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!
Sorry I have been gone for a little while; I am having technical difficulties! (Seasonal affective disorder) Eh, I’m used to it! We had a hurricane a few weeks ago and it brought cold weather. Add low sunlight and presto! It is obnoxious, but I have tools to deal with it and while a thorn in my side; it is nothing to write home about. Just know you CANNOT control your thoughts and emotions, but you can deal with them in appropriate manner. NOTHING happens without our permission! Negativity in life is inevitable, but it only overcomes us if we ALLOW it! I challenge everyone to concentrate on the haves, rather than have nots! Example : I have very good health (kind of haha, my labs are great!), 2 cats who love me, love in my life, and a roof over my head. I have my life. I will be grateful and slay the day!
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 My dream of becoming a professor had been replaced by the hellish torture of alcoholism, drug addiction, and an eating disorder.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.
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.
“If evil be spoken of you and it be true, correct yourself, if it be a lie, laugh at it.” Epictetus
Some things I have learned thusly: Not everyone will like you and I cannot take myself too seriously. I have (and still do) face criticism. I have found that the best way to stay out of controversy is to completely avoid it. If one does not do anything negative, then when we find ourselves amongst gossip and chaos, we can rest easy and simply laugh it off knowing that it is baseless and completely unfounded. I am indeed overly happy and all over the place, but I am harmless! I have received reminders of myself from 10 years ago and I must say, it’s COMPLETELY embarrassing! I must call myself out (aside from things done to me) I have been a thief, a liar, a cheat, an addict and alcoholic, completely out of control; this hardly touches the surface. If you are any of these things; do not count yourself out and feel damaged beyond repair. There is always hope; I know but little, I do, however, I know something about and believe in humanity and goodness. Trust that I am well versed on current events, much of my life revolves around them. I am well aware of all of the negativity and atrocities in the world; many of which (and I am EXTREMELY sad about) involve people I love. If I do not involve myself, I can laugh off negativity and realize it is not ME, but the other party. I have spent too much of my life spent at the whim of others; we choose this, no person has control unless permission is granted. One need not waste needless energy on worry of other’s thoughts about them, but rather remain secure with themselves.
“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!
Let it be clearly known; I did not just suddenly become good. It has taken years! of extremely hard work to become who I am today. I have a horrible past, writhe with substance abuse, cheating, lying, things done to me, self-mutilation, serious eating disorders, disabilities, death, etc., etc. I am not my past. Yes, it affects me, but I had to realize; either I live in my past and wallow in misery or I learn from it and move on. I have spent enough of my life feeling sorry for myself; I know what it’s like to dwell amongst the weeds. I choose to live in the sun, with the flowers, today! There is no magic pill. Often, we seek out a quick fix for our problems. I can use alcohol and drugs and food and sex and love and psychotropics as a temporary solution, but it is just that; temporary and fleeting and I am thus left with myself, after all is said and done. It is not until I search within, am honest with myself and others, and do not hide and suppress my true being, that I find solace. If I am not doing well, I don’t hide it. These days, it is rare that I’m not. For example, one of my very dear friends passed away a month and a half ago; this was followed by 3 other friends dying and the anniversary of my father’s suicide all within one week. Needless to say, this took its toll. I did not, however, take these things to heart and use them as an excuse to feel sorry for myself; how I meet challenges is a choice…these things only stop me if I give them power over me. My attitude is more powerful than people and events in my life. I am not Superwoman, I have flaws; I am perfectly imperfect. Love yourself despite your past and your flaws and I challenge you to be patient and honest and kind to yourself and others!
My weekend was interesting for sure, but all in all very good. Sometimes a proverbial wrench gets thrown into the mix; things do not go as planned. Life is messy, but can be great when we accept “what is”; ignoring the flaws and foibles of our time. All and all, everything is pretty amazing, once viewed as a whole. Trust that I have not always thought this way. Over time, life has appeared increasingly optimistic and I have come to realize that the energy I unleash will thus be returned to me. It’s best to be kind and loving whenever possible and not take one’s self too seriously. I received news which I wish I hadn’t this weekend; it struck me as funny and absolutely ridiculous, although it was serious. Luckily, I had people I love to discuss the matter with, though not at length; simply mentioning it helped me tremendously. Existence, if viewed as such, is a comedy of errors rather than a veil of tears. On a regular basis, I deal with judgment, bad news, etc.; I have come to have a strong sense of self, however, and simply allow this negativity to bounce off of me. I am NOT Superwoman, was not born with an innate ability to withstand criticism, am not inherently strong. These are all LEARNED behaviors that ANYONE can have; I am NOT special. In the past I have been a criminal, a liar, a cheat, an active addict and alcoholic… amongst many other things too vast to mention. I have become the person I am today through hard work and acceptance of my situation(s) and acknowledgement of the imperfections of life. With all its twists and turns, it is definitely how you view it.
You all rock, yes you! You all inspire me and motivate me everyday; your encouragement is awesome. And I can imagine, if you guys do it for ME who else you rub off on. Imagine if we all lifted each other up, what an incredible world this would be. No competition about how cool you are, how good you look, what you have,etc; just people loving and being there for others! Keep putting out positive energy to the world, it makes a difference!
Mental: When you wake up tell yourself it’s going to be a good day; if things go awry…take a moment then hit reboot! You always have the ability to change your mindset; any time, place, etc. Up to you 🙂
Physical: Avoid putting anyone down because they are not as physically “good” as you. When I was first disabled, I didn’t go out in public for a year and a half!! because I had seen my whole life the disdain with which people with disabilities, not “good looking” enough, physical defects, etc. were treated. This scared me… how I might be treated; I was physically immobile, yet was the exact same person. Sometimes people fail to look beyond the physical and miss the true individual; often failing to see wonderous people because they don’t see beyond the external.
Social : Be good to each other, comparisons stink. Often, we find ourselves in a contest with society as to who is “better”. Better looking, better car, clothes, behaved,etc.,etc.When really you should compete with no one but yourself. Strive to be the best you you can be; not the best “them”