Paramedic Nat

A Blog About a Paramedic's Mental Health Journey



The Word Stealing Demon


I have been blessed with many things. I live in Canada, and get to celebrate its 150th birthday in my new home, snuggled up with my fur babies and microwaved popcorn. The popcorn is a big deal as I haven’t had a microwave in four years (don’t feel bad for me – I could have gotten one if I weren’t so lazy), and I’ve missed the smell of popcorn in my home. Popcorn and fresh coffee – the best smells of all time. Anyway, I digress. Blessings, yes I have many. My kids love their new home and are settling in well. Walter let me tie a Canada flag onto his back for a picture. And I have made a huge dent in the unpacking process – success. But along with success comes stress. Some good (eustress) and some bad (distress), and as a human with PTSD, I find the eustress/distress border difficult to navigate.

No one will argue that moving is stressful (and if you do, I won’t believe you), but it’s supposed to be a good stress for me this time around. New start, cute house, happy neighbourhood – and all of these things are true. But my PTSD brain makes mountains out of mole hills causing what should be good, to be bad. The effects that any stress has on my brain is extremely frustrating, but also intriguing at times. As a human who used to revel in the fact that my brain had a good grasp on intelligent things, like being able to rationalize and formulate things quite well, my now injured brain can’t help but to stand back and ‘looks at itself’ when life gets stressful and it screams out to me how obvious it is that I  am not able to rationalize or formulate incoming information the way I used to. I can’t help but wonder why my brain’s ability to do certain things has changed so much.

When my pre-PTSD brain was presented with a stressful situation, it would soak it in and enjoy conquering the task at hand. But when my post-PTSD brain is presented with a stressful situation, it forgets how to even speak properly. I lose my words and literally can’t find them. I want to say shelf, but that word in buried in the dark abyss of my broken mind – literally gone. What seems like a simple task often forces me to play an embarrassing game of smoke and mirrors so that people won’t worry about me. If they only knew how much of a broken puzzle my mind becomes in those stressful moments. Trying to find the word ‘shelf’ feels like a demon is holding it tightly in his hands, hunched over it and snickering at me. “Go ahead and joke that your brain isn’t working“, he whispers to me, “but I will keep this until I choose to let it go, and no one will know how you feel right now, just trying to find a word“. In those moments it’s like electrical shocks fire all over my brain, faster than light, consuming my breath because of how tiring it is, trying to find a word that should be so easy to find. I know that some of you are thinking that you get it because sometimes you can’t find words too  – and I appreciate your kind attempt at trying to relate to my feelings. But the only people who truly get it are those with a broken brain. If you are not part of the ‘broken brain club’ (the shittiest club I know), you lose words like everyone does, but you don’t have a demon that steals them.

You may be asking yourself why I use the word demon when trying to describe many of my emotions in my blogs – don’t worry, you don’t have to call in an exorcist. I do because that’s literally what I feel like I live with some days. Brain injuries are evil in my mind (pun intended), and living with one feels like someone or something is in control of it. I could use a marionette (also creepy – sorry) to describe the lack of control I feel some days as well. I think a huge part of me loves to blog because it provides me with the physical time I need to find my words…the time my brain needs to feel less broken.

Who knew that not being able to ‘find a word’ could cause so much pain and confusion.

The Depression Rollercoaster – Bring Your Vomit Bag


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  He is one of the most amazing writers I have ever come across!




Sunny Spring Darkness

Spring is in full-swing and April 1st is here. I have always practiced safe-reading when I open a possible April-fool’s article (i.e.: I scan the content to be sure that the last paragraph doesn’t reveal that the words I have read are all false), so in the interest of saving you from scanning if you are accustom to the same behaviour, I will tell you now that what I am about to share is true – possibly unbelievable – but nevertheless true. Here goes… sunshine often makes me sad.  Ridiculous right? Like who would not want to wake up to a beautiful spring day? Who would not feel rejuvenated and alive when they open the curtains to see sunshine streaming down onto the budding leaves? Who would not feel happy on a sunny day…well, me.

I know that I am not alone in this feeling because a friend has shared with me that he feels this too, even before I shared that I experience this alien-like emotion myself. He is a fellow depression and post traumatic stress sufferer, and one sunny day when I was texting him from my curtain-closed, outside-avoiding room, he said that he hated sunny days. He didn’t need to elaborate – I knew exactly what he meant. Sunny days are supposed to evoke happiness and energy. They are supposed to make you smile and put on a nice outfit and go for car rides with the windows finally down. But for my friend and I, a sunny day often makes us feel guilty. 

I can hear kids playing outside and the neighbours emerging from their winter hibernation. But if I am having a dark day, the last thing I want is to be reminded that I have no desire to do such things…at all! I can hear the leaf blowers and motorcycles (sure sign sounds of spring), but on a dark day I literally plug my ears over my earplugs because again I don’t want to be reminded of the productiveness and fun others are having at apparent ease. When my depression descends, its darkness smothers the sun with mocking, evil laughs. When I’m in the darkness, a sunny day feels like eternity, and the guilt it induces will inevitably build with every non-constructive second that passes. When depression rears its ugly head, even the sunniest day can’t make the world seem good.

Glum story, right? As I type this I feel like a spring-time Scrooge yelling, “Bahumbug” to the sky and the birds and any potential vitamin D. Oh well. It is what it is – I wish this was an April fool’s joke.

Tomorrow’s a new day.


So Much Worry


Why is self-care so difficult for me sometimes? I get so frustrated with the mental energy it takes for me to ACTUALLY do something.

This is my brain today:

Let’s see if it’s sunny out-I don’t want to get out of bed-I should pee now-I don’t think I have to yet-the cat is so sweet and laying on my legs so I must not move in order to let her sleep-how caring of me-I know that’s an excuse to stay in bed longer-if I get up I will maybe do some laundry-it depends, I should have a nap first-nap-wake up-the cat is still on my legs, how sweet-I will hold her hand for a while-I should post this on Instagram-take picture-post-I really have to pee now-I should take Walter and the kids on a walk somewhere-but where?-beach is too sandy-lakeshore is too peopley-stores are too loud-I think I see a snowflake-we should stay in, it’s safer-pee (finally)-I should NOT look at that first Facebook video-watch the video-it leads to another-and another-and another-how will I pay that bill?- I hate appointments-what food should I make- do people actually like making spring rolls from scratch?-I need to get the cats fixed- I do not wanting to talk to WSIB again- I dread listening to voicemails-the snow is melting and there is so much dog poo to pick up- I hate spring cleaning-when it’s sunny I will feel even more guilty that I don’t go outside-why are we here on this planet?-do other people think like this?-why is everything so hard?-why are people selfish?-why is time going so slowly?-what happens when we die?-is this all a dream?-there is so much bad in the world-how can someone kill another person?-how messed up is my brain?-I hate waiting to see how I will feel tomorrow-do people go outside and actually want to?-are there actually people in this world who like to do stuff?-do people really like to surf?-why would anyone want to surf with sharks?-do people go to the beach and not look at the time to see when they can leave and at least feel like they accomplished something that day, only to have to get their car so sandy and need to vacuum it?-do people really not mind vacuuming?-I wish I could be in their head-to feel what it’s like to like to do things-I only like to be in bed-I like to do my talks, but small talk is so hard-I worry that people think I’m ok-I don’t LOOK sick-I hate worrying-it’s so much…

5 Facts About My PTSD Symptoms


Living with a post traumatic stress injury sucks. Living with addiction and depression sucks. Let me highlight some reasons why.

  1. I often can’t remember who you are. I know that it’s common to forget a name when we meet an individual again, but I literally forget that I have ever even met you at all! This doesn’t happen all the time, but it’s common enough that I avoid large gatherings for fear that the person whom I’m talking to is expecting that I remember them. I try so hard to practice name association, but that memory technique is completely useless when I can’t remember that we’ve ever met.  It’s an embarrassing fact about my life now.
  2. I rarely leave my house. I’ve become somewhat of a hermit. I try to get out and enjoy the nice weather, but there is not a single bone in my body that wants to do so. Noises like motorcycles, loud mufflers, chainsaws and busses put me into full anxiety mode. I try to plug my ears fast enough, but it’s usually too late. When the noise comes at me all I want to do is sit in my room with my fan on which provides enough white noise to block out the world and to have a window open from time to time.
  3. I can be very apathetic. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a caring person; buried deep down is my desire to help people all the time – which makes sense as I have been a paramedic for fourteen years. But allowing strong emotions such as love to bubble to the surface as much as I allowed it to before, is very scary to me. My ability to logically match an appropriate reaction to an emotion has changed, often causing me to worry and over reacted to something quite minor. So I avoid feeling all together. My kids are a different story, I love them so much I could explode, but as for any intimate relationship in the future I am doubtful any will last, so I imagine myself living alone on a mountain, and somehow I’m completely ok with that.
  4. I constantly fear that you don’t believe me. There is a liar in my head that tells me that anyone who has not experienced PTSD, depression or addiction doesn’t believe me. It tells me that people are just nice to my face, but that behind closed doors they roll their eyes and laugh at me. I suppose that’s why almost ALL of my friends have changed to one’s who ‘get it’, and that’s ok. I know that for the most part that people support me, but the liar convinces me from time to time that even my closest friends and family think I’m putting on somewhat of an act. That I could just pull up my sox and stop being so glum and useless. It’s funny how I think that people think that I want to be sad.
  5. I forget really important things. Not only do I forget that I’ve met you, I forget things that are super important. Doctors appointments, to pick people up…heck I even forget what I’ve forgot!  Eff!

The struggle is REAL.

Both Will Make Me Sh!+…I’m sure!


This damn darkness… Why is it back? Not nearly to the extent it use to be (don’t worry, I am safe), but it’s here nonetheless. Close enough to make me feel like a fraud. Dark enough to make me want to hide from all of the positive advice I have given over the last…however long its been.

I’ve been wanting to write about it, because as you know, writing is therapy to me. But no matter how hard the magnetic field has been between my fingertips and these keys, before right now, I have filled my time with sleep or useless ‘being’, in order to avoid how honest this blog may end up being. So as you may be reading this and thinking.’that’s courageous of her to share this’, I promise you that all I can feel are fingers pointing, and hear skeptics yelling ‘we knew that you weren’t better’, when I say that I am depressed.

I’m torn…and uncomfortable. I have finally closed the pages of an old book, but not after reading the last few chapters over and over again because I didn’t want to admit that that book was done. It sucks. I had finally settled in to the comfy corner of pillows in my reading spot, had finally chosen my favourite coffee mug, and had gotten so comfortable with the feel and smell of the pages…and now, that book is done. I’m not getting anything else out of reading it over and over again. The comfy pillows are making my back hurt now. The coffee mug is suddenly just a coffee mug. And the pages feel cold, and smell boring.

Today, unable to stop the force to write, as my mind and soul know how necessary writing is for me to grow, I have finally accepted, that a new book, chapter, page…whichever you choose, has come to be; and this first edition really sucks for me.

Days have been boring, long and filled with my old alien brain lately. Nights have been sleepless. Thoughts have been dark…and incessant. This makes me SO MAD! I will get through this…I have the tools. But man oh man it feels like a punch in the throat having to share that I feel like shit again. I am NOT looking for sympathy. I am NOT looking for anything really. Selfishly, this blog is for me. And if you gain insight or even spiteful joy, good on you. The honesty, vulnerability and egoless peace I feel from writing this is what I need right now.

I’m doing a juice cleanse today. I thought it would suck…but I can tell you that this blog cleanse is worse…Both will make me shit, I’m sure.


A Day in the Life of My ‘Mild’ Depression


I know that I have written about the healing power of mindfulness and living in the moment a lot, but I just want to share how difficult it is to do such things when depression rears its ugly head. When depression engulfs me in its cloud, I NEED to sleep all day or be bombarded by reminders of, a) things I am not doing and should do, b) things I have done in the past that I shouldn’t have done, or c) things in the future that I want to do but don’t know how to. Sigh…

For those of you who are fortunate enough to not live with depression, let me share what it’s like to live inside my head when I do. And keep in mind, the following daily routine example is one during my mildest form of depression. 

9:00 am: What I Want to do: Clean the backyard. Get a coffee. Get caught up on paying bills. What I do: Nothing.

10:00 am: What I want to do: Get dressed and drive to get a coffee from Tim’s. What I do: Flop out of bed (which is an accomplishment in itself) throw on some shoes and a sweater even though it’s 30 degrees outside because putting on a bra is WAY too much energy; I’d rather sweat like a track runner while I drive.

11:00 am: What I want to do: Go outside with my neighbour who invites me to have a Perrier. What I do: Ignore the invitation until my guilt takes over, then text him from my bed telling him that I can’t today.

Noon: What I want to do: Make lunch, walk my dog and put together my new rowing machine. What I do: Eat ice-cream out of the carton, let my dog go for a quick pee in the backyard, and walk past the rowing machine in the box by the door that the cats have torn apart.

1:00 pm: What I want to do: Not sleep. What I do: Sleep.

2:00 pm: What I want to do: Not sleep. What I do: Sleep.

3:00pm: What I want to do: Get out of bed because I have a headache from not doing anything all day. What I do: Convince myself to stay in bed, because I have a headache from not doing anything all day. Proceed to wallow in self-pity because this time of the day is the ‘danger-zone’ part of the day, meaning that if I don’t FORCE myself to get out of bed, there is NO turning back…I will remain in bed all day.

4:00 pm: What I want to do: Some stretches on the floor to get my blood circulating and hopefully relieve my headache. What I do: Touch my toes. Once.

5:00 pm: What I want to do: Laundry. What I do: Kick the pile of dirty clothes into a taller, less large-looking pile. Return to bed.

6:00 pm: What I want to do: Brush my teeth. What I do: Remind myself that I am well into the ‘danger-zone’ so it is not even practical to do such a thing when I will be asleep very soon.

7:00 pm: What I want to do: Nothing. What I do: Nothing. Success!

8:00 pm: What I want to do: Anything but sit in bed! What I do: Not even change positions in bed.

9:00 pm: What I want to do: Write. What I do: Write. The only way I can live in the moment. My healthy source of serenity.

There you go folks. As I sit here and type from the same spot I woke up in 12 hours before, I am actually happy that to me I had a relatively functional day!

Now I’m off to bed…I’m exhausted.


Roaring Softly


I learned a new term recently, which I do on a regular basis as a mom to a 10 and 19 year old, it’s called a ‘smear campaign‘. The meaning of the term is nothing new and refers to the use of manipulation and lies in order to get people to think badly of others, or to ‘smear’ their reputation. Most often used by insecure people who are threatened by the success of others, smearing is not an off the cuff reaction to a temporary feeling, but rather a deeply manipulative plan to bring pain to someone who has something that the other person does not have; that something is often happiness.

As I did a bit of research on this terminology, I came across the following powerful statement:

“The best thing about haters is that they help us to heal our childhood wounds. Every time they come our way, we get another opportunity to love ourselves in the… heart of their contempt. Where before attack and criticism triggered us into hiding, we now hear ourselves ROAR! with readiness. You can’t bring your voice to the world without triggering others. You can’t manifest your gifts without igniting someone’s jealousy. You can’t find your light without pissing someone off. It comes with the territory. So, ROAR in the face of the light-dimmers. ROAR!!!! “ ~ Jeff Brown

I would like to change one word in order to make this amazing statement more suited to my recovery frame of mind. If I could, I would change the word ‘roar’ to ‘love’. I don’t think that this takes away from the powerfulness of the message. In fact, I think adding ‘love’ brings it’s power to a whole new level. Reread and try it out.

I suppose this recovery life is teaching me to roar softly…but don’t mistake softness for passiveness. Loving your enemies is probably the TRUEST test of strength. It’s not always easy when there are definitely individuals out there who have tried to dim my light and pull people away from me while I continue to fight for things that are just and right. And I know that there are people (albeit silent) who wish I would just go away and stop posting about successes and who cringe at the sight of my name. But to those who try to smear and pull people away from me, be reminded that it’s impossible to stop me from sending you love. Let’s face it, you need it the most.

To those who try to silence me, thank you for being my spiritual teachers. You give me passion to fight for what’s right every day. And regardless of what a smear leader may try to convince you of, I am always here for you. Everyone is always welcome to roar with me.


Bill 163: Ontario Supporting First Responder’s Bill

Bill 163

April 5th, 2016 will always be a day to remember! Seven years of fighting by SO MANY amazing people (of which I was only part of for 2 years) for the recognition of the toll our careers take on our mental health. There’s LOTS more work to be done.

Stay tuned for an upcoming article in the Canadian Paramedicine magazine documenting the time line of the PTSD Bill’s past seven years, and of the fight that Toronto Advanced Care Paramedic Shannon Bertrand so bravely started so that April 5th, 2016 could one day become a reality.


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