Monthly Archives: December 2019

2020 Vision

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As 2019 comes to a close people will inevitably start talking about their New Years Resolutions! Lose weight, save more money, cut back on splurges, go back to school, etc. However, you don’t have to have some huge drastic resolution. Most of those are left by the wayside by the end of February anyways. Sometimes the only resolution we can make is to just keep pushing forward and hopefully do better tomorrow than we did today. Granted, it’s not a “normal” resolution, but for me it is. There are days that I really struggle. Sometimes just getting out of bed before noon feels like an accomplishment and should be rewarded with at least a participation award. Yet other days I thrive and I’m up by 8am with coffee poured, music playing, laundry in the wash, and half of my house already cleaned by 9am. These are two very different days and I never know which one I’m going to have until it happens. I wake up in a great mood, or not so great mood, but how I handle that is on me. I can allow it to bother me and bring me down, or I can make myself go. I can continue through my morning routine of positive affirmations, stretching/yoga, listening to music, drinking coffee, cleaning house, playing with Maggie (my doggo!), and then starting work. Normally by the time I’m ready to start working my day has already changed for the better. It’s amazing what will happen when I focus on the positives and not the negatives. You’ll hear me say a lot (if you continue reading my blog, and I REALLY hope you do) that you must be an ACTIVE participant in your recovery. I take mental health meds every single morning, but that doesn’t mean I can remain in bed and expect them to magically work. Absolutely not! I have to work with them. I have to become more active, eat better, listen to upbeat music, read inspiring books, talk to positive happy people, and I have to be present. The medicine will only do so much, but we have to do part of the work too. It’s not easy, and sometimes it sucks, but it will only get worse if we don’t try. It’s like training for a marathon only to arrive on the day of the run and expect all your training will run the marathon for you. Nope, not how it works sugar! You have the skills and your muscles are stronger, but you still have to put forth the effort to get to the finish line. Let’s do it together!

I’ve already heard sooooo many people talking about 2020 vision for this coming year. Yeah, it’s a cute pun, but I wish I had 2020 vision for my future. I wish I had a crystal ball that could tell me everything that was going to happen in the next year so I could prepare for it. I wish I could see all the bad and good things that are going to happen, but I can’t. The lesson here is we have to learn to trust our higher power, whatever you may call it. I call it Spirit, some call it God. Whatever works for you, we have to believe that this Universe is too big for things to just happen. We are not always in control, and sometimes that for the best. Over the past two years I’ve had some wild stuff happen and it’s because I had quit being active in my recovery. I relapsed (on pain medicine and in my mental health), I quit doing the things I KNEW helped my mental illness, and I began to isolate myself, a lot. The crazy thing is that when it comes to those things I sort of do have 2020 vision. I know that if I start doing those things I will get worse, my mental health will decline, and typically a drug relapse is not far behind. Yet, when all this happens many of us think, “How did I not see this coming? How did I not catch it?” Well, chances are we did see it coming. And if we didn’t, I can assure you our family and friends saw it. When bad things happen, especially dealing with my addiction or mental health, I tend to say, “Well hindsight is 2020.” Yet it takes me a while to learn that if I had been more present each day I would’ve caught on to the downward spiral in which I was spinning. When you’re draining a tub you see the water going out, and you still have a chance to plug the drain before it all disappears, yet many of us (myself included) tend to get in this zone of just watching everything go down, mostly because we’re just downright exhausted. Then when the water is out of the tub we frantically plug the drain and pray that the water would just come back.

So for the year 2020 I encourage you to develop more 2020 vision when it comes to your mental health and/or addiction, or whatever problem you may be having. Become a present and active participant in your recovery and your health. I have even allowed close family and trusted friends to let me know if they see me headed in the wrong direction. As someone with depression and anxiety our brains often play tricks on us, but typically those outside of your head will see the signs that something is going wrong before you do. If you have a trusted friend or family member that you would be willing to hear this from then I encourage to to talk to them. I told my parents and best friend, “I don’t always notice when I’m getting bad so I need you guys to watch out for me. If you see something or start to notice a negative pattern please tell me so I can fix it before it gets worse.” I have been hospitalized three times and each time could’ve been prevented if I had been more present and proactive with my mental health.

So let’s go into 2020 with a clear vision of what we want and how we’re going to achieve it, and not just a bunch of empty resolutions with which we know we won’t follow through. Let’s be there for each other. Depression/Suicidal Ideation/Anxiety/Etc is a deadly, silent, and invisible illness. We MUST rely on our support systems to get us through the hard times. If you don’t have a support system then reach out to me. I love you guys! You’re stronger than you realize and we can do this. Let’s start this new year off right. Let’s make 2020 the best yet!

-Chase

*Feel free to email me anytime or follow my page on Facebook or Twitter 🙂

It’s Beginning to Look A lot Like…ugh.

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It’s that time of year again. When Christmas music plays loudly at the mall, people are always smiling, children play in the snow, people tend to “pay it forward” more often, and everyone’s heart seems to have grown! However, for those of us who suffer from mental health this is a different type of season. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD, ironically) is a type of depression that tends to affect people more during the dark, cold, gray, winter months. When the leaves and flowers die, when everything turns gray and drab, when the sun and its heat seems to hide, that’s when it really hits for some people. The Mayo Clinic reported around 3 million cases per year of SAD symptoms. These symptoms typically belonged to people who already suffered from depression and it only worsened in the winter, however, some people developed symptoms ONLY during winter months.

This time of year can be stressful for anyone, but it can be exponentially exhausting for those of us with mental health issues. It’s almost as though we “over-act” to appear super happy. We put on the mask of joy that everyone seems to naturally have, and we pretend to be on the same mental level as everyone else. We sing, we laugh, we drink hot chocolate, and we open gifts, all the while wishing we could just be at home away from people. We don’t want to be the Debbie Downer during Christmas so we make others laugh and sometimes even become the life of the party to guarantee that no one sees through our facade.

I’ve learned over the years that this can be not only painful for us, but also very harmful. This year I have skipped two holiday family functions because I knew I was not in the right state of mind to handle it. I knew there would be drama, whispers, and judgmental glances. I wasn’t prepared for it, so in the name of self care I stayed home and watched a movie with myself and my dog. It was great! And it was perfectly okay that I didn’t go. Yes, it’s tradition, but I didn’t owe anyone an explanation or apology as to why I wasn’t there. If I had cancer and was just tired and not up for it then no one would bat an eye, but having an invisible illness means that people often overlook it.

I’ve included a short list of things I do (in moderation) or keep in mind every year when it comes to the holidays:

  1. It’s okay to avoid a family get together if you’re not feeling up to it. There is nothing wrong with protecting yourself.
  2. If you do attend a family dinner and the conversation or situation becomes too much feel free to excuse yourself. Go outside, go to the bathroom, whatever it may be, just get away for a few minutes.
  3. If something or someone triggers you then, again, feel free to step away. If you’re the type that can have a civilized conversation in the midst of a trigger then by all means, go ahead. Sometimes I can, it just depends on the situation.
  4. Remember that YOU ARE VALID!!! Your identity, your illness, your happiness, all of it is valid and you are important. Just because Uncle Bubba talks about mental health like it’s a joke, or refers to you by the wrong gender (if you’re trans) it doesn’t mean you are any less of a person. Sometimes ignorant people say ignorant things. You’re better than stooping to their level.
  5. Carry a fidget toy, stress ball, or even a relaxing game on your phone to serve as a distraction when you need it.
  6. If at all possible drive your own vehicle to the dinner. If it becomes too much you know that you always have an escape plan.
  7. Tell a trusted family member that you probably won’t stay very long. I do this one quite a bit. I go, I socialize, I eat, then after I feel I’ve been there long enough I excuse myself to go home. Just because some people can stay around for hours doesn’t mean I can. It’s exhausting.
  8. The most important, and probably most difficult, is to not let your mental illness control the situation. Please don’t use this list as a way to get out of spending time with people. During my years of therapy I did exposure therapy. It’s extremely uncomfortable, but it’s not going to kill me to attend a family get together. Use this time to challenge yourself to sit with your anxiety. Allow it to be present, but know that you are in control. You can leave if you want to, but try to stick it out. This year you may be able to stay an hour longer than you did last year, and that’s a great accomplishment! If you don’t then just try to work on it next year. Recovery in mental health is a process and will not get fixed over night. You’ve got this and I have faith in you!

-Chase

A Rebirth

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Sometimes life gets you down, and it’s so difficult to get back up. For me this has happened more than once in my life, and as recent as last year. A brief recap of my story:

I’ve struggled with addiction, depression, and bipolar disorder for many years and in 2012 I attempted to take my own life. Thankfully the Universe/Spirit/My Higher Power/God had other plans. I got the help I needed and went on to an amazing four years of wonderful sobriety and spiritual growth. However, in 2016 I began drinking extremely heavily and continued this path for two years. In 2018 I ended up drunk on my porch with a gun in my hand, yet again in the same situation as in 2012. Luckily my family intervened and I again got help. My joy was not long lasting as not even two months later I relapsed on pain medicine. This began a very dangerous and scary downward spiral that led to losing a job (again), being arrested four times within a month (DUI x2, Public Intox x2), and totaling four vehicles. I had come to the conclusion that depression and addiction were bound to kill me so I would let it. On December 15th 2018 I took my last few pain pills, got in my car, and began to drive home. I didn’t make it. I nodded off at the wheel and flipped my car three times knocking myself unconscious. Spirit (my Higher Power) was definitely watching out for me because the people driving behind me that night just happened to be two fourth year medical students at our local university. They pulled me from the vehicle and tended to my wounds until help arrived. The only thing I remember is sitting in the back of the patrol car, crying. The State Trooper, assuming I was upset about my car, assured me that I could buy another vehicle. My response? “I’m not mad about the car! I’m mad that I survived! I wanted to die, I should be dead!” There was so much anger and pain in my voice that the officer allowed me to be released on an OR Bond and go home versus sitting in jail. I managed to bruise multiple bones, broke a finger, and had a large incision in my head that required nearly 20 stitches. I was still angry. After all this time this would have been the perfect opportunity for me to go, but somehow I had survived. I told myself it would’ve been easier on family and friends if I had died in a car wreck. I would no longer be around to be a burden. I would be gone and they could move on with life. I was NOT in a place mentally and spiritually that I needed to be, and because of that I saw myself as nothing but a burden. Not long after this the court proceedings began and I had already started the task of finding a rehab center to go to. However, deep down I still didn’t want to go. I wasn’t ready to quit and I still wanted to die. I didn’t want to get help because that would mean fighting for a life that I deemed worthless. From that last night of using to April 2019 when I went to rehab I was fighting my recovery. Even after rehab I still struggled with wanting to die. I had stopped eating, had lost around 50lbs, and had to talk myself out of suicide on a regular basis. I remember one night standing in front of my mirror, tears running down my face, and something in me begged me to keep going. To be strong, and to hold on. Something came through that night and I FINALLY began to fight for my life. I had gone nearly six months not caring if I died, and even wanting to, but now something had changed. This entire time I had been attending Narcotics Anonymous meetings, but I was simply acting like I cared about myself. My mental health was terrible, my addiction was still strong, and going back and forth to court was absolutely tearing me apart. However, around this time was when I finally let go of my addiction and stopped fighting my recovery. I had been turned down by 10 rehab centers, but I finally got the help I needed and something had managed to sink in. I was literally faking it to make it, and I had made it. Between rehab and NA meetings something someone said made a difference. I had finally surrendered and no longer wanted to die.

I just celebrated a year clean and sober on December 15th of this year, and it was incredible. I still struggle on a regular basis, but I am also much more open about it with those around me. My NA support system and my family have made it possible for me to maintain strength to get through each day. Some days are extremely difficult, and some days aren’t, but I haven’t used and that’s the most important part. My spiritual journey has become so much stronger, and I am truly connected with my Higher Power (whom I choose to call Spirit). Life is not always flowers and rainbows. Sometimes it’s storms and darkness, but like I’ve learned in my Buddhist studies, nothing is permanent. Over the past year I’ve attempted to write a blog post multiple times but couldn’t bring myself to even care enough to do so. Yet, here I am sitting at my computer and pouring my heart out to strangers on the internet hoping that my struggle can help someone else, or maybe sharing my pain will help me to heal. I’ve always been a firm believer in talking things through. I am on a new path with a new destination and I refuse to give up. I ask you to join me on my journey and I look forward to sharing it with you 🙂

-Chase

P.S. I will get back to my regular format of shorter posts from here on out. If you’re like me then you probably don’t have the attention span to read long posts lol. I normally try to keep mine around 500 words or less (even though this one is around 1000) 🙂

***IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW IS SUFFERING FROM SUICIDAL IDEATION PLEASE REACH OUT FOR HELP. BELOW IS THE NUMBER FOR THE SUICIDE HOTLINE:

1-800-273-TALK (8255)