Thursday, December 14, 2017

Guest Post - My First Break by Vukasin Milenkovic



At the time of my first break I was 19 years old. I was worked nights as a bartender at an upscale hotel lounge bar. I would do last call at 11:30 pm and be home by 1:00 am. I’d eat, unwind and get as much sleep as possible before I’d have to drive my mom to work in the morning. That was my routine. One night, I decided to go a friend’s house warming party. I ended up seeing some old friends, before I knew it, it was almost 5:00 am. Being that I had to drive my mom to work in a few hours, I figured I might as well stay awake until then and go to sleep after I dropped her off.

I dropped my mom off at work as usual and I was feeling pretty good considering I pulled an all-nighter.  I didn’t feel like going to sleep so I thought I’d go visit a friend who let me borrow some money the week before who lived a half hour away. I got on the highway and started my drive, a drive that I would never forget.


About 5 minutes into the drive I began to feel extremely happy. I’m going to use textbook psychological terms, that I learned later in life, to better describe the way I began to feel. I started to experience an overwhelming joy. I was so happy that a few minutes into feeling this way I began to cry. I was crying tears of joy. I could not understand why I was feeling so happy. It sure as hell wasn’t the weed I had smoked earlier, I knew that much for sure. 

I had never cried tears of joy. As the tears of joy were streaming down my face, I began to think of all the different things in my life that brought me happiness. My thoughts were revved up, I could barely keep up with my own train of thought. I began to pose questions in my mind, why am I so happy? Why is this happening to me? I immediately began to think of other questions like why don’t I feel like this more often? Do other people feel this way? Is that why they cry tears of joy? 

As I thought of more questions, it was as if the answers started being given to me, and like a chain reaction of questions, answers, questions, answers, my thoughts took off faster and faster. Every question I thought of I was given the answer too. I knew that this must have been what people describe as enlightenment. I began to think to myself, why me, a random nobody, why was I chosen, why was I being given the answers to every question I posed in my mind’s eye?? Why was I being enlightened?! I began to imagine what would come of this experience, the endless opportunity, the pressure to fix what’s wrong in the world, the impact I’d have on humanity and that is when I began to panic. Why me? Why am I being enlightened, I thought. This feeling of panic was familiar. I had panic attacks before, they were the reason I dropped out of high school and again college. 

Although I didn’t know that’s what they were at the time, I learned that later in life. As the panic attack set in, I tried to focus on the road because I was still driving on the highway and the exit must have been coming up soon. Then the feeling of panic slowly faded and was replaced with Euphoria. I began to feel better than high, that was the only way I could think of it at the time, I started feeling great again.

A calm came over me, I had never imagined feeling this good. I was no longer concerned with how or why I was feeling the way I did. I was simply just feeling, I began to feel better and better. A feeling so raw, so pure, it was far better than euphoria, it was blissful. I had begun to feel so amazing that I began to cry again. Tears of joy were again streaming down my face.

I was feeling heavenly. I began to experience what I can’t even describe adequately with words. It was not as much of a feeling as it was something that I had sensed. I began to feel and sense as if I knew everything. Everything that there was to know, I knew.                                                                                                                                                                                                  I sensed I was all-knowing. This is when I had begun to feel Godlike. Again, these are terms I learned later in life, long after this episode, long after struggling with acceptance and bouts of suicidal depression, of which my first episode was soon to follow. In all the textbooks I would come to read to try to learn about what happened to me in that car ride, the only term left in language to describe how I was feeling in that moment is Godlike. I had just been enlightened and I was feeling godlike. I was also approaching my exit and I had to navigate my way through the tollbooth. Wiping back tears of joy with a smile beaming from ear to ear, I pulled up to the tollbooth, I fumbled for the ticket and handed it to the toll person. “60 cents” he replied. I could only imagine what I looked like fumbling for the changed, crying and smiling. I gave him the money and as soon as he said thank you, I pulled off.

I made it, I was feeling A-MAZING.  I began to drive towards my friend’s house.  I glanced in the rear-view mirror and noticed a car with two girls in it pulling out of the tollbooth. I looked again to see if I could get a glimpse of the girls, as most teenage boys do, and I saw that we were close in age and then…CRAAASSSHHHH. I rear-ended a pick-up truck that was at a red light while I was going 30mph.

I got out and stepped away from the car. It was totaled. Jay Z’s song Song Cry was blaring. I walked up to the car behind me and the driver rolled down the window. I said, “I crashed because I was checking you out, can you help me get out of here?” she replied “no” I took out the money I had and started throwing $20 bills in her window. After about $300 she said, “get in”. That is where part one ends.

I can’t even begin to tell of the next 7 years of chaos and dysfunction spent trying to live in a perpetual state of hypomania, until I chose to engage in recovery in hopes of securing a better quality of life.

After a dozen involuntary hospitalizations, 20-30 arrests for symptomatic behavior (I lost count) and forced treatment under Kendra’s Law by the state of New York, I was able to recover. I still have my moments, fewer and farther in between. I have been fortunate enough to have been able to start a family with my significant other and we have 3 daughters, my 20-year-old step daughter that I adopted and 2 girls of my very own, 2 ½ and 1 year old.

At my worst, I never imagined that I would make it to where I am now, nor did most people that met me throughout those times. Although I can’t remember what it’s like to live free of mental illness, I can honestly say, I no longer “suffer” from mental illness. I co-founded a not-for-profit and am the sole proprietor of PM&BHC a behavioral health consulting agency at www.pmabhc.com. I go by the Twitter handle Mindful Of Illness @SoulfulOfWealth where I release daily quotes from my upcoming book and I offer free peer support to anyone in need that wants to DM me.


Friday, December 1, 2017

Guest Post - How Can Mindfulness Help With Anxiety - By Jacqueline Gammon



HOW CAN MINDFULNESS HELP WITH ANXIETY?

I’m delighted to be a guest blogger today on It’s Not Your Journey. A blog like Rebecca’s is essential, as it provides a place where people can go to find an honest voice. She tackles an issue that many are afraid to talk about – depression, and openly describes her own experience of it. I believe that it is only by being open about our feelings that we can truly help one another, instead of trying to hide behind superficial images of happiness and staged perfection. The internet is full of those! What we really want to know is that there is someone out there who feels the same as we do, and who can understand what we are going through. Also, when people share their own coping strategies, we gain a sense of community which is often lacking today. How many of us get the chance to soothe our worries over a cup of coffee with a friend or neighbour? How many of us would even admit to our deepest emotions? Fortunately, Rebecca does.

My own blog is Go-To Mindfulness. I became a mindfulness teacher after experiencing the benefits of mindfulness in my own life and then set up the blog to share my knowledge with others. I wanted to provide a place for people to find information, resources and help.

Mindfulness has its origins in Eastern meditation practices, dating back to the earliest teachings of Buddha. In the 1970’s, while meditating, Jon Kabat-Zinn had the idea of adapting meditation techniques to the needs of patients suffering from stress. In 1979 he set up a stress reduction clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and so the MBSR (Mind Based Stress Reduction) programme was created. Today his programme is used all over the world for the reduction of stress, anxiety, depression and to cultivate a general sense of well-being.

My focus today will be anxiety.

Anxiety

We’ve all been anxious at some point in our lives. Some people become anxious about exams, others worry about getting on a plane. I become anxious when driving, even though I’ve been driving for thirty years. There is no logic behind it, but every time I get behind the wheel I feel tense. Anxiety can also be caused by caffeine. People who suffer from depression can become anxious as soon as they have a bad day, worrying that it will be the trigger for more severe feelings.

Anxiety is a natural response to feeling threatened, whether that threat is real, or imagined, our brains cannot tell the difference: our breathing becomes more rapid and our heart rate increases. We can find ourselves stuck in a cycle of negative thinking, unable to see our situation objectively. To us, the threat is real, and our body reacts accordingly, in extreme cases it can provoke a panic attack.
  
So, how can mindfulness help?

Mindfulness helps us focus on the present moment by using the breath as a calming and anchoring tool. If we can become calm, then we can often see our situation with more clarity and act accordingly. Even by inhaling slowly through the nose and exhaling through the mouth, for a few minutes, we can regain a sense of control. I recommend downloading an app like Insight Timer, retreating to a quiet place and listening to a guided 3-minute meditation such as the one by Peter Russell https://insighttimer.com/peterrussell/guided-meditations/three-minute-meditation

However, some people say that when they are extremely anxious, placing their complete attention on the breath makes them feel worse. So, another strategy is to combine touch and breathing: The Finger Breathing Exercise is a simple technique for reducing stress and anxiety or to regain clarity of mind. You might like to try the exercise as you are reading it for the first time:



FINGER BREATHING EXERCISE


1.     Hold out one hand in front of you with your palm facing towards you.
2.     Use the index finger of your other hand to trace up the outside length of your thumb while you breathe in, pause at the top of your thumb and then trace it down the other side while you breathe out. That’s one breath.
3.     Trace up the side of the next finger while you breathe in, pause at the top, and then trace down the other side of that finger while you breathe out. That’s two breaths.
4.     Keep going, tracing along each finger as you count each breath. When you get the end of the last finger, come back up that finger and do it in reverse.
5.     Repeat this sequence until you feel your anxiety fade.


Thoughts are just thoughts

For general levels of anxiety, another useful approach is to remind yourself that thoughts are just thoughts. They are not real. Thoughts are transient and will pass. As will stressful events.

When my brother-in-law was critically ill in hospital, my sister and I caught sight of the words that were above the reception desk in the hospital, “This too shall pass.” It was a reminder that what we were feeling at that moment was not permanent, although it certainly seemed that way at the time. We tried to remember those words each day as we went in and out of the hospital, to put things in perspective. Those words did take the edge off my anxiety, and I still use them today.

A mindful approach also came in useful when our mother was diagnosed with cancer. My sister and I made a conscious effort to try to stop worrying and predicting the future and to take things day by day. That way our energy wasn’t used on worrying about the things that we could not control, but on the things that we could; like being there for our mother and keeping her calm. When she began to panic at the prospect of chemotherapy, we would gently remind her, and ourselves, that we needed to focus on today. Fortunately, the operation was a success, but I often think how much energy we could have wasted and how anxious we would have become if we had sat there predicting every possible outcome.

It’s incredible how powerful our mind is and the effect it can have on our body! The more we practice simple strategies like the Finger Breathing Exercise, the easier it will become to use them during difficult moments. So, next time you’re anxious, have a go at the finger breathing exercise, or just take a few minutes out of your day to inhale and exhale - feel the difference and remind yourself: This too shall pass!

For further information about mindfulness you can visit my website at:

or find me on Twitter and Facebook:


Thanks for being mindful with me today!

Jacqueline Gammon
xx



Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Guest Post from Author and Advocate Taylor Nicole


I don't remember what got me to that place; a rough day, a fight with my boyfriend. It was over something so minuscule that I can't even recall why I was doing it in the first place. But I swallowed those pills by friend gave me and I went to sleep, leaving nothing but a note behind. I was ending my life. When I woke up it was bright outside; something very out of the ordinary for me since I was nocturnal at the time. I rolled over in bed with a massive migraine and checked my phone. It had been 18 hours since my suicide attempt. 

I spent the day walking around town, trying to process what had just happened. I wasn't supposed to be alive. There had to be some mistake. I wasn't supposed to survive. I wasn't supposed to see tomorrow. But by some miracle, I woke up. I felt so grateful to have survived. The day after my suicide attempt was the first day I didn't feel suicidal in years. I was so happy to just be alive. The air was fresher, the people in town seemed friendlier. Life has a positive outlook, no matter how grey it was. 

I think I don't remember what triggered me because the trigger wasn't important. In the grand scheme of thongs, the trigger was irrelevant. It didn't even cross my mind when I woke up. I didn't try to die by suicide just because of an argument or a bad day. It was years of build up. It took years of living in a suicidal mind state to get me to that place. It started with suicidal ideation; the passing thoughts of if I was to be hot by a car that it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. Then it progressed to self harming. Eventually it lead to manic states of writing suicide letters here and there, but never an attempt, not like this. I wasn't suicidal for one little thing. I was suicidal because I have a mental illness that makes me incapable to see myself in a good light. I was blinded by a biological self hatred. 

Depression and mania had a hold on me for years. My life was ruled by my mental illness. I didn't want help for myself until I survived my suicide attempt. From that day on I saw myself as worthy. I respected my body and stopped harming myself. I never wanted to get that "bad" again. I never wanted to be at the page where my life seemed invaluable. 

It's been 3 years since my suicide attempt. I would be lying if I said suicidal thought hasn't come to mind when my mental illness gets worst. It's scary for me to have to think like that again. It's like a reoccuring nightmare, and I'm paralyzed and don't know how to make it stop. I have found comfort in talking about it. The more I address it, the less power it has. I am fighting my inner demons by bringing awareness to them. I am battling monsters, and I'm learning that I'm stronger than them. 

My suicide attempt was the loneliest, saddest, most heartbreaking day of my life. However, it was also the most eye opening. I finally found my value. Although it will always be a struggle for me, I have learned that life is too important to leave. I have found my reasons to stay; mostly, being that I'm worth it. 

Facebook: www.facebook.com/authortaylornicole
Twitter: @taycowrites

Monday, September 18, 2017

Grief



I’ve been putting this post off for some time now because I haven’t felt strong enough. I’m still not entirely sure I’ve got the strength, but if it takes me a few tries, I think that will be just fine. If you have bipolar disorder, sometimes you’ll feel so down that it naturally feels like you’re grieving. In my case, sometimes I am. I’m grieving the loss of who I used to be. In the last several weeks, I’ve found something truly heart-breaking to grieve about, and there’s no mistaking these emotions for anything else.

On May 10, 2017, my father passed away. I’ve said it out loud a thousand times, and it still doesn’t seem real. He went to the hospital for a stomach ache, and two weeks later, he was dead. He died at the same hospital as my mother. In his final hours, he was having trouble breathing, so there was a tube down his throat, and he was strapped to the bed. Very similar to what they did to my mom. When it got closer to the inevitable, I was sitting alongside him, and rubbing his arm, telling him how much I loved him. Suddenly, one of the nurses felt his pulse and said he couldn’t find a pulse. So, they ushered my us out, but the room had a very large picture window. I almost collapsed in the hallway as I watched my 87-year-old father receive thrust after thrust into his chest to bring him back to life. They were successful, but it was one of the most God awful things I’ve ever seen, and I’ll never forget it.

We went around the corner to the waiting room where some other family members were, and we decided to sign the paper to let him go. It wasn’t fair to him. It was his time, and as much as my heart breaks as I write this, my father is gone. After losing my mom, I knew some of what to expect, but this has been a different grieving process. Somehow, it’s become not only grieving for him but both of them. One night I suddenly came to the stark conclusion that I was an orphan. I have no parents anymore. It sucks all of the air right out of you when you come to that conclusion. There’s no fixing this situation, it just is.

I was already going through a pretty heavy duty depressive episode when my dad got sick.  Suddenly, I had to find a way to clean up that mess, stuff it in a closet, and focus on the fact that I may be losing my father. Every time we opened the closet, a little more creeped out. It left me feeling completely helpless and downright selfish. I couldn’t handle even the tiniest details or tasks. It felt as is bathing and eating were things the old me did. I was a different person now. My father was all I had left in my family. I have siblings, but all of the relationships are strained at best.

We managed to pull it together to have a memorial service for him. My father had been a petty officer in the Navy, so they had the flag folding ceremony at the service. I’ll never forget it. I cried my eyes out the whole time. They gave the flag to me. I was grateful to my siblings for deciding that I could have it.

Honestly, I didn’t do a lot of thinking about my depression versus my grief. I know I flew off the handle in a flash if something didn’t go right, or I was expected to make a difficult decision. I knew I wasn’t sleeping and if I did, I had nightmares. I was chained to my bed, and nobody bothered to tell me where the key was.

Some time has passed, and I’m doing a little better. There are still things days that I cry for hours. There are still days when I see something on TV about a father dying, or if a certain song is playing, I can’t control the grief. It’s getting somewhat better, but it’s still taken over my life and my bad days far outweigh the good. I had a doctor appointment, and she was able to refer us to a therapist that works on weekends. Perfect for us. This past Saturday, I saw her. The good news is, I like her and she didn’t fall asleep while I was talking.

This is a huge step for me. Deciding to go to therapy did not come easy for me, but when it suddenly occurs to you that you aren’t even living life, you’re just existing, well, something has to give. I miss my dad; we were so alike. I am like my mom too, but on the other hand, there are some ways we couldn’t be more different, but I was Daddy’s Little Girl. He got me a necklace with a charm that said that in my early 20’s. I still cherish it to this day.

They say that you go through five stages of grief when you lose someone. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. However, not everyone follows these exact steps, and people with bipolar disorder have the potential for feeling these emotions ever deeper than the average person. (I am not saying that anyone has it easier if they aren’t bipolar, believe me) We just feel everything deeper; it’s the curse of bipolar disorder. Most people can progress through these steps naturally and begin to heal. I’ve noticed that I might go through two or three steps in one day, and then spend the entire next day in denial.

“Someone with a mental illness, specifically a mood disorder such as bipolar (or unipolar depression), may experience certain stages more intensely or much longer than average, causing triggers, which lead to an episode or bipolar symptoms. Severe depression, irritability, irrational thinking/behavior, drug/alcohol abuse, and suicidal tendencies are some common symptoms triggered by death”. – Source - http://ow.ly/VADK30cUpMU

So, when you read something like that, it doesn’t take a degree in Quantum Physics to figure out why I decided to start talk therapy. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to get passed the concept that all the family I had left that to rely on are gone. My mom died in 2008, and I’ve still never gotten over that, and when you add my father’s death, I have no hope for my future ability to process grief. I’m trying to remain optimistic, as hard as that is sometimes. Father’s Day was horrific and Mother’s Day never gets any better.

I am putting zero expectations on my recovery, and I’m not allowing anyone else to either.  Nobody has any right to tell you what you should or shouldn’t be doing in this instance. Thank them for their suggestion and move on. Only you can make the decision to push forward, and you will. It’s going to take time, and it doesn’t matter how much as long as you’re trying.

Remember your track record for surviving devastation is 100%.







Friday, September 1, 2017

Guest Post - MENtal health - A man's perspective - Stuart Greenoff

MENtal Health – A Guy’s perspective

Rebecca and I were chatting on Twitter about mental health issues and the idea to write a guest piece for each other’s blog came up. This isn’t uncommon practice in the blogging world and I’m delighted that my first ‘guest post’ could be for someone like Rebecca. (you should check out her book by the way!)

So, what could I write that would be of value to Rebecca’s audience?

Although they share commonalities with my own readers, they may look for different content or are simply used to hearing Rebecca’s ‘voice’.  Then Rebecca noted that she didn’t have much in the way of a male opinion (nor I female) on mental health in her work, and the answer was obvious; I would write a piece about being a guy living with mental illness.
So here we are! This post will look at the unique barriers that guys face when dealing with mental health issues and some of the reasons as to why these problems occur. This list will be far from extensive as I have no experience to pull on apart from my own, so please carry on the conversation in the comments we’d love to hear from you!

Why is it different?
So why do men seemingly have such a hard time dealing with mental illness? Why does the same situation posed to a male and a female mental health consumer, often create stark differences in the way that the situation is dealt with? I’m no behavioral psychologist, but to me the answer seems straightforward, gender bias.

Now before everyone gets all up in arms, hear me out …

Traditionally the way boys are raised varies than that of girls. There are different expectations of males growing up. From a young age, we’re told that ‘Boys don’t cry’ and to ‘stop being a little girl’ if we get upset or are frustrated.  The older we get this expectation only intensifies, guys are expected to ‘tough it out’, ‘man up’ or ‘suck it up’ when faced with adversity rather than discussing the way they feel about a situation. As harmless as it may seem and no matter how well intentioned these comments may be (I believe most people don’t realize the negative connotation behind what they are saying) they have lasting effects on the recipient and can have serious repercussions on the way they deal with their emotions in day to day life.

Dealing with emotion
Quite frankly, we don’t deal with emotions on the most part.  As a guy, we seem to be hardwired to take emotions and turn them into something else. Embarrassment becomes shame, shame becomes frustration, frustration becomes anger  

The shame of having a mental illness and the perceived weakness that comes along with it is quite literally killing Men across the globe.  
Failure isn't something that we are taught to deal with and is frequently admonished when guys mess something up.  Failing is a direct attack on our own masculinity in some cases and again comes back to the feelings of weakness, that we try so hard to run away from.

That is why failure isn't an option for many of us. So, we ignore it and actively stuff any feelings that come from not being perfect, being wrong or less ‘manly’ than we believe we should be down into the farthest reaches of our psyche, where we don’t have to think about it anymore.

Some men, myself included, turn to other substances to mask the way we feel about ourselves. Addiction is much more prevalent in males than in females; we are twice as likely to become alcoholics and three times as likely to become addicted to illicit drugs than our female counterparts (FACT CHECK) This abuse only worsens the problem and as we are less likely to seek help than women (FACT CHECK) guys often don’t see a way out.  The next step is for them to end up a statistic on a report and you can be damn sure that they won’t ‘fail’ at that too…   


This tragic loss of life is largely down to the societal pressures that are imposed on men by those around them, or more often than not, by themselves.

Man up, get over it, don’t be soft, snap out of it, you’re being stupid, the list goes on…

Not worthy of help
I didn’t seek help for my depression and did my best to drink it away for a long time. I thought I was worthless, a drain on those I loved, I felt like less than nothing because I wasn’t living up to my own version of these societal standards. These pressures and the ‘box’ I built myself that I was desperately trying to fit into nearly cost me my life.
Thankfully I had good people around me that helped me through, but I was close, very close to becoming a statistic simply because I couldn’t see any other option at the time.

Men’s health is being spoken about and taken much more seriously than ever before, thanks to groups like Movember, blogs like this one and of course all the brave men and women that have shared their own stories.

Personally, I don’t think mental illness affects Men and Women differently.  I think we feel the same things and share many similar experiences on our journeys, possibly more than we know.  What is apparent is the differences in the way we deal with our issues.  
Now don’t get me wrong I’m not saying that every guy feels and deals with mental illness in the same way, nor am I saying that every girl talks about her problems and seeks help, but generally that seems to be the way it goes.

A message to those who are struggling
So, if you are a guy reading this and struggling right now remember this for me;
Your feelings are valid and they are yours alone. No one else is feeling what you are, so they can’t understand unless you tell them.  The strongest thing you can do right now is talk to those closest to you about how you are feeling. They love you and they want to help.
From one guy to another, I’ve been there It is horrible and I’m so sorry that you are feeling that way. Trust me when I say you are worth it, you are not a failure and you most certainly are not on your own.

And to everyone;

We are making progress. Breaking down the stigma walls ‘one brick at a time’ thank you for being part of that.  But until we as a society address the root cause of this issue, by educating the next generation that feelings are OK and by supporting boys to be whoever they want to be, without the stereotypes of ‘what men should be’ you need to look out for the guys in your life.   

If you are worried about them bring it up, no matter how uncomfortable it makes them or you feel.  Odds are they aint gonna tell ya about it otherwise!  

Peace and love guys, thanks for reading

Stu





Friday, August 18, 2017

Guest Post by Author and Advocate - Jay Chirino - My First Drink


I had my first alcoholic drink when I was fifteen. It was a Friday. We sat on the back porch of my girlfriend’s cousin’s house, looking out at a yard that gradually filled with the raindrops that had been falling for about an hour now, lifting the smell of wet grass and the heat of a Florida summer. It was the first time I had been invited over; Heidi and I had been dating for just a few months, but I was convinced that she was the one. Her cousin was significantly older; a twenty-year-old-something man that had gotten married to a girl he met in Massachusetts, and now they were beginning to build a home. It was obvious that he saw his entire future with her. In her, it wasn’t obvious at all. 

As the rain continued to precipitate, the pitcher of sangria came out, and everyone had a delighted smile on their faces, everyone but me. There was never much alcohol in my house, not after my grandfather suddenly passed from a heart attack at the age of forty-eight. He was a functioning alcoholic that couldn’t go a day without, and because he wasn’t one of those drunks that would get belligerent or violent, no one seemed to notice much, not until that night when Grandma’s screams woke up the entire neighborhood, and Grandpa didn’t make it to the hospital alive. I now faced a difficult choice; would I be the social pariah given the high stakes of the circumstance? Was it really wrong if I had one drink this early in the game?

Before I could make a sound decision, there was a cup full of red stuff in front of me. The choice had been made for me and I couldn’t say no. I apprehensively grabbed it off the tray and took a quick whiff. The fruity smell was attractive, its color dark and deep, like blood. I put the cup to my lips and chugged it all, thinking it was just like any other juice I had before; the faster you drink it the most refreshing it is. But the surprised hollers in the background quickly told me that I had done something that maybe wasn’t up to par with the protocol. By that time, it no longer mattered. I was about to experience my first buzz.

I had always been an anxious kid, not very social, shy and quiet. Being an only child with overprotective parents ensured that I didn’t develop the needed skills to handle the real world, out there, far from home. School was an everyday torture; the quiet kid has always been an easy target for bullies and other children that want to feel better with themselves, because they know that there will be no retaliation. Every morning I woke up in tears and panic, and mom had to give me a stern, yet loving pep talk about how I needed to get over it. My life was filled with the dreaded expectation that the worst was always coming immediately after waking up.

It was a miracle that I had the strength to ask Heidi out, even then, it took a few months for her to say yes. That was one of the reasons that I knew she was the one; I was convinced that I couldn’t go through that again with another girl. And now here I was, with a girlfriend, hanging out with people, older people, drinking alcohol, like an outlaw. Oh, how things had changed! They indeed had changed, I just didn’t know how much.

As I looked through the screen of the porch at the blades of grass, I noticed the violence with which the raindrops fell on them, bending them down with force as the drops shattered in a million pieces. I could hear every single one of them, thousands; a concert of water like I’d never heard before. The greens of the landscape became brighter, the blues of the crying sky became vibrant, and inside of me, something I had never felt before, not like this;

Peace.

I knew right there and then that alcohol would play a crucial part in my life, that I would resort to it to fix some of my biggest problems, and that it would help me get through things that otherwise I would not have been able to get through. What I didn’t know, of course, was the damage it would cause, and the high price I would pay for the continued buzz. At the time, everything seemed perfect; I had all the answers I needed to successfully get through life. Twenty years later, I chuckle when I think about how wrong I was.


Parents, please talk to your children early about the dangers of alcohol and drugs. Most importantly, do not alienate your children or overprotect them; they need to know how to handle the real world. Talk to them and communicate, let them know that they are not alone. Your input will go a long way at not letting their first buzz become a life-long struggle. 

The Common Denominator



I’ve been having difficulty maintaining relationships for some time now. My marriage is the only thing I haven’t screwed up, and believe me, I’ve given my husband plenty of reasons to turn and walk away. I’m truly blessed to have found someone that can tolerate my ups, downs, and everything in between.

For some reason, however, friendships are a foreign concept to me. I’ve stopped getting too close to people because it seems as if it’s inevitable that we’ll end up in an argument that ends the friendship.

Once the dust settles and I have some time to think it out, I can be honest and claim my part in the demise of the relationship, but some people have walked out of my life when I’ve done absolutely nothing to deserve it. It’s painful, and it’s damn lonely to find yourself without close friends.

I’m realistic enough that when I catch myself playing the scene out in my head on repeat, I can see where it may have gone wrong. The thing that I struggle with the most is that all of these failed relationships are with a variety of different people, but there is one common denominator…ME.

What a slap in the face when you come to that stark realization. Have I been deliberately sabotaging friendships because I want to get out before I get hurt?

Or are people just taking advantage of my kindness?
I’ve come to the conclusion that not every situation warrants a response. I think I’ve been doing better with it lately, but that could be because I’m holding everyone at arm’s length.

I’ve had to cut ties with people that I once trusted, loved, and respected because I felt their presence in my life was toxic. However again I have to ask, is it because I’m the one constant in all of these disagreements?
Maybe I don’t let people love me because I don’t love me. 

I know I’ve got a lot of work to do. I know I have to manage my temper and learn to think things through before I react. I think the deck may be stacked against me on this issue; I have borderline personality disorder. Let me fill you in on a few symptoms of that diagnosis.

Requires a medical diagnosis
Symptoms include emotional instability, feelings of worthlessness, insecurity, impulsivity, and impaired social relationships.

People may experience:
Behavioral: antisocial behavior, compulsive behavior, hostility, impulsivity, irritability, self-destructive behavior, self-harm, social isolation, or lack of restraint

Mood: anger, anxiety, general discontent, guilt, loneliness, mood swings, or sadness

Psychological: depression, distorted self-image, grandiosity, or narcissism

Also common: risky behavior or thoughts of suicide
Source: Mayo Clinic

See what I mean? Not all of this applies to me, but quite a bit of it does.

So, where do I go from here? I’m going to keep working on myself. I’m 44 years old, and I have to go back to the start in the hopes that I can learn to control these symptoms. I think I can do it. It’s not going to be easy, but in my life, things rarely are.

I’m pretty nervous about what is ahead for me, but I know I have work to do and I know if I don’t get moving, I’ll regret it for the rest of my life. 

Here’s to the first day of the rest of my life.