Paramedic Nat

A Blog About a Paramedic's Mental Health Journey



I Went To A Sparkle Party Last Night!

In my drinking days, I use to have what I called a ‘Sparkle Party’ around Christmas. It was a night where people could come over wearing something sparkly (just because it’s fun) and enjoy an evening of laughs …and a lot of alcohol! This year was the first time I didn’t have one, and that made me really sad. I had so many good times with my friends at those parties, and I wasn’t sure if I would ever have one again. 60867_10151288997893605_467983879_n382856_10151039113330624_1803921747_n Well last night, unexpectedly, I attended the biggest and best sparkle party I could’ve ever imagined! I was very fortunate to attend Homewood’s 25th Annual Spiritual Renewal Service, which is an event celebrating the gift of recovery, and the creation of 400 pairs of healthy, sparkling eyes, filled with hope, happiness and gratitude. Allow me to share my experience…

I hadn’t been back to Homewood, or even Guelph for that matter, since I was discharged in January of this year, and I was very nervous about the emotions I was confident would bubble-up throughout the night. Buckle up Natalie! This may be a bumpy ride! My first emotion was good ol’ anxiety on the ride there. It wasn’t anything over-the-top, but I could definitely feel it rumbling through my whole body. Luckily, I drove with two friends who’s chatting distracted the anxiety, and allowed me to quietly reflect on what it felt like to drive the route to Homewood again. It has only been 6 months since my life-changing stay there, but as we drove it felt more like 6 years. At one point I started to regret attending the event, as now being mindful of my emotions so well, pretty much guaranteed a lengthy ‘self-analysis night’. Sigh. Nevertheless, I told myself that I would survive. I was going to kick my anxiety’s butt, like the anxiety-pro I am, and soak in every moment of the evening.

When we got to the event centre, my anxiety had lessened, and began to mix with excitement as the memories of the difficult times, as well as the life-changing times at Homewood, came rushing back… vividly. I felt like I had suddenly jumped back on the Homewood emotional roller coaster; the one that scared me, twisted me in so many directions, made me sick, and made me cry, but also made me laugh and feel relief when the ride was finally over. I had no desire of riding that roller coaster again, but there I was, with another ticket for the ride, and my proverbial vomit bag tightly in hand. I wish this ride was out of order.

The Centre was beautifully decorated, and displayed obvious months of preparation. We were all given a pin that said, “Recovery Means Freedom”, and as I was examining it, I immediately bumped into my first wonderful staff member. She said I looked great (which I’m sure she would be saying to everyone, but I still accepted the compliment ), and asked about my family and how we were doing. My family!OK, hold on tight Natalie, the roller coaster is clicking up the hill! I told her that we were all doing great and immediately I felt my old friends ‘guilt’ and ‘shame’ flood my body. Rather than feeling gratitude, I felt sick as the memories of what I had put my family through were at the forefront of my mind, and they stung really bad. I knew that I should have only been feeling happiness when speaking about my family now, but it quickly became apparent to me that ‘guilt-ridden Natalie’, was still alive and kicking. Damn-it. After chatting a bit longer, I took a quick bathroom break and tried to tuck any negative emotions into my back pocket to be dealt with later. Then, one foot in front of the other, I continued to mingle amongst staff and friends with what I’m sure was a timid look on my face.

Since leaving Homewood, many people have told me that I have a ‘sparkle in my eyes’, and you know what, I can confidently say that I probably do with the amount of happiness and love I feel for life now. And amazingly, last night I got to see first hand what that ‘sparkle’ looked like, because I saw it in so many of my friend’s eyes. It was truly amazing! I could barely even recognize some people, but that sparkle was impossible to miss! Positive physical transformations made my jaw drop, and the happiness in their eyes made me smile from my soul! “THAT must be the ‘sparkle’ people are talking about”, I thought to myself. And WOW, was it a blessing to see!

The night was filled with speeches of gratitude and wellness. And at one point we did what’s called a ‘recovery countdown’. This is where a year, or month, or day is called out, and people stand up and receive a round of applause when their correlating recovery day is announced. As the days of recovery got shorter and shorter, “3 weeks”, “2 weeks”, “1 week”, I could see that the ‘sparkle’ was not so prevalent in people’s eyes. And as they continued to count, I could also increasingly see the physical demons of addiction which were still tightly grasping onto so many new-comer’s lives. All I could think was, “WOW! that was me only six months ago!” I was the one who felt and looked hopeless and scared. I was the one who simply ‘existed’ and nothing more. I was the one who had so much doubt in the program or any chance of fully recovering. And I was the one who still so desperately wanted to die as I saw death as the only way in which I could end my suffering. When a very sick lady with 5 days of recovery, who had difficulty walking was assisted onto the stage to receive a 12 step book, I could physically feel her pain. I could so clearly remember how every step felt like a mile in early recovery. I imagined how difficult it most likely was for her to even stay awake, as it was for me. I could imagine the ‘shakes’ she probably battled, and the memory ‘fog’ that would make it difficult for her to speak properly. And I imagined the darkness that I can guarantee filled her entire body and soul, and the hopelessness that she was feeling with every…single…breath. I so badly wanted to tell her that her sparkle could come back too… But she would have to learn that for herself.

Who knew that I would be attending a sparkle party again!? Certainly not me. And who knew that I didn’t need a fancy dress or shirt to have that sparkle radiating from me? Once again, certainly not me! I know that some days my sparkle won’t be as bright as the next, but what a gift to know that it’s there!

“I put my hand in yours and together we can do what we never could do alone. No longer is there a sense of hopelessness. No longer must we depend upon our own unsteady willpower. We are all together now, reaching out our hands for power and strength greater than ours, and as we join hands, we find love and understanding beyond our wildest dreams”.~ Closing Prayer

Happy Sparkling!


Hey Nat! Where Are You At?


As my recovery progresses, I’ve realized that many people have the same interesting questions for me. So I thought I’d dedicate a blog to answering some of them as I love to educate 😉

Do you still crave alcohol every day? No, not at all actually. In the early days of my recovery from my alcohol addiction I craved it quite often. But as I have completed the 12 steps, my obsession of mind has been removed. As it has been taught to me, alcoholism is but a symptom of a greater malady. In short, alcoholics use alcohol to numb and hide from deep rooted issues, and by honestly progressing through the steps which tackle root causes of our alcoholism such as resentments and fears, we recover from our malady and joyfully do not need alcohol any more. I do still have dreams of drinking, which I’ve been told is quite normal, but the actual desire to drink is gone.

I remember thinking that people in 12 step programs must be miserable and constantly trying to avoid their cravings and battle their inner demons…but it’s not like that at all. At meetings we discuss our new found happiness and purpose for life. We rejoice in having our families back, and the opportunity to live in a world that we actually love. At meetings we enjoy a fellowship that is based on courage and mutual support, not negativity and sad stories. We go to fun events and celebrate on a regular basis. I actually look forward to going to meetings to laugh with my new-found family. Meetings are nothing close to what I had imagined (or what many movies portray), and probably nothing close to what you have imagined either.

Are you a Buddhist now? I always giggle at this question. No, I am not. However, I have definitely enjoyed learning about the gifts of love and compassion in which the Buddhist culture thrive on. Attending classes at the Buddhist Centre has also taught me how to meditate more effectively; a healing tool I originally learned at Homewood. Furthermore, classes have definitely taught me to live mindfully in the moment and have allowed me to experience deep spiritual healing through guided mediation. And icing on the cake, is that I attend the classes with my sister-in-law.

Have 12 step programs made you religious? Once again, the answer is no. 12 step programs are not a religious, but they are spiritual. A life-saving component to a 12-step program is that we (the addict) accept that we could not manage our own lives, that probably no human power could have relived our alcoholism, and that a God of our understanding could and would if He were sought. ‘God’ can be anything to us. We individually develop our own understanding of a power greater than ourselves. My concept of God may be vastly different than any other person’s in the program, and that’s ok! The purpose is to realize that we couldn’t recover from our life-threatening disease by any human means, and by turning our will surrounding our disease over to ‘God’, we take the burden off of our own shoulders, and trust that faith and rigorous honesty can allow us to recover from a ‘seemingly hopeless state of mind and body’. For millions of alcoholics this acceptance of spiritual strength, not religion, has worked. And I am testament to such a powerful, life-saving component.

Do you ever regret being a paramedic? Absolutely not! I LOVE my career and the opportunities it has provided me. I still have the urge to jump in and help every time an ambulance drives by me, or every time I see ORNGE fly over my house. Being a paramedic is a gift! The lives we impact on such a positive and monumental level is profound! And the power of the relationships we develop with our colleagues is beyond words. Yes, being a paramedic made me sick. But being sick has now opened doors I never could have imagined otherwise! I have been able to educate and connect with first-responders and their families from all over the world, and have also been able to learn so many valuable tools regarding how to heal from PTSD and have been able to share them with thousands of people. I miss being on the road every day, but I cherish the time I have been blessed with to fully-recover, and hope to become an even stronger paramedic one day soon.

Do you still talk to AB? At the present time AB and I have parted ways. I love her dearly and always will, but our views on what I could manage on a personal relationship level through my recovery became different, and I needed to go my separate way for my own personal health (and probably for hers as well). My recovery is a life and death matter, and there is NO DOUBT that AB firstly saved my life, and secondly was a profoundly loving part of a major portion of my journey, but opinions change, as do people, and we respectfully have given each other space for both of our own benefit. I do believe that there is a season for everything, and maybe AB and I will reunite one day. But in the meantime I wish her happiness every day! And will NEVER discount or not cherish the gifts she has given me.

Where do you see yourself in the next year? For now I am still taking things day-by-day. I am enjoying life for the first time in my life, and making concrete plans for the future doesn’t sit well with me yet. However, I can say that I am working alongside a friend, developing a presentation I am excited to share with all of you soon. My recovery work will never end, and I look forward to seeing where this new, healthy path may lead me. Happily, I now trust in whatever the future holds, and I look forward to sharing it with you. 🙂

Your Amazing Voice :)

Hi Everyone!

So tonight it’s time to share some of YOUR messages and thoughts about mental health. First of all I wanted to say that your willingness to share is truly amazing! Every email I received was heartfelt and so moving! I know with 100% certainty that your voice will help others. And I hope with all of my heart that sharing your stories will help you as well. We need to stop this unacceptable mental health stigma, and you have taken a giant brave leap to help! I’m proud of you guys XO

So I have posted some of the emails below, and in order to be sure that I have not broken any confidentiality, I have left them anonymous until the author claims which number post is theirs in the blog comment window. If no one claims a certain post, that’s completely ok!…Your words will be heard and appreciated so much anyway 🙂

Thank you again everyone! You all get an A+ on your assignment! 😉

1. Hey Nat!

Hope I am not too late with my story of mental illness!!
Anxiety, anxiety, anxiety!!! I have been wanting to write this for awhile, but always found an excuse not too.

In May 2010, I woke up one morning at 540am with a racing heart! It felt like it was jumping out of my chest. My automatic thought was SVT! I got **** and **** up and we raced to the hospital…me thinking the worst of course, because I work in the medical profession. Picture it…us driving down the road and me telling (them) that if something happens to me, I love them very much! Funny how treating someone, it is no big deal, but when it happens to you, it is the worst thing ever!!!!

Anyway we got to the ER (where I work of course) and my heart rate is 118…far cry from SVT. But i was convinced it had resolved itself. They did every test they could and everything came back normal. The cardiologist heard something though and decided i should have an echo in the future.

That night at home i felt the same way and was so worried it would happen again. I seemed to be fine. Then a month later I was at work, i was just getting ready to start my shift and my heart started racing again. It was 140…or so I thought. they hooked me up the monitor and it was 120, i kept feeling like it was racing. Again i had a bunch of test, and nothing. They gave me an ativan and sent me home. That night it happened again.

For the next 6 months I kept having these episodes. I wore a halter monitor and went to many…I mean many ER’s i was so worried about what was going on. Anywhere we went, I ended up in an ER with a racing heart and tons of tests. I was so worried and stressed about it…i literally felt like i was losing my mind. I couldn’t think, I couldn’t focus, i was worried about everything. I didn’t even know who I was anymore. Nothing felt right. I didn’t even know what happy was because I was so worried about this racing heart. I literally felt crazy!!!!! I didn’t know what was going on with me.

At the same time, we were going through courts with ****’s house and his ex and I was pregnant and just had a miscarriage. I was a total mess. One day…i don ‘t know why, i just decided to try taking some deep breaths and relaxing when my heart raced and imagine this…it started to slow down. It took a couple of months of just calming down and realizing, this was anxiety. I was having anxiety attacks. Once I figured out how to manage them, my anxiety went way down and my racing heart stopped.

I am not exactly sure why they started but i think it was the stress of the courts and house. And once i had one attack, i just couldn’t stop or feel better until at I realized what was going on and I can control it. And you know through all of this, I talked to no one about it because i was scared of what they would think of me…even ****! My sister now has anxiety and we talk about it, which makes things better.

anyway, just thought I would share that with you…late or not too late!!

I am so so so happy to hear you got in to homewood!! you are doing so awesome and are so amazing….one of the most amazing and special people i have ever met! I knew that from the first day I saw you in class 🙂

big hugs and keep working hard

2. Nat

Just wanted to say your heading to an amazing place in Homewood. I took my 22 year old son there for addiction over a year ago for a 35 day program and I was blown away by the place and his personal results. They also worked with him on his depression which was an underlying issue he battles with.

I wish you all the best and admire your strength and open attitude during these times. Your an inspiration to many others to get help and realize mental health is OK to talk about

Thank you for all you do 🙂

Take care

3.  Hey Nat,

Congrats on getting into Homewood!! Amazing news!!! Are you still going to be able to blog when you are there??

I am a first responder suffering from PTSD. I am hoping to get back to work and go on modified duties soon, but I am still suffering. I have never felt more alone on my journey with PTSD, than I have in the past few weeks. The support that I had at the beginning has mostly disappeared. Besides having a few close friends that I can rely on, I am otherwise alone. Even the professional help that was once so active for me, has been considerably cut back. I am doing what I can to help myself, but let me tell you it is very difficult.

It is not easy for a first responder to “ask for help”. If everyone out there supports the truly wonderful causes of TEMA and Ivegotyourback911, like they say they do, I have one thing to say them…..PROVE IT. Reach out. Please don’t forget about the people you no longer see at work on a daily basis. The “out of sight, out of mind” principle takes effect eventually, but try to fight against it. You never know how one short text, email, or call to someone suffering, can make the difference between them going further down that dark path or fighting for their future.

Nat you are doing amazing! Keep up the wonderful work! All the best at Homewood!!! Talk soon.

Big hugs your way

4. Hey *** 😉

Sorry the email is late but still wanted to share. I appreciate your blog every day. It has opened my eyes to see my depression first hand (that I have been pretending doesn’t happen for years and years) it’s opened my eyes to so much that I keep bottled inside.
I’m still a bit afraid to ask for any help , but I do love to read your thoughts and it kinda brings me back to realize that my feelings and thoughts are eating me alive. Thank you for that ! It really does help.

I love you and am soooo very proud of you. All of your strength and your courage. Keep writing 😉

Love YA lots

5. Hi
I am a medic who has had problems with anxiety over the past 6 years. I am an alcoholic and an addict and have been sober 16 months. I binged to shut my head off for 4 hrs so I thought I was happy but in fact I was getting deeper into depression‎. My favorite saying was there was nothing like a beer buzz in the morning. I was getting more anxious going into work that I had no confidence in my skills and was always waiting for something bad to happen. The past two years I suspected my wife was screwing my daughter’s hockey coach. We are getting a divorce and realized how much she brought me down. I went to homewood but when I left I had no coping skills for my regular routines without the drinking. I was to a couple of therapist until I got referred to a trauma therapist. She has changed my life and understands our job and has answers for me about my feelings. We have talked about shame, guilt, vulnerability etc. and family issues. I would recommend anyone to view Brene Brown on you tube and her TED talks. She explains a lot about these feelings and have helped me cope. I have learned to shut down my head right away when the thoughts start and I am getting better control. I have been depressed for a long time and realized it is going to take a long time to fully heal. I do feel improvement on a weekly basis, I will allow myself to get sad but it is only brief and then I move on. My thoughts on recovery is listen to body and your mind. See a Trauma therapist and this is very important. I have also put some of my major problems in a higher place. I use my dad who died 35 years ago, this has relieved allot off my solders and I have a different view when I get back to the problem. Some problems solve themselves. I am in the process of starting a support group in my area so we can get people out talking and get help for medics that are in crisis. There are some good physicians that are experienced in our field. Dr Lori Gray and Dr Laidlaw in Burlington. My trauma Counselor is on board and will help with this process. I would like to treat my meeting like AA meeting where people share their feelings. Some of us may not have the exposure like other people but it is important that they learn and develop tools to prevent these feelings and for some alcohol and substance abuse to numb themselves. I also go to yoga and meditate that helps calm my mind. I feel I am managing my PTSD but do feel the pull at times to the dark side again. I don’t quite know what that is about and know I will constantly have to listen to my feelings. I have more to say but I will leave it there. I do have your back!!!! If I could be any help for someone that needs an ear or some help. My e-mail is ***** We need to join together and help one another. We can’t show emotions as medics as we have been taught. We need to change some of those thoughts.

6.   *** and I read your blog every day and we are learning lots about mental health. I feel that what has happened in our paramedic family over the past few months has changed me. It’s been tough and I will never be the same person. I have more knowledge about depression, suicide, and PTSD. I view my coworkers differently and I am able to assess and speak with my mental health patients in a new way and with more understanding. I’ve seen other paramedics now be more empathetic with MH patients where they once would have been dismissed as “crazy” or “attention seeking” before. It seems to me this fall more than ever I am doing a lot of metal health calls as well.

Mental Health is now a hot topic for me and I carry a lot of emotion with that. After ****’s death, I was pretty low and emotional and did a lot of hard drinking and would cry unexpectedly in public. This is very out of character for me, but I needed to release my pain. I spoke with **** and friends lots and having **** as a partner and friend has been great. I am lucky enough to not be susceptible to depression, but even so, it is the human condition to feel alone.
I now become even more frustrated with hospital staff that are displeased when we bring these patient’s to them. I recently picked up an OD patient from the bus station who had no where to go and did not feel safe at a shelter. He had felt suicidal and was recently released from ****. He was sent on his way with no plan and the bag of medication he came in with and subsequently overdosed on. I was infuriated. So much so that I said out loud on the call “This is fucking bullshit”. The patient thought I was mad at him and I had to explain my anger.
This disease is debilitaing and is ruining lives. Help seems so out of reach for so many. I have another close friend struggling with alcoholism and PTSD who is a police officer. She’s currently at detox then off to **** we hope. How can there not be more in place for someone whose job it is to be a homicide detective and live terrible tragedy every day!? It’s nuts. It just blows my mind and seem unfathomeable. There are so many factors that go into getting help and just not enough resources for each person. Even people like yourself, with family who loves you, an education, amazing friends and coworkers and is financially secure STILL struggles.
I really do think things will change down the road, but for now, it’s up to us individuals to look out for each other and be there for support. Ultimately, (I feel) our government, health care system and our employer are not on our side. They have failed many and there are many more to come. The most frightening part for me is that I know that **** won’t be the last EMS friend I loose to suicide. And that is where I’d like to see action. Suicide prevention programs are in place for police officers and social workers but not us? I feel confident to say that 85% of ambulance calls are mental health related and what do we as paramedics really know about it? What training to do have? We could be doing a lot more I think.
This is a disease that no one chooses and getting better means a lot of hard work. I know you are on your way feeling peace and joy again. There are great things in store for you ahead and always know you are loved.

Your Friend,

7.  I’d like to express another point that I’m learning that what seems to be a large contributor to the immense increase in depression in North America is more than just genetics. Our cultural values, our society and even what we eat are all factors leading to an epidemic of unhappiness.

8.  Hi Natalie

Wow, very clever turning the tables here onto us. Well I guess it’s only fair. Been following your progress along the way and it’s been a real eye opener. Most of us are totally in the dark when it comes to Mental Health Issues. You said to be candid and honest so here I go. In our line of work we go to these types of calls for people having a breakdown or attempting suicide or just for lack of a better term, just out in left field. We all know how we as first responders handle these by making comments to each other while trying to somehow change the atmosphere of the situation. Got to be honest and after 30 years responding to calls it’s an automatic defense mechanism. Until know, I’ve never felt that I had a personal connection ( I hope I can say that) to someone who is dealing with such issues. I will surely have a different outlook or opinion Thanks to You and your courage, strength and willingness to share your most inner personal struggles with every day life. You have kept it well hidden (I was dumbfounded when I heard) for so long and dealing with it alone. Now it’s out there and you are dealing with it head on with the help of friends and family. Unfortunately in our line of work we deal with traumatic issues on a regular basis.This only makes it harder for You as you Love being a Paramedic. Kind of a Catch 22. Myself, growing up in **** and working in **** has good points and bad points. Great to help my hometown community but every call I am wondering if I not only know the patient or quite possibly, am related to them. (just ask **** or ****, to whom I am related) Can’t tell you the number of times I have arrived on a scene only to find that the patient is a relative, a friend, a old school mates parent or a next door neighbor with the outcome not being pleasant. We all have those bad memories that haunt us and we have to learn that we are not “made of stone” or “invincible” and that we have compassion and feelings for others which is a great virtue to have but can also be a glitch in our line of work. So let’s not keep our emotions bottled up until they have a negative affect on us and the people around us. You have made that huge first step and together we can all help each other. And let’s face it, as first responders that’s what we do best.

Okay, I think I’ve Rambled On long enough to give challenge to one of your blogs. ba-doom-bing, lol

It’s great to follow your progress Nat and I’m wishing you well and looking forward to working with you again. Although it will have to be via a stand by coverage as you are a big city girl now and I’m still just a small (no pun intended) town ****onian.

All the best Nat

9. Brave, bold and courageous! These are the qualities I feel when I read your blog.

10. Hey Natalie,

It’s your cousin ****, I don’t know if it’s what you’re looking for, but here it goes.
Before you started blogging I just simply didn’t understand depression at all. I get that sometimes people get in moods and sometimes they are hard to shake, but I never grasped just how deep and firm of a hold it has over you. And you spelled it out in such a great way that I feel I understand so much more. You made it very easy for someone who doesn’t understand to at least have an idea of what you’re going through. And I am sorry thankful to you for that, I feel like I’ve maybe grown as a person reading your blog. Does that make sense?
Anyways it’s been very eye opening and I’m sure it’s done alot of good for alot of people!

Keep up all the great work, I’m so proud of you!

11. I read your blogs everyday and every time I read one I sit here and say “Wow”. Some of them are so powerful and overwhelming and I am sadden but then I continue on and I can see the little bits of healing here and there and that is good. I have cried over some for you as well as Ian and was also sadden that the two of you are not together but I understand why.

I can relate (on a very small scale) to some of your issues as I have them as well but not anywhere near what you are battling. I am a strong proponent of mental illness. I always fine it sad that we have to hide this. If you had something else you would be telling whoever!

I also read the responses and I can see that so many are finding strength through you just by reading what you have to say.

As I said, it takes baby steps but I have every faith in the world that you will do it!!!

Take Care xxxooo

12. Well good evening lol

First, thank you for writing this blog. Secondly, thank you for allowing us to speak 🙂

My apologies for not having commented more in the last while. My nephew lost his wife to cancer … breast cancer that she beat the hell out of – twice! But the last time was to her lung … and it was determined to have its way. So as a result, I’ve been spending more family time prior to my coming back north.

In the short time I’ve been reading, I can’t say as I’ve ever learned more as I have here. It’s not the medical, anatomical or pathophysiological knowledge … it’s the “face” you’ve put on it. Nearly answers to the inevitable question of, ‘how could you?’

I can’t say that it was exactly the same … but there was a time that for days to weeks, I contemplated steering into an oncoming tractor trailer unit. For days, nothing came … not a single truck. And on the day one finally did, something pulled me back and made me stop.

It’s because of that period of time, this issue means a lot to me. It’s not any of the myriad of derogatory terms … it’s real, it’s palpable and while it wasn’t long for me, it gave me a glimpse into how easily someone can get to so dark and heavy a place. No one should deal with that alone, and no one should be ashamed of it.

Thank you Nat, and thank you for all you’ve done and continue to do. I’m proud to call you a friend and a colleague, but mostly genuine and human 🙂

As always, gentle on that soul and spirit 🙂
Best always,

Rambling Confessions of Confusion

So AB says I have to blog tonight…don’t worry, she’s not Chinese water-torturing me to do so…she just knows it will be good for me and I needed a push. In fact, she actually offered to give me ALL of my responsibilities and freedom back (I think it was a test), but I declined. I’m not sure how I would handle being on my own all of a sudden; I like feeling safe with someone always with me. So while I’m indeed weaning myself off ‘save my life school’ next week, I’m not ready to be completely released into this mad world; it feels too, ‘weird’.

Ok, back to the ups and downs…I skipped school on Friday. Yup. I said it. And it didn’t come without its ‘disappointments’. I couldn’t sleep all Thursday night…I tossed and turned to no avail. So when Walter reminded me in his snuggly way that it was time for his morning pee at 0715, I had managed to get about 2 hours in total…sigh. I had a headache from hell and I felt like a zombie, which probably didn’t help my mental tug of war between the ‘you’d better go to school or you’ll disappoint people’ and the ‘but I feel horrible and not having a day to myself will make me feel worse’ emotions. I wasn’t feeling depressed or anxious; I simply felt like crap! But now that I have a mental health label across my forehead, I find it very difficult to explain to people that some of my choices are purely human necessity choices; anyone would be frustrated with not sleeping at all! But alas, now that I have a list of ‘bad decisions’ longer than Santa’s naughty list, I’m not easily trusted. Touché.

So I decided to stay home. Oh, God. I SO hope everyone will understand my decision and not give me a hassle. I hope they believe I’m actually feeling physically sick. Well I would soon find out that my loved ones were NOT impressed…and I felt horrible. And to top it all off, my confused brain thought that ‘not-impressed’ meant MAD…but it didn’t. Use your tools Natalie…you have no proof of them being mad! They simply want the best for me ALWAYS!  Over all, I had very mixed emotions about this outcome. One side of me was mad because I knew in my heart I made the right choice for ME, but no one (except my friend, Caroline) would believe me (again, I had no proof). The other side of me doubted all of my instincts and second guessed my decision. I still have SUCH a hard time not fully understanding where my distorted thoughts cross over into healthy thoughts; and it pisses me off.

Being a ‘normal’ girl feels as far away as the next galaxy to me. It frustrates me so much that my actions have caused me to not be trusted by my loved ones, and by myself. (Those damn consequences again). I ‘feel’ like I’ve disappointed so many people, and that weighs so heavily on my shoulders and makes me second guess my confidence in…me . What ‘normal’ is, I have no clue. But I use to feel like I had some idea. So I tried to do ‘normal’ things the past couple of days, and it felt great. My friend and I picked Adam up from school on Friday then went to the BulkBarn for treats (and a bone for Walter). Fun ‘normal’ thing to do – check! I had a lovely girl’s dinner with my daughter the night before. Awesome ‘normal’ girl”s-night thing to do – check! Then we all hung out and played video games (well Adam played video games). Super fun ‘normal’ thing for Adam to do – check! And I made pasta for dinner. Yummy, ‘normal’ dinner choice- check! I felt all sorts of normal…and it was amazing. I really needed it. Fast forward to today… I wanted to hang onto that normal feeling for as long as I could! I loved watching Adam play in the snow with his friends. I loved just sitting and chatting with my friend. I loved doing laundry (I can’t believe I just said that), and I loved learning with 100% certainty that my broken heart would eventually heal. This normal girl was kicking ass with commonplace!

I also went and looked at condos. I need to downsize eventually and I’m actually really looking forward to it. I still have a lot of research to do…but it was nice feeling out my options. It will also help me find another piece to the healing-heart puzzle I’m slowly putting together. I’m not running away from things (I have been known to do that from time-to-time), but rather I’m seeing that a fresh new start is what I really need…eventually.

No sad poems or posts tonight…just rambling confessions of confusion…and I’m damn sure that’s normal. 😉

“Mad World” ~Gary Jules/REM

All around me are familiar faces
Worn out places, worn out faces
Bright and early for their daily races
Going nowhere, going nowhere

Their tears are filling up their glasses
No expression, no expression
Hide my head, I wanna drown my sorrow
No tomorrow, no tomorrow

And I find it kinda funny
I find it kinda sad
The dreams in which I’m dying
Are the best I’ve ever had
I find it hard to tell you
I find it hard to take
When people run in circles
It’s a very, very mad world, mad world

Children waiting for the day they feel good
Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday
And I feel the way that every child should
Sit and listen, sit and listen

Went to school and I was very nervous
No one knew me, no one knew me
Hello teacher tell me what’s my lesson
Look right through me, look right through me

And I find it kinda funny
I find it kinda sad
The dreams in which I’m dying
Are the best I’ve ever had
I find it hard to tell you
I find it hard to take
When people run in circles
It’s a very, very mad world, mad world

Enlarging your world
Mad world

ems world

9:47 a.m.

When Natalie asked me to consider writing another blog to sort of ‘fill in the blanks’ of her third overdose on October 19th, I realized that she’s wasn’t asking me to do this because SHE doesn’t want to have to relive it … but, rather she very literally doesn’t know what happened. I hold pieces of her story that she has no memory of….I find that absolutely chilling…

9:47 a.m. – that’s when it all started. The text said, “AB I don’t feel good”. 5 words on my phone, and I knew it was happening again.

Natalie had been having some rough days prior to the 19th …none of us knew! The Queen of Facades had fooled us again. Not intentionally of course … I’m guessing she thought she could manage the emotions on her own and didn’t want to alarm us. I picture it to be like a juggling act … Natalie is an “all or nothing” girl so let’s use fire torches in this analogy. She’s juggling 3 fire torches; the torches representing her stressors. She can manage 3 torches any day of the week … bring it. Someone on the sidelines throws her a 4th … she loves a challenge … look at her juggling away. Well, now her arms are getting a bit tired, but she’s still giving it her all. Add a 5th and a 6th and she’s starting to get overwhelmed. By the time the 7th is thrown into the mix she has no energy left, she misses a catch and the entire act falls to pieces. On October 19th, the proverbial 7th fire torch was a picture (on Facebook), of Ian beside two of his friends, beer in hand, after a long day at a hockey tournament. It was a completely innocent picture, but that’s how you can tell when the anxiety takes hold, her rational thinking becomes distorted. That’s the disease. It’s not like her to get upset about something like that – the specific picture, or what it represents. And P.S – the fire torches might even top Mitchel’s dry lake analogy! BAM! Alright, it doesn’t even come close, but you get what I’m saying.

Text after text flooded my phone … it’s one of the signs that she’s not okay and things are going sideways. She’s not looking to have a chat, she’s not looking for words of reassurance, she’s scrambling to get thoughts out of her brain. I read them all, my heart aching, knowing what was happening. The text that finally sounded the alarms to move into action was ,”AB promise me you’ll take care of Caroline – just take care of her” My response, “I’m sending an ambulance and police”. That’s the last I heard from her. I tried calling her, she picked up. OMG she picked up. The fact that she was still conscious and able to answer was a relief. There were no actual words though … just faint moans and pieces of words. I kept saying, ‘Natalie, talk to me .. say something .. stay awake Natalie .. help is coming’. The phone went dead, and I couldn’t hold back my tears. The idea that those may be my last words to her shattered my heart. I got an ambulance started, and had the police attend to assist with possible access issues. I needed to find out where the kids were. I needed to call Ian and see if he could go over to the house with a key. Thankfully when I called he was in his car and went over to the house immediately. Everyone got to the house, after kicking down her gate, trying to get clearance to bust down her door, Ian arrived and let everyone in. The paramedics ran upstairs and found her on the bathroom floor. Ian sent me a text saying “she has a pulse but unconscious”. I replied, “I’m on my way”. Yet again, Natalie had an amazing team of paramedics working on her; if there was any comfort in this horrible situation it was knowing that she was getting exceptional care. I drove to the hospital, as I was parking I saw the emergency procession pulling in. It was like time stood still just for those few seconds. Standing there watching as the ambulance, supervisor unit, rapid response unit, and police car drove in one after the other … all there for one reason: Natalie. It was overwhelming.  As the ambulance doors swung open, there she was. Lifeless. Vacant. At the first opportunity I had, I went over to her and told her I was there, and that I loved her. I briefly squeezed her hand and quickly let go … that’s all I could do, or I’d cry – and I didn’t want to cry … it wasn’t the time or the place to breakdown. This overdose was different … it felt different … it happened fast, and she wanted a specific outcome. I felt like I couldn’t look at her. I wasn’t mad … I was overwhelmed with relief that she was alive … but the emotions were sitting right at the surface.  How could this happen … again!  We stood in the triage area waiting for a room, Natalie laying on the stretcher, one of the paramedics holding her hand … such a simple but meaningful gesture!  We finally got a trauma room and all the amazing nurses immediately started to work on her! We tried to help the nurses with their questions but we didn’t know ‘exactly’ what Natalie had taken, and we didn’t know the quantity (besides it being enough to render her unconscious). OMG I need to find out where the kids are. I sent Jon a text and found out Adam was having a playdate with his cousin. Okay, he was safe. I assumed Caroline was at work but I wanted to be sure. I sent a quick text. She replied right away that she was working until 6. I told her I’d be the one picking her up, and left it at that. I didn’t want this poor girl to be at work worried and terrified that this had happened … again. There was nothing she could do, so I’d just wait until 6 to tell her the news in a safe, quiet place. I’d be there to answer whatever questions she had, or listen as she vented. I stood beside Natalie’s bed for hours. With bag after bag of IV fluids going into her … she still wasn’t coming to. Not a mumble, not a groan – nothing. She responded to painful stimuli … that’s it. For hours. She looked awful. The nurses put a catheter in … Natalie didn’t even flinch. With Natalie’s permission, I can tell you the girl almost pee’d on me. Yep, that’s right … while holding one of her legs to help the nurse as she put the catheter in, my cold hands apparently gave Natalie a little jolt. Thanks a lot, Kissy! I know we’re talking about a horrible overdose … but, it’s okay to laugh at that. Lord knows we have! I’m predicting her and I will have a conversation like this one day, Nat: Hey AB, wanna go to the movies?. AB: No, I’d like to go for dinner though. Nat: Come on AB I really want to see a movie. AB: Remember that time you almost pee’d on me?. Nat: Rrrrright, dinner it is, love you. Finally after HOURS Nat started to open her eyes and say a few garbled words. She’d reach for my hand (which nearly broke my heart). When she’d try and form a word her lips would stick together because her mouth/lips were so dry … so I’d wet some tissue and wipe her mouth. I cleaned up her runny eye make-up and brushed her hair. After leaving to pick up Caroline and spending some time with her, I returned to the hospital. There was improvement. She was sitting up, and drinking sips of water. She was putting words together, but she was still so confused. By 11:30pm she was (medically) stable enough to move out of a trauma room and into a room in the mental health area of emerg. Ian and I got her settled, she ate a sandwich, we tuckered her in, said good night, and left. To say it was a long day is a complete understatement.

The next morning the phone rang early, I recognized the hospitals number and my stomach dropped. Was this a nurse calling to tell me something had happened? There is never any peace. You are always on guard. It was Natalie. Sobbing. Gut-wrenching, soul cracking sobs. “AB HOW COULD I DO THIS AGAIN – I WAS DOING SO GOOD – HOW DID THIS HAPPEN – I’M GOING TO LOSE EVERYTHING”. She asked if I was mad … I told her I wasn’t mad that she relapsed, I was heartbroken at the thought of almost losing her. I told her the only time I’d be mad is if she stopped trying to get better, stopped wanting to learn, stopped treatment. I understand relapses happen …but man oh man, they’re terrifying, and they hurt my heart. I’m grateful she’s still here to tell her story. I’m grateful she’s still … trying!

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