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 My dream of becoming a professor had been replaced by the hellish torture of alcoholism, drug addiction, and an eating disorder.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 My dreams had been replaced by nightmares and it all came to fruition that bleak November night.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

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

Words and actions

In talking with people over the last few days, I reminded myself  how important it is that my words and deeds are in correlation. It would not be right of me to say one thing and do another; I did that for a very long time (probably at the annoyance of people!). The result was that I felt that much worse about myself; I already treated and thought of myself horribly and now, on top of that, I was a doubletalker. I told a friend last night, if you the happy= perfect, you  would be gravely mistaken. Actions taken to be happy are a choice even in horrible circumstances. Life is not perfect, but you can choose to make it positive.

BTW I am going to throw some links in here; just click on them!

Mental:Oct 5-11th is Mental Illness Awareness week; for those who care to know that. Mental illness is surrounded by quite a bit of stigma; it is often thought you are “crazy” if you have mental illness. But even basic depression, PTSD, anxiety disorder, eating disorders, etc. are forms of this. Information on stigma

Physical: Water, and lots of it! You are probably thinking “YES! Everyone tells me that”. I hate water; it’s boring to me. Some people like it; me not so much. I  was ill this weekend, and the first day, I drank less water; by the second I  was VERY sick and could barely walk. Someone suggested that I may be dehydrated. Water with lemon adds some flavor, detoxifies, and gives you vitamin C. Score!Benefits of lemon water

Social: Be kind to yourself and others;realize we all have bad days and people aren’t perfect. Do not beat yourself up if you are not “on your A game”; at the same time allow for the fact that others may falter, as   well. Do not expect everything to be 100% always; you will set yourself up for disappointment. It helps to go into situations without expectations; if the outcome is good, great! If not, if you didn’t expect anything is the first place, you won’t be disappointed!