How I started changing my thoughts to a glass-half-full kinda gal

How I started changing my thoughts to a glass-half-full kinda gal

Glass with literally nothing left

I don’t know about you, but when I first hear my alarm clock go off in the morning my first thought is usually not PG rated.   A certain charming word that begins with the letter ‘F’, usually becomes the first word of the day, followed in quick succession with the carefully crafted word ‘This’. A combination of age,  and chronic illness,  is then responsible for a long series of groans as I actually attempt to sit up and open my eyes. Then, I do the worst thing possible.   I reach for my phone, and my eyes are immediately assailed with completely horrible news stories and just bad vibes all around.  Putting my phone down exasperated, I then reach over and open the blinds, and recoil and shudder at the maddening possibility that the Canada would ever get snow in the middle of the winter!  Snow in January? How absurd!  After vowing not to leave the house today due to such absurdity, I spend time meticulously deciding between my grey jogging pants or my black ones, ( because why even attempt to see if my jeans still fit),  and I throw on my super sleek oversized hoody, (mainly so I don’ t have to wear a bra), and I make my way downstairs.  By the time I get down the first few steps, I am in a mood.  By the time I make it to the kitchen, I am certifiably irritated and not someone that will be fun to be around.  My husband and kids, exchange a quick look and head the other way. Good call family.

What if I pressed rewind and we did this all over with cheery ole spin instead?

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Glass bubbling over

I don’t know about you, but when I first hear my alarm clock go off in the morning my first thought is usually totally PG 13!  A certain charming word beginning with the word ‘F’ followed by the carefully crafted letters U and N, usually becomes the first word of the day!  A combination of age and chronic illness is then responsible for my appreciating everything in this world that I am totally capable of doing today, when I find that I am lucky enough to sit up and open my eyes today!  Then, I do the best thing possible!  I reach for my phone and my eyes are immediately embraced with positive news and great vibes all around!  I put my phone down with a huge smile, and I open up the blinds and I beam with the incredulous possibility that it snowed again, and we get to run out and make snow angels today! I love snow!  After vowing that I will leave the house as much as possible today to enjoy the snow, I decide to put on a flattering pair of jeans, and a wonderfully cozy shirt, as I make my way downstairs. By the time I get down the first steps , I squeal with delight at how cute I look, and by the time I make it to the kitchen, my kids and husband run up to me with kisses and hugs abound.  Admiration abound, with how great of a day this is going to be.

Nope

So here’s thing.    The first example is probably how I am used to waking up a good 90% of the time.  Ok, maybe 98 % of the time.  The bottom one , never F#$king happens. Like ever. But that is what I am striving towards, albeit with a little less of the fluffy unicorn and rainbows feel too it.  I read an article a while back that talked about how those who look at their phones when they first wake up, are more likely to feel overwhelmed and stressed, then those that wake up with a different routine not looking at negative news.  So why not change up your morning routine to one with a little less negative energy and a little more positive light?  

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5 ways that I changed up my mornings, which started changing up my thoughts

I Changed my alarm tone

One thing that I learned from my paramedic days, is that the first thing I am trying to do now is open my eyes and say thank you.  Thank you for another day.  Thank you for the privilege of opening my eyes.  Thank you for letting me face this day, good or bad. I am alive, breathing and living.  Amen to that! The next thing I did was changed my ring tune and alarm tone on my phone. I now wake up to the gentle crescendo of ocean waves. It starts out really quiet, and then gradually gets louder.    I have residual PTSD from the blaring tones that would happen when a call would come through at the EMS stations  The Shrill alarm would make me jump out of my skin. It created a heart pounding and debilitating reaction to all things loud.  To this day, waking up to anything resembling and alarm, isn’t allowed in our bedroom.  Ocean waves is soothing to my soul, and it lets me start my day in a much calmer fashion.  

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Set your alarm for some ‘me’ time

Set your alarm earlier and allow yourself to stretch, have coffee, meditate, or whatever it is that you need to do to keep yourself zen to start the day.  My sister-in-law taught me the art of this.  She gets up an hour before her family does, so that she can start her day with a coffee and a book and for some much needed alone time.   How you start your day, leaves a ripple effect in your mood that carries you through your day. So start it the way you dream of starting it.

Look good for yourself

The next one is something I think most people struggle with, especially during a pandemic.  It’s easy to throw on the baggy clothes and not care what they look like.  Maybe try and put on something that makes you feel good every day.  Clothes, make-up, jewellery , it doesn’t matter, just FEEL GOOD!  When you like the way you look, you’ll like the way you feel. 

Find the positive in the most negative of places

Finally, for all those who suffer from depression, anxiety, chronic illness, Monday blues and whatever else is going on in your life that brings you down; try and find ways to be positive.  If your first instinct is to be negative, stop the thought and find a way to look at it through a positive lens.  Children see snow as fun, why can’t we as adults feel the same?  Kids don’t start their life knowing how to be negative.  They learn that feeling.  Who is teaching them?  Try to be a positive reflection for your kids, so that they can grow up with the right tools.  Teach them that it is ok to have bad days, and negative feelings. But, also teach them how to overcome those feelings, and strive for a more positive life. Start catching yourself in the middle of a negative thought, and find one way to make it positive. Do this all day long. Eventually it will become a habit, and you will find all the positives in the most negative of places.

Make a list of 5 things you are thankful for every single night

Feeling pain and and down or crappy really sucks. But, take the time to embrace it, and know you are alive.  For those of us in pain, we feel very alive every day.  It is not easy to see it as a blessing, but it is.    Pain or not, you are here.  You are alive. You are needed. Hope for a cure.  Hope for better days. Every single night, make a list of 5 things that you are thankful for every single night . When you first start, this will seem impossible. The more positive you become, the easier this gets. So look forward to the day that it is easy, and remember this quote by Dennis Brown that defines it all:

You alone are responsible for the type of life you live.  You can change it, or you can accept it.   I’m choosing to change it for the better.

How I finally figured out the solution for Avoidance in PTSD

How I finally figured out the solution for Avoidance in PTSD

Five years ago, I tucked my paramedic career into a shoe box, and I closed the lid. The box is non-descript. Actually, that’s not true. It’s actually quite cheery given what the contents inside have represented to me.  Its outside, not being an honest reflection of what it hides inside to me.  I find it vaguely amusing, that I chose that particular box to hold its contents.  The top of the box actually says “live in the moment”. No joke. The thought “sucker” enters my head as I conjure up scenarios where a thief opens the box thinking they are about to find big wads of cash, or piles of jewellery stashed away, only to find an old uniform shirt, some badges, stethoscopes, a few pictures, and pins.  Junk they would say, and probably toss the box to the side.  But is it junk?   How do I not know the answer to this?  Cue quiet reflection from within.

The irony of this box now, makes me smile.

The answer came to me in the form of my youngest daughter. She came up to me and very excitedly said “Mama, what is this? I just love it”.   As she opened up her hand, I saw that it was my grandfather’s old firefighter’s badge.   I had kept it after he had passed away.  I was proud to have that.  Proud that he was a firefighter, and proud that I got to become a paramedic and work in the same city and even the same building that he worked.   I was proud to hold his badge in my hand and I was proud to display his badge in my home. Yet, I had the same badge and I kept it locked away.  Why wasn’t I proud of myself?

Avoidance

The funny thing is, when I looked back on what I knew of my grandfather’s career, I had learned everything from a photo album he had kept. It contained various newspaper clippings that he had saved, some photos, and I heard a few stories from my mom about those items in return. I would see his photo up in a few fire stations around the city,  but outside of that, I knew nothing of his time as a firefighter.  I didn’t know of any stories. He didn’t’ talk about it.  And then it hit me. I think it is very likely that he suffered the same as I.  He worked during a time when PTSD was not something you discussed.  If you suffered, you suffered alone.  I am sure he saw a lot of horrible things in his career, yet I have no idea what those were. He had one picture of himself as a fire captain up in his house, beside the badge that I now have.  It was located in the back tv room in his house.  Not up front. Not up for everyone to see. A quiet homage.  He didn’t carry reminders; he didn’t glorify it and he didn’t tell stories.  He kept it to himself.

Is it possible that genetically my Papa and I both responded to trauma the same way by locking it out of our lives and moving on?  He closed it all into a photo album to sit alone on a shelf in some closet, and I in a box in my dresser.   I don’t suppose I’ll ever know what it was he carried around with him.  Just as those will never understand what I carry around with me. But I do know one thing:

~PTSD doesn’t discriminate, but it does show that you are human~

I think the EMS schools need to fix one very important thing.  They need to rethink how they train their recruits and graduates in the mental health game.  I held back two students when they did their placements with me.  They could easily rip through a medical protocol verbally with me, and it was clear they knew their toxicology or basic medical requirements. However,  when it came to patient care , they forgot that they patients were human.  They didn’t look at the patient, they just made choices that made sense in their textbook.  They didn’t listen, they just thought. They didn’t understand the magnitude of making a mistake, or what power their choices had on a patient’s outcome.  They had stars in their eyes about saving a life or being a hero, and coming home and bragging about the horrors of what they saw. They didn’t know what the effects of seeing trauma after trauma, and death after death can do to a person’s mental health.  Students are coming into a service ready to take on the world, yet they haven’t even experienced a portion of the world yet.  I should know.  I was them.  I thought I was prepared.  Not one person ever sat me down and said, “hey kid, this is the effect this job can have on you, and here is what it could do you as a result, and here are some skills to help equip you better should it happen”.  Not one person.  We need to change that.   We need to start preventive PTSD training. Why is this not out there?

Perhaps it is because there is no magic formula to prevent it, and there is a chance that you would still get PTSD no matter how hard you tried to avoid it.  The reality is, if you are human, you SHOULD get some sort of PTSD if you spend your whole career in the EMS field.   No one is immune to seeing horrible things day after day, multiple times a day.  Soldiers, Police, Paramedics, Fire, Nurses , Doctors, and every other profession that falls into the umbrella need to hear that YOU ARE HUMAN!! YOU SHOULD GET PTSD!!!  YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO GET HELP FOR IT!!  YOU ARE THE NORMAL ONES!  

I’ve always been a sensitive soul, so perhaps I shouldn’t have been shocked when it crept into my life.  What I do know, is that it does get better.  What I do know, is that it takes time.  What I do know, is that there is help out there if you are willing to put in the time.  What I do know, is that I will never be the same person I was before I got it, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.  It doesn’t have to define me. 

So, I am getting that box out. I have so many memories of looking up at the photo frame of my papa in his uniform  and his badge on his wall at his house.  As a kid, I felt nothing but pride and wonderment at who and what he was.  It is time for my kids to be able to look up at a wall in my house now and feel the same.  I want them to know what Mama used to do.  I want them to know that I worked my ass off to become a paramedic.  I want them to know how proud I am at what I did during my time there.   I want them to know that I helped and saved a lot of people.   I want them to know that I saw things that defined why I am the protective mother I am today.  I want them to know that I was hurt mentally by my career, and that I worked hard to get better. I want them to know that I didn’t ever give up, and that the choices they make in the future always come with risks.  I wish them to never be naïve, but always be full of hope, and wish and plan for the best. 

The Solution

I finally figured out the solution to avoidance.   The biggest mistake I made in all of my battle with PTSD was that in hoping to fix the problem I avoided anything and everything paramedic.  I quit my job, I placed things in a box that reminded me of it, I avoided talking, thinking and hearing about anything  related to paramedic, I avoided the news, and also avoiding paramedic friends. In doing so, I also placed every positive memory I had away in the box.   I allowed darkness to win.  I ceased to remember anything positive about it.  The solution.   I opened the box, and let positive memories in.  I forced myself to remember everything good.  I tried to lift the job up in a positive light again.  I tried to remember what it was like when I first found out I got hired and what it was like putting on my uniform and going to my first real call. I remembered how much I loved all my friends I made along the way.  How much I loved my training.  How much I loved everything I did on the calls.  How much I loved the feeling of helping someone, and the feeling of knowing you saved someone, or got to be there for someone in their last moments.  You see, I had forgotten all that.  It was clouded in negativity when I locked away the positive and assumed it was all just a dark hole if I opened it.  After all this time, I realized it wasn’t junk. It was my treasure. I had just forgotten how to see it that way.

Me with my nephew. One fo the few pics I have in uniform. Grateful to have this picture, so that I can show my kids that I was a Paramedic, and I loved it.

So, for all of you out there that are suffering from PTSD, don’t be afraid to open that box, it holds your elusive treasure. Positivity can be found, even if it is buried way down deep.  You will find it.  It is always there. Just start from the beginning and remember that first day of your career when you laced up your boots full of wonder, hope and excitement.  You will find it.  I just had to look at the lid of my box and

~Live in the moment~

The Chin Hair Symphony

The Chin Hair Symphony

The older I get; I swear my chin hairs start to appear on my face to the tune of Beethoven’s Symphony No.5.  Cue string instruments, DUH DUH DUH DUHHHHHH.

Now a symphony typically opens with an Allegro, which is a fast tempo piece of music.  Picture this.  I wake up, and I skip my way to the bathroom Allegro style, feeling all sexy and shit. I stop to check out my profile. I tilt my head to the right smiling and nodding completely satisfied with my jaw line, and then while giving a little pout and maybe even a little wink to my hot self in the mirror, I tilt my head to the left and to my horror, cue strings section DUH DUH DUH DUHHHHHH!

There it is, in all its glory, a chin hair! GASP!  The symphony now moves into a slower piece, an adagio if you will.  And A D A G A What?  Never mind, all you need to know is that I am now in slow motion, my eyes widen, my pupils dilate, my mouth drops open and cue woodwinds.  The sound coming out of my vocal cords however is not akin to that of the sound made when a whole orchestra is blowing their little reeds in perfect harmony. The sound I made, is some Titanic ‘my heart will go on’ sh#t.    You know, the one written by James Horner and Will Jennings. 

“ Every night in my dreams
I see you, I feel you
That is how I know you go on”.

Except we aren’t talking about sexy Jack coming and rescuing me. Nope,  those damn black chin hairs are in my dreams haunting me, I see them, and feel them, and DAMN IT there is another one growing as I speak!!!! I just plucked a forest of them 3 days ago, what in the hell are they doing back so soon!

Now the 3rd part of a symphony is usually a minuet, and while Beethoven used what is called a “scherzo and trio”, it essentially is the same as a minuet.  Three beats in a bar of music is all you need to know.  As if on cue. One, two, three chin hairs! WHAT!  I turn my head to the other side; you know the perfect jaw line side and one,  two,  three chin hairs.  Gasp! So, I begin to pizzicato those ass@&*’s right off!

I have now entered the 4th and final movement of this famous symphony.  DUH DUH DUH DUHHHHHH. I am back in allegro mode. Moving fast and quick, I am triumphantly plucking, disposing and plucking again with such voracity that Beethoven himself would have written my glory into his next symphony!  I am the conductor now! DUH DUH DUH DUHHHHHH.  I flip my ponytail back, straighten my shirt and with an exuberated exhale, I take my final bow and I DUH DUH DUHHHHHH my ass out of that bathroom like the chin hair virtuoso that I have become. 

Sometimes it is nice to poke a little fun at the pleasures of aging. Aging is a privilege. Why not have fun along the way and marvel at the way that our body adapts and changes as we weave our way through this life. Chin hairs are just one little change that we encounter as we get older, and the way I look at them, they represent the wisdom of all I have experienced. Embrace it, have fun with it, and learn to love it.

5 things to know about POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia)

5 things to know about POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia)

IT SUCKS!

No really. Every time a person with pots stands up, our heart rate goes up by at least 30 beats per minute. It’s super fun! I mean, who doesn’t want to feel like they are running a marathon just by swinging your legs out of bed and standing up. You feel super refreshed and ready to start your day! Nope. Along with your heart rate bursting out into an excessive cadence of beats, you also get to enjoy the wonderful sensation of feeling as though you want to pass out. All day long! Can I get a heck ya! Now these are just the average potsies (as we like to call ourselves) baseline symptoms. Pots patient’s are a little bit of a mixed bag; every day you get to reach into your pots party bag and pick out a couple different symptoms that you get to wine and dine for the day. Here is a little a little cheat sheet on the vast array of symptoms that could grace us with their presence on any given day. It was borrowed from http://www.dysautonomiainternational.org website, which is a great resource for understanding and learning more about how you can cope and help with Pots research. Don’t forget to zero in on the “and much more!” portion of the chart!!! Many people with Pots get to include other illnesses that either resulted in pots or came along with the bonus of Pots!! 2 for the price of one! Which essentially means, a bunch of extra symptoms to go along with all these! WOOT WOOT!

It comes with a magical super power

Ok, so we are essentially like Harry Potter. We get to wear the cloak of invisibility! That’s right, we could walk right down the hallways of Hogwarts , and no one would know what is going on beneath our cloaks! Pots is known as an invisible illness. That is because all of the action that is taking place, is happening on the inside, and it isn’t immediately visible to those on the outside. On the outside I look like a healthy 41 year old woman, ready to take on the world. However, if I were to park my car in the disabled parking spot because I have trouble walking long distances, or use a scooter to get around the grocery store to help make sure I don’t pass out, I would be given more than a few dirty looks and comments along the way I am sure. No one sees the pain that comes with this illness, or the feeling of not being able to stay upright on your feet some days, or the amount of energy it requires to do most activities. (remember, our heart is in a sprint all day long, it’s tiring!!) This super power doesn’t always feel so super when those around us never get to understand what is really going on. If only the invisibility cloak could be shed, and the whole world is embraced in a kindness cloak instead. What a concept that would be eh?

You pack for a vacation every day

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So I gave up carrying around a super trendy purse a long time ago. Now, I carry a super sexy and sleek black backpack every where I go. It’s super awesome! My husband often asks me if I am ready for school, as I sling the thing on my back. After a quick evil eye, I proceed to the car with my luggage. The best part is, we aren’t going far, just to the grocery store, but I have packed for a week long trip to Cancun it seems. You see, Pots is all about planning for worst and hoping for the best. The last thing you want is to be caught underprepared. So in my bag of fun I always have at a very minimum:

  • A least a litre of water
  • a bottle of Gatorade
  • a package of Nuun tabs
  • a weeks worth of medication ( you never know when you are going to get stranded somewhere!)
  • hot packs to warm my iceberg body up
  • cooling towel to cool my overheating body down
  • clothes to get warm
  • clothes to cool down
  • protein
  • sunscreen
  • hat
  • salt packages
  • salty snacks, salty snacks, and more salty snacks

We are professional Salters

My name is Lindsay, and I am a professional Salter. Salting is my profession. It has to be if I want to add anymore credentials to my resume. I salt my smoothies. I salt my oatmeals. I salt things that might make the average person cringe. Oh those fries already came salted you say? Yeah, well i’m just going to shake a little more of this mineral into my life one fry at a time while you all watch in horror! Isn’t that bad for you in the long term I often get asked? No, it’s not. Would you rather I lie flat all day in the hopes that salt long term isn’t bad for me? The reality is (for me anyways), I am hypovolemic to start with (which means I start the day with low blood volume). I have to find ways to increase my volume so that I can sit and stand. Salt is how I do this. Salt enables my body to hold onto fluid, which increases my blood volume. Along with salt, I drink, drink and drink water and eletroyltes all day long. It allows me to be upright and allows me to be a mom, so yah, pass me the damn salt already! I am living for now, and hoping for the best later.

It makes you appreciate life

I would never wish this on anyone, and would never want this in my life if I ever had the choice. But having an illness puts your life into perspective. It makes you grateful for every day that you are able to function and feel good. It makes you grateful that this is all you are battling, vs some of the other more devastating illnesses that other’s in the world contend with daily. I know I have been guilty for feeling the “poor me’s”. The reality is, this is a really sucky illness. The reality is also that it could always be a lot worse too. I know a lot of people have it worse than I do, and a lot of people have it better. No one is immune to the poor me’s, and that is ok. Feel your “poor me’s”, and then pick yourself up and fight. Do whatever it takes to make your life have meaning, and try not to be defined by this. You are not POTS. POTS is not you. You HAVE pots. POTS doesn’t HAVE you. Got it? So take a second, and think of all the things around you that you DO have that has nothing to do with pots. Think of all you have accomplished despite Pots. Think of all you want to still accomplish with Pots. Let Pots be a little annoying sidekick in your life that you have to tell to be quiet every damn day, and then focus your attention forward. Stop looking back at what Pots has done, and look forward to how it changed your direction and led you to where you are going now. There is a reason for everything that happens.

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POTS IS ONLY PART OF YOUR STORY, THE REST HASN’T BEEN WRITTEN YET, SO MAKE IT COUNT!