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Paramedic Nat

A Blog About a Paramedic's Mental Health Journey

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reframing

So What I Jerseyed A Girl In Walmart?

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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.

 

Social Media Press Release 


https://www.prlog.org/12611759-gruesome-double-murder-leaves-lasting-effects-on-first-responder.html

Book Launch Jan 25th!

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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.

THE AUDIENCE
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.

COMPARABLE TITLE
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.
ENDORSEMENTS

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:
https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/…/sa…/9781894813914-item.html

You can also preorder at winterticklepress.com

Diving into the Ocean of Contemplation

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How deeply do you ‘think’ when you’re asked to ‘contemplate’ something? What does that mean to you? Does it mean that you simply ‘consider’ it? Or maybe it means that you just ‘give it some thought’? Well, tonight I want to challenge you to view contemplation in a much more powerful sense – a sense that is used in the practice of meditation.

Quite simply, we (a large portion of society) are not very good at deeply contemplating anything. That’s not to say that we aren’t intelligent enough to do so, we just can’t seem to go deep enough to approach contemplation without the pressure to gain insight; so we keep our thoughts superficial and above the surface in a safe, yet dramatically less enlightening, way.

Contemplating expands our view on, well…everything! Take happiness for example, the more we deeply contemplate, explore and feel this virtuous emotion, the more happiness begins to become our natural behaviour. In short, the more we take the time to immerse ourselves in an intention or a thought, such as happiness, the more it becomes our lived reality. Clear as mud?…Well, let me use an analogy to further explain the power of contemplation.

So you say you want to be ‘happy’? You want to live a life where happiness is your prevalent emotion. If only there was a way that you could rewire your brain to FEEL happiness more often and to get rid of the toxic, unnecessary noise that fills your mind 99% of the time. Well, what if I told you there is a way. – Allow me to take you diving…below the noise, in the ocean of contemplation.

You’ve ‘heard’ that it’s peaceful below the waves of life and stress that toss you around like a capsized raft, but no matter how often someone asks you to go diving so that you can actually experience life below the waves, you say ‘no’, because you’re too tired to do something ‘like that’, nor do you have ‘time’ to do something like that. But what you may not have realized is that the reason why you’re so tired is because most of your energy is spent clinging onto the raft for fear of ‘going under’. Ironic, isn’t it?

So take a chance and let go of the raft and give yourself permission to explore happiness by testing the waters in the ocean of contemplation. Even if at first this means that you have to plug your nose and simply put your face in the water (i.e.: close your eyes just THINK about happiness), you will quickly see how peaceful it is below the every day noise that fills your mind. When you give yourself this time, you will see the beauty and serenity that you have been missing while on noisy dry-land, and with practice you can become a master contemplation diver in no time. 

Every time you submerge yourself in this ocean, you rewire your brain to being able to feel happiness innately, even when you’re living life above the water. The stress of life doesn’t weigh as heavily as it did before when you were clinging to the raft, because you now know where to go to refuel and relax. As long as you can give yourself a moment to close your eyes, and mindfully swim in the ocean of contemplation, you know that you will be ok.

The hustle and bustle of life can wear us down so easily, but how wonderful is it to know that we are always standing on the vast shore of the ocean of contemplation, with all of the serenity and peace that it offers. So take the time to explored the waters of happiness, and when you are finished, I highly recommend the Sea of Love, the Bay of Compassion and the River of Giving. 

 

 

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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No Experience Is Ever Wasted

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Everything in the past and future has a relationship to now. Where I have been and what I have done in my life has brought me here, to this hour, this second, this moment. And what I will do and become tomorrow will dance before me like an intricate ballet of cause and effect. As I mark the passing of one full year sober and healthy, I can’t help but reflect on all of the experiences I’ve had along the way. All of the ups and downs which have provided me with invaluable opportunities to change. I don’t believe in coincidences anymore…life to me now is more like a platter of perfection, masquerading as irony, at first appearing to serve a dish of disappointment, but if you look close enough, it’s actually serving exactly what you need.

September 23, 2014, I drank copious amounts of wine and ingested a bottle of Benedryl knowing full well that the possible consequence of this could be death. I didn’t care. I didn’t feel. I was so tired of thinking about suicide every day, that having death ‘happen’ would have been a gift to me. I didn’t want to have another nightmare, I didn’t want to watch my relationship fall to pieces, and I didn’t want to feel guilty anymore for all of the inadequacies I believed whole heartedly that I possessed. … I don’t remember that person anymore. She’s gone. She somehow climbed out of the darkness that was suffocating her slowly, breath by breath. It feels like a tornado of emotions and experiences had swept me up, and has finally spit me out; and leave it to me to need a tornado as my healing vessel, I don’t seem to do anything the easy way!

The transformation of my mind has changed me forever. I’m alive. I’m happy. I’m able to feel emotions in a healthy way. I am an amazing parent, modelling a life of hope and love for my children. I am beautiful. And I am free. I don’t blame others for my feelings anymore, and I am not obsessively attached to the fulfillment of my dreams. I now prefer to live a life that maintains the passionate wish to prolong my health and wellbeing, without harsh expectations. I let life guide me, rather than trying to guide life. I’ve realized that when I thought I always had to be at the wheel, I continued to crash into a sea resentment when things didn’t ‘go my way’. Now I breathe. I walk. I smile. And I love.

I consciously try to build a mind of love every day now, which effectively eliminates my previous negative and deluded states of mind. I have learned lessons I never could have predicted in a million years, like how to reframe my experiences so that they remain congruent with my wish to be happy. I see difficulties as my teacher, ever reminding me of the importance of humility. And try to consciously abandon non-virtuous, toxic minds. Life is perfectly imperfect (I forget where I’ve heard that line before), and one day at a time I experience its imperfections, never wasting what they are always trying to teach me.

Is It Possible To View Trauma In A Healthier Way? Part 1

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Recently I have been sharing a lot of my Buddhist lessons with you, and even when the tips are quite radical, the feedback I’ve received has been very warm and wonderful; thank you. But for the next two blogs I have a lesson to share that requires A LOT of open-mindedness. It may cause you to laugh out loud and call this ‘a joke’, loud enough that I may even hear you from my home. Heck, you may even unfriend or unfollow me out of sheer refusal to believe that this mindfulness technique could even be possible. But, I’m prepared for the backlash if it means that this advice can help even one person as much as it has helped me. I want you to be prepared that this, and my next blog, may cause dark memories to bubble up for you, but by no means do I intend to cause you pain! What I DO intend is to provide you with a way to see these memories through a different, healthier perspective.

Like I have spoken of before, all feelings are universal, therefore no one (except a sociopath) is exempt from being hurt at some point in their lives. Trauma, abandonment, heart-break, natural disasters, accidents, deaths…(the list is endless), are all sources of gut wrenching, seemingly unrecoverable events which cause us an unending cycle of torment. This torment can be so extreme that we may even turn to destructive choices, such as drugs and alcohol, to numb the pain they cause; but that numbness doesn’t last forever (trust me) and we eventually experience the pain again…and sometimes even worse.

Our lives are filled with so much agitation and angst, often because, whether we realize it or not, trauma can continue to harm us by stifling our healthy choices years after the event(s) occurred. So what can we do with these thoughts in order to live in peace? And is that even possible? No one wants to live with the resentment and anger these events cause us, and which in essence keep traumatizing us and making us very ill. So I ask you, if there was a way you could change your view of these traumatic events, would you consider trying it?

The mindfulness technique I want to share with you in this blog is called reframing. No, this doesn’t mean literally reframing the pictures in your home, but it does mean reframing the pictures in your mind. This technique blends the acceptance that 1)we create, and can therefore change, our emotions, with 2) we truly deserve to be happy no matter how much pain our past has caused us. Reframing moves us away from judging our experiences, (without losing their reality), and changing the negative energy surrounding them to positive. By putting a new view or ‘frame’ on our experiences, we change the way we see them. It involves giving yourself permission to take off the frame which other people or an event put on your memory for you, and finally choosing your own frame! It’s like a redecorating of sorts…but of your life. We can’t throw out our family trees, or turn back the hands of time to avoid a trauma (even though God knows so many of us try to), but we can choose to see our past’s through a different more peaceful perspective…and I’m going to show you how to do that.

I have had MUCH success with ‘reframing’ when it comes to my painful childhood memories. When my mom sent me away to a home for unwed mothers when I was 18 years old against my will, this experience caused me to carry anger, resentment and guilt for the next twenty years of my life! And for those entire twenty years, my only means of ‘recovery’ from this trauma was to numb the pain with alcohol, speak badly of my mother, and convince myself that I would be ok as long as I stayed mad at her to prove that I would never accept what she did to me, my daughter, her father and my siblings. HA! That would teach her right?! Wrong. Even an apology from her about ten years back didn’t change the frame attached tightly around this traumatic event in which I saw it through. Without reframing this experience, which washed my hands of my mother’s motives, self-pity would have continued to affect my ability to trust, love, and forgive I’m sure for the rest of my life.

Through the lesson of reframing, I was eventually able to see my mother’s choice to send me away differently. MY frame included truly understanding that my mom was doing the best she could at that time. It involved my acceptance that SHE was probably sick too. The lies she told became her truth, and yes they hurt me and so many other people deeply, but MY frame comprehends that I will never be able to understand what was in HER head, or why she thought her actions were just…so scrutinizing them will only prolong my pain.

Now this is where I feel that some of you may be yelling at your computer screen because you may be misinterpreting reframing as acceptance of her actions. But reframing couldn’t be any further from that! I DO NOT ACCEPT the pain and tears I witnessed my daughter experience when she didn’t hear from her dad on her birthdays, or any other holidays. I DO NOT ACCEPT the pain which removing me from my daughter’s father’s life caused him and his family. I DO NOT ACCEPT lies. Nor DO I ACCEPT manipulation. But in order for me to heal and grow in a peaceful way with this trauma inevitably always a part of my life, I DO accept giving myself permission to forgive and permission to understand that I am not my mom, and I am not her choices. THIS new frame is MUCH more beautiful! THIS new frame gives me peace! Yes, THIS new frame still allows me to see this traumatic experience as a part of my past, but more importantly, THIS new frame no longer allows it to be a detriment to my future.

Just like redecorating your home takes time and patience, so does redecorating your memories. My advice is to work on one room at a time. It will take some courage to dust off the old, ugly photos you’ve been hiding in a drawer. But when you choose to, and after your tears have washed them off, you don’t need to display them on a mantle, but putting YOUR frame around them will make them easier to display in your mind.

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