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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PTSD – a meltdown moment

     June is Post Traumatic Stress Awareness month. Are you aware that in addition to combat soldiers, there are many other situations where a trauma or a series of traumas can bring on PTSD? Did you know even children can develop PTSD?  Children that live in homes where violence is routine, where they don’t get their basic needs met, where they are left alone and vulnerable?

     I was diagnosed with PTSD when I was in treatment for my Gambling addiction over 6 years ago. As well as generalized anxiety disorder. I have been to counselors off and on since I was 17 years old and it took nearly 30 years for someone to see what was then obvious.  I do remember one or two people that knew some of my life story commenting that I probably had PTSD but I thought then it was for people who had experienced war or something like 9/11.

     Additionally, I have learned over the years that there is a subdivision of PTSD called Complex PTSD.  This form of PTSD is more common for combat vets, those who have been victims of being held prisoner, or anyone with multiple traumas over a lifetime.  Children that had been abused physically or mentally or left without their basic needs being meet.  Those that were abandoned or left in vulnerable places with no protection over and over can develop C-PTSD. Or a person who has had multiple traumas throughout their life.  While I do have the diagnosis of PTSD, it is my own conclusion that I most likely have C-PTSD.

     Most the times the symptoms are much better than they used to be and I do have tools that I’ve used to keep my levels of stress tolerable. I have been on Effexor XR for over 6 years and it’s been the best medication (and only one I take anymore) for these conditions. So in addition to stress from outside my body I was having additional stressors internally as my body experienced some withdrawls, as after 18 months I had completely weaned myself off all pain and fibromyalgia related medications.  I have been off all narcotics and muscle relaxers  for nearly 2 months.  So having some symptoms of Post Acute Withdrawl Syndrome (PAWS).  The combination of stressors where I live and what my body has been going through with pain and PAWS was ripe for a significant event.

     Last week week I had a complete PTSD meltdown. I had one trigger too many and I had no control of myself anymore.  It was so scary and so terrifying and it completely turned my life upside down.  I frightened my family  and loved ones with ridiculous threats of harming others and disappearing and never to be seen and all types of crazy stuff.  I remember some of it, but there were some times it was like an out of body experience.  That’s called disassociation.  It’s a really weird feeling.  I know it’s me having the feeling, but it’s like I’m watching someone else going through it…or something like that.  Very hard to describe..but very scary.

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     This was the first ever that I can recall that in my mind I was so angry and so hurt and so scared that I had truly violent thoughts against others. Typically I just shut down after the meltdown as a crying puddle of emotions for a week or so.   I wasn’t going to act on them…but stating it out loud and letting my mind go to those places was somewhat cathartic.  In all honesty, I would never hurt a person.  But dang, I sure could day dream about it and verbalize it in the moment.  It wasn’t because I really wanted to hurt someone.  It was because my cortisol levels had become so elevated my brain wasn’t functioning property.

     I’m not going to go into all the physiological components of what happens to a brain when PTSD is triggered in this writing, but maybe another time I will explain how the reptilian part of the brain is what is affected.

     So, yesterday I went in for an intake appointment for counseling…again. I’ve been in counseling off and on since I was 17.   I’ve worked on so many of my issues and I’m so much better.  In fact, I’m feeling strong enough I am ready to dig deep to get to some of the core issues that have caused so much angst through my life. I know that sounds ridiculous to someone who just said they had a PTSD meltdown, but sometimes that’s how this crazy stuff works.  It takes a catalyst to get you prodded to do more work.

     Lastly, one of my biggest components of having a PTSD meltdown is that I push everyone away.  I am embarrassed, I am frightened, I am feeling out of control, and I feel so unworthy of any love or caring of any kind.  I know that is ridiculous now…but in the moment that is how I behave.  The truth of the matter is… that is when I need love and support and caring more than ever.  I need to know I’m worth loving.  I need to be reminded it will pass and I’ll be okay.  I need reassurance that I’m worth having around.  Because at that moment….anywhere would be better than being in my body and my mind.

      I apologize to family and friends for the fear and concerns and the challenges loving me brings.  I can only hope that my star shines more often than the occasional storm cloud that blocks the light.

     I share this as a public service announcement because I am wanting the general public to have a better understanding of mental health issues.  People don’t hold it against a diabetic for having a crisis or a seizure patient for having a seizure.  Please have understanding with mental health.  No one asks for these conditions.  It’s not a sign of weakness or bad morals or anything like that.  It’s an illness in our body.  I’m trying to treat my illness.  Please don’t think I am my illness…I’m still me.  I still love to garden and take photos and love people…well…some of them.  I still laugh and cry over things you do.  I’m not that different, I just have my moments.

I choose to make 2015 be a year of peace for me, and freedom!

A bit of snow, some fog, and plenty of views to enjoy here in Williams.

A bit of snow, some fog, and plenty of views to enjoy here in Williams.

After days of consideration and prayer I have come to the decision to not make any changes regarding my community page, Ms. Ladybug and Her Layers. I have worked too hard on personal recovery from my past issues to be intimidated by someone whose only reason for contact was to in some way benefit their self. I do not know exactly what their scheme is nor do I care, but I know this person well enough after 18 months of nearly daily contact to know they didn’t contact me just to be nice. They want something.

And why should I be fearful of this person? I did no wrong to them. Except to verbalize and be honest about their behaviors. Such as: I witnessed this person using a business license and bank accounts to hide from child support services as well as to hide money so they could have welfare benefits such as food stamps and medical benefits even when their business grossed nearly 8 times the allowable guideline limits. This person also had with held taxes for their business employees, but never paid them because they were using the money for their own interests.

No…I am not going to shut down my page, hide in any way, or feel threatened by someone who has shown many people their true colors of self serving and narcisstic behaviors. I truly wish more of this person’s friends and acquaintances really knew how much this person has used them and abused them along the way. I also wish there was a way I could warn any woman who may be swayed by this person’s charismatic personality. When even a church bishop says they are concerned for the women in their church because of this person’s known history of taking advantage of women…well, that says something. I am not afraid of you and know you for what you really are. I know all the despicable things you’ve done and I am not afraid of you.

So…read my page all you want. I share so many wonderful things with over a thousand folks who follow my page, and they happily share their goodness with me too. I will not ever let another person frighten me, threaten me, or in any way intimidate me. Those days are in the past. It’s a new year and I am claiming it as one of growth and strength for me! 🙂 And for all of you too!!! Thanks friends for all you have shared with me and how you stuck by me through many challenges over the time we’ve been acquainted. It is because of you that I can speak out the truth and feel no fear. God bless you all.

NOW…with that out of the way, I also have a tasty winter soup to share with you. I found a nice couple of Organic Grass fed sirloin steaks with a 30% discount at the grocery the other day, and that was my start. Here you go!

A hearty zesty mouthful of flavors!

A hearty zesty mouthful of flavors!

Beef Barley Mushroom soup

2 tblspn EVOO
1/2 yellow onion diced
5-6 cloves garlic minced
1 lb Organic grass fed top sirloin (it was on sale!) – diced into bite size pieces
1 slice thick bacon
6 Baby Portebella Mushrooms sliced
4 cups beef broth
1 12-oz bottle Pale Ale Beer
1 can organic diced tomatoes
1 cup rinsed dried barley
Large Pinch Oregano
Large pinch Basil
Large pinch thyme
2 Bay leaves
3-4 twists of sea salt grinder
Pepper – I used a pepper blend in a grinder to taste
3 tblspoons homemade sauerkraut juice
1/2 tablespoon hot horsheradish
1 Fuji apple diced
2 tablespoons worchestershire sauce
2 carrots sliced 1/8 inch or so
1/2 cup diced red and yellow bell peppers
1/2 tablespoon freshly grated ginger juice/bits

Saute onions and garlic in EVOO about 3 minutes on med-high in CI Dutch oven. Add diced meat and cook until it looses it’s pink color. Set aside.

Sauteed onions, garlic and beef in EVOO

Sauteed onions, garlic and beef in EVOO

In cast iron skillet fry 1 slice bacon until skillet has sheen of fat on it. Lay mushroom slices on hot skillet and watch until they begin to leak out their moisture, about 2-3 minutes. Turn. Cook another 2 minutes. Pour into dutch oven with beef mix. Repeat, bacon and mushrooms until all mushrooms cooked.

 

Add all liquid ingredients and barley then cook about 10 minutes on medium. Then add the rest of the ingredients and put on simmer until carrots are tender to your liking, about 45 minutes for me. Add a large pinch of fresh parsley if you have it during the last few minutes. I did have to add quite a bit of water (2 cups or more) as the barley kept soaking up the liquid. This soup made a great dinner for me as it was. It would also go nicely with a green salad and some fresh bread, but I wasn’t that hungry. The soup satisfied me in numerous ways aside from just filling the empty hole in my belly. It had a wonderful aroma and I also enjoyed the heat generated by the efforts of cooking and having the stove on!

This is a hearty  soup that has a unique flavor that has a bit of savory zestiness to it. I know the ingredient list is a bit long, but I happened to have all these ingredients on hand. And that my friends…is how I put together a soup. Digging around the cabinets this afternoon seeing what I had that would work with the discounted organic beef I picked up the other day led to my inspiration. I have really been making a mindful effort to buy organic and as local as possible. I do watch for discount’s at Grocery Outlet, Safeway, Fred Meyers as well as Cartwright’s Meats. This package was  marked down 30% because of a pull date. While still a bit spendy for my meat budget, I rarely buy beef unless it is discounted. This soup cost me about $20 for the whole pot. I will have to freeze or share a lot of it as it made a pretty full pot! Much healthier and less expensive than any hearty organic soup on the market and it only took about 20 minutes of prep and cook time! I hope you enjoy it too.

Don't forget the liquid barley...and hops!!!

Don’t forget the liquid barley…and hops!!!