15 years

It is no secret that my days 15 years ago were comprised of needles, vodka, knives, blood, vomit, powder, pills, and self-destructive behavior. It is all a blur, but I know that sometime soon (15 years ago) I almost died and became handicapable. As I reflect on my life tonight, I can honestly say I’d change nothing. Indeed, I am supremely happy with my life. No, I don’t have a great deal of material possessions, but  I am supremely content within; something I lacked for much of my life. If I tell you something it is this: you’re alive; if anything be grateful for that. We so often chase that which is elusive; feel inadequate and never enough. You ARE enough! Don’t sell yourself short 🙂 To my friends struggling: you are not broken; maybe scratched, but you’re worth  salvaging! I am not special; if I can come from THAT, trust that ANYONE can! Whatever you do, believe and have faith that anything is possible!

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Myself

I love the person I am today; while my life has not been, and currently, isn’t easy…it’s beautiful and I wouldn’t change it. Silver linings and gratitude abound. I have a disability; yet I will not call myself handicapped, I am handiCAPABLE! I will not refuse help when needed. Often, I need an arm to hold, now that I am using a cane and no walker. The silver lining here is the human bond that occurs when one person helps another. I have many other areas of my life in which I have and continue to seek guidance… I strive to pass on my knowledge and unconditional love to others.

This video is awesome! I admire and respect people who live life to the fullest, no matter what their circumstances. I realize my life is not so bad in comparison!

My story

In early November of 2013, I had reached my lowest point and attempted suicide by overdosing on drugs and alcohol; I awoke from a coma about a week later. Unable to move or make noise, I found myself as one sees a newborn baby. I was extremely anorexic and malnourished; I was also very addicted to drugs and alcohol. What strikes me now as no coincidence is this: my family was holding vigil over Thanksgiving dinner in the hospital cafeteria when I came back to life.

My life had completely taken a downward spiral since my days as a glowing college philosophy student. My dream of becoming a professor had been replaced by the hellish torture of alcoholism, drug addiction, and an eating disorder. While in school, I modeled myself after the great philosophers and truly thought the greatest thoughts were derived from the use of some sort of substance. I imagined myself holding council with the greats in absinthe bars across Europe and sharing my brilliant two cents with those around me. As an adolescent, I was an avid athlete and won many scholastic awards; I graduated ahead of my class and the future was in my hands. My addictions had other plans:  a dentist’s daughter, private school and university taught, I often found myself homeless and at the end of my addiction, living to drink and drug. My dreams had been replaced by nightmares and it all came to fruition that bleak November night. No longer could did I care about my mental or physical health; I was physically addicted and drinking to live. How dark it is before the dawn!

Upon overdosing I found myself in a coma on life support; unable to breath on my own, my systems were shutting down. Recently, I found out that one night, they prepared my family for the worst. It is very important for posterity’s sake that one takes into account what atrocious shape I was in, as you may find the later portion of my story rather uplifting. After awakening, my living nightmare began, I had cut off the oxygen supply to my brain and was unable to move or make noise, due to the large holes now in my cerebellum. I wish I could say that was an a-ha moment, an awakening of sorts; sadly it was not. I did not drink, drug, or practice my eating disorder for  three years, as I was physically unable and due to mobility issues had moved back home with my mother (my father committed suicide in 2002). After three years, I was walking with a walker, and ready to live on my own again… so I thought. By 2007, I had destroyed what little progress I had made; I was once again drinking and practicing the eating disorder, only this time I was severely disabled. In the spring, I found myself, once again, in a psych ward. Guardianship was relinquished to my mother; I know not why, but all of a sudden a switch flipped on inside of me and I decided then and there I would “get better”, so to speak.

I remembered the philosophical teachings of Epictetus, how one creates their own circumstances and of the great psychologist Viktor Frankl who claimed that “He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how.” I began inpatient hospitalization to nourish my body and uncloud my mind. Once I was well enough, I began working with a nutritionist and attending support groups; I abstained from alcohol and drugs, but faltered with the eating disorder. Honestly, it was difficult to let go of all of my unhealthy habits. Resisting drugs and alcohol, I remained sober for 3.5 years. On December 14th of 2013 I, again, drank; that is an important date for me; that is the day I took my life back. I decided enough is enough and all but wore out my copies of my motivating philosophical books. The next few months found me sober, quitting smoking, halting the eating disorder, becoming vegetarian, and obtaining a gym membership. It’s truly amazing as to the things we can do when we apply ourselves! All this while, I’ve held onto the notion that there is reason for one’s suffering; if anything, it is to share hope with those who may well be fighting their own battles. For the first time in 20 years, I myself began to see hope. I sought refuge in the works of William James and studied Joseph Campbell’s “The Power of Myth”. These works led me to believe there was an immutable sense underlying all; it was not up to me to figure my life out, but I could, indeed, live to show others that hope is for all, not simply the worthy.

In 2014, I was doing so well all around that I set a new goal for myself: to go back to school to be a personal trainer. You must remember that from 2003-2004 I could barely move; so this was a lofty goal. I gained my certification on the first try, joining only 10% of my class; next up, find employment. Believe it or not, I applied at gyms and health and nutrition stores. I secured a position in a health store and took the paratransit bus to work; I remembered stories from my childhood: these helped me overcome adversity. Aesop’s Fables, morals, and abstractions guided me through troubled waters. CS Lewis is another favorite who I studied intensely, not for his religious, but philosophical teachings. I believe now that “Even at night there are stars that shine”.

I have not had an eating disorder or used substances since 2013; neither have I eaten meat or smoked. As I now know, there is meaning in the suffering. Life happens; it is up to us as to its meaning. I know today that I make a choice everyday as to the path my life will take. “I am the captain of my soul; I am the master of my destiny.” Hope is available for everyone; take heart; it is yours if you want it.

 

Watch me go!

I have been very busy since the end of June, for good reason: I AM WALKING AGAIN!! Yes, I use a cane, but the freedom from not having my walker is priceless. I am beyond blessed and grateful. 16 years ago, I was told I’d have to spend my days in an assisted living facility and would be fortunate if I could perform menial tasks. I have lived on my own for 14 years, I am walking on my own, and I went to school 4 years ago to be a personal trainer. I have always been one to not do what I was told; I suppose this worked in my favor. I have very large holes in my cerebellum which drastically affect my motor coordination. However, this will not stop me. I encourage everyone :young, old, minor or major illness to  reach beyond the confines and never allow yourself to be limited. I said no to all medical opinion. I am no super specimen; I just work very hard and refuse to settle for the status-quo. ANYONE can live this life if they just put in the effort. You don’t need to disappear into the ether, simply live your damndest.

Acts of kindness

“The majority of us lead quiet, unheralded lives as we pass through this world.
There will most likely be no ticker-tape parades for us, no monuments created
in our honor. But that does not lessen our possible impact, for there are scores
of people waiting for someone just like us to come along; people who will
appreciate our compassion, our unique talents. Someone who will live a happier life merely because we took the time to share what we had to give. Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have a potential to turn a life around. It’s overwhelming to consider the continuous opportunities there are to make our love felt.” –Leo Buscaglia

 

This world is writhe with choices; kindness and love is a choice not unlike any other. Happiness and sadness both take the same amount of effort on our parts. I can choose to be grateful for what I have… or I can wallow in misery. I have reasons beyond belief to feel sorry for myself, but what good would that do? The past is behind me. I can place blame or I can take responsibility for my present actions. I cannot control the actions of others. Seriously… I can’t even control my cats! I have no power over what is said or done to me, but I can, indeed, choose how I interpret such things. I am indeed blessed to have people surrounding me who deeply love me, unconditionally. Those who do not know me judge me based on my history and appearance; it does not affect me unless I let it. Generally speaking, a kind word or a smile tends to soften such pre-conceived notions. It is relatively funny to see someone with a walker holding the door for someone with a wheelchair. If all you can manage is to tell someone you love them today; do it. The world could use it!

Me at store (obviously handicapped and needing cart for support); waiting for my Friend:     Twiddling my thumbs.

Other random customer, loud and slow: ” Sweetie, are you OK?”

Me: “Yes, thank you!”

I must really look like I need help!

Haha! I’m not upset! It was nice! Thanks for checking on me, random customer xoxo!

I’m not mentally handicapped or deaf, thanks!

PSA

So I will discuss a taboo subject: mental illness. Honestly, I don’t understand why it has such a stigma! It says ILLNESS right there in the name. I do not think that one should be ashamed if the have diabetes, per say; so why should it be different with mental illness? One’s brain is  simply chemically unlike the status quo; unfortunately actions taken when such an illness is active effect many people and areas of life: I will not delve into some areas as they would take a great deal of time to discuss! I will say, however, that LIVING is not IMPOSSIBLE. I have the great privilege of knowing several people with SEVERE mental illness who barely existed in this life and were thought poorly of; currently they are productive members of society,truly living life (not just existing) and examples to look to as those who have defied odds. I am sure they, as well as I, will tell you it is not easy. In such cases, such progress means very hard work;  the end result is well worth the struggle. Such an illness is never eliminated, however! One must constantly remain vigilant regarding one’s homeostatic state. Yes, there are things that may help reduce such illnesses, but if one TRULY feels they have a mental illness, be honest with yourself. Be kind to yourself; you may be sick, not bad.

p.s.  NOT an excuse yourself for being an ass and not caring!

Mental: Fear not differences of the mind, for they truly give the life dimension. If everyone were the same mentally, how dull the world would be. If no one dared to be different;no progress would be made, everything would be the same. Differences can unite us, we so often ridicule them and let them divide us. If we judge other’s, it says something of OUR character.

Physical: Exercise increases both serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain.In laymen’s terms, many antidepressants aim at altering serotonin levels; exercise surely helps this. Obviously, it often requires MUCH more than exercise if serious,but it can’t hurt. Studies show that just 5 minutes of moderate exercise enhances one’s mood.

Social- Often we are quick to judge; even I am guilty. However, when we judge, isn’t such truly telling of ourselves? Doubtful we would appreciate the same condemnation we place on others. If someone is so polar opposite of us… aren’t we different than them, too? If someone has a mental or physical disability… does it make us feel good to chastise them for something they have no control over? If someone is older and has cognitive or physical impairments;do we think that it is ok to laugh; because when you and your friends age you will be immune to the aging process? Be kind, be loving, for no one is perfect.

yes I am trying