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 My dream of becoming a professor had been replaced by the hellish torture of alcoholism, drug addiction, and an eating disorder.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 My dreams had been replaced by nightmares and it all came to fruition that bleak November night.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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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

Cheers to you

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”

comparing

The Morning

I had myriad of situations this morning involving health; both mental and physical. As I have dealt with both (AM dealing) I shared my experience with said individuals. Often times, some people are not open and honest about their pains, this does a great disservice to many people! They feel alone, isolated, like they are fighting battles by themselves. Support groups in person and on the internet are a fantastic resource for things that ail you, or just general support. Just use your browser to type in what you’re looking for. If you do not have access to a computer, browse flyers at random places. You never know what you’re missing if you don’t look or listen!

Mental: There are TONS of groups;  whether you have depression, bipolar, PTSD,eating disorders, schizophrenia, self mutilation, substance abuse and AD INFINITUM! You are NOT alone; don’t ever feel like you’re weird and no one understands; TRUST me, someone does. You do not need to deal with things on your own; sometimes you may feel isolated and scared. If you need to (if live) go with someone you trust, if need be. If you  don’t have anyone, don’t let fear stop you from seeking support or help. This is your damn life!

Physical: Preventative measures are better than other efforts. With “sick” season upon us in the U.S. this is very important, especially if your older or have health problems (getting even a basic illness can seriously compromise your body) or are very active (this puts a serious damper on your lifestyle). Echinacea and vitamin C are good ways to boost your immune  system. If you have access to them, I like Airborne and Emergen-C (they don’t have any weird stuff in them + the effervescent tablets make water taste  good!. Vitamin C is water soluble; so while the percentages on some may be high, you are actually excreting a good amount and absorbing a small portion (check with your doctor or pharmacist as to what  is right for you).

Social: Again;let others support you (please!), don’t feel like you HAVE TO do everything alone. There is a unspoken (or spoken) sentiment in society that if you do not do things on your own, you are weak. Question : weren’t the things you know mentally and physically either taught to you by someone or learned by you from some source. I don’t know about you, but I am not such a genius that I just sporadically KNOW the things I do. Even masters of their fields were influenced along the way. If you need help, in whatever it is in your life, do not be embarassed to let others guide you.

anyone can give up

Dodging a bullet (kind of ) and my ego

I had an incident this morning; I took normal OTC medicine that was basic (I didn’t even think about it) and my body did NOT like it. Like I’ve said I am bipolar AND have neurological issues. First off, I was shaky and unsteady, but what was very scary was the prospect that my mental state may be effected. Thank God it wasn’t! When I got to the gym this morning to work out (like usual), I was embarassed, and a very real part of me did not want people to see me in that state;what if they thought badly of me? But you know what,  it helped to put things in perspective; I was having a bad morning (point blank). I am nowhere near perfect mentally or physically and if I was not my best, that is ok! If my pride wanted me to hide from people, I would not work out (or practice) and who would that really hurt:ME. Often times our pride and ego keep us from living life,whether you don’t think you look good enough, are acting good enough, are performing well enough. All you can do is the best you can do at that moment. Don’t let your ego stop you from living your life. We all have flaws, don’t let them consume you to the point of inaction

Mental: Do the best you can with what you’re working with. If you’re having a bad moment or  day; do not beat yourself up over mistakes. Try to learn from them, but no one should expect you to do something perfectly always, ESPECIALLY if it is something you have never done before. Strive for the best, but if you don’t succeed,it is OK. Don’t get discouraged or give up! If you’re having a tough day mentally, talk to someone; don’t hold it inside and let it effect you negatively.

Physical: Regarding exercise;steadily increase your time, repetitions, sets, etc; and they will add up. If you are supposed to do a certain activity (balance, physical therapy, or weights,etc.) for a certain amount of time, push yourself to exceed it (if SAFE!) Regarding health; take care of yourself physically. This can mean: drinking more water (not fluids with sugar) , taking vitamins, taking medication as recommended, eating well,etc. It helps me to have set times to do these things; I tend to be scatter-brained; I need reminders. Alarms and pillboxes help, as does drinking large glasses of water with your meals, this way it is more difficult to forget these things.

Social : I have said it before;it is OK to ask for help if you really need it. Don’t learn to abuse it, but ask if you need it. NO, it does not make you weak or incapable…it makes you human, which if you’re reading this (hopefully!) you are.

start where you are

Just alright?

I was at the gym this morning doing balancing exercises (I had a stroke and recently stopped using my cane, I have neurology and balance issues); I am supposed to do them for 30-60 seconds. I reached 60, stopped and thought, “Do I want to be alright or do I want to be great?”; so I did another 60. It is the same for everything in our lives :mental, physical, social; doing the minimum or average is fine… if you want minimum or average results. It is tough to go beyond the basic (no one said it is easy) but, if done, you will get better results than otherwise. Try to push beyond, just ask yourself “Do I want to be average or AWESOME!?”

Mental: If you are having problems in this area, if you are gloom and doom or using negative self talk…TALK TO SOMEONE!!! Do not stuff it down and carry that burden alone. As it relates to pushing yourself; if you see the glass as half empty, and tell yourself you cannot do something, you won’t try.  Other people can carry you, push you, in the right direction.

Physical: Don’t stop at the minimum; push yourself. You do not improve by half assing  it or staying in the same place. Think of your goal; now think of how fantastic it would be to exceed it. Do  not put limitations on your physicality; I know if I did I would be very far behind. YOU make your physical situation up to you; do the best you can with what you have. People have issues that might impede them; even non-disabled individuals (injuries, health problems, etc.), but even this (with medical guidance) cannot stop you from doing your best possible.

Social: Use society to lift you up, not drag you down. Yes, there are things wrong with the world; it’s impossible to view the news without hearing of the woes of the world; you rarely hear good news. The world likes to pull on your fiery side and get you riled up, but (believe me) there is good in the world, often you have to seek it out. There is a good program on CNN, called Heroes; it airs at Thanksgiving, but if you don’t have cable, you can probably get it online or see snippets at YouTube; and I will give a link to the website. Even if you don’t agree with CNN as a news station, this program allows you to see truly inspirational  people, from all walks of life, appreciated for their contributions to society.CNN Heroes

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