Full circle……

I have not posted anything in a while and I apologize.  Things have become incredibly busy in my world in the past 1-2 months.

Back in Dec. ’16, I started a spiritual journey and asked God to reveal a lot of things to me and to show me what I needed to do to  finally get the answer to a prayer that I have been praying for many years now.

I still don’t have the answer to my prayer but I believe without a doubt that it will be coming soon.

A few weeks ago, I went to church and we had a guest Pastor. His message was very powerful and I felt like he was talking directly to me.

He preached about how we get inpatient and lose faith between the time of asking God for something and waiting for Him to answer.

Very often our time table and God’s timetable don’t always align. God will also not give us something that we are not ready for or something that we will screw up once we get it.

This was powerful to me because it just validated everything I felt when I started my journey–that there were things that I needed to accomplish and learn before I could have my prayer granted.

Since the start of my journey, I have grown by leaps and bounds and have made huge changes in my life. I have walked away from a lot of people, places and things that were dragging me down and holding me back, amongst many other things.

On Jan 1, 17, when other people were making superficial New Year resolutions, I decided to cross something off my bucket list-learn photography. It was something that I always wanted to do. So on New Years day, I ordered my first “real camera” and signed up for a 6 week class at a local college.

In Feb, I was elected as a Board Member to my state’s American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Chapter.

A couple of months, ago, I decided to learn more about photography so I became a student at the New York Institute of Photography and I’m currently studying through them.

At my daughter’s urging, I created a FB page exclusively for my photography to showcase my work to a larger audience, a couple of months ago. I have people that I don’t know emailing me and making complimentary comments on my shots and my “talent”

I have also  been selling numerous prints, have been asked to set up a booth at a community art event and someone has even spoke to me about me being an “artist of a month” in a local gallery. My CPA friend suggested that I get a Tax ID number, which I now have–I don’t know what the hell to do with it, but I have it.

To say that I have been blown away by all of this would be a huge understatement.

It has been all so crazy and unexpected but yet, at the same time, I am the most content that I ever remember being in my adult life.

None of the above that I described would have happened if I would ve had my pray answered when I wanted too because I would ve been so caught up in that I would have neglected myself.

See how God works?

A long time before I was a nurse, I was actually a “starving artist”. For years, I played the clarinet, wrote poetry, lyrics, shorts stories etc. I also wanted to learn the artistic side of photography back then as well. However, people always thought I was a bit strange and just didn’t “‘get me”. I suppressed a lot of myself because I just didn’t fit in very much.

So I became a nurse, when push came to shove when I found out that I was pregnant.  At that time I was a “professional college student”.

I was forced to “grow up” so to speak and had to get myself grounded so I could be financially stable to raise my child.

For years, I buried the artistic side of myself and forgot that it was even there.

Once my daughter started getting older and went away to her residential high school, the artistic side has gradually been coming back-obviously.

Now, I feel like I am finally the person that I should ve been all along. There is a lot of freedom and self peace that comes along with that.

Since studying photography, I have been traveling throughout my state and even went on a cruise to Cozumel recently.  In doing all of this, I have spent a lot of time alone doing a lot of soul searching. This would not have happened if I wouldn’t have picked up a camera..and I wouldn’t have a camera if I would not have asked God to show me what I needed to do.

Again, full circle.

I “get” everything now. Before I can get my answer, I have to first find out who I am and be content with myself.

At any time now, I know that my answer will be coming because I feel like I am where God wants me to be–happy, content with a full understanding of myself.

For all of you reading, if I have any message to carry it’s this. Don’t ever be afraid of who you are, even though people may not understand you. You may stand alone but at least you will be content and true to yourself. Also, don’t ever be afraid to start something new, no matter your age. I will be 46 in a couple of weeks and have just started a new career/business. It is NEVER too late to live your dream.

Thanks for reading…

Peace & love

~Tiff

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Talk Saves Lives

Talk Saves Lives, by the AFSP, is an introductory presentation on suicide awareness/prevention. Participants learn risks and warning signs and how they can become more involved in prevention.

It’s a great starter class for the more in depth programs that the AFSP offers.

Please asfp.org to find out how to  contact your local chapter to have a class scheduled in your area.

The following is a brief promo video:

 

 

#bethevoice #stopsuicide #suicideawareness/prevention

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

The AFSP was established in 1987 and it has become the leading non profit voluntary organization for suicide awareness/prevention.

It provides evidenced based research, education and advocacy in order to decrease the numbers of suicides.

The link to their website is http://www.afsp.org  and the following are the core stragedies that they engage in: (copied from their website)

Funding scientific research
Educating the public about mental health and suicide prevention
Advocating for public policies in mental health and suicide prevention
Supporting survivors of suicide loss and those affected by suicide in our mission
Led by CEO Robert Gebbia and headquartered in New York, and with a public policy office in Washington, D.C., AFSP has local chapters in all 50 states with programs and events nationwide. AFSP celebrates 30 years of service to the suicide prevention movement. Learn more about AFSP in its latest Annual Report, and join the conversation on suicide prevention by following AFSP on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

In the state of Louisiana, where I live, suicide is the 11th leading cause of death.

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Personally, I have had 4 family members complete suicide so advocating for suicide awareness/prevention is a passion of mine. I became a volunteer for the AFSP several years ago and I’m now very proud to say that I am a member of the Board of Directors for my state Chapter.

AFSP has chapters in 5o states. Please use the link to their website I provided to use as a resource. You can also find your  state’s statistics there in the same format of the La stats that I shared above.

I am very proud to be a part of this organization. In the next couple of days, I will be posting information on their classes etc. etc

 

#stopsuicide  #bethevoice  #suicideawareness/prevention  #mentalhealth awareness

New Resource…

I am very proud to say that I’m a newly elected board member for the La Chapter of the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention (AFSP)

The AFSP is the nations leading non profit organization that funds research, provides education and promotes awareness and prevention efforts.

The following is a new resource that AFSP has collabarated on. Please keep handy and share as needed:

 

AFSP has partnered with the Crisis Text Line as their preferred crisis text service, promoting it through our AFSP social media channels and all marketing materials – with our very own keyword TALK – so that AFSP may better track through the use of analytics the measurable impact we are having nationwide in helping people get crisis text services. We are excited about this effort!
Please be aware of and SHARE this resource! Text TALK to 741741 to text with a trained crisis counselor from the Crisis Text Line for free, 24/7

Miracles do happen….

 

I’ve always been on the discreet side in talking about what I’m about to talk about. For whatever reason, I’m not feeling so discreet now so I’m biting the bullet and taking a huge chance. It’s been my experience that when I feel moved to talk (or write) about certain things, it’s because there is someone that needs to hear or read it.

There’s a motto that I live by, “no matter how far down the scale you have gone, you will see how your experience, strength and hope can benefit others”

So here I  go..sharing my experience, strength and hope…

Allow me to formally introduce myself first…

My name is Tiffany and I’m an alcoholic and drug addict. Dec 13th 1988 is my sobriety date (29 years ago today). I was 17 years old and in the middle of my high school Senior year when I got sober.

I grew up in a very small town in south Louisiana. My mom had me after she dropped out of high school and married my biological father when she was 17. The marriage didn’t last and my bio dad was (and is) essentially a deadbeat father. I have no relationship with him, nor his large “very Catholic” family.

When I was 2, my mom married my step dad and he took me and raised me as his own. He also owned a several “dive” bars, that I basically grew up in. I remember being very very young sitting on the bar of these places with the customers giving me sips of their drinks. I guessestimate I was around 3 ish when I had my first sip of alcohol.

My parents loved me but they both had drinking problems. As well as my entire family. Alcoholism, drug addiction, abuse and mental illness  were all things I experienced on a daily basis as a child.

In the course of my childhood,  I also experienced all the different forms of abuse and  I grew up being told that “I was a lazy good for nothing kid that would never amount too anything”. Almost every day, I witnessed episodes of alcoholic rages from close family members.

That was my norm and the only way of life that I knew.

On the inside, I always knew something was wrong but couldn’t understand what it was. I remember going to friends houses for sleepovers etc and their families were never like mine.

When I was around 7-8, I realized that my prescription allergy medicine made me sleepy (it had codeine) . I loved to sleep because it was an escape. It didn’t take me long to make that connection so I started becoming sick very often so I could have my medicine. Around 9-10, I started getting high on nail polish and various other things that I could get.

One of my relatives, had (and still has) a prescription drug addiction. She would come “visit” for several days at a time and would stash her “medicine bag” in my dresser drawers of my room. I started helping myself to it all. Sometimes, she’d forget that she hid them and would leave to go back home without them. I’d lie and tell her that I couldnt find them.

My brother was 5 years younger then me. I was the one that taught him to walk, play ball and I did his homework with him. I was also responsible for cleaning the entire house starting around ages 8-9. I vividily remember having to clean up after all the “drunken suppers” that my parents held at home, while they laid on the couches sleeping it off. God forbid if  they’d  wake up and find that I didn’t clean. If I didn’t, that’s when the rages would start.

I walked on egg shells dodging flying objects my entire childhood.

Around 12, I experienced  my first real drunk. For the first time in my life, I felt beautiful and important and that I was “somebody”. I had my first blackout when I was 13. By the time I was 14-15, I was in full binge mode between drinking and whatever kind of mood altering substance I could find. I didn’t care what I used, I just could not deal with reality and did whatever I could to not feel it.

There is no doubt that I was born an alcoholic. Despite all that I did, I never ever once passed out, threw up or even really had a hang over. I could just keep going and going and going. I outdrank everyone I knew and eventually started drinking with the “good ol boys” because they were the only ones that could keep up with me.

Some nights, I’d intentionally OD to kill myself but I always woke up the next morning. No one ever knew until many years later when I admitted to it.

By the time I was 15, I was majorily depressed (even though I didnt know it at the time) It was around this time that I started hiding in my closet and drinking in the dark alone. The summer that I turned 17, I had resorted to drinking straight whiskey from the bottle. As a matter of fact, I could not get up and face the  world without having at least a sip every morning. I needed to feel that burn going down to give me courage to face the world.

Getting the alcohol was not an issue despite my age. My parents always had it. I also frequented all the local dive bars that were more then happy to serve me and my underaged friends. I stole money all the time to pay for it.

Since I was 17 when I got sober, I have never drank legally.

In between my Junior and Senior year, my relative with the bag of pills, had to be committed into treatment because she almost killed herself. From that, my mom started going to 12 step meetings and getting involved in the “recovery community”

In Dec of 1988, she told me and my brother that she was leaving my step dad because of his drinking and that she wanted a better way of life for us. She brought us to talk to this elderly couple that had many years of sobriety and a lot of involment in Al-Anon.

The minute I realized that there was a better way to live, I desperately wanted it.It was also a validation for me because I always knew deep inside that something was not right about how we lived.  I also knew that my family wouldn’t get better unless I got better.

By that time, I was sick of it all. Not just of my own addictions but of the entire craziness and sickness that went along with it. I was tired of being embarassed by family members that continued to get DWI’s, catching them in marital affairs and just the all around public humilation they caused.

I wanted out and I wanted a better life. I also wanted to be the ONE person in the family to break that dysfuntional chain because I didnt want to raise my future children in the same way that I was raised.

So when we got back home, after meeting with that couple that night,I went to my mom and told her that I needed help. She was shocked because she was so caught up in her own self that she had absolutely no idea that her own daughter was slowly killing herself under her own nose.

A few days later, I was in treatment. While I was in, I was told that only 1/14 of us  that were there, would still be clean and sober in 10 years.

Here I am 29 years later, still clean and sober.

Remember I was raised in a small town in the late 80’s. Young people in recovery was a very rare thing in those days. After rehab, I went back to school and had very little support from the kids that I grew up with and knew all my life. For my night of my high school graduation, I was basically shunned by my class mates. Everyone was all grouped together and no one included me and basically pretended like I wasn’t even there. I remember going to the bathroom and gripping my 5 month sobriety chip in my hand as if my life depended on it. In many ways, it did.

My life after getting clean was far from being rosey and perfect. Even though, I wasn’t drinking, I made a lot of mistakes. A lot of huge life mistakes. I hurt a lot of people and did a lot of damage. I had to figure out how to live and how to grow. I didn’t have great examples when I was growing up so I had to figure things out on my own.

It also took me many years to understand that alcoholism is more then just the physical addiction. It’s also a spiritual and living problem. I eventually was able to figure it out throught the 12 steps, therapy and countless meetings.

Gradually, it all came together for me and I was able to get myself together per say. My life has been filled with nothing but “showing them I can, when they didn’t believe that I could”

While sober, I ve gone though family suicides, lost close recovery friends to addictions after they relapsed, lost my step father in a horrific accident, went through a divorce and countless other major life events. I stayed sober through them all by staying close to God.

So I’m sitting here right now, typing all this out on a MAC that I bought myself while sitting in a house that I own that is full of nice things–all paid for by my high titled job position that I earned by working my way from the bottom on up.

There was a time, I was essentially  living out of a 500 dollar car with no AC and worked 3 jobs to just be able to survive. I always knew that I could do better then the cards that were dealt to me so I never gave up.  I NEVER gave up and I refused to fall into the “victim trap”, make excuses for myself and have people pity me in any kind of way.

My only child has never seen me drunk and she did not go through what I experienced growing up. I became a single mom when she was three. She’s an amazing talented artist that goes to a selective admissions high school for the states “brightest and high achieving” students. I look at her and think ” Wow, I did that…ME, I did that, with God on my side. I broke that f en dysfunctional family chain.

I’m in the place that I am now because of God, the steps and never giving up on myself. It has never been easy, especially when I began battling the depression battles later in my life. With God’s help, I made it through it all one day at a time.

There were many days that I didn’t want to get up off the floor, literally. However, I went against the grain and just did what was in front of me, one thing after another. It’s just what you have to do.

Thankfully, I am no longer surviving. I am actually LIVING now. I’m in great awe of how far God has taken me.

If anyone reading this is struggling please don’t give up!! You can contact me though the contact form on here if you need someone to talk to. If I can do this and come this far, you certainely can too! With God, all things are possible!!!

If you have lost all hope, I will have enough hope for you to get you through. If you hate God and/or  don’t believe in Him now, that’s ok too. Just keep doing the next right thing and this too shall pass. You WILL make it through to the other end in the same way that I did.

I am a miracle-a living, walking, breathing miracle- that was never supposed to amount to anything.

Thanks for reading,

God’s speed..

Holiday Depression

The holidays are supposed to be one of the “greatest and joyful” time of the year. However, for a lot of people it’s actually a very difficult time.

Personally, I have suffered with holiday depression many times and I’m actually struggling with it now.

Holidays are a reminder of the importance of family. For me, I have a large part of my family missing and I have lost many close family members. This time of year is always a reminder of the people that are no longer a part of my life. It’s also a reminder that I’m single and pretty much alone. There are never any holiday parties for me or at least not any that doesn’t require me to be the “third wheel”.

I do have my daughter but she also has her fathers family. (He and I have been divorced for over 10 years) So she splits her time between me and her dad. For Christmas Eve, she always spends the entire day with him. My mom always spends Christmas Eve with her husbands side. My siblings all have their significant other’s family that they are obligated to. This has always left me spending Christmas Eve home all alone. It has become my own personal tradition. I have been given “pity invites” to other Christmas Eve  gatherings but I feel uncomfortable knowing that I was asked because I was felt sorry for and I always end up feeling left out when I’m with other  families that I don’t know.  I find that  it’s much easier for me to just remain home alone.

Obviously, it all gets very difficult. I try to pretend like it’s not Christmas when things get really hard. For example, I don’t want any reminders of the holidays, no holiday movies etc. The less reminders that I have, the easier it is for me to get through it all.

A lot of people don’t understand this and they think I’m a Scrooge and some sort of awful person for not feeling the “Christmas Spirit”. It’s not about that, it’s about trying to survive through it all. I have spent many Christmas Eve’s literally on the floor crying in loneliness and pain, soemtime with suicidal thoughts, and feeling like I had absolutely no one.

The day after Christmas, I wake up and all those depressive feelings are just magically gone and I feel like I can breathe again.  After New Years Eve, I then feel like myself again.

I know that I am not the only person that is stricken with this. There are thousands if not hundreds of thousands more. That’s why I wanted to address this so that anyone that suffers from it too, knows that they are not alone.

In addition to depression, there are also many people with no families at all and/or people that are grieving.

Society really needs to start looking at all these people who suffer this way with more kindness, understanding and compassion.

Depression, loneliness and grief are not things that you can just snap out of. Those of us afflicted are well aware that we are supposed to be “full of joy” and “spirit”. However, it’s not something that we are able to feel because of the overwhelming saddness. If we could change it, we would.

So please try to be more understanding of people that are going through this.If you know someone, let them know that you are there for them and that they are very much loved and valued.  Ask them what you can do to make things better for them instead of getting angry and resentful at them because they are in “bad moods” during the holidays. Until you go through this, you just seriously have no idea of what it’s like.

I am very much Christain and what I do that helps is to try and focus on the real reason for Christmas, which is the birth of Christ. It’s not about the presents, parties etc. It’s about our Savior being born. Also, I try to do as much volunteer and charity work as I can. I find that the more that I give of myself in service, the more I get “out of self” and it eases the burdens greatly.

If you are someone that finds the holidays to be an emotionally difficult time,  please don’t be afraid to reach out to me if you need someone to talk to. You can contact me filling out the contact form on the top right of this site. Please know that you are not alone and you will get through this, I promise!

I’m including some links for helpful articles for those that may need:

http://www.healthline.com/health/depression/holidays

http://www.webmd.com/depression/features/25-ways-find-joy-balance-during-holidays#1

https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/November-2015/Tips-for-Managing-the-Holiday-Blues

#mentalhealthawareness #hoidaydepression

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Break the Stigma

Oct. 2nd—8th is Mental Health Awareness week. Mental health awareness, along with suicide awareness is something incredibly important and personal to me. I come from a family with history of mental illness, particularly depression, and I have lost 4 family members to suicide.

This mental illness trait is something that is genetically passed down through my family. In the same way hypertension, kidney disease and other physical conditions are passed down in others.

Personally, I was diagnosed with Dysthymia many many years ago. Dysthymia is chronic low lying depression and is sometimes referred to as high functioning depression. That means I can still carry on my every day to day activities and function as I should but on the inside, I’m constantly battling the negative thoughts and other symptoms. It’s like an insidious monster sitting on my shoulder always trying to rear its ugly head. There have been times when I ‘ve gone through major life changes that resulted in the Dysthymia turning into major depressive episodes and have had suicidal thoughts myself. I, too, have had very dark days in which I didn’t think I would make it through.

I never asked to have this condition and nor did the millions of other people in this world with various other mental health diagnoses.

From my own battles and from observations from my nursing career, there are things that I have seen first hand about how people and society generally seem to view people with mental illness.

My personal battles have showed me that most individuals just don’t understand mental disorders. It’s as if they think people can just “will it away”.  Depression and other mental disorders are true diagnosable medical conditions in the same way that cancer, hypothyroidism, lupus etc. are. How many cancer patients can “will their cancer to be gone?”. It’s impossible. So how the hell do they expect someone to “will away” their depression or other mental illness?

I’m very fortunate in that I’m a well respected, college educated, successful medical professional. Fortunate in that, because of my “status”, I’m not looked down upon like most of the other people battling mental conditions are. In addition, I’m blessed to  know when the symptoms of depression are starting to develop so I’m able to recognize them and take the action needed to prevent it from “taking over”. To add even further,  I also have a great support system and people I can call at any time. I know and able to fully comprehend and understand that I am loved, supported and never alone, despite the fact that I’ve dealt with many individuals that don’t understand the illness.

There are millions of people with mental conditions that have a disease process that is so strong and powerful they are not able to recognize when the symptoms are happening. They are also not able to reach out to anyone for help. The symptoms of the condition prevent that from happening so it is not necessarily all their fault, unlike what most people believe.  A lot of these people suffer in silence and/or completely alone because they don’t have a support system and/or people that understand or refuse to be educated on the psychological and physiological make up of their disorder.

Our streets are full of homeless psychiatric victims that are “dismissed” because they are “just crazy”.  If some random person that is out in public begins to have an acute medical episode such as a seizure or a heart attack, strangers will stop and help care for them. Why don’t they ever stop to help or even show concern for the mentally ill patients?

There was a time when I worked in an acute mental health setting. It was an extension of the emergency room of a charity hospital. The hospital didn’t want acute psych patients to be “mingled in” to the general ER population so they created this “extension” specifically for them. It was a specialty unit and we had actual parish police officers as security officers.

Since it was a “mental health” ER, we got patients in true acute psych episodes. Part of their symptoms would be not wanting to come into the unit and sometimes they would lay themselves down in defiance. The cops would then have to pick them up and carry them in. Afterwards, I would hear comments from them such as “man, I need to wash my hands now” and “I feel dirty” etc. They looked down on these patients as if their lives were less valuable than theirs-all because they were experiencing symptoms of their disease. If the patients came into the ER in acute respiratory distress instead, I don’t think they would have been thought of like that! They were treated differently because their sickness was psychological in nature and not physical. If a patient with a brain tumor starts hallucinating, no one will look down on that person. So why is it that society thinks that it’s ok to look down on and make fun of mentally ill patients that are experiencing those symptoms?

After my experience as a psych nurse, I went on to become a hospice nurse. Whenever I had a patient that started their transition period from life to death, their entire family as well as neighbors and friends always showed up. I’d refer to this as the “death watch”. All these people would gather around to support the patient’s immediate family and to help care for the dying patient. There would be times that there would be so many people, I would have to actually ask people to leave the room and/or go home to allow the family/patient private time because it would get to be overwhelming. However, even as overwhelming it would get, I always thought that was a very beautiful thing-to have all those people there in the time of great need to assist the patient and family.  Wouldn’t it be an awesome incredible thing for suicidal patients and their families to be able to have that kind of support? Yet, they generally don’t.

One of the main reasons, these suicidal people and family members, as well patients and family members of other mental disorders, don’t have that kind of support is because they have been conditioned to keep those matters private. Largely due to the stigma that has been placed on it. We have got to break this stigma! Why does society feel that mental problems are something to be ashamed of? These are medical conditions just like anything else. Having this “label” prevents a lot of people from getting the help that they so desperately need. It has got to stop!!!

We get rid of this stigma by talking about it, showing unconditional love and letting people know that they are not alone. They need to know that they don’t have to suffer in silence and/or have to feel shameful for having a medical condition that they didn’t ask for.

It is my hope that one day, society will start to see mental disorders in the same way that physical disorders are seen. Mentally ill people need and deserve to have the same kind of support, love and compassion that physically ill people do. The only way that we accomplish this is by educating people and letting them know that it is ok to speak up. That is how the stigma can be broken. One person alone can not accomplish this task, however. We need to come together as a society with each person performing their individual role.

The part I play is by sharing my story of my own battles in order to reach out to those that are still suffering to give them hope. I also advocate and speak up for those that are unable to speak for themselves and volunteer for the American Federation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). What part do you personally play?

Thanks for reading.

Peace & love,

~Tiff

#breakthestigma #mentalhealthawareness #stopsuicide