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Paramedic Nat

A Blog About My Mental Health Journey

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The Depression Rollercoaster – Bring Your Vomit Bag

Crazy-Roller-Coasters-07

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!

 

 

 

Mind-Medicine

spirit-mind

Do you have any ‘jerks’ in your life? You know, those people who get under your skin, who you’re convinced are in your life to make you miserable? That guy or girl whose voice you compare to nails down a chalkboard! That person who just keeps testing your desire to punch them in the jugular! If you say ‘no’, I call bull-$h!+. Heck, I bet you can name 5 just off the top of your head! (I know you’re doing it right now). Now, what if I told you that everything you believe to be annoying and unbearable about that person is actually an illusion? What if I told you that every person, place or thing we encounter is a projection of our mind, and often a cocktail of delusions? Futhermore, what if I told you that that jerk is actually not even separate from you? That YOU are in essence that jerk yourself! Mind blown? …well maybe more like mind puzzled. Allow me to explain further. Enter the Buddhist teaching my sister-in-law participated in this month.

First let me preface this blog with the clear message that I am in no way even close to being a Buddhist teacher! (Ha, ha…that even made me laugh!) I am simply a girl who enjoys writing about topics which are fascinating to me, and a girl who likes to now challenge ‘the mind’ (mine and yours) because I am on an exciting healthy mind exploration of sortsAfter being trapped like a prisoner in a mind that fooled me into thinking that any enlightenment was purely out of my reach, I now can’t get enough of this ‘mind-medicine’! And all I want to do is share it with anyone who will listen.

Alright, so…the Natalie version/translation of this month’s teaching goes like this: To put it simply, most of our focus in life is fu@k3d up! (Shout-out to my sister-in-law for that line!). We perceive ourselves as unique and completely independent people, with our unique and for the most part, automatic, perceptions of the world and people around us…but we’re not. When that ‘jerk’ cuts us off on the highway, we don’t see ourselves as a reflection of him at all, so we give him the finger and let anger out which we feel is totally justified, only to go about the rest of our morning annoyed, and possibly even furious. How dare HE ruin your day? Right?…

Well, here’s what I’ve learned this month about how perceiving that jerk as separate from you or I, is very much an illusion. That ‘jerk’ is actually an interdependent being on this planet … in short- we actually aren’t separate at all. The Buddhist teacher explained this idea deeper by challenging us to find something, anything, that does not come from another being on this planet. Everything from my clothes, to my body, is the result of other beings. My car, my house, my dog, are ALL in my life as a result of other being’s efforts and thoughts. Without other beings, you and I wouldn’t exist! We are actually all one. Therefore, when I hurt you, I am also hurting myself. But equally as so, when I love you, I am also loving myself. In the most simplest of terms, we are all interdependent with one another. So that jerk isn’t so separate from you after all.

The teaching also goes on to explain that the negative feelings you or I project on this jerk, are actually an illusion, and controlled by what Budda calls our mind’s ‘delusions’. Every feeling we have is created by our mind. Without thinking that that person is a jerk, they aren’t a jerk at all. Budda says that all negative feelings are delusions, and in being such, can be removed from our repertoire of feelings, leaving only loving ones remaining. TOTALLY easier said that done! Why? Well we as a society have made living with delusions the norm. Media, government and almost all aspects of human-nature, have made negative delusions common-place. We’ve been taught that we must fight at other people’s expense for status, material things and ironically, happiness. But if we were only able to see that fighting with others is actually fighting with ourselves, there would no longer be any pain in the world. (Are you still with me?) Furthermore, if we were able to see that the jerk is actually a spiritual teacher for us, illuminating which negative delusions we need to work on absolving, rather than looking at him like a retched nuisance in our day, we may not feel the need to get angry at the next person who cuts us off (because you know it will happen again), hence making any future mornings anything but miserable at all.

Sigh…ok, that’s a lot of heavy stuff to even try to absorb! But how about we play a game? Call it your ‘halt-illusions homework’. Try to be mindful of the ‘jerks’ who push your buttons tomorrow. For example, the guy who orders 5 bagels, 6 sandwiches and 13 coffees in front of you at the drive-thru window, or the girl who is popping her gum loudly behind you at the check-out line, or, heaven forbid!…the person who leaves their shopping-cart in the middle of the aisle like they have valet parking privileges, and TRY not to look at them as jerks, but as opportunities for your happiness to grow by tossing the negative delusion from your mind, and replacing it with a grateful thought of your choice. The key to being able to do this homework is to be mindful of when the jerks appear. It’s not going to be easy, and I know several of you who are laughing at this idea (you know who you are!) knowing full well that I usually had more jerks in a day than anyone else! This is true…so if I can do it, so can anybody else. This busy life is filled with so many negative emotions, removing even one of them may be the medicine we need.

In short, the Buddhist teacher taught us that WE are the masters of our own minds. WE choose what we see and how we react to it. WE are responsible for allowing someone to upset us, or for allowing someone to love us. And WE are here on earth as ONE spectacular, ever changing and growing being.

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.

“Off With Their Heads!”

queen of hearts

I can definitely tell that I’ve been changing and growing over the past 5 months. I automatically recognize many negative emotions when they pop up and use mindfulness and patience to navigate through them rather than pushing them away. I take things one day at a time rather than ruminating about the unknown future. I’m learning so much about my addiction and how it controlled my life, and how recovery can be a life I had never imagined; a happy life. I have crisis plans and a network of friends who have ‘been where I have’ and whom I contact every day. BUT there’s still (and probably always will be) HUGE hit-me-in-the-gut, make me want to vomit, ‘what was I thinking?’, lessons almost daily. Today not being an exception!

The topic at save my life grad school was ‘Challenging Extreme Judgements’. Oh Lord…I can tell this chapter is going to sting. It spoke of how many of us ‘life students’ often use 100% emotional mind when in an argument, and don’t realize how much exaggeration is occurring on our part. When we feel hurt or upset we tell people that they NEVER do anything nice for us, or that they are ALWAYS being selfish, when in truth that is merely our emotional mind’s PERCEPTION in the moment. We feel like no one cares about us because they aren’t instantly remedying our insecurities or making us feel loved. But if we turned on our rational mind, we would see that the NEVER, and ALWAYS statements we throw out like daggers aren’t true, and that the people we are upset with feel very criticized. When we label people in extreme ways, they become defensive because our statements are unrealistic and one-sided. They then get upset that ALL of the positive things they’ve ever done for us are discounted and ignored. When we lash out with extreme judgements our loved ones don’t want to make us feel secure and loved, because they are hurt and end up pushing us away. When we accuse people of things they DON’T do, it slams the door shut on negotiation, causing hurt and misunderstanding for both parties involved.

This chapter hurts my heart to the core because I was the QUEEN of extreme judgements, and I hurt a lot of people in my life with them. I feel embarrassed that I wasn’t ‘intelligent’ enough to see how my behaviours were destructive and painful. I always felt so terribly sorry after these arguments occurred and eventually realized that I was definitely overreacting. But I had no idea why I couldn’t stop the emotional mind thoughts before it was too late. My inability to turn on rational mind until much later in the day slowly sabotaged the relationships I wanted to desperately keep. By the time I had said sorry, it was too late; the people who I loved so dearly were tired of hearing it.

I’ve learned that I created a self-fulfilling prophecy. Not only by having false extreme judgements about others, but also by having them of myself. Whenever I disappointed myself by hurting someone I loved I felt unworthy and I told myself over and over that I was crazy and no one would ever love me forever. I was stuck in self-defeating ways. The labels I put on myself by my own minds doing had long-lasting effects on my self-esteem and in turn slowly crumbled any true loving foundation of a relationship I had because there’s only so long anyone could TRY to convince me otherwise. For their own well-being they needed to either walk away, or I pushed them away. I thought that relationships would NEVER work out, because they hadn’t before. But what I didn’t realize was that my extreme thoughts sabotaged them from the very start. I had no idea that words and thoughts driven by a self-defeating emotional mind should never be trusted. I thought I knew what was right, but I was very wrong.

Save my life grad school is teaching me to take a stand and RATIONALLY challenge extreme judgements/lies right when they occur! I’m learning to defend myself from these judgements which will in turn protect future relationships from them as well. Like all of this ‘life work’, changes don’t happen over night. Heck, I’ve been called the Queen of Hearts before because my all-or-nothing, emotional mind extreme judgements were equal to me yelling ‘off with their heads’ if anyone threatened my heart in anyway. How I could not see that this caused undue grief when I tried to sew their heads back on once I rationally woke up?…I don’t know.

I’m not a stupid person. I’ve just been living in a dysregulated out-of-contol mind. My mind (whether or not influenced by mental health, addiction, or past experiences…It doesn’t really matter) did and said mindless and impulsive things because I only acted on emotional mind…especially when I was in a desperate state. My all-or-nothing outlook on life and love wasn’t rational and made me believe that death was the only way to be free of the turmoil and darkness which consumed me. My suicide attempt is the ultimate example of an ALL and EXTREME decision I wouldn’t be able to apologize for when my rational mind kicked in. Thank God I have the opportunity to be a different Queen of Hearts now…the queen of my own.

Easy Does It

I’m sick. It’s just a chest and head cold, but it’s kept me cooped up in bed for a few days now. I don’t like the feeling of digressing from my daily routine by staying at home as my new found education has taught me that isolating is relapse behaviour. But am I truly isolating? Or quarantining myself for the good of the public? I find myself juggling whether or not to rest my physical self, or to try and battle the elements (and pray I won’t cough till I vomit when the cold hits my lungs) and focus on my mental self. I constantly go back and forth between thinking, “well I personally wouldn’t want anyone hacking up a lung in the yoga studio”, to “well maybe if I just push myself half as hard I will be ok”, and then “but yoga etiquette says I’m not suppose to leave the studio until the class is finished and coughing for 90 minutes is horribly rude”, right back to “well going means I’m definitely still on my recovery pathway because I’m out of the house”. UGH…that’s literally how my mind works. But when I give myself a break and really think about it, even being mindful of making sure I stay on my recovery pathway is more than I ever did before.

Being that I’m a mindfulness rookie, deciphering between what is being mindful and simply being too judgemental of myself is tough. In save my life grad school we have learned that we should avoid extreme judgements, because we often base them on only an observation or two. Furthermore, if we’re in emotional mind when we are making these judgements, our perceptions are often distorted by the emotional crap we are rolling in. Making incorrect judgements is part of being human, I get that. But when mentally sick and physically sick get rolled into one (like today), and making the right judgement/recovery choices daily can be a matter of life or death, decisions regarding my health in general can get a little overwhelming.

At the end of the day I do think I’m balancing things quite well. I’m keeping my germs away from the public (you’re welcome!), but I’m very mindful to make sure that sitting in my room for most of the day doesn’t put me into a downward spiral. I need to give myself a little slack sometimes and remember ‘easy does it’. I suppose I am taking this as a learning opportunity which is good. And over time, the decisions that seem so big to me now, (go to yoga, or not go to yoga) will become easier, more natural and rather automatic. I’ve learned in school that it takes a lot of dedication and practice to change our old habits, but, the end result is well worth our effort.

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.

Temporary Happiness

I need to write…I’m frustrated as hell. I’ve been ‘positive’, ‘positive’ way too long! Today is balls! I feel so gross in my own skin. It’s gloomy and dark outside so that totally doesn’t help! I’m so exhausted at working so hard to exist today. I love everyone who’s helping me so much that I think I haven’t truly given myself permission to scream yet. I don’t want anyone to worry…so I keep hopelessness inside, even hidden from me. Well today sucks! It’s been one thing after another and I feel like no matter how many steps ahead I get, a sledgehammer is waiting around the corner to whack me in the face…and then laugh at me.

Someone I know died two days ago. It’s horrible and sad and tragic. My heart is being pulled in SO many directions! I feel so devastated for the family…my heart breaks for the pain they are enduring…I think ‘how can I be sad when so many are being ripped to shreds with grief?’…but I still want to vomit with heartache. And then I think, ‘I could have put my family through that!’…how awful! MENTAL HEALTH ILLNESSES ARE RUINING SO MANY LIVES! I AM SO MAD AT THIS DISEASE!

What is this world for anyway? Tell me! All I see right now is pain! All love seems to end in despair at some point…so what IS THE POINT? The clock of our hearts and souls are ticking only to stop at some cruel moment…when we least expect it. We just all wait…for what?…Discomfort and sorrow? I can hear lots of you saying, ‘Wow we’ve never really heard Nat like this before…’, well this blog is about honesty, so this is how I honestly feel.

I’m mad! I’m mad that I can’t use any of my vices to release this pain! I’m mad that other people can drink and I can’t. I’m mad that I can’t drown this disgusting feeling! I’m heartbroken that my son asked if I had anything to drink tonight while on the phone at his grandparents. I’m mad that I can’t punch the walls and scream! I’m mad at the sadness in this world. All I can do is pace the hall, over and over. Or lay in bed with my leg shaking on the brink of an anxiety attack. I’m not depressed right now..I’m pissed! 100% legitimately pissed off with life. All I want is an Imovane and to go to bed. My arch nemesis today is time! ‘Time heals everything’, ‘Let time do the work’, ‘Some time just needs to pass’…heard it ALL! Hell, I’ve even given those awe-inspiring crappy pieces of advice myself. Well ‘time that heals’ just seems to lead into another shitty time…just saying.

OK I’m going to lay in bed, stare at the ceiling and hate my busy head. And hope with ‘time’ I’ll fall asleep.

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