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Paramedic Nat

A Blog About My Mental Health Journey

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reframing

You Deserve An Abundance Of Joy

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Did you know that you deserve an abundance of joy in your life? If you said, “no”, you probably haven’t forgiven yourself for something in your past. Guilt is a good hider of joy. You may feel like you don’t deserve happiness when you have harmed others in one way, shape, or form. Well, what if I told you that if you learn how to forgive yourself, you will be able to accept the all the joy that this life has to offer you. Rather than smothering yourself in self-pity and shame, you can forgive yourself and cultivate joy.

I know what you’re thinking – easier said than done Natalie; and I agree. Forgiveness requires patience and kindness to form an intricate dance together; a dance that represents freedom and acceptance. And sometimes patience and kindness wait along the gym wall, nervous to ask one another to dance. But when they have the courage to do so, the music of peace gets played all around them.

It’s not until you forgive yourself that you can truly be able to be happy. You are worthy of forgiveness. You are! Don’t let the liar mind of guilt convince you otherwise! When you look in the rear view mirror, all that you should be able to see is how far you’ve come. You are not supposed to be looking back in regret.

In my 12-step meetings we talk a lot about making amends – cleaning our side of the street. If we left a tornado of destruction all around us while we travelled down this road of life, we should apologize for it and then move on; not letting guilt convince us that we need to continue to carry it around like a ball and chain. And the more you practice to make amends quickly when you do wrong, the smaller the tornado will be and therefore the smaller mess it will leave behind.

Making what we call a ‘living amends’ means to live your life doing the next right thing. We can’t always apologize for our actions face-to-face at times, but we can live a better life and wish love to those you have harmed.

I make a living amends everyday to my kids for what I put them through when I was first diagnosed with PTSD. My actions are what keep them having faith in me, not my words. The rear view mirror of my life, as well as the road in front of me, are filled with joy because I choose to forgive myself and to not ruminate in toxic guilt. My kids want to see me happy, not miserable and filled with regret. So I work hard on my recovery every day and show them that they can trust that I am always doing my best to heal and to accept joy into my life. This in turn teaches them how to do the same.

What a beautiful gift recovery can be. I now know that I am deserving of an abundance of joy now, and it feels wonderful. Joy and forgiveness in, sadness and guilt out – one day at a time.

 

 

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.

Career Fulfillment

The feeling of career fulfillment – ahhhhh – like a post-turkey-dinner nap, or a gold-star-stamped exam – it feels wonderful doesn’t it? In essence it satisfies our being – and who doesn’t want that feeling? I know I sure do.

I had that feeling for many years as I zipped up my black steel-toed work boots and buttoned my advanced care paramedic epaulettes onto my uniform shirt. I had that feeling when I showed a paramedic student how to start an intravenous (IV) line and when I saw their eyes light up when I placed their hands in the proper place to feel that a patient’s pulse had returned. I had that feeling when I held a patient’s hand in the back of a bumpy ambulance as we drove them to the cardiac care centre to have the blockage removed that was causing them to have a heart attack. I had it when a healthy baby was born, and even when I stood frozen from the cold wind on the side of a highway waiting for a patient to be extricated from a car.

For me, career fulfillment didn’t come easily. It took a lot of endurance and hard work to become a paramedic, and alas, it was fleeting. What fulfills my life has changed since I was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after a double murder call I was a paramedic at in 2012. And finding that feeling of fulfillment again took me quite a long time because sadly I placed all of my worth into being a paramedic and forgot that I was still a human being under my uniform.

The truth is, just when you think life has set you on a path of endless happiness, an unexpected fork in the road appears, and pulls you down a path you didn’t choose – or did you? That path may be dark, and filled with thorn-covered, tangled vines in which you have to navigate around, through, and under, careful not to cut yourself or get suffocated with. At some point the path may be filled with hopelessness…until one day a glimmer of light appears through the mess, and you suddenly remember that life can be fulfilling again.

Career fulfillment has returned to my life – I now I share my recovery story with the world. I let people know that there is hope and happiness after a major career change; sometimes happiness you never could have imagined if you didn’t make that change. I now have the opportunity to watch people grow through peer support meetings I helped to create called, Wings of Change, (a free solution-based peer support model that demonstrates to the meeting goers that they are not alone and that recovery can be a beautiful path.)

Now I get to listen to stories of enlightenment when someone finds a break in the binding chains of PTSD. I get to witness heartwarming moments of recovery. I get to say I have a voice again, and best of all, I get to witness other’s find theirs. I may not walk in paramedic boots anymore, but I have been blessed to now walk beside those who still do.

Reframing & Vulnerability

On this episode of BrainStorm: I talk about Reframing & Vulnerability, how I had to reframe past traumas to be able to move forward, and how being vulnerable can create freedom. 

 

Purchase Daily Lessons from Save My Life School: Here

Purchase 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.

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.

 

Busy and Bored

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Busy and bored – I’m both. It’s possible. Weird right? Even though I am not on the road as a medic anymore (sigh) I am a busy bee. Family, fur babies, podcasts, new book, new speaking engagements, and lots of emails to reply to, keep my busy every day – and I’m grateful that I am able to do all of these things – but I’m bored. I’m on a new medication and I think it is giving me a lot of extra energy (Abilify for those who are wondering). I wake up super early and can’t get back to sleep which is weird for me as the old super depressed Nat only slept!

So with that being said I want to share a few amazing words of inspiration some friends have given me over the last day or too to help easy my mind with it’s new found energy and boredom.

From Christine Newman: “Here’s what I can tell you for sure Sis… things will seesaw for a while until you eventually find your happy medium. Some days you will be in the groove and rocking your socks off. Other days, the needle skips on the record and everything sounds like shit. And at least Lollers didn’t barf IN your shoes”. Brilliant! She also told me that because I have been through so much this year, that it will take some time to find a happy medium.

From Caroline Richards: “Well, I guess this is just where I’m at, I really need to just accept this”. Beautiful and true! When Caroline said this to me, I felt like she was speaking to my soul. I have to accept where I am – it really makes things a lot easier.

From @365daysofbipol2: “When you feel like you are moving forward and seem like you’re going nowhere you are on a plateau. Learn to enjoy the view”. Simple and profound all in one.

From Dr. Debra Lindh: ” Some days are harder than others. Remember: We grow when we’re stretched not when we are comfortable”. Isn’t that the truth – thank you for reminding me. 

I hope that if you are feeling the way I am that these messages help you as much as they have helped me. XO Time for some Pearl Jam and Linkin Park. 

BrainStorm – Hospital Room 911


On this episode of Brain Storm:

  • How changing perspective and re-framing can improve your mental health,
  • Thwarted belongingness and perceived burdensomeness,
  • Sanctuary trauma – how this is affecting so many first responders and military members
    …and more.

Broken and Beautiful

I got my butt back to the Buddhist Centre – finally. It’s been months since I have had any sort of spiritual renewal and the other night was a welcomed hour and half of peace. At the risk of sounding completely unspiritual, while I was there I was reminded that self-pity is a son of a bitch. And that I have been drowning in it for quite some time. Sigh. I was also reminded that we often ‘claim innocence’ with regards to what our minds think, and thus what our bodies feel, but if we take a closer look, we often have a hidden motivation as to why we think and feel the way we do. We are always getting something from our thoughts and actions, and in my case, my cynical outlook on my current unemployed situation was allowing me to wallow in self-pity, which in turn has been ‘giving me permission’ to sink even deeper into my depression. Deep breath.

The other day I was unpacking and I found this paramedic statue. It was broken when I packed it, and was suddenly much more broken when I unpacked it – and the symbolism of this hit me hard.

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I cried in secret for much of the afternoon, feeling sorry for myself and angry that I couldn’t be a paramedic anymore. But when I posted this photo on Facebook, I was reminded by a few lovely people that I could perceive this experience in a different way.

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Kintsukuroi is the practice of repairing pottery with gold or silver and expressing that this repair has actually made the pottery more beautiful. I also know that when a bone is broken it heals much stronger than it ever was before. Being reminded of this allowed me to see that I could repair the statue (again) and that it would be even more beautiful and strong.

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That night my son and I found some glue and repaired the statue together. She is sitting on my kitchen window sill now and not packed away in a box so that I can be reminded that I am ok and that yes, at times my spirit has been broken, and that self pity can seep into my veins faster than the blink of an eye, but with amazing friends out there who take the time to remind me that I am ok, I can learn to see my broken parts as beautiful again.

 

 

 

 

 

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