Saturday, July 26, 2014

Well that was depressing...

I had a rather in depth post that I was working on for tonight...but then I got really really wrapped up in reading some very old emails (starting in 2005) that I didn't even know I had saved!  What a fun trip down memory lane!  It was soooo entertaining looking back on now that I know how we've all "grown up".  (It was the email address I created specifically for message boards and such so it's all online friends, though some have become face to face friends as well).  There were some who made a huge deal about how they wanted to be there for me always and never ever leave, who then mysteriously vanished and I haven't heard from them in YEARS!  Others are close friends today who I made repeated but rather pitiful attempts to push away every time I got nervous or anxious.  I had emails from some saying how they were giving up their foster license to focus on the kids they had.  Their family has doubled in size since through foster and adoption.  I came across one woman who rather obsessively told me I needed therapy.  Being the rebellious, drama infused lil brat I was at the time, I felt a need to continuously email her to complain about my life and give her the reasons I wasn't in therapy.  Some of these exchanges were like an on-going freakin soap opera!  Most of the time I was cringing watching my own reaction to things and how self-absorbed I really was back then.  But there were definitely times that even today I agree with me.  I was not the only drama infused brat! lol  Oh and then there was the woman I'd been exchanging emails with when I was going through a rough patch.  At one point she replied, "If only we lived in the same town so I could come be with you in person..."  Turns out, we do! lol  We must have just not asked each other back then.  I only remember getting to know her many years later, so I was really surprised to see a conversation from so long ago!

As I was scrolling through, I found an exchange I'd completely forgotten about with this incredibly kind, sweet woman.  We had met through craigslist of all places.  At the time I was trying to offer myself as a volunteer to help foster families since I wanted to pay it forward for what was given to me by my foster parents.  This woman didn't need my help, but emailed me just to thank me for my kind offer and for acknowledging foster parents.  I told her my reasons behind it and we got to talking.  She wanted to hear all about my experiences in care, and anything I could offer her as far as insights with her kids.  (She had 4 preschoolers at the time!  Way out of my league! lol).  Anyway, for a period of about 9 months she became one of my biggest cheerleaders.  It was while I was in school the first time around, and really struggling to finish.  My memories had just started to become clear to me, my PTSD symptoms were going crazy, and I had no clue how to handle any of it.  Doing homework and focusing in class (or even going to class) took a waaaay backseat.  It was all I could do to get through the day, and this woman was right there with me through it, emailing me and cheering me on, and just offering me the most understanding words ever.  She really wanted more than anything for me to come meet her family and spend time with them.  Easter was coming up, and she wanted to include me in all her family's holiday stuff.  (She's one of those that goes all out with coloring eggs and even leaving traces of "easter bunny fur").  It really upset her that I struggled with holidays so much and felt so alone, and she wanted to do everything she could to give me a safe place to be.

I was torn.  On the one hand I badly wanted that too.  On the other, I'd had mixed experiences with joining other people's families.  I had recently had a very negative experience with a similar situation with another online friend.  (I was already feeling nervous and out of place....always a struggle for me based on all my foster care experience and never really feeling "home"....and one of the relatives that was there said he wanted to get a family picture and was gathering everyone up.  I followed everyone in because it seemed like the thing to do, and he looked at me and said, "No, just the family."  I know he didn't mean anything by it but it was absolutely crushing to me.  I ran out of there and went home sobbing.  Did I mention I was in a very shaky emotional place at that time? lol).  Anyway...I really wanted to meet her...and she was even offering to cook my favorite foods....but I never did get up the courage to meet her.

Re-reading our exchanges just warmed my heart....though it made me sad to watch myself slowly fade away.  Granted I had good reason to fade away.  I was getting ready to graduate and move to a new state for a job.  As I read I started thinking, wouldn't it be cool to find this woman and surprise her?!  I doubt she'd remember me, but how fun would it be to email her, remind her who I am, and tell her about my new successful, sober self....probably even confident enough to meet her in person and hug her and thank her for everything she gave me.  I knew the email address I had for her was no longer current because last year my email address decided to spam everyone and the one to her was denied....(I guess spam can be useful! lol).  I went to google to see what I could find.  I typed in her name, and the first thing that popped up was "obituary".  I thought, "That must be someone else!" but her name is pretty unique.  Not likely that there'd be two in the same area.  She had told me how old she was back when we were talking, so I started trying to use the obit years and do the seemed to match up. Ugh.  I went to the funeral home site where you can leave comments, and sure enough they were all addressed to her husband.  Ugh.  She died in 2012.  I couldn't find anything that said what happened to her.  She was only 47.

As I said, We only talked for about 9 months back in 2006...I'm sure she'd long since forgotten about me.  But she'd told me multiple times in emails, even when I wasn't doing well writing her back, that she was regularly thinking about me and praying for me.  Who knows what she would've said had I had the chance to talk to her again.  But it just goes to show, you just can't wait for things in life.  I'm so bad about putting things off because I'm just not sure if I can handle it.  I put off meeting her, and now I never will.  I wonder what else I've put off because I've sat pacing in insecurity rather than going out and trying.  Maybe this sudden need to read through old emails tonight was a sign for me to stop being afraid and get out and live.  That's definitely what I've been needing to hear.

It's really sad to me to think that the world lost such a caring soul so early.  I also know they were trying so hard to be able to adopt kids, and from what I could gather from the comments on the obit page, they'd finally been able to.  She couldn't have kids of her own, so a big family was what she'd wanted more than anything.

I wish I'd gotten the chance to tell her how much she meant to me...I worry I hurt her by my continual backing out on tentative plans to meet, though I did explain why.  But maybe I can use her influence as inspiration to get through this current rough spot and get back in to life.

Life's short folks....dessert first!  ;)

---------------------- overwhelmed right now.  What I saw in my email box from '05 and '06 (and beyond, but especially then) was person after person ready to be there for hear support me.  It really is amazing to look back on.  I have been so so fortunate to always have people around to support me.  Every time I think I'm alone, someone else appears.  It's always been that way, even as a kid.  Of course now I know that I'll never be truly alone because my higher power is in my corner, but I'm just grateful for this amazing stream of incredible people that have come through my life.  I don't know how I got to be so fortunate.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The right way to heal?

I remember a while back on a support site I used to go to, someone posted that she felt she was healing too slowly or that she wasn't healing "right".  I left her this nice, well thought out message about how everyone heals at their own pace, that needing therapy (or any other help) wasn't a weakness, and that the fact that she was there and talking about it showed that she was making good progress.  That stuff is soooo much easier to say when it's about someone else.

In some ways I know I'm doing ok.  Between what I lived through and then what I did to myself, I shouldn't be alive right now.  There are many people with my same issues who are still out drinking or using drugs...or who have killed themselves...or who just hide away and do nothing and don't get out of bed.  This isn't about demeaning them, but just for comparison's sake...I'm doing ok.  I've made it through school (aside from finishing my internship this fall), I have my own apartment, and I've done decently well providing for myself.

But then I see people who have been through the same stuff as me out doing amazing things.  They're raising kids of their own...sometimes fostering/adopting kids with special needs.  They have incredible jobs and careers.  Some have started their own non-profits.  They've used their pain to do all sorts of amazing things.  I know comparing is never a helpful thing, but it's for perspective.

Some days I feel like I'm doing so well.  I feel happy and peaceful.  I have friends and I enjoy my life.  Then there are other days where I feel like everything is falling apart and there's nothing I can do to hold it together.

I've been having a lot of those falling apart days lately.  In fact, it got so bad I actually called a therapist, which is a big deal for me because I tend to hate everything about therapy.  I hate where I'm stuck even more though.  The problem is, I can't talk to therapists.  I need therapy to learn how to deal with therapists.  So all it did was make my anxiety worse.

My anxiety is so bad right now that I want to check out from the world and not have anything to do with anyone.  It's taken me all day today just to manage to get dressed.  Every time I get a step closer to going anywhere or doing anything my heart starts pounding out of my chest.  My muscles tighten and I can barely breathe.  All I want to do is go back to anywhere that I can hide...usually that means on my computer.  The wonderful world wide web is a blessing and a curse for me.  It gives me the distraction so my anxiety never gets too bad, but it also gives me a long-term escape from the world.  I have no idea what I've done today because I've just zoned out.

The therapist I saw (well kind of saw...I freaked out and couldn't get in the building so she came outside to talk to me for a bit) yesterday told me that these are fight or flight reactions and not my fault.  But that's not exactly comforting when I'm watching my life fall apart in front of me.  I know where I want to be.  I know what I want to do.  I want to finish my errands, go see friends, go to the gym, etc. etc.  Instead I'm hiding inside....even when it's a million degrees inside my little apartment.  I'm laying here sweating because I can't seem to do anything else.  It's HARD to type this because it takes SO much focus just to keep my fingers moving.  Even typing this feels wrong, though I can't explain why.  Everything but retreating further and further inside myself feels wrong, wrong, wrong.

I have nowhere to turn with all this because I can't talk to therapists because therapists make it worse.  Even though the time with the therapist was ok yesterday, I gotta think that that's why this is so bad today.  It's been bad a lot lately, but it hasn't been this bad in a really long time.  To make things even worse I have a lot of friends dealing with a lot of big, heavy shit right now.  I have really good friends and I'm sure they would support me if I brought this to them, but I just feel so stupid.  They're upset over huge life stuff.  I'm upset because even though things are going well in my life, I'm afraid to walk outside.  It's another reason I retreat further.  I don't want to put this on anyone because I don't understand it myself.  It gets more and more painful inside until I want to die because I just want out!  (No, I'm not thinking at all about suicide or anything like that....I'm just thinking about death right now because it hurts and I'm not seeing a good way out.  At times it hurts so much I feel like I must be dying...which is again so stupid when I think that there's nothing even really going on).  I want to tear my hair out.  I feel like I am tearing my hair out without even moving.  If I'm moving I want to be still, if I'm still I want to be moving.

I was supposed to see my doctor today and I skipped it.  That's really not like me.  I had my reasons...I was trying to get my records from my previous doctor because I want to go back on an anxiety med I was on before that worked well but they took me off it for other stupid reasons....but they told me they wouldn't have my records for at least another few days.  So it seemed stupid to go in.  But it was so stupid not to go because my appointments are free unless I no-show, then I have to pay a bunch for it.  And I have basically no money right now.  I need a job but I'm hiding from that too.  Granted I'm waiting for a friend to get back to me on fixing my car so I can drive to a job, but I could call him.  If I weren't hiding from it all cus the littlest things seem so big.  I don't know if I should be reaching out for more help, or allowing myself to hide since help seems to trigger me more.  

I'm sorry...I don't mean to whine.  I just have to put this somewhere and I don't know where.  I'm tired of being me right now.  I wish I could just get out of my head and I have no idea how.  I wish I could just sleep till next month or something. :(  Sorry...I'll try to come back with something more positive later.


Gratitude is hard right now.  I guess, I'm grateful that even though I feel like I'm dying I know I'm really not.  I know I'm safe, and that I have friends and my doctor and others there for support when I'm ready/able to reach out again.  I also have my faith that it will somehow be ok again.

Monday, July 21, 2014

My amazing life

I haven't had the type of life that most people would look at and say, "Oooh, I want that!"  If you were to just read my story, without meeting me, you'd probably think it pretty sad.  You'd probably be surprised to meet me and see that most of the time I'm happy, smiling, and positive.  Of course I have my bad days (like today!! lol), but for the most part I love the life I have.

I've gotten some interesting comments privately from my last entry, and it's made me realize something. One of the things I'm most grateful for is the view I get to have of the world.  I walked into AA with nothing.  I was living on a friend's couch, and had no idea where I was going to go.  I couldn't figure out how to get through a day without drinking, so getting a long-term job hardly seemed in the cards.  I'd only been out of the hospital a couple of months, so I was only half convinced I wanted to live at all.  But I walked into a room full of people who took me in and supported me without judgment.  (Ok we all judge, but they saw through all my crazy messed up exterior and saw me as an individual).

Through my time in AA, and experiences out in the world, I've heard some incredible stories.  I know people who have experienced abuse of all sorts, every level of poverty, homelessness, unbelievable loss, and more.  I have a different view on a lot of political and legal issues because of people I've met.  I know illegal immigrants and consider them some of my closest friends.  I know two different people who have close relatives spending life in prison for horrible crimes.  I spent months writing letters to two different friends as they served their jail for a 3rd DUI and one for causing a horrible accident while driving drunk.  My life was once saved by homeless people that you probably wouldn't even give a second glance.  And I've been homeless myself.  As I've mentioned before...I've lived with friends, I've lived in my car, I've lived on the streets.  I've lived a lot and I've seen a lot, and what I haven't experienced I've learned of through those I've known.

While I sometimes wish I could "un-know" or "un-experience", it really has given me a beautiful gift.  That gift is that I'm no longer able to think of people in giant blanket terms.  I can't think of "Those law-breaking illegal immigrants."  I think of R and her amazing family, and how hard they work....and how her mom would cook for me every time I came over, no matter how many times we insisted we'd just eaten.  I can't think of, "Those lazy poor people."  Instead I think of D, my first sponsor, who has struggled more than any person I've ever met.  Sure she made some bad decisions, but hasn't everyone?  She just had that unfortunate luck where her decisions seemed to blow up in her face in huge ways every time she was starting to get ahead.  I can't think about, "those lousy drug addicts," without thinking of S, who used to cause nothing but pain but has now created a non-profit that has given myself and so many others so much help, support, and safety through our recovery.  I hear about, "Those asshole drunk drivers," and I think of my friend M, who nearly killed herself and others driving drunk, but is also one of the most genuine, amazing, caring people you will ever meet.  I didn't know M while she was drinking, but the M I know now the world is lucky to have.

I'm not defending M's decision to drive drunk, S's decision to use drugs, R's parents decision to cross the border illegally (she was too young to have a say at the time they crossed), or anything else.  But when I hear a story about a drunk driver I don't immediately turn to anger or hate.  I look at the person and I see M.  I hear her story and I know the pain she was in that night that changed her life.  Some people are amazed to learn that I don't hate my parents for what they did to me.  Obviously they made some very bad decisions that I would never defend.  But again I know the pain of addiction and the pain of growing up in an abusive environment.  They lived through both.  I don't know why I was fortunate enough to turn my anger inward and only hurt myself rather than others, but how could I hate them for something I so closely understand?  No, my heart hurts for them.  I wish they could've found some sort of light at the end of the tunnel.  I wish they could've found their way out of their darkness and torment.  I could very easily have stayed trapped in my own darkness of anger, hate, PTSD, addiction, etc. had it not been for certain things happening the way they did.  Honestly it scares me to think too much about that, because I really don't know why I was given what I was while my parents were not.

The stories I mentioned above are all positive ones (well, aside from my  They had good end results, where the people in question overcame whatever issues they faced and found ways to do good for the world.  They are some of the many examples of hope that I hold on to when I'm struggling.  But it's not just the positive stories that are important to hear.  Everyone has a story.  No one is all one thing.  There are a lot of labels that fit me.  I'm an alcoholic.  I'm an abuse survivor.  I have multiple mental illnesses.  I'm a former foster child.  I'm also a soccer coach, a loving aunty, and a self-proclaimed dork that can make almost anyone laugh.  (I was at almost 100% except for the damn parking ticket appeals lady who I could barely even get to smile! lol).  But none of these things ARE me.  I am an individual with a story....with good qualities and bad....with successes and failures.  I think that one of the big problems in the world today is that we're all too quick to generalize....those democrats, those republicans, those poor people, those rich people, those Christians, those atheists, those ______.  We're all human, and we've all become the person we are for a reason.  And we're all doing the best we can to get through life.  (By the way, this is why it's good that I've never been in the army and I'm not in criminal justice....I'd be way too concerned about getting to know the people and working with them! lol  I'm glad there are others out there more able to do those jobs).

I think I lost track of my point a long time ago so I'll just say one is born saying, "I want to hurt others when I grow up," or "I can't wait to become a homeless drug addict when I'm older!"  Something happens to get them there.  I believe children are born idealistic, but their realities are shaped by experience...both internal and external.  No one should get to use past experience as an excuse for bad behavior.  It's not ok that my parents hurt me because they too were hurt.  But, maybe if we sought to understand each other's differences a bit more, rather than accusing, attacking, and belittling, maybe we can understand why people act the way they do.  Think about it.  Even Hitler was once a loving, idealistic little child.  Maybe if we stop the generalizations and work on getting to know each other as individuals, we can make a more peaceful environment for children to grow up in....and those loving, idealistic little children can become loving, idealistic adults.  The first step, in my opinion, is to see people as individuals.  Get to know someone different than you....even if it's just learning their name.  The results may surprise you.

(Ok last thing then I'm done for real!  The other day I was on a plane coming home from my amazing vacation, when right behind me sat this HUGE biker dude and this itty bitty, soft-spoken, woman who worked at an organic produce company.  The two had never met before, but struck up a conversation and it turned out they had a lot in common.  It took just a matter of minutes for them to get through the small talk and the obvious outer differences, and by the end of the flight they were exchanging numbers to meet for coffee.  It reminded me of a couple of years ago when I was on a plane next to a proud stripper who taught me way more than I ever wanted to know about the "art of stripping," but also made the flight so fun for me due to her genuine excitement of being able to see the world from above on her first time ever on a plane.  I'm not suggesting running up to the next huge biker dude or stripper you see and invite them out for coffee, but I bet if you did they'd have a great story to tell!).


This has all pretty much been about gratitude, but I'll say it again here.  I can't say I'm grateful for everything I've been through, but I'm grateful for the life perspective I have today.  I never would've gotten to know the wide assortment of people I have had it not been out of necessity.  Believe me I used to be happy keeping 100% to myself, but reaching out to people has taught me sooooo much about soooo many different "types" of people!

Sunday, July 20, 2014


I've been doing a lot of debating with people on facebook lately (yet another reason I really need a job...too much free time to be spent getting pissed at people who don't agree with me! lol).  I don't want to bring the whole debate over here, but I do want to address an issue that keeps coming up.  Opportunity.

These days in all things political I keep hearing things like, "You get what you put in," "Life is what you make it," "It's all about hard work," etc.  These things are true to an extent, but people seem to miss a big glaring hole in the theory.

If two people are running a mile long race, and they've both trained the same amount and work just as hard as each other, they should finish at about the same time.  But what if one of those people gets to start a half mile into the course?  Clearly, the guy at the regular starting line is going to have to work much, much, much harder to have any kind of a chance!

Like it or not, the same is true in life.  We don't have the same starting line, and it seems like all too often it's the guy starting a half mile in telling the guy who ran the full race, "Well gee if you'd just worked harder you could've gone as fast as me.  Too bad you're so lazy."

Every aspect of life is something that determines how far along the course you get to start.  But often these deciding factors are so a part of us, and so much taken for granted, that we don't even realize what a gigantic boost they are.

I hear many people say that they "came from nothing."  But did they?  Really?  If they went to college, who paid for it?  Who encouraged them to go?  In some families, it is assumed that you will go to college after high school.  For others, it is a practically unheard of pipe dream.  Between the money to pay for it and the work it takes to get there, it's just not considered a possibility.  These things make a difference!  It changes the mindset you go into your adult life with.  It's not the parents' fault.  They're a product of their experiences.  They don't live in a world where going to college is all that realistic.  As far as the expenses go, I hear many say, "Well I worked my way through school."  First off, I say more power to ya.  College tuition is getting so ridiculous that anyone who is creative enough to find a way to work their way through school deserves lots of credit.  But that's another story for another time.  The point for now is, who paid your other expenses?  How much support did your parents offer you?  I have friends who have been working to help support their family from the time they were first old enough to get a job!  If you're working at 13 just to make sure you and your family members get to eat, saving up for college is not happening!

Speaking of food, did you go to school on a full stomach?  Did you have enough to eat at night while you were working on your homework?  Have you ever tried to focus when you didn't?  This is one I can speak to from direct experience.  When you're hungry, you don't care about solving math equations.  You just don't.  And even if you do, it's hard to string together the focus required to do it.  I always used reading as my distraction.  I loved to read and was good at it.  I could go anywhere in a book and be safe and cared for.  I could forget about my reality for a while.  But even then, that was different than being able to focus enough to accomplish homework on time.

And speaking of homework, what were your schools like?  I was fortunate enough to go to a pretty good school, even though I didn't live in the greatest of neighborhoods.  I had amazing teachers who are probably a big part of why I'm still sane today.  In elementary school they genuinely loved me, cared for me, and helped me feel safe...something I didn't have anywhere else.  For that reason I loved going to school.  When I was older and was homeless, teachers and other school employees kindly looked the other way when I'd sneak into the locker room for a shower, get extra food from the cafeteria, and find a corner in the library to sleep.  It wasn't ideal, but it was a good place and they were good, caring people.  Not long ago I read a book about one of the poorest neighborhoods in New York City.  The school in this neighborhood had classrooms that were literally overflowing, and not enough teachers for them.  The building itself was infested with rats.  Could you learn in that kind of an environment?  The book was called Amazing Grace by Jonathan Kozol.  I strongly suggest you read it or some of his other books, and see if you still feel the same way about poverty.

In the neighborhood described in this book, everything is working against the people there.  They get sick more often because of the pollution, especially since the city uses the area as a bit of a dumping ground for toxins, but the hospitals in the area are basically useless.  There are huge waits and unsanitary conditions.  Most of the people don't have health insurance so they generally can't go to the doctor anyway (this was written before Obamacare, so hopefully that is changing now).  The area is extremely violent, so just going outside can be dangerous.  There are no jobs to be had, so many turn to dealing drugs in order to get by.  That increases the crime and makes it harder for kids to follow a healthy path towards highschool graduation, much less college.  Again it's easy to call people stupid or whatever else for using drugs, but try to really put yourself there in their shoes.  What would you do?  How would you handle that reality?  All the hard work in the world may never be enough for these people to get out of this neighborhood.  Yes people can do it, and you hear stories of them on the news...but these stories are newsworthy for a reason!  They're one in a million, and can't be expected to be the norm.  And my question is, in what is supposedly the richest country in the world, why do we have neighborhoods that people need to "get out of" to have any hope at being successful?  But that is also probably an issue for its own post.

I could go on, but hopefully you're getting the idea.  The playing field is far from level.  They say that social programs are meant to be temporary to help a person get back on his feet.  I get that.  But in cases like this I ask get back to what?  Being born in to this type of world is a whole lot different than living in a safe, comfortable neighborhood surrounded by the support of others and falling on temporary hard times through job loss or something like that.  Not to say that isn't also a struggle, but it's different!  It's a different kind of need.  The people in these poverty-filled, drug-ridden neighborhoods need more than just a temporary leg up.  But it has nothing to do with being lazy, unwilling, or looking for a handout.  NOTHING!  Do you really think they would choose that kind of life if they could see a possibility of better?  And on that note, if they really are just looking for a handout, I still don't believe that's the life they want.  Can you imagine being so demoralized that all you see for the future for yourself is taking a government handout?  I struggle to believe that's what anyone truly wants, deep down.  I think they just struggle to believe that something better is possible, so they don't know how to strive for it or work for it.  Being constantly shamed for needing help by being called lazy, by having their benefits reduced, etc. doesn't help.

I'll close with a bit about my personal experience.  As you know if you've read my blog for any length of time, I grew up under extreme abuse.  My parents were both drug addicts who sold me for drugs on multiple occasions.  They had anger issues which I bore the brunt of.  My dad and his friends seemed to have no conscience and used me for sex.  We rarely had money (or, more likely, our money all went to drugs, but I can't be sure as I was young) and we went hungry often.  I ran away at 14 because I couldn't take it anymore.  Hence the homelessness.  I entered foster care at 16, after living with random friends, people I thought were friends, and on the streets.  I had an overall good experience in care.  I lived in 3 different places but was not adopted.  I was lucky that I liked academics, and my foster parents helped me get caught up, so I was able to get into college.  They supported me in the transition as they could, but being a foster kid there was only so much they could offer.  I was pretty much on my own to buy what I needed for my dorm room and such, though I was very fortunate to get a scholarship for tuition and money to help with books.  I have PTSD and multiple other mental health issues, so studying was always a struggle for me.  Many days were just about surviving...just getting through the day without total panic.  It took me 5 years to finally graduate, and I only barely made it.  I guess in that sense i'm a success story, but it was hard and continues to be.  I've always had to look out for myself.  I've had to find the balance between working enough to survive, while also taking care of my mental health issues so I don't go insane.  (And I was hospitalized 3 years ago after nearly killing myself, so the "going insane" is very real).  I've had a nearly impossible time paying for the healthcare that I need as an adult.  Even when I had good insurance, it didn't cover my seeing a psychiatrist or a therapist without a HUGE deductible that I couldn't pay.  The places that offered reduced price help wouldn't take me because I had insurance.  I couldn't go off my insurance because I rely on a daily medication that costs hundreds of dollars a month.  I was left trapped, and that's a big part of why I ended up hospitalized and nearly dead.  I went on state funded assistance, and got what I needed but was also treated horribly.  For the program I was on, I was limited to just a couple of places within my county.  They were always over-crowded, dirty, and it felt like we were being herded around like cows.  One doctor I saw, who was supposed to be helping me get my psych meds straightened out, did nothing but give me a drug test when I'd come in and then send me on my way.  She'd never ask any questions or give me a chance to talk.  No, she wasn't a psychiatrist.  There were no psychiatrists that took the kind of assistance I had, except for one that I was able to see early on.  The point is, all she cared about was if I was abusing my meds.  I do have a history of addiction, but there's a lot more to me than that.  It was amazing how quickly I became lumped in as a good for nothing drug addict because I couldn't get insurance that would cover what I needed.  And yes I was looked down on and I heard some pretty ugly comments just for trying to get help.  I have a friend, also an addict, who when she got in trouble with drugs her parents sent her to multiple fancy, expensive rehabs until she was able to "get it"....seeing many doctors, psychiatrists, etc. along the way.  I'm not saying anything bad about my friend, or trying to do a "poor me" thing, I'm just saying it's different.  Going to these horrible doctors, being yelled at at the pharmacy for being "too lazy to work" if someone saw my insurance (or lack thereof), etc. was my only choice at getting better.  I didn't have parents or anyone else to turn to.  Going back to the running the race example, during those dark times I wasn't just starting behind, I felt like I couldn't even find the course!  And then I'd have to deal with being shamed due to 1.) being an addict, 2.) having mental health issues, 3.) being poor/on assistance.  I've come a long way and I've had to fight for every inch.  I'm proud of my accomplishments, but also well aware that many in the program I was in had it way worse than me.  I had a car, some education, and a few close friends to fall back on (one of whom's couch I was living on at the time).  Many came in off the streets and just couldn't keep up with all the program's requirements, but then they were blamed for it.  They often ended up going back to using, and they are exactly the kind of people that get so much of the blame in the media and in politics for misusing welfare and other assistance.  But I would like to see any one of those people that complain so much live one of their lives, even just for a day.  I'd like to see them get a job and work for their money when they're living on the streets, barely have food to eat, can't get much needed medication and counseling, etc. etc.  I'd like to see these "hard work" folks stay optimistic and keep working and doing the right thing under all that pressure.  It's possible, absolutely...but I'm sick of hearing people who have no idea what it's like saying that their issues are their own fault!  (Even if the original issues are the fault of their addiction...they didn't choose addiction even if they chose to use, and they definitely don't deserve a lifetime of suffering for a few bad decisions!).


I should've known I couldn't take on this topic without big long tangents! lol  I'm so grateful for all the support I have and the progress I've been able to make.  I'm also grateful that I know what it's like to struggle so I can better look to people with compassion rather than blame.

Along with my gratitude, I have a favor to ask of anyone reading this.  The next time you see someone that you want to start judging (don't worry, we all do it sometimes)....whether it's because they're using drugs, begging on the streets, seeming to misuse assistance, etc....say a prayer for them.  Try to turn the angry, judging thoughts into a prayer for what they might need.  Try to let yourself see the pain they might be in, and ask whatever god you pray to to help them find healing.  Maybe, in time, we as a society can start seeing them as individual people with a history, a struggle, and a story to tell, not just some faceless "poor people" or "lazy people" or whatever else we tend to call them.  The easiest way I've found to open your mind and heart to them is through a genuine prayer.  Even if you're not the praying type, just sending good wishes to them can do the same.  I just ask you to give it a try.  We're all human.  Aren't we all worthy of a prayer?

Monday, July 14, 2014


My first big, traumatic abuse happened when I was 4.  

I'm spending this week with my nephew who just turned 4.

The reality of that sunk in in a big way last night.  I've been around other 4 year olds and it's hit me how small, sweet, and innocent they are.  But this is a first with one who is so so close to me.  I was an older 4 when the big trauma happened to me, but still...Even if it was a full year it wouldn't be enough to make a difference.

This little boy is the sweetest thing ever.  I can't imagine the shock and upset he would feel if someone hit him.  He lives in a safe, peaceful world where things like that don't happen.  My world was never entirely safe and peaceful...there was always someone yelling or fighting or something.  But this particular event I went through would likely even be scary for an adult.

I look at this little boy and I can't imagine how anyone could hurt a child so small...especially in such a huge, violent way.  I don't understand how my parents could've looked at me at that age and size and done what they did.  I would do anything for my nephew, and it would crush me to see harm come to him.

I've heard that this is something that happens when childhood abuse survivors have kids.  Every time your kid hits a new milestone there's processing and grieving that has to take place.  I guess it's going to be that way with my nephew too.  I just didn't expect it to have this much of an impact on me...since like I said i'm around kids all the time.  I guess it's the connection that's really important.  

I'm loving being with my nephew, but when I have too much time to think...I'm struggling.  I'm so sad for me...for the other kids of the world who have been through the same...and for my parents, for the pain they must've been in to be able to do what they did.  


I'm beyond grateful that my nephew has the life that he does...  That he would be shocked and horrified if anyone did anything remotely violent to him because in his world adults take care of children.  I was so afraid when he was born because I felt so powerless to protect him.  But it's amazing to see him growing up and getting to truly live without all the fear.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Ya gotta laugh

Today was a rough day, which turned itself into a rough night.  I decided to go for a walk around the little lake at my apartment complex in hopes of clearing my head.  It was dark, though the lights were on so it wasn't too bad.  The sprinklers were on...the usual little sprayer ones.  Since it was dark, I couldn't actually see where the water was hitting, but I assumed they were set up so they wouldn't hit the trail.  I couldn't use the marks of where the water had landed as a guide, since it had rained earlier.  (The glorious logic of the sprinklers being on when earlier it had rained hard enough to practically flood the place is another story that will have to wait 'til another post!).

I got a little ways down the trail and got to a place where there were a bunch of sprinklers on in a small area.  I couldn't make sense of where they were pointing so I just kept walking.  Turns out, one of them was pointing right across the trail.  Actually 2 of them were, because when I tried to walk a little quicker through the first one I ended up right in the path of the next.

From there it was pretty much the sprinkler gauntlet.  I would step to the side to get out of the way of one only to find another attacking from the other side.  Then there would be a quiet space only to have one sneak up with the surprise attack.  There was just enough general sprinkler noise that I never had any idea when they were coming.  At one point I got lulled in to a false sense of thinking I was past the danger when BAM!  One hit me square in the face.  The rest of them hadn't been going near high enough to get my face!

I'd planned on a walk to do a little thinking and maybe make sense of things, and to relax and enjoy the fresh air.  Instead I was dodging sprinklers and laughing my ass off!  By the time I got back I looked like I'd been run through a car wash, but wow had my mood changed!  I saw a few of my neighbors who gave me an interesting look seeing me come back drenched even though the rain had stopped hours ago.

It seems like often what gets me out of a funk, at least temporarily, is something truly ridiculous like this....something that is just so random and goofy you can't help but laugh.  And when you're laughing, you can't help but feel better.

I remember one night in very early sobriety when I was having a horrible night.  The only thing that was keeping me from drinking is that I had an AA friend's dog at my house while said friend was out of town.  I figured it'd be pretty shitty to be getting drunk when I told her I'd take care of her dog.  But it was way late at night and I was having horrible flashbacks and I just wanted everything to stop so badly.  I figured since I wasn't sleeping anyway, I'd take the dog out for a late night walk.  So at about 3 am, he and I went out with a ball.  It was actually nice because I didn't have to worry about the bazillion other dogs that were usually out there during the day.  It started snowing HARD!  This dog who was so excited to chase the ball couldn't seem to actually track it in the snow.  So I would throw it and then we'd both end up running through all this fresh snow to try to find it.  If anyone had walked by they probably would've thought I'd lost my mind!  I was standing out in a blizzard throwing a ball and running after it through a blizzard, laughing hysterically with a dog who couldn't decide if he was chasing the ball or chasing me.  We ended up just chasing each other and basically giving up on the ball until every now and then when we'd find it.  I probably had pretty well lost my mind, but in that moment I wasn't having flashbacks, I wasn't thinking about my nightmares, and I wasn't thinking about a drink.  I was having fun and laughing hard at the completely ridiculous.

I never would've thought of walking through sprinklers or chasing a dog through a blizzard as answers to problems, but sometimes you just need random ridiculousness and laughter to get a break from the tough stuff.  I am so so lucky/fortunate/whatever that I'm able to find humor in the world.  I don't know how I would survive without laughing.  I remember a while back an AA friend said to me at a meeting, "It's good to see you laughing," since she knew I'd been dealing with some tough stuff.  My sponsor and I smiled at each other.  We both know that if I ever lose my ability to laugh you'd better be sending me to the hospital right away...cus something is seriously wrong!  Or I may already be dead! lol  A lot of people don't get my humor....especially because it involves laughing at cartoons and at really dark stuff that "normal" people just don't laugh at....but it's gotten me through a lot of ugly!


I think I pretty well covered it, but I'm grateful for my ability to laugh, and the funny, absurd stuff that exists in daily life.  And I'm grateful for my apartment complex's complete incompetence with aiming sprinklers and with matching their use to the weather of the day.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Expect better

I've had multiple conversations lately related to expectations.  It's a topic that comes up in and around AA often.  The idea is that our expectations tend to get us in trouble, because we're attempting to manipulate things (and people) we can't control.  It means that we're not living in the moment and not relying on a higher power to trust that things will be ok.  It's hard not to have expectations, and I think having them is human nature.  Of course, like so many things, it's how you react to them that counts.  One of the conversations revolved around the fact that expectations had caused many of us to isolate.  I like spending time alone, even if I'm lonely, because at least when I'm by myself I know what to expect.  (Though every now and then I surprise me! lol).  When you bring other people into the mix, it gets harder.  I may end up hurt if they don't show up, or if things don't go as I'd hoped.  Maybe I'll end up hurt because of something someone says or does.  That stuff is all a part of life, but of course I plan things in my head ahead of time to be perfect so I'm crushed if they're anything less.  The good news is that I've reached a point in my life where I do have goals and I am looking to the future.  It can be hard to separate goals and expectations.  The other night someone said that expectations are when you're trying to meddle with the result, rather than focusing on the action you can control.  I can make a goal and work towards right now I've got this internship starting up fairly soon that's a big deal for me.  I seem to be spending half my time fighting sabotaging it (ie not turning in paperwork and that sort of thing) and half the time either stressing about what if it's awful or dreaming about me being the best intern the world has ever seen and getting hired for my dream job.  Of course the reality is that it will probably be somewhere in the middle, with good days and bad, and that either way it doesn't start for a almost a month so there's no benefit to stressing about it now.  (Or dreaming about perfect days and setting myself up to feel like a failure).  What I need to focus on instead is staying in the moment and taking the actions that I need to take right now.  That means making sure I get my paperwork in, make the phone calls I need to make to get things set up, etc.  See my old MO would be to be afraid of failure so I'd screw up something stupid so that I'd never even have to approach the big scary thing that I may fail at.  Of course I'm also equally afraid that I might succeed!

So...a lot of this comes down to accepting that what will be will be, and trusting my higher power to carry me through.  I have to accept what I can't change, and take the actions I can and need to.  Acceptance is another tough one for me.  Frankly I'm a little too good at it.  I'll think I'm accepting but really I'm just stuffing....pretending like I don't care and avoiding doing anything about it even when there's action to be taken.  I'm having to learn that if someone hurts me my job isn't to sit back and "accept" that.  But I also can't explode on them.  I need to step up and say that they hurt me and try to work it out.  As always, it all comes back to my least favorite word....balance.

But all of this has gotten me thinking about another form of expectations.  When I first got sober, I was shocked by my first sponsor, as she was the first person really ever who had genuine expectations of me.  She expected me to show up where I said I would, be on time, and do what I said I was going to do.  That was HUGE for me.  For years and years I'd gotten what I wanted and needed by playing the victim.  Poor me, I had a crappy childhood.  I can't be expected to be to class on time, I had a crappy childhood.  Why are these mean people expecting me to be to work on time?  Don't they know I had a crappy childhood?  Don't they know I have PTSD and a whole litany of other issues that make things so so hard?  My sponsor essentially told me, "Get up and do it anyway.  The world doesn't care about any of that."  I was so mad and so hurt at could she say that to me?!  She knew my struggles better than anyone!  But over time I came to see what was really happening.  She was the first person to truly believe in me.  She believed I could be more than the victim of a crappy childhood.  She saw me as a person capable of genuine success.  Not the kind of success that's, "An accomplishment for someone like you," but actual functional member of society type success.  At this time I was far from that...I could barely venture out into the world, so this was a big perspective shift.

Now, 2.5 years later, I'm finding myself passing her message on to others.  Now I'm the one coming across as the mean bitchy one, just like my sponsor appeared to me.  That's hard for me, because I want to be nice and I want everyone to like me.  It's not that I'm being purposely mean, but I understand now that truly caring about something means doing more than just saying "that's ok" no matter what they're struggling with.  Yes there's a time and a place for that kind of support, but being a true friend, or even a true helpful individual, means finding that honesty.  It means telling them, "I understand that you're struggling, but I believe you can be more."  I've learned my lesson a few times in getting too wrapped up in trying to change other people.  That goes back to the type of expectations I was talking about at first.  I expect people to be wow'ed by what I say, and I dream of myself changing the world in a matter of moments.  But some people don't even react or get mad at me for what I say.  I have to remember that it took a long time for what my sponsor told me to sink in.  I wasn't receptive at first either, but the seed was planted.  I also know that what I have to share may not be what others need to hear.  It doesn't mean I shouldn't say it (though I'm learning to find the times that I should and shouldn't speak), but it may mean that despite my best matter how much heart i put in to it...that person is not ready to change right then and it's not my job to make them.

When foster parents ask me questions about dealing with difficult kids, my answer often comes from some version of this.  You have to be there with them right where they are.  Meet them there and support them.  But you also have to have expectations.  You have to be realistic, but you have to have expectations and standards to hold them to.  Usually they'll live up to whatever you set for them, as long as you're with them for support along the way.  If the standard you set is, "You poor thing you've been through so much....let me help you with everything...." that's what they'll live up to.  They'll be stuck where I was.  They won't learn what they're capable of.  Instead, each mistake can be an opportunity to show them that you believe they are capable of more.  It's all about baby steps, but always pushing forward.

What started me on this whole long train of thought was a new woman who has been coming to some of my AA groups.  She takes the victimhood thing to all new extremes, worse than any of us have ever seen.  I don't think she's intentionally manipulative, but I don't think she's ever learned how to ask for help.  So she literally just sits there listing off everything wrong in her life and waiting for people to jump in and offer to do things for her.  If no one does, she keeps getting more extreme about the pain she's in, sometimes going to talking about suicide.  (In the few months I've known her she's been to the hospital multiple time for threats of suicide).  When people do help her, she never says thank you.  Instead she keeps asking for more and more (but not asking, just doing the same complaining thing).  I was one of the first people who got to know her when she first came to our meeting, so I've been trying to work with her.  At first I was actively helping, but then I got frustrated by the constant manipulation. I decided to only help if she asked specifically for it.  When she called to complain, I would help her find things to be grateful for in the situation, and help her come up with a list of possible actions she could take.  Go figure, I started hearing a lot less from her! lol  She wanted to find the people who would do for her, not push her to do.  But I stuck with my decision.

A situation came up last weekend where I had to confront her again on this stuff.  I was proud of myself that I managed to be kind but also direct and hold my ground.  I didn't back off even though I knew she was upset.  I got an email from her that was similar to what she'd said before, but with some slight positive changes.  I called her out again on the negativity issues.  At first I'd been very cautious about calling her out, because I knew she was hurting, but after we'd had our conversation I felt ok about it.  None of us really know how to help her.  We're all not quite sure what to do, and how much we should take care of her, because she does have some big issues.  But I decided to stick with expecting better.  I explained to her again simply and directly what the issue was and why it wasn't ok with me.  The email I got back was a huge trigger for me...talking about suicide and her being alone forever and calling a crisis line and all that.  It actually made me physically sick...maybe because that's where I used to be or maybe because of the manipulation in it.  I don't really know.  I had to take the email I had written back to her to a couple people to see if I'd been overly mean.  They assured me that I hadn't at all and thought I'd handled it well.  I had to let it go and just say a prayer.  Well, a few days later she apologized to me (on email).  I saw her that night and was a little hesitant to approach because I wasn't sure where we stood.  But she approached me and she thanked me!  She thanked me for what I'd said to her!

I'm realizing as I write this that this story probably doesn't make sense to anyone but me because I'm having to leave out some important details.  But that's ok, I write for me anyway! :P  The point I'm getting to, in my long and winding way, is that I expected better and lo and behold I'm seeing positive change.  For the first time ever she expressed gratitude, and gave a bit more of her genuine self out.  She's starting to reach out to people in a genuine way rather than trying to manipulate them.  Itty bitty baby steps, but it's happening.

For some reason this has always been something I've been good at.  I remember years ago I taught a season long ski program for kids.  One day I took my group down a longer run that was a bit above where we usually went.  I knew they were ready for it, but I knew it would be hard for them.  That night, one of the girls told her mom that she was really tired and that it was too hard for her.  Her mom got worried and tried to move her to a different class.  I knew she didn't need to be moved down, but of course the program directors have to listen to mom.  Well, the next week that little girl absolutely refused to ski with anyone but me.  She knew I was pushing her into new challenges, but she also knew I had her back and she could trust me.

Maybe it's because I've had to learn to push through so many fears of my own....and find ways to exist in the world even back when every instinct told me to hide from it all....maybe that's what's given me this ability to find that limit of just how far to push.  All I know for sure is it's a big part of why I want to work with at risk kids.  I love to see kids getting through that sports, or life, or whatever...and pushing through whatever it is that's holding them back.


Ok now that I got all touchy feely happy goosebumps  I really do get so attached to people I'm able to work with, especially kids.  I love to coach, whatever form that coaching is taking.  I guess I'm grateful for the opportunities I'm getting now to be able to help people, and the continual insights I'm getting into life as I struggle through it.  I'm also grateful that I have a blog no one reads so I can write whatever the hell I want while half asleep and don't have to worry too much what people think of it! lol

Sunday, July 6, 2014


Recently I was watching an episode of American Ninja Warrior.  Before many of the contestants ran the course, they would do a background feature about the person.  Over and over I would hear versions of the story of seeing the competition on tv and deciding they wanted to do it.  Some of these people overcame big health issues to get there, so it's not like they're just naturally fit (though I think some natural fitness helps!).  As I watched I thought about how fun it looked, and how cool it must feel to do something like that.  And then I went and got a snack and plopped back down on the couch.

It got me wondering: what causes that difference between those who see something they want and make it happen, and those who don't get past the dreaming about it.  What gives people that drive?

I must be driven to some extent.  I survived years of pain and struggle that could've killed me.  And not only did I survive, but I'm about to graduate from college and start a dream job.  (Ok maybe not dream job yet....but for where I'm at in my career it's a dream come true. :)  I have friends, I have an apartment of my own in a safe neighborhood, etc. etc.  I have a lot of things that statistically I shouldn't.  I've accomplished things that "kids like me" aren't "supposed" to.

When I get into a tough situation, I can find that inner drive and get through it.  Recently I was at the gym and joined a group workout that I knew was way beyond what I could do.  I let everyone know I was going to take it easy and just do part of it because it was too much for me.  But once I got going there was no stopping me.  I refused to quit until I did every single bit of that workout.  I did it slowly, but I did it.

I'm not referring just to physical stuff, but that does seem to be the easiest analogy.  Once I'm at the gym, I can work as hard as anyone.  But that workout was Wednesday, today is Sunday, and I haven't been back since.  I get frustrated because I'm overweight and know I would feel better physically if I exercised more.  But I don't do it.  I don't get myself out there.  I'll make great plans to go, but when it comes to be time, I'm suddenly distracted, lose track of time, etc.  It's not intentional, but it's not exactly unintentional either.  Yes sometimes it's an honest mistake, but I know if I really want to go I need to get ready right away, not let myself do other things, leave early, etc.

It's frustrating.  I'm an awesome planner.  I think of great things to do, and can even see the step by step path to getting there.  I know how to reduce things into the tiniest of baby steps.  But even then I don't take those steps.  I don't know if it's fear or what, but I continue to hide from truly living.  I have about a month before my new job starts.  It would be great to use this time to get stuff done, get my life in order, etc.  But instead I sit here being a couch potato, my apartment still a mess, my errands still undone, and still feeling overwhelmed.  These probably sound like little things, and I guess in the big picture they are....but I'm well into adulthood and my apartment looks like someone left the kids home alone too long.  It's embarrassing, and I feel trapped in this not quite grown up stage.  And, I'm not enjoying things the way I could be.  I have all this free time that I craved while I was in school and working, and I'm spending it watching daytime tv.  And I don't have cable, so it's the really crappy daytime tv! lol

I just wish I knew how to put my "in the moment" drive and perseverance into more long-term issues and struggles.  I wish I could better understand the cause, but my theory is that it's a mix of laziness and fear.  Struggling for something greater is exhausting, and it also puts me at risk of failure.  If I do nothing but watch tv, I don't have to risk looking stupid, or finding out that I can't accomplish something I wanted to.  Of course I'd rather be taking risks than watching tv, but I don't know how to convince the rest of me of that....the part that seems glued to the couch and can so easily get completely engrossed in random websites, video games, etc.  Argh!


I'm grateful for these problems in the sense that 3 years ago when I was in the hospital and suicidal, I would've given anything for these to be my biggest problems.  Back then I couldn't envision how to live another day, and now the frustration is that it's hard to live up to the big dreams I have.  That's a big change in hope!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Lonely nights

I've never liked night time.  As a kid, night was when  bad things happened.  As I got older, it became the time that I have to face the memories of those same bad things.  Now I don't like it because it's lonely.  I like daytime and sunshine and being able to be outside without feeling scared (yes I'm still very afraid of the dark).  Unfortunately my body seems to have reacted to fears about darkness and night time by keeping me awake during it.  Then, I finally fall asleep and sleep through the daytime that I really want to be up for.  It seems my body is fighting to make me nocturnal...pretty ironic for someone afraid of the dark.

When I first got sober I was a total insomniac.  I rarely slept and I embraced the night.  I spent my nights cleaning, baking, doing puzzles, working on art projects, etc.  But now my body has decided it likes the sleep and wants the sleep.  I feel so exhausted I struggle to think long enough or well enough to even consider a puzzle or anything else.  I definitely wouldn't trust myself with the oven! lol  So instead I'm just stuck feeling kinda lonely.  Daytime is great...there's things to do, people to see.  There's not much of that at night.  At least not the kind of stuff that's healthy for me to be doing.

I've tried melatonin, and that worked for a while, but it kinda scared me.  See the problem isn't exactly that I can't sleep.  I mean it sort of is, but the bigger problem is that there's a part of me that's absolutely terrified to sleep.  When I'm awake I can handle things pretty well...even the big flashbacks.  I have coping skills...people I can talk to...etc.  Once I'm asleep I have none of that.  My thoughts go where my thoughts go and I hate it.  I feel so vulnerable, because the nightmares I end up having are so intense.  So...I take melatonin and it makes me very, very tired, but it doesn't make that scared part of me cease fighting.  If anything it scares that part even more because it makes me feel drugged.  Imagine if you knew that the only way to keep yourself safe was to just stay awake, and then suddenly something kicked in that made you painfully groggy.

I know none of this is exactly rational, but for that scared part of me it's very, very real.  I wish I had any idea how to stop being afraid.  The only answer I've gotten in the past is that as I work things out during the day the nightmares will lessen.  That seems to work to an extent, but then I get hit with waves of nightmares and it feels like things start all over again.

So if you happen to be reading this and have some ideas on getting rid of nightmares please please let me know.  Though please don't go in to the usual insomnia "sleep hygiene" stuff of routines and schedules and all that jazz.  That I'm sure works well for "typical" insomnia but that's not what this is.  I am actually, genuinely terrified of sleep, though also wanting to sleep more than anything because I'm physically and mentally exhausted.  (Oh, and the fact that it's a bazillion degrees outside doesn't help!  My apartment doesn't have AC and one of the things I usually like about night is getting to cover up in big safe heavy blankets.  Now I don't want blankets anywhere near me and I tend to be physically uncomfortable a lot of the night just from the heat).


I'm grateful that for the most part I only battle this stuff at night now.  It used to be a 24/7 issue.