Currently

Listening to beautiful music; reflecting on my life. It’s bloody amazing! I am beyond blessed! I’ve had a super month so far; I made a great new friend who was my father’s high school friend, am walking again, and was able to increase my exercise by 20 %. I  am going to use an old format that I haven’t used in years. REMINDER! These are merely suggestions! I am not God and am absolutely not telling anyone what to do!

Physical: PUSH yourself, but be SAFE!  Example: I was terrified to walk, but I knew I’d get nowhere unless I TRIED! You best believe I had a wall beside me in case I needed support! When I exercise, if I’m merely tired I continue, but if somethings is painful, I stop. If I seriously hurt myself… well that is NO good!

Mental: It’s perfectly ok to have bad times! Yes, I do,too! Life isn’t perfect; people aren’t perfect! I have found great people I can talk to about my deepest problems! It’s a blessing to be able to tell people my woes (I don’t share EVERYTHING on here lol). It is amazing to be able to use others and that which is for help!

Spiritual: I had a series of horrible events happen back to back last summer. One was something frightening that caused police involvement. I realized the next morning that this person was not well. I prayed for their happiness and for them to be well. I prayed for their inner peace and that they not hurt another person. I cannot describe the relief I felt. Often people carry anger and resentment with them for so long, it causes bitterness and grief. I need not hold onto such or it will consume me!

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Me

In early November of 2003, 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 My dream of becoming a professor had been replaced by the hellish torture of alcoholism, drug addiction, and an eating disorder.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 2001). 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.

Raising awareness

I spent the day at NAMIWalks (NAMI’s annual fundraiser) yesterday to raise awareness of and eliminate stigma surrounding mental illness. Great day! Thanks to the huge amount of people (and of course my team!) who participated. NAMI raised in the state of Virginia (Richmond walk)  $158,361 ( just one of about 60 walks); proceeds going towards research, treatment, programs, and more.

Information on NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness):

Mental illness affects everyone. Nearly 60 million Americans experience a mental health condition every year. Regardless of race, age, religion or economic status, mental illness impacts the lives of at least one in four adults and one in 10 children across the United States.

People living with mental illness need help and hope: they need a community that supports them, their families and their recovery.

Because mental illness devastates the lives of so many Americans, NAMI works every day to save every life.

NAMI is the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. NAMI advocates for access to services, treatment, supports and research and is steadfast in its commitment to raise awareness and build a community for hope for all of those in need.

NAMI is the foundation for hundreds of NAMI State Organizations, NAMI Affiliates and volunteer leaders who work in local communities across the country to raise awareness and provide essential and free education, advocacy and support group programs.

NAMI website and info

Mental : If there is one thing I’ve learned from battling mental illness, substance abuse and many other disorders; it is that it makes no difference your age, gender,ethnicity, sexual orientation, life status, class, etc. We , as human beings, are all capable of having such problems. They are not a matter of morality or ethics, they are diseases. I came from a prominent family; that doesn’t matter, I still have bipolar disorder and substance abuse issues. I had nothing traumatic happen when I was young; sometimes things just are. Never think that someone is “better than that” or has been “taught better”; sometimes take control over your life (whether your life is “good” or “bad”). Factors (that make people people) make no difference where disorders, addiction, illnesses, etc. are concerned.

Physical: When exercising,either at a gym or alone, many people get discouraged because they do not look the best or do not perform “compared to”. This can lead to discouragement and completely quitting. Do not compare yourself; do the best YOU can do, not anyone else. Push yourself to be a better you; it will (more than likely) transfer into other areas of your life. Often you will receive a sense of accomplishment and this will give you a mental boost.

Social: Stigma; it is horrible and rampant in society. Stigma of age, race, orientation, physical and mental disabilities, illness, and on and on. Do not feel as though society might view you one way, that’s what you must be. Often, society is just wrong; do not succumb to social stigma and let it define you! Social stigma

People

I love people, especially my friends; sometimes people don’t know how damn AWESOME and meaningful they are in this world. Everyone in existence has a place in this world, whether we choose to be givers or takers is up to the individual. You all inspire me, from good friends who I speak with at length, to a random stranger holding a door open, to a random word of encouragement; every bit improves my world and the world in general. Unfortunately, we do not live in Utopia; it is very difficult to not succumb to the woes of the world. Often times, it seems there is more negative than positive; I don’t ignore the negative; but try very hard to search for the positive. Believe me, it is there! Just not as sensational; often times wonderful people and situations do not garner headlines; just because you do not receive accolades does NOT mean you are not making a difference!

Mental: Do not use negative self-talk;what you think you manifest. Rather than tell yourself “I suck” (my mantra for a long time), tell yourself, “I am awesome!”; however do not think you have to be perfect or get a big ego. It’s a tough fall if you fall from a pedestal! But don’t be down on yourself from the onset. Also (and this is major for some people), if everyone around you is encouraging you to think less of yourself, do NOT listen. Just listen politely (if necessary) or if you can remove yourself. Try not to engage or fight; this often just inflames a situation. Realize that, unless it is constructive criticism (if what someone’s saying is only aimed to make you feel bad or is hateful) it is not going to improve your quality of life.

Physical: If you do cardio, aim for a little longer; weights or cans, a little more. Bit by bit, you will see improvement. Exercise, even small, boosts the immune system and increases physiologic function; it is not all about aesthetics. Exercise and the immune system writing . Video. The majority of  clients at my gym are older in age and they are fantastic! It’s not about having the tightest clothes or lifting the heaviest weights; it’s improving your life and feeling good!

Social : Try not to let social problems get you down;easier said than done! It is impossible to read or watch the news without hearing “bad” headlines. Bad things happen in the world; if they really bother you, do something rather than just talk about them. I am not suggesting you do anything violent or harmful, but if you can make an impact, for the BETTER (not what YOU think is best, but what is right for humanity) …. just do it! And do not let such situations consume your being; you are not an individual according to social structures. You are YOU!

smile

Me

I suppose in a way I am telling on myself. I have bipolar disorder; so did my father and he committed suicide (today is his birthday).This is something I have eluded to, but not openly discussed. I feel it is pertinent to do so, however, as the season for SAD (seasonal affective disorder) is upon us (in the US). I know  my disorder (especially the depression) gets worse in the fall and winter months due to many factors. It is important to look at your history and be honest with yourself; is this something that effects me and I need to be concerned about. In the past my past eating disorders, addictions, and depression and depression have run rampant this time of year; I am now proactive. I will give you some practical everyday tips that I have found helpful. This is NOT medical advice! And, FYI nothing is an instant fix;give things time to work. Also I have found that your mindset helps; rather than be pessimistic and constantly telling yourself “This is pointless it will never help”, try telling yourself “This might work for me!”.

Mental: Even when things seem like they can’t get any worse, DO NOT GIVE UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It is always darkest before the dawn they say. Unfortunately sometimes you cannot see the light of dawn. It is important for me to tell people I care about to keep an eye on me (especially this time of year); not overprotective, but just to notice if I start to act strange or isolate. This is a good resource for mental illness; it has alot of areas to explore :National Alliance on Mental Illness

Physical: There are many things you can do to help depression; namely do not isolate and force yourself to do things; do not let yourself slack; little by little, things will add up and you’ll find yourself in a hole. This is not only true of actions around depression, but life in general. Because I am frugal,and am also aware everyone does not have unlimited funds at their disposal, here are some free (but useful) tips. Get an adequate amount of sunlight;  a lack of vitamin D (found in sunlight) can lead to an increase in myriad of physical symptoms ( obesity, mineral loss,etc.) but also causes a great increase in depression; this primarily why we get SAD. As the sunlight gets low, as we are outside less, we receive less vitamin D, which makes us more physically vulnerable:Information on vitamin D deficiency and depression. If you are concerned about skin cancer, wear sunscreen to block harmful UV rays. Another area I’ve found helpful is staying physically active, namely exercise; this will increase the serotonin in your brain (the chemical that keeps you “happy”) and increase endorphins which will give you more energy. This is particularly helpful if your depression includes anxietyInformation on mood-exercise relationship. If you have trouble with the cold weather, research an exercise program that can be performed indoors. If you are older and/or have muscle, joint,or other health problems; talk to your doctor. Ask for their input on a safe but effective program suitable for you to perform.

Social: Like I said, it helps me to let others in my social  circles to keep  an eye on  me. This way, I am proactive about my mental state.

Trust me, there is a large portion of my past when,as positive as I am now, I was that much negative. We are where we are in life. There is no correct path for EVERYONE. I just know what works for me!

be awesome