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Paramedic Nat

A Blog About My Mental Health Journey

It’s Not Cool To Joke About People Who Battle With Mental Illness


It’s World Mental Health Day. So, as I was scrolling through FB I was sad to see this copy and paste post. It’s not “hilarious” to joke about the people you would know in “a mental hospital”. Listen, I know this wasn’t shared with the intention of causing someone who came across it pain…but it did. It hurt me, because, well, I was a person in ”a mental hospital”, many times in fact. 

If you would like to know what it was like to be a patient in the mental health department, just ask me. I am an open book and believe that only by sharing our experiences will the stigma and myths of mental illness decrease; and maybe one day, vanish.

I’m not mad about this post. Sad…but not mad. It has given me an opportunity to educate – so thank you.

__________________

Hilarious 😂😂. You have to do it without cheating…It is so weird how it comes up with the names…this is so funny!!
I’m in a mental hospital.
My roommate: 
Licks the glass: 
Helps you escape: 
My Psychiatrist: 
Asleep in a corner: 
Shouts at everyone: 
Padded room occupant: 
Eats the plants: 
Talks to themselves: 
Kicks the nurse: 
Believes they are unicorns: 
Sneaks in the alcohol: 
Make a copy-paste and delete the names…
Then type @ then the 1st letter of each sentence (no spaces) to see the name of one of your friends! (if one is already used, take the next one!!) dont cheat either!!!

Grrrr! We Already Know This!

https://www.simcoe.com/news-story/9633819–did-these-officers-have-to-die-barrie-psychologist-part-of-police-suicide-panel/

Grrrrr. 🤦🏻‍♀️ We already know ALL of the information provided in this article, and have for a LONG time!

We also know the answer to the question, “Did these officers have to die?” NO!

I’m fed up with reading about another study and another panel! Actions are what need to occur. Allow me to suggest some:

  • stop trying to get first responders diagnosed with PTSD to return to work faster than you would if they broke their leg. PTSD is a complex diagnosis with multiple treatment options which take time.
  • publicly fund and get insurance companies to cover all treatments offered for PTSD.
  • provide and encourage peer support internally and externally.
  • include family members in the first responder’s treatment regime. Family members have a wealth of knowledge which can help with care, AND family members themselves may require treatment.
  • approve longer vacation time and stop tracking sick days. Mental health days ARE necessary and first responders should not feel bad for taking them.
  • if you are a manager, reach out to your employees who are off due to PTSD! I (and many of my co-workers) have never had a phone call from my previous employer asking how I was doing. Even an email would have been nice.
  • recognize retirement due to PTSD. These first responders sacrificed their lives every day to help their community’s. When we see that retirement for any other reason is celebrated, it hurts.
  • make sure that first responders off with PTSD still feel like part of the “family”. Sanctuary trauma is a real thing and can be devastating for some.

… the list can go on! And I’m sure many who are reading this have many suggestions of their own.

Some of these suggestions don’t even cost a dime. They cost the time it takes to be a decent human being and support those who desperately need help.

https://www.simcoe.com/news-story/9633819–did-these-officers-have-to-die-barrie-psychologist-part-of-police-suicide-panel/

I Will Not Stay In My Lane When It Comes To Advocating For The Saving Of Lives


I will not stay in my lane (whatever that is) when it comes to advocating for the saving of lives. Please stop trying to get me to. You’re wasting your time. Work WITH me instead. 

I’m what you call an apple cart upsetter; but I do so with respect and good intentions. But no matter how respectful and well intentioned I am, many of the people who pull these carts don’t like what I represent. Upsetting the apple cart often looks like me challenging agencies to do better, sooner, and to not make excuses. I have no political agenda when I do so. My intent is to save lives. Plain and simple! And if that means that I need to challenge well known, large agencies to stop working in siloed, ego-driven apple carts, I will; and I have. 

Not everyone minds that I upset apple carts all over the place. Many individuals (most often the hands-on workers at these agencies) who have a passion for helping others and do so on a daily basis, see that my intentions are good. And that their ability to do their jobs to their fullest is often delayed by committees and boards that meet on an infrequent basis and rarely consult with them directly about their needs. I have experienced these massive gaps between the workers and board members first hand when I recently met with some executives of a very well known healthcare agency, and when I relayed specific asks from a department that was in need of some additional funding, (funding that I was prepared to request from the local MPP’s), I was told that the workers have no say in what is required and that I should leave the asks of the MPP’s to the Vice President of said healthcare agency because they were the one who was always at Queen’s Park. News flash: if I (and many others) were to have waited for Vice Presidents of agencies to ask at Queen’s Park for what first responders needed from WSIB, we may not have Bill 163, and an entirely new department at WSIB dedicated to mental wellness. I have every right to make requests of my MPP’s, just like all of the citizen’s of this province do.

Like it or not, I will request declarations of emergencies, public inquiries, create peer support groups, ask elected officials for meetings, share my likes and dislikes about certain agencies, share my lived experiences and get upset when I have to bury yet another friend because of deficiencies in our healthcare system. 

When I upset the apple cart, I don’t do so just to be a nuisance, (trust me, I don’t have time for that), I often have a plan that needs to at least be considered seriously. I shine the light on siloed agencies so that they start to work in collaboration with one another, thus decreasing overlap, and hopefully freeing up funds that can be used in areas of need. Our mental health and addiction crisis in this province needs all hands on deck. We need to work together to find solutions to gaps in the system. We need to stop creating yet another board or committee to research what Ontarian’s need. We already know these answers. What we need is better care, now.

This Friday, I am meeting with MPP and Attorney General Doug Downey, MPP Andrea Khanjin, and Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addiction Michael Tibollo, and am proposing a system-based transformation of our current provincial mental health and addiction treatment that will include:

1. Comprehensive, accessible and seamless addiction treatment pathways;
2. Low barrier residential and out-patient treatment; and
3. Improved physician addiction treatment and education. 

Like I said at the beginning of this post, I will not stay in my lane (whatever that is) when it comes to advocating for the saving of lives. Please stop trying to get me to. You’re wasting your time. Work WITH me instead.

My Thoughts On The Discussion About The Opioid Crisis At The Barrie-Innisfil Candidate’s Forum

I was not able to attend the Barrie-Innisfil Candidates Forum. But I was happy to learn from the media that the opioid crisis was (not surprisingly) a topic of discussion. Thank you to all of the candidates for their input and dedication to this topic. With all due respect, at this time, I would like to elaborate on/clarify a few points made by NDP candidate, Pekka Reinio.

“We need to address the opioid crisis,” Reinio said. “It seems like the municipal council is stalling for now, and I don’t know why.” Barrie Today, October 4, 2019.

The municipal council is not stalling with respect to the opioid crisis; I think it is very important to remember that management of the opioid crisis includes MUCH more than the approval of a supervised consumption site. Actions are being taken as we speak by some councillors that address the crisis and call for better fulsome treatment options. In fact, I am having a meeting today in Toronto at Women’s College Hospital, with the META:PHI directors to discuss funding in Barrie and complementing treatment options. I will also be meeting with the Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, Michael Tibillo, on October 11, 2019, to continue the discussions I had with him, Mayor Jeff Lehman, and fellow councillors at the Association of Municipalities (AMO) Conference in Ottawa this past August. 

The NDP candidate said if his party was elected, they would immediatey declare national crisis on opioids, “hopefully freeing some money so municipalities can follow the guidelines of the Simcoe Muskoka (Opioid Strategy), which says we need to have safe injection sites.” Barrie Today, October 4, 2019.

I agree, declaring a national emergency on the opioid crisis, (which I proposed to council early last year), is ideal with respect to securing provincial and federal funds that will save lives. But once again, I think it is very important to remember that the Simcoe Muskoka Opioid Strategy (SMOS) identifies several pillars dedicated to addressing this crisis, beyond harm reduction.

What we have is MORE than an opioid crisis. We have a mental health and addiction crisis. Overall, I have been very much in favour of having a supervised consumption site in Barrie, but I am afraid that the discussion and debate surrounding this has caused some of our community and policy makers to unintentionally under-acknowledge the fact that fulsome treatment is really what is required to make a major change in the opioid crisis.

Any funds available should be used for all of SMOS’s pillars; prevention, treatment and clinical practice, harm reduction, enforcement and emergency management. And when we look at these pillars under a social welfare microscope, these pillars further extend into housing, education and overall health and wellness. 

So what does all of this mean to me as Ward 6 City Councillor in Barrie? Well, overall I am so happy that the discussion surrounding the opioid crisis is vibrant among all of our federal candidates. I look forward to working with whomever is elected to tackle this topic and save lives. 

A Poem About Addiction and Recovery : Beyond The Night

I know you’re hanging by a thread;

I understand what’s in your head.

Chaos clatters all around;

Needle piles are on the ground.

Never sure if you’ll be sold;

Your youthfulness now turned to old.

Longing, desperate to be free;

No longer hope in unity.

Tough times living in the low;

But then again it’s all you know.

While you exist you seem to fail;

Suffering minds are sent to jail.

Just keep your weary eyes on me;

Don’t let addiction make you flee.

Find your courage left to care;

Have faith that help is still somewhere;

You’re destined always to soar free;

Beyond the night, so much to be.

Live and jump on chandeliers;

Scream for freedom from your fears.

You’re gorgeous but you’re filled with dark;

Release the pain that left a mark.

Dedicate your life to change;

So many lives to rearrange.

Lift your head up from the ground;

Recovery this time around.

We DON’T Need Another Panel To Tell Us That First Responders Need Better Mental Health Resources!

Panel on police suicides says officers need better mental health support

How did yet ANOTHER PANEL need to be developed to determine that police mental health resources need to be improved in order to prevent suicides?

Here are just a FEW of the reports/research findings already published:

https://www.camh.ca/-/media/files/pdfs—public-policy-submissions/police-mental-health-discussion-paper-oct2018-pdf.pdf?la=en&hash=B47D58B5ACBE4678A90907E3A600BB447EE134BF

https://adaa.org/sites/default/files/Henderson_100.pdf

https://www.theiacp.org/projects/mental-wellness-of-police-officers

https://www.google.ca/amp/s/www.cbc.ca/amp/1.3982784

https://www.nami.org/find-support/law-enforcement-officers

… the list of these reports seems endless!

FURTHERMORE, Bill C-211, introduced by MP Todd Doherty, has already conducted The National Conference on PTSD: Working Together to Inform Canada’s Federal Framework on PTSD. It took place in Ottawa on April 9 and 10, 2019. Leading the conference were the Ministers of:

-Health
-Veterans Affairs
-National Defence
-Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
-Experts from across the country, including people with lived experience.

The federal framework will be completed in December 2019. USE THIS!

Please stop wasting money with yet another panel, and use that money to hire trauma trained specialists for our first responders.

Follow in Barrie Fire and Emergency Service’s footsteps:

“Cory Mainprize @MainprizeCory Sep 9

@Barrie_Fire is pleased to announce our new partnership with WPM Psychological Services, Wounded Warriors Canada, and lead clinical Psychologist Lara Sigurdson to deliver the Before Occupational Stress (BOS) program to our Peer Support Team and ⁦@BarriePFFA members”

Trauma trained experts are a MUST for our first responder’s care. Normal EAP is not enough, and in my opinion is negligent.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/ontario-police-suicide-panel-recommendation-1.5305504

Treatment For Addiction Does Not Equal Treatment For PTSD

Friendly reminder and/or educational information sharing moment: (With all due respect).

PTSD is NOT fixed if I fix my addiction. PTSD has caused physiological changes to my brain. Three parts (hypocampus, amygdala and prefrontal cortex) have been physically altered. This is proven in MRI’s. PTSD requires different focused treatment separate from addiction treatment. Yes, both conditions OFTEN go hand-in-hand, but NOT all the time.

My disease of addiction became active when I developed PTSD. Some of the symptoms of my PTSD and addiction include depression and anxiety and all affect different parts of my brain. But, you and I can also suffer from depression and anxiety SEPARATE from PTSD and addiction.

Please don’t imply that if you treat addiction, all other mental illness/injuries will follow. This is scientifically not true and can make those who are in recovery from addiction feel less than if they still battle with mental illness/injuries and “practice the principles in all their affairs”.

The brain is a complex organ that science still has much to teach us about. My recovery WILL present differently from everyone else’s because we are all separate human beings with different neuroplasticity and treatment options available to us.

Let’s give each individual’s recovery from all mental illnesses/injuries the acknowledgement of difference it deserves. ❤️

Redefining What Success Looks Like To Me

On this episode I share about a recent relapse and how I have to learn that what success looks like to me can change from day to day. 

Check Out These Books by Natalie Harris

📚 Brainstorm Revolution: Here

📚 Daily Lessons from Save My Life School: Here

📚 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

Why Did I Relapse?


Why did I relapse? I stopped taking care of me; plain and …well not so simple. I stopped doing the work my recovery requires of me to continue it. I was at a meeting tonight and I was sharing with a friend whom I haven’t seen in a while about how disappointed I am in myself and my illness/injury. She looked at me and said, “Natalie, if you had diabetes and didn‘t take care of yourself for months, you would get sick from that too”. So true.

After being elected as City Councillor, I dove into the role to be the best I could be. No topic/crisis was too big that I didn’t want to tackle (and still do). I was FINALLY employed again and feeling like I was contributing to society and helping my community. But alas, in typical Natalie fashion, I focused so entirely on my new role, that I forgot that I am still sick/injured – and that that’s ok. I forgot that I still need to do the work I have learned to do through treatment programs. I stopped going to meetings, stopped seeing my psychologist, stopped eating healthy, stopped meditating, stopped going to the Buddhist Centre…and on and on. So no wonder I gained 20 pounds, caused my hormones to go all over the place, let my depression creep back in again (it’s a sneaky bugger), and had a massive relapse that led me to the hospital. NO. WONDER. 

Life is a series of evolutions. At one point I evolved and let go of the paramedic dream I had; it was time to move on from that. I learned how to not see that as my identity anymore. But what I failed to do at the same time is learn that ALL of me is new during this new evolution in my life. Being sick/injured doesn’t mean that I can‘t be successful and healthy. But it does mean that what ‘success’ and ‘health‘ are to me are different now – and that’s ok. One day at a time.

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