Paramedic Nat

A Blog About a Paramedic's Mental Health Journey


November 9, 2014

Snowy Fairytale Dreaming


Yesterday was an interesting Saturday filled with different weather, different worlds, and different ways of thinking. In the morning I woke up to the first snowfall of the year. Beautiful, soft, fluffy pieces of snow fell outside of AB’s window. And even though I’m not a fan of winter, the first snowfall is always something I look forward to…it’s sort of, magical. Wanting to experience it all, Magyver and I bundled up and went for a ‘coffee-hunt walk’ (AB doesn’t drink hot beverages so her house is coffleeless…I know, she’s nuts) and found a surprisingly good cup at the Hasty Mart…go figure. (Let’s keep in mind I was also desperate, so I could have drank ground coffee beans and I most likely would have thought it was delicious).

AB and I are addicted to the series ‘Once Upon a Time’, so after I returned with my java, we snuggled up on the couch and started a fairly substantial marathon. “When was the last time you had a day where you just relaxed and did nothing but stay comfy and watch TV?” she inquired. “Hmmmm….I’m not sure. I guess I usually have some sort of errand or cleaning to get done every day. Why?” I answered. “Really? No reason.” She turned her attention back to the TV, and let out a tiny ‘hmmm’ and I could see she was smiling from the side of her face. We then proceeded to allow ourselves to get wrapped in fairy tales like we were wrapped in our toasty blankets, and let the morning disappear as gently as the snow landing on the outside pavement.

Sadly my glorious morning bliss changed with the afternoon weather; dreary rain put me in a dreary mood. I started to feel antsy inside, so I went for another walk with Magyver to get some blood circulating in my legs. But being alone gives me busy head; aka, I tend to over think when I’m not distracting my brain. I appreciated the five episodes of Once Upon a Time distraction heaven, but quiet walks usually equalled loud thoughts for me…so I was prepared. As the ‘busyness’ started, I asked myself, what am I feeling right now?’ as my teachers have taught me to do in these situations. I need to be mindful and in the moment on this rainy walk, and discover what I’m feeling below the surface of the dripping shell of my rain coat? When this question lead to an ache in my heart, I knew the answer right away…I missed Ian. I still see him often because he checks up on me, drives me places, and visits, but it’s a double edged sword…to the heart. (I could throw in a Prince Charming analogy here…which would totally fit…but I’ll reel it in 😉 ) He’s always taken care of me, and didn’t want to leave, but my illness hurt us both and we so desperately need to heal…and now our new necessary distance between each other rips my heart out. I love anticipating seeing him. It makes me happy every time just as much as the first time we went on a date. I’ve never stopped loving him and it makes me sad to still see that look in his eye when he smiles at me. (So bitter sweet.) It’s torturous that in order for me to heal I need to be away from him. So even though the initial happiness I feel is still there every time I see him, I know the pain in my heart will always follow when he leaves…it’s inevitable…just like how the first November snowfall always turns to rain.

Fast forward to the evening. The rain has been taken over by blustery cold wind…and I have busy head again. Lovely. So I go for another walk. The wind snaps at my ears and takes my breath away. I miss the soft winter wonderland of the morning, and I think to myself, It’s funny how things that are wonderful and good can change so quickly into something that’s painful and bad. But just as things can change from good to bad, so too can they change from bad to good…eventually. Eventually my heart won’t ache as much. Eventually Ian and I will be happy again… just not together. Eventually things will settle and just be. So as I walk in the dark windy night, I reminded myself to be patient with me. My heart needs time to heal like anyone’s, and I need to not dwell on the past. So much easier said than done. I wish I had a magic wand like the fairy godmother in our show to fast forward the hands of time. But I bet even magic can’t speed up the healing of a broken heart…

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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