Meet the Carers - Seal Yates

September 26, 2023

Meet the Carers - Seal Yates

Foreword - Written by Simone Brick

After only a few weeks of knowing her, I would describe Seal as the bundle of light and energy we all need in our life. That person who just through the way they approach life and speak of the world makes you excited for anything, and grateful for everything. However, it is only after hearing about the extreme challenges Seal and her husband Paul have faced over the last few years that you truly start to appreciate and be inspired by this zest and energy. To come through what they have together, and still be facing the challenges they are, but have the outlook, energy, generosity, and enthusiasm of someone without a care in the world is admirable and unique. That doesn’t mean it is always, or even often, easy. Having been through similar and knowing the depths that unexpected mental health challenges can take a person and their loved ones to, my heart aches for Seal and Paul. But they have each other, and the part I cannot imagine going through is finding your role in a relationship going from partner, to carer for a while. Seal's story is not an example of what people quickly and easily recognise as becoming a carer. But not all carers care for children, or elderly, or relatives. Sometimes it is the person you stood next to when both in the prime of your life marrying, who then through the twists and turns of life finds themselves needing their partner in a wholly new and unexpected way.

The following was written by Seal Yates and edited Simone Brick.

Hi, my name is Seal. Well, actually that’s a nickname, my actual name is Catherine, but not too many people still call me that except my parents.

In my everyday work life, I’m a Professional Fire Fighter and a well-regarded Entertainment Rigger. I love both of these jobs, as I’m able to problem solve, get physically pushed, and work amongst great groups of people. In my outside life, I love so many things. I love handstands, circus, aerial arts, running, surfing, walking along beaches, sunsets and flowers! I believe that all my enthusiasm for life was born out of my happy and adventurous childhood. I was one of four kids (with me being the only girl). We grew up on the most amazing dead end street with lots of trees, outdoor space and endless exploring opportunities. Luckily for me I also grew up in a family where our parents treated us as simply “people”, so although I was a girl, I was never limited, and I was made to believe that the sky was the limit. For this, I am forever thankful.

I met my husband Paul when we were pretty young, at gymnastics. He was a champion gymnast and I just wanted to be as good as him! We spent the first few years just as friends going on lots of running, camping and surfing adventures together. Over the years we ran countless 10km fun-runs, half marathons, marathons and many amazing Ultra Trail runs all over Australia. Together we were so strong, so adventurous, and unstoppable. Paul’s job as an Intensive Care Paramedic also helped us have so many opportunities in life. Paul’s caring nature meant whenever we traveled, we usually made friends with various people whom he was able to help along the way. People often felt safe when he was around.

I believe I became a carer long before I even realised that I was caring. After an almost 20 year career as an Intensive Care Paramedic, around 2021 / 2022, Paul's health began spiraling downwards. It was around this time that I believe my initial “desperation” style caring began. I say desperation because I could see his spiral and I was trying my best to help, but Paul definitely did not think he needed help at this time. Then, in early 2023, Paul’s world came crashing down in spectacular fashion. As horrible as this was to be a part of and to witness, thankfully, through some amazing emergency medical help, he finally recognised that he did indeed need help. He also finally had a reason and a diagnosis for his downward spiral - Complex PTSD.

This moment of diagnosis in my eyes is when my real, tangible and effective Caring role began. It was at this moment that we had our first spark of hope! In my Caring role for Paul, every day is completely different, and often unpredictable. Some days life is completely normal, complete with sunshine, rainbows and unicorns. But then other days, things are insanely hard caring for somebody with PTSD.

The most obvious things I do on a daily basis are helping Paul navigate the sometimes confusing health system, and supporting him through various doctor appointments, treatments and doctor lead activities. I also spend much of my day supporting Paul to function as a human. I know it sounds basic to somebody who isn’t sick, but I spend so much time encouraging him to shower, wear nice clothes, to be active, to volunteer for various things, or taking him out on walks / runs / surfs / sunset missions together. Paul also suffers horrible flashbacks and nightmares (a major symptom of PTSD), so a huge portion of my nights entail being woken by a scared Paul, hugging him, comforting him and helping him back to sleep. This is usually done in a half awake, half asleep state, which means I usually end up saying some funny things that never cease to make him smile.


Lastly, even if our day is going great, it can be totally interrupted by triggers. For example, Paul might get triggered by a screeching tyre, an ambulance driving past, seeing an old patient on the street, having a hard phone call, having a hard doctors appointment or simply having a flashback. When this happens, I usually go into full protection mode and choose to engage my innermost Zen to deal with things. This usually entails leaving whatever activity we are doing, calming him down and reassuring that he’s safe, that he’s loved and that I’m there for him. These moments are perhaps the hardest for me, as they are so unpredictable, and sometimes make bystanders think that Paul is odd, awkward or just plain rude. These moments make my heart sad.

Becoming a Carer has completely affected every aspect of my life, with the biggest effect being on our relationship. Paul went from being this amazing, caring and confident person, who worked full-time, ran marathons, cycled lots and went on big surfing trips, to somebody who had no confidence, got upset easily, couldn’t run 3km without stopping, slept a lot and struggled to even breathe. So becoming Paul’s Carer has forced me to step up. Be the strong one in our relationship. To be the protector. To be the sole decision maker. To be the sole carer of our 2 dogs. To become the “capable adult” in all situations; And to support Paul in every aspect of his life. Perhaps the hardest effect however, was the need to drop all my hopes and dreams for the future. I had to reassess what the meaning of “success” was, and to instead be grateful for the small wins we had in life (eg. Paul having the energy to shower or mow the lawn!).


I’ve always tried to be a kind and courteous person before this. However, since becoming a Carer, I’ve learnt that patience, love, kindness and support are probably the biggest gifts you can give anybody suffering in the world. I’ve also been impressed and surprised by the level of support that both my workplaces have shown me throughout this time. There is one Employee Support Coordinator in the Fire Service that has been particularly kind, and this has made all the difference to me. Of all the things I have learned along this journey, there are a few things I wish others could know about being a Carer. For other Carers: I wish for other people in a similar role (regardless of who they are caring for) to know that what they are doing is so important to those that they are caring for. I want them to know that even on their worst days, that there is always hope. I also want them to know that taking time out for themselves is so important, as it’ll make them much more loving and patient carers.

For non-carer people: It’s amazing how much our days as Carers can be turned around by kindness and understanding from strangers. For example, Paul has a beautiful therapy dog, Reign. We both love nothing more than people who take the time to say hello, ask to pat Reign, and then take the time to engage with Paul. These moments are the ones that make my heart smile, even on the worst days.

When it comes to what helps me through my caring journey, exercise and outdoors are everything to me. I find nothing more calming than an epic sunset, a beautiful moon rise or being near a body of water. I find it helps put my whole day into perspective, helps keep me grounded and never fails to put a smile on my face. Running has always been a huge part of my life. Whilst the intensity and the particular sport I’ve been focusing on has changed vastly over the years (eg. gymnastics, circus, trail running, Ironman triathlons, off-road triathlons, cyclocross riding, time-trial cycling), the one constant has been running. I find running is such a simple activity that can bring so many good endorphins to my day, and help me feel like I’ve achieved something. It’s also been the one constant Paul and I have shared. We ran our first Adelaide City-Bay together when I was 15 years old, and since that day we’ve never looked back. Running outdoors, particularly along trails has been one of the main recovery activities that Paul and I have been able to enjoy together. We find that whilst on trails, nobody (ie. doctors etc) can contact us and running times don’t seem to matter. Rather it’s all about the location, the scenery, and the wildflowers!

Respite of some kind, be it small bits in a day or a larger chunk, is so important for all carers. For me, the opportunity for this Relay for Respite has meant that after so much sacrifice for Paul’s illness, I finally have my very own goal that I can work towards. It’s given me direction in my week, helped me connect with 3 other people with similar experiences and above all, helped make me smile. Most surprisingly, watching me take the time to train for this relay has inspired Paul to keep moving forward and getting better. It has inspired him to get back running again and helped him think about what his (and our) next small and big goals are. Above all else, this opportunity for respite has given us both real and tangible hope in our lives. It’s been a sensational journey so far, and I’m so looking forward to the Great Southern Stage Run in Western Australia. Bring on the Bibbulmun Track - yeewww!


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