Paramedic Nat

A Blog About a Paramedic's Mental Health Journey


January 2016

Wings of Change – Peer Support Launch!


Wings of Change – Peer Support meetings, where ALL first-responders, military members, communications officers, and healthcare providers, be it professional or volunteer, are welcome to participate in anonymous, solution-based discussion and education regarding any occupational trauma. While an employer may be providing Wings of Change’s contact and location information as a resource they sanction, they are not directly affiliated.
Wings of Change – Peer Support meetings are informal and only facilitated by peers experiencing similar struggles with traumatic calls/events. The diagnosis of a mental illness such as post traumatic stress disorder is not required in order to attend, however, we advise that all participants seek professional medical help, and do not rely on these meetings as their sole means of support. Individuals are welcome attend as often as they’d like, and to participate in the discussion, or to simply sit back and listen to what is shared.
Anonymity is a fundamental component to Wings of Change’s attraction, however we encourage individual discussion and sharing outside of each meeting on personal terms in order to combat mental health stigma. Wings of Change meetings offer a safe and caring place for our dedicated community members to heal through talk, fellowship and education.
Our Mission: Encouraging a new outlook where the need for all first responders, military members, healthcare providers and communications officers to be comfortable with uncomfortable, no longer exists

The Wings of Change – Peer Support meeting model, has been in the making for several months now. I would like to thank the following people who have helped and supported its development along the way!
A special thanks to Syd Gravel, retired Staff Sergeant from the Ottawa Police Service and a Member of the Order of Merit for Police, and one of the founding father’s of the Robin’s Blue Circle peer support group, whose group model has been adapted to create Wing’s Change.
Thank you to Jim Harris, Barrie Director of the Canadian Mental Health Association who encouraged me from day one to create this peer support model, and for providing the Wings of Change Focus Group’s meeting location each month.
Thank you to Vince Savoia, founder of the Tema Conter Memorial Trust, who’s positive feedback and support has been unwavering throughout this development journey.
And especially to the following people who’s passion to implement a peer support model like Wings of Change, was incredible!
Caroline Richards AEMCA, ACP (Paramedic)
Marcel Martel AEMCA, PCP (Paramedic)
Peter Neuman (Police Officer)
Deb Snow (Registered Nurse)
Alice Weatherbee (Communications Officer)
Lindsay Parisani AEMCA, PCP (Paramedic)
Bernie Van Tighem, CFO, BAppBus; ES (Fire Chief & Paramedic)
Karen Bilecki (Paramedic, Registered Nurse & Physician Assistant)
Andrea Logan (Registered Nurse / Nurse Practitioner – Paediatrics)
Dawn Heshka AEMCA, PCP (Paramedic)
Lloyd Brownell (Police Communications Officer)
Patrick Riley AEMCA, PCP (Paramedic)
Nicholas Harris (Police Officer)
Bonnie Bradley AEMCA, PCP (Paramedic)

For a free copy of the Wings of Change – Peer Support model, which includes a Letter to Participants, Chair Person’s Guide, Meeting Readings, Topic Suggestions, our Mission, and Q&A’s, and a power-point describing how a meeting is facilitated, please email me at:

girl medic

Photo by: Dansun 

Suicide Awareness for Jamie


I had the pleasure of co-hosting an event this evening with Ozz from Rock 95 in Barrie, Ontario. Jammin’ for Jamie is a night where music and friendship come together to remember Jamie Turner, a registered nurse who died after battling mental health illnesses. Jamie’s brother in-law, Tim Tozarz and the Turner family remembered Jamie the way he would want to be remembered; through music. This night for mental health awareness was filled with hope and laughter and I was honoured to be a small part of it.

Thank you to the Turner Family, for donating the money raised to The Canadian Mental Health Association and the Tema Conter Memorial Trust.

Jamie would be proud, and I sure he was Jammin’ along ❤️

From My Rock, Mandy


My sister-in-law Mandy, is my rock. But she’s not like any rock! She is the kind of rock you find while you’re alone on a beach and the sun reflects off of it just the right way for you to be able to find it. She’s beautiful, and doesn’t ever push her way onto the shore. She is content with shining in the background, compassionately allowing the other rocks to enjoy the view too. Peacefully glistening on a path less travelled, she blesses the earth wherever she lands. She’s a tiny rock, but she is strong! And I am so lucky to have her in my life.

Today Mandy dropped a birthday gift and card off for me, and I wanted to share what she wrote in the card because it means so much to me. So, with permission…

“Natalie, Natalie, What a tear 2015 was! In hindsight it was…I think…your best year ever. You packed a lot into those 12 months, you learned a lifetime’s worth of lessons, you ran (and won) more ‘mental marathons’ than any Olympian, you forgave and you were forgiven, you set boundaries and stood your ground, you rekindled a love for your profession, you made plans and released them to God, you saved countless, faceless lives and also a few you knew too…But most importantly you saved yourself, your family and your future. All the best for 2016 Nat! Namaste.”

mandys gift

“P.S. Here is your very own Buddha journal. I can’t bear to see you take notes on your grocery receipts anymore! LOL!”

man and I

Thank you Mandy! I love you! xoxoxoxooxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxodoxoxoxoxoxoxo

…And Then Listen.


Happy #BellLet’sTalk Day! Yes, I know that it is somewhat commercial with ‘Bell’ in the hashtag, but the reality is that this day raises millions of dollars for mental health research and treatment (over 100 million to date if my memory serves me right), and is donated by Bell – to me that deserves a huge THANK YOU…commercial or not.

Thanks to champions such as Canadian Olympian Clara Hughes, we are learning how talk is the key to the initiation of mental health illness diagnosis and treatment, and what a tremendously important awareness that is! But what happens when a loved one or friend does talk to you? What do you do? Take it from this mental illness survivor when I say that now that we’ve encouraged the discussion, the correct action is essential! But don’t worry, the answer may be more simple than you think. It goes like this…are you ready?…LISTEN!

Family and friends are often so well intentioned and hate to see their loved one in pain -of any kind. But when it comes to mental health, the often stigma-filled invisible pain which is associated with it makes for an uncomfortable conversation between people because of two factors. 1) the person talking about their personal concern is afraid of being judged, and 2) the person being told about the concern doesn’t know how to help. Well let me ease some minds out there on #BellLetsTalk Day and say to you that if you are on the receiving end of the talk, you don’t need to know how to fix the person at all, you just need to listen!

Refrain from saying, “You just need to do this or that“… The person suffering would if they could. Refrain from saying, “Don’t worry it will pass”… The person suffering won’t believe you. Refrain from changing the subject because YOU are uncomfortable!… The person suffering may not open up to you again if you do. Refrain from diagnosing, or changing the subject to something about yourself… The person talking has probably went over what to say to you a million times and has finally gotten the courage to talk…so just LISTEN!

You don’t need to have the answers right away! The person talking doesn’t expect you too; they are just as confused as you and I can tell you from experience that at the point of first-conversation, the ONLY thing on the sufferers mind is hope that they will be listened to!

Don’t minimize their feelings…just listen. Give your FULL attention to them! Because sadly, the reality is that on this #BellLet’sTalk Day, people will still die because no one listened.

Open your ears today, this may be the only chance you get to listen.

The Ceaseless Impression of Depression


I’m approaching 39 years old, but have amazingly done most of my personal growth in 1. Crazy right? Whoa! Natalie! Back up! Are you really going to use the word ‘crazy’ when you’re a mental health advocate? What impression will people get of you? So there it is…a perfect example of how a lifetime of depression-guided self-appraisal can to this day influence how I think (or over-think) I’m making an impression on people.

Even though recovering from the dark world of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction has undoubtedly strengthened my confidence and inner-peace, there is still a side of me, the tattoo-free side I suppose, that deeply safeguards my (albeit false) perpetually smiling image. But why does this side of me still ‘care’ what image I am portraying? I really have nothing to hide! I have already very publicly announced, and illustrated to thousands of my blog readers who the Natalie is behind the fragile bubble of incessant laughter. People know that I have travelled from the relentless hell of suicidal ideation, to the heaven of self-acceptance and love. So why would it still matter that I make a good impression, when I’m pretty candid about, well…everything?

I think the answer lies in the fact that I am still a woman who battles mental illness in a society that often smiles and nods in the lime-light of mental health awareness, but quickly closes the blinds when the cameras are off to retreat to the comfortable world of complacency. Promoting a stigma-free community or work environment is somewhat of a social hot-topic these days, but hot-topic talk is cheap when lives are still being lost because many people simply give the impression that they maintain a stigma-free view of people who battle mental health illnesses, when really they would rather gargle hornets then speak out about the stigma-acts they still witness.- So no wonder depression still makes a huge impression even on me.

So even thought I think to myself from time to time that some people probably roll their eyes because my blog posts still appear on Facebook and Twitter, I’m not even close to shutting-up. At the end of the day your impression of me is really none of my business.

Not Yet…


People have been asking me for advice on how to cope with sadness a lot lately. What techniques do I use when I’m really upset? How do I manage REALLY bad days? Well, I have a tip that may help a lot of you out.

Let me preface this tip with the disclaimer that people who have NOT been burned in the depths of depression-hell to the point where death or self-harm appears to be the only form of solace, may disagree with the advice I am about to give. But for those of you who HAVE been there, I am pretty sure you will find that this technique can help you to get through those days of hell, like it recently helped me.

I had a horrible day a few weeks ago. So much so that for the first time in over a year, I felt the petrifying feeling of numbness that came with my old suicidal ideations, and I started to reflexively dissociate. When this feeling crept in I fought to ignore it with all my might! I didn’t want to admit to myself that it was even possible for me to still feel that way. Logically, it made sense that because thoughts of suicide had been my automatic response to traumatic emotions for so long, that of course my brain would jump to that same permanent option to remove myself from those emotions when they appeared again. Death was my ‘out’ for so long! And just like a smell can trigger a memory in a second, feelings can trigger emotional responses just as quickly.

So on this day, I sat in my car, crying harder than I had cried in a very long time. Uncontrollably sobbing and wanting to literally vomit. I cried and I cried, and then out of no where the thought of suicide appeared; in a very different form, but nevertheless, it appeared. I KNEW that I wasn’t going to kill myself. I KNEW that this was sadly a common reaction to my previous traumatic emotions. But that knowledge still didn’t take away the battle that ensued between a devil and an angel on each shoulder, tugging me back and forth from familiar thoughts of destruction to reminders of how far I’ve come.

Then out of nowhere, something amazing happened. Something simple, but so powerful! While the devil was winning and my mind was spinning…the angel would whisper, ‘Not Yet’. The devil would remind me how easy it would be to stop the pain…and the angel would whisper, ‘Not Yet’. The devil would pull me so deeply into my sorrow that I believed that I was sick enough to hurt myself…then the angel would whisper, ‘Not Yet’. The devil would try to convince me that one drink would be ok, and that no one would know!…then the angel would whisper, ‘Not Yet’. Minute by excruciating minute, I told myself, ‘Not Yet’, and minute by minute, the suicidal pain went away, until finally I was strong enough to turn to the devil and scream, ‘No!’.

While immersed in the depths of my darkness that night, ‘No’ to suicide was impossible to say, because in that state, ‘Yes’, is my mind’s only (albeit toxic and potentially lethal) possibility to cope with the pain. But, ‘Not Yet’, gave me the time I needed to calm down, and still feel like I was in control.

While in a hell that contains no logic, I knew I could say ‘yes’ to killing myself IF I wanted to, and that’s where those of you who have never been in this hell may not like this technique because ‘yes’ is an option for delusional minds. But having a ‘yes’, option does not at all mean I suggest the implementation of it – but it’s important to be realistic and honest and accept that when I’m suicidal, ‘yes’, is a very loud option. To you, ‘No’, to suicide may be the immediate, and only possible option; but luckily, that means you’ve never been to hell.

‘Not Yet’, allowed me to remain on earth until my deluded irrational thinking subsided. ‘Not Yet’, let me play the tape to the end and remind myself how amazing life is now. In short, ‘Not Yet’, gave me the time I needed with my angel. ❤


Emotions and Angels

Well, 2016, has started off with a bang! A bang of water-shoes, laughs and tan lines to be specific! Instead of spending money on Christmas ‘things’ that get used once and then forgotten about the day after, this year my family and I decided to spend money on memories. So I travelled to Cozumel, Mexico with my son, brother, sister-in-law, niece and nephew, and enjoyed seven days of blissful sunshine and well deserved relaxation. If you asked me last January, while I was adapting to my new sober, post-Homewood, lifestyle, if I thought I would have, a) been sitting on a beach in Mexico in a year, and especially, b) that it would be with the family members whom I thought I had lost after they desperately and necessarily removed themselves from the road of destruction which I was barreling down, I would have said NO WAY! IMPOSSIBLE! ….But, here I am, sitting in my ‘blogging spot’ (aka bed) with a kick-ass tan and a beach-bag full of memories with those family members.

family lunch

Along this journey of life, we are blessed with meeting people who impact our growth on very profound levels. In fact, under the right non-coincidental (in my opinion) conditions, strangers can turn into friends in all of a heartbeat really. Maybe two people find that they have experiences in common, or mutual friends. But I am learning that strongest bonds are formed through the realization that two people have experienced the same emotions; ‘universal-emotions’ if you will. And further to my very non-scientific observations, the emotion that connects two people faster and stronger than any bond, is that of loss and grieving. The moment when a heart feels the pain of another person’s heart, is in my opinion the bond of humanity.

While sitting around the pool in Mexico, we met a family from Edmonton, Alberta. Striking up a conversation about who’s driveway had the most snow when they left is a given when you are both from Canada, but more pool time together revealed a much greater connection; that of the mutual experience of loss. They were also on a family vacation, but their reason for such a vacation was much different from ours. They were away together to support one another while they grieved the sudden heart-breaking loss of a young lady. Megan, was the wife of one of the family members, and sister to another. She was only 29, and tragically died just this past October. Seeing and feeling the emotion of loss in their eyes was excruciating. While the family member who lost his wife ate breakfast alone, or tried his best to relax by the pool, I could barely contain my tears. I kept thinking of how hard it must be, to try to just…be. And I kept thinking of how close it was that my family almost experienced the same when I tried to take my own life last year. I felt selfish and embarrassed recalling this time in my life, but I have come to accept that I was VERY sick then, and that I need to live in the now in order to continue to heal, and to allow these experiences to increase my gratitude rather than increase my guilt; easier said than done though.

My sister-in-law Mandy, experienced her own connection with our new friends as their story reminded her of her father, Rudy, who died several years ago. The universal emotion of grief may lessen over time, but sadly it never fully leaves, and she couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming amount of compassion for this family, and could identify immediately with their grief.

What this amazing family has realized is that by acknowledging the universal emotions of loss and grief through a charity they have created called, Circle of Angels, they are able to heal together. Amazing! And by doing so they are helping so many around the world do the same! A jewellery designer in the family created a beautiful, small angel accessory in which the family gets together to assemble, while they remember their lost loved ones and inadvertently grieve together.

On our last day in Mexico, my sister-in-law, brother and I were each generously given one of these angels.

circle of angels

I want to once again thank our Alberta friends not only for the gift of these beautiful angels, but for the gift of friendship and healing. See you next year 😀

You can purchase your own angel and learn about this inspirational charity on their Facebook page: A Circle of Angels





Possible Delay on PTSD Bill Reading. 


Wings Of Change – Peer Support 

A glimpse into what will finally be revealed on Feb 1st. Stay tuned. 


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