Many Bridges of Recovery

 

 

September is National Recovery Month. It is a month to focus on mental health and addictions. It is a time to celebrate those who recover and to remember those who have lost their lives due to their conditions. This year’s theme as designated by SAMSHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) was “Join the Voice for Recovery: Strengthen Families and Communities”.


My kickoff for the month was the  Vancouver/Portland Hands Across the Bridge.  These events are to raise awareness for and celebrate people in recovery. The Portland event tallied a collective experience of over 4000 years of recovery. That is a LOT of people making the decision to do the next right thing day after day!


I also went to the Hands Across the Bridge-Marion and Polk County  2017 event. There weren’t as many participants yet it was well attended. There was food and music and many local support services. The participants walked up on the bridge and dropped flowers into the Willamette River as a symbol of our recovery and also in memory of our fellow friends in recovery who have left the earth.

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In Oregon we also have Problem Gambling Awareness Day. It was on September 29th in honor of Bobby Hafemann. Bobby ended his life due to the loneliness and hopelessness he struggled with because of his problem gambling 22 years ago. Many are unaware that gamblers have the highest statistics for completed suicides of any other addiction. The message for all gamblers is that there is HOPE and HELP. Treatment works. This years campaign is “Take a Break”. Signage encourages gamblers to take a break for just one day and if you aren’t able to stop for just a day, that could be a sign that maybe there is a problem. Pick up the phone and reach out, help is available for all Oregonians.

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September is also National Suicide Awareness month. There are numerous events around the Nation. Portland and Salem hold their Out of the Darkness community walk to bring awareness to Suicide Prevention in the first weeks of October.   Veterans are promoting the message of “Be There” for their annual suicide prevention and awareness campaign. 22 Veterans a day ending their own lives is too many.

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I myself have struggled with suicidal ideation as a symptom of withdrawals from opiates and benzodiazepines and also as symptom in my battle with gambling. Knowing the statistics for gamblers and for those coming off benzodiazepines I feel pretty blessed to still be upright and breathing. I am grateful that my natural intrinsic will to survive has been stronger than my occasional thoughts of being overwhelmed with life. Yet I know that doesn’t always work in the long term unless one learns how to manage life better. The symptoms of the disease can be treated while death is permanent. Suicide is not a solution and it can be prevented. Pick up the phone and call the National Suicide Prevention line. Be there for a friend. Participate in one of the activities in your local area to bring awareness to suicide being a preventable condition!


The month ended with the 4th Annual Bridgeway Recovery 2017 Run/Walk for Recovery event held in Salem, Oregon. This event is to raise awareness and help end the stigma for those suffering with a mental health disorder or an addiction. Bridgeway wants to help connect those that need help with the help they deserve. They realize how difficult reaching out can be due to the stigma associated with these problems. The shame that most people feel can prevent them from seeking help until their lives are in critical danger. There is hope and change is possible. Recovery does happen when you get treatment and utilize the tools available.

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Bridgeway Services is a new style of recovery services.  They are a Patient-Centered Primary Care Home (PCPCH).  They provide counseling, detoxification from drugs and alcohol, inpatient treatment and regular medical care as part of a holistic method of treating those struggling with their mental health and substance abuse disorders. They provide a trauma informed care approach, which is having the understanding that most all patients are having a response to previous trauma.

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Each of these events was a challenge for me to participate in due to my social anxiety. Left to my own devices and decisions, I would not have gone. I was encouraged to face my fear knowing there were others there to help me and I had tools to use. I am at in-patient treatment and my treatment team said immersion is a powerful tool. I was allowed my camera. It was a tool to keep me stay grounded. It helps me focus when overwhelmed with sensations from being around so many people and so much traffic.

 

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Dialectical view…..

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There but for the grace of God go I

What you see here is the result of my ability to use my tools and function and gain some self-esteem. By having access to my camera I was able to engage with people while using a tool which allowed me to stay in my own personal space. I also had the time of finding the settings and focusing for my shots.  I also engaged in a bit of exercise and enjoyed fresh air and had a few interactions with animals and nature. All these activities were mindfully noticed and utilized to assist me in staying in the moment. Some of this I have learned over time, and some of it is new skills I’ve learned since being in treatment.

 

 


I hope you see some of the themes I noticed from these activities. They are signs of recovery that are obvious and obscure. For one thing…there are many people in large groups. The struggle with mental illness and addiction is quite lonely. Getting among others and having a good time while doing it is a sure sign of recovery. Being out in public and not having shame to be associated with things such as addiction, mental health disorders, prior felonies is powerful and shows strength.

 

 

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How about evidence of families? That too is an area that often is surrounded with challenges for this population. Yet there were many moms and dads with their kids and even a few grandmas and grandpas too. Signs that said “Recovery is getting my dad back”.


Then there are the bridges. So many bridges! Recovery means having a lot of courage and stamina to leave old ways and old behaviors in search of a new path. For many people it means feeling like being on a different planet because of all they’ve lost and where they landed. Yet here these folks are out in the hundreds to hold hands or run or walk across a bridge to shake off the old and embrace the new. They are smiling. They are challenging themselves. They are pushing themselves when they are uncomfortable. I was so proud of all these people and I thanked them over and over and over. As each one passed me and I took their smiling face reddened photos I felt their courage and their hope. They were doing it. They were winning, just by being there! They were the winners, each one of them.

Recovery and Mental Health Awareness and Suicide Awareness aren’t to be recognized only in September. It is a daily thing. One day at a time. Stop the stigma. Have an awareness and become educated about mental illness and substance abuse disorder and learn how to be of help. A simple kindness and a nudge in the right direction can really make a difference.  Recovery is a lifelong journey.  It requires learning tools on a daily basis to live with things I can’t change throughout my life.  I will always be learning new skills. Sometimes I need a little more help, some new tools, a better understanding of my condition. That’s why I am at treatment. To get what I need. Thanks Bridgeway!

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2017 Worldwide Benzo Awareness Day

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On July 11, 2017 thousands and thousands of people worldwide are joining forces to educate the public and bring awareness of this iatragenic illness called Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Syndrome.  I hope you learn something from my story posted on YouTube. 2017 #WBAD ~ My story. My only desire in sharing is to help someone possibly not have to go through the terror and horror I did when I ended my  as prescribed dose too abruptly.  I do not recommend doing what I did.

Rising above and getting past it

Sometimes you just have to accept….so you can rise above!

IF you are on any benzodiazepines chronically and are having side effects that are making your life miserable, I urge you to do some research and learn how to come off the medications and how to heal in time.  This class of medication is only to be used in the hospital setting for surgical procedures or for special circumstances for no more than 2 weeks.

Listed below are some excellent resources to begin your study of how these types of medications, anxiolytics and sleeping medications (Z-drugs) cause great harm and even in some cases, death by unintentional overdose or sadly by completed suicides.

Professor Heather Ashton was has been the leading medical professional on how to taper off Benzodiazepines for the last 15 years.  There are many YouTube videos about her as well as excerpts of her writings.  The most important document for those considering withdrawing off benzodiazepines is the Ashton Manuel.  Here is a link: Benzodiadiazepines: How they work and how to withdraw

Another of Pf. Ashton’s writing includes excellent descriptions of protracted withdrawals, which occur in an estimated 30% of patients who decide they no longer want the medications or their doctors have decided to withdraw them in a much too short of period of time or they have been on them much to long than they should ever be taken.  Protracted Withdrawal Symptoms from Benzodiazepines.

The Benzodiazepine Information Coalition is an excellent starting place for learning the dangers of Benzodiazepines.  It’s time to talk about Benzodiazepines.

Dr. Peter Breggin is a leading psychiatrist and the author of many books and papers about the problem with Benzodiazepines.  He has brought the plight of patients harmed by psychopharmocology into the public eye.  Here is a link to his page titled What your doctor may not know Psychiatric Drug Facts.

That is a good starting point at least.

There is much support out there if you look around and I encourage you to utilize Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram to just see how many of your medications have a support group somewhere because the side effects outweigh the benefit.

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My wish is that NO ONE ever feels like they have to go through BWS alone!

Thanks for reading and thanks for watching and I hope you show you care by sharing!

July 10, 2017 marks 9 months my body has had to work on healing without any benzodiazepines.  I am so grateful to the entire Worldwide Benzodiazepine Awareness movement.  You are saving lives! You helped save mine!

 

 

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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Day 6 and the worst is over I hope!

Today, I spent some time trying to piece together the last 60 days. It’s hard. There are lots of big spaces of time I don’t remember much. That scares me. It’s evident whatever happened freaked out my loved ones in a big way. I was on the phone saying so many things that were not at all what I was wanting to say but my brain just was somewhat frying. It just was what it was.

Which of course adds to my shame and guilt.  I have not had that occur since I quit gambling. Yes, I’ve lost control of my emotions before, but I have had no “out of body” experiences like I experienced this time. I sure am glad I write tho, because I can go back and somewhat piece together the build-up, the blow, the loss of time, and then I went straight into detox for the Xanax withdrawal. Not the smartest idea in the book. But hey….who said I was thinking in any congruent way during this time?

Although extraordinarily fatigued with pain increased,  I think I’m doing pretty well. I am stronger than I remember sometimes. While I was feeling so weak, I had some idea of what I wanted. I have been on a journey to get off these pills for nearly 2 years. I wanted to get my overall health and strength a little better because I knew I was getting to a place I was ready to deal with some more of my “stuff”.

I did know I was having some PTSD triggers There were some encounters with people I cared about where I felt under attack so decided to disengage from those relationships. That is not something I do lightly. Yet, in retrospect it showed I was getting stronger because I was able to say to myself, “this is not healthy for me”.

In late February or early March was one  occasions and I handled myself with composure (maybe showing a slight displeasure but that is all) and then returned the next day to discuss the situation and stated what behaviors I could handle. That is a HUGE thing for me.

As time passed and other situations occurred I knew I needed to do some digging to see why I so easily get triggered by certain personalities. To be frank, I believe it’s because of my mother and our relationship and her behaviors. There are certain behaviors in women I just cannot tolerate at all. It gets my ruff up so bad and I have to just clench my teeth. Pointing, especially if someone pokes my chest, intimidation posturing, badgering, and overly aggressive. I have a tolerance and then it just is gone. It was like I was doing okay, handling each situation the best I could while trying to be professional in my role as “property manager”, and then it was over the edge.

I had told a few folks about my encounters and how they were affecting me. I had thought I had stated I was getting very stressed and overwhelmed, but again, I believe others hear it as “whining”. It was in late March that I picked up paperwork to get back into counseling. I didn’t get it turned in until mid-April after recovering from the flu. I didn’t get back in until  about the end of June for intake. Back in late March I knew I was over-stressed and had taken on more than I could handle.

In my perception a great deal of the stress came because what I perceived as agreed conversations on what was going on with the property and tenants wasn’t happening. I also had a situation with a friend and it was just the last straw.  I was so overwhelmed trying to get this property ready for renters. I had to help pack up a house that was full of many collections. Tapes(VCR and Cassette), books and mountains of electronics. The entire second story was just storage! I also had to get ready for an Estate Sale. I had never done one before and what a TON of work that is. I also had to help Mr. Chicago’s brother find an apartment and then I had to help him figure out how to make a home for himself in his new place. January was exhausting.

Then in February I was still doing okay after taking a little break, but that is when some of the encounters with PTSD triggers really started. After the first one I was shook up and tearful for a couple days. Then I tried to rectify things in an adult manner and carried on. Then there was another encounter in March. Again, I held my tongue, waited a day or two and then tried to rectify it. I also was telling my family and loved ones about the stress this was bringing me. Yet, no one is around me to actually see what those affects looked like. Often when you have PTSD triggers in my mind I feel like I sound like I am “complaining”. But what I’m trying to convey is I am getting over-stressed and I can’t make prudent choices and I need some help.

I had my trip to Chicago in late March and then came home and landed in the hospital for 4 days with the flu and pneumonia and when I came home and got well enough I had to stretch myself again. I was interviewing potential land renters. I had to run ads and make phone calls and then talk with these people at length regarding their needs and what we could provide for them. I am not a good salesperson. It makes me very uncomfortable, so I was stressing about that. More stress. I am feeling like I am falling behind here. There is so much work to be done and I am coming home after a nearly 2 week absence and it’s time to start the gardens and I still have things to haul to the dump and things to sale and continued encounters that were less than comfortable with some people.

Then came May. I did forget to mention that I had a very serious family issue that occurred in January that was an ongoing concern and stressor until early June. Those of you who follow my FB page remember, Mr. Chicago came out for my birthday in May. It was truly the BEST surprise I’ve ever had for my birthday. The BEST.   During the time he was here I was able to show him a little of what the issues were but by that point I was definitely at a point that any more encounters with triggers was going to set me off. But to him I’m sure they seemed small, each little instance.

That is not so for someone with PTSD. I’ve only had one occasion where it was a single incident that triggered me. Even at that time, I had been under a LOT of stress. Typically when I go into a meltdown mode (post gambling…completely different scenario) I have had a number of stressors on top of a number of triggers. I can only take so much. Which, is another reason I have been trying to get disability.

Having a disability like this doesn’t mean I can’t function or that I’m not smart or capable. It means I can’t take the daily struggles like a person who doesn’t have a  disability. Over the years I’ve tried to explain so much.  I can do a little physical and deal with the pain, but then my stress will get up and so I can’t deal with people or additional stress. Or, I can be medicated and take it gentle on my body and not do a bunch of hard things and my brain works. In fighting chronic pain as well as mental health issues life gets very overwhelming at times.

After Mr. Chicago went home, I thought we kind of had things under control. But that was not the case at all. There were still unresolved issues that came up and a number of incidents that made me uneasy around the 12th of June and that was when I started going over the edge.

After my first blow up, I had a few days where I just was telling everyone “I’m done”.   I am not able to make these decisions. I was trying so hard to take care of the area here and do a good job. I went up and down and up and down for a couple weeks and then settled down a bit. But by then, I was really struggling inside with a lot of things.

I didn’t feel safe anymore. Because I had “acted out” I was scared and embarrassed and pushed everyone away more. I didn’t want anyone to see me unhinged. The lonelier I got and the more I tried to figure out what I could have done different I just got more and more distressed.

I tried to “pull it together”, but I had forgotten that back in May I had purposefully come to the point that I wasn’t gong to refill the Oxycodone anymore.  That had been my goal and I reached it and was doing okay. I didn’t take into account how that my affect my mental health when I was already under stress. I continued to rage and then cry and then rage and then cry. I’ve said “I’m sorry” so many times in the last 2 months and then gone and done the same exact thing.

That is what happens when you have a PTSD breakdown. You feel okay for a few minutes and think you are okay to be around others and then Every Little Thing bugs the hell out of you. Drivers that are speeding and reckless caused me to be the same…trying to chase them down to tell them what crazy drivers they are. Ha ha ha….and who was the undone woman chasing them? Yes…that was me! Hence the limited driving these days.

So June ended and July rode in and yet another big stressor met me on the 5th. Something that made me think of bad things from long ago. I tried to explain to the other my feelings but was met with resistance. This made me feel even more unworthy and increased my angst.

So on 7/12 I had ran out of Xanax and decided not to go to town to pick up my prescription the next day. I had made a choice. Not wise, with my thinking at the time, but it was just me here and I was going for it. The first night I found out some information that truly just made my head burst. My head has been racing and my heart has been racing and I became obsessed with this information and it was rough that first day or two. I was not only going through Detox and PAWS, but I was in the midst of a mental health breakdown and kept getting news that left me feeling so alone and so WRONG for everything. Lots of thoughts of “why am I here?”.

That’s the mindset of a PTSD person. When I am in a PTSD head, I am in total fight/flight mode. I feel horrible. I think I am the worst person in the world. I want no one to see me. I don’t behave in ways that are typical for me. I get quite mean (to push people away) I’ve been told. I typically am NOT mean! I am a lover and a giver and a smiler. But under duress from a PTSD flare I can dish out some verbal bashing and be quite harsh.

I hate that. Which is a big reason for going back to counseling. I know I still have learning to do. I am hoping by completing my detoxification off the narcotics and benzodiazapines my head will be clearer for doing the work I have in front of me.

I know nothing about my future right now. Neither do you…if truth be told. I remember my counselor telling me that I learned early in life, it can all change overnight. In the meantime I am hunkering down and just trying to take care of myself. I deserve it. So do those who love me. I despise scaring them so. Evidently, as I was recently reminded, it’s been going on for some time.   When I get to my lowest I have very pronounced suicidal ideation. I forget about it for the most part when I’m well. I know how that feels as my mother suffered with the same. It is very hard for those around a person feeling like this.

Today has been the clearest my mind has been in a very long time. A very very long time. Even with the fatigue of not sleeping the last two nights (going on being awake for about 58 hours now) my brain is clear. I truly am grateful for being able to finally get off all that.

The cannabis is working. The dosing is not exact, yet. Just like me. I’m working on it. Thanks God for a gentler alternative that comes form the earth!

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