Most importantly, I have learned that I am “perfectly imperfect”, and that I can be appreciated for exactly who I am…and at any moment of my day.
I honestly remember feeling “off” since I was a young child. I was first sent to see a therapist in grade school, but things continued to get emotionally worse for me over time.
I tried to ignore it and just pushed through things, burying my true and higher self deeper and deeper into a locked box. I eventually experienced a number of powerful losses over the past 14 years, and in trying to find a way to deal with them and the resulting feelings I was facing, I trusted my doctors as they tried their hand at medications to fix me.
Throughout this time I was diagnosed as bi-polar, severely depressed with suicidal idealizations, and every type of anxiety disorder they could come up with. I tried Lamictal for the bi-polar disorder, Seroquel as a mood stabilizer, Zoloft, Paxil, Prozac, Remeron, and Lexapro for the depression, Ativan, Klonopin, and Xanax for anxiety, as well as Oxycotin, Percocets, Flexeril, Vicodin, Codeine and countless other recreational drugs for my physical and emotional pain. With each medication I experienced gnarly side effects while never feeling emotional relief. The more I told my doctors the medications weren’t working, the more they increased my doses, added new meds, told me to be patient because it takes time, and sent me on my way. Eventually I told myself the medications could not help me because I was crazy and sick, unable to get better. I just wanted my brain to stop, to shut down. I gave up all hope of finding happiness and stopped trying.
Throughout this time period, I couldn’t eat and lost about 50 pounds, as well as two jobs due to my inability to sleep and declining mental health, thus resulting in not being able to pay rent, and ended up living out of my car with my two dogs. For two years I tried to make that work, but I found I was only surviving by escaping my life through the abuse of my pain medications, along with quite a few drinks, whatever drugs I could get my hands on, and literally tons of marijuana. I stopped spending time with friends, avoided my daily responsibilities, and isolated even though I despised the idea of having to be with myself. I was still breathing, but there is no way I could say I was living…and I would definitely say I didn’t want to. Each day felt like an eternity in hell. I wished I could and would die, not just every day, but every minute of every day. I didn’t want to go to sleep at night, even if I could, because that would mean I would have to get up at some point the next day and face my reality all over again. I begged for my lame existence and life to be over.
So to be honest, I remember very little about my first week here. I remember having a warm bed to sleep in, a roof over my head, a bathroom to use whenever I needed one, and warm healthy meals cooked for me. These things felt foreign to me, yet the simplicity of them began to save my life. I do vividly remember my first night here, and extremely freaking out, being curled up crying on the couch during Chezpri’s group, wondering why I was so crazy and how so many people here could be going in circles laughing and actually enjoying their lives. I wanted so desperately to be like them, yet believed it was impossible.
I remember sometime in the first week being taken out on a very special hike with Dustin to walk out on Devil’s Bridge…I felt on top of the world, and at that moment something started to change. The floor staff and people around me actually listened to what I had to say, and holy shit, some of them even went through similar or worse struggles. I felt the connection and support I had been seeking for as long as I can remember. I could be sad, angry, or frustrated, and yet not criticized, blamed, or shamed for how I was feeling. I felt true appreciation and love for the first time. The staff have been just the beginning of the loving spirit that surrounds this place.
I have made it through this program due to the support and love from my fellow residents. I may not want to get out of bed to deal with myself, but I sure as hell will get up to receive my “goodmornings”, and “how was your nights” as I walk into the dining room; and to know that even though I may be feeling and looking my worst, someone else may need my greeting and smile more than I need to stay in bed and feel sorry for myself. The honest sincerity shared among the group is what has moved and motivated me…knowing that if I didn’t get up and try, and he didn’t get up, and she wanted to stay asleep, we would not be able to make it together through the morning detox shop, groups, or survive the weekend.
I can honestly say that my worst day here at Alternative to Meds Center has absolutely surpassed my best day back home. No, I’m not saying it was easy…but neither was crying, screaming, and feeling sick and crazy all the time without any hope of ever finding a way to feel better. I’ll take sauna and chelation over medication side effects, nasty hangovers, and wishing I would disappear as soon as possible. The staff and residents here helped me survive and pushed me to have faith.
I learned to laugh, and to cry, genuinely. I have learned to fight for myself and my own peace and happiness. I now know it is ok to feel, and that I don’t need medications, drugs or alcohol to numb my emotions so I can meet the expectations and demands of an ever increasing individualistic society. I have learned that it is ok to want to be around other people, and to find joy in community. I have learned what it means to love myself, and that it is ok to have that love jumpstarted by the positive spirits that surround us.
Most importantly, I have learned that I am “perfectly imperfect”, and that I can be appreciated for exactly who I am…and at any moment of my day. Thank you for sharing in my sadness and joy. It has been quite the adventure of a lifetime! I truly have faith that each and every one of you can also do the same.