Paramedic Nat

A Blog About a Paramedic's Mental Health Journey


October 28, 2014

Day 12 – Productive Anxiety Day?…Say What?

On my Tuesday morning drive to ‘save my life school’, I noticed I was experiencing an odd feeling for anxiety day; calmness. “How do you think today will be for you?” asked AB. “I’m not sure”, I replied. “But I think I’ve come to the realization that it’s going to be what it’s going to be.” AB swung her head my way and gave me the serious ‘I don’t believe you Kissy’ look. “No, really!” I continued. “I can’t change the way it’s taught, and I always walk away from every class with a poignant lesson, so as long as the girl with the relentless phlegmy cough keeps her germs to herself, I will just try to breathe my way through it.” AB gave me the ‘MmmmHmmm’ look, but then said, “I’m proud of you Kissy.”

After finding my seat (as far away as possible from germ-girl), we were of course handed a multiple paged, double-sided booklet to read. Breathe, here we go. But something odd happened again as the teacher started reading! Drum-roll please!… I learned something in paragraph 1 on anxiety day! My jaw dropped as I heard the teacher say, “It’s entirely normal to experience feelings more intensely when you begin to face situations you’ve been avoiding for a long time. If this is happening to you, you’re on the right track.” So feeling extra anxious on anxiety day was what I should have been feeling all along? Eureka! Furthermore, “Many people who are prone to anxiety tend to withhold their feelings which only aggravates stress and anxiety more”. Soooo let me get this straight, my ranting blogs on anxiety day were healing for me? Nice!  Apparently feelings are not ‘right’ or ‘wrong’; feelings simply exist. The perceptions or judgements we make which lead to the feelings, however, may be right or wrong. I also learned that overtime the practice of continually suppressing your feelings can lead to increased difficulty in expressing or even identifying them. *Announcement to all those parents out there! When the process of suppression begins in childhood we can grow up feeling completely out of touch with our feelings, leaving only a feeling of emptiness. So when your child is crying…they are sad. When they yell…they are mad; and those feelings are OK! *

As we continued onto page 261 of appendix B, part 2 of the 2nd edition, (Ok, I’m exaggerating for effect), something else in the reading rang true to me with regards to my EMS family and suppressing our feelings. “In some cases anxiety and panic itself may be a signal that suppressed feelings are trying to emerge.” Interesting. I knew that my anxiety didn’t occur at work, but that may be because it didn’t have time to set in until I was home. We, as first responders, are accustomed to suppressing our feelings at work largely due to the fact that we don’t have the time to deconstruct a call that may be causing us anxiety or worry. In fact, we are often sent to the next call without even completing our paperwork. Our patients rely on our ability to be ‘on’ and focused for that next call, so we have no choice but to suppress any lingering feelings from the previous call. Likewise, according to our reading, every feeling carries a ‘charge of energy’, and when we hold that energy in and do not give it expression, it may create a state of tension. I can definitely relate to that! After a long day of back-to-back calls, my shoulders are like rocks and my irritability is an 11/10. Fellow paramedics can I get an AMEN! But if I have enough down time to eat my lunch, pee when required, and decompress after every call, I feel less tense when I get home, and I may not need to resort to that huge glass of wine to unwind. Wow, I may change today’s name from ‘Torturous Tuesday’ to ‘Tell me like it is Tuesday”!  

The last big point I could relate to today was that once we learn how to identify our feelings, the next step is learning how to express them. This usually involves being willing to share your feelings with others. Check. And that we may choose to ‘write out’ our feelings to express them. Double check! 😉

“Kissy, was anxiety day actually GOOD today?” Why yes it was AB. Yes it was.

Day 11 – Smiling In The Mirror

When I walked into class this morning I noticed that I wasn’t the little fish in the sea anymore. Five new timid, unassuming students had joined ‘save your life school’ today. As they sat there staring at the table or their hands, all I could think was, I SO know how they feel right now. They probably think they don’t belong here…that they won’t like talking in a group…that there was nothing some silly class could do to help them…that the stigma they are use to using as a shield between themselves and their voice would never disappear. My heart went out to them, but I knew from experience that regardless of how uncomfortable they felt now, they would eventually see they were right where they needed to be.

‘Self esteem’ class was first on deck today. “Anyone want to tell me about something positive they did this weekend?” asked our teacher as her first icebreaker at bat…Crickets… None of the new classmates were budging so I ‘chirped’ in, “I had a great night with some friends watching movies, eating junk food, and drinking cream soda!” (Big smile on my face). “Very nice”, replied my teacher. Then she tried another swing. “Anyone want to tell me who they think determines your self esteem?” Blank faces and uncomfortable coughs. I guess this one’s up to me again. “We determine our own self esteem”, I answered confidently. “Correct”. I’m such a prized student now…lol. Ok, last at bat, “Can anyone tell me a goal they have in their future?” Awkward stretches and coffee gulps… Don’t worry everyone, I got this. “I would like to have my Masters Degree completed by 2018″. Homerun?..Welllll maybe not so much. My teacher smiled, but a new student a few seats over mumbled, “Wow, Masters Degree…my goal was to step outside of my house today.” Awe crap…maybe just getting on base would have been a better choice Natalie; (I wasn’t sure)All scores aside, the morning class was primarily made up of the teacher asking questions, followed by me answering them to end the awkward silence. Never-the-less, I understood SO well what the new students were probably feeling; like they didn’t even know who they were anymore. (And they definitely didn’t know who the punk with the short black hair and the tattoo was.) 🙂

The teacher then went on to discuss that, “We are who we see in the mirror. We determine and control our own self-image. If we want to change our life, we must change our vision of our life”. How true! And fitting for the day. Three weeks ago I saw a scared, anxious, guilt-filled mom/student in the mirror. I was the coffee gulping, awkward stretching student who had no idea how this class would affect me. My reflection in the mirror back then, was probably what any one of the new students saw today. And that same reflection of myself probably would have rolled my eyes at anyone who mentioned that a Masters Degree was a realistic goal…at that time. 😉

It’s all perspective I suppose. I didn’t need to feel bad for saying that I wanted to complete my Masters in four years, because that’s who I saw in the mirror today. (I may not have seen it three weeks ago; not crying each night was a good goal back then.) And the new student saw going outside and facing her anxiety as her goal in her mirror today. Both the new student and I gave correct answers to the teacher’s question about goals. And I think BOTH goals and their equally evolving perspectives were home runs!

True side note: My fortune cookie tonight read,” Vision is not seeing things as they are, but as they will be”.

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