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Paramedic Nat

A Blog About a Paramedic's Mental Health Journey

Month

March 2016

March-Mullet Madness!

My daughter and I were fortunate enough to participate in a fundraiser for the Canadian Mental Health Association yesterday. The event was all about…wait for it…MULLETS! Yes, business in the front, party in the back, mullets.

It was held at a beautiful wine and art store called Canvas and Cabernet. I had OJ, cran and soda…but none the less it was a lot of fun watching everyone paint their artistic version of a mullet. I chose to put mine on a sugar skull 😉

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I want to thank the radio station Rock 95 and their fabulous DJ Ozz, for inviting me and for being such an amazing mental health advocate! Barrie is so lucky to have you.

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And to Liz Grummet and Jim Harris from the Canadian Mental Health Association (Simcoe County Branch) for organizing the event and for really putting Barrie’s CMHA on the ‘mental health awareness’ map.

mullet liz

And to my beautiful daughter for always supporting me and this mental health awareness journey I am on. I am SO proud of you! ❤ You are always a wonderful date.

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Stay tuned for more upcoming events! So far I will be travelling to Ottawa and Nova Scotia over the summer.  Let’s let this amazing mental health momentum keep on keeping on!

Love ~Nat

Wing Of Change Reminder

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Hi Everyone! I wanted to remind you that the FIRST Wings of Change – Peer Support meeting will be held this coming Tuesday, April 5th, at the Canadian Mental Health Association Simcoe County Branch (Boardroom)
128 Anne St S, Barrie, ON
6:30 – 7:30 pm

ALL first responders, healthcare professionals, dispatchers, military members and corrections workers are welcome. Join us for coffee and anonymous mental health solution-based discussion. We provide a safe and stigma-free environment for anyone wishing to receive peer support with regards to occupational trauma and stress. You are welcome to share your views on related topics or simply sit back and be part of an understanding group of fellow peers.
*Remember that a mental health diagnosis is NOT required to attend, and that we do NOT provide professional care. Crisis numbers will be provided at every meeting.*
We hope to see you there!

If you have any questions please contact me at paramedicnat@hotmail.com

Let Our Boys Cry Too

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As if speaking up about emotions isn’t difficult enough, I will strongly agree with anyone who says that it’s even more difficult to do so if you are male. We still live in a society where boys are told to ‘suck it up and stop crying’ more often than girls are. Which is largely due to the fact that for years, boys have been bombarded with the task of maintaining pop culture’s mostly unrealistic image of superheroes. Let’s face it, on the big-screen, being strong and brave rarely factors in acceptable levels of sensitivity which include tears.

I have a 10 year old son who has seen his fair share of struggles in his short life. That’s not to say that he doesn’t have a happy life…because he does. But I think it’s safe to say that the ups and downs his precious mind and soul have experienced are already greater than those in which most adults have experienced. Stressful relationship break-ups, witnessing the effects of mental illnesses which caused your mom to be taken away in an ambulance…are all too much for anyone’s eyes, let alone a small boy.

But for the grace of God, our lives have done a 180 degree turn, resulting in a home life that is peaceful (for the most part…as long as we aren’t chasing our dog Walter while he tries to eat Bounce sheets, or making sure that he isn’t cornering the cats and eating their food; Walter that is, not my son 😉 ). We laugh a lot now. He’s doing better in school, and has that sparkle back in his eyes that I missed for SO long! But no matter how much better life is, there are still times when I can tell that he is feeling sad and/or worried. He is very conscious of not hurting my feelings, and tries to make sure I am always happy. That must be very tiring for a little guy, and I get it, as I use to try to make my mom happy all the time too. But no matter how hard I try to show him that I am healthy and very happy, he gets overwhelmed and afraid at times, and just needs a good cry.

I have learned a lot of amazing things about the power of accepting our feelings over the last year and a half, and I am so grateful for this as I now do my best to share these strategies with my kids. And to reiterate the theme of this blog, I am mindful that I make sure I allow my son to express his feelings as freely as my daughter does.

The old me often got frustrated when my kids cried, and looking back now, I realize that that frustration came from a lack of knowledge of how to deal with their emotions in a healthy way. I feel sick to my stomach now when I remember times when I sent my kids to their room until they stopped crying, or for telling them that they were ok, when clearly they were not.

Here are some emotion-accepting tips I now implement with my kids, and equally as importantly with my son. These may seem pretty basic to most parents, but I’m willing to chance an eye-roll or two and be ‘that mom’ who thinks she knows a thing or two about parenting…because well, now I do 🙂

  1. When my son is sad I console him and tell him it’s ok to cry, and I don’t give him a time limit on when that should be done. No more, “Ok, that’s enough crying”, because who am I to judge that it’s enough? I would be pissed if someone said that to ME, so why is it ok to say that to our kids?
  2. I validate his fears and concerns. I don’t say, “that’s nothing to cry about”, or “that’s a silly thing to be afraid of”, because once again, I am not in his mind and have no right to choose how he feels.
  3. I take the time to listen to why he is upset. I am the first to admit that I usually have my phone in my hand, but when he is sad, I put it down. Granted, I may need to actively remind myself to so…but I do. Nothing is more important in that moment than giving my full attention to him.
  4. And last but certainly not least, I show my sadness too! When I was sick I thought that hiding my emotions protected my kids from pain, when in fact it caused it. They are SO in tune with our personalities, including our non-verbal language, that they can tell when we are sad. Denying this only confuses them, and in fact makes them worry more. To my surprise, when I started telling my kids the truth about my emotions, they accepted it, and went on with their day!

Crying isn’t easy for most of us. But I challenge you to remember a time when you didn’t feel better after you did! I can actually compare the feeling of calm after a good cry to that of the feeling of relief and happiness when a run is done. Let’s make sure that we don’t hold those opportunities for calm, happiness and relief, hostage from our sons.

 

Wings of Change Barrie, ON Meetings

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BARRIE MEETING DATES ANNOUNCED!
Hi everyone! I am happy to announce that Wings of Change – Peer Support will be holding meetings:
EVERY FIRST TUES OF THE MONTH
@CMHA Simcoe County Branch (Boardroom)
128 Anne St S, Barrie, ON
6:30 – 7:30 pm
ALL first responders, healthcare professionals, dispatchers, military members and corrections workers are welcome. Join us for coffee and anonymous mental health solution-based discussion. We provide a safe and stigma-free environment for anyone wishing to receive peer support with regards to occupational trauma and stress. You are welcome to share your views on related topics or simply sit back and be part of an understanding group of fellow peers.
*Remember that a mental health diagnosis is NOT required to attend, and that we do NOT provide professional care. Crisis numbers will be provided at every meeting.*
We hope to see you there!

For more information about Wings of Change – Peer Support please email me at paramedicnat@hotmail.com

Balancing on the Tightrope of Pride

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Today was a pretty exciting day. When I got to work I quickly learned that I would be filling in for a sick colleague and teaching a class of 12 paramedics. Luckily I had seen the curriculum once before – but that was it. I was fortunate to have two experienced peer educators there to assist with the short-notice task, and we took the horse by the reigns and galloped on through the day. Is that the right saying?…I don’t know…oh well. In short, I LOVED IT! Getting back up in front of a classroom and teaching excellent curriculum made me feel great. It rekindled my love of educating, and the short notice gave me the chance to embrace what paramedics do best – work under pressure, and get the job done.

I was ‘proud’ of myself at the end of the day, and equally proud of my peers; both educators and educeteesYes, I know that’s not a word – humour me. 😉 But that feeling of ‘pride’ made me think of a lesson I had learned lately regarding this topic. We often use the term ‘pride’ endearingly when we are encouraging others or ourselves, “I’m proud of you”, but we must be wary of the underlying delusion that it can cause to surface; arrogance.

There is nothing wrong with feeling like we performed a task well…because maybe we did, but when pride starts to block our growth and learning, it becomes a root-delusion that can quickly transform into arrogance. Every day, everybody we encounter is teaching us something! How amazing is that? Just because my roll today at work was ‘educator’, by no means concluded that I had nothing to learn. Some of my favourite teachers growing up were the ones who asked the class what the students could teach them! And I do my best to emulate this.

For you visual learners out there, imagine with me if you will that pride is a tightrope over a canyon; on one side of the rope is arrogance, and on the other side is humility. Just like being able to walk across a tightrope successfully takes practice and concentration, being mindful of which ‘side’ you are leaning towards also takes practice. A good cue that can help us to recognize if we are leaning towards arrogance is whether or not we disrespect someone. The act of disrespect implies that our thoughts and actions are right, and blocks our willingness to learn what someone potentially has to teach us. We all have different opinions, that’s what makes humans so unique…and complicated lol. But because we don’t agree with an opinion, never warrants disrespect. Other arrogance red-flags include resisting advice, experiencing pain when criticized, and having difficulty admitting we are wrong. Humble people embrace advice, criticism and admit when they are wrong without hesitation.

So as I walk away from what I feel is a job well done today, I try my very best to remain mindful of growth-limitations in which pride can place on me. When I get frustrated because things aren’t going as planned, I need to check which side of the tightrope I’m leaning towards; arrogance or humility? Yes, many lessons come from falling, but being mindful while we balance may save us a few trips into the canyon.

 

Suicide-Secrets Need to be Broken

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I was so fortunate to have participated in the first Road to Mental Readiness training for paramedics this past week, and have completed the course with a wealth of knowledge and excitement for what is to come with respect to mental health education in the paramedic field. One topic that was extensively covered was that of Suicide. For many people the word itself elicits fear and avoidance. It’s one of those, ‘let’s just skip that conversation’ topics that isn’t normally brought up at Sunday dinner. For all of the mental health topics that conjure up an instant sensation of walking on egg shells and discomfort, I’d have to say that suicide is most likely at the top of the list.

After the death of actor Robin Williams, the topic of suicide filled the media. I even remember hearing debates on how we as a society should address this cause of death. Suddenly twitter and Facebook pages were saturated with comments like, ‘He didn’t kill himself…He died by suicide.” And for the first time on such a public platform the stigma of suicide was exposed, and from what I could see, compassion and understanding emerged for human beings with a mental illness so dark and painful that taking their own life is the only way to stop their pain.

Even though the tragic death of Robin Williams is out of the media limelight, we need to continue to take the topic of suicide very seriously. When someone speaks of it, we need to believe them. People suffering need compassionate ears to hear their cries, but also champions who act when a person discusses the thought to take their life. It’s not an easy situation to be in, I understand. Many champions out there at one point ‘promised’ to keep a suicide conversation a secret, and the decision whether or not to break that promise may have unraveled a moral dilemma. But at the end of the day, a secret is worth nothing if the person who’s secret you are keeping is dead. Harsh, yes. But it’s even harsher if it happens.

I am in no way saying that breaking a secret is simple. And I completely know that a 400 word blog doesn’t even scratch the surface of this topic. But in my opinion, risking losing the trust of someone by being the hand that reaches for help for them may be the first door to a person’s road to recovery. I pushed loved ones away at first who broke my ‘trust’ and got help for me, but I was sick, and NEEDED them to do so. My delusional thinking was not doing me any favours, and I NEEDED the ‘tough-love’ guidance of healthy minds. Furthermore, these secret-sharing sessions can be a person’s last cry for help.

If you know of someone who is thinking about taking their own life, you NEED to speak up and get help for them. Call your local emergency number (i.e.: 911) and let professionals remove the burden of responsibility from you. Break that secret!

 

Canada’s FIRST Paramedic Road to Mental Readiness (R2MR) Training! 

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So excited to be part of Canada’s FIRST paramedic Road to Mental Readiness training!

Among so many fabulous people from paramedic services such as:

York Region, Peel, Hamilton, Muskoka, Medavie, & Waterloo. As well as 3 brilliant psychologists from Centre for Addiction and Mental Health Services, Work Stress & Health Program.

This fabulous program is facilitated by the Mental Health Commission of Canada and developed by the Department of National Defense. It covers topics such as: Stigma & Barriers to Care, the Mental Health Continuum, The Big 4, Ad HOC Incident Review, Leadership Actions, and Available Resources.

For more information you can contact Susan Mercer, MSW, RSW at smercer@mentalhealthcommission.ca

Wings of Change Peer Support in Canadian Paramedicine Magazine


Happy to announce that an article featuring the Wings of Change – Peer Support, can be found in the Feb/Mar 2106 edition of Canadian Paramedicine magazine.

A huge thank you to Editor in Chief Michael Nolan, for his ongoing support of mental health awareness in the paramedic field!

I will add a link to the article as soon as possible. Please subscribe to the magazine at canadianparamedicine.ca

Contact me at paramedicnat@hotmail.com for a free copy of the Wings of Change – Peer Support model.

~Nat

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! 😀

 

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