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Paramedic Nat

A Blog About My Mental Health Journey

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mental health

BrainStorm – Mini Cast (Catastrophizing)

 

On this mini episode of BrainStorm I will share about:

  • Catastrophizing – What it is and how I stop doing it,
  • Information on the equine therapy program, Can Praxis, and
  • How Syd the horse helped me conquer a huge trigger.

Get Save My Life School: Here

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

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!

 

 

 

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! 😀

 

Traveling Towards Goodness

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How many times have you said to yourself, ‘I just need to get it together and then life will be good’? I know that personally, I can’t even count how many times that thought has ran through my mind, or those words have crossed my lips! The problem with that perception, is that we are always changing, and ‘just getting it together’ suggests a permanence that doesn’t actually exist. Sadly, we grasp at permanence to hopefully prevent change because we are afraid of it, but like the amazing Eckhart Tolle said, “It is the nature of the world of form that nothing stays fixed for very long- and so it starts to fall apart again. Forms dissolve; new forms arise. Watch the clouds. They will teach you about the world of form.” (Right Mandy? <3) If we live a life with an ultimate destination in mind, and put all of our energy and time into reaching it, the moments we were suppose to enjoy as a traveller through this life are simply never experienced.

Yes, I may have just expanded the saying, ‘life is a journey, not a destination’, but after learning some fascinating points-to-ponder at Buddha class tonight, I feel that expanding on this mantra is so important to understanding its perspective.

As my teacher explained, we are ‘infinitely migrating’, and by allowing ourselves to step back and view ourselves as the travellers we are, we immediately bring a spiritual form to view, and remove ourselves from our perpetual ‘to-do-list’ and its unattainable destination. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have goals, and dreams. What it does mean is that we should stop looking for every finish line and actually take a moment to appreciate the energy of the crowd and to savour the experience of your heart pounding and your feet moving, step…by…step.

So this brings me to another personal revelation…which is definitely not new for me! As I progress on this mental health journey in the recovery phase of my life, I realize that I have once again added too many races to my to-do-list, making it very difficult for me to appreciate the energy of the crowd. The perfectionist in me has once again become blinded by my personal delusion that using the healthy response ‘no’ when I am overwhelmed, will cause a permanent view of disappointment; in myself and by others. Now let me say however, that there is a definite difference in the abundance on my plate now, compared to that which was on my plate when I was very sick; it’s positive abundance now, and for that I am forever grateful! But nonetheless, it’s abundant, and in order to continue to enjoy this journey, I need to realize that permanent disappointment is simply MY mind’s projection, and no one else’s.

I have some big plans in action, and I am going to take the time I need to enjoy the journey. Certain adventures during my recovery have become a priority currently, and I am excited to feel my heart pounding with every expanding step. So if I am not replying to emails as quickly, or having to say no, or postpone endeavours I would definitely love to be a part of, please know that I am trying my very best to help as many people as I can, and that each of you are very much in my heart.

I am so blessed to be a traveller with all of you! And equally as blessed to learn that we can train our minds to see that if we act out of love, we are in fact moving towards goodness, regardless of whether we have a good day or a bad day. And as my teacher shared with me tonight, “if we travelled well, we will meet again, and naturally love one another”.

Here’s to the journey, not the destination. ~Nat

Great News!

Hello,
I have two pieces of great news!
The first piece is that I have recently had the honour of discussing my Peer Support Group model with Syd Gravel, a retired Staff Sergeant of the Ottawa Police Service, author of ’56 Seconds’, and co-founder of the peer support program, ‘Robin’s Blue Circle’, which is a peer group that has been used for over 28 years by the Ottawa Police, and have discovered that our peer group models possess all of the same values and goals, and I will be working with him over the next little while to learn about his program in detail and how to bring it to more communities including Barrie, Ontario.
I was put in touch with him by my friend Bill Rusk, the Executive Director of The Badge of Life Canada, and look forward to collaborating with both of these amazing gentlemen, in order to gain the most information possible about successful peer programs which are available independent of those which an employer may offer.
The second piece of great news is that in all of two days, the Peer Focus Group I posted a call out for has successfully been attained! I look forward to working with these amazing professionals as we get one step closer to bringing even more community support to the first responders, military members, communications officers and healthcare providers, who protect and care for Canadians every day!
For those of you who are still interested in helping out with the development and implementation of this group, please continue to email me at natalie8816@hotmail.com
Thank you again from the bottom of my heart!
~Nat
Through non-stigmatized fellowship and education, it is my mission to encourage a new outlook where the need to be comfortable with uncomfortable, no longer exists. ~Paramedic Nat
For more information please go to:

http://badgeoflifecanada.com/category/robins-blue-circle/

What the Peer Support Group Does NOT Provide:

Hello again 😀
In addition to my post about the Peer Support Group I am developing, I wanted to add that the group does NOT:
-provide treatment other than mutual support from friends
-make psychiatric diagnoses or dispense medication
-take attendance, keep records or do case management
-provide religious guidance
These points will be reiterated during the opening of each meeting. It is simply a solution-based, stigma-free peer ‘support’ group, that people can attend as they see fit while they are actively working, while off work, or when retired, and does NOT take the place of professional help.
~Nat

Peer Support Focus Group Invitation

Hello All!

I’m looking for some very important people to comprise an anonymous focus group for the review of the Peer Support Group model I, with the support of the Canadian Mental Health Association have created.
As I have briefly mentioned in the past at my event and on social media, a model for a solution-based, community support and discussion group for first responders, military members, communications officers, and healthcare providers who are, or have had, difficulty coping with the traumatic calls/events often experienced in their daily work environment has been successfully developed.
While an employer may be providing this group’s information as a resource they sanction, they are not directly affiliated with this group, nor are any professional therapists of any kind. This informal group is anonymous, and only facilitated by peers experiencing similar struggles with traumatic calls/events, and does not require the diagnosis of a mental illness such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to attend.
Each meeting (frequency to be determined by focus group) will provide a safe environment to interact and discuss the maintenance and improvement of mental health with relation to these essential professions. The extent of an individual’s participation in each group is entirely up to them. Professional assessment and care is not provided in this group, but is always advised. It is my personal experience that whether an individual chooses to attend these types of groups to simply listen and learn, or interact with peers, that they can obtain the understanding, support, and respect necessary to heal from trauma, thus improving career longevity as well as overall health.
Relevant and current evidence-based research is being used to establish a foundation for the group, and it is probable that an evaluation strategy will be incorporated into this program.
I have been invited to Calgary to present this model to first responder services in the early new year, so it is my goal to have the focus group feedback collected within the next few weeks.
Focus group members will participate in feedback with regards to all aspects of the group. I certainly appreciate the offer of anyone’s valuable time to participate, but for optimal feedback results I am asking that only those who are having, or have had, difficulty coping with traumatic calls/events in their daily work environment apply.
Five members have already been selected (3 paramedics from various services, 1 RN, and 1 police officer) and I am hoping to have fire fighters, communications officers, military members, and other healthcare providers as part of the focus group as well.
Please reply to me via personal message if you are interested in obtaining more information about the group model, and/or are interested in applying for a focus group position.
Thank you for your support and encouragement! Stay tuned for more information ❤️ My email address is: natalie8816@hotmail.com
Mission: Through non-stigmatized fellowship and education, our mission is to encourage a new outlook where the need to be comfortable with uncomfortable, no longer exists.

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