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Paramedic Nat

A Blog About My Mental Health Journey

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emotions

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

Ugh, Insomnia

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Dear Insomnia,

I know you keep trying to be friends with me, but it’s just not going to work out. You see, I’m tired. Even though you try to trick me into thinking that waking up at 2:30 am every day is the ‘cool thing to do’, I know it’s not. Insomnia, it’s dark out, that means I should be asleep, but you never seem to care about that, it’s always ‘insomnia, insomnia, insomnia’. Selfish. How about we try to make a deal – you let me sleep for just one solid night each week, and in return I will not get so frustrated when you creep into my sleep-world at an unGodly hour of the morning on the other six nights of the week.

How wonderful it would be to have a good night sleep! I hate doing the Navy Seal roll through the sleeping animals on my bed in order to find my phone while praying that it will say something like 6:30 am, only to find time and time again that it says 2:30am. Walter and Lollers are snoring away – phew. My strategic roll through the blankets didn’t wake them up – that’s good. So I’m going try to say farewell to you for the night.

Please stop trying to be my friend,

Natalie (a.k.a. exhausted)

Challenge Extreme Thinking

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On this episode of BrainStorm: I share the difference between emotional, rational and wise mind. I also explain how extreme thinking sabotaged many of my relationships and how I have changed the way I think in many situations.

 

Books

Daily Lessons from Save My Life School: Here

Save My Life School: Here

 

BrainStorm by Natalie Harris is proudly produced by PodcastWagon.com

Anxiety Disorders

On this episode of BrainStorm: I talk about different types of anxiety disorders and my experience with them. I also share coping strategies and treatment options.

Reference: http://www.camh.ca/en/hospital/health_information/a_z_mental_health_and_addiction_information/anxiety_disorders/Pages/anxiety_disorders.aspx

 

Pre-order my New Book: Here

Get Save My Life School: Here

 BrainStorm by Natalie Harris is proudly produced by PodcastWagon.com

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.

Happiness Eclipse (A Tribute to Suicide Awareness Month)

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Have you ever noticed how the most fragile and rare things are often the most beautiful? And have you ever noticed how their beauty often vanishes into the invisible abyss of atoms and time before they can ever truly be enjoyed? A snowflake, a dandelion seed, lightening, innocence – in all of a moment – they vanish. Happiness fits into this category of beauty for me.

I get frustrated with how happiness and my personal life seem to exist in separate orbits. Rarely eclipsing one another, but when it happens, like all phenomenons, it inevitably comes to an end. Watching this eclipse also my eyes to burn and tears to flow, especially when I see the orbit of happiness leaving, knowing that it will be a while until it returns.

Everywhere I go, I’m there. I can’t escape the sadness my mind simmers in so often. My mind’s inability to practice gratitude elicits enormous levels of guilt. And I know full well that guilt is a useless emotion – and that it only brings more pain. But still I feel guilt’s heavy dagger pierce my heart when I see the sunrise and simultaneously need to fight to see the beauty in it. I should be able to see the beauty in it. Why can’t I see the beauty in it?

September is Suicide Awareness Month, and I will endeavour to continue to share what it’s like to be in the mind of someone who has battled with suicidal thoughts and attempts. Don’t worry – I’m safe. But I feel it is necessary to continue this dark and often confusing conversation so that those who don’t understand, can; even if in the smallest way.

My Interview On The Agenda

Thank you again to The Agenda for this amazing opportunity.

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