Paramedic Nat

A Blog About a Paramedic's Mental Health Journey



I’m A Bell Let’s Talk Ambassador 

In the words of my 11-year old son, “Whoop Whoop!”

So happy to have been asked by Bell Let’s Talk Team Leader Anita Levesque from Health Minds Canada, to be a 2017 Bell Let’s Talk Ambassador! Along side amazing mental advocates such as Canadian Olympian Clara Hughes, I will be spreading the word and sharing campaign awareness so that we can break down the walls of mental health stigma!

I will also be releasing my book Save-My-Life School on Jan 25th with a portion of the proceeds donated by me to mental health initiatives! You can order your copy today at or or or

Every voice counts! Please retweet and share my Bell Let’s Talk posts.

Social Media Press Release

Book Launch Jan 25th!


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:…/sa…/9781894813914-item.html

You can also preorder at

I Was a Paramedic!


I remember telling people over the years that being a paramedic was not the be all and end all of my identity. Yes, I loved my profession (and still do), but I was positive that I could take the good memories that I had and ‘move on’ to a different profession if need be. Wow, was I wrong! I am learning now how being a paramedic is deeply rooted in my psyche. For fourteen years it allowed me to feel like I was making a difference in the world every day. It gave me purpose and filled me with a passion for education. It allowed me to provide financially for my family. I was proud, happy and accomplished. I WAS A PARAMEDIC. Now…well I don’t know what I am.

I have come to the conclusion that I am without a doubt grieving the loss of part of my identity. So many people would give anything to stop doing their job, but I was never one of those people. Not to be insensitive to other professions, but being a first responder is more than just a profession, it’s a passion, and now having to accept that I may for the rest of my life be doing a job that I am not passionate about because I have a mental injury is very difficult for me. Allow me to elaborate…

I went from closing down highways so that helicopters could land, to closing the fridge on a good day if I choose to eat. I went from phoning base-hospital physicians to get permission to pronounce a death, to being suffocated by anxiety and not able to phone anyone at all. I went from performing life saving skills such as chest needles and intubations, to only being able to perform the life saving skill of taking my own breath. I went from teaching others how to run a dynamic cardiac arrest, to teaching others how to leave me alone so that I don’t get triggered. I went from feeling pride when I put on my uniform, to not being able to look at my uniform at all without bawling my eyes out. I went from racing to calls with the lights and sirens on, to the racing of my heart even while I’m alone in my house. I went from having friends at work to laugh with every day, to barely seeing those friends at all. I went from feeling successful, to feeling like a failure.

Don’t get me wrong, any job is a blessing, but being a paramedic is more than just a job, it’s part of who I amand rewiring that part of my conscious and subconscious world is exhausting, confusing and very difficult.

I’m not trying to sound like a complaining, ungrateful person. All I’m saying is that changing a part of me that I loved SO MUCH is not easy.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the 5 stages of grief, you can learn them by watching this super cute clip below. I think I’m close to number 5…acceptance.


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.


My Reflection on the Healing Power of Vulnerability

pie mag

I’m approaching 40 years old, but have amazingly done most of my personal growth in just one. Crazy right? Whoa! Natalie! Back up! Are you really going to use the word ‘crazy’ when you’re a mental health advocate? What impression will people get of you? So there it is…a perfect example of how a lifetime of depression-guided, self-appraisal can to this day influence how I think (or over-think) I’m making an impression on people.

Even though recovering from the dark world of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction has undoubtedly strengthened my confidence and inner-peace, there is still a side of me, (the tattoo-free side I suppose), that deeply safeguards my albeit false, perpetually smiling image. But why does this side of me still care what image I am portraying? I really have nothing to hide! I have already very publicly announced, and illustrated to thousands of my blog readers who the Natalie is behind a fragile bubble of incessant laughter. People already know that I have travelled from the relentless hell of suicidal ideation, to the heaven of self-acceptance and love. So why would I still worry about whether or not I make a good impression, when I know that I am a good person, and when I’m pretty candid about, well…everything?

I think the answer lies in the fact that I am still a woman who battles mental illness in a world that often smiles and nods in the lime-light of mental health awareness, but quickly closes the blinds when the cameras are off to retreat to the comfortable world of complacency; and that fact alone can make even me feel like I should retract certain impressions that I’ve made.

Promoting a stigma-free world is somewhat of a social hot-topic these days, but ‘hot-topic talk’ is cheap when lives are still being lost because many people simply give the impression that they maintain a stigma-free view of people who battle mental health illnesses, when really they would rather gargle hornets than speak out about the stigma-acts they still witness. – So no wonder depression still makes an impression on even me.

But alas, my doubts about speaking up and fighting for the suppression of mental health stigma always subside, and I soon feel the need to strip down to my core beliefs again. I think from time to time that some people probably roll their eyes because my blog posts still appear on Facebook and Twitter, but I won’t stop speaking the words that so many still can’t say. Besides, at the end of the day your impression of me is really none of my business anyway.

I finally feel comfortable in my own skin and the world is a much better place when I don’t have to hide. Inner-strength is much deeper than the clothes, and THAT is the impression I fight to leave.

*A tremendous thank you to Pie Magazine (Editor Sandra Roberts and Photographer Jeff Buchanan), for the opportunity to embrace yet another level of strength through vulnerability, and to learn how beautiful living without a mask can be. xo

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.


Let Our Boys Cry Too


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.


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