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Paramedic Nat

A Blog About My Mental Health Journey

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I Went To A Sparkle Party Last Night!

In my drinking days, I use to have what I called a ‘Sparkle Party’ around Christmas. It was a night where people could come over wearing something sparkly (just because it’s fun) and enjoy an evening of laughs …and a lot of alcohol! This year was the first time I didn’t have one, and that made me really sad. I had so many good times with my friends at those parties, and I wasn’t sure if I would ever have one again. 60867_10151288997893605_467983879_n382856_10151039113330624_1803921747_n Well last night, unexpectedly, I attended the biggest and best sparkle party I could’ve ever imagined! I was very fortunate to attend Homewood’s 25th Annual Spiritual Renewal Service, which is an event celebrating the gift of recovery, and the creation of 400 pairs of healthy, sparkling eyes, filled with hope, happiness and gratitude. Allow me to share my experience…

I hadn’t been back to Homewood, or even Guelph for that matter, since I was discharged in January of this year, and I was very nervous about the emotions I was confident would bubble-up throughout the night. Buckle up Natalie! This may be a bumpy ride! My first emotion was good ol’ anxiety on the ride there. It wasn’t anything over-the-top, but I could definitely feel it rumbling through my whole body. Luckily, I drove with two friends who’s chatting distracted the anxiety, and allowed me to quietly reflect on what it felt like to drive the route to Homewood again. It has only been 6 months since my life-changing stay there, but as we drove it felt more like 6 years. At one point I started to regret attending the event, as now being mindful of my emotions so well, pretty much guaranteed a lengthy ‘self-analysis night’. Sigh. Nevertheless, I told myself that I would survive. I was going to kick my anxiety’s butt, like the anxiety-pro I am, and soak in every moment of the evening.

When we got to the event centre, my anxiety had lessened, and began to mix with excitement as the memories of the difficult times, as well as the life-changing times at Homewood, came rushing back… vividly. I felt like I had suddenly jumped back on the Homewood emotional roller coaster; the one that scared me, twisted me in so many directions, made me sick, and made me cry, but also made me laugh and feel relief when the ride was finally over. I had no desire of riding that roller coaster again, but there I was, with another ticket for the ride, and my proverbial vomit bag tightly in hand. I wish this ride was out of order.

The Centre was beautifully decorated, and displayed obvious months of preparation. We were all given a pin that said, “Recovery Means Freedom”, and as I was examining it, I immediately bumped into my first wonderful staff member. She said I looked great (which I’m sure she would be saying to everyone, but I still accepted the compliment ), and asked about my family and how we were doing. My family!OK, hold on tight Natalie, the roller coaster is clicking up the hill! I told her that we were all doing great and immediately I felt my old friends ‘guilt’ and ‘shame’ flood my body. Rather than feeling gratitude, I felt sick as the memories of what I had put my family through were at the forefront of my mind, and they stung really bad. I knew that I should have only been feeling happiness when speaking about my family now, but it quickly became apparent to me that ‘guilt-ridden Natalie’, was still alive and kicking. Damn-it. After chatting a bit longer, I took a quick bathroom break and tried to tuck any negative emotions into my back pocket to be dealt with later. Then, one foot in front of the other, I continued to mingle amongst staff and friends with what I’m sure was a timid look on my face.

Since leaving Homewood, many people have told me that I have a ‘sparkle in my eyes’, and you know what, I can confidently say that I probably do with the amount of happiness and love I feel for life now. And amazingly, last night I got to see first hand what that ‘sparkle’ looked like, because I saw it in so many of my friend’s eyes. It was truly amazing! I could barely even recognize some people, but that sparkle was impossible to miss! Positive physical transformations made my jaw drop, and the happiness in their eyes made me smile from my soul! “THAT must be the ‘sparkle’ people are talking about”, I thought to myself. And WOW, was it a blessing to see!

The night was filled with speeches of gratitude and wellness. And at one point we did what’s called a ‘recovery countdown’. This is where a year, or month, or day is called out, and people stand up and receive a round of applause when their correlating recovery day is announced. As the days of recovery got shorter and shorter, “3 weeks”, “2 weeks”, “1 week”, I could see that the ‘sparkle’ was not so prevalent in people’s eyes. And as they continued to count, I could also increasingly see the physical demons of addiction which were still tightly grasping onto so many new-comer’s lives. All I could think was, “WOW! that was me only six months ago!” I was the one who felt and looked hopeless and scared. I was the one who simply ‘existed’ and nothing more. I was the one who had so much doubt in the program or any chance of fully recovering. And I was the one who still so desperately wanted to die as I saw death as the only way in which I could end my suffering. When a very sick lady with 5 days of recovery, who had difficulty walking was assisted onto the stage to receive a 12 step book, I could physically feel her pain. I could so clearly remember how every step felt like a mile in early recovery. I imagined how difficult it most likely was for her to even stay awake, as it was for me. I could imagine the ‘shakes’ she probably battled, and the memory ‘fog’ that would make it difficult for her to speak properly. And I imagined the darkness that I can guarantee filled her entire body and soul, and the hopelessness that she was feeling with every…single…breath. I so badly wanted to tell her that her sparkle could come back too… But she would have to learn that for herself.

Who knew that I would be attending a sparkle party again!? Certainly not me. And who knew that I didn’t need a fancy dress or shirt to have that sparkle radiating from me? Once again, certainly not me! I know that some days my sparkle won’t be as bright as the next, but what a gift to know that it’s there!

“I put my hand in yours and together we can do what we never could do alone. No longer is there a sense of hopelessness. No longer must we depend upon our own unsteady willpower. We are all together now, reaching out our hands for power and strength greater than ours, and as we join hands, we find love and understanding beyond our wildest dreams”.~ Closing Prayer

Happy Sparkling!

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Tornado Warning In Effect

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before (as this is my 79th blog!… topics are starting to blend together on me) but I have had tornado dreams all my life. These dreams would always involve me seeing a tornado in the distance approaching family members or friends. I would yell to warn them, but no one would listen; kids would keep playing in the yard, adults would just keep walking around. I would scream and try to get them to hurry as I would watch the tornado get closer and closer. In some dreams I would finally get everyone to go inside. But it was chaos trying to corral them all because they waited too long. I couldn’t understand how they didn’t see the urgency needed to save their lives (MY ultimate irony!). Inevitably the tornado would try to lift us away…then I would wake up. These dreams always felt so real! And I never understood why I had them so often. Enter todays ‘save my life grad school’ lesson…how important distress tolerance and facing life’s chaos is WHEN it occurs.

‘Rocket science’ didn’t bring me to the conclusion that my tornado dreams meant that there was some type of chaos in my life, and that they were so frequent because chaos seemed to be my life. Growing up I didn’t know how to process and heal from sad experiences through natural grief; which sadly is probably true for lots of kids. I didn’t realize that emotional pain would be temporary and was necessary to throughly heal; I would ignore any chaotic pain and try to hide from it because, well, pain is painful. This poor coping skill stayed with me for all the years of my life, and over time, the burden of these losses built up and caused even MORE pain and suffering. Over time the tornado just grew and grew…and in exponential proportions. What use to be an F-1 as a child became an F-5 by the time I was in my 20’s.

While taking care of my mom after her aneurism when I was 20, as well as my 1-year old daughter, and my 5 year old brother, I didn’t make time to grieve the loss of the mom I had known before her brain injury. Furthermore, I didn’t make time to grieve the heartache that occurred when I was sent away when pregnant, and the loss of important relationships it had caused. I didn’t make time because things needed to get done, mouths needed to be fed, doctor’s appointments needed to be made, laundry needed washing, and homework needed to get completed, kid’s needed baths, prescription’s needed to be filled, bills needed to get paid, all while trying to manage my mom who was battling side-effects from her brain injury so serious I can barely describe in words. My life was a tornado…and not only did I not have any clue how to stop it…I thought that I didn’t have any time to.

I would cry when I went to sleep at night (a lot) but that was the extent of my emotional healing; and I never truly felt better. I was stuck in a life I didn’t necessarily want to be in, and I was only 20 years old. Back then I didn’t know any different. I would just go day by day doing the things I had to do, never realizing how much not dealing with my tremendous losses was hurting me. I responded to the life I was given the best I thought I could, and tried to look away from the tornado. If I only had known what a mess it was leaving behind.

18 more years of tornadoes inevitably brought me almost to my death. I did everything I could to ignore any distress in my life, including the distress certain calls at work would cause me. I filled up many years with certificates, diplomas and degrees, but never graduated from distress tolerance kindergarden. I tried to avoid pain at all costs (I drank, I slept, etc.) and didn’t know how to accept that pain was a natural part of life, and that I could heal if I stopped avoiding it. Bitterness silently made me more mad year after year, loss after loss. I foolishly thought that my  efforts to avoid pain would make the pain go away! However, pain from original situations that were supposed to be temporary turned into long-term pain and suffering and that got harder and harder to ignore. No wonder my tornado dreams became more frequent as I got older…my psyche was trying to tell me to open my eyes to the chaos in my heart and mind. “But who has time to deal with tornadoes anyway?” would have been my statement less than a year ago. But now after all the emotional work I’ve done to date, I feel like I’m an emotional weather radar tracking system, tracking the smallest of storms…preparing for them…managing them as they come…and more importantly, staying away from tornado alley.

After my last overdose, with a lot of support and encouragement, I slowly came to ask myself, ‘when is enough, enough?’ Yes, it hasn’t always been a smooth transition from being the ‘queen of tornadoes’ to a ‘common citizen who carries around an umbrella just incase it rains’. I have A LOT of destruction to repair after attempting to avoid my pain through self-destruction. Thankfully I have come to realize that by mindfully confronting what’s going on in my life, and how my life is going, rather than hiding from every little storm cloud, I can get control of my life and experience relief, peace and joy.

Recovery doesn’t come easy when the amount of destruction seems impossible to repair, but I am slowly learning to be patient and wait for positive changes I’ve made to take root; like the seedlings planted after the storm. (The old impatient Natalie would have went to Lowe’s and purchased an expensive full-grown tree). Today ‘save my life grad school’ presented this amazing food-for-thought with regards to accepting pain and distress during ANY recovery filled with any amount of destruction:

“When we have an injury or are planning surgery, we usually ACCEPT that it will be painful…and it will take time to heal. We EXPECT and ACCEPT the TEMPORARY PAIN. We expect to EVENTUALLY feel better. We make LIFESTYLE CHANGES to get through this time. We MAKE THE BEST OF THINGS, GO ON WITH LIFE, and WAIT FOR THE RELIEF that comes from TIME and HEALING. (Gordon, M. Out-of-Control, 2009. page 302) So why should we expect to heal emotional pain any other way?

I haven’t had a tornado dream since being home from Homewood. Maybe I’ve finally moved from Kansas.

I Hate Today

girl-crying12

I Hate today. Group ripped our hearts out. Someone’s aching soul spilled onto the floor. It hurt. It made me enraged with the disgust of life. It made me disbelieve that things could be good. Good people go through so much pain. Only to have the people that hurt us walk away unscathed. Evil. Darkness. Torturous pain. There is no fairness. I can’t see why this needs to be. Today I hate the lessons purged to teach. If pain had a colour today, I saw it. It was blacker than the vastest hole in the darkest midnight sky. If pain had a feeling today, I felt it. It seized my soul and massacred my heart, while my breath was hopeless cries. If pain had a feeling today, I felt it. Crushed and numb in the palm of strong and calloused hands. Left alone. Empty. I Hate today.

Rambling Confessions of Confusion

So AB says I have to blog tonight…don’t worry, she’s not Chinese water-torturing me to do so…she just knows it will be good for me and I needed a push. In fact, she actually offered to give me ALL of my responsibilities and freedom back (I think it was a test), but I declined. I’m not sure how I would handle being on my own all of a sudden; I like feeling safe with someone always with me. So while I’m indeed weaning myself off ‘save my life school’ next week, I’m not ready to be completely released into this mad world; it feels too, ‘weird’.

Ok, back to the ups and downs…I skipped school on Friday. Yup. I said it. And it didn’t come without its ‘disappointments’. I couldn’t sleep all Thursday night…I tossed and turned to no avail. So when Walter reminded me in his snuggly way that it was time for his morning pee at 0715, I had managed to get about 2 hours in total…sigh. I had a headache from hell and I felt like a zombie, which probably didn’t help my mental tug of war between the ‘you’d better go to school or you’ll disappoint people’ and the ‘but I feel horrible and not having a day to myself will make me feel worse’ emotions. I wasn’t feeling depressed or anxious; I simply felt like crap! But now that I have a mental health label across my forehead, I find it very difficult to explain to people that some of my choices are purely human necessity choices; anyone would be frustrated with not sleeping at all! But alas, now that I have a list of ‘bad decisions’ longer than Santa’s naughty list, I’m not easily trusted. Touché.

So I decided to stay home. Oh, God. I SO hope everyone will understand my decision and not give me a hassle. I hope they believe I’m actually feeling physically sick. Well I would soon find out that my loved ones were NOT impressed…and I felt horrible. And to top it all off, my confused brain thought that ‘not-impressed’ meant MAD…but it didn’t. Use your tools Natalie…you have no proof of them being mad! They simply want the best for me ALWAYS!  Over all, I had very mixed emotions about this outcome. One side of me was mad because I knew in my heart I made the right choice for ME, but no one (except my friend, Caroline) would believe me (again, I had no proof). The other side of me doubted all of my instincts and second guessed my decision. I still have SUCH a hard time not fully understanding where my distorted thoughts cross over into healthy thoughts; and it pisses me off.

Being a ‘normal’ girl feels as far away as the next galaxy to me. It frustrates me so much that my actions have caused me to not be trusted by my loved ones, and by myself. (Those damn consequences again). I ‘feel’ like I’ve disappointed so many people, and that weighs so heavily on my shoulders and makes me second guess my confidence in…me . What ‘normal’ is, I have no clue. But I use to feel like I had some idea. So I tried to do ‘normal’ things the past couple of days, and it felt great. My friend and I picked Adam up from school on Friday then went to the BulkBarn for treats (and a bone for Walter). Fun ‘normal’ thing to do – check! I had a lovely girl’s dinner with my daughter the night before. Awesome ‘normal’ girl”s-night thing to do – check! Then we all hung out and played video games (well Adam played video games). Super fun ‘normal’ thing for Adam to do – check! And I made pasta for dinner. Yummy, ‘normal’ dinner choice- check! I felt all sorts of normal…and it was amazing. I really needed it. Fast forward to today… I wanted to hang onto that normal feeling for as long as I could! I loved watching Adam play in the snow with his friends. I loved just sitting and chatting with my friend. I loved doing laundry (I can’t believe I just said that), and I loved learning with 100% certainty that my broken heart would eventually heal. This normal girl was kicking ass with commonplace!

I also went and looked at condos. I need to downsize eventually and I’m actually really looking forward to it. I still have a lot of research to do…but it was nice feeling out my options. It will also help me find another piece to the healing-heart puzzle I’m slowly putting together. I’m not running away from things (I have been known to do that from time-to-time), but rather I’m seeing that a fresh new start is what I really need…eventually.

No sad poems or posts tonight…just rambling confessions of confusion…and I’m damn sure that’s normal. 😉

“Mad World” ~Gary Jules/REM

All around me are familiar faces
Worn out places, worn out faces
Bright and early for their daily races
Going nowhere, going nowhere

Their tears are filling up their glasses
No expression, no expression
Hide my head, I wanna drown my sorrow
No tomorrow, no tomorrow

And I find it kinda funny
I find it kinda sad
The dreams in which I’m dying
Are the best I’ve ever had
I find it hard to tell you
I find it hard to take
When people run in circles
It’s a very, very mad world, mad world

Children waiting for the day they feel good
Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday
And I feel the way that every child should
Sit and listen, sit and listen

Went to school and I was very nervous
No one knew me, no one knew me
Hello teacher tell me what’s my lesson
Look right through me, look right through me

And I find it kinda funny
I find it kinda sad
The dreams in which I’m dying
Are the best I’ve ever had
I find it hard to tell you
I find it hard to take
When people run in circles
It’s a very, very mad world, mad world

Enlarging your world
Mad world

ems world

http://www.emsworld.com/article/12009260/suicide-stress-and-ptsd-among-emergency-personnel

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