Survival of the Fittest?

Having a mental illness is a challenge that most of us would not wish upon anyone else. There are days that are harder than others and sometimes we do feel like giving up.

I guess I am just a perpetual optimist. Even in my darkest moments I never lose that tiny bit of hope that keeps me from totally giving up. That light still is shining although sometimes I have to strain to see it.

Some days you have to get through moment by moment reminding yourself that this too will pass. It will.

I like to remember this saying:

I have survived worse situations than the one I am currently living through and I am still here.

Remember that the next time you feel like you cannot take it anymore.

Some days it might be moment by moment and other days it is one day at a time. Never compare yourself to others who seem to be holding it together better than you. Looks are deceiving.

Grieving Through the Holidays

Life goes on in spite of grief and this time of year is the hardest when your grief is still fresh. Memories of Christmas' past can bring some comfort but mostly they seem to bring tears.

The roller coaster of emotions that one experiences when grieving is hard enough to deal with but when you are faced with those first holidays without a loved one it only seems to intensify. I told myself that I would be okay and I would strive to not feel sad and remember that my dad is at peace now but as the days go by and Christmas gets closer my sadness grows.

He wouldn't want his family to be sad but the feelings of not doing enough for him overwhelm me. It is common to have regrets after someone passes and even knowing how "normal" these feelings are I still cannot grab control over them.

It's so hard to fake your way through the holiday season when your heart is not in it. People just don't understand why you don't want to attend holiday parties and it's impossible for someone to fully understand unless they've recently walked the path you are on.

I don't want to be a grinch but I simply don't want to feel forced to put a fake face on. One lesson I have learned from grief is that you need to feel what you feel and you need to experience it. I cannot push the feelings aside and I cannot make believe that I am okay. I'm not okay, I'm grieving.

Grief doesn't last forever and it's only been 4 months since my dad passed. Time will help me to accept this but I am not there yet. Please don't tell me that he is in a better place. I know he is. It is okay for me to be missing him in spite of knowing that it was his time to go. He was my dad.

Everyone grieves differently and everyone's grieving experience is unique to them. Grief changes you and in my case, I feel like it has had positive influences on how I now live my life. I don't expect every person I come across to understand what I am feeling. I only expect that people respect my feelings.

Don't feel sorry for me. Grief is a part of life and just as we experience great joys sometimes we have to experience great sadness. Life and holidays happen in spite of grief and that is just how it is. My grief won't last forever but it has to run its course.

I'm going to try my best to find joy in memories of Christmas' past this year but I won't apologize for any tears that might flow. Grief doesn't take a holiday.

Should You Run From an Addict?

During this journey through my husband's addiction I've considered writing books with the following titles: "How to Walk Away from Loving an Addict", "Why You Shouldn't Marry an Addict" and other similar themes.

Let's face it- being married to an addict is a guarantee that you are going to go through some rough emotional times. It's easy to say that love can get you through anything but how many people who say that have lived through their other half's addiction?

Addiction is a disease but it isn't like other diseases. There can be financial hardships when a spouse has a chronic illness that might keep him from being able to be steadily employed or cause outrageous medical bills due to their care. It's different when it is alcohol or drug addiction. It isn't just about the money; the emotional toll of dealing with someone who has a chemical addiction can make you wonder why you put up with the person. Their moods are always changing as they struggle through recovery.

Often even the most guilt-ridden addict cannot help themselves from acting selfishly at times, all in a vain attempt to cope with their addiction. You wish at times that love was enough but sometimes it isn't.

I've struggled during the rough days with whether walking away is the right thing to do for me. It doesn't even feel selfish sometimes. It is self-preservation and although I want to be supportive, how can I keep losing myself due to someone elses' addiction?

I didn't go into my marriage blindly. I knew addiction was there. At the time it was manageable. Did love blind me from seeing how bad it could get? Probably it did but I made my own choices. No one forced me to commit.

As I look back I don't regret it. Yes, things are slowly (cautiously) improving but (and there is always a but) I'm wiser than I was.

The journey is hard but it can only be taken together if the addict is not being forced along for the ride. I'm not perfect nor am I the most patient person. I am stubborn though and I am hopeful. I do believe that we can come out the other side of this and be grateful that we made it through.

We aren't there yet. What we are going to try and do is enjoy the good days and be thankful for them.

Will I still write a book with one of those titles? Maybe. I say maybe because I want to warn people that committing to someone with an addiction should not be taken lightly. It is a journey full of tears, pain and challenge. I hope that someday it will feel worth the ride.

Surviving Addiction Part 3 Living on Borrowed Time

Well the prescription for suboxone was denied and then after we paid out of pocket for it (with a coupon), the insurance company changed its mind and approved it. So goes the roller-coaster ride we are on.

Suboxone made the monster go away but since we were only able to afford half the script, the monster quickly came back. It started with the irrational reactions to the stupidest stuff and it quickly became clear that I had to step in and find a way to get more suboxone.

Thankfully the monster was subdued again due to suboxone but I know this won't last. We are living on borrowed time.

He's trying to get his life back and I am only half-listening and not believing any of his "promises" about how everything is going to be better.

Living with an addict is something that most people cannot fully understand. Sure many people have misconceptions about what life is really like but no one knows until they have lived it.

Financially we are in the toilet and I don't do poverty well. It wears you out along with the emotional stress of living with someone whose moods rapidly change. At times I tell myself I am not going to walk on eggshells anymore but when the chips are down, I find myself holding my breath regardless of how fiercely I resent it.

Suboxone can be abused also and I am aware of that. When he is under the influence of it we talk about this possibility. His only focus seems to be to get his life back because he feels he has so much to make up for. His guilt consumes him and part of me doesn't feel sympathy towards him.

I know addiction is a disease but it tears down the whole family. It's not fair. Does the addict really grasp how deeply he has hurt the ones who love him?

Meanwhile I am trying to live my life without cleaning up his messes but sadly I don't think I can avoid cleaning them up. When it affects MY life, how can I let everything pile up?

I wish I knew the answer. I have set boundaries which I am trying to live by. Part of me feels that the only way he can realize the full consequences of what his addiction has done is to have him be away from our home. I don't think his recovery would be a success if he had to do it all on his own.

How could I force him to go and risk him losing the fight? I don't want to chance having to live with that guilt.

So it's another day and it's a day where I still have hope for the future. I hold onto my doubts and remain aware that trust isn't going to be easy. He does have to prove himself and it will take a long time. I won't be fooled again.

Surviving Addiction Part 2

It's no wonder that addicts fail. The system seems to have it set up that way.

If you are fortunate enough to have coverage for substance abuse treatment you might be fooled into thinking that you are on your way to getting the help you need. Sometimes that help doesn't come.

I'm living with the monster of addiction possessing my husband and where there was hope for his recovery, now there is next to none.

After weeks of trying to find a doctor to see and finally seeing one, we were awaiting authorization for a prescription to help him overcome his opiate addiction. Insurance companies don't care if you are suffering and he was told upfront that authorization could take up to 72 business hours. Having had a Thursday night appointment and the insurance company was closed all weekend, holding onto waiting for Monday to come was impossible to do.

I tried to not get upset over him reaching for help in less-desirable places but what could I do?

Monday came with no answers and then finally this morning we got word that the authorization was denied. DENIED??? How? How can an insurance company deny approval for medication that a doctor feels would benefit his patient?

It seems that they WANT him to suffer. Why would they? In my mind they don't care about addicts. Addicts are dirty, low-life people that don't deserve compassion, understanding or in this case help.

I am afraid of what will happen next. I can't help him and it seems like no one will.

Meanwhile my car (our ONLY car) is in the shop and I am waiting to hear how much the cost will be to fix it. Chances are good that I will be bringing it home without repairs being made. Between paying for therapists and doctors I am financially tapped out.

The cost of addiction is high for the average person and I am no different from the rest of them.

I border between being angry at what his addiction has cost us and feeling sympathetic to the pain and desperation he is feeling.

The thing is that I feel so alone in this journey. His Dr.Jekyll/Mr. Hyde personality makes it impossible for me to share my fears. I have no one to talk to because no one really understands unless they have walked this path. I hope someone who reads this and has been there or is there feels better knowing that they are not alone.

For anyone who doesn't know the monster of addiction let me issue this warning- just say no to prescription pain pills or any narcotics/stimulants/addicting medications. Not everyone will develop an addiction but once you do it will slowly rob you of your life. It will drag down your loved ones because even if you don't want to/feel guilt about it or swear you would never let it- it will destroy you, your loved ones and any resemblance of a good life.

Surviving Addiction

Addiction to prescription pain medication is a common problem in the United States but it is a hidden secret in many families. There is shame in addiction and like mental illness, it is something that is whispered about.

It's sad that so many families can't talk about it because knowing that you are not alone can help.

I understand first-hand why this painful secret is kept. When you are living it you long for support and comfort not judgment. Unless you are living it or have lived it often one cannot understand what life with an addict is like.

Getting help for prescription pain medication addiction is not so easy. Sadly it seems that detox services are cashing in on the problem of addiction and the average American just doesn't have the money to pay out for treatment. Timely help is what an addict needs and often there are lengthy waiting lists for appointments which defeats the purpose of seeking out help and getting it now.

Having to pay a co-pay is one thing but when an addiction therapist/doctor/facility wants thousands of dollars up front (even with insurance) to treat an addict even the person who is desperately seeking help often has to forego treatment. Sometimes it is easier for the addict to stay addicted then go for treatment that would help.

It is sick that someone who wants help cannot get it because of the greed of doctors who are supposed to be in the business of helping. For the loved ones of the addict the frustration is real. Usually the addict has already ruined the finances of the family because of their addiction and even though there is hope of better times ahead, treatment costs can further cripple the family's finances if any are even left.

Those who are on the outside looking in don't realize what treatment involves. They naturally assume that there are doctors/facilities that deal with "this kind of thing" but they have no clue what it entails. Thanks to government-subsidized insurance plans most people are insured but even with coverage, treatment for addiction can be beyond reach.

Once you have found a doctor and begin treatment the process seems to move at a snail's pace. An addict who is trying to recover often needs medication to help them through the detox process. The medication needs to be prescribed by a doctor and the catch in all of this is that the medication needs to then get authorized by the insurance company. This process can take up to 72 business hours. Meanwhile the addict struggles through withdrawal without the benefit of medication that can help ease the awful physical and mental symptoms that go along with detoxing.

It takes a very strong person to not go back to using while waiting on an insurance company's approval.

There has to be a better way.

Overcoming Excuses

Mental illness used as a crutch is unacceptable to me. I do believe sometimes you need to "give in" to some life challenges but when it seems like you are using your depression or anxiety to avoid living I take exception to that.

Tough love is sometimes the best answer. We cannot get through our illness if we are going to allow it to control us. It is scary, it can hurt and it can make us angry when we feel "forced" to fight through symptoms of anxiety. BUT when you do fight through it and come out the other side and see that you SURVIVED it- well, isn't that just a wonderful feeling?

If you allow the fear to cloud you it will stop you from living. This is true. Think about what is holding you back. Do you not do things out of fear or darkness that hold you down?

Part of treatment for mental illness is therapy. Most therapy requires the patient to recognize triggers and learn how to cope with the results of those triggers. We cannot always avoid the triggers- not unless you want to seclude yourself from life.

Cognitive behavior therapy is a way to face the fears and move past them. No one can promise you that this journey will be easy because it is not. It will be rewarding in the end when you learn how to cope.

Overcoming making excuses for what holds you back is maybe the first step to healing. You can do this.

Dark Days

Is it so terrible to seclude yourself in the comfort of your own space and reject the idea of leaving? My comfort zone is where I want to be right now and maybe I am slipping into darkness but maybe that is where I NEED to be right now.

It's been a tough ride lately and I've had to force myself to cope when I wanted to hide. I'm proud of how I've managed to handle situations that in the past would have had me running for the door.

Yes, I am justifying my self-prescribed retreat into myself. I like where I am right now. I need to be here.

My life has been out of my control lately. The only thing I can control is my reaction to the people around me. Their choices affect me and as much as I protest, they are not all too willing to respect what it is doing to me. There feels like a lot of selfishness has been going around and as much as I feel I deserve better, I am not receiving what I need.

Even in moments that are drama-free I still feel like I need help. I am so tempted to see a doctor and start up on anti-anxiety medication but I fear the long-term affects of that choice. I just feel unable to function daily outside of my comfort zone.

Maybe this will pass soon. My history says it will. Then there is the part of me that says these dark days are happening too often. I reason with myself to justify not doing anything to stop it.

I take advantage of this time by doing what I need to do. I'm working on a book and not really thinking through to the end of it. I am letting it flow as I am inspired to, not forcing it but letting it come naturally. I have no great hopes for it. It just needs to come out.

Maybe I just need this time alone to gather myself back up and be better once I have to go back out "there". For now I feel safe in my own little world and maybe that is the only medicine that I need.

Transgender Journey

I've written before about my youngest child's struggles with chronic depression and anxiety. Since the age of eight "M" has struggled with depression and anxiety and even made a suicide attempt at the age of 17.

We as a family have always stood by and done all that we can to help. As a parent the hardest thing ever is sitting by and watching your child's sadness and feeling powerless to help.

One day a realization happened that changed everything. The source of my child's depression was/is the realization that he was born into the wrong body. Looking back the signs were there but not knowing anything about transgender, we just kept believing that it was "just" depression.

Transitioning is not so simple. Like everything, it takes money and time. We want to be able to move forward but finances are such that I feel unable to help. M currently is unemployed. Imagine having to look for work using your birth name which mis-genders who you really are. There is discrimination out there and often people just do not understand transgender and therefore reject you.

It is easier for employers to not hire someone whose "issues" are complicated.

M has started a GoFundMe in order to raise funds to help pay for therapy, name change and hopefully medical procedures that will "fix" what is broken.

As M's mom I support him all the way. This is MY child. I know he is not "confused" or just a tomboy. From the moment this child could speak for himself he identified with being a boy more than he did with being a girl. It should have been so obvious but it wasn't. He has suffered for years with depression and anxiety and we could not figure out why.

As someone who has battled chronic depression and anxiety I just naturally assumed that there was a genetic link but again, he has been like this since the age of 8. There was no trigger to set this off except for the nagging feeling that he wasn't Emily he was Matt.

I am sharing this story because all I want to do is help my child be who he is. I need help. He needs help. We are off to a good start with this fundraiser and I hope that we will be able to raise enough to get my M the therapy he needs in order to transition.

The link is below. Please help.

Re-Visiting the To-Medicate or Not To Medicate Issue

Depression can be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain but it can also be due to what I like to call "Life Overload". No matter how strong a person is there can come a time where you just feel overwhelmed with it all. One day you realize that you have developed a lack of caring due to the stress you have been under.

Realizing that you are in the grip of despair, you begin to make bad choices or you make no choices at all and sink further into the darkness. One day as you are zombified by the television a commercial comes on that grabs your attention. There is a pill for how you are feeling.

Having been there, done that, you wonder if now might be the time to try a pharmaceutical fix again. Maybe a part of you just doesn't have it in you to fight the darkness. Maybe you just are tired of feeling the way you do. There is nothing wrong with a short-term pharmaceutical fix.

Just as I advocate having a good cry now and again, I definitely advocate short term anti-depressants. The beauty of a short-term anti-depressant is that it can help you to feel good enough to figure out what is going wrong in your life and helps clear the way to seeing how to get through it.

Sinking deeper into depression often makes coping harder. One can make bad choices that will have long-term effects. A daily dose of something to help balance you out can lead to clearer thoughts and yes, even a stronger will to survive it all.

Personally I find that it is the simple things that can help me cope with the depression. A good meal, B-complex vitamins, a long walk and the right amount of sleep is a boost for my system. When I start to feel too much stress I think about what I am lacking. Often I will realize that I have slipped on self-maintenance and that causes me to not cope as well.

Will I seek out a prescription for depression? In the future maybe. For right now I am still contemplating whether it really is what I need.

The point is that for some people depression is not going to be a lifelong challenge. There isn't the fear of being dependent upon medication. Sometimes all you need is short-term help to re-build your defenses. Don't be afraid to go for it. Studies do show that short-term use of an anti-depressant has high success rates for overcoming depression.

During this time learn what your body and mind needs to function best. Incorporate these things into your daily routine. Make self-maintenance a priority and your depression will lift. If you have to get a little help from a pill don't beat yourself up about it.

Know yourself and what you need. It can change your life!