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Paramedic Nat

A Blog About a Paramedic's Mental Health Journey

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hope

Wish Upon A Star…

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Did you know that there was a meteor shower tonight? My kids and I just came in from watching it. We saw about four meteors (aka shooting stars) and a candlelit moth or two that tricked our ever concentrating eyes. Together we laid on blankets and pillows on the deck and starred into the satellite filled sky waiting to see the show. Like usual, Walter snuck popcorn out of the bowl as we giggled and farted and listened to Adam teach us how our galaxy is shaped like a pancake. The city sounds were muffled by my earplugs, but my anxiety still raced in unison with each motorcycle that graced us with its presence on the road out front – but that didn’t matter because nothing could stop the happy memories formed when you can ‘make a wish’ with your kids after cheering that “we saw one!”.

Starring into space tonight was peaceful overall. Normally ‘space’ and its vastness causes my brain to over think and speculate. But tonight it was just a night of citronella candles and Caroline yelling at Adam to stop shining the flashlight in her eyes – some things never change.

I can’t tell you what my wishes were, because then they won’t come true. But I can tell you that four wishes in one night will never be taken for granted by this girl.

Good night. May all YOUR wishes come true too.

 

Wide Awake

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Living in the now is great and all, but I can’t help but wonder what the future holds for me. Finances, health, relationships – these are all big question marks. But I suppose they are question marks for everyone really. I don’t do well without having inspiration in my life. That’s why I usually have several projects on the go – when I’m healthy the more inspiration the better – I think. Wings of Change, a new Save~My~Life School quote book and journal, my Brain Storm podcast, future speaking engagements, a little pastel artwork…I don’t do well with doing nothing.

When my brain feels well, I usually get to work on a lot of projects because I know that beyond the horizon there will be yet another era of my alien life that will grab me tightly and not let me go for however long it chooses. And during alien life, projects are few and far between. But they are inspired when they do arise. Being in darkness fills my brain with outer-space ideas and feelings that rip out of my soul because they are too painful to contain. Actually, they are impossible to contain.

My alien mind is interesting and thought provoking while I’m in a healthy mind. But when I’m actually in alien mind, it seems anything but interesting! When I’m in it, death screams in my face constantly. It literally spews hot spit-filled air on me as I try to breathe. I have a noise sensitivity when my healthier mind is active, but when my alien mind is active, noise is more than just sound! It’s like acid that permeates the air, my cells…my entire existence. It hurts, a lot. It makes my eardrums bleed invisible blood. It makes my eyes cry invisible black tar filled tears that I can’t easily wipe away. It makes my lungs cave in on themselves and scream that they hate taking yet another breath…and another breath…and another. And all of these symptoms are SO real to me when I am in my alien mind. You could tell me they aren’t but I wouldn’t believe you. In fact, I would probably punch you in the throat if you tried.

Sigh…

It was nice to draw today without my alien mind active. I can personally still see that mind lingering in the background with the colours I choose and the features I draw. But when I put the pastels away today I sang a song, and cleaned up, and made dinner for my kids. Lasagna and garlic bread! Some days are ok. And I will have some art to remind me of it when these ok days are gone.

It will be interesting to see what I draw when the alien returns.

Sigh…

BrainStorm – PTSD Effects on The Brain

On this episode:

-PTSD effects on the brain,
-Terminology/language debates,
-Coping skills I use such as, specialized earplugs, guided meditation and anxiety distraction tools,
-…and more.

BrainStorm – My New Mental Health Podcast

Broken and Beautiful

I got my butt back to the Buddhist Centre – finally. It’s been months since I have had any sort of spiritual renewal and the other night was a welcomed hour and half of peace. At the risk of sounding completely unspiritual, while I was there I was reminded that self-pity is a son of a bitch. And that I have been drowning in it for quite some time. Sigh. I was also reminded that we often ‘claim innocence’ with regards to what our minds think, and thus what our bodies feel, but if we take a closer look, we often have a hidden motivation as to why we think and feel the way we do. We are always getting something from our thoughts and actions, and in my case, my cynical outlook on my current unemployed situation was allowing me to wallow in self-pity, which in turn has been ‘giving me permission’ to sink even deeper into my depression. Deep breath.

The other day I was unpacking and I found this paramedic statue. It was broken when I packed it, and was suddenly much more broken when I unpacked it – and the symbolism of this hit me hard.

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I cried in secret for much of the afternoon, feeling sorry for myself and angry that I couldn’t be a paramedic anymore. But when I posted this photo on Facebook, I was reminded by a few lovely people that I could perceive this experience in a different way.

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Kintsukuroi is the practice of repairing pottery with gold or silver and expressing that this repair has actually made the pottery more beautiful. I also know that when a bone is broken it heals much stronger than it ever was before. Being reminded of this allowed me to see that I could repair the statue (again) and that it would be even more beautiful and strong.

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That night my son and I found some glue and repaired the statue together. She is sitting on my kitchen window sill now and not packed away in a box so that I can be reminded that I am ok and that yes, at times my spirit has been broken, and that self pity can seep into my veins faster than the blink of an eye, but with amazing friends out there who take the time to remind me that I am ok, I can learn to see my broken parts as beautiful again.

 

 

 

 

 

I Wish I Had Learned This As a Student: Compassion vs Attachment

I Had A Shower Today

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I had a shower today. Seems like a normal and simple task, right? Well, not for those who battle mental health illnesses and injuries such as depression and post traumatic stress. Having a shower after somehow emerging from a downward spiral that seems like it will never end (unless you end it) is in my mind equal to the feeling of winning a gold medal. Moving to a mental space where you can lift your head from your pillow, and no longer contemplate peeing in a cup because the washroom feels hundreds of miles away (legit I have never done this before…but I have come close to bladder explosion when my mind is dark) is definitely worth a friggin’ gold medal!

One of the worst parts of a deep depression is that when you’re in it, you can’t see how bad it really is. Hence, peeing in a cup seeming like it’s not that bad of an idea. What happens to my mind when I am in a dark world is that I relentlessly try to get my brain to co-sign my own bullshit. My inner dialogue goes sort of like this:

Me: Brain, I know I shouldn’t pee in a cup…but if I do, it’s not the end of the world right?

Brain: It’s not a good idea Natalie. It will make a mess. You’re not a boy.

Me: But if it does make a mess, it’s my pee, so who cares?

Brain: I’m still thinking that it’s a bad idea.

Me: Well it’s not like I want to shit in a cup! Now THAT would be bad!

Brain: You’re still not selling me on this one, Natalie. You should just get out of bed and go to the washroom. The time we have spent debating this has taken longer than it would have for you to go and come back.

Me: Ugh, I hate you brain.

…and then I go pee in the washroom.

I could use so many examples in that same conversation with my brain. It’s torturous and exhausting. Yes I am using some comic relief to lighten the read, but overall these relentless internal conversations can get very dark, and when that happens I decide to sleep. I still feel guilty sleeping so much, but that method of numbing is MUCH better than the alternatives I used to use. So anyone who thinks I’m lazy can kiss my ass! I’m alive, sober, not hospitalized, and able to quickly rationalize that taking my own life is NEVER a practical option for me! A shitty decision like that will never get co-signed by my brain, because I don’t let the conversation even start. That to me is gold medal worthy all day long.

 

The Depression Rollercoaster – Bring Your Vomit Bag

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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!

 

 

 

To Clara, With Love

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January 28, 2014 – Bell Let’s Talk Day. I was sitting in my living room watching TV with family members when Canadian Olympian Clara Hughes came onto the screen. I had definitely seen her before. I remember literally sitting on the edge of my seat cheering her on as she won medal after medal in both the winter and summer games. She represented so much strength and courage. She was OUR Canadian athlete! – And she had made us so proud! I wasn’t sure right away why she was on the news that night, but it was no coincidence that I was watching, because as she began to talk and share about her mental health struggles, I felt a sudden, incredible feeling of validation and rare happiness. Olympian Clara Hughes had been battling a dark road of depression, as I had been, and suddenly after hearing her speak, I knew that one day I would share my story too.

Oct 6, 2014 – The the first time I ever shared anything publicly about my dark world. I started a blog, and this is what I wrote.

Hi Everyone,

This is a big deal for me. This first blog will be short; but to me its HUGE. I’ve been battling a mental health illness and I feel it’s time to talk about it; but it’s not easy. Let me start by saying, today is the first day of my partial hospitalization mental health program. I have a long road ahead of me, which started years ago. I want to share it with you and possibly help anyone who has been battling a mental health illness with a stigma so big it often keeps our minds closed to the pain these illnesses cause.

Stay tuned if you would like. I will be posting often.

~MedicNat

Fast forward to today, March 28, 2017, and I have developed a friendship with that same amazing Canadian Olympian, Clara Hughes. She has written the foreword to my book Save-My-Life School, and after she sent me this (among many) shout-out, this is what I replied.

Dear Clara, ❤

I can say without a doubt that this book would never have even be even a figment of my imagination if I had not seen you on TV a few years back honestly sharing about your mental health journey!

YOU made vulnerability something beautiful to me!

YOU showed me that I didn’t need to hide anymore, and that every time I shared my own journey, stigma would melt away from me – and it did.

YOU encouraged me through messages and emails when I was battling the darkness that still grabs a hold of me sometimes.

YOU told me to never stop – and I won’t.

Over time my posts may lessen and my voice may not be as loud, but by inspiring me to have the courage to put my heart and soul into Save-My-Life School, my message will never be gone.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you. You are such a wonderful friend ❤

Sending you SO MUCH LOVE.

~Nat xo

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Here’s to many more years of friendship! Love you dearly Clara! XO

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