Read Part 2 of Natalie’s story here.
From Jason: I’ve gotten to know Natalie and her story in the last month. I’ve also connected with a neighbor of hers through my commenting on Nat’s blog. He can’t speak highly enough of her and I can only agree. She is an amazing woman with a powerful story that is sadly, far too common among our first responders, I’ve decided to split her story into two sections. I’m cruel that way 🙂
It was a day like most other days. The sun was shining and the air was crisp, reminding me that fall was around the corner. Home alone, I was wasting time trying to fill my mind with something other than feeling hopeless. I had become very good at covering up negative emotions with nothingness. I would have done anything to block the painful reality that every part of my life felt like it had crumbled into pieces. On this day, I wanted to turn back the hands of time, and change destructive decisions which I had made, but I knew I couldn’t. I had pushed my family so far away from me…and I couldn’t even figure out why. I didn’t want sad memories anymore. I didn’t want to be sick anymore. I didn’t want to be a burden. And I didn’t want to be alive. On that day, like most other days, I knew I was going to take my own life.
After making this decision, I didn’t cry. I didn’t scream. I didn’t feel. There was no second guessing it. There was no remorse. Actually, with that decision my searing pain immediately turned… to peace! Calmness. A release from my pain knowing that I was about to NEVER feel it again. I walked down to my kitchen, let my dog out to go to the washroom. Grabbed a chair and looked far back in the medicine cupboard and found a full bottle of muscle relaxants. I got down from the chair with the bottle in my hand. Still not a tear in my eyes, I waited for my dog to come back inside, went back to my room and swallowed half the bottle of pills. I wrote a letter to whom ever would find me. “I’m so sorry. You will be ok. I love you.” then swallowed the rest of the bottle. I started to feel tired, I knew the medicine was working. I laid in bed staring at the ceiling, more numb than I’d ever been in my life…while I was waiting to die. I remember feeling sick and somehow in my haze made it to the bathroom….and that’s all I remember that day. For all I knew I would never wake up again. For all I knew, I was dead. What I didn’t know was that my colleagues had found me, and brought me to the hospital where I remained unconscious for 12 hours. The doctors and nurses pumped litres of fluid into me with hopes of saving my liver. I was past what they call the ‘charcoal window’, which would have helped soak up some of the medication in my stomach, so it was up to my body to metabolize EVERY milligram of muscle relaxant I took. As the hours went by, my abdomen grew full of fluid and I turned jaundice as evidence that my liver couldn’t keep up. My family and friends were seriously discussing funeral plans for me. But somehow…somehow!…I survived. It wasn’t time for me to leave this planet quite yet…I had still had some pretty important work to do.
I am a mom of 2 beautiful children, Caroline and Adam, a sister, an advanced care paramedic, a teacher, a dog lover and a friend. But there’s more to me than meets the eye. What you can’t see OUTWARDLY is that I also battle mental health illnesses, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and addiction.Turmoil in my life primarily began when at the age of 18 I became pregnant while in high school. My mom being worried, confused and disappointed caused her to drop me off at a home for ‘un-wed mothers’ which was ran by nuns. I cried every day and didn’t talk to anyone. After begging to return home, I managed to complete high school, had a baby shower in my english class, and went to my prom 9 months pregnant.
Not long after the birth of my daughter, my mom suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm that required hours of surgery at Sunnybrook hospital. She fought through a surgery that doctors told us she would not likely survive, but the injury had turned her into a very different mom; her memory was gone, and her speech almost non-existent. With my father absent most of the time, I was left with the overwhelming responsibility of holding the rest of the family together. I was now the parent to my own young daughter 1, my little brother, 5, and to my mother that required extensive care.
Our home was attended regularly by paramedics due to my mom’s frequent and complicated seizures. And I remember how the care and concern that these professionals extended to both myself and my other siblings was above and beyond medical emergency they were originally called to. They took care of our broken family and genuinely extended a compassionate offer of support to those that showed less obvious, non-physical trauma. It was during those moments that I witnessed true humility and decided I belonged in the world of paramedicine.
From then on, no matter what trials and tribulations were placed in front of me, the dream of becoming a paramedic grew every day. And in 2003 I was hired as a Primary Care Paramedic.
Over the years the accumulation of stressful calls began making me sick, I got very mad! And just when I thought I had developed enough illusions to hide my illness from my conscious world, my undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder began to rear its ugly head through another layer of demons in my dreams. Nightmares felt like a cauldron of putrid mental illness ingredients slowly mixing together and bubbling over, and I couldn’t do anything about it. Finally, I couldn’t pretend to be comfortable anymore. As I lost sleep I got even sicker, and I began to drink on a regular basis to quiet the ‘bad’ calls that occupied my mind. I couldn’t imagine being anything but a paramedic because I loved the field of paramedicine so much. And I found drinking worked as my immediate way to escape the reality of me possibly being too sick to not be able to do my job anymore. But slowly, even drinking couldn’t curb my irritability and nightmares. I started to learn my “bad call pattern’, which included three days of draining and embarrassing depression. Sadly this became my new normal…which is clearly not normal at all.
To be continued….