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 My dream of becoming a professor had been replaced by the hellish torture of alcoholism, drug addiction, and an eating disorder.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 My dreams had been replaced by nightmares and it all came to fruition that bleak November night.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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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To be human

The world is indeed writhe with negativity; I am involved with human and animal rights and am absolutely privy to atrocity. Many people whom I love dearly suffer immensely at the hands of society, their family, their own minds, their bodies, etc. I am far from perfect and fight my own battles; as stated before, we walk through life shoulder to shoulder to shoulder. No single person is better than anyone else. We have had and continue to have different experiences. I cannot judge anyone for their choices, as I am not THEM.  I do know dishonesty and cruelty are wrong no matter what; this has impacted me and loved ones immensely. If you find you practice this, I implore you to cease and desist; realize how your actions impact others. Is that truly the energy you want to surround you? I was just checking my e-mails and reading of world and my friends’ woes; it is truly heartbreaking. I have to realize, however, (not being callous) I can only be the best me, act as a guide, listen when needed. I cannot make decisions for anyone; each person acts as themselves and is free to make their own choices (bad or good). Loving people deeply and unconditionally can have a profound effect; often we are so consumed with self that we lose our empathy for others. It is in this love that we become true human beings.

What will be

“We know what we are, but know not what we may be.” – William Shakespeare
We are each ourselves up to this point; yet the present is malleable and the future not yet written. That which will be is unknown. We all have a choice as to our situation; one can choose positive or negative. Trust that the former me did not have the present me on the horizon. I knew what I was, which was absolutely a wreck, but absolutely! had no idea what I’d become. Quite frankly (I was told this by medical professionals) if I had continued my lifestyle, I would have been dead by age 24. I did not expect that I’d be healthy and happy at age 37. I realize each day is but a gift, today I appreciate each day I’m alive and choose to live to the fullest. I am no longer in mental anguish; no one is required to be, yet so often are. The philosopher Epectitus held the idea that a person is free if they choose to be, despite the confines that restrict them. I am quite fond of Epectitus, as his values hold court with mine. I truly believe each man and woman cannot control external circumstances, yet has the power of choice regarding their minds. I know well, we cannot control our brain chemistry, yet we choose things such as deep love, gratitude, and whether or not we will be positive in the face of adversity. Whatever we presently may be is subject to change. If you are clinging to pessimism, negativity, and formerly or presently horrible situations; there is no time like the present to change and be what you may be.

Simple things

So often we complicate life and ignore things in their purest and most simple element. Laughter, happiness, the ability to physically function, freedom, air, etc.  Simple things that are, indeed, largely taken for granted. As a handicapped woman living on her own, I highly value my freedom from bondage and respect simple things, such as owning a walker and handicapped bars. I also am enamored with the love I have in my life. It’s the simple things; we compound our lives with judgments surrounding appearances, gossip, and hate and fail to look beyond at the purity of what “it” actually is. I have found in my life that there is much joy in the simple things and much heartache in the complex. Putting one foot in front of the other and facing troubles and naysayers with bravery has become my “go to”. I am not brave by nature; this is a learned behavior I have cultivated primarily by being grateful for the simple joys and pleasures in my life. I have faced death, disability, multiple mental disorders, etc. in my past; if I did not remain optimistic and hold onto little joys, my head would surely explode. Love and happiness, these are the things I cling to these days; in the face of adversity, I have love and joy and no one can take that away from me. Life has ups and downs, twists and turns; with the good there is bad and with the bad good, but optimism can remain constant, despite. I have a health complication, with which I am currently dealing, but I also have tremendous love in my life; bad and good can simultaneously exist. It is vital that we break things down as basic as we can get them; a lifetime of judgements and layers compound our vantage points.  Once upon a time, we were free this hate and condemnation that so often sways our judgments and controls our lives today. Hate of others and not forgiving past misdeeds are often poisoning to the soul and can eat at the psyche like a cancer. This includes not forgiving oneself and complicating life with “if only”. You can’t change the past and ruminating on it can drive you insane. It’s putting one foot in front of the other, facing obstacles with bravery, focusing on the simple things, and remaining optimistic.

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

Hello!

Perhaps, “She is gone…AWOL!” ,you thought. No I am here, I have been working very hard…and my life is changing for the better. Work; that dirty word. Unfortunately, you actually have to do the action required to get the desired results. No one can do “it” for you; although it might, indeed, be nice to have a genie or a fairy godmother. Alas, as that  is not the case, we have to toil diligently if we want the utmost results. It is easy to become discouraged; either because of yourself or society. Try soooo hard not to let that negativity get to you. You have probably have more positive…umph.. than you realize!!

Mental: It’s really okay to have a bad day! I seem like I’m super-peppy and optimistic. I usually am! But do you seriously think there are people who NEVER have bad times?? Really? We are emotional beings by nature; it is actual  not the norm to NOT have emotions. We needn’t be hard on ourselves for being “off”. It just happens 🙂

Physical : Just because others give you limitations,it does not mean you have to accept them. Limits can be pushed and changed; I know this well. You may feel like the world has given up on you, therefore you might as well give up on yourself. Your body can handle quite a bit. Obviously, if something is very painful :not good. But :tired and sore from exercise is a good kind of sore 🙂

Social: Like attracts like. Not scientifically guys! If we are around positive, usually happy go-getters, we might be encouraged to act “as if”. Conversely, cohorting with pessimistic consumers may place a negative spin on one’s life. This is NOT suggesting not to interact with those having a bad spell; like I said, everyone has their moments!

You truly never know what someone else is going through.
You truly never know what someone else is going through.

Inspired

I have been VERY busy doing things for different organizations, mainly mental and physical health. At the gym this morning, I saw a senior citizen fitness class. A man showed me how he was walking better with a cane. These things made me elated. A man next to me was lifting heavy weights, but I couldn’t help but be enamored by people with canes and walkers working out, walking slowly in a circle in an adjoining room. A friend told me of a young man with a prosthetic leg on a swim team a few months ago..another friend exercises despite having arthritis. Things are not just physical, I know for myself and MANY people, it’s VERY hard to do anything,even the mundane. Or see light when all you want to do is disappear into the black. The people that go to the gym when they do not need to, who participate in life when it’s unfathomable; they are the ones who give me strength and hope. Personally.

Mental: Be the best YOU. Not compared to social constructs or what you see and read and feel you “should” be. An example: one has the notion you can never be too rich or  too skinny. They keep losing weight; it is never enough, eventually they end up in the hospital psych ward; the illusion almost killed them. Then they realize they have the world at their fingertips financially, but all the money in the world cannot buy happiness; disillusioned, they shirk life. Happiness is not tangible; no weight,no chemical, no money can replace it. Be happy with you, not compared to others.

Physical: Just do it! Everyone has to start at point A. You should not be embarassed. No person has the power to make you feel that way. No one starts out wonderful,don’t feel like you should. Do it for your heart, your metabolic system, your lungs, your balance, your movement, your cardiovascular system…your health… not so you look good in gym clothes or have the biggest muscles.

Social: Sometimes we just have to do things because we know they’re right, although we may not WANT to. Doing the right things, in society, is not always easy (at all) when we are pulled in the opposite direction (by ourselves and others). But it most often will simply feel better!

Awesome people

I see extraordinary people everywhere. People at the gym with major medical problems, people in institutions struggling, people battling personal problems in daily life; but they live and fight, despite their struggles. It is incredible to see; people surviving despite their circumstances are inspiring and make me so happy to watch; they give me courage and hope. I was hoodwinked at one point, thought you could buy happiness. Many of these people had or have very much, tangibly, but they are just things. Their power of spirit is what is great, nothing tangible. I am constantly awestruck by the sheer goodness and fighting spirit some people possess; it is simply incredible.

Mental: If you think you have a serious issue with this, for God’s sake, tell someone. Do not think you must “go it alone” or that you or alone and you are hopeless. I know my head is not always a thing to be traversed solo; I quite often need support from others.

Physical : At one time or another, we are bound to have ailments. Be kind to others with lesser physical attributes, for you can easily be in their place. There is not always a rhyme or reason, sometimes people are the way they are through no fault of their own. Always treat others with love; you would want the same for yourself.

Social: The world around you is full of wonderous love, if you remain open to the fact. If you view the world in a pessimistic manner, that is how you will see things. However, the more you are cognisant of the joy offered by the world, the more explicitly you will find you internalize it.

i am strong

What I grew up thinking

I heard, constantly, the phrase “Life sucks”… and then you commit suicide because it’s so bad. Undoing this notion is a constant work in progress,considering the large sway it held. I have my moments of getting caught up in the woes of the world, I am human; I have emotions. However, viewing the world itself as negative is not something I subscribe to at all; it makes one bitter and hateful, always seeing the bad things around them. Maybe it’s selfish, but I like doing well and sharing my happiness with others because it makes me feel good, and hopefully it influences people. I do not have the key to life, I have my struggles;but giving up or being hateful is just not on my dance card these days!

Mental: I hear “That which does not kill you makes you stronger.” Sometimes things are seemingly impossible to surmount, though. But you can get through them! If you are reading this, you are alive; you have survived all your trials and are still standing. Best not to stop now; what would that accomplish?? Sometimes life gets you down; sometimes you have to say “I WILL FIGHT”  (for GOOD things) to it and keep on pushing through.

Physical: Physical ailments can have a significant impact on the mind. You never know how someone else is feeling to themselves. Someone elses struggles might be taken in stride by me or conversely, unfathomable.We are all in different places in life and have issues specific to us. Sometimes the best we can do is show encouragement, care, and ultimate love to others. It is horrible when people struggle physically,but as I cannot change their bodies, showing compassion is possible, at least.

Social: Love people until they love themselves; is a good theory, but harder to practice. This can have significant impact, though; if people did not practice this on me, I would not be writing this. Allow people to love you; sometimes it gets annoying, but it can change you. Not love you for your physical attributes, but love you for you (because you are JUST as deserving as anyone else).

love is everywhere