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Paramedic Nat

A Blog About My Mental Health Journey

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trauma

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

 

From Inside The Homewood Walls

On this episode of BrainStorm I share what it is like to be a patient at Homewood Health. I share journal entries, progress reports, and more…

 

Pre-order my New Book: Here

Get Save My Life School: Here

This episode of BrainStorm is brought to you by The Homewood Health Clinic Mississauga 

BrainStorm by Natalie Harris is proudly produced by PodcastWagon.com

 

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.

BrainStorm – My New Mental Health Podcast

Monotony Makes Me Sick

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Are any of us truly who we say we are? Beneath the uniforms, labels and names, who are we? Wandering through the monotony of life, waking to another day of ‘different’, that is really all the same. The same hours go by and the same tasks are done. Food is prepared, then eaten, then a mess is left to be cleaned up. Much like our lives, so much mess seems to be left to clean up. Even joy seems to leave a mess behind. And when you are depressed, all you can do is see the mess. All you can do is want to sleep life away so that you aren’t bombarded by the monotonous mess of life.

I’ve been in my layer two of depression for days. Stuck in what seems to be the slowest ferris wheel of my mind. High up, and helpless. Swinging in the wind. Hating how my stomach flips when I look down, but content with the possibility of the whole thing crashing to the ground. Content with feeling like anything but an alien any more. Screaming, but not making a sound. Being able to see for miles and wishing that I could enjoy the view, but all I see at that height is more sadness, and more pain. More animals without a voice. More of a world that is just so painful and angry.

I feel physically sick when I try to do anything. Going to the store is a mission I would rather not have to battle through. But things need to get done. People rely on me. So many people rely on me. But do you want to know what my mind focuses on when I do something as simple as go to the store? I think about the minutes I will have to be in the noise; the massive amounts of garbage that is made to package shit in; the kids that are screaming all around me that are sad and I don’t know why and I can’t do anything about it; how dizzy I am, and I don’t know why; seeing new couples buying house accessories who are just going to be divorced in a few years and will be bitching and complaining about who will get the friggin’ garlic press (like who the fuck even uses a garlic press?); the constant beeping of the cash registers and the minutes the cashiers must count down until they don’t have to listen to it anymore; trying to act normal when I bump into someone I know – and hating the stupid small talk that is all just total bullshit; searching, searching, searching for something to make me smile, something to cause a positive endorphin to release, and being so overly aware of the fact that even if I find something that will make me smile, it will only last for a second and I will be right back in hell again. Fun times right? Fuck.

Mental illness and injury fucking suck. I feel like I am in a jail. I feel like I am in hell. I feel like an alien who just doesn’t understand why anyone would build a ferris wheel in the first place. I just want to be better! I just want to be a happy mom! I just want to be ok! I’m really trying.

 

The Depression Rollercoaster – Bring Your Vomit Bag

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My latest blog posts have depicted my recent difficulty with seeing light in the world – again. These dark ‘slumps’, (really the word slump does not do these experiences justice – but I will use it for ease of relating to all – we all have slumps – they suck – you get the point), fool me into thinking that the universe that takes care of me even in my darkest hours has abandoned me…and abandoned everyone else as well. Days go by as I agonize through the mundane and torturous seconds of hopelessness, tossing and turning between anger, guilt and remorse, until finally…FINALLY, the universe peeks its little universe head through the darkness and says, “Sorry I’ve been out of sight for a while, but wait until you see what I have in store for your now!”

I talk to the universe a lot…literally. I look up to the sky and say, “Ok universe, show me the way”, and it always does – ALWAYS. This time it spoke to me through a text message from a friend named Matt Henegan, who is also a paramedic with PTSD. This is what he said:

“Here’s the thing, and take it with a grain of salt, as I am not here to undo anything; you’re allowed to hate the world. You’ve experienced it. The good. The bad. And the indescribably ugly. The world is easy to hate. What’s important, is to not live in this world WITH hate leading us..”

Truer words were never spoken. I was leading my days with hate over the last little while because of some unfortunate circumstances – one being that I have sadly learned that Luci my service dog is not a good fit for my home. She bit Walter (food aggression) and the sights and sounds of this experience triggered PTSD reflexes/reactions and have forced me to make sure that that never happens again. My family and I are devastated, and still recovering from this realization, but I know that she will find a home that is best for her. I love her and I will miss her. (* I will be donating the remainder of my Go Fund Me money to the amazing trainers at Grassroots K9 who so generously worked with Luci and I for many months. I still highly recommend them – sometimes things happen that no one can foresee.)

Leading my days with hate, self pity and anger only hurts me and everyone around me more. These emotions are an express-pass to the depression rollercoaster that always makes me vomit. This pass swiftly buckles me in for ‘the ride’ and rockets me into twists and turns that cause me to be disoriented and sick – very sick. I inevitably stumble off the ride when it’s over with my clothes disheveled and no memory of when it really even began. I hate this ride…and I’m naive to think that I won’t ever find myself on it again.

Thank you Matt for your friendship. I know that your words will help many more than just me.

*You can find Matt’s own blog documenting his battle with PTSD at http://amedicsmind.blogspot.ca/2017/03/a-mans-eyes.html  He is one of the most amazing writers I have ever come across!

 

 

 

’13 Reasons Why’ – My Review

I am at the Canadian Mental Health Association Suicide Prevention Conference in beautiful Orillia, Ontario, and I thought what a perfect time to share my thoughts on the widely talked about series, ‘Thirteen Reasons Why’, which is based on the events leading up to a teenager’s suicide. For those of you who haven’t watched this series yet, this post will be a spoiler – so alert! This post also speaks very candidly about suicidal ideation and may be a trigger for some.

The basic premise of the show is that a girl who is in high school dies by suicide and leaves a series of cassette tapes for various friends to listen to, to show them the ways in which they played a role in her death – thirteen ways to be exact. When I heard about this show I was happy that teenage suicide would be discussed in a medium that most teens are very familiar with – Netflix. And I was hopeful that it would be a realistic portrayal of the dark world in which the minds of those with suicidal ideation live in. My overall review however is that I am very disappointed.

Let me preface the following comments with a reminder that these are my thoughts alone. My perspective and my opinion – as a suicide survivor.

What I didn’t like about the show (beyond the horrible acting) was that it focused primarily on the main character, Hannah’s, vengeful personality rather than the darkness that mental illness would have forced her to experience prior to her death. The writers share details about horrible trauma she experiences (which quite often is a predetermining factor for mental illness which leads to death by suicide), but beyond the traumatic details each episode reveals, the show falls short of effectively bringing the viewer inside her mind – the mind of suicidal ideation.

The plot’s main focus is on the reveal of Hannah’s vengeful tapes. Episode after episode her angry voice tells her friends how they directly played a role in her death causing them to conspire against each other so that the ‘blame’ doesn’t land on themselves. Yes, the slow unraveling of lies and coverup’s make for a great TV series drama, but there is so much more to the story of a teenaged girl who dies by suicide – so much more than the spitefulness the writer’s focused on.

From what I have come to learn from experience, is that a person who encounters trauma may in fact go through a stage of wanting to seek revenge, but when the stage of death by suicide is reached, the individual is so deeply trapped in a world of hopelessness, and is suffocated by relentless distorted thinking that their mind literally doesn’t have the cognitive ‘space’ for the thought of revenge any longer. At the point when a person dies by suicide, their mind convinces them that they, and their family would be better off dead for any number of reasons why – sadly this list of reasons could go on ad infinitum. At this point their mind which has been imprisoned by mental illness’s cell-walls only thinks of how to be freed from it’s pain. At this point, darkness has seeped into their veins, making it physically impossible to see anything but death.

Graphic detail alert. In the very last episode the main character dies after bleeding out because she cuts her wrists. In reference to this scene, I feel that it was the writers responsibility to show how the knife represents a life-threatening illness that won. Sadly, I feel the writers made the knife seem like a choice in her hand.

Yes, ‘Thirteen Reasons Why’, continued the important discussion about teenage suicide, but I feel it dropped the ball on its chance to invoke conversation about mental illness. And if they had done the latter, they would have made an important step towards making sure that this sentence wouldn’t be confusing to anyone.

 

Alien Contemplation Time

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I was at my therapist appointment yesterday (whilst hovering between layer 1 and 2 of my depression), and she said that maybe we could work on me not calling myself an alien anymore – maybe we could choose a different word for the out-of-this-world sensations I experience while I’m in those layers. I replied that I was a nice alien (for fear that she was thinking that all aliens are bad), and she politely laughed and said she knew that, but with one eyebrow up, she still thought that maybe there was still a better word. I sat there in silence, because I didn’t know what to say, as I sort of didn’t mind the word. Although I knew her intensions were good, her remark made me feel alone, and it reminded me that she (like so many others) has never felt like an alien before.

Maybe my silence caused her to feel my uneasy energy as she quickly changed her point of view and said that maybe I didn’t need to change the word ‘alien’, but that I needed to learn how to cope with, and accept, the sensations that descend when I feel like I’m out of this world – that sounded like a better plan to me.

You see, my alien sensations have been with me for many years, but peaked while I was at Save-My-Life Boarding School when I was recounting traumatic experiences. I don’t experience them as often, but they ARE a part of my life. I haven’t liked to experience them because they make me feel different. They remind me that my brain works very differently than other people’s brains, and that the best blog or book can never truly articulate what it feels like to be in that different realm – a dissociated realm. The best way I can describe it is that I feel like I’m outside of my body and that the world and all the human beings on it are in a slow-motion movie and seem like ants on auto-pilot. It’s not a happy or exciting movie – it has a glum filter, and just seems to keep going and going relentlessly.

Today that feeling is gone, just like that! I don’t know why, and I don’t know when it will return.

I plan on documenting more about how I feel this way. And I hope that with time I can accept that when it happens it will pass, and to stop comparing myself to other people who I think are ‘normal’ – because what the heck is normal anyway? Maybe it’s a gift to be able to feel like an alien?…I’m still on the universe-fence about that one.

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

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