Paramedic Nat

A Blog About a Paramedic's Mental Health Journey


November 20, 2014

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,

Thank you Clara Hughes!


photo 2-2

photo 1-2

And one for Caroline!


Thank you so much Clara! You are truly an inspiration to SO MANY! I feel like it’s my birthday! 🙂

Create a free website or blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: