this positive mental health momentum going!

Bill 163 is just the beginning, (and a great one at that). But the Canadian Government hasn’t heard the last of me yet 😀

 

Uncomfortable, Not Impossible

man and I

Throughout my recovery, I have battled with many uncomfortable feelings. But that shouldn’t be a surprise to me as while I was at Homewood Rehabilitation Hospital, I learned that this is an unavoidable battle while healing from any addiction, because addicts numb their feelings for so long causing any feeling to be uncomfortable. In fact, not wanting to feel is quite literally why many people become addicts in the first place!- We hated uncomfortable feelings, and when one came along…we knew how to numb it…so we did. And with time, not wanting to feel anything, ever, slowly becomes part of our daily life. So much so that the guarantee that suicide brings of never feeling anything again becomes a VERY real, (and in our deluded minds practical) option.

I am one of the lucky ones, because I have mentors who love me and encourage me to keep moving forward when uncomfortable feelings rear their ugly heads. My sister in law Mandy is the most important mentor of this kind. She is SO wise, and knows that I still need to feel  uncomfortable feelings to some level in order to let it pass and to see that I am still ok…and maybe even stronger than I was before.

She has a talent for teaching through listening long enough to show myself that I had the answer and strength to get through my worry in the first place, (insert the Good Witch saying to Dorothy: “You always had the power to go home, you just needed to learn it for yourself”) …and listening that attentively is no easy task when I’m trying to explain my worries – Allow me to elaborate. I may be able to get a thought or two in order when I write, but I am as organized as a Walmart on Boxing Day when it comes to talking about my concerns. I usually fumble my way through a story that starts in the middle, backs up to the beginning, goes off topic and then at some point finally resumes to get to where I originally was headed in the first place…Sigh. And rather than jump in with her personal advice right away, my sister in law listens, supports and reiterates what I am saying, and by doing so, I seem to get to an answer for the most part on my own. She’s sort of like…magic!

So when I was extremely nervous about going back on the road as a paramedic for three months before I entered into the training coordinator position, she always let me talk, hear myself, and see that some things may be uncomfortable, but they are not impossible! She never let me walk away from an opportunity, but at the same time she never told me what to do. She was able to see past my worries, and had faith that I could too. And after every conversation that started with, “I’m not sure I want to go to work tonight”, I would always find myself putting on my uniform and battling my inner reluctance and doubt, because I knew that no matter what happened, there was a wonderful opportunity waiting for me at the end. Was it easy, no. Was it worth it, yes!

Recovery is tough, and yes we all have limits and healthy boundaries to enforce in order to heal. Ie: it may not have been a healthy option for another person to go back on the road as a paramedic even for one shift. But I pray that everyone can find a Mandy in their life, and be given the opportunity to learn what is possible when we get through uncomfortable.

 

March-Mullet Madness!

My daughter and I were fortunate enough to participate in a fundraiser for the Canadian Mental Health Association yesterday. The event was all about…wait for it…MULLETS! Yes, business in the front, party in the back, mullets.

It was held at a beautiful wine and art store called Canvas and Cabernet. I had OJ, cran and soda…but none the less it was a lot of fun watching everyone paint their artistic version of a mullet. I chose to put mine on a sugar skull 😉

mullet tattoo

I want to thank the radio station Rock 95 and their fabulous DJ Ozz, for inviting me and for being such an amazing mental health advocate! Barrie is so lucky to have you.

mullet ozz

And to Liz Grummet and Jim Harris from the Canadian Mental Health Association (Simcoe County Branch) for organizing the event and for really putting Barrie’s CMHA on the ‘mental health awareness’ map.

mullet liz

And to my beautiful daughter for always supporting me and this mental health awareness journey I am on. I am SO proud of you! <3 You are always a wonderful date.

mullet 2

Stay tuned for more upcoming events! So far I will be travelling to Ottawa and Nova Scotia over the summer.  Let’s let this amazing mental health momentum keep on keeping on!

Love ~Nat

Wing Of Change Reminder

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Hi Everyone! I wanted to remind you that the FIRST Wings of Change – Peer Support meeting will be held this coming Tuesday, April 5th, at the Canadian Mental Health Association Simcoe County Branch (Boardroom)
128 Anne St S, Barrie, ON
6:30 – 7:30 pm

ALL first responders, healthcare professionals, dispatchers, military members and corrections workers are welcome. Join us for coffee and anonymous mental health solution-based discussion. We provide a safe and stigma-free environment for anyone wishing to receive peer support with regards to occupational trauma and stress. You are welcome to share your views on related topics or simply sit back and be part of an understanding group of fellow peers.
*Remember that a mental health diagnosis is NOT required to attend, and that we do NOT provide professional care. Crisis numbers will be provided at every meeting.*
We hope to see you there!

If you have any questions please contact me at paramedicnat@hotmail.com

Let Our Boys Cry Too

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As if speaking up about emotions isn’t difficult enough, I will strongly agree with anyone who says that it’s even more difficult to do so if you are male. We still live in a society where boys are told to ‘suck it up and stop crying’ more often than girls are. Which is largely due to the fact that for years, boys have been bombarded with the task of maintaining pop culture’s mostly unrealistic image of superheroes. Let’s face it, on the big-screen, being strong and brave rarely factors in acceptable levels of sensitivity which include tears.

I have a 10 year old son who has seen his fair share of struggles in his short life. That’s not to say that he doesn’t have a happy life…because he does. But I think it’s safe to say that the ups and downs his precious mind and soul have experienced are already greater than those in which most adults have experienced. Stressful relationship break-ups, witnessing the effects of mental illnesses which caused your mom to be taken away in an ambulance…are all too much for anyone’s eyes, let alone a small boy.

But for the grace of God, our lives have done a 180 degree turn, resulting in a home life that is peaceful (for the most part…as long as we aren’t chasing our dog Walter while he tries to eat Bounce sheets, or making sure that he isn’t cornering the cats and eating their food; Walter that is, not my son 😉 ). We laugh A LOT now. He’s doing better in school, and has that sparkle back in his eyes that I missed for SO long! But no matter how much better life is, there are still times when I can tell that he is feeling sad and/or worried. He is VERY conscious of not hurting my feelings, and tries to make sure I am always happy. That must be very tiring for a little guy, and I get it, as I use to try to make my mom happy all the time too. But no matter how hard I try to show him that I am healthy and very happy, he gets overwhelmed and afraid at times, and just needs a good cry.

I have learned a lot of amazing things about the power of accepting our feelings over the last year and a half, and I am so grateful for this as I now do my best to share these strategies with my kids. And to reiterate the theme of this blog, I am mindful that I make sure I allow my son to express his feelings as freely as my daughter does.

The old me often got frustrated when my kids cried, and looking back now, I realize that that frustration came from a lack of knowledge of how to deal with their emotions in a healthy way. I feel sick to my stomach now when I remember times when I sent my kids to their room until they stopped crying, or for telling them that they were ok, when clearly they were not.

Here are some emotion-accepting tips I now implement with my kids, and equally as importantly with my son. These may seem pretty basic to most parents, but I’m willing to chance an eye-roll or two and be ‘that mom’ who thinks she knows a thing or two about parenting…because well, now I do 🙂

  1. When my son is sad I console him and tell him it’s ok to cry, and I don’t give him a time limit on when that should be done. No more, “Ok, that’s enough crying”, because who am I to judge that it’s enough? I would be pissed if someone said that to ME, so why is it ok to say that to our kids?
  2. I validate his fears and concerns. I don’t say, “that’s nothing to cry about”, or “that’s a silly thing to be afraid of”, because once again, I am not in his mind and have no right to choose how he feels.
  3. I take the time to listen to why he is upset. I am the first to admit that I usually have my phone in my hand, but when he is sad, I put it down. Granted, I may need to actively remind myself to so…but I do. Nothing is more important in that moment than giving my full attention to him.
  4. And last but certainly not least, I show my sadness too! When I was sick I thought that hiding my emotions protected my kids from pain, when in fact it caused it. They are SO in tune with our personalities, including our non-verbal language, that they can tell when we are sad. Denying this only confuses them, and in fact makes them worry more. To my surprise, when I started telling my kids the truth about my emotions, they accepted it, and went on with their day!

Crying isn’t easy for most of us. But I challenge you to remember a time when you didn’t feel better after you did! I can actually compare the feeling of calm after a good cry to that of the feeling of relief and happiness when a run is done. Let’s make sure that we don’t hold those opportunities for calm, happiness and relief, hostage from our son’s.

 

Wings of Change Peer Support in Canadian Paramedicine Magazine


Happy to announce that an article featuring the Wings of Change – Peer Support, can be found in the Feb/Mar 2106 edition of Canadian Paramedicine magazine.

A huge thank you to Editor in Chief Michael Nolan, for his ongoing support of mental health awareness in the paramedic field!

I will add a link to the article as soon as possible. Please subscribe to the magazine at canadianparamedicine.ca

Contact me at paramedicnat@hotmail.com for a free copy of the Wings of Change – Peer Support model.

~Nat

Wings of Change – Peer Support Launch!

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Wings of Change – Peer Support meetings, where ALL first-responders, military members, communications officers, and healthcare providers, be it professional or volunteer, are welcome to participate in anonymous, solution-based discussion and education regarding any occupational trauma. While an employer may be providing Wings of Change’s contact and location information as a resource they sanction, they are not directly affiliated.
Wings of Change – Peer Support meetings are informal and only facilitated by peers experiencing similar struggles with traumatic calls/events. The diagnosis of a mental illness such as post traumatic stress disorder is not required in order to attend, however, we advise that all participants seek professional medical help, and do not rely on these meetings as their sole means of support. Individuals are welcome attend as often as they’d like, and to participate in the discussion, or to simply sit back and listen to what is shared.
Anonymity is a fundamental component to Wings of Change’s attraction, however we encourage individual discussion and sharing outside of each meeting on personal terms in order to combat mental health stigma. Wings of Change meetings offer a safe and caring place for our dedicated community members to heal through talk, fellowship and education.
Our Mission: Encouraging a new outlook where the need for all first responders, military members, healthcare providers and communications officers to be comfortable with uncomfortable, no longer exists

https://www.facebook.com/wingsofchangepeersupport/?ref=hl

The Wings of Change – Peer Support meeting model, has been in the making for several months now. I would like to thank the following people who have helped and supported its development along the way!
A special thanks to Syd Gravel, retired Staff Sergeant from the Ottawa Police Service and a Member of the Order of Merit for Police, and one of the founding father’s of the Robin’s Blue Circle peer support group, whose group model has been adapted to create Wing’s Change.
Thank you to Jim Harris, Barrie Director of the Canadian Mental Health Association who encouraged me from day one to create this peer support model, and for providing the Wings of Change Focus Group’s meeting location each month.
Thank you to Vince Savoia, founder of the Tema Conter Memorial Trust, who’s positive feedback and support has been unwavering throughout this development journey.
And especially to the following people who’s passion to implement a peer support model like Wings of Change, was incredible!
Caroline Richards AEMCA, ACP (Paramedic)
Marcel Martel AEMCA, PCP (Paramedic)
Peter Neuman (Police Officer)
Deb Snow (Registered Nurse)
Alice Weatherbee (Communications Officer)
Lindsay Parisani AEMCA, PCP (Paramedic)
Bernie Van Tighem, CFO, BAppBus; ES (Fire Chief & Paramedic)
Karen Bilecki (Paramedic, Registered Nurse & Physician Assistant)
Andrea Logan (Registered Nurse / Nurse Practitioner – Paediatrics)
Dawn Heshka AEMCA, PCP (Paramedic)
Lloyd Brownell (Police Communications Officer)
Patrick Riley AEMCA, PCP (Paramedic)
Nicholas Harris (Police Officer)
Bonnie Bradley AEMCA, PCP (Paramedic)

For a free copy of the Wings of Change – Peer Support model, which includes a Letter to Participants, Chair Person’s Guide, Meeting Readings, Topic Suggestions, our Mission, and Q&A’s, and a power-point describing how a meeting is facilitated, please email me at: paramedicnat@hotmail.com

girl medic

Photo by: Dansun 

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