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Paramedic Nat

A Blog About My Mental Health Journey

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depression

BrainStorm – Welcome to My Recovery

Welcome to my recovery. If you have been a follower of my blog and book Save-My-Life School: A first responder’s mental health journey, you will know that my mental health journey is ever evolving. My new podcast BrainStorm will take you even deeper into the mind of someone (me) coping daily with the darkness and difficulties of PTSD, depression and addiction. I will share raw experiences and opinions, as well as new treatment information I learn about along the way.

https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/save-my-life-school-a/9781894813914-item.html

On this episode of BrainStorm:

  • Who I am and how I came to be diagnosed with PTSD and depression
  • Opinions about mental health in-patient hospital care
  • Current and upcoming PTSD legislation in Canada
  • …and more

 

Tips on How to Prune Your Mental ‘Chaos Garden’

https://www.facebook.com/natalie.harris.507679/posts/10159012843815624 

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!

 

 

 

Answering Our Kid’s Questions Honestly

 

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The other night while I was getting ready to go to a Gala, my 10 year old son asked me a question that made me realize how much my behaviour when I was drinking still affects him deeply. While doing my make-up, I wasn’t thinking anything about the topic of alcohol because after a lot of hard work and dedication the obsession it caused has been removed from me, so I was shocked to hear my son ask, “Mom, what would you do if someone gave you a drink?” I could tell that he was trying to make the question seem casual and not significant, but when I looked at him I could see the seriousness in his eyes.

So at that moment I had two ways of answering the question. I could a) laugh and say ‘oh don’t be silly that won’t happen’, or b) take the time to answer his question honestly and clearly. I suppose the reason for this blog is to sincerely express how important it is for all parents in this situation to choose option b. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over the past year and a half of recovery, is that my old belief of hiding my emotions from my kids and avoiding answering serious questions, never helped them at all. In fact, it hurt them.

When I came home from the Homewood Rehabilitation Centre, I was still only allowed supervised visits with my son, and my daughter who was 17 at the time was still very hurt, afraid and distant. Thankfully, I learned how important honesty was when I was away, and I slowly put that into practice when my kids became comfortable enough to ask me questions. I was especially happy to see how well this ‘be vulnerable and honest’ way of life worked when I was having a sad day and my daughter heard me crying in my room, and came in and asked if I was ok. The old me would have lied and said, ‘I’m fine don’t worry’, and then would have changed the subject to some completely unimportant topic thinking that this would ‘protect them’ from pain. I was SO wrong…THIS way of answering only fuels our kid’s worries. They KNOW when we aren’t ok, and pretending we are only confuses them, and encourages them to practice the same behaviour when they are sad.

So on this particular day I decided to tell the truth. I didn’t get into a huge discussion, I simply said, ‘I’m just having a sad day because I miss someone, but I will be ok.’ Honest, to the point, and obviously EFFECTIVE, because she lovingly looked at me and said ‘ok’, told me that if I needed anything to let her know, and then proceeded to laugh and giggle with her little brother downstairs. I was shocked at first! I thought that by showing my vulnerability my daughter would think that I was weak. But the opposite happened! She saw that I was HUMAN, was satisfied with the answer I gave her because it was the TRUTH, and therefore no longer needed to worry. It was a life changing moment…for all of us.

I practice honesty all the time now, just like I did the night that my son asked me the question about what would I do if someone gave me a drink. I took the extra moment to look at him and replied,’I would say no thank you to the person and get another Perrier’. And like I had expected, that was all he needed to hear. And in this particular case, he KNEW it was the truth because anyone who knows me now, knows how I do love my Perrier! ūüėÄ

 

New Mental Health Facebook Page

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Hi Everyone ūüôā I have a new Facebook page: Paramedic Nat’s Mental Health Page

Check out my personal:

~book selections, photos, ‘mental health mission’ videos, events and more!

Hope you’re doing great!

No Experience Is Ever Wasted

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Everything in the past and future has a relationship to now. Where I have been and what I have done in my life has brought me here, to this hour, this second, this moment. And what I will do and become tomorrow will dance before me like an intricate ballet of cause and effect. As I mark the passing of one full year sober and healthy, I can’t help but reflect on all of the experiences I’ve had along the way. All of the ups and downs which have provided me with invaluable opportunities to change. I don’t believe in coincidences anymore…life to me now is more like a platter of perfection, masquerading as irony, at first appearing to serve a dish of disappointment, but if you look close enough, it’s actually serving exactly what you need.

September 23, 2014, I drank copious amounts of wine and ingested a bottle of Benedryl knowing full well that the possible consequence of this could be death. I didn’t care. I didn’t feel. I was so tired of thinking about suicide every day, that having death ‘happen’ would have been a gift to me. I didn’t want to have another nightmare, I didn’t want to watch my relationship fall to pieces, and I didn’t want to feel guilty anymore for all of the inadequacies I believed whole heartedly that I possessed. … I don’t remember that person anymore. She’s gone. She somehow climbed out of the darkness that was suffocating her slowly, breath by breath. It feels like a tornado of emotions and experiences had swept me up, and has finally spit me out; and leave it to me to need a tornado as my healing vessel, I don’t seem to do anything the easy way!

The transformation of my mind has changed me forever. I’m alive. I’m happy. I’m able to feel emotions in a healthy way. I am an amazing parent, modelling a life of hope and love for my children. I am beautiful. And I am free. I don’t blame others for¬†my¬†feelings anymore, and I am not obsessively attached to the fulfillment of my dreams. I now prefer to live a life that maintains the passionate wish to prolong my health and wellbeing, without harsh expectations. I let life guide me, rather than trying to guide life. I’ve realized that when I thought I always had to be at the wheel, I continued to crash into a sea resentment when things didn’t ‘go my way’. Now I breathe. I walk. I smile. And I love.

I consciously try to build a mind of love every day now, which effectively eliminates my previous negative and deluded states of mind. I have learned lessons I never could have predicted in a million years, like how to reframe my experiences so that they remain congruent with my wish to be happy. I see difficulties as my teacher, ever reminding me of the importance of humility. And try to consciously abandon non-virtuous, toxic minds. Life is perfectly imperfect (I forget where I’ve heard that line before), and one day at a time I experience its imperfections, never wasting what they are always trying to teach me.

It So Easily Could Have Been Me…

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My daughter and I went to see the movie ‘South Paw’ last night. I really enjoyed it, as I normally enjoy movies about the challenges and triumphs in which fighters experience. It was nice being out, just the two of us, relaxing, laughing and …living. But just when it seemed like we would chalk the evening up to another normal movie night, the plot suddenly thickened. *Spoiler Alert* There came a point in the movie where the main ‘mother’ character dies, and leaves behind her husband and small daughter. It ripped me to shreds watching the actors grieve over their loss, and I was especially overwhelmed with tears when the daughter was driven away from the cemetery while watching out of the limousine window, confused and alone. Then while wiping my eyes, I had no idea that a life-changing moment was about to occur. While watching this profoundly emotional scene, my daughter said something so candidly that shook my world and heart to almost the point of collapse… she said, “I can’t even imagine what that would feel like”……. Rewind to almost a year ago, when she so easily could have been that girl in the limousine driving away from her mother’s funeral, actually living¬†what that would feel like.

Hearing those words hit me with a wave of so many emotions. I felt the emptiness my daughter would have felt had I been successful with trying to end my life. I felt the sadness and pain she would have had to battle for the rest of her life without a mother in her life to guide her. I felt the guilt of being so sick that I could have even thought about leaving my children behind. And while being very present in this poignant and sensitive moment, I felt gratitude and joy for how far I have come with my recovery to date.

THANK GOD I DIDN’T DIE! How I didn’t is simply a miracle! Thank God my daughter and son have had me this past year to help them heal from the agonizing memory of watching my lifeless body get taken away by the paramedics. Thank God they now have a mom who is healthy and an amazing roll model for overall health and well being. Thank God when my son wakes up from a nightmare and calls for me, I’m there to comfort him and reassure him that everything is ok. Thank God I am here for when my daughter had another heartbreak and so desperately just needed her mom to rub her hair and watch movies all day while she cried and healed. Thank God I am here to laugh. Thank God I am here to love. And thank God I am here to live!

Thank God!

Paramedic Nat’s Evening For Mental Health

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Hello again!

Just a reminder to get your tickets soon for the Paramedic Nat’s Evening for Mental Health

Special Guest: Vince Savoia from the Tema Conter Memorial Trust

Supported by:

Canadian Olympian and Mental Health Ambassador Clara Hughes

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The County of Simcoe

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Meditation 102- Relaxing Into Positive Outcomes

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As a follow up piece to my blog “Meditation 101”, (https://paramedicnatsmentalhealthjourney.wordpress.com/2015/06/30/meditation-101-give-it-a-try/) I thought I would share some more tips which I have learned along my spiritual journey with regards to improving meditation outcomes.

Tip 1. Let the meditation do the work¬†for you,¬†and simply enjoy what emerges.¬†Most complications in early meditation practice come from¬†having expectations as to what meditation should feel like. Yes it’s great to be educated on the wonderful sensations you can receive while clearing your mind, but if you go into a meditation¬†expecting¬†to have a specific result, you will most likely be disappointed. The key is to¬†relax, enjoy¬†and have¬†no expectations. .

Tip 2.¬†Stop trying to be an expert at meditation.¬†You know the goal of meditation is to clear your mind and open blocked spiritual pathways, but stop getting frustrated when your mind is busy and it’s difficult to relax.¬†This is the one time¬†not trying so hard actually leads to success.¬†

Tip 3. Allow¬†your mind to explore a larger perspective.¬†Let your breathing take you where it may! When a thought comes to mind, accept it, then let it go. Don’t fight it. Focusing on an end result of your meditation will force your mind to close off and in return shrinks your perspective.

Tip 4.¬†Be happy with your efforts.¬†Results such as deeper relaxation and improved daily mindfulness will come your way, but only if you don’t put pressure on yourself to reap the rewards right away. Be happy with even 2 minutes of deep breathing. What a wonderful gift to give yourself!

Here are a few more of my favourite guided mediations ūüôā

Remember that whatever time you can put aside to meditate is good enough! Stop your expectations, and just breathe. <3

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