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Finding Myself - Sarah Ann

So no one wants to hear about COVID anymore. It literally consumes our whole life currently.

But my story starts with being thrust into the middle of a global pandemic and the results of everything that transpired after.

Being a critical care paramedic is one of the best decisions I have ever made. Confidence. A job that is very rewarding. Making a difference. However, it comes with a price. A front-row seat to someone's worst day. Seeing the worst side of people. Death, trauma, pain, suffering. Now, insert yourself in the middle of a global pandemic, where no one knows what's going on, which is a recipe for disaster.

I had this wild and crazy idea to start a podcast on Mental Health. To promote it and gain guests, I travelled to the ATA show in January of 2020 and then to Harrisburg in February of 2020, right when all the COVID craze started. March everything shut down. Masks, face shields,

and N95s were my life.

The future was uncertain. I didn't want to bring it home to my kids. I

started discussing my wishes should I need to be placed on a ventilator. Transporting super sick patients. Stress, upon stress, upon stress. I made it thru the worst of it. Life started to become 'back to normal.' However, normal included PTSD, anxiety and depression.

In January of 2021, I saw an opportunity to go hunt an alligator in Florida in March. It was a perfect opportunity to get away and destress from the months of working with no real break. I asked for the time off. The request was approved. I purchased my license and prepared to take

a trip. My bow was packed. I was ready for my first solo out of state hunt.

I landed in Orlando. Instantly I could feel my stress decrease. After a short evening, I began the three-hour drive to Townsend and Son's Everglade Outfitters Ranch in LaBelle, FL. The warm sun and window down were amazing. The fresh air. The sights. Keeping my eyes open for any sort of wildlife that Iowa was lacking. Orange trees. Palm trees. It was such a rejuvenating experience.

I arrived at the Ranch ready to catch up with Blaine Anthony and enjoy myself. I changed into my hunting clothes and waited for my guide. Soon I was picked up on a cart and taken to the area to get my gator. The guide, Jeb, cast out the line. My gator was snagged and

he handed me the pole. The fight was on. I got the gator to shore and shot two arrows in the back of the spine with my bow. The total time I spent at the ranch total before I shot the gator was 45 minutes.

The gator was brought into the processing plant located on the ranch. I was free to do whatever I wanted. I spent the remainder of my day watching other hunters tag their gators and enjoying

the warm Florida sun. Around the campfire that evening, I made new friends and heard lots of hunting stories. It truly was an amazing experience.

Now. That was the hunt. Here's what really was happening. I suffer from crippling depression. Pair that with high functioning anxiety, and some days I am a mess. Some days I can barely get out of bed. I have no motivation. I basically am existing. Being a medic helps me focus. It also is the source of a lot of stress. I hold people's lives in my hands. It's usually not the patient who causes me the most stress. It's the families. And with everything that has been going on with

law enforcement and looking an awful lot like a law enforcement officer when I put on my uniform, it adds to the stress.

And then a pandemic hits. Working long hours short-staffed takes a

toll on everyone. Add in the PPE and or not having it, well, you assume that you're eventually going to get sick. I was lucky. If I did contract the virus, I didn't have outward signs or symptoms.

But it did take its toll mentally. The trip was an escape. A reminder that I deserve a break. A time to think about my life choices. To find myself again. I was so lost and broken and damaged, I needed to find my strength. That trip was a turning point for me. That no matter how much life throws at me, no matter what obstacle I am up against. I have me. I am strong. I am a warrior. I can do anything.

I know my story pales in comparison to some, but it is a story of how I

came back from hell and lived to talk about it.

Now my why. I really want to help as many people as I can. Mental health is important. The outdoors is a major healing point in my mental health journey. Being outdoors helps relieve the stress that comes from my job, my depression, my anxiety. The outdoors is helping me heal.

Heal all the past hurts. Heal the inner child. It pairs well with the therapy and the meds I am prescribed. The outdoors is my sanctuary. Where I find my soul.

And my last little bit of my why...Be kind. You really never know what's going on behind closed doors.

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