Freedom from Big Pharma at 18 months

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After decades of being poly-drugged, I took my last routine pharmaceutical on January 1, 2018. I am now 18 months being free of all those side effects(listed in the links) and all those toxins in my body.
I began tapering off a slew of medications in the fall of 2014. I had been mostly housebound for 3 years before that with the various conditions my body was struggling with. I realize now I was also being made sick by the medications and how they had damaged my natural abilities to regulate the basics of life.

Over the course of 25+ years, from 1998 to when I started tapering off medications in 2014, I had been prescribed over 50 medications, many to be taken for months or years with increasing doses over time. It actually started even before that, with my first prescribed benzodiazepine being taken in December of 1985 when my third born child died. Other than that one time there were the occasions for a pain pill or muscle relaxer as I was prone to back injuries, but nothing routine.

Then in 1990, finding myself the single mother of three children under the age of 6 with no support and a lot to manage, I had a panic attack and was prescribed Xanax. What a wonder drug that seemed like. I had suffered from some depression and anxiety most of my life. I didn’t know it then but it was all related to Complex PTSD (Post traumatic stress disorder). That medication made me feel like I was okay. That I didn’t have to feel so scared all the time. Not so jumpy. Not so on edge. It seemed like a wonder drug. When I would feel my heart beating a bit fast and my stomach tightening up and all jumpy, the medicine took that away in about 15 minutes. I don’t remember how many and hiwnoften I took it but it was only for occasional use. That was the first time any medication had been prescribed for any type of emotional upset.

In 1994, I was suffering from a severe bout of depression. It was linked to the beginnings of my new encounter with compulsive gambling. What wasn’t discussed in treatment or therapy was that I was married to an alcoholic who made life really challenging and was triggering my PTSD responses. Yes, the gambling was a problem too, but the gambling was to try to escape the feelings related to PTSD. I had grown up in an alcoholic home and now I had got myself and my children saddled into another one. This was the beginning of the prescriptions for what was diagnosed as Major Depressive Disorder. I was prescribed Zoloft, Prozac, Wellbutrin, Trazadone, Paxil, and others I can’t even remember now. They (the various treatment providers I was seeing) finally got me locked in with Luvox in 1996 after my first psychiatric hospitalization.

Everything was blamed on the gambling problem, which was actually getting worse. Yet if you take a look at that med list and acknowledge my being on and off and on new meds over the course of 2 years, well that MIGHT have been part of the issue with the increasing depression and insomnia and anxiety. If you look at the side effects these medications can have, you will see.

When I was put on the Luvox, I also was prescribed Ambien. For the insomnia. Up until I started being medicated I never had suffered any issues with sleeping. I was a GREAT sleeper. My insurance wouldn’t pay for daily use (this is NOT supposed to be used daily it is supposed to be for the rare or short lived insomnia) despite the psychiatrist prescribing it to be taken daily, and so he gave me samples for over 4 years to keep me on a daily night time dose.

Spring of 1997 I had a foot injury requiring surgery in October. Then July of 1998 I had a hysterectomy. Then in September I was hospitalized for pneumonia. I had finally been able to get the gambling under control and was doing pretty well. I was separated from my spouse. My eldest child had gone to live with his father and there was some angst there, but I was managing. After the rehabilitation of my foot being in a cast for over 4 months, I believe I may have been somewhat managing just on the Luvox and Ambien. I also had been unable to work during all this and had lost my position at UPS.

I had been all signed up to go to school fall term of 1998 but with the pneumonia I had to wait to heal. Then in the winter I took a couple classes at the local community college. I decided it was time to get back up and get a job. It was winter of 1998 that I started my path into the world of medicine. I was a receptionist and UA specialist ( I did urinary analysis specimen collection) for a lab. After I started working at a sit down job I started gaining weight. This was the first sit down job I’d ever had. That is when the pain issues began in earnest!

I started having severe pain issues and the insomnia was worsening. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. I was prescribed Daypro and told to stop the maximum doses of Ibuprofen daily that I had been taking for a couple years. I was still on the Luvox and Ambien. Then Zanaflex got added for the severe muscle spasms and for sleep.

I would miss LOTS of work. I couldn’t sleep and my body hurt so bad I couldn’t get up to go to work. I had severe headaches. I had to take naps to get through the day. I was severely depressed and I had gained 45 pounds in less than a year.

I decided to re-enroll in school. I wanted something different. I went to school and got my CNA certification. I was still taking a slew of medications and life was hard as a single mom, but I was managing.

Somewhere along the line I started letting go of some of the medications. I just weaned myself off them. I don’t remember much about it but I know by 2002 when I graduated with my LPN license I wasn’t taking any medications that I remember.

I don’t remember much of my year in nursing school. I had my 2 kids at home, I was working 2 and 3 jobs and in nursing school. I had a kid in juvenile detention that I went to visit once a month. I was a single mom with no support financially or from family. I was carrying it all.

In 2004 I was in a bad motor vehicle accident. I was rear ended at a stop sign by someone going 55 mph. I had prescriptions for pain medicine and muscle relaxers and something for sleep. I also was struggling with the gambling again. I also was in yet another marriage with a man who was not what he had portrayed all our time dating. He was abusive. I was started on antidepressants again. Then came Ambien. I also had been prescribed Ativan while my son was in Iraq after I’d been found in a linen closet at work crying hysterically.

No counseling was ever prescribed. I hadn’t seen a psychiatrist since 2001. The medications I was being prescribed were from a Nurse Practitioner.

I left the marriage in 2006. I was in a daily gambling crisis. I was severely depressed. Yet I was working as a LPN and went back to school.

I graduated with my RN in 2008 and was free of all meds I think at that time. I was still struggling with gambling but managing to get bills paid and function. Barely.

I started a new job in 2009 after moving and got a new doctor. She said I needed to treat my pain and that would help with the sleep issues. So pain medications and muscle relaxers became the norm. Then in 2010 I ended up in gambling treatment. They prescribed Effexor. So I was on that, Ativan, and Oxycodone while in a treatment facility and no one was addressing my Complex PTSD or why I really had all this pain. Everyone was happy with the fibromyalgia diagnosis. That was what was making me hurt so bad and not sleep and be depressed. So that had to be treated. According to them.

I had yet another back injury while on the job shortly after getting out of treatment. That was the beginning of the downhill journey to losing me.

I was loaded up with pain medications and muscle relaxers and they wanted me to do “light duty”. Then they tried putting me on Oxycontin (I was already on oxycodone) and I said to them, “If you want me to work, someone has to drive me and I need something in writing saying I can work, because I can barely walk or talk”. After 4 days of taking it, I wrote a letter to my physician and told him what was going on. Of course, being on the medications it wasn’t my best writing. He fired me as a patient saying I was non-compliant because I wouldn’t take the pain medicine and go do light duty.

My PCP finally said “I am taking you off work for the duration. I believe you are disabled”. I did all I needed to trying to get back to work, but the pain was becoming worse rather than better. I became homeless within 3 months. I had finally been doing so well, paying off my gambling debts, feeling good about myself, working towards my goals….and now I am stuck in a body that isn’t working right and there is NO help.

Then I moved to S. Oregon and found a new PCP. She at first was not wanting to give medications, or so her notes say. Yet within 12 months she had increased all my medications and had me try Savella and Neurontin.

I also was taking as recommended daily Ibuprofen in the max amounts. I also was prescribed muscle relaxers. Sometimes Flexeril and sometimes Robaxin. Also recommended to take Bendaryl for sleep nightly as well as for chronic itching. And also to take Immodium for chronic diarrhea.

It was about this time in 2014 I started using cannabis to get off the opiates. That was my only goal at that time. Just to stop the pain pills. I knew it was a downward spiral as my tolerance increased.

My stomach issues which had been problematic since being a teenager worsened. I had been diagnosed at age 17 with Spastic Colon. As the years progressed they called it Irritable Bowel Syndrome. My gut hurt ALL the time. I had trialed many medications over the years with no improvements noted. I finally decided to just fast for a few days and see what happened. This was in 2015. I found the most clarity and lessened pain and overall well being that I have had in years. I believed I had food allergies.
I literally had to argue with my PCP to have allergy testings. She handed me her completely unused herbal book and said “Here take this home and research. You have been doing a great job healing your body holistically so find what works for IBS”. I grabbed her book and looked her in the eye and said, “Ill take you book and do YOUR job of finding something to help me, but you have to order the Western 40 allergy test!”. I had worked in a lab. I knew the tests. I knew I needed to be tested for basic foods and environmental allergens in my area.

Well, surprise surprise, I am allergic to wheat, corn, sesame, cashews and peanuts. As well, I am allergic to most all the trees, grasses and weeds in the Pacific Northwest. Additionally I have a condition called Protein Specific Cross Pollination, which basically means even foods I am not allergic to can be influenced by the environmental allergens. So allergy season hits me hard, both with sinus and breathing issues as well as gut issues.

So then came Zyrtec, and not just one a day, but 3 a day!!! Also was to use an inhaler and a nasal steroid. I did it for maybe 6 months and noticed little improvement. The best improvement was by not eating the allergens I knew were messing me up.

From 2010 to 2018 I was prescribed 19 routine medications. In 2014 was taking 60-90mg oxyodone, Robaxin 1000mg two time a day, Ibuprofen 800mg four times a day, Xanax 1mg 3-5 times a day, Lomotil 2 or 3 times a day, Zyrtec 3 tabs daily, Nasal steroid, inhaler, and Benadryl 50mg nightly. I was mostly in bed, severely depressed, in more pain than I could tolerate, and just miserable. I had NO life. I was so sad and hurting so bad and felt my life was destined to constant suffering.

Then came my introduction to cannabis as a medicine. By using a concentrate called FECO (full extract cannabis oil) I was able to taper down on the oxycodone. I began by eliminating one half of one dose of oxycodone daily. Then I stopped taking the ibuprofen. Then I stopped the muscle relaxers. Then all the allergy meds. I learned how to manage symptoms using cannabis in various forms and various strains for the various conditions I was hurting from.

Over time I became more able bodied again. I wasn’t in bed ALL day EVERY day. I still went slow, but I had hope. I was going to do this. I was going to keep getting rid of the pain pills and the anxiety medications and the anti-depressants.

In spring of 2016 after my final dose of oxycodone I had a bunch of worse symptoms for quite some time. Then I abruptly stopped my taper of Xanax and jumped off at 1mg daily. It was not pleasant. I ended up hospitalized on two occasions and that brought MORE medications. That is all they know how to do in the hospital. I had the Effexor increased and was added on Seroquel and Remeron and Clonidine. Yet….I was off everything else!!! I had eliminated all those medications.

At that time I felt worse than I have ever!!! I was out of control in many ways. But there was that little window of hope that I could find the real me under all the medications. So I was hellbent on completing what I’d begun!

I continued to taper despite homelessness, being estranged and rejected from my family and most of my friends. I really went through much but I’ve wrote and shared about that all before.

So from August 2016 when I was first hospitalized and had got off everything except Effexor, it took until January 1, 2018 to eliminate the last of those 4 medications. I have never endured such pain and rage and frustration and illness and inability to live normally as I did during the years between 2015 and 2019. I am not fully healed but I am more ME than I have been in 2 and a 1/2 decades!!! My hope is now becoming reality. The constant allowing the medical professionals to band-aid wounds they hadn’t really evaluated is over.

I no longer seek the medical professionals to fix every discomfort. I’ve learned many modalities to use to manage pain, anxiety and depression. I work with a therapist (and did through most all of this) finding the best results in treating the true problem, which was Complex PTSD from childhood and life trauma. I accept that my body has things that are not in good order. My back and neck are in bad shape from injuries. I have arthritis all over. The fibromyalgia is still there but well managed with cannabis. I have nerve damage. Maybe from the two occasions of taking Cipro while being on benzos. Maybe from all the other medications. The main limiting issues now are cognitive deficits from the medications. I can’t do word finding well. I struggle reading and writing. I am easily irritated. I have vision issues. I have anxiety with being in traffic (who doesn’t though…but mine keeps me from driving). I am not fully healed but I’m better than I’ve been in a decade and I’m okay with this for today.

I am so happy I don’t take ALL those medications and I feel SOOOOOO much better and I am grateful my glimmer of hope and the love of my dog and my true love of life overrode everything that told me I wouldn’t survive it all. I am so grateful. I am free from Big Pharma!!!

2018, my year in Photos

2018 was started the right way, with movement in my of my life.  I had begun walking just before the New Year had arrived.  I kept it up in order to reach a goal which was to participate in a 5K!  I not only participated, but I shared my story about getting free of pharmaceuticals as I walked the streets of Grants Pass just 4 days before my 56th birthday!  I created a shirt about my journey and wore it proudly!

 

I also was on the move with my bags packed frequently this year.  Between moving back to S. Oregon, various house sitting gigs, a trip to Little Cultus lake and then to Salem a couple times, my bags got used a LOT.

 

I enjoyed a variety of local events.  Music, merry-making, activism and fun.  I am beginning to enjoy being social now and then.  This is just one of the indicators that slowly yet progressively, I am healing!

 

 

Always there are animals around.  I enjoy them all.  I seem drawn to them and they seem to enjoy me as well.  I make friends wherever I go.  Often they are 4 legged or feathered.

 

I was drawn to water many times.  It soothed me.

 

Especially when I needed to escape the smoke again.  Summers are getting hard in Southern Oregon due to so many fires.

Cannabis was always part of the day.    I shared my story in order to help others know that it does work and you don’t have to be high!  Well…maybe high on life!!!

I had so many blessings such as being reunited with my brother, getting a couple kitties, becoming a surrogate Nana…..and of course….my lovely tiny home on wheels.

 

I enjoyed some art projects this year.  Thanks for the art supplies ladies.  You know who you are.

 

I cooked for others and myself

Not everything was always dandy.  There were a few things that were hard.  But I never let them get me down for too long.

 

But at the end of the day there were so many beautiful sunsets.

 

And of course….the one constant in my life….the most amazing and wonderful #ShastaTheWonderdog.  And Lulu…who is her sidekick!

 

It has been a year of blessings and I am very grateful!  I am ready for whatever 2019 has to bring!

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An afternoon walk in Applegate, Oregon

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I took a little walk about in the lovely burb of Applegate, Oregon.  The bridge, the lodge, the community “country club”, the little private park, they all called to me on this lovely spring day!

The Applegate River Lodge is a beautifully constructed log style structure build on the banks of the Applegate River, in Applegate, Oregon.  It houses a very nice restaurant and bar, seven individually decorated rooms with jacuzzi tubs that are available nightly, as well as world class music events that draw locals and those from far away as well.  The front door is always open, your dog will be welcome except for music nights, and you just can’t beat a half an hour on the deck on a spring day.

Right next door is the Applegate Country Club, a place for locals and visitors alike to gather and enjoy a wood-fired pizza and one of many great Oregon beers or wines.  The gardens are really coming along and there are blooms bursting now with evidence of more to come.

My last stop was Merete’s Cove.  It is a little private park owned and maintained by a local whom I am acquainted with and broke bread with last week.  I was grateful the caretaker was around to grant me access.  It was such a lovely day I couldn’t help but enjoy this little area that I love so much!

The only thing I didn’t get photos of today was the local market.  That will be another time!  They deserve a notice too as they are the ones who provide great breakfasts and gas for all of us locals!  🙂  I am so grateful to be back in Southern Oregon!  It really is a groovy place to be!

What could I have done different?

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I wonder if there were things I could have done different, or if everything else that has happened would have happened regardless of what I have done. Things like reminding my loved ones that I have been slowly detoxing off meds for 2 years, and to please have a little more patience and understanding with me if I am more anxious. Would it have made a difference? Would they view the events as they unfolded a little differently? Or would the ugliness of my outbursts be just as scary?

I can’t undo anything that was done, so what do I do to atone for my actions? From hundreds if not thousands of miles away from one another? Especially now when many are either frightened or angry or disappointed or disgusted in me, or all of them?

A perfect storm happened and I got caught in the middle and I lost it and now I’m the bad guy. That is what it feels like. Among other things.

Of course….my feelings are all on edge. No sleep again for a few days, heart hurting, feeling alone because I pushed everyone away and now they are staying away. It is so hard to hold on to hope.

Because of me trying to get better, by getting off the damned pills, I may well have lost some of the things I thought I wanted most in my life. I mean how do you atone for throwing hatred around? How to you atone for name calling and threats and all the things I did? How will I ever be able to forgive myself??? I don’t know. I have so many questions and no answers and no one is talking and so it’s just the old tapes running and running and running.

“It’s all you fault”. I heard that so many times in some of the worst situations when I was a kid. Or, “quit wearing your heart on your sleeve, quit your ballayhooing”. Or, if you would have tried harder you could have got the award “(of course no one told me about the rewards offered until after the fact). How about “keep crying and I’ll give you something to cry about”.

So now that I’ve misbehaved, acted out in fear and anxiety with a fight/flight response brought on by multiple stressors as well as going through detox, all those old tapes play because I have nothing new to replace them with. What has happened my whole life is how it is today. I am alone. I wonder if it would be different if there ever was a time when things were so hard that if someone would have held my hand and said I will love you through this because you are worth it, maybe some things would have been different. Oh how I wish so much was different.  I am really struggling with so many emotions.

So what am I doing in the meantime to fill the time?  Today I found a tire for the lawnmower for FREE!!!!  Now that is something to be grateful for because online they were about $25.00 and a wait of a week or so.  The weeds were driving me nuts.  So, I went and picked up the tire, changed out the bearing (it was the wrong size but I fixed it), and mowed the lawn.  Of course I also tended to all the flowers, doing my daily dead-heading.  I paid attention to the new blossoms and what is doing well and what is struggling.  Some of the strugglers…I just keep watering and fertilizing and hope they survive.  It’s all I can do, right?

I also spent some time making myself look pretty, just because.  I am typically not a makeup foo foo type of gal, but I CAN do it!

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I”m going to live through this, I know that.  But what is the cost going to be?  What will the tally be a year from now?  How about a week from now?  How long will it take for others?    Dear God I wish I had some answers or some better understanding.  I’m really doing my best.  But you know that…even if no one else does.

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Nature is all I can do

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Well, life is pretty weird right now. I need to leave where I have been, I have no money or ability to earn some (have you tried working while going through detox and PAWS), no where to go and I’m detoxing off Xanax and already in PAWS for opiates. Life is just flipping dandy. Ya know that saying that God won’t give you more than you can handle…well that is just horseshit. I have had plenty in life that has made me be how I am. I give I give I give. Just because you are alive doesn’t equate to really living. Yeah, I’m still a living breathing being, but I am not able to live my life at all how I would like right now. Not even close.

So, I’m trying to act like I’m not totally off my rocker. I’m trying to find a place for my dog (she is definitely going to make a great companion for someone if I no longer can provide for her) as well as someone to trap and relocate Hazel Hideycat. I’m still watering all the plant life around here.

I’m not sure if anyone will keep up with the flowers and trees, or feeding the hummingbirds, but I can’t take care of it anymore. It’s obvious when you view the photos that I am not capable of keeping it all done. Just not enough knowledge, energy or money. But someone, if they want,  will be having some squash and some lettuce and cucumbers and beautiful flowers.

Not to mention the lovely medicine I’ve been growing. I have donated that to a friend. If I am able to manage being here now and then, we’ll share in the reaping of the harvest. If I am unable to come back when I leave…which is hopefully very soon…then they will be his. I really am quite proud of them. I’ve tended them for 3 months and 3 days. I’ve loved them and nurtured them and fed them and talked to them. I have no doubt if I would have been able to do what I thought I I was going to be able to do here, I would have been in good shape after harvest.

Evidently this is not the place for me.  Just like so many others places.   Me being here is a drain.  Me being anywhere that is not by myself is a drain.  I do not want that for my life.  If I can’t be self sufficient then there is not purpose.  Everyone here can contribute more than I can. I am no longer needed. I’ve served my purpose and now it’s time to move on.  People have homes, income and a place to do what they choose.  I made it great for quite a few folks.

So, for the time being I am working on getting the older little trailer in condition to put what I absolutely need to have to survive into. Really grateful for my son’s ability to build a new bed. I’ll just be moving my clothes and personal items over. Then I can clean out my 5th wheel and sell it as ready to live in with a mattress and dishes and everything. That will put a few pesos in my pocket for whatever is next in life.

The next 48 hours should be really interesting. I have not been without a Xanax at bedtime for over a few years. I was down to 1mg, but now I’m completely out and I am not going to get more. I also am going to do all I can to stay out of a detox center or a hospital. I would much rather hike into the wilderness and find my way there and let whatever happens, happen. I am tired of trying to live the way I have been. I would rather tie myself to a tree and cry and scream and rant and rave all alone than put that upon anyone else.

If I knew of a safe place to go, where they wouldn’t just put me back on meds, I would go there. If I knew of a place where I could be safe, where I could know some true security, I would go there. I’ve never known a place of safety and security at all in my life. Just when I think being safe is okay, sharing who I really am is okay….it ends up destroying me. Being alone is going to be the only way I can have some semblance of sanity. I have no trust in anyone or anything except for animals and plants. They never lie. They show how they are cared for. Humans show what they are about. It has nothing to do with me or anything I do. They just are how they are. So now…I take a leap into another place.

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Jumping from a bridge at Lake Billy Chinook at age 44

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Another Day

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The view out back.

I believe the last day I had any opiates was May 10. That means today is day 51. Whew! What a roller-coaster it has been. Physical pain some days, other days tons of energy and low pain, emotional highs and lows, anhedonia, obsessive compulsive behaviors, restless legs, sweating, raging, sleeplessness, tearful, irrational, sensory overload, lonely (this is my own choice to be alone, yet it still is a lonely place).  Yet, here I am, upright, breathing and doing my best!

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Hidey Hazel kitty

Yesterday was a pretty decent day overall.  I started the day opening the blinds in my bathroom.  My veggie garden is my view out the back of my fifth wheel.  Its coming along nicely for what I’ve had to work with.   The best thing was my kitty that had fled the coop a week or so ago is living under the porch now and I got to see her.  I took her food and water.  I also filled the hummingbird feeder, watered the garden, took some photos, got a shower and went out for pizza with my son after we had a little talk.

I finally asked him about last Friday night. That was a really bad night. In attempting to be social and be out, I over-imbibed in alcohol and it was not a good thing. Alcohol while detoxing off narcotics is a potentially lethal mix.  In more calm and rational times having a glass of wine or two is not a big deal for me. What I learned over the last 2 weeks or so is that if you are removing something that has been part of your pain regimen, it is really easy to substitute alcohol. So a glass or two becomes 3 or 4 and then more. I would not make a good alcoholic.  I found that out in just a short couple weeks of doing some “substituting”. I was somewhat aware I was doing that, but I thought I could control it.  I let it get out of hand.  Right now I have to be very very careful of any thing that might be a potential replacement, other than the medical marijuana.

Even tho I’ve been on a taper for over 18 months, my brain knows that those pills are now gone. Those receptors are screaming for something to fill them up so they can relax. That is what causes me so many symptoms. What I am needing is some better guidance on strains of medical marjuana (MMJ) to use.

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My best forever friend

Since I started using MMJ, I’ve only had strains I received as compensation for work and what I received from the person who grew for me last year. I’ve been give a few names and very basic descriptions of what the strain is good for. What I need is some direction and expert knowledge of what strains will help with the anxiety and some of the other symptoms that I have been recently struggling with. I have decided I need to take a trip to one of the local dispensaries. Most the strains I have are good for getting me up and moving. Right now, I need something a little more calming. I’ve visited a couple with a friend once but have not had the resources to spend on what I considered as “extras”, when I have plenty here. What I have come to realize is that I need some specific components and for my health it isn’t an “extra”. This is my medicine now.

I am coming to truly understand that this is a science. I have much to learn. I know from the great success I’ve already had the last 18 months that it can be done. I want this to work and it is working. Had I been more mindful I may have waited to stop that last pill until I didn’t have so much stress going on around me. Yet, I could have made an excuse to keep that pill for quite some time. It was my medicine. Now it isn’t.

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Each day the smile is a bit more

I’m not good at “fake it til you make it”. My brain doesn’t grasp that. What I do have success with is keeping on keeping on. It might not look pretty all the time, but I’m not giving up, even when my head sometimes tells me that sounds like a pretty good idea for everyone’s sake. I have been through so much and I know that there is good on the other side of dark times like this.

My hope for my loved ones is they too remember that no matter what happens, my track record has been good for waking up and making it through the days. And for all of you reading, I wish you the best day possible. If it’s not so great hang on, because tomorrow can be, if you just get through what ever it is you have to get through.  Peace.

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Storms often bring heavy growth afterwards