18 months since I jumped: An update on healing

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I am able to recognize my blessings each day and be grateful for all I have and have hope for continued blessings in my future!

Greetings from a highly improved me!   It has been eighteen months since I jumped (abruptly discontinued) from taking Ativan 1mg daily after tapering from taking Ativan 3mg daily. I tapered over the duration of two years. My severe detox and withdrawals period was exacerbated by the fact that I had jumped off Oxycodone 10mg only two months prior to stopping the Ativan.  I had tapered off a daily dose of 45mg-90mg over a 2 year period.   What had started in 2010 as a prescription for Percocet 5/325 one every 6 hours as needed for pain, grew until it became a monster in my life that ate all the goodness up. It was just one of the numerous medications that I was prescribed over two and a half decades.

From my records dating 2010 until the fall of 2017 I had 19 pharmaceuticals prescribed to take on a daily basis. Many of them for longer than the recommendations written in those little tiny informational packets you get sometimes with a bottle of pills. Many of them were also prescribed for things other than what they were originally created to treat. Off label uses.  My PCP (Primary Care Providor) also had recommended numerous over the counter medications and supplements as well.

 

                                                                I can smile so much easier these days 
I had been quite aware of the perils of addiction as I have personally witnessed and experienced it in my life in many forms and throughout many experiences.  My own addiction (maladaptive coping mechanism for suffering) was gambling. I knew what it felt like to not only crave something, but would go to great lengths to have that need fulfilled.

That is NOT how the medications were for me. I was dependent upon them. I took them as prescribed. I was trying to check IN to life. I was trying to find a way around the pain (both physical and emotional) so that I could participate in life. Yet the conditions continued to mount until the amount of medications my PCP prescribed became toxic! They didn’t work anymore.  In fact, some of them created a paradoxical effect, causing the exact symptom they were meant to treat.

When I recognized that the use of all these chemicals was harming me more than they were helping, I knew it was time to make radical changes in how I was managing (or letting my PCP manage) my health. I took back the reigns and sought a different path
It wasn’t really a conscious choice, embarking on the journey through the hell I have been through.  It was simply the act of starting a forward movement towards change by doing just one thing differently. Then it grew to more things differently. Things like spending a lot more time outdoors. Activities such as interacting with animals and being creative with a camera. Making very conscious choices in what I put into my body. Eliminating as much negativity as I could. Yet, there were still struggles as I didn’t know all that I would face along this journey.

No one had warned me that there was a possibility that I could have psychotic episodes coming off these medications. No one had warned me that I could reach tolerance and have paradoxical effects like a severe case of insomnia that lasted for 20 years. Only now, after being off every single medication for 40 days, am I beginning to have occasional bouts of normal sleep. No one told me about excruciating bone pain that left me curled up and rocking and crying on my mattress. No one told me of the incessant need to move, the rocking and bouncing legs and full body restlessness that was exhausting and robbed me of any rest for my ravaged body and brain. No one prepared me for how shunned I would feel and how that would further the crippling agoraphobia and paranoia so that I could not tell who I could or could not trust. This further complicated the entire process.
No one else knew how bad this would be either. I know now that there was NO one in my life anywhere close to prepared for the wild and horrifying symptoms and behaviors this would create.  It was terrifying to go through and I can imagine it was scary as hell to watch! In fact, knowing many others who have endured the hell I have, some even worse, I know that very few people in the world have been prepared to be of any assistance for someone going through this type of severe and lengthy mental and physical anguish.
That first year was a doozy! Fraught with the loss of health and home and any stability I believed I had, pretty much everything was gone in my life! Friends, family, belongings, any sense of dignity was gone.  I was robbed of all hope by the Benzodiazepine demons that lived in my head. All I did was bounce where the winds took me, trying to protect myself from me, and from others who were ill-equipped to be of any help.

Unfortunately, sometimes due to their lack of understanding or skill, those I most hoped would help were only able to add to the pain and suffering by their responses and reactions to me.   Those that truly care would have done different if they had known how.  I believe this is true for all of us suffering from this.  Yet they are the ones who just mostly stood by and watched and felt helpless. They had nothing to offer except recognizing the pain was there.  Today I can feel bad for their experience in watching all of this hell.

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This last 6 months I have turned a corner. I can feel it internally and others have commented on it externally. I have been more focused on myself and finding healing and seeking the path to wellness than ever before in my entire life.  The tools and skills and interactions and experiences I have participated in have helped me have a sense of acceptance and peace.  I truly feel more equipped to deal with whatever life may bring to me from here on forward.   More than ever before in my life I have a sense of direction and purpose.
I still have much work to do. Both of my current therapists are recommending intensive treatment for Complex PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) including modalities such as ACT (Acceptance and Commitment therapy), CBT (cognitive behavior therapy), and EMDR (Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing). Both of them say it is imperative for me to do this work for complete healing and the ability to get past the things that haunt me regardless how much I try to not let them.
I personally have taken it upon myself to learn life skills that I have found are helping me tremendously. I have adopted the practice of meditation. I meditate at least once daily, but usually twice a day. MY meditation is very much connected to my spiritual practice and prayer time. I also do Conscious breathing, utilizing a timer to just stop and breath once an hour. These skills have reduced my anxiety tremendously and are excellent for staying in the moment which is so necessary for those with PTSD.  I eat at least an 80/20 whole foods diet, primarily organic in nature and from sources as local as possible.

Since the New Year I also have been working on having the habits of movement (exercise) and drinking more water daily. I have also begun light jogging. This I am doing still with living under the fact of pain is in my life. I have nerve pain in my feet that is non-stop 24/7. I also have pretty severe back and neck pain. Yet after a 10 week-long session at a pain clinic, I have learned some wonderful new ways of looking at pain and living with it. This is why I now am more encouraged and hopeful than I have been in an extremely long time. I feel very empowered.

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Yet I still need help. I am still homeless. I still have no vehicle.  I am still awaiting a determination on my most recent filing for Social Security Disability. I still have a couple of years ahead of me doing some really difficult personal therapies. I still have limited energy and endurance.
After careful consideration, counseling with others, and making efforts to find stability and a place to live and work both where I am and where I last came from, I have decided to go back to S. Oregon.  I have more work I can do there than I have been able to find here.  I ran an ad and I have already booked 3 house-sitting gigs. I also have a couple of clients that want me to do periodic light work around their properties (gardening and housekeeping type chores). I have a friend who has offered me the use of her trailer for 11 months, and I have a couple of possibility of places to put it in exchange for helping on a person’s property either with care taking or with farm type chores.  I am willing and able to do this. It won’t be enough to get ahead, but I will have a roof over my head and some security for at least that time period.

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I have been offered a trailer like this to use for about 11 months if I can get a secure place to park it! High living for a modest gal like me!

What I need more than anything right now is a vehicle and maybe the first 6 months of insurance paid.  Or even the first 3 months. Then I can get to the house sitting jobs and the clients who have other chores to do. Then I can earn a few pesos each month. My goal is $600, which is 30 hours a month. I will most likely have to do that many hours again where ever I end up parking the trailer in exchange for rent.  That works out to about fifteen hours weekly of being up and moving and doing some sort of physical activity.  15 hours a week is about all I can do without being where I can lie down and rest intermittently.
I know I will keep improving as I continue to do the habits I’ve created and use the tools I have obtained. I know my energy will increase as I continue to lower the stress of dealing with PTSD through the time invested in treatment and as my body continues to heal from the damages done by the medications I took for too long!


I also am involved with Vocational Rehabilitation.   They are going to help me pursue the reinstatement of my nursing license. It is my short-term goal to utilize my nursing license in creating a health and wellness mentor and coaching business. I believe I have a vast amount of knowledge and experience that can be used to help many others who live with physical and emotional pain. I believe my new-found enthusiasm and gratitude for a new opportunity can encourage and inspire others to pursue their truest selves! I have been a helper and have had a healing nature throughout my life. Now that my true self (not drugged by pharmaceuticals) is re-emerging stronger than ever, I trust that God and the Universe will allow my best self to help others possibly find their way out of suffering too!

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Participating in an online Health and Wellness coaching program. It is self directed and self paced. Perfect for me right now. As well as it is FREE!!!

I am so grateful I am still here on earth and alive. I am so grateful the benzodiazepine (and other pharmaceutical) demons did not completely destroy me. It felt like I was destroyed at times, yet here I am smiling and grateful and caring for myself….and others!

After such a dark and seemingly endless foray into the depths of psychological pain so deep I felt life wasn’t worth living, I now have hope!!!  I also am able to develop goals.  It is the first time in many years I have felt capable of even thinking of having a goal, let alone taking the necessary steps to get there.  One of my goals is to  jog/run in a 5K event the weekend of my 56th birthday.   My new walking habit inspired that goal.  I have never enjoyed running or jogging, even as a child.  Yet now, when pushing through the chronic pain, I find that I reach a point of some real clean current pain and it is a desirable experience.  Pushing past the pain to get going is worth it.  The daily steps I am taking are to keep me focused and to build my skill and strength level to reach that place of being able to complete the race.  After the race,  if I still feel it is something that is adding value to my health and life and wellness, I may try for a 10K.  It is a measurable success.  There are other goals as well so each day I purposefully do actions to bring me closer to the prize…..WELLNESS and HEALING!

I also have a great aspiration to help others like me!!! I have a big dream of someday creating a healing place (long term inpatient facility) for those like me who have suffered in their lives with DIS-ease of any kind.   People wanting to come off pharmaceuticals that have become toxic to them, especially opiates and benzodiazepines; those who suffer the consequences of addiction; those who have emotional pain that requires that they be loved on and guided and encouraged to health! I envision a place of many woods and streams and much beauty where people can rest their tired minds and bodies and take a few deep breaths for a period of time. I see gardens and animals, some of them providing companionship, others there for their food source to provide healthy nutritious meals. It will be a place where there is patience and tolerance and gentle trauma-informed guidance. People will have a time and place to explore their suffering and learn skills for finding peace and acceptance of what is.  I dream of it being a place they will also find a sense of purpose and the ability to create goals and plans for achieving them. It is a big dream. It will require a big tribe to create it. That will be a huge focus on the next portion of my journey. Creating a healing caring loving tribe that can share this vision! 🙂
oh….btw….it feels great to be able to write a bit! That is one skill that has suffered during this time and it is another sign of my healing!

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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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The Clash of PTSD triggers and Opiate withdrawal….and the CRASH!!!

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As I look back over the years, so many hopes and dreams, always feeling like I was working hard, trying my best. Right now, it’s actually pretty amazing what I’ve done with the deal I got dealt. My life has handed me circumstances that not everyone goes through. The multiplicity of the stress of various circumstances have created changes in my brain. I do not see things the way you do. Add to that, the medical arena not knowing how to deal with my various symptoms and handing out prescriptions of mood stabilizers, SSRI’s, pain medications, sleep medications, Neurontin for foot pain, anti-inflammatories, anti-diarrheals, anti-constipation, anti-anxiety medications….among the top 10! It’s truly amazing that I am sitting here able to even be partially present in my day.

I have learned over the years what some of my triggers are. Certain smells like old medicine bottles, slamming of a cupboard door, yelling of any type. I can not tolerate perfumes. I notice them right away. The same can be said to the feel of clothing against my skin. It has to be soft cotton and loose and not too hot and able to be layered because I can’t regulate my temperature when my adrenal glands are on overdrive.

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So I’ve been trucking along working my recovery from gambling, slowly tapering off all those medications and got down to where I was hardly taking any oxycodone anymore. For instance, I might even have a day or two that I took none.Unfortunately, in late March on my trip to Chicago,  I got really sick with pneumonia and bronchitis, the flu and pleurisy. I was miserable. So, since I had them, of course I took the pain meds. I was in pain. Right?

Then, just a couple weeks after healing up from that and back down to just one dose a day or less, I have this incredible ride on a 1939 Ford F9 tractor down a hill with no brakes and out of gear which caused me to dislocate a rib, and so I had to take them again. I actually had a rib poking out (still under the skin), and shoved it back in. I awoke the next morning to the bruise from doing it. That was late April.

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In the interim period of time that I am kind of subconsciously getting myself off the meds (this has been a slow steady progression since 11/14) while huge amounts of stress  get added. Big stuff in January, then some big triggers in February. Based on my journaling and emails from February through March, I was trying to share that I was not feeling safe, or in a place of peace. Then after I got well from all my ailments, there were more triggers. I tried telling people. I wrote letters and tried to have conversations about how it felt to be triggered and how someone could help me. But if someone has not had to really feel what having a PTSD flare-up feels like, they can’t understand my language. In my mind, I think it must sound like “WAW WAH WAW WAH WAW: and they think I am just being a complainer.

So here is where I am going to say I gave everyone the best I could and I am really proud I hung on as long as I did without exploding in someone’s face. Well….that is, until I did. But I held on for a couple months under what felt like incredible stress with no one speaking the same language as me. I’m sure over the last couple of weeks not much of my language has made sense. I know my brain feels pretty fried.

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You see, without really thinking about it, I stopped taking the pain pills. I was feeling better. I was using medical marijuana with good success. I had stopped the muscle relaxers and the anti-anxiety medications quite some time ago….except for that night time dose of Xanax which is what the NP prescribes for my severe insomnia. Oregon Health Plan won’t pay for anything less addictive for chronic insomnia, so this was my option for a long time. I still have to wean myself off of it.

Unbeknownst to me, combining ongoing PTSD triggers and withdrawal from opioid’s is a horrible situation. Had I thought about it, I would not have done it, but now I’m 6 weeks or more into it and don’t want to have to go through all this again.

So….things you need to know if you have PTSD and you also are considering detoxing off opiates with medical marijuana!

  • Make sure you are in a really peaceful and caring place. For at least 6 months or up to year. No high stress. No high drama.
  • Do a slow taper.
  • I recommend RSO if you have been on high doses of opiates. A Sativa with high CBD for nighttime for certain. Stay low….stay easy. Ahhhhhh.(this is one place I went wrong. I didn’t have the right strains to help with the additional stress on my body).
  • Make sure you have some creature comforts, like air conditioning, a tub to soak in, someone to maybe lightly rub your back or feet while you breath through the rough moments.
  • Do NOT operate machinery. Especially when titrating medications. It’s not just a balance and clarity issue. The anger that can accompany opiate withdrawal makes driving a serious hazard. I learned the hard way.
  • Be good to yourself. Be kind. Remember it took years to get here. Keep in contact with a medical care provider if you can’t be certain you or others are safe while withdrawing. Realize it takes time.

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I am not having a good time with this and it isn’t looking ladylike when I rage and roar…but I am determined to find peace without handfuls of medications that do nothing in the long run. While all of this is not so great of a time and at times quite embarrassing, if one person reads this with chronic pain or PTSD and keeps from getting themselves from being addicted to prescription pain and anxiety meds then I have done a good thing.

I am sharing this because I want to help others. There are other options to all the pills our doctors so freely hand out. I hope if you are reading this…it’s before you have a 20 year habit that you don’t even recognize it is a bad habit. I was just following doctors orders.