Sometimes we are faced with adversities which challenge our heart and soul’s beliefs. Change at first can be terrifying, but eventually it can be beautiful. Adversity breeds sorrow, but then it breeds strength. Love can be found in the most unexpected places if we open our eyes; breathe it in. Once you put yourself on the path of positivity, let it guide you. You don’t always need to know the way. Sometimes there are detours, a lesson – but all the while necessary. Trust in these lessons. One foot in front of the other, seemingly alone, but actually together.
Trigger Warning – Call details described.
Let me bring you into the chaotic world of a paramedic.
0630: Tones go off and you are dispatched to a young man who has crashed his car into a garage.
0640: You arrive to find an approximately 20 year old male slumped over the steering wheel of a house where his car has crashed into the garage. The car roof is holding up the remainder of the garage’s roof. You can see through the window that the driver is blue and not breathing.
0642: The fire department secures the remainder of the garage and you resuscitate the driver. He gets a pulse back. He requires medications for seizures and you do all of this while he is still trapped in the car.
0720: You off-load the driver to the hospital. (*You find out days later that he has survived and you visit him in the ICU – he gives you a thank you hug).
0800: You are dispatched to a potential domestic violence call.
0810: When you arrive the wife reports that he husband has hung himself in the garage. Police break into the garage and cut him down.
0813: You resuscitate him. He gets his pulse back. You put him on a backboard and transport him to the hospital. (*The next day you learn that he had a second noose in the garage…for who? We will never know because he was taken off life support and his organs were donated.
0900: You have to pee really badly.
0901: You are dispatched to a hardware store where you find a young pregnant lady yelling. She can’t speak. She is having a stroke and is 7 months pregnant.
0915: You transport her to a stroke centre. (*You bump into her husband months down the road and he tells you that she is recovering well and walking again and that the baby was born healthy).
0955: You still need to pee really badly!
0956: You are dispatched to a grocery store where a man has been found dead in a washroom.
1000: Upon arrival you find an approximately 40 year old man with vital signs absent (VSA). You attempt to resuscitate him. He has choked on food and you need to remove it.
1002: You remove the food with your tools, but the patient remains VSA.
1015: You are called to an accident on the highway. Drivers are telling 911 dispatchers that a motorcycle has crashed into a transport truck.
1016: You request that air ambulance meet you on scene.
1026: Air ambulance lands on the highway and you share that you have performed chest needles on him because he has two collapsed lungs. (*You never learn of the outcome of this patient).
1100: You finally get to pee.
All of this…before noon. Does that seem outrageous? Maybe. But this is the very literal life of a paramedic. I could insert hundreds of call types into this article – the point is that paramedics (and all first responders – however I am only speaking to what I know in this post as a retired paramedic) learn to understand chaos. They learn how to perform delicate tasks in such incredibly difficult circumstances. They save lives; and sometimes they don’t. But regardless, they impact their communities on such a profound level and they thrive in the ring with chaos.
Now imagine that you have days like this at work for YEARS.
Now imagine that you get sick and can’t go to work.
Now imagine that the chaos suddenly stops.
I believe it is so important to recognize that first responders need so much support when they leave the road (for whatever reason) because if they are not taught how to live without chaos…they may create it themselves. I know this, because I did…and sometimes still do.
I was comfortable in chaos as a paramedic! That’s all I knew. My peers and I welcomed adversity and challenge. It gave us purpose and direction.
Now imagine if that purpose and direction were suddenly gone.
Is it any surprise that first responders are having difficulty, and even dying, when they are no longer able to put their uniforms on? I think not.
Stopping the external chaos doesn’t necessarily stop the internal chaos. I totally understand this. If you are reading this and nodding your head – know that you are not alone. There is help for you out there. Peer support has come a long way. Here are some resources that may be beneficial to you:
Please feel free to share and add resource found in your community.
And thank you to everyone who runs towards chaos – I know that it isn’t easy. And I know that it’s even more difficult to stop.
In lieu of all expectations, let me be of help to you.
We matter to each other. We are social beings longing for connection. The power of connectivity gives us purpose. We feel strong when we are not going-it alone. Heat and hostility can be cooled and soothed when we join together. Anger can be turned into hope and dedication. Let’s face it, when we leave somewhere, we want to be missed and hoped to return. Finding our best judgement can be better attained when we listen to all opinions and concerns. When we do things together, with patience, happiness is our destiny. Equality equals endless opportunity for all. Sincerely I tell you, together we can change the world.
I lived in the dark for so long. My view, covered with a veil of depression, used to only see black and white. I craved and prayed to be able to see the colours of this world again; like through the eyes of a child. But for so long I isolated away from the light; alone, and cold. Depression and PTSD made vibrancy non-existent. And I was sure that’s how it would stay forever.
It’s taken some time, and a lot of work, but now I see the reds, blues and yellows of this vibrant world. I see hope and happiness and love – finally. Does darkness come creeping back into my life sometimes? – Yes. But I keep days of colour like today in my back pocket, like a tattered pictured of a loved one that you cherish, ready and waiting to remind me that I will one day see a small beam of light through the cracked fortress of sadness.
I’m no longer blinded by PTSD. I’m thriving in my new purposeful life. I still wear my earplugs to keep my amygdala at bay, but generally speaking I am overall symptom free. Recovery is possible if you choose a path filled with colour. Purples, oranges and greens will fill you with joy when you are able to open your eyes.
Today I danced in the sunshine with my daughter. We laughed and sang and ate good food. We celebrated spring and all of the newness it represents. We became colourful humans – and for once, I felt colourful both inside and out.
Addiction isn’t 9-5
As you may already know, I am fighting hard (with many amazing people) to tackle the opioid crisis in Barrie. I have had the privilege to work alongside many talented and dedicated doctors and specialists. I have sat at boardroom tables and asked questions…and even more questions. I want the answers to this crisis so bad, and I know that it will take an army of people to solve it. And members of this army include people with lived experience with addiction. I don’t see many of these people when I am in boardrooms, and I think that THIS is a critical missing piece to the crisis puzzle.
One day, while sitting at said boardroom table with doctors and specialists, I asked why the Rapid Access Addiction Medicine (RAAM) clinics are only open two hours…that’s correct, I said TWO hours a day for drop in? And only 9-5 for appointments. You see, I am one of those lived experience individuals. I am a recovered addict and I can tell you with 100 % certainty that my addiction isn’t with me for two hours a day. This huge gap in this service needs to be addressed! My addiction is ever present in my blood. It tries to fool me into drinking and abusing my drugs again. It still tells me that I’m worthless and that people would be better off without me (sidebar – I’m safe, don’t worry!) My addiction is conniving and sneaky and as they say at my 12 step meetings, it’s doing push-ups while I stay sober, just waiting to hit me hard one day.
Hearing that the RAAM clinic was only open for two hours a day broke my heart. Some people don’t have a car and it would take them two hours just to get there by bus! I am told that the hours are so low because they don’t have enough staff to operate it – well I say let’s find some. Addiction is 24/7, and available care should be too.
Are you a mental health and/or addiction specialist who lives in the Barrie area? Email me! Natalie.Harris@barrie.ca
I can’t promise anything except that I will submit your name and resume to the RAAM. Thank you!
I, like thousands of others, have recently watched the latest Brene Brown documentary on Netflix. And while doing so, this particular quote jumped out and hit me in the face!
“If you’re not in the arena also getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback”
I think she is referring to negative feedback – but I could be wrong. She may be referring to all types of feedback. Regardless, I could relate to it. I could feel the examples she gave of hurtful people throwing punches from outside of the arena where they are safe from ever truly wrestling with life themselves. I could relate to the feeling of confusion when someone can’t see that I am already fighting in the arena and I could be fighting for them, not against them – if they would let me. But, not everyone wants to be helped – remember that.
When I’m not interested in hearing negative feedback, I simply block the person. In fact, I was chatting with a friend today, and I shared with her that ‘blocking’ people on social media is sometimes necessary and the right thing to do. It’s not mean; it’s an element of personal survival sometimes. And to be fair, I’m certain that people have blocked me too. BUT, I believe the difference between my block and theirs is that I block hate, and they block the possibility of seeing themselves in my own PTSD. I know this to be true because people have told me this.
Being in the arena can take a lot out of you. I used to be in the paramedic arena, and now I’m in the political arena (not sure which is harder…lol) and I get metaphorical punches to the face from time to time. I actually mentally prepared myself for this if I were to win the election – which I did. Preparation came from knocking on all of the 5600 doors in my ward and speaking with my neighbours. Overall, people were wonderful! But I did have a few tell me that they hated my tattoos, (more so who told me they like them), and that they weren’t happy with one thing or the other to do with the City. I had to let these comments bounce off of me; so I did. And no matter what, I never stepped out of the arena even when the punches were coming at me non-stop. Furthermore, I have learned that I actually thrive in the arena, and I absolutely love being there.
I read every email I receive, and when they are riddled with anger, I can totally see that the individual needs their concerns validated and they ultimately need my help – so I give it. BUT, some people are not just angry, they are relentlessly mean. They punch from outside of the arena, but would never in a million years enter into it themselves. That’s where Brene’s quote comes in for me. If you throw suggestions and concerns into the arena; I will catch them and address them – that’s my job. But if you are spitting and lying and punching me with hate outside of the arena, I won’t continue to respond. I will use my energy to help those who require it and will fight for their needs.
I teach the necessity of ‘blocking’ to my kids, so why wouldn’t I practice what I preach? BUT, equally as important, I also teach them to send out love to the person they blocked; so that they don’t build a resentment towards them. That’s easier said than done when the people they/we block is/are a bully. “How am I supposed to send out love to a bully mom?” They have asked. “Slowly”. I reply.
You see, blocking someone on social media is a powerful demonstration of the boundaries you are absolutely allowed to set. And when I block toxic people, I am simply making room for amazing new people. I believe we teach people how to treat us. So, if I block you because you are relentlessly mean, I am teaching you that I will not stand for that and that I deserve happiness and positivity.
Don’t feel bad for setting boundaries. And remember to look around the arena from time to time to see that others are fighting too. Acknowledge them and thank them for being in the arena with you. The more fighters the better! That’s how positive change happens! And if you see a new person enter the arena because they have changed their perspective and want to be a fighter too, welcome them with open arms – even if they were one of the people on the outside throwing punches at one point – I have known this to have happened too.
To the people I have blocked: I have zero resentments towards you and I truly wish you happiness and wellness…from afar.
Thank you. Xo