Tag Archives: health

The Abyss.

Tonight I want to talk about the Abyss. I know when I started this blog I briefly discussed what the Abyss is to me. It is the deepest level of my system. It is darkness. It is fear. It is anger and horrible memories. It is terrifying and can be very very unstable. I want to talk about this place because I am there as we speak.

I thought about writing this for a few weeks, but wanted to spare my readers from my current struggles…until I realized how silly that is. This is a recovery blog. This is not a sugar coated, everything is rainbows and unicorns blog. This is down and dirty, this is how it fucking is blog. This is a, don’t give up…keep fighting blog. I am human, just like each and every one of you who read this. Sure I have a lot of clean time under my belt for drugs and for self harm. Sure, I’ve made a lot of progress in therapy…and sure, a few of my alters and I have integrated. But I am still human and I am still recovering from horrible things that had been done to me repeatedly. Nasty torturous things most people don’t even acknowledge are real because their own lives have been so positive. Things you see in horror movies and documentaries. This is my life. I have great ups and horrific downs. The downs don’t occur nearly as often as they used to, but they still come around. I am there as we speak.

I want this post to be a raw look into a breakdown. I want this post to really help others understand the pain we survivors go through, the battle we fight to survive. I also want this post to speak to those of you who are currently in your own version of the Abyss and persuade you to keep going.

The reason I am in the darkness right now is because an alter who has been with me since I was about 4 years old and holds some of my most traumatic memories has decided to break her silence. Suddenly, after about four months of stability, happiness, confidence and silence within my mind…I hear voices again. I feel a war of emotions within me. I am anxious, angry and deeply hurt. This alter has shown me things that were done to me that I guess she feels I am ready to deal with. Human nature is to avoid the harder, more dark path right? I know I just posted about this recently in my blog post about taking the dark road. Well, now I am fighting against human nature to continue on this dark, horrible road…because it is the one that will result in growth and strength. I know I am more than capable of surviving this and I know what is on the other side is well worth the pain. This is just very hard. I am feeling the same fear and anger I felt then as a small child, being used and abused, neglected and tormented. I feel the intense rage that is too much for my small human body to bare. I must get it out…but in a healthy, safe way. I have been drawing a lot more, painting and writing as well. I told my therapist how bad I feel and we have gone from one appointment every other week back to two meetings a week. At first I was angry and disappointed in myself for this, but truly, this shows my strength. Only a year ago I would not have called him. I would not have told him I needed more help. But this time I did. There is nothing wrong with admitting you are struggling. Asking for help does not denote weakness, in fact, it shows what a badass you are. Because it’s downright terrifying to ask for help. If you are struggling with telling the truth about your pain, please know you have every right to open your mouth…and you are showing your strength.

I have been forcing myself to cry. Allowing myself to get pissed off and journal my angry thoughts and feelings. It can be very scary to see such anger come out of you, but I promise you, it is vital for your health and survival. Get angry. Allow yourself to feel that rage for what was done to you against your will. All I ask is that you make sure you express it in safe ways. Journal, free write, draw, paint, meditate, pray, do yoga, play hockey, punch the shit out of a pillow, write a story and kill off a character (sounds weird, but it helps), hold your loved ones close, call a friend, call your therapist, attend a support group, dance, listen to HAPPY (never ever ever ever EVER sad) music, play an instrument, play with a pet, go for a walk…do something. Writing a letter to your abusers can be very cathartic. Or write to your addiction. Be completely honest. Don’t hold back. Don’t be afraid of who might see it because after you’re done I want you to rip it up in tiny pieces and put it in something safe to burn (like a fire pit) and light that mother fucker on fire. Watch it burn. Realize that holding in that anger will eventually be the end of you in one way, shape or form. Let it go. Let it out and tell it to get the hell away from you.

I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of this one before…I bought a nice metal box with a combination code on it. It had a ton of makeup in it. I threw out all of the makeup and filled the box with things that made me happy, and things that reminded me of better times, things worth fighting for. I called this my emergency box. I still have it today. I highly suggest everyone make one and use it before you get as far down as I am now. It can really help you to slow down, calm down and put things into perspective. If it doesn’t help, move onto other coping skills that work for you.

I know it hurts to be where I am now, and where I’m sure some of you are, or have been. I know it feels as if someone is cutting into you with a scalpel, hitting you upside the head, all sorts of horrible things. But I swear to you, it will pass if you fight. Refuse to let this be your end. I know as I write this I am feeling so many negative, scary things. Some of these feelings are mine, others are feelings of my alters who have not let dealt with their abuse. Yes, I won’t lie, I am struggling with urges to self harm. I am dealing with a lot…but I absolutely refuse to lay down and die here. Hell no. This is my life damnit and I am going to fight for it. I will get past this…this is just another burning in the process of rising from the ashes. The pain is immense, but as we speak I am becoming stronger, wiser and more enlightened. I am removing what doesn’t belong, confronting my demons and growing.

Don’t give up. You are not alone. Help is always okay to look for and it is only a text, phone call, email or message away. There is always help. Those voices of doubt in your mind will try to convince you this is not true…but they are liars. Don’t listen. You’re a warrior! You CAN do this.

I love all of you, Dandi

Suicide hotline: 1(800)273-8255

http://www.fortrefuge.com

http://www.pandys.org

http://www.rainn.org

http://www.stepchat.com

http://www.dbsalliance.org/site/PageServer?pagename=urgent_crisis_hotline

The importance of listening to your body.

Hey everyone! I hope you are all well. Today I wanted to talk about the importance of listening to your body and speaking up to your doctor when something doesn’t feel right. A lot of times this can be very frustrating, scary and take a while to get your doctor to listen…but it’s very important. Your physical health can seriously affect you, especially if you are already dealing with emotional and psychological issues. 

I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism when I was only 19 years old. It wasn’t too bad back then, I just felt tired and had some dry skin here and there. A few times it got a little better and then it would get worse. The past few weeks I’ve been feeling very sick physically. It’s been extremely hard to stay awake yet I can’t sleep, my skin is insanely dry and I’ve been having bad cardiac palpitations. I went to the doctor’s last week and she sent me to urgent care. From there urgent care sent to me the emergency room thinking that I had a serious electrolyte imbalance. For once they were listening to me! In the emergency room I was told my blood work looked great other than being dehydrated and my thyroid seemed to be hyperactive!!! They told me to get off my thyroid medication and see my doctor the following day. I was shocked that I was actually getting help and made sure I got myself in the next day to see my doctor again. 

When I came in I was still feeling horrible, but smiled when the doctor reiterated what my blood work showed. Then she scared me. She had me sit up on the exam table and started to feel my thyroid. It hurt really bad when she touched on the right side. She asked me if I’ve been having trouble swallowing, breathing or anything else. I told her “yeah actually”. I have been having a hard time swallowing, pain, trouble breathing at times, feeling like there is something in my throat no matter how much I try to clear it and even losing my voice while singing and speaking. She told me she was able to feel a large nodule on the right lobe of my thyroid. 

I am going in for an ultrasound and biopsy this week to see if the nodule consists cancer cells. At first I was really scared but I started doing research. It is more common to have a benign nodule than a malignant one, meaning it’s less common to have cancer cells in there. Also, thyroid cancer is highly treatable and doesn’t easily metastasize! I feel like crap right now, but I have a lot of faith that once this is over and treated…I’m going to feel so much better. Whether it’s cancer or not I’m not worried, I’m going to be okay! Staying positive will only help me get through this. 

Anytime you start to feel sick, tired, anything not right…please go to your doctor right away. Waiting can only hurt you! I know it can be scary and expensive, but you are worth it! Also, one thing about thyroid problems is that it can mask itself as depression! If you’re really struggling with depression, fatigue and skin dryness/irritation please have your levels checked out! I hope everyone is doing great! 

Have you ever had a medical issue that you’re grateful you spoke up about? Had problems getting your doctor to listen to you? I feel you there! Please feel free to share if you’d like! 

Grant me serenity.

“God, grant me serenity”…Words I have so often spoke over and over again until I was choking on my tears and shaking uncontrollably. Fiercely, I continued to speak these words until suddenly, the serenity came. Usually sleep immediately followed. *You can use this no matter who your higher power is, even if it is a jar of Claussen pickles! LOL* Just recently this occurred as I am dealing with a lot in my personal life right now that is….incredibly stressful to say the least. After feeling this intense anxiety, frustration, and borderline fear of not being in control of every circumstance in life I came to a wonderful realization that has brought me the most serenity I have ever felt in my life.

As human beings, we desire control. Control over our lives, control over situations, and sadly, even control over other people. It is in our nature, thus it is hard to change…but it is possible. Especially if you have been through a traumatic life event such as a rape like I have, you will struggle very hard with this concept of accepting there are things you will never have any control over. Things like rape are never truly about sex, it is about control, and for the survivor, it is all about losing control. My addiction to self-harm as well as controlling what food was “alllowed” into my body to the point where I was too thin and very sick was mainly about control. Many people who suffer from an eating disorder or self-harm addiction do it because they are desperately trying to gain some control over their life and body. Please know that I understand how hard this is, but it can be done!

So, I’ve been in the Narcotics Anonymous program since 2007 and you’d think that I have this whole control thing down right? Nah, I don’t! I am still working on it every day, but the great thing is, I am getting so much better at it and finding it a lot easier to “let go and let God(s)”. (Again, sub in your personal higher power). I have found the key to feeling serenity any time I start to get overwhelmed and feel a full blown PTSD panic-attack coming on I remind myself that it is a damn good thing that I can’t control everything and make everything go the way I think I want it to go.

Now, you’re probably thinking, “What the Hell did she just say? Why would you be happy to not have things go your way?” My answer to that is so simple it’s hilarious that I couldn’t see it my whole life. I am a human being…meaning, I know absolutely shit about the universe and the best way things should go to ultimately bring a wonderful outcome. I have puny human knowledge and wisdom, so why the Hell would I know what is best for me and my life in the long term down to every little decision in my life. I don’t. There is someone who does though! My higher power does, and whether yours is Jesus Christ, Buddha, Astarte, Thor, (the list goes on) take solace in the fact that the Higher Power knows all. Your Higher Power knows all and therefore, they know exactly what needs to happen and when and where to get you to where you will be most happy, healthy and complete. Our Higher Power loves us and wants us to have wonderful lives, so we can relax and have serenity knowing that they are a millions steps ahead of us and is holding every aspect of our lives in their hands.

Things don’t go my way all the time. Actually, a lot of the time things don’t go exactly how I had planned, but now I feel great peace knowing that it’s because it would have led me down a road I don’t want to go. Instead something much much better is coming for me. I hope that this brings you as much peace as it does me.

Psychiatric Hospital survival guide.

There may come a time during your recovery where outpatient treatment isn’t enough and a stay in a psychiatric hospital may benefit you. Obviously, this should be a worst case scenario…not the place you run to when things start to get bad. I say this because I spent several years in and out of seven different psychiatric hospitals over thirty different times because after my first stay (that was necessary) I was scared to live outside the safety of the hospital walls. I do not want to deter anyone from checking themselves into a psychiatric hospital/unit if they truly feel inside that they need it, because inpatient stays have their purpose definitely! If you are completely unable to say that you won’t harm yourself and/or others (especially if you have a plan to harm yourself or someone else) you need to IMMEDIATELY go straight to the nearest psychiatric hospital or emergency room.
I will go into alternatives to inpatient psychiatric stays in my next post! But to go into it briefly now, if you aren’t sure if you need to go inpatient or stay outpatient, do not hesitate to contact your therapist and/or psychiatrist as soon as possible.
When an inpatient psychiatric stay is obviously the right course of action at that time, or you aren’t sure either go straight to the psychiatric hospital or the nearest emergency room. If you go the emergency room route, they will check you out medically, talk to you, sometimes even have a social worker or psychiatric specialist come in and talk to you about why you are considering an inpatient stay. If they feel it is what you need, they will contact the psychiatric hospital and most likely you will be transferred to the psych hospital. If you go straight to the psych hospital, you will undergo an assessment or evaluation where you talk to someone who works there about your situation. If they agree that you would benefit from an inpatient stay they will work on admitting you or if they are full, finding another nearby psych hospital that has an open bed.
After being admitted to the hospital, you will be taken to whichever unit would benefit you the most. Some psychiatric hospitals/wards are very small and there is only one unit, in which every psych patient is admitted to no matter their symptoms or diagnosis. Other psychiatric hospitals are larger and have several units. For example, Virginia Beach Psychiatric Center in Virginia Beach, Virginia has five inpatient psychiatric units. They have CAU (child and adolescent unit), CDT (Center for dual treatment), CER (Center for emotional recovery), RSU (Rapid stabilization unit), and CIE (Center for intense evaluation). As I mentioned above, you will be admitted to a particular unit depending on your symptoms, diagnosis and even where they have an available bed for you.
Once you arrive on the unit usually a psychiatric tech, counselor or nurse will search you to make sure you don’t have anything on you that you could use to harm yourself or others. Yes, this can be a little scary and embarrassing, but it must happen to ensure the safety of others on the unit as well as yourself. When they search you, they are usually as quick as possible and they do not hurt you. This search is also conducted somewhere private, so you do not have to worry about other patients seeing you. At this point the staff will also take items like shoelaces, jewelry, hoodie strings, anything that could be harmful. The staff with either lock up your items that you can’t have during your hospitalization or they will ask you to call a family member to pick the items up, that way they are safe. To make sure that none of your items get lost or forgotten, when they take items from you they make a list of everything, sign the list and have you review it and sign it. When your hospital stay is over, you get all of your items back and you sign the list when you are sure you have everything back.
The charge nurse during the shift you arrive during will also do a short interview with you. She or he will ask you questions about what brought you to the hospital, if you have any open wounds at the moment, etc… Just like the search, this is an important process that doesn’t take much more than five minutes and no harm will come to you.
On the unit there are usually groups throughout the day. Some psychiatric hospitals don’t offer groups, but the majority of them do and they are extremely helpful, so make sure you attend as many as you possibly can. Take notes while you are in group too, that way when you leave the hospital you will have everything you learned at your fingertips at all times. During the groups you are not forced to talk if you are truly not comfortable, but usually if you at least say a little bit, it helps you to start healing, learning, and opening up to your fellow patients.
Some hospitals offer occupational therapy, recreation therapy, music therapy, art therapy, animal therapy and so on. These groups are especially fun and also help in the recovery process. In these groups you learn positive and effective coping mechanisms, how to have fun, how to express yourself in a creative and positive way and to just relax! Many patients find these groups to be their favorite.
There will be down time in which you can spend watching tv (every psychiatric unit I have ever been hospitalized in has always had a TV), coloring with crayons (most hospitals don’t allow you to use pen or pencil because they can be used as weapons), putting puzzles together, playing games like Pictionary, reading the newspaper, or even calling loved ones. Another common feature of psych units are patient telephones that you can use in between groups, and before bedtime to call loved ones. Most units have telephones that are completely free to the patients as long as they are local, and two long distance calls a day, but a Veterans Administration hospital I stayed in in Ann Arbor, Michigan required a calling card.
One tip I have for you so far is to try not to be afraid of other patients, but also, don’t be overly-trusting. You must find a happy balance when it comes to communicating with other patients. It really helps to talk with other patients because they may not be going through your situation, but they are going through something similar, therefore, most of the time, they can relate to you. Be careful not to talk about anything you feel is not something you want or should share, especially contact information. When I was in the hospital, I would normally give patients I made friends with my email address, that way if down the line they turned out to be unhealthy to communicate with; it was easy to block them from communicating with me. Never never never give another patient your home or work address, it just isn’t safe or wise.
If you feel at any time that you are becoming attracted to or are attracting (whether willfully or not) another patient in a sexual way remember that you are in the hospital to focus on recovery and so should they, but also, you really don’t know that person even if they are telling you their life story. When people are going through a crisis (as all are when they are hospitalized) they are not behaving the way they would normally. I know some of you are probably laughing at this concept, but believe me, it happens all the time, even in drug and alcohol rehab. Also, if you feel at all uncomfortable with the way another patient is talking to you, or if they touch you, go to a nurse or a psychiatric tech/counselor immediately! It is their job to protect you.
Another important tidbit of information to remember is that during your inpatient stay, if you are truly being treated unfairly or inhumanely (This does not occur nearly as often as it used to, but it still does) tell a staff member and/or your doctor that you want to speak to the Patient Advocate. The patient advocate is in charge of making sure every patient is being treated correctly, and if they find that a patient is not being treated right, they will fix the situation as fast as possible.
While you are inpatient at the psychiatric ward you will see a psychiatrist every day that will talk to you about medication to help treat your disorder(s). Remember that when the doctor discusses medication options with you, you have a right to ask questions, receive print-outs of information regarding the medication, and to tell the doctor if you are not comfortable with a particular medication and would like to try a different one. Like I said in a previous post…speak up for yourself. You are your own best advocate. When it comes to your treatment, you must be vigilant and present.
The most important thing to remember when you are inpatient is that your stay is what you make of it. If you want to get well, attend groups, communicate with your doctor, nurses, psychiatric techs and social workers. Take notes during group, and share where you can. Listen to what your peers have to say and also take some time to relax. The hospital definitely serves its purpose but also remember it isn’t a place to run to when you get scared on the outside. It can be dangerous to rely on hospitalizations every time you feel depressed, scared, or angry. Hospitalizations are for emergency situations. If at some point during your recovery you require an inpatient stay in a psychiatric hospital remember that there is nothing wrong with asking for help!

The WRAP plan.

In this blog post I wanted to talk about a valuable program that I went through during a few of my many psychiatric hospital stays. A woman by the name of Mary Ellen Copeland PhD, developed a program called WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan). At first I was skeptical that it would help me, but when I opened my mind up to the possibility of it improving my life I was pleasantly surprised.
There are seven main elements that make up the WRAP plan, and they are as follows:
1.) Wellness toolbox
2.) Daily Maintenance plan
3.) Comprising a list of triggers, as well as an action plan
4.) Identifying your personal early warning signs and an action plan
5.) Identifying when you are breaking down, and an action plan
6.) A plan for during a crisis
7.) A plan for after the crisis has occurred
The first part of the WRAP plan is to establish a description of what you are like when you are well, and a list of activities you need and/or want to do everyday to continue being well. The second part of the Wrap plan is to make a detailed list of your personal triggers. Triggers may be things like watching a movie that has a scene in it that reminds you of trauma in your past, it may be certain people, it could even be specific places or smells. It is highly important to think about your triggers and write them down so that you don’t constantly find yourself surrounded by your triggers, and when you do find yourself faced with one you can deal with it properly. Write down the trigger, and beside it, the response that it instills in you. Next, write down interventions you can use to help prevent a trigger from manifesting as a serious symptom.
The third step is to write about the early warning signs that you, or other trusted people have observed in you when you initially start to become unwell in anyway. A good example of this is, not bathing for several days, or neglecting to eat. After you have a list of all the early warning signs you and your loved ones can come up with, write about the things you can do when these early warning signs pop up. The fourth step concerns when things are breaking down in your life and you may need help. Comprise a detailed list of signs and symptoms that indicate you are beginning to break down. This is where you create your action plan for when you have reached this breaking down point. You may need to call your therapist and request more frequent sessions, ask a family member or friend to stay with you or to implement your own personal coping mechanisms like drawing or taking a warm bubble bath.
Next is the crisis plan. This is the plan you create to be implemented when you are completely in need of help immediately, for example, requiring immediate hospitalization. Be very very sure that when you write this entire WRAP plan, especially this section that you are in a stable mind-set, this way, if the times comes for you to use it, it will be logically thought out and effective. Like Mary Ellen Copeland writes on the WRAP plan instructions, creating this plan while you are well and healthy will help you to stay in control even when everything is out of control. There are six parts to the crisis plan.
Part one of the crisis plan has you refer to your daily maintenance list where you wrote about the activities you need to do everyday in order to stay well, happy, and healthy. Part two is a list you have written of signs and symptoms that you need another human being to take full control over decisions on your behalf and your care. Part three is a list of people whom you know deep in your heart and soul can be trusted to do what is listed in part two. Include their names, relationship to you, contact information, and what exactly you want them to do for you. (i.e. take you to the hospital). In this section it is good to also list people you absolutely do not want anything to do with your treatment and care and why. Part four consists of a list of all medications, herbal remedies, and supplements you take on a daily basis. List the name of the medication, the dosage you are on, when and how often you take it, why you take it and who prescribed it if you know. If any other medications may be used while you are seeking help, list the ones you would be okay with using and why, and which ones you do not want to be given and why. This would probably be a good place to mention any allergies to medications and even food just in case!
Part five includes treatments that will be helpful to you if they are needed, and ones that will not help you.Part six is where the community comes in. If there is anything that can be put in place within your home and/or community to help you stay safe and get well while avoiding hospitalization this is the place to write about it. Part seven is where you make a list of the treatment facilities you feel comfortable going to if you need hospitalization, as well as the ones you do not feel comfortable going to. Make sure you discuss why. Part eight is called “help from others”. In this section of the crisis plan make a list of things specific people can do to help reduce your symptoms as well as things you do not want anyone doing. The final part of the crisis plan is part nine. In part nine is “symptoms, lack of symptoms, or actions that my supporters no longer need to use this crisis plan” to quote Mary Ellen Copeland
The WRAP plan is amazing at helping you maintain your health, well being and happiness everyday, I highly suggest you print it off of the internet and fill it out! Here is a link where you can print one off. http://www.thecampbellcenter.org/resources/Wellness%20Recovery%20Action%20Plan%20WRAP.pdf
Also, if you would like to visit Mary Ellen Copeland’s website here is the web address: http://mentalhealthrecovery.com/
I really hope that this blog post (and all the others) are helping you! Like always, if you have any questions, comments, concerns, or even would like some help on filling out your own WRAP plan please feel free to comment on the blog, on the facebook page, or email me privately at journeyoutoftheabyss@gmail.com please always remember that your higher power loves you, many people in your lives love you, and I love you….and always strive to love yourself unconditionally. You deserve it, and you can’t truly love anyone else until you love the person in the mirror.
Much love, Ashley.