This inspiring book of quotations from Natalie’s Harris’s raw and gripping account of her mental health journey, “Save-My-Life School,” offers daily motivational and thoughtful lessons.
My last few posts have been a bit negative and down – which has caused some concern (I appreciate the concern), so I felt that I would add some sugar to the sour taste in my mouth by sharing a story that depicts progress in my recovery, and will hopefully put a smile on your face.
Yes, I’m small. But I have been known to be mighty when my family’s safety and/or best interest is in jeopardy. So, even though I am 5’2″ and 120 ish pounds, I will tell Goliath to bring it if need be, and not even bat an eye. (I was also my grade 10 english class’ arm wrestling champion when my classmates and I felt like having said competition was more important than learning about Macbeth – Good lord! Sorry Mrs. Peconan – but I digress.) Anywhoo…I recently had the opportunity to practice my new, nicer, less eyes-go-black-like-a-great-white-shark attitude when I was shopping for a bed frame with my daughter yesterday. But before I get into that story, I need to bring you back twenty years ago when my daughter was a year old and my sister and I had the most embarrassing moment happen to us … in Walmart. Sweet baby Jesus, get ready to laugh.
One evening, I needed to buy diapers for my daughter, so my sister and I hopped into my parent’s van to make what we thought would be a quick trip to the nearby Walmart. When I pulled into the parking lot I headed for the perfect open spot close to the main doors when a car suddenly sped up from the other direction and took it. I was mad, (I think rightfully so), so I flashed my high beams at the culprit’s car to show my disapproval then proceeded to find another spot. As I was just about to get out of the van, I noticed a girl walking very briskly towards my window (clearly upset) and when I rolled the window down she proceeded to yell at me for flashing my high beams at her boyfriend’s car. I told her that she took my parking spot and to settle down as I’m sure my high beams didn’t damage his car, then rolled up my window to signal that I was finished with the ridiculous interaction…or so I had thought.
After the angry girl walked away, my sister and I went into the store and proceeded to walk down the main aisle looking for the diapers, but as we did, we noticed that this same girl was standing at the end of each small aisle with her hands on her hips clearly waiting to have more of a ‘chat’ about what had ensued. I sort of fluffed her immature behaviour off and avoided her until I had to go down a certain isle to get the diapers I needed for my daughter. As I walked towards the diapers, this girl who had clearly not gotten over the fact that I flashed my high beams at her rude gesture, stepped in front of me and put her hand in my face. Yelling and swearing, (and also about a foot taller than me), she got on my last nerve so I put my hand up into her face and told her to move out of my way. Standing toe to toe at this point, my sister got nervous and reached to move the girl’s hand away from my face – then all hell broke loose! Sweet baby Jesus, here we go!
I’m not sure how all of the next set of event’s unfolded, but in a whirlwind of adrenaline, I did what any Canadian girl growing up playing road hockey and watching Tie Domi would do…I jerseyed her! It was the only thing I knew how to do! I pulled her jean jacket over her head, and as she tried to swing punches at me from around her jacket, I kept pushing her to the ground and moving her away from my sister. Just before I pushed her into a paint display, Walmart employees came running with their blue smocks blowing in the wind and broke us up. Like two hockey players headed to the penalty box, we were separated, and I couldn’t help but notice that her hair was now teased like a wasp’s nest on the top of her head and her day planner or journal was scattered all over the aisle. How the hell did that happen? “DID I DO THAT?” I thought? My brother is going to die when he hears that I just jerseyed a girl in Walmart! (I’m literally shaking my head right now! LOL.)
For what it’s worth, the employees kicked mean-jacket, I mean jean-jacket, girl out immediately and told my sister and I that they had heard/seen that she was the instigator of this royal-rumble. I chalked it up to being the most embarrassing moment of my life and I now thank the heavens above that YouTube had not yet been invented in 1997. I was THAT girl – there’s no denying it. The YouTube headline would have been: Canadian Girl Jerseys Rage Filled Jean-Jacket Chick in Walmart! …I probably would have made it on Leno.
Ok, now back to bed frame shopping yesterday with my daughter, (the same daughter who I fought jean-jacket girl for to get diapers twenty years earlier). As a frugal shopper I went to the discounted furniture area right away and found a nice bed frame, but it didn’t have a price. So I tracked down a sales representative to show her the frame and get a price, and when my daughter, the sales rep and I returned to the discounted area, another lady was holding onto the bed frame – my bed frame – the only one available. Right away I blurted out, “Are you wanting to buy that?”, and as soon as I did, my daughter started to slowly reverse out of the area preparing to escape before don’t mess with me mom appeared. But the thing is, that mom didn’t appear! Even when the lady said that she in fact was looking to buy the same bed frame, I calmly turned to the sales rep and asked her what the price was prior to dropping the gloves, and to both of our dismay we found that it was already sold. No right hooks or upper cuts required.
Now that I have a much different perspective on life these days, (and to be honest, much less energy), I have zero desire for combat. In fact, when I now approach a potential battle ground, I automatically use what I learned in rehab called wise mind before I react, and by doing so, much less harm and aggravation comes to me these days. Not only do I benefit from this, so do my kids. Yesterday my daughter was ready to hightail it out the door in embarrassment when she saw what used to be an opportunity for me to debate appear. But there is no need for her to run anymore. There’s no need to fight. It’s just not worth it.
Now, if the bed wasn’t sold, I still most likely would have reminded the other interested shopper that ‘I saw it first’ (juvenile but true), but if she was adamant on buying it, I probably would have backed off knowing that it wasn’t worth the argument, and definitely not worth my daughter’s embarrassment in me. And if I had known what wise mind was twenty years ago when I needed to buy diapers, I may have even avoided the jerseying encounter all together. (But damn it makes for a good story!)
While immersed in a life of recovery where completing even the smallest daily task is a huge accomplishment for me, I define defeat very differently now. Picking my battles is a daily adage I must live by so that I don’t burn out too quickly and overwhelm my already taxed brain. If I don’t, I can find myself in a depression vortex that is very difficult to escape. In the Buddhist culture they practice ‘accepting defeat and offering the victory’. This doesn’t mean that you begrudgingly give up, it means that you choose to take the higher road resulting in a more peaceful life overall. It means that you have the ability to have compassion for the other person and to see that they have demands, expectations and needs set upon themselves as well. When we are able to do this, our ‘enemy’ disappears.
FROM THE PUBLISHER
This intense and engaging memoir is based on the true-life of Natalie Harris. Mental illness, post-traumatic stress injury, overdoses and addiction are some of the demons this paramedic-turned-author deals with–stemming from a horrific double-murder call. This incredible story makes public the very private battles many face. This book is raw, honest and a window into the mind of someone facing mental illness. Although a serious topic, this biography is at times laugh-out-loud funny, poignant and simply a good, entertaining read. This is a must-have for anyone who wants a cover-to-cover book that keeps you on the edge of your seat. To me, it is a Bridget Jones’ Diary meets Girl Interrupted.
Obviously, this title will appeal to first responders such as paramedics, firefighters and police officers. However, this title will also be of interest to those suffering with or suffering beside people experiencing mental illnesses and/or addiction. In Canada alone, there are 4.5 million people with mental illnesses.
Last year, Jody Mitic released Unflinching: The Making of a Canadian Sniper. Like Natalie’s book, Jody’s had a specific audience as well as widespread interest. His book touched on PTSD; and akin to Natalie, he worked in a field with a very unique culture.
Natalie and her writing are highly supported and endorsed by many people with influence. The foreword is written by six-time Olympian, Clara Hughes. In addition, all three levels of government officials have written endorsements for the book. This includes, Arif Khan, Barrie City Council, Ann Hogarth, MPP, and John Brassard, MP.
Link to Book on Indigo:
You can also preorder at winterticklepress.com
T’was the night before Christmas, and everything’s good,
It’s been two whole years since my stay at Homewood.
The stockings are hung, I found them this year,
No wine in my mug, my head is so clear.
The children are happy, all childlike and kind,
While memories, some sad ones, are stuck in rewind.
No tears in my kerchief, and no more night-caps,
I’ve escaped the relentless delusional traps.
Addiction once owned every piece of my mind,
But now I am living so free and not blind.
Away to the window, I see a new dawn,
The world isn’t dark now, I’m so less withdrawn.
The moon in the sky can still make me feel antsy,
I’ve gained a few pounds but they make me look fancy.
Little ol’ me loves to live in the now,
My chakras aligned, ‘no regrets’ is my vow.
My kids see me laugh now and say that I glow.
No hugs filled with wine breath, that’s so long ago.
Now Walter, Now Pepsi, Now Oliver play
With Carol and Adam on each silly day.
We snuggle and tickle and joke all year long,
And a drive isn’t finished ’til Adam’s new song.
I’m off to wrap presents I somehow afford,
Remembering always this day’s for the Lord.
With gratitude flowing I no longer fight.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.
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.
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.
A huge thank you to Fire Fighting Canada for this wonderful post in their magazine!
Maria Church | Assistant Editor
Fire Fighting in Canada | Canadian Firefighter
I’m a fan of a good egg salad sandwich. And I’m willing to bet that the best egg salad sandwiches are found at a baby shower. You know the kind – cut into triangles, often crustless, made with mayo…not miracle-whip. Yup! Those are the ones! So in the interest of enjoying ‘said’ sandwiches, I am often willing to shell out an average of $100 at Babies R’Us to fit into the baby shower crowd. You know the kind – often early thirties, mom’s themselves, happy to have several hours set aside to drink wine without their own kids crying in the background. Yup! Those are the ones!
So, where is this blog going you’re asking? No, I’m not about to share a Pinterest board of sandwich recipes and photos of the cute little cake-kabobs in the shape of a baby’s bum, I’m actually about to raise a point or two about how so much of our society has giving and generosity confused with receiving and subconscious expectations.
If I were truly going to attend a baby shower to ONLY see the baby and share in the excitement of his or her birth, I, A) wouldn’t print off the Babies R’ Us registry list and after scouring the store for a practical gift end up choosing my item by ‘awesome gift-giver’ price range anyway. B) I wouldn’t secretly judge when I could swear that some of the other gifts were from the dollar store (especially when I am a huge fan of the dollar store!). And c) I wouldn’t need to walk away feeling confident that my gift represented my exceptional friendship status with the new mom. Sigh…
It’s going to take time to change a culture that grew up on needing positive acknowledgement for almost everything, including any act of giving. In fact, I can clearly remember that the paintings I made with my kindergarden hands were given to my parents not only to make them happy to have received them, but equally for the satisfaction I got from watching them get stuck to the fridge with the banana magnet. It’s not easy to remove our faulty sense of what giving should feel like, when we are accustomed to being acknowledged for it. Many of us have even been taught that it’s only ‘polite’ to return the giving gesture, rather than just be thankful…am I right? So with that being said I’m pretty sure that Hallmark won’t be discontinuing their ‘thank you card’ line any time soon, when they make millions on how we inherently have difficulty in trusting that the root of giving comes from love…not from the need for acknowledgement.
So, I challenge you to check your motives next time you are out buying a gift for someone, and if a need for something in return is there (whether in the form of social acknowledgement or a thank you card), I bet you an egg salad sandwich that your gift isn’t truly rooted in love.