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Paramedic Nat

A Blog About a Paramedic's Mental Health Journey

Month

February 2016

Patience And Tolerance TESTED!

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Regardless of how much I practice patience and tolerance, there are always days that push me over the edge! So to prove that I am no where close to being a Buddha or a perfectly compassionate soul…get ready for a solid ride on this rant-rollercoaster!

February, you sort of suck! You make my dogs feet super muddy and your visual temperature cues are completely out of whack! Snow usually means cold…but NO!..When you are around I bundle up only to find myself squirming in the car like a over-heated jellyfish trying to get my jacket off on the ONLY day I do not have a red light to do so calmly!

To the guy sitting beside me for a half an hour while smacking your lips and burping so uncontrollably that your lips even puff at the end, in a setting where getting up to move away from you was impossible….ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!!! DO YOU NOT HEAR YOURSELF!!?? Congratulations, you tested my patience to a whole other level! Natalie, you can so do this! Stay! Sit and breathe!…but I don’t want to breathe in his burp-air! And he is NOT seeing my eye rolls! UGH! I can’t take this! Ok relax…it’s not THAT bad. UGH! I can’t take this…it IS SO BAD! I’m OUT!

Healthy boundaries were in FULL EFFECT today… in the form of me sleeping for 80% of the day! To do lists could kiss my butt! I woke up only to make sure that Walter and the cats were fed and healthy. But don’t worry…they were having a wonderfully fun day despite my laziness. And FYI, the roll of toilet paper that has been chewed and scattered all over my house like confetti on New Years Eve still remains where it was found!

Rant over. I’m going to watch TED Talks and eat oatmeal.

~Nat

 

‘Compassion Fatigue’…Hmmmm

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I was fortunate enough to participate in a Resiliency Course today facilitated by the Tema Conter Memorial Trust. The day was educational and inspiring, and filled with amazing fellow paramedics from across Canada. Dr. Jeff Morley (also a retired RCMP officer) discussed topics such as; primary and secondary trauma, organizational stress, involuntary emotions and stigma reduction, to name a few. I am always so excited to learn about different mental illness recovery techniques, and the latest evidence based findings with regards to diagnosing mental illnesses, and today, as I had expected, we chatted about all of these things to my delight. But I must confess, for all of my love of medicine and research, I am even more intrigued to listen to other people’s thoughts about something that appears to be quite self-explanatory called ‘compassion fatigue‘.

Why does this interest me so much? Well, because I thought I severely suffered from this condition a year and a half ago to the point of not ever wanting to put a paramedic uniform on again because it reminded me of how ‘caring hurt me’, until one faithful day I learned what the true definition of compassion is, and realized that I never really had a problem with caring at all!

According to a very wise teacher, I learned that compassion can never hurt. Compassion is the act of wishing the best for someone…that’s it…that’s all – And when I really though about this, being a paramedic never made me have a problem with that, ever. What DID hurt me was my attachment to what happened BEYOND that wish. Allow me to elaborate…

What truly hurt me as a paramedic was when I became sad because that wish wasn’t fulfilled, and subconsciously I felt like my compassion was wasted. What fatigued me was that no matter how strong my wish was to see someone well, the result of the actions I made in my best efforts to help, was never in MY hands in the first place. And what hurt me THE MOST, was not realizing how ATTACHED I was to those wishes not coming true.

My ability to realize that all the compassion I could muster up would never alter the  universe’s ultimate say on any act of kindness’ end result, not only renewed my love of being a paramedic again, it also changed the way I look at LIFE! I’m a caring person, I always try my best to help under the circumstances I’m presented with…and when things don’t go according to my wish for them to go well, it’s out of my hands. No need for attachment to the result…because THAT is what leads to fatigue. Deep down my compassion for people never changed. I just got tired of seeing sadness and pain.

So leave it to me to politely challenge a name given to a condition that was created by many highly educated and accomplished psychological experts! (My sister in law Mandy, wouldn’t be surprised…lol)But I feel that by naming this condition ‘attachment fatigue’, compassion will once again be allowed to represent all of the light and joy it is intended to.

Ontario Has Stepped Up To The Plate For Its First Responders!

  
The Supporting Ontario’s First Responders Act. A day we have been fighting for has finally arrived! 
How can I put into words the emotions of this day? I will use a phrase: “Bittersweet gratitude and hope; finally!” 

First of all, I want to take a moment remember every life we as first responders have lost before this landmark day. I want to pay respect to every tear which has fallen from a loved one’s eyes. I want to let every peer who is not feeling the overwhelming emotion of happiness that this day should bring because they are still battling their darkness, know that we are far from done! We are just beginning! I’m with you…I have been in that darkness too.
Secondly, thank you to every single person who has contributed to the collective voice that was so desperately needed to make today happen! You are all so amazing in my eyes! 
MPP Cheri DiNovo, Minister of Labour Kevin Flynn, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services Yasir Naqvi, Shannon Bertrand, Geoff Macbride Vince Savoia, YesYes Jill, Shaun Taylor, Wade MacPherson, Jeffrey Bilyk, Syd Gravel, Marcel Martel, Caroline Margaret Richards, Darryl Wilton, Rob Theriault, Annik Lagassé, Annette Hunter, Richard Renta, Elizabeth Donnelly, Derek Stephenson, Gordon Perolli, Erin Alvarez, Katherine N Hambleton, Jodi Anne Earle, Dan Paterson, Kenneth E Smith, Corey Nageleisen, Dave Wakely, Laura Rimmer, Councillor Arif Khan, John Brassard, Bill Rusk, Brad McKay, Chief Mike Nolan, Norm Traversy, Gary Rubie, Mike van Mil, Rob Ichelson and EVERYONE I’VE MISSED. ❤️

   
 

All That Matters Is NOW

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I am thinking of buying one of these watches. Even though I am not much of jewellery person, this piece speaks volumes to me… on so many levels.

When I was in Save My Life School over a year ago, I was introduced to the idea of living in the moment, or in ‘the now’. At first it was an ideal eye-roll topic for a bearer of a mind saturated with negativity such as myself. Why would I want to live in the moment when I didn’t even want to live? Back when I knew it all (insert present moment eye-roll) I couldn’t even begin to comprehend the value of living, let alone mindfully doing so. I was at war with the ‘now’ in my mind – the last thing I wanted to do was pay attention to it!

The irony of all of that ‘living in the now’ business, was that it took TIME for me to grasp and appreciate its power. And more importantly, it took me months to realize that living in the now didn’t necessarily mean living in present pain. When I opened up to the idea, and forced the demons in my mind to be quiet long enough to be mindful of things beyond my pain, the world transformed into something I never knew even existed. Day by day (or more accurately, second by second) when I practiced living in the now and mindfully payed attention to the beauty all around me, life went from excruciating, to just painful, to tolerable, to pretty good, to wait-a-minute is that a smile on my face, to holy-crap I can be happy, and then finally to realizing that I can accept what comes my way and enjoy life.

Now don’t get me wrong, this timeline (ugh, the living in the now puns are really hard to avoid in this blog) is not always as fluid as described; I still find living in the now very difficult some days, because like ALL mindfulness practices, becoming skilled in them takes practice and…you got it…time. On difficult days, just taking a moment to focus on my breath is an accomplishment for me.

The amazing Eckhart Tolle wrote, “Once you see and accept the transience of all things and the inevitability of change, you can enjoy the pleasures of the world while they last without fear of loss or anxiety about the future.” Just like all emotions, they pass and change. So even if the emotion you feel right now is unpleasant, trust that you CAN feel a different emotion…soon. And if that unpleasant emotion is about the past or future, try to mindfully focus on the now, which is ONLY in the breath that you are taking.

As my beautiful sister-in-law Mandy once said, “Living in the now teaches us to stop giving permanence to impermanent things”. I challenge you to try it out. Open your heart and mind to the possibility of NOW.

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