Paramedic Nat

A Blog About a Paramedic's Mental Health Journey


January 2020

The Smallest Things Can Have The Biggest Positive Ripple Effect – Addition Get-Well Cards Stories

Some of the latest addiction get-well cards sent to me by friends and residents.

As the addiction get-well cards campaign grows, I wanted to share some of the amazing experiences and stories I have had and been told as people deliver and create the cards. They are truly beautiful and I am so happy that such a simple activity can have a ripple effect of kindness – because let’s face it, what we definitely need more of in the world these days, is kindness.

Codrington Public School grade 6 teacher and Barrie Police special constable making addiction get-well cards.

I went to a grade six class yesterday to help make some cards along with the Barrie Police VIP Special Constable, Devon. The topic of Constable Devon’s VIP class was, ‘mental health’, so the cards fit in perfectly! She chatted with the students about different types of mental illness and how important it was to talk about so that people didn’t feel afraid to get the help they may need. Some of the students shared their own experiences with bullying, depression and anxiety. They were SO wise! It was easy to see that mental illness had affected most of them in one way or another (directly or indirectly).

While one student was making his card, he told me that his mom, “used to be addicted”, but that she was better now. My heart melted. I was so happy that he felt comfortable enough to share this with me! I told him that I used to be addicted too, and he looked at me with wide eyes. I said that I was better now as well and that I was so happy that his mom was too. I hope that our little conversation helped him to see that his mom is not alone – and neither is he.

Lots of fun making addiction get-well cards and talking about mental health.

Another boy came over to me several times to tell me how happy he was that we were taking about mental health and making cards because he had been depressed a few years ago when he was bullied in school. Tears welled up in his eyes, so I listened and made sure that he was doing well now. He assured me that he was, but that when he thinks back it can still be painful. I told him how proud I was of him that he was talking about his feelings and that if he ever needed more help to always ask his teacher. He said he knew and he would. He was very proud of his card. And I gave him several high-fives!

Several of the students told me that they were very happy that their cards were going to people who may not have gotten a card otherwise while they were sick.

I also received more beautiful hand-made cards in the mail today from my friend Rebecca and her daughter Takayla.

The messages are ones of hope and love. My favourite message said, “Your life matters to me”. So powerful and true~

The person who received one of these cards made my Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman was so overjoyed. At first he didn’t believe that the mayor actually made it – until the Director of the Rapid Action Addiction Medicine (RAAM) Clinic confirmed that he indeed did.

A local optometrist office made 100 cards the other day as well! They shared with me how important this activity was for them because they all knew of someone who battled with addiction. They delivered the cards to our local detox.

Cards made by Dr.Schell’s office in Barrie, Ontario.

If you would like to make some addiction get-well cards, all you need is some craft supplies and positive words! Post them on social media with the #addictiongetwellcards and I will add them to the Twitter page @WellCards and Instagram @Addiction_Get_Well_Cards

Share your stories about your conversations around the table while you make the cards. That is equally as important as giving them to your local detox, rehabilitation centre, hospital or friend/family member experiencing hard times with addiction.

Thank you Lana!

I will be heading to Ottawa at the end of February to make cards with MP’s from across the country. I know that this won’t stop the opioid crisis. But PART of the reason for the crisis is stigma. And opioid strategies across the county have anti-stigma pillars, so this simple project really fits well into that agenda. I will also be making cards soon with the Barrie Colts OHL Team, MP Doug Shipley, MPP Doug Downey, the Simcoe Muskoka Opioid Strategy, “Orillia Talks Opioid Event” (Feb 19th), and more! Thank you.

Great time making addiction get-well cards with MPP Andrea Khanjin, Deputy Mayor of Innisfil Daniel Davidson, Barrie City Councillor Gary Harvey and so many amazing Barrie citizens!
Cards at the downtown Barrie Library! You can go in and make some at anytime! Just ask staff and they will point you in the right direction.

Thank you Barrie Chamber of Commerce and SO MANY MORE… Check out gallery below.

Disappointing Comments Seem To Be The Norm On Social Media Nowadays

Barrie Public Library CEO and I

I knew it would happen…sigh. Sadly, it always does with any positive mission shared on social media. Somewhere along the way, someone thinks that a mission solely focused on helping others is, “a pet-project”, “insincere”, “focused on gaining celebrity attention”, “arts and crafts – not services” and so on … (actual feedback I received via social media).

I was hoping that those comments wouldn’t head my way about the addiction get-well cards call-to-action. But in my experience, when media attention picks up… so does the stone throwing. And any disagreements with my past voting choices residents may have (informed or not) reignite and get linked to my current actions.

Side note: I am grateful for the media attention for this call-to-action; it is a blessing! Not a result of a need for “celebrity attention”. The GOAL is to get the most amount of people aware of a call-to-action, be it for legislation changes, improved healthcare, social awareness, and so on. So, I tweet the heck out of things, and am grateful when media wants to share an educational story; thank you to every who has. It’s what you want for a call-to-action! Anywhoo…

Now that I am a City Councillor, I do understand that my actions are under much more scrutiny – which in many ways is fair! And I fully understand that (in most cases – not only in this instance) negative comments about a positive mission often come from a place of hurt and sadness. And if I’m truly honest with myself, I have made comments like this in the past when I felt those emotions – before I knew better. So, while the remarks I mentioned above certainly made me disappointed, I have learned that giving these comments space before I reply is best, because if I reply with harsh words out of disappointment, well I’m really just perpetuating the problem, and being hypocritical.

Ok, so where am I going with all of this?

I am hoping to educate so that people may pause before they they throw stones at a positive mission.

I have a love-hate relationship with social media because while it is an amazing resource for community information and connection, it also provides this peculiar forum for people to lash out at someone before even doing any research into why that person is doing what they are doing. If we were always made to share our feelings face-to-face, like we did for the most part before social media, (unless you were a very angry penpal 😉), or forced to do some research prior to typing, I don’t think so many hurtful remarks would be shared, because before even making it to the face-to-face encounter, or mean tweet, the questions that caused the anger to arise in the first place, would be answered.

I have said it before, and I will say it again: would you like to have a coffee and chat about it? Let’s build bridges together. Not burn them before you even step foot on it.

Thankfully, the happiness that this simple call-to-action is bringing won’t be lessened by disappointing remarks. Love always wins! In fact, after the sick feeling in my stomach subsided after reading those comments, my desire to do MORE emerged.

These cards may not solve the opioid crisis – I never claimed that they would. But I do know that the person who received the get-well card from Mayor Jeff Lehman was so overwhelmed and grateful, and definitely felt connected to the community. And that the women in the detox who received them were in tears. And that individuals have messaged me and requested that I send one to a loved one. And that a wife messaged me and said she understands her husband more more now. And that organizations are making conversations about addiction in the workplace less filled with stigma. And that police officers will be connect one-on-one even more with youth while they make cards in our schools. And that even some doctors are looking at addiction differently. And that at the end of the day… I tried.

One Last Ride

Off to a book signing at a Chapters in Mississauga. The day was dreary. Sleet was covering the roads and threatening to freeze as the temperature read 2 degrees …then 1 degree. Ok, good, back up to 2 degrees. To be honest, and at the risk of sounding ungrateful, I wished I could have stayed in my pyjamas and blocked the cold outside world out. But, Heather and Matt were waiting for me. So, I salted the walkway and stumbled along what was left of the ice from the day before in my high heeled boots.

I got to the Chapters happy to find everything set up already – Heather is great like that. I was even happier to see Matt’s, “A Medic’s Mind”, banner and his books on the table. This moment was very full circle for me – sort of a proud mama moment. I had been introduced to Matt via a mutual friend several years ago, and we connected on Twitter. Instantly, …and I mean INSTANTLY, I was so impressed by his writing and creativity; this guy had talent – and I was happy to retweet what he shared. We became fast friends for many reasons: our love of writing, our dark humour, but mostly because we were both former paramedics now battling PTSD. Matt was a military medic. And I was a medic in Simcoe County, but the colour of our uniforms were irrelevant – we were the same.

Back then I was a bit further along in my recovery than Matt, and could tell from our conversations that he was still working through an early anger and frustration phase. (I could remember being there myself very well.) So, I was a friend and helped as much as I could while he navigated his emotions. (Once again, I could remember being there myself very well.)

Deep down, I knew there were big things in Matt’s writing future. He just needed a bit more time to get healthy enough to rip open some old wounds. He eventually did – and, “A Medic’s Mind” was born.

I was honoured to be at a book signing beside Matt today.

After I put up my, “Save~My~Life School” banner, we sat beside each other to await the interested book-lovers. Little did we know that what would ensue would be a healing and amazing moment for both of us.

With Matt in the figurative, ‘driver’s seat’, and I in the ‘passenger’s seat’, we became paramedic partners, reminiscing about the good ol’ days. It was like the clatter and busyness of Chapters disappeared, and we were back in the truck again. We instantly chatted in our paramedic lingo. And laughed so hard about some memories that will always make us smile! I had tears running down my face as he described an impromptu zombie apocalypse plan that needed to make happen on a call, and when my partner accidentally made a hoarder house, ‘a mess’. Without even noticing, we were back there, in the truck, remembering what we loved so much about being paramedics, and then, with a blink of an eye, a person wanted a book signed and Chapters had returned.

It was a magical day; I’m so happy I didn’t stay home. Being able to reminisce and smile together was super healing. We both reminded each other that we were ok with what our new futures held; were ok with that being our last ride.

We got to roll up our banners at the end of the day, and go home to our new futures. We had an opportunity to see that we were really only a moment away from laughing at the good times – all we needed to do was sit beside each other, like a driver and a passenger… and we didn’t have to do a night shift to get there.

I’m proud of you Matt! The future is so bright for you! And of course safe with your zombie apocalypse plan 😉

Video By Matt

I Could Use Those Stones You’re Throwing

To the people who love me no matter what; thank you. You remind me to smile.

To the people who love me sometimes; thank you. You remind me to self-reflect.

To the people who hate me no matter what; thank you. You challenge me to keep sending you love, even when you hurt my heart.

To the people who throw stones without even knowing me; thank you. You start conversations that cause more positive change and push me towards my passion.

To the people who hate themselves and radiate their negativity towards me; thank you. You remind me how much more love this world needs. And I’m sorry you are in pain.

Let’s have a coffee. Ask me your questions face-to-face. Please stop throwing stones. I could really use those stones to build the bridge. ❤️

Thank You Barrie Fire Department

Barrie Fire and Emergency Services donated $500 to Brainstorm Revolution and Paramedic Nat’s Valentine’s Event

Still looking for something to do this Valentine’s Day in Barrie? Well, you could win tickets to:

If you follow Barrie Fire @Barrie_Fire on Twitter, tickets will be given away in pairs over the next few weeks.

The event will benefit the RVH Mental Health and Addiction programs.

You can also purchase tickets via the link above at anytime, and follow the add-on directions to make a night of it with a buffet dinner and special room rates.

Hope to see you there for an evening of LOVE AND LAUGHTER ❤️

Make Addiction Get-Well Cards In The Classroom And Breakdown Stigma

People battling addiction deserve get-well cards too!

The #addictiongetwellcards call-to-action is dedicated to changing the way we look at addiction. Some see addiction as a choice and that causes many people battling addiction to be abandoned by family and friends, and feel isolated from their community. Some people believe that these individuals can “just stop”! That is not the case. Addiction is a disease with deeply rooted causes and requires treatment like any other disease.

As a recovering addict myself I am friends with many other recovering addicts, and I have seen the hurt and confusion in so many people’s eyes when they are made to feel less than other members of society because they battle addiction. Some people roll their eyes and act disgusted when they see someone who is living on the streets or not able to work or care for their family because they are consumed by the hell of this disease. Everyone deserves treatment for addiction, but we are still in need of government funding to provide this for everyone – Ontario’s Bill 116 is a great start to this effort! In the meantime, everyone battling addiction deserves a get-well card.

Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman and I with our addiction get-well cards

All you need is some craft supplies and a desire to open up the dialogue about addiction in your classroom to participate in this mission! Sharing experiences and beliefs will breakdown the walls of addiction stigma.

Barrie Fire Fighters making addiction get-well cards

After you make the cards, deliver them to your local detox centre, addiction treatment centre or hospital mental health department. You will truly help people know that they are worthy of wellness too! Their card may be the ONLY piece of support they receive from the community. You can save a life and change the way our children view addiction by participating in this simple activity.

Add the hashtag #addictiongetwellcards to your social media posts about this activity. Spread the word! The more cards the better! Thank you.

Addiction Crisis – What can YOU do?

Lots of people ask me what they can do to help with the opioid and addiction crisis? They feel like it is too big of a problem for them to make a positive impact on. They see and share the pictures of needles on our city streets and say that not enough is being done … and then do nothing themselves. I totally feel their frustration. And I believe that education is the key to empowerment and change.

Information you may not have yet:

Big changes are happening at the city level to address this crisis – many of which are behind the scenes at this time; and some will forever be behind the scenes for confidentiality reasons. Big changes take time, money, resources, policy changes, government and service buy-in, innovation, and … many actions to occur.

But small changes ALSO lead to big changes. And YOU can be a part of those small changes. Today. Here are some suggestions:

  • carry naloxone with you;
  • participate in the #addictiongetwellcards initiative;
  • have conversations with your family and friends about mental health and addiction so that stigma breaks down;
  • volunteer at one of the many social service providers in our city;
  • change conversations you may hear that contain incorrect stigma-filled dialogue to conversations of positivity and hope;
  • tell someone who you know is battling with addiction that you care about them and are there for them; and
  • write to your government leaders and share how important you feel legislation is that provides everyone with mental illness and addiction treatment. (For example: Bill 116)

Be PART of the change.

Addiction Get-Well Cards – Global News

‘Reduce the stigma’: Barrie city councillor calls for people to make addiction get-well cards

Barrie Fire Department Make Addiction Get Well Cards!

Lots of fun making these cards!
I just went to the Dollar Store and got some simple craft supplies.
Thank you Barrie Fire! Your #addictiongetwellcards will truly brighten someone’s day!
My friend Lana had a great experience delivering some cards she made to a Toronto detox. Xo
All you need to do is make some cards with friends, family, coworkers, whomever! And take a photo with the hashtag #addictiongetwellcards and post to @WellCards on Twitter or @Addiction_Get_Well_Cards on Instagram

Let’s make sure that people battling addiction know that they deserve wellness too.

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