Holding Still

fbd6545db786a1c062e9bca6399f35c7I will never not be an addict.

It’s a hard realization.

There are days when I don’t think about drugs at all, and then there are nights in which the pull is so strong I feel like I’m becoming untethered. It’s due to stress 99.98% of the time. I want to silence the buzz in my brain and tranquilize my emotions. I think of how easy it is to get just one more fix, and my body and my spirit shudder at each other. One is so easily influenced; the other still holds onto the possibility of tomorrow.

A year ago, I would’ve had no issue popping open a bottle of pills and swallowing a handful so that I existed outside of myself for a day or so. It was simultaneously easier and harder than being sober. I enjoyed the during and dreaded the aftermath; it’s the opposite now.

I know that most people would remind me to be proud of myself – to be grateful to be clean this long. It’s hard to feel thankful when your mind feels like it’s on fire because you refuse to give it a single pill or a hit of something stronger. There’s this dark part tucked away in the back of it that tries to twist reason and logic, just to give me some valid excuse to use again.

I have a lot more to lose this time around, though. The weight of that helps me stay still when the urge to go out in search of something stirs. It holds me down long enough to remember what exactly it is I’m staying sober for.

Tonight is hard. Tonight, I want to use more than I have in a very long time. It’s requiring a lot of will power and distractions in order to not lend myself to past mistakes. It’s so fucking difficult. It has to be worth it though, somehow. Someday, I’ll look back and thank myself for just crawling into bed and dealing with the withdrawal. I’ll be grateful. Until then, I’ll keep holding my dog and listening to anything loud enough to drown out the noise of my inner demons.

I can only pray to God that you can do the same. These waves are so fucking rough – but you’re tougher. I know it. Prove it to yourself, too.

Emma

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I Believe You

tumblr_ncij4pASom1thqudao1_500This country is a shit-show right now; let’s be honest. It’s a battleground.

And women aren’t winning.

But there are voices united all over this country, crying the same thing – I am a survivor.

I was raped. I was abused. I was attacked. Friends, teachers, and even members of my family did not believe me. My dad’s wife went as far as to say I was lying, and continues to say the same thing about the victims that have made their stories public in the last month, and she’s doing it all over social media.

Don’t listen to her and don’t listen to the others. They’re wrong and they’re cruel and they’re ignorant.

The things happening in this country right now are shameful.

You are not.

If you are a survivor, I believe you.

I believe your story, your struggle, and your demons. I have been there, as so many women and men have. Right now, you may feel defeated. I would encourage you to lift your head up. Listen to the voices of the survivors that are supporting you. You are not alone. You never have been.

When I was 17, I had the misfortune of enduring a year of sexual abuse at the hands of two boys I attended school with. I went to a teacher in search of help and was shut down. I was ostracized by friends who chose to believe the boys over me. When I was 21, I was raped by a man I’d been on one date with. Members of my family refused to believe either assault ever occurred. I was devastated. I tried to end my life on multiple occasions due to the trauma of the attacks and the aftermath.

But I am here – I fucking survived and so will you and I pray Dr. Ford continues with the strength she showed in that hearing. She is my hero. You are my hero. Keep fighting, whoever you are and wherever you are. You are worth more than any other human could ever understand.

Kick until your head is above water and keep it there.

I’m proud of you and we’re in this together.

All my love,

Emma

Goes Back Up

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This week is better. Time keeps moving whether we want to follow it or not. That’s a blessing, because I know if I could just hang back on the bad days, I would; then I would never see the good ones ahead.

Last week, I relapsed. This week, I am clean.

And very fortunate with so many good, loving and compassionate people in my life.

I deal with seizures, which is nothing particularly new. They started last year and a specific cause was never determined, but I remain on anti-convulsants in hopes that they control them. Last night, I had three seizures within four hours. Never before I have dealt with these in such magnitude. A bad day has been two within 24 hours – this was a scary day.

While getting ready to leave my boyfriend’s apartment, I felt those familiar tell-tale signs of a seizure about to start. He was playing video games, waiting for me to be ready, and noticed very quickly when I abruptly stopped moving. Instantly, he was up and making sure I was in a safe position when it started. It was brief, but the recovery took longer. Between the first and second event, I looked up at him through very tired eyes and found him crying. My heart broke for him.

He then drove 15 miles to give my apartment key to my best friend so she could go get my dog. My best friend is a whole other story. She takes care of not just me, but my entire family. She works an insane schedule but will rush out of work at moment’s notice to help any one of us. It blows my mind how selfless this woman is – with her patients, with me…with virtually anyone that crosses her path. She was up late last night caring for multiple people, including me. I can’t imagine what this life would be without her.

I woke up this morning, feeling more fortunate than I can express despite this illness. Despite all of the bad and the shortfalls and frustrations in this world, I realized at some point last night that I am blessed beyond my own understanding. I have wonderful people in my life whether I always realize it or not. Despite every illness, despite every flaw, these people love me and I can never properly thank them for all they do.

You are not alone in this world. Whether it be a spiritual, emotional, or physical affliction, you have so many humans around you that would lift you up if given the chance. Trust them. Don’t let your past dictate how you perceive your present and anticipate your future. This ocean is vast, but it is filled with people swimming all around you.

You are not on your own and you never have been. Have faith. Keep swimming.

Head above water,

Emma

What Goes Up

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Let’s talk about relapses.

None of us are perfect. There is not a single human on this planet that can claim to be. We all have goals we’re stumbling toward on wobbly knees. I cannot think of one person in my life who I have not seen fail at something.

So, trust me when I say, your failures are not the first and they certainly won’t be the last. Being human means being flawed and there is quite literally no way around that.

I relapsed this week, and I relapsed hard.

After the initial incident, I had to shut down and shut everyone out for a good 24-48 hours to get my bearings again. I couldn’t do it with my phone turned on or while worrying about other people. Pure and simple, I needed to lock myself down with my dog for the weekend. Talking wasn’t about to fix anything, and neither was worrying other people. I didn’t want other people involved anyway, though, you know? Sometimes, there are just things you need to do on your own. This weekend, getting my shit straight required me and only me.

I woke up still pretty well under the influence Friday morning (fortunately I have Fridays off) and sent my boyfriend a pretty brutal text filled with misdirected blame and careless typos. He was on his way to work, so that wasn’t received super happily.

I laid in bed until about noon that day before working up the energy to even sit on the shower floor while the water ran. After that, the initial depression worked itself up into anxiety and I needed to start moving. I did laundry and dishes and put myself together at least partially. I then drove myself to my favorite trail and went for the longest walk I could handle. After finding a bench with a view of the river, I sat down and just prayed. I don’t know if you’re religious – sometimes I wonder if I really am – but the conversation I had with the God I believe in was one I’ve been needing to have for awhile now.

I cried. I shook. I doubted everything and everyone in my life. I begged for some guidance. I felt some peace.

When my boyfriend got home from work, I headed over to his apartment to do damage control. I gave him a gift that arrived earlier in the week and we talked. His disappointment weighed more than my parents’ ever did. I promised him everything would be okay, but to be honest, I think it’s going to take him some time to believe that again.

I spent today cleaning, watching Jenna Marbles videos, and being very gentle with myself. Bear (the service pup) has stuck close since Thursday night and is still laying right beside me even as I write this tonight.

In all honesty, I don’t feel perfect or even remotely close to great, yet. I feel very tired. My mind is still weighed by the stress that drove me to relapse in the first place. It’s lesser now, but it’s still there. I feel guilt for destroying a year’s worth of sobriety and progress in just a couple hours.

The most important thing I feel right now, though, is this: compassion.

Compassion for myself, for the humans struggling around me, for the people in my life and in my past.

This failure is teaching me a great deal about patience and forgiveness and self-love. I’ve taken care not to use negative self-talk since the relapse. My efforts have all been directed at being gentle with myself and the people around me. This aftermath is a great deal different than those I’ve experienced in the past and for that I am grateful. The help I received following my first and second overdoses helps me still to this day. I know now, better than before, how to utilize the coping skills I was taught while sobering up in treatment.

This time, I think maintaining my sobriety will be easier than the last. I think I’ve learned a lot, and this relapse is just another stepping stone in this life-long process. I’m okay; I’m going to be okay. My best friend from high school reminded me yesterday: “Today is a bad day. That doesn’t mean it has to be your last day.”

He’s right.

And I’m clinging to that.

Please, don’t let your failures and shortcomings determine the rest of your life. It’s so easy to take the path of least resistance and fall down our own dark rabbit holes again and again. You are stronger than that. You can and will overcome this.

This ocean is full of great and terrible waves, but you are more than strong enough to survive them. Keep swimming. I love you.

Head above water,

Emma

Fight

87b16f6f2e8842109f04a35d2fa60a93You’ll get out of here, someday.

Whatever place it is that you are stuck in, whatever demons sit on your shoulders, whatever nightmares paralyze you in your sleep – you will escape them.

When I was 17, I spent the majority of a year being repeatedly sexually abused by two boys at school, off campus, and even in my own bed. They, however, do not define my identity.

There are a lot of things I want to talk about in this post. I have a lot of thoughts in my head today, but I want to take my time telling this story in more depth. I will never have the closure of a court case nor I do ever think justice will be exacted, and that is simultaneously my fault and the fault of a few others, but if I can help others with my story…that will be enough.

I want you to listen to me.

I understand. I know.

You know when you step out of the shower and catch sight of yourself in the mirror, just naked and vulnerable and you? And then somehow those memories come flooding back in and suddenly you’re clutching your towel and sobbing and maybe even on your knees? Or maybe you just stare at your reflection while the breakdown plays itself out?

You know when you wake up in a cold sweat for third night in a row, heart pounding in your chest? You know when you reach for the lamp beside your bed as fast as possible just to make sure there’s no one in the shadows? What about when you’re too scared to fall back asleep, so you find anything to occupy your tired, restless mind at two in the morning?

You know when you walk out into the world and it feels like you’re screaming but nobody even hears a whisper?

I know. I know. I promise you.

You are not and have never been alone. Not once. Not when it happened, not before, and certainly not after. Those of us who have experienced this terrible thing, we’re always with you. Thinking of you. Praying for you even if we don’t know your name.

I want you to know this – it does not last forever. I won’t lie to you and say that it won’t sneak up on you sometimes. It may be just a familiar smell that takes you back, or a touch, but it does happen. It does, however, get easier with time. That gaping hole in your chest will become a scar. You will breathe again. You will not always feel like you have two shadows.

Get help in whatever healthy form you can. I can’t stress the healthy part enough. Find a way to cope that helps you move forward. Fight and fight some more and rest when you need to.

And always, always, keep your head above water. You will make it out.

Emma

Clean

Hi, everyone. I apologize for the radio silence. It was a crazy month.

I had surgery a week ago and am on the mend. The biggest challenge has been the pain killers that my surgeon prescribed for me following the procedure. With a history of addiction, I looked at the orange bottle and then had to force myself to look away. I haven’t taken any of them since Monday, but it has been an uphill battle convincing my mind and my body that I do not need those pills.

I would venture to say the greatest struggle has been in that I have no one to talk to about it. I don’t dare bring up my old habits with anyone in my family, and as much as I love my friends, this disease is beyond them. I felt very alone this week as I wrestled with my demons quietly. I wanted to tell someone, anyone, that I was scared of relapsing, but I sat in my silence and suffered and to be honest, tonight is no easier that Tuesday night was. I want to shut my head off all the same.

If there’s anything I can tell you right now, it’s that I hope desperately you are not fighting this terrible fight alone. I think of you all the time – I wonder how you are coping, if today is good or bad, and if you need a shoulder to rest on. I have faith in you when I don’t have faith in myself. You are brave and fierce and full of more grace and potential than you could possibly know.

Getting clean and staying that way…you can’t know how hard that is until you’ve done it. Not many people truly understand it. I want you to know that I do, and I will be your support when it feels like the path feels impossible. You are mine, you know? You keep me putting one foot in front of the other even when my knees are buckling.

Don’t give up on yourself. You’ve come too far.

Head above water, and be patient. You will get there.

Love you dearly,

Emma

 

 

Redemption

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Forgiveness is a tricky thing.

I was raised in a very religious home and every Sunday, we attended church for three hours. I didn’t stop attending church regularly until things got pretty dark for me about a year and a half ago. I questioned everything I’d learned. Some days, I still do.

One ideal that hasn’t left me, however, is the importance of forgiveness. I think about it all the time – I’ll be making a grocery list and suddenly I’m wondering if my oldest brother will ever speak to me again or if God has some black marks in my permanent record that could use some repentance. I can be driving to work and old frustrations will pop into my mind and I’ll have to consider if I ever truly let some things go.

I wrote a letter on here nearly two years ago that was intended to be my peace when it came to the men that abused me when I was 17. It was supposed exonerate us all of what happened that year. I don’t know that it brought me the closure I was searching for. Maybe for a time it was a bandage on some very deep wounds, but it couldn’t hold on forever.

There are days and nights that those things still haunt me. I run my hand up and down my arm sometimes when I’m trying to fall asleep, and I feel those thick scars left behind by my poor coping skills. The memories always creep back in. I can be sleeping soundly next to my boyfriend and then suddenly be bolting upright, terrified that one of them has come back. He’s very patient; I’ll give him that. He holds me while I cry and try to readjust to the present.

I don’t know that I’ll ever be free of what happened. The trauma, though faded, has left its marks. I’m learning to be okay with that. Slowly, I’m learning to grant myself the mercy that I would expect any other victim to. For a very long time, I hated myself for what happened. I look back through old journal entries and I’m saddened by how truly broken that girl was…and sometimes, still is.

For some time, I’ve been hyper focused on moving on. This week, however, I realized that was never the goal. I’ve just needed to move forward. I’ve allowed these terrible things to hold me back for so long. I’ve held this unfair expectation over the heads of all the people I’ve let into my life since that year; waiting for them to hurt me, for the other shoe to drop.

Some people, I’ve learned, will always come with bad intentions. However, that does not mean all of them do. My boyfriend has taught me a lot about that in the last month; so has my sister. I’m coming to understand that not everyone just wants something from you.

I know I’m probably speaking to a very specific niche of my audience here, but for any of you out there struggling to forgive yourself or to forgive those who have hurt you, I want you to know that it’s okay. What you’re going through right now, it’s a process – a very imperfect process. I want you to know that you are worthy of forgiveness, of redemption, of happiness. You won’t feel broken forever. You will move forward. Please, just trust yourself to find the good things and people again.

I know you still flinch when someone grabs you too fast or when someone gets too close on the street. I know the nightmares keep you up at night sometimes. I know you feel that void in your chest still where something indescribable is now missing.

Let yourself be whole, again, please.

Rise up through these waves and kick and scream and fight for yourself.

Get your head above water and keep it there. You can. I know you can.

Please, let me know if you need me. I’m here to listen – always.

Emma

 

Relate

10e6ae08f33bda86966ad2c8ef6c3058I’m working on finding balance in my relationships.

It’s not going so hot.

It seems, to me at least, that I feel things differently than 95% of the people I come across. Sometimes, my experience is too intense – and sometimes, all I feel is the air moving in my chest. There are those grey moments where I find myself capable of humming the same frequency as the other person in the room, equally happy or sad or disconnected, but I think they are becoming more and more rare, even as I wade further into recovery.

The thing is, I don’t think I’m alone in feeling this.

This aloneness in my sensation of everything or nothing.

In speaking with others with serious illnesses, both mental and physical, as well as those who have dealt with trauma, I’ve found that we all seem to connect on this level that others seem to not be able to reach. Many people don’t even seem to be aware this level of feeling is even there or maybe they just don’t want to – and you know, if that’s the case, I don’t really blame them.

Who wants to know what it feels like to experience raw panic when someone just touches your wrist? Who wants to see stars for a moment and know they’re about to be on the floor, seizing? Who wants to understand the exhaustion of laying in a hospital bed? Who wants to bear the empathy of hyperventilating so hard that your hands start to seize up?

This is not an elite, exclusive club,

But it is a supportive one.

It’s interesting that the people that society seems to pity so much, are the people that will literally give the clothes off their back for each other. These people will send emails to strangers because they haven’t posted on their blog in awhile. They will exchange numbers before they leave the hospital and check in at least once a week. They will be the shoulder to cry on when there is no family. They will drive an hour to pick you up and buy you breakfast.

I wish I could find a better way of communicating how this community of sufferers actually works. I was talking to my psychiatrist about this yesterday at our monthly check-in (I’m down to counseling just once a month!!!) and brought up my struggle in how to tell someone close to me that I have bipolar disorder. My greatest fear is that they will just start googling it.

The answers aren’t in WebMD pages and news articles about the actions of very ill individuals. They are in the eyes and the scars and the lines of the lives of the people living with these conditions every day. We are all surviving and we are doing it in our own ways and if it’s working and we’re not hurting anyone else or ourselves in the process, we need to be celebrating that.

I want to communicate to you, my fellow sufferer and swimmer, that what you are feeling is okay. It’s hard to connect in a world that has taught us to unplug from the humans around us and turn our attention to literally anything else. I promise, it is okay to have your emotions and share them. Everyone is crying in the shower. We’re all accidentally dropping a glass and then finding ourselves sitting on the kitchen floor in a full-blown meltdown.

I hope that you are taking care of yourself in this ocean. Sometimes, when the waves are so rough, it’s hard to see the other swimmers around you. I assure you, though, we are all out here. We are kicking or floating or treading or just trying with all our might to keep our heads above the water. You may not see us, but we are here – fighting with you, crying with you; cheering you on.

If you see a wave coming up, remember, take a deep breath.

It will pass.

You will keep kicking.

I love you, truly and dearly, wherever you are.

Emma

Chronic

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I hope you’re all having a good week so far. We’re over the hump, so at least there’s that.

In my last post, I touched briefly on the physical illnesses I am dealing with as a result of addiction. In addition to those, I also deal with some that I was just genetically designed to develop. These things together, to be brutally honest, often wreak more havoc on my mental health than I’d like to admit.

On top of seizures, kidney disease, and the neuropathy in my hands, I also have endometriosis, chronic migraines, severe asthma, and some significant issues with my digestive system. To be completely blunt, not a day goes by that I am not in some kind of pain. Some mornings, I wake up and instantly double over, unsure if my uterus or my stomach is staging the mutiny. There are days when I can hardly hold a pencil because of the invisible needles in my hands. My kidneys constantly ache, and when the migraines occur, I can’t even move.

The combination of these things does not help my immune system, so the simplest cold often turns into bronchitis or pneumonia. That’s what has happened this week, and it’s been a rough go of it. I ended up in the ER because my emergency asthma meds weren’t cutting it  and they were concerned I’d developed a blood clot. Eventually, I was released, but two days later I returned to my doctor with a severe case of bronchitis plus a sinus infection. She told me to go home, sleep, and call out of work for the rest of the week. This is the second time this has happened in one month.

You can imagine what these things do to my depression or my anxiety. When my body suffers, so does my mind. Somedays, I really wonder what the point is. When so much has already happened, when so much is already in my way, why even bother trying anymore?

Then, I remember the kids I work with every day. I remember the time I saw a five year old say their first full word, or the first time another made real eye contact with me or their parents. I think of the incredible experiences I’ve had exploring with my friends or even just my dog. Memories of hands held, tears cried, laughter, and all the things that just generally make up life give me the motivation I need – even just the slightest bit – to get out of bed and try for another day.

Today, I had to call out sick and I desperately missed the little ones I get to work with and teach every day. I had to take the day to get my health back on track, and it’ll be awhile before I’m completely well again, but that’s okay. I’m working on not letting the frustration get to me. I’m working on not feeling like a failure for my body and my mind. I’m still a work in progress and that is perfectly okay.

You are still a work in progress. You may be ill – physically, mentally, spiritually, or what have you – but you have to grant yourself some mercy. Some things may be your fault, I know a lot of these things are mine, but certainly not all of them. You are not to blame for every shortcoming. You are a fighter and you’re not complete yet and no one can fault you for that. We’re all still trying to figure it out.

Be good to yourself. Let yourself float on the hard days. Don’t let the water take you down just because it seems easier. It’s not, and it’s not worth it. Be brave. Keep kicking or floating or just fucking breathing if that’s all you can do.

I love you.

I do.

Let me know if you need me.

Emma

Getting Sober

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Hi, everyone. I hope you’re enjoying your weekend and finding some way to keep your head above water.

I thought this week I’d talk about something I’ve only touched on a few times. It’s something a lot of people deal with – whether it is very obviously or behind closed doors. In one word, it’s addiction.

For some people, it’s alcohol they struggle with. Sometimes, drugs or food. Often, it’s a combination of self-destructive habits that someone just can’t seem to break. For me, it was drugs and self-harm – and without help, I could have never escaped those two vices with my life.

I am coming up on my eighth month of sobriety from abusing pills. I have recently reached one year clean from self-harm. It has not been easy. Dealing with some serious chronic illnesses that cause me significant physical pain pretty much daily, sometimes I catch my eyes wandering to my painkiller prescriptions for more than the prescribed relief. When stress or anxiety has me turning my wheels in the mud, I find myself often caught up in thoughts of what it felt like to shut it all off in the past. Sometimes, even on the best days, I crave the blissful ignorance that came with getting so high I couldn’t remember my own middle name.

I was a professional addict from the age of 16. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it took some time to master the art of lying and hiding stashes, but I didn’t raise any red flags (that I know of) until I was in college. Even then, I denied any problem to anyone brave enough to ask.

If you’ve been around here in the last couple years, you already know that I have survived three overdoses. I should not be alive. After the first one, I remember really trying to convince myself that I would never abuse any substance again. The second one virtually obliterated my confidence, and I decided that suffering was the only way to go. I would deal with it quietly and more than likely fail, but I was okay with it.

The third one is what forced me to pull a complete 180. I spent a week on the cardio floor of the hospital being told repeatedly that the damage I’d done to my body was more than likely irreversible. I damaged my kidneys to the point that I developed CKD (chronic kidney disease). My heart was damaged and now I deal with a blood pressure condition. I began having seizures more frequently. I had already developed neuropathy and concentration issues from the first OD, and they only worsened.

I am only 22 years old.01563e204e9d55dc206642e522f49b55--railroad-quotes-indie-style

I had to pull it together and I had to do it fast or I really was going to wind up paying for it.

So, I moved in with some family friends who are also religious leaders. I lived in their basement apartment, took up two jobs, and separated myself from most of the people in my life. I learned how to adopt a consistent medication schedule. I started attending therapy again. I forced myself to cope even when it felt impossible.

Eight months later and I am still clean. It is the farthest thing from easy. Somehow, though, I’ve done it.

If you’re struggling with addiction, please be aware that there are many resources available to help you get your life back under control. There are NA and AA meetings hosted both by churches and by other organizations. There are trained therapists available to help you find other coping skills. Rehab facilities are an option. There are also many online forums and sites dedicated to helping people like us find help. Don’t be afraid to admit when things are out of control. There are good people willing to help. Ignore the naysayers. You are powerful. You will overcome this, too.

I love you and I have more faith in you than I think you could possibly imagine. Keep kicking and don’t let these waves overcome you. Head always above water, my friend.

Emma.