Paramedic Nat

A Blog About a Paramedic's Mental Health Journey


October 26, 2014

To Teach or Not to Teach?

Appropriate Goals

Well you all know by now that I have experienced some huge highs and lows during my journey. But through talking to friends, classmates and my teachers, I’ve come to realize that that’s just what recovery is all about. When I returned to class on Thursday after my overdose, my classmates were happy to see me…but not surprised I had relapsed. My teachers were so supportive, but they didn’t gasp when I told them. They simply said that it was part of many people’s journey, and that they were happy I was back. Their reaction made me think about a point that was made in ‘co-dependency class’, “Set higher standards for yourself, and more appropriate goals.” I feel it speaks to my perfectionist past (and present…let’s not kid ourselves here…I was bummed when my tree pose at yoga looked more like a soggy noodle), and reminds me that I’m allowed to have high expectations of myself, but they need to be reasonable. Relapsing and overdosing again shattered my confidence and made me feel like a failure…again. But I’m human; it wasn’t realistic to think that overnight healing would be an appropriate goal. Now, I do wish that if relapse is part of recovery that it took the form of me skipping class secretly, and not in almost taking my own life. But it happened…there is nothing I can do about it. I need to keep my recovery standards high, but appropriate.

To Teach or Not to Teach? That is the Question

I went to church today with a close friend; it was a mission I needed to accomplish as per AB’s loving direction. AB knows that I am a spiritual person, but not an avid church-goer, and figured I would be able to take something home from being in that spiritual setting again. I must admit, while growing up I often found that the sermon given each time resonated with respect to some current contention in my life…and today was no exception. “Love your neighbour as you love yourself”, was the theme of the day. Interesting…and tricky! I promise I am the first ‘neighbour’ to not love any ‘neighbour’ who stands too close to me in a line-up. Anywhoo…the theme instantly reminded me of the few nay-sayers of my blog. To be fair, most of theses ‘devil’s advocate’s’ concern (pun intended), revolved around the possibility of the blog distracting me from completely focusing on my own recovery. Interesting thought neighbours…but allow me to share my own view on this topic. (Co-dependency class 101; Have an opinion. Don’t be passive…I got this!) If I am to love you as I love myself, why wouldn’t I share my journey in hopes of helping even one stigmatized mental health illness sufferer? What an amazing thing to be able to do! Document my own turbulent journey, allowing me to heal as I write (which I love to do), AND help someone who is going through the same or similar experiences? I’m pretty much loving neighbours everywhere by loving myself! So I would like to thank the handful of people who have expressed their concern that my blog is taking up my healing time… and remind them that this blog has allowed me to breathe again, rather than suffocate in darkness and stigma…and If by chance some neighbours get to breathe along with me….well AMEN!

Day 10 – Compliments

Friday’s class at ‘save my life school’ was actually pretty fun. Prior to acupuncture and relaxation class, (which I totally love! )we all sat around the table and learned how to take a compliment… Sounds easy, right? Well for people who have ‘negative self-talk’ on a regular basis, it’s not easy at all. Some of the mental health illnesses we have cause our brain’s to convince us that we are not as valuable as we are. The chatter that happens in our minds tells us that we aren’t worth loving, or that people are better off without us, etc… And when someone tries to pay us a compliment we think they are being sarcastic, or that there is a secret message behind the positive words; when in actual fact…they simply mean what they say.

The teacher gave everyone a blank piece of paper and asked us to write our names on the top. Then he told us to start passing the papers to our right and everyone had to write a compliment about the person who’s name was on the paper. This might be fun. Not everyone in the class had met before, so it was difficult complimenting personality traits, but no matter what, it wasn’t difficult to compliment something. Some of my compliments included, “I like the way you express yourself”. That’s very nice. I always thought I was horrible at telling stories, and me telling a joke is usually a “You have an amazing tattoo and it suits your personality, so does your hair”. Once again a very nice compliment. I love my tattoo and hair as well, but I didn’t know that people liked it that much. “Natalie is a strong person who is kind and caring towards others”. I loved this one. It made me smile. “I enjoy your insight on addiction and it’s refreshing to know there are others who struggle with it like I do!” Wow, I think the same about everyone else in the room. We all have so much in common. They are like my new family members! The exercise was definitely a success.

The compliments put a smile on everyone’s face! It took all of 20 minutes to complete, and we felt so great about ourselves afterwards. So why couldn’t we keep our heads held high and accept compliments every time they are given? We all deserved to be loved and respected, but sadly the mental health stigma had taken away our ability to believe we were worth it. Our illnesses made us think that we looked weak in other people’s eyes, and that compliments had ‘a catch’. But they didn’t…we just needed to learn how to accept them.

The class got me thinking about not only receiving a compliment, but also receiving and accepting support and help. Before this journey began, I was the worst at asking for help. I felt I was putting the person out. Everyone has such busy lives. They don’t really have time to help me. AB and Ian were two people who ALWAYS told me to ask for help when I needed it. And it took them a very long time to convince me that that was ok. “Natalie, you just need to open your eyes. People WANT to help you”, AB would say. “Nut, (my no-pun-intented nickname) you don’t have to be everything for everyone. You can say no sometimes”, Ian would remind me often. Well, I’m happy to announce that I am slowly starting to see that they are right. I can picture AB and Ian high-fiving right now! The love and support I’ve received over the past few weeks has been unbelievable! While I was in the hospital I had a coworker close my pool and fix the fence that needed to be kicked down to get into my house on the day I overdosed. No charge…just from their heart (THANK YOU!) People are offering to make meals, help with daycare, and most recently help ‘watch’ me until I go to Homewood. (AB and Ian have me abiding by some strict rules…but I agree it is for the best.) I am willing to accept the help I need…that’s a big step for me. I feel like I’m FINALLY on the right track. I have a long road ahead of me, but with all of you beside me I don’t feel alone. I know you love me and I can’t thank you enough….Please accept my compliment 🙂

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