anxiety

My Heart Unlocked: The Key

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Love can teach you many lessons.

I have suffered with anxiety, depression, and self-esteem issues for many years. These issues date back to around spring of 1998. I have been through several major relationships – one of which ended in a broken marriage. Following divorce depression can become especially overwhelming. I had already been suffering for a year and a half prior to our separation due to postpartum depression stemming from the birth of my daughter in May 2009. The darkness I exuded brought so much despair that eventually – my ex husband decided to leave.

My life seemed to begin over again. Here I was living alone with racing thoughts and questions: how did this fail? I wondered had I ever really been in love – why had this gone so awry  … it was at that point that I said to myself, and believed, true love really did not exist.

In April 2012, on a chance encounter, I met my now husband, Joe. My heart was dead bolted. Locked. My soul was marked with a “No Trespassing” sign. I was still struggling with my esteem. I felt rotten, ugly, like I had completely been doomed to never feel the essence of true love. I was faced with a man that I instantly recognized had the type of strength I had always dreamed of. Here before me stood a Veteran, divorced himself, who had also survived cancer and had three children himself. His intelligence immediately sparked my interest. I consider myself a very smart and talented lady in a lot of respects – but his intelligence was not condescending. I was used to the type of man who would patronize me by making me feel as if my quotient of wisdom was stupidity, not knowledge.

Joe and I talked for hours each day. This man understood and got to the bottom of the deepest pits of my inner demons so quickly. I believe it was his kindness, his warm smile, his gentle voice that spoke to me with such caring generosity – that truly unlocked my ability to open up so immediately. It came out of nowhere. All of this time I had wondered if there was a man who was patient, kind, forgiving, understanding, hopeful, and loving – that would actually believe in me despite my emotional baggage.

Joe has never once left my side since. He has seen me through some of the most difficult times. We have braved my depression, anxiety, addiction, and health issues TOGETHER. He has taught me the meaning of true love. The value of his confidence in me goes hand in hand with his undying affection for each and every part of me. He never questions me. Every day I wake up and I’m told I’m beautiful. Little notes written on the steam of the mirror after I take a shower – “I love you, baby.” These are things I have never experienced before. In looking back on the past I realize that I never once failed anybody or anything when it came to love – I just had not yet found what it was truly supposed to be.

In my Prince Charming I have learned how to open my heart again. The key was in someone’s ability to grasp onto my inner imperfections and show me the light in each flaw – and that knowing that despite any days where I may cry for no reason, be moody, yell obscenities, need time alone – he still guides me and holds my hand through each moment. The key was finding somebody strong enough to not let go when the darkest hours present themselves in such perilous light – and instead, that someone would hold me through it and turn that into time together that just makes us both stronger.

He is my best friend. He is closest to me. He knows me better in 2 years than anyone has ever known me in all 34 years alive. He has brought me into that place of happiness and peace – he has taught me that the emotional catalyst to renewing my faith was simply in believing in myself – and to to trust someone else to do the same. I love him more than I could ever imagine loving another human soul – and in this lesson, I have become whole again. After being torn to pieces – his hands, his face, his smile, his heart, his hope, his soul, his genuine belief in my genuine self – has put me back together with a soulful thread and that missing needle in the haystack:

Undying, true, selfless, faithful:  love.

It does exist. We are proof.

 

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Fear: The Side Effect of Hidden Truths

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Tomorrow it will be 28 days.

Some would call that a month – I want to be technical. It’s 4 weeks.

It will be one month on January 20, 2014.

One month drug free.

I come out and say this bluntly – it’s as if I walked into a karaoke bar asking to sing “Rehab” by Amy Winehouse and announcing prior to my off kilter notes and ear piercing falsetto: “I am 4 weeks drug free”.

Last night I had a nightmare. I know with my residual conditions of chemical dependence I will experience such things as vivid dreams, sometimes the sweats still, long term problems with pain as well as mental trauma of flashbacks and anxiety. I already had Panic Disorder so I admit I’m a bit blindsided by MORE anxiety. Did I REALLY need more? Could we not have left that part out?

I digress.

I am a 34 year old mother. My blog originally started as one single post. It was my journey – my pathway to freedom from my own personal prison of drug addiction. It was a memoir of “how” “why” – Facebook posts I copied and pasted: a chronicle of sorts. To be honest, I never expected anybody to read that fully – it is beautiful and kind genuine hearts that have commented to me about how they read the entire post – which, if printed, is actually 14 pages.

New blog violation #1: keep it short.

Oops.

The nightmare was that I was presented two pills – my original drugs that got me dependent. In the dream I held those pills close and thought about it – yes, or no? I remember glaring into the deep, white speckles of Percocet  in front of me and popping them into my mouth – and swallowing.

Immediately I was gagging, washing my mouth out, and telling myself “NO! How DARE you?!”

I woke up shortly thereafter in a sweat. I woke up afraid – praising the Lord that it was not real. I had really woken up drug free (and it was snowing for the first time this season – a beautiful surprise from the hands of the Heavens). It made me feel thankful for the life I am currently living and that each day that goes by – is such a huge milestone.

Fear, to me, is a side effect of hidden truths.

When I was younger – I was scared of snakes. My parents could never figured it out – as I never had any real confrontations with snakes. Why was it that whenever one popped up on the back porch – I would wince, begin screaming, have the urge to vomit, and run. I still do this as an adult.

The truth behind it was that I’ve always had nightmares of snakes eating me (I hear some resounding laughter) – but no really. The truth  was that I have an inner fear I had not explained to anybody – I am fearful I will die in a ninja like war with a giant snake in the desert. It’s the same with my fear of elevators (and falling), and why I’m claustrophobic (I’ll suffocate).

It’s when I decided to really examine my fears that I discovered the truth behind how to overcome addiction – and for that matter, begin to deal with my other phobias that plague me and hold me back from doing simple things like walking through the grass at night.

I could not very well do it without owning up to the realization that these things had taken over my life.

How could I overcome such soulful madness, physical damnation, the inner twisting of my brain and organs – without truly owning up to what the deep root of the problem really was?

The fear of the unknown – the path I had never traveled down – is what prevented me from being able to originally recognize the problem. It was an achievement in itself that I shut the door on fear and opened the door to the truth. I let in those consequences of my actions and I took them head on. I knew there would be pain. I knew there would be suffering.

I also knew there would never be an open path to freedom from this monster if I did not behold the inner truth . Without that acknowledgement I would continue to live with that suppression of the soul that continuously played like a broken record to my brain “you cannot do it – you will continue to live in silence.”

Today I am no longer quiet. The silence is long gone – my fear of the unknown is a path I have already begun to journey down and now have reached the exit sign at Day 28.

I am choosing to stay on this path – this often difficult and winding road with such ups and downs – curves that could easily throw me off the cliff. Now that my truth is exposed the peace and catharsis comes in truly living the experience and learning a lesson – a lesson in which I plan to continue to share and hope to inspire people that live with their own fears of the truths that could potentially bring them onto the road home.

There’s no map for this. There’s no way to completely guarantee that everyone who catalysts themselves into the universe of recovery from whatever battle they are facing will truly succeed.

The success begins with telling the truth. It sounds so simple – like a history lesson on Pinnochio or George Washington.

Do not be afraid of admitting you are fearful, scared, and terrified of your own truths.

Remember – fear is merely a side effect of knowing you have them hidden secretly in the catacombs of your soul.

Freeing those truths will free your mind of fear and you shall face it head on – and with that, you have nothing to fear – be proud you have begun that walk up such a difficult mountain – maintaining hope, love, and faith.

You can get there – and there’s many hands to hold along the way. You are not alone.

Cheers to Day 28.

(and no, I would rather not invest in a pet snake, but thank you for asking)

From the Diary of an Anxious Mother

Dear Diary,

Today I am still dealing with a very sick 10 month old. Winter months, I used to love, as I could skip in the snow when school got called off, or sleep, or watch TV while ingesting copious amounts of Totinos Pizza Rolls.

Motherhood makes me hate Winter.

Flu, strep throat, stomach bugs, cabin fever…

(Cue the germophobic mother who hates cleaning up vomit and panics if the children’s temperatures go over 98.6)

(OH MY LORD THEY MUST HAVE CHOLERA)

I attempted to give the baby a bath (antibiotics are the bane of childhood: insert diarrhea all over the bed, pillows, and of course, the child). Shortly after drying him off, he began choking and gagging as if he had something stuck in his throat …

(OH MY LORD HE MUST HAVE SOAP POISONING HE’S GOING TO GO BLIND)

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Upon bracing myself, patting his back, waiting to be spit up on from whatever poison the innocent bathtub experience must have been ingested into his tiny system – he smiled, he giggled, and reached to stroke my face (as if to say “no really, mom, I just bit down too hard on the wash rag you gave me to play with while you so gently stroked my hair with tear-free shampoo”).

I placed the baby down for a nap and composed myself. These things happen, I said, constantly within my racing thought provoking brain, and sat myself down with a nice cup of Pepsi (do I really need this caffeine, I mean come on, who needs Pepsi when you have Panic Disorder). I turned on the television and put my feet up – flipping through channels and finding something cool to watch (oh hey Food Network, I love Chopped) – “so whose parenting skills are on the Chopping block…” I laughed to myself (while in my head, imagining Ted Allen looking so slyly at me like “Guess who ISN’T getting the 10 grand?”)

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Oh, come on, I lamented, now microwaving myself a fancy steamers meal (quick – four and a half minutes to cook, what if the kid chokes again, or if he has another toilet incident BUT NOT IN THE TOILET) – give yourself a break. You are a great mother – even though you live with Panic Disorder.

I am an anxious mother. I find myself in panics (your heart races, you are short of breath, you shake)

(OH MY LORD THE WORLD IS ENDING – ARMAGEDDON – THE ZOMBIES ARE COMING – QUICK HIDE THE CHOCOLATE AND PACK THE LUGGAGE!)

It’s not just that I panic over situations above (the word hasn’t ended, there’s no armageddon, and unless you have Shaun of the Dead on repeat, the zombies really are not coming) – I panic over SIMPLE things.

That one cracked dish the baby had his hands on – oh dear, did he just bite into that crack and slice his gums, or for that matter, do I need poison control? Is that a tiny bit of glass he just shoved down the back of his budding throat?

Oh, nevermind, that was an old top from demented plastic tupperware (sorry, sorry, I wasn’t looking, darn “Jump to Conclusions” mat)

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(OH MY LORD I LET HIM WATCH OFFICE SPACE – HE’S GOING TO LEARN HOW TO CURSE EARLY)

This is the diary entry of a mother who lives daily in panic. It is a learning process. It is a continuous battle of soul searching, coping strategies, relaxation techniques, new daily activities. I am in a continuous, relentless motion of “how to prevent myself from freaking out over the child falling backwards into the Pack and Play” – I am a proud mother of THREE. Yes, THREE. My children are ages 6, 4, and of course the above mentioned, 10 months.

The simplest of “whoops, the football just went under the table, let me go grab that” turns into “the child just bumped his head getting out from under the table”

(OH MY LORD RUSH TO THE ER – IT’S A CONCUSSION)

I simply have to examine myself in each moment. Learning to breathe and deal with the small things without overreacting is probably a course I should have taken in college (oh wait, ponder this, I have a Masters in Counseling…) 

I remember that these are tiny human beings. Their innocent, graceful souls are just now budding as they hit each life milestone step by step. Accidents happen. Sickness happens. Vomiting in a public place after overeating at Chick-Fil-A – it really does happen.

(OH MY LORD THEY HAVE NOROVIRUS – GET THE BLEACH)

(no, they over ate, especially your biggest one, he knows how to sneak peppermint sticks from the pantry without getting caught and then he goes into the corner and chows down – and then you wonder why he grabs his stomach in pain)

Another life lesson from the dealings of an anxious mother: I’m learning not to keep my eye on EVERYTHING.

If I do, I will read into it. I will wonder why, how, my mind will go off into oblivion for minutes upon minutes about how to handle the situation – do we need urgent care?

(OH MY LORD ARE THOSE PEPPERMINT STICKS EXPIRED)

Truthfully parenting is a very difficult responsibility. It’s a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week, experience in being a chef, house cleaner, nurse, friend, and nurturer. For somebody who struggles on her own with anxiety, this trip down the lane of raising children often becomes difficult. I simply now am embracing that IT IS OKAY to worry. No one wants these little beautiful beings to be in any pain or get into any trouble. I, however, on a daily basis have to take the IT IS OKAY and bring it to the level of not having a completely full on heart rate at 160 over a lost shoe, a leaf on the floor (THERE COULD BE E-COLI ON THAT) . 

It is a true lesson in human strength and spirit to live on a daily basis with something that can take years upon years to get under control. I know I am not the only one. Some would think that these struggles in parenting are normal – sure. No. Not really. Mine are not. Another mother may take her kid eating dirt as “yay I don’t have to make lunch” – I take that as:

(OH MY LORD ITS PROBABLY GOT SOME WILD ANIMAL POOP ON IT – WHERES THE RABIES SHOT)

So not me:

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I’m always stuck on “First child eats dirt, parent calls doctor…” – it is an endless cycle.

Sure, they make medications for that. Insert section into this diary entry, where shortly after wondering if my parenting was on the Chopping Block, that I reached for my anti-anxiety medication with the hopes of being calmer by the time the child woke up: just in case he dirtied up the crib again and I find a piece of broken tupperware in his poop…

I am on an uphill battle to fix this – I know I can get better.  I know I can find a happy medium between understanding what’s normal, what’s not, and being okay with what’s not and knowing – in 99.9% of the cases, it’s an easy fix.

The battle to the top of this mountain includes learning how to embrace vomit as an ordinary process – not always a crisis – and other tiny things I’ve spoken of above that have happened today. I will get there. I welcome other mothers in all of their wonderments of raising children to speak out on how to find parenthood more delightful, less frightful.

I AM  A GOOD PARENT even if I find little things terrifying.  I live with panic disorder and I am still on a learning upswing as to how to incorporate relaxation into my daily routines so that anxiety does not bring this mother down into the pit of (OH MY LORD DID HE JUST ….)

So as I grab a piece of the hidden chocolate (just in case, you never really know if the Zombies are coming), and I sip from my broken tea cup (the one the second kid decided to drop on the carpet while it was full of Fruity Pebbles, and then so gracefully with her hair in her mouth and her hands unwashed, decided to eat each pebble off the floor)… I remember that having a struggle is NOT A SINFUL THING – it’s only a bad experience if you do not attempt to learn from it.

Each new day is a new journey into the unknown. From one anxious mother to any others out there – I want you to know I understand your plight. Panic Disorder is no walk in the park, but we can all decide to live with it, hold on, and brace ourselves – and in this realization, I just noticed that my parenting skills were not on the Chopping Block.

(OH MY LORD IT WAS A SEAFOOD DISH – THAT JUDGE MUST HAVE FOOD POISONING – THAT BASKET WAS NOT IN THE FRIDGE!)

Ah. Back to life. The baby is awake. It’s time to take the baby for playtime in the playroom – and enjoy those moments where my heart rate is just a little bit normal, I don’t feel nauseous, I am not lightheaded, and I can stand up without shaking, freaking, screaming, or having the sudden urge to dial 911.

These are beautiful moments for an anxious mother.

My Path To Freedom

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John 8:32

“…and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

It all began when I least expected it – during a time that was supposed to be happy. It was a celebration of a new beginning – the birth of my third child, Jonah.

Shortly after marrying my wonderful husband on May 23, 2012 – I became pregnant again for the third time. I was not expecting it. To be honest, I thought I had the flu.

What I really had – were two pink lines. Welcome back to Mommyhood, I thought.

Flash forward. March 12, 2013 – my son was born four weeks early. After a battle for his life in the NICU – he returned home when he was 9 days old.

Shortly after his return – I noticed the simple things were getting harder. Walking. Cleaning. Getting out of bed. There was a pain – a pain that began to spread through my back, knees, and hands. I went to every doctor you could think of – test, after test, after test. No results.

It was during this time that this journey to where I am now – actually began. A resolution to become the best – now, and in the future, especially beginning in 2014. This was the biggest goal I could possibly achieve – I encourage you to read on to find out how my life changed – how this blog started, why, and my continued resolution – the path to freedom.

After having my third c-section I was given narcotic pain medication. It began with Dilaudid – and when the pain did not stop after the second week, switched to Percaset – otherwise known as Oxycodone. After several emergency room visits and visits to my primary care doctor (and oral surgery in between – yikes, my teeth hurt too!) – I finally decided to take the next step – pain management.

I could not get a hold of the chronic pain – let alone be a wonderful mother to my children. Wasn’t I supposed to be enjoying this time? I could not. Everything hurt – there wasn’t a reason. There was no medical evidence to suggest I had anything wrong. It was just that – chronic pain.

After initially meeting my doctor – I was questioned. My prescription records for the past ten years were pulled in front of me. “Look …” my doctor said. “You have been to about ten different doctors – and each doctor gave you a narcotic – do you not see this as a problem?”…

No. At the time I did not. I thought I needed those – and to be honest, I never asked for them. They were offered. I accepted.

After many a talk with my pain management doctor – and really pleading my case that I really felt I had done nothing wrong – long term opiate treatment was suggested. After a series of medication trials – I found myself on OxyContin and Oxycodone. I will leave out the details of how much and how many doses we tried til we hit the spot – but ultimately, I ended up on 120 MG of Oxycodone per day – beginning in May of 2013.

I wish, during the time with my doctor, I had just stopped and thought about what I was doing. Sure, the opiate agreement I signed – it said “you may experience withdrawal upon step down of your medications”. Sure. I’ve heard about that.

As it turns out – I had absolutely no clue what I was getting myself into.

Flash forward many tests later. I was becoming weaker. I was losing weight. I was not able to get around as much – auto immune disease? Could be. Something else? Well…

We finally discovered the chronic degenerative arthritis in my knees. Apparently I’ve been at this for years – it just did not hurt that bad until now. I thought whatever it was hit after the c-section – I really had no idea. It was bad. It would take years of therapy and maybe a total knee replacement. I’m only 34.

We moved from Northern to Central Virginia in September 0f 2013. I could not take the pain in my back and knees anymore – sure, the medication helped, but I had no family help or support in that area. I transferred my records to the same practice, different doctor, as they have many locations.

My medications stayed the same.

During this time it was discovered that my uterus was retroverted backwards – likely due to endometriosis or scar tissue from the three c-sections I had previously had. I would need a hysterectomy.

I let my pain doctor know this and it was at this time, at the beginning of December 2013, that we decided step down of medications would begin to take place once the surgery had been performed, depending on the shape of my knees.

…and then it happened.

On a cold winter day – as I remember, December 7, 2013, I remember thinking to myself – did I take my medication? Should I take more? My two older children were coming – I was feeling very depressed, very much in pain, I needed to be able to be there. I don’t remember counting – I don’t remember timing it. I just took my medicine around the clock.

Later that night, I found myself in the emergency room. My heart beat was so rapid. I could not breathe. I had noticed many anxiety attacks in the weeks prior to – and thought maybe this is it. When I was questioned by the doctor – about my medications and what I did or did not take – the OxyContin came up. I may have inadvertently tripled my dosage that day – causing the breathing and heart rate problems. I was told I was an overdose risk – and they sent me home.

Yes. They sent me home. No IV’s. No fluids. No pumping of the stomach.

They simply sent me home.

That’s when it hit me. What have I been doing and how much have I been taking? My refills were due but … wait.

I called my pain doctor that following Tuesday. The day before, I had seen my OB GYN and explained the depression and anxiety I had been feeling recently – that I had begun to develop stutters and tics – no Psychiatrist could see me until January at the earliest so he started treating me for those issues.

I immediately reported to my pain doctor at his request – on December 11. In pain I walked in – and he looked at me, hospital report in hand, and said – “no more”.

My OxyContin was cut cold turkey. I was given a short supply of Percaset to step off to prevent withdrawal.

The journey began that afternoon.

I found myself crying – in a panic. I wasn’t ready. I had been thinking back on it – over the months – how many of these pills I had taken, that when I had awoken without an overnight dose I was agitated and sick – that the anxiety disappeared when I was on the medications.

And then the light bulb clicked. I got it. I realized it – I realized that months and months of use – of pill … after pill … after pill …. had become my life.

I was chemically dependent.

I swear – as the Lord is my witness – this was not voluntary. I was not looking at these pills going “oh these are so fun – I think I’ll pop four or five at a time”  – I did however remember several occasions of forgetting when my last dose was – and taking one anyway instead of waiting.

What had I done?

Needless to say – the step down was useless. I found myself needing my medication on a regular basis – not on a limited basis. The pain was so bad – I could feel the anxiety and the withdrawals brewing. I began becoming fearful. Scared. Not getting it – why me? Was this my fault? How did I allow this to happen? Why was the step down so improper? The cold turkey cut from OxyContin (that means stopping completely with no step down) had already been brutal – it had taken away the extended relief from the pain – it had brought on insomnia, night sweats, panic attacks, depression, low energy, and diarrhea.

I sat there scared, helpless, and petrified. How was this going to happen? The Percaset was out. It was December 20, 2013. Five days before Christmas. My two oldest were coming that night – to stay for a week – and I had no way to function knowing the drugs were gone.

They were gone. Every one of them.

And I faced the truth. I took to Facebook for my journey. I thought back on my actions. I was angry. I was in a rage that my actions had been misperceived by my doctor as me purposely abusing when in all honesty, I was not pill popping – I was self soothing because that’s all I knew how to do when the pain hit, when the depression from the pain hit. Had I taken too much OxyContin on that fateful Saturday?

I decided not to hide behind the curtains anymore. I wanted to confess. I wanted help. I sat in a fetal position on the bed – screaming – “No, I cannot do this” as I watched my husband stumble to me … “then we’re going to the hospital.”

Prior to this – I had posted my events on Facebook for everyone to see –  I opened myself up for negativity, for backlash. Instead – I found myself garnering more support than I could ever have imagined. I also found that I was not alone in this fight. The overwhelming amount of messages in support I could not even respond to – as an Apple iPhone person, I easily could, but I could not keep up.

There was the original post that started it all … and then it progressed. I began counting in hours. As the withdrawals began I realized what these drugs had truly done to me. And what could have happened had it kept on going. I was furious with my doctor for step down. I felt it was very inappropriate. My brain was raging with anxiety – I could not sleep. I could feel it burning in the back of my head. And here we went.

An example. In the beginning – I went to a hospital that Friday, December 20, that said they specialized in drug rehabilitation. I knew I needed support. They declined my entrance. After intake, in a cinderblock cell with no food or tissues, or even my husband by my side, I was finally told (and handed an ibuprofen and a Zofran) – I just needed to go home. I did not qualify for their program.

My children began their stay at my parents home instead of mine. I sat there and cried harder than I’ve ever cried in my life. What had I done?

The next morning the convulsions started. My husband had gone out. I was home alone. I had no one to help. I was in and out of the bathroom – sicker than sick. It felt like the flu, but a million times worse, added with depression, anxiety, panic attacks, restless legs, the inability to sleep. No – no way. I could not do that alone. My husband called my brother and off we went across to downtown, another hospital with a detoxification program.

This Facebook post was after my return home:

“This news being posted finally. To those whose messages I have not responded to yet – I will. The love and prayers are overwhelming. My brother who is amazing came and picked me up at 11 am – I was home alone, diarrhea, sweats, convulsing. Time for hospital attempt number 3: St Mary’s. After witnessing a man die, his wife being told and she hit the floor, the body covered in a sheet and his daughter and son sobbing, the nurses sobbing, (he was DOA – but they didn’t know) – this made me feel worse but at the same time blessed. I was wheeled to a normal emergency room bed – given fluids, top notch attention. The doctor examined my records for over three hours before coming back. During that time I was given anti nausea and Tordol for the pain and headaches (not a narcotic and doesn’t work but a sweet gesture). I continued with the shakes while my husband transferred Jonah to go spend the day with my brother and future sister in law (his Godparents as well and certainly shining that light). I cried and cried and cried. When the doctor came back – he reached to me with compassion and said my doctors messed up and who dares give a patient that type of medication for so long. He said based on my blood work, body function, and timing of last opiate – I’m HALFWAY home from the worst. Unfortunately no I would not be admitted for help with detox – they rarely do it he said – but he sent me home with Ativan Zofran Ibuprofen 800 and a drug called Clonidine – to help ease the withdrawal as it begins to taper. I’ve already stopped convulsing with the first dose. My blood pressure and heart activity were clear signs that this was taking its toll. My pulse got to its highest at 167. BP lowest of 80/60 then came back up. I have not yet had diarrhea again but I’m certain I will – I’m still very nauseous and hot but we are only one dose in to easing it. I’m taking the Ativan every 8 hours and the Clonidine every 6 hours for 5 days. By the time that hits – I should be completely through the worst of withdrawal and I’m to sleep and rest especially the next two days. My mom has my two oldest and hubby is on duty with Jonah. No I don’t feel well yet. But piece by piece it begins to take shape and on Monday I will sign up for outpatient help for chemical dependence due to chronic pain with an office here in Midlothian. I am now home and in bed – still waiting the worst to be over – but the compassion that I experienced today made me remember that there are real doctors. I won’t lie I begged for opiates – of course denied – and I know for good reason. I feel foggy and sick – but those magic words HALFWAY THERE – stand true. Onwards and upwards – those dark moments are dark – but I sought help and will continue help even after symptoms pass to be sure I never relapse if I somehow have to take an opiate again. You know – January 9. A hysterectomy.”

Yes – that’s right. I was supposed to have a hysterectomy on January 9, 2014 – but after opiate withdrawals and what I was going through at the time – I knew in my heart of hearts – this would not happen. I would not touch another opiate so soon, if ever again. I did not want the mental trauma of menopause either because the hysterectomy was complete, not partial.

On December 22, 2013 I acknowledged my husband on Facebook. This man is an angel. He never leaves my side – at the same time, I’ve never seen him cry as hard as he did during this time of peril – during the hours of the worst of the worst of the worst. I love this man – more than I could ever imagine loving anybody. He has been my rock – from when the battle began, to what I will get to at the end of the article, to the future, he will always have been and be my everything.

Facebook circa December 22, 2013:

“To my dear husband: thank you. For never leaving my side. This is me at my worst. My eyes dark and swollen. I see the toilet more than you. You give up everything to get me healthy. You hold me and despite it all tell me I’m beautiful. You bring me hope in the darkest of times. Without you, I don’t know how strong I would have been. We both know this isn’t over. Could be a few more days. A week. Depends. Were 2 days in and you haven’t left my side. I love you more than anything. You are my Prince Charming. I’ve always dreamt of you and here you are”

Later on that day – I had contemplated taking up my battle in a private Facebook group with just close, close friends – but then I thought about it, no. I had started it this way, I’ll end it publicly – everyone can see. Everyone can speak. Everyone can support – because I knew deep inside, I was actually not ashamed. I was scared – more fearful than anything I had ever faced.

“I decided against the private group. I decided to simply share my journey with everyone – and somebody it’ll be a blog… Maybe a book. About overcoming. Some see my transparency as scary – humiliating – wow your family must think you’re nuts. Nah. The inspirational messages I get compound any negativity. And then I realize that I indeed produce negativity myself. Everyone is allowed an opinion. Even if I don’t like it. But this is up and down. I never thought an innocent person would have to go through such a horrendous battle. I still have yet to see Ayden and Mina. While they are safe – my heart hurts. They only know that mommy has a tummy ache. I talked to them once. And I cried. They can’t hear or see me this way – and it’s with continued faith and prayer that I can beat this before Christmas. The odds are not in my favor – however – there is a God I strongly believe in. And that God wants me here. He wants me to live, and speak my journey. I am not ashamed of this. Becoming chemically dependent on legal medications is common. But my fight is real. There are hours of weeping. My husband and I cry together. We pray together. We hold each other. He is up overnight making sure I get my medications. He stays awake if I’m awake. I have made huge strides. 56 hours opiate free. Seem small to you? It’s not. For 8 months daily I was taking 120 mg of oxycodone – that’s 56 hours that I haven’t – that’s 56 hours of pain, shaking, diarrhea, nausea, panic, depression, overwhelming fear. Oh Percaset – how can I live without you? All those times I was able to cook and clean and hold my children – the mistake I made was giving you credit for that. Anyone who knows chronic pain knows it takes more than medicine to function. It takes inner strength, patience, dedication. It takes faith and prayer. Opiate withdrawal I could compare to death – ever had the flu? Multiply it by about 20. Add panic. Restless legs. No sleep. Depression. Pain. More nauseated than the flu – I would prefer the flu. Then add in the mental block that you must have your meds to live. You know what, Percaset. I never needed you before and I was happy. You only masked pain and you never improved it. I did. You never made me a happier person. You made me agitated, tired and moody with like a two second high that made me want to take more again because there was no pain. A huge breakthrough today 56 hours in. The shakes came back. The anxiety. I’m so worried I haven’t seen my kids. Anything I eat comes out. Painfully. My entire body hurts. And there’s a bottle of narcotic cough syrup my husband got for his bronchitis. I’ve known about it. I knew where it was. A break I said – I could get a break – but no. No fucking way. I’ve come too far. 56 hours is FAR for opiate withdrawal – and I joked with my husband about it. His eyes lit up. “You mean you didn’t realize I moved the medication?” – and my heart leapt a bit – no. I never looked. I refused. And he smiled. Because that’s MY victory. I did that. I refused to give in to one of the worst parts of withdrawal – cravings. My body thinks it needs you – it DOESNT. Yes – I’m in Hell. I’m struggling to beat this so I can go to Christmas – I didn’t get that last year with my kids as they were with their daddy. This is Jonah’s first. I battle this hour by hour praying – Lord help me just feel even an inch better and praise my milestones. If there’s any miracle I want this Christmas besides a cure for cancer – it’s a cure for THIS. I ask you all to pray – and my heart is with those who have or are or will ever suffer with this. If I’ve ever faced death – it’s now. And I will not let him in my door – it’s just a tiny white pill. My heart is so much bigger than that. My heart lives for my kids, my husband, my family, and I know now after this is over – for making a difference. I will speak out. I’m not afraid of the glares, the “wow how could you” – I’m speaking for those who need to know you’re not alone. I’m facing my biggest fear in being so sick – and no matter what – I will prevail. It may not be by Christmas. I may not see Ayden and Mina at all – the looks on their faces with Santas gifts in the morning – but I will give it my all to be there – so pray with me – it’s a dark hour – but it’s the 56th. Tomorrow – I’ll be in the 60’s. Every minute counts in recovery – I am scared – but I am willing – and a fighter.”

56 hours in on this post. I was so looking forward to the 60’s. Then the 70’s.

I had heard that hours 72-80 were pretty much death – facing it head on. Whomever told me this or wherever I read it – they were right.

I hit hour 72 on December 23, 2012. Two days before Christmas.

At this point – I did see the Angel of Death. I posted about it on Facebook. I posted about a light I kept seeing – dreams I was having. My grandfather reaching his hands out to me – telling me to come. My grandma. She looked so beautiful – next to him. “Come” they said.

No. I had to stay. I was too far in. There was no way I was backing off. I was shaking so bad. I was screaming to my husband for drugs. “JUST GIVE ME THE DRUGS” I said. I was convulsing – my hands in weird motions like something out of The Excorist – if I had just had some pea soup and thrown it across the room, I could have passed for Linda Blair. My husband knelt beside me. Clutching me. His eyes streaming tears.

I screamed, and I screamed, and I screamed.

Psychosis. It felt like psychosis. I felt like I was hitting a brick wall a million times and I wanted to give up.

JUST GIVE ME THE DRUGS. I yelled for an hour at the least. I was screaming through the saltiest of tears in a fetal position. Just one white pill … one. A Percaset. Please. Let me have a break.

But I didn’t do it. Christmas was so close. I thought that night would never end. I still had yet to see my children. There had to be a miracle – I could barely move. I was so tired. I was so sick, dehydrated. My normal weight: 156. My weight at hour 72: 114.

It was at this point that I felt the Grim Reaper staring at me. “You did this to yourself … you will die at it … alone.”

No. I would not. Had he not seen my Facebook? The battle I took public – for everyone to see – for everyone to witness – friends, family, old colleagues…

They were SUPPORTING me. They were giving me ideas – friends bringing me things to the house in an attempt to help – love, hugs, so many different things – posting songs to inspire me. Just posting a “thinking of you….”

I kept thinking of this.

And my children.

And my husband.

…. and my children …

…. my children.

And in hour 99  I went to the hospital again for hydration.

Facebook circa Christmas Eve 2013:

“Hour 99: just home from the hospital. I went back to St Francis and got the same doctor that gave me the shaft two weeks ago lol. He was much nicer this time. I was simply so weak I gave up on hydrating myself. Worst 4 day stomach ache I’ve ever had. I felt faint. Overwhelmed. In pain. Scared. Despite the horrible pain in my back and knees I let them know the purpose of my visit. To please rehydrate me – the withdrawals were taking their toll. I sat there and cried. “Is it the pain?” The nurse asked. “Yes. And knowing that I can’t have my safety blanket.” And I cried not only out of pain but out of being proud – for not begging. Honestly I just wanted water. I received no pain medication at all – got some more Zofran and 2 bags of fluids. My electrolytes looked good they said. And I asked the doctor upon discharge – I used to call him Dr Dickhead – “how much longer?” – he handed me a prescription for more Zofran and said “young lady – You have gone over 90 hours. You are almost there. The most I’ve seen it last is 6 days. You’re at 4. You are so close. Keep doing what you’re doing.” And I cried again, part of me just wants a break. The other, huge part, just wants it over and to know I did it without the need to take opiates again. I’m signed up for methadone treatment on Thursday. If I win this battle beforehand – it will simply turn into a support session. 8 months – 224 days roughly of daily opiate use – and I’m almost 100 hours without. Seems so small. Yet so huge. Yes I hurt so bad – I know I’m a very good candidate for an opiate pain medication. I need a hysterectomy and a total knee replacement. But instead I am saying no. Goodbye to you Oxycodone. Forever. The pain I’ve experienced in losing you – is far worse than any benefit you ever provided. As I sit here and try sips of water. Drops of rice. Vitamins. Gatorade. Imodium. I think of what you’ve put me through and how I’m beating you – and in those dark moments when I think I can’t do it without you – I hide my white flag – you will never see it. I am now home and resting. I’m taking some Aleve and trying to get myself to move around somehow to get energy. I’m very very very tired. But there’s two babies that have been here since Friday that just want to see their mommy. Merry Christmas, my loves. Mommy will see you very soon.”

It was with this post that I realized this would not stop me. It would not take away my Christmas. I wanted my babies. I wanted my life back. In hour 103, I showered.

In Hour 104 – I posted on Facebook the miracle I never thought would happen.

Christmas Eve. Seeing my two oldest babies for the first time since their arrival four days prior. I still cry watching – because that moment was so huge to me in recovery.

I made it for about four hours on Christmas Eve. I got up on Christmas Day – still ill, and continued to my parent’s house again for Christmas festivities. I made it about three hours. I went home and cried. I sobbed for hours about how I missed the moment they saw their Santa gifts. I missed them going to see their extended family to open gifts and have dessert. I think that is only the second time my entire life I’ve ever missed that Christmas festivity as well.

I felt so useless. Worthless – but I knew. I knew inside I could beat this.

Hour 150 (December 26, 2013) From Facebook:

“Hour 150: my friends – what a relief. After two hours of speaking with addiction specialists – it was determined I’m not even a candidate for methadone or suboxone. My entire pharmacy history checked out. I passed every single test – love peeing in cups and blowing into machines lol (sarcasm). The worst, they say, is over. My biggest issues will be psychological. I have a lot of anxiety because of surgery next month. I cannot start their outpatient program until that is done but they are going to work with my doctor to be sure this doesn’t happen again. I’m just afraid that because it’s so soon – my body will remember. My blood pressure is really low and my head is pounding so I quit taking the Clonidine. I no longer need Imodium and haven’t taken a Zofran since Christmas Eve. I’ve just drank a bottle of water in its entirety and going for number 2. I’m eating Goldfish crackers and kind of want Perogis or something. I’m EXHAUSTED. They were honest – the psychological effects will be longer term and for that I am going to classes and support groups and will continue counseling. They shook their heads when they saw what I was prescribed. She looked at me and said I had done the worst part on my own – that looking at me she sees anxiety, but a healing person. I am so fucking proud. There will be moments of fear – the worst part is feeling pain and then craving – but I will not crack. They make OTC meds for this reason. I will never ever let that happen again and I’m taking every step to ensure it. She looked at me and said she suggests NA for me – for support – “but you don’t qualify as an addict.” So I walked out – head held high but HURTING – knowing I HAVE GOTTEN THIS BEAT! The moments of frustration and anxiety will be there as my brain continues reset – but the worst is almost over. It could be two years before the flashbacks stop they say. It’s its own form of trauma. But let me be the voice for those who suffer and don’t speak – YOU CAN BEAT THIS. I believe I just did …”

I did – I had spent over two hours in a substance abuse center, a methadone clinic, that could not get me in until December 26 – I had called several days prior (or shall I say my husband who had done it for me) … they had no openings – I had to wait.

Once again, I did not qualify.

Still fighting on my own – I knew I had an appointment with a psychiatrist on January 2, 2014. I could make it … I had to keep going. I could not lose this battle. I was so close. I could feel it. My brain hurt. My body hurt. My body had no idea how to process pain anymore because my Cortisol level was so low (natural pain relief made by the brain, that is decomposed and almost nullified by the use of opiates) – until your brain resets, your body will feel extensive pain – even if the pain is not actually present.

How scary was this revelation – this entire time, putting these drugs into my system, and maybe they were the culprit – this could have been fought in other ways – but now – now I had depression, what I felt was psychosis, moments of mania, and the worst anxiety I had ever had in my entire life. My first full meal after December 19, 2013 at my brother’s birthday party – was not until Friday December 27, 2013.

I barely took sips of water in between.

I even remember I was so excited eating a meal that I posted a picture of the meager plate on Facebook:

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Yes, that’s a Capri Sun. Don’t judge.

At this point my ribs were sticking out – I had lost so much weight. I could not hold really anything in – nor did I have any desire to eat.

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Fast forward to Janaury 2, 2014. I saw a doctor finally who got me on the right track with the depression, anxiety, insomnia, and lack of energy. At this point I was off Clonodine and Ativan. I was going purely on human soul – faith – and the will to live, the will to beat it.

Facebook: Janaury 2, 2014:

“My husband is so amazing. New meds cause drowsiness the first few days – and he didn’t even question me (also a bit of a queasy stomach but I expected that too) – told me go right to bed. No baby duty. No nothing. Just go rest up. He’s so sweet. He knows I have to get back as much energy as I can with the kids coming tomorrow. There hasn’t been much recovery time in between their last visit and I need to be on my A game. I don’t want another Christmas week repeat. I’m drowsy but calm. Not sure if I’m hungry for the Alfredo I wanted or if that’s the urge to vomit. I hate not being able to tell LOL! Didn’t realize the Salon Pas arthritis pads have NSAIDS in them – feel like I’m cheating using any meds at all for pain (NSAIDS aren’t narcotic but still lol). Here’s to hoping for a restful night and not too many side effects. Sleep yes please. Stomach issues – please stay clear! I just feel like I moved a huge mountain though going two weeks opiate free and learning how to manage and handle on my own. I don’t feel bad at all for needing psychiatric medications – I’m not only traumatized but my brain isn’t functioning correctly. Now some people love opiates because they feel “high”. I needed them for chronic pain and it nearly cost me any chance at being a normal person. So I’m learning again – and I’m PETRIFIED of narcotics. Literally scared. I never thought I would feel that way but after this – the mental and physical effects that could take years to fix – I have to say I’m pretty damn proud. I beat it to Hell where it belonged. And now I learn to live again. Maybe not pain free – and maybe with nightmares and anxiety. But I LIVE – and that’s huge. I will never forget hour 72. I literally saw and felt death. I can’t describe it – but it wasn’t like seeing balls of angelic light. It was basically like living through psychosis, with pain, with the begging of your insides to just stop breathing so you can have a break. That my friends is gone. I survived. And I did what – in that hour – I didn’t think was possible. I forgave myself and let myself begin to heal and endured it. I’ll never go back. Unless you amputate my leg of course…”

Yes, at this point. I was in days.

I felt victory.

The trips to the bathroom were over. The convulsions, the cravings, the psychosis – they were over.

I was left with trauma. I began to have flashbacks of withdrawal – of seeing death, of feeling it, of three trips to the hospital – of what this could mean for my future when a doctor questions my records. I was remembering the hours being analyzed by substance abuse professionals, addiction specialists. I was still recalling the proud moment when it was told to me that I was not even a qualified person for Methadone – I had done it on my own.

I still sometimes count in days on Facebook. The posts here aren’t even in the spectrum of how many I’ve posted about this topic, or what I went through – to be honest, some of them I cannot even find – they may have actually been removed by Facebook.

Have I ever been banned for what I posted?

No. I have not.

I have received so much thoughtful, loving, support, advice, kindness, overwhelming appreciation for my being that I cannot even begin to depict the way it affected me – fighting this in public, having no shame for posting it for all to see, not being ashamed to admit it – I had fallen into the trap of chemical dependence.

Mom of 3. Master’s Degree. Loves football, nachos, taking walks, the ocean, watching Ghost Adventures (ah, that Zak Bagans, he’s the best, most adventurous … love watching him and being inspired) … oh, and I was once chemically dependent on Opiates.

I admitted to myself, as the first step, I needed help. I could not go at this alone – I wanted to so bad. I wanted to journey into the unknown and go through the worst phases of deathly psychosis ALONE …

It was the worst idea I’ve ever had in my entire lifetime.

I have learned so much. We now stand at day 16.

Maybe this does not seem like a long time to some reading – but it is.

It is a huge milestone to go from 8 months of daily opiate use – to zero – and to keep it that way for over two weeks – and for me to not crave it, and to be completely honest, to hate it – is a brilliant beginning to a wonderful life.

Today I sit in front of my computer typing – recalling these moments – and I can feel my brain beginning to work and process. I can feel energy coming back – I can feel my non-anxious, wonderful, generous, giving, love to change diapersy self – coming back.

For sure in those deepest darkest of hours I was convinced – it would not happen. I would not beat it. I would beg and beg and beg for drugs – I would get the drugs, I could delay this. I could avoid it over Christmas. I could just simply continue until I really felt ready to go through the pain of letting them go. By them, I mean pills – as if they’re people.

They’re not even souls. They’re tiny, white…. pills.

Chemicals that have changed my life in a way I cannot describe to you as anything but dramatic. I’ve learned how to cope with my chronic pain in 16  days. My surgery is canceled until a later date. I’ll be in physical therapy for my knees and on birth control for endometriosis. I have not used any substance besides Excedrin in 16 days – and that was only twice – for pain.

I really, truly, honestly, patiently, albiet at times, angrily, BEAT IT.

Have you ever hidden in a corner and cried? You don’t want anyone to know why – or how – or what it’s about – you just cry. No one asks. No one digs deeper to know.

Do what I did. Cry out. Do not be afraid.

I am a living, human, breathing example:

Dependence can be beaten.

I am a kind, caring, innocent example:

That falling into a trap – there IS a way out.

I am a strong, able, AWESOME example:

That you can live without it. You can go through it. You can get through hour 72 – that you can beat it when and if professionals are not available (but they are, please see the footers at the bottom of my page).

Do I sound like you? Because I am  talking to everyone – if you haven’t experienced it, if you have …. if you are …. or if you will – please pass this message along from my mind, body, and heart, to yours, or to that person’s soul:

YOU CAN DO THIS. There is life afterwards – there is a way to become that human being I’m sure you are missing – that you never thought could exist again.

In my hands I have now a picture of my three babies – a picture of my husband – and a picture of myself – and I put them all together – and I see inspiration.

I see a mother who tried so hard not to fail her children.

I see a wife who put in her heart and soul to come back to her husband – emotionally.

I see a person who dug deep into her soul – with every single solitary bit of my last strength – my last of breaths, my last bit of power – and pulled myself out from that dark, lonely grave.

It does not have to be that way. I could suffer damage mentally for years – it will take professional intervention for quite some time. Intensive outpatient therapy, psychiatric medication and help, counseling … and true soul searching – but I’m ready.

I already feel over the mountain – that I beat the worst, and became the best, and continue to strive for the best of the best.

For those who want to know – there was a post from a friend asking people to post inspirational songs to me. I already had one.

“…just remember, you are not alone…in the aftermath.”

– Aftermath (Adam Lambert)

Ever watch Susan Boyle’s audition? The way she came out, strutted her stuff, and shocked the Hell out of the audience and judges? I watch that constantly now – for inspiration. I watch for her – and her moment, knowing that mine was walking out on my own stage to face the music – impressing. Beating.

And then I remember the song she sang. I dreamed a dream ….

And while my journey is not concluded – and will continue – it is uphill.

It was ironic that it happened to be that song …

“No song unsung
No wine untasted
But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hope apart
And they turn your dream to shame
He slept a summer by my side
He filled my days with endless wonder
He took my childhood in his stride
But he was gone when autumn came
And still I dream he’ll come to me
That we’ll live the years together
But there are dreams that cannot be
And there are storms we cannot weather 
I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I’m living
So different now from what it seemed
Now life has killed
The dream I dreamed”

No. Life has not killed that dream I dreamed.

I’m allowing that dream back in – and it is true.

I am me again. I am whole.

And I’m alive.

…. and the truth truly has set me free.

Dreams do come true. Miracles do happen.

Live yours – and let yours – in.

Believe – and you shall rise.

I, my friends, have risen.

(I encourage the sharing of this post on Facebook, Twitter, to everyone. Speak out. You can speak to me. My contact information is available on this site. Take note of the resources. Spread the Word.)