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Paramedic Nat

A Blog About My Mental Health Journey

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vulnerability

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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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

 

Looking To Smash A Broken Record

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I’m still searching for some meaning here. I’ve been ‘here’ before – figuratively and literally. I’m at Save-My-Life Summer School, where I hope to bump up my grades. “What grades?”, you may be asking. Well, my grades in coping with life and PTSD symptoms. I’m so grateful, don’t get me wrong. Like SO grateful. But no matter how you look at it, summer school sort of sucks.

I have a feeling that I will have a breakthrough – but alas, it’s only day three for God’s sake. I need to be a bit gentler on myself.

I actually bored of writing right now. No epiphanies to share. I’m numb. Completely numb. Like a robot walking the halls, emotionless and cold. I wish I had some feeling of connection to this life beyond being a mom; that connection is inherent. I mean a connection to a person or an experience. A connection to a feeling.

There were lots of spiders outside this morning. One even crawled onto my hand. A baby one. I passed it to my neighbour and he passed it to his. Without words, just passing spiders so delicately, like balancing a fragile egg on our finger nails, fearful that it would fall. It was moved safely to the seat beside us to go on with it’s merry day. It’s funny how none of us even came close to killing it. We’ve experienced enough trauma that even killing a spider is too much to bear. Well at least that’s my view of the experience.

I get so tired of feeling like a skipping record when I share what feels like the same story over and over with yet another nurse or doctor. I’m grateful – but I’m tired. The skipping record laughs at me and taunts me. Just when I think I’ve reached the end of the damn record, it skips and starts again. I wish I could just smash that record! Smash it into smithereens. Jump on it and scream for it to never play again. The pieces wouldn’t even deserve to be swept up. They don’t deserve my attention anymore. They don’t deserve my breath, my energy, my time. And I don’t deserve to be a broken record. Maybe I will smash it over the next eight weeks. It would feel so wonderful to have a different story. This one seems so pointless now.

Art – By Nat 

BrainStorm – My New Mental Health Podcast

I Wish I Had Learned This As a Student: Compassion vs Attachment

I Had A Shower Today

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I had a shower today. Seems like a normal and simple task, right? Well, not for those who battle mental health illnesses and injuries such as depression and post traumatic stress. Having a shower after somehow emerging from a downward spiral that seems like it will never end (unless you end it) is in my mind equal to the feeling of winning a gold medal. Moving to a mental space where you can lift your head from your pillow, and no longer contemplate peeing in a cup because the washroom feels hundreds of miles away (legit I have never done this before…but I have come close to bladder explosion when my mind is dark) is definitely worth a friggin’ gold medal!

One of the worst parts of a deep depression is that when you’re in it, you can’t see how bad it really is. Hence, peeing in a cup seeming like it’s not that bad of an idea. What happens to my mind when I am in a dark world is that I relentlessly try to get my brain to co-sign my own bullshit. My inner dialogue goes sort of like this:

Me: Brain, I know I shouldn’t pee in a cup…but if I do, it’s not the end of the world right?

Brain: It’s not a good idea Natalie. It will make a mess. You’re not a boy.

Me: But if it does make a mess, it’s my pee, so who cares?

Brain: I’m still thinking that it’s a bad idea.

Me: Well it’s not like I want to shit in a cup! Now THAT would be bad!

Brain: You’re still not selling me on this one, Natalie. You should just get out of bed and go to the washroom. The time we have spent debating this has taken longer than it would have for you to go and come back.

Me: Ugh, I hate you brain.

…and then I go pee in the washroom.

I could use so many examples in that same conversation with my brain. It’s torturous and exhausting. Yes I am using some comic relief to lighten the read, but overall these relentless internal conversations can get very dark, and when that happens I decide to sleep. I still feel guilty sleeping so much, but that method of numbing is MUCH better than the alternatives I used to use. So anyone who thinks I’m lazy can kiss my ass! I’m alive, sober, not hospitalized, and able to quickly rationalize that taking my own life is NEVER a practical option for me! A shitty decision like that will never get co-signed by my brain, because I don’t let the conversation even start. That to me is gold medal worthy all day long.

 

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

Toronto Eaton Centre Book Signing

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Former Simcoe County and Peel Region paramedic turned author, Natalie Harris, pens raw and honest memoir about her battle with PTSD, depression, addiction and suicide titled Save-My-Life School, ISBN 978-1-894813-91-4.

In 2012, Harris attended a grizzly double murder that caused her to spiral into a challenging battle with mental illness. As part of her recovery, she started a blog that has since had almost 200,000 hits and grabbed the attention of Canada’s favourite Olympian and mental health advocate, Clara Hughes who wrote the Foreword for this title.

Clara Hughes writes, “There is no one audience for Natalie’s writings; I truly feel she writes for us all.”

Harris’s book, Save-My-Life School expands on her recovery process, giving a real-life glimpse into the mind and thoughts of someone suffering with mental illness. In the second week after its release this January, the book reached the #2 spot on the Amazon.ca Kindle Store’s “Hot New Memoir List,” one spot ahead of Anderson Cooper’s The Rainbow Comes.

Harris will be at the Eaton Centre Indigo, April 3rd for a book signing from 6 – 8 p.m.

For more information or to book media appearances, please contact:
Heather Down (PR Manager)
Heather.down@live.com

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