Abuse? Freedom? Embracing Who I Really Am

I’ve written a number of blogs on abuse, why do I keep ‘harping’ on it? Because it’s a scar on the soul. It’s something that has shaped who I am. I’m reminded of the broken pottery that is repaired with gold. The pottery is stronger and more beautiful than ever before it was broken.

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The scars are still there, the surface is still changed, no longer smooth. But if it weren’t for the scars the beauty may be missed. Now, the challenge ahead is to take joy in my scars and allow others to see my beauty. For now I am stronger than ever I have been. Without these scars who would I be? I wouldn’t be me. It is when I try to cover my scars, to hide who I am, that I begin to feel lost again. I encourage you to embrace your journey, learn from it, grow from it, but don’t hide from it. My journey is one from abuse to freedom, without the abuse I may have never become free. It is because of my scars that I am me.

thank you for reading,

me

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The AA Meeting

One of the things I was required to do on my psych rotation was attend an AA meeting. I was a little nervous going out to another town and then walking into a meeting for those who have addiction problems. I have luckily never had an addiction to anything. Addiction does run in my family some but it hasn’t actually touched me.

It felt a little odd, like I didn’t belong, yet I wanted to be there and wanted to understand things better. Over the past month I’ve met many people with serious addictions. People who have been turned upside down and inside out because of a chemical they can’t keep away from. They’re doing their best and it’s hard. I want to understand them better so that I can be a better pharmacist. I want to be able to show them compassion and not judgement. How can I without having been through what they’ve been through? I can help other women well enough, I’ve had my share of problems with abuse and rape, but drugs? Alcohol? Smoking? No. Not me. So, I went to the meeting willingly.

Another student and I met a strange man who then walked us to the back of a large church. (That was weird in itself.) Then we went inside and waited for the session to start. I was impressed. There were definite principles that they made certain everyone knew, things like privacy and forgiveness and honesty. All are good things. The meeting began and everyone introduced themselves. There were mostly men but there were a few women in the mix. The ages ranged from early twenties to later in age. Some of them didn’t look like they wanted to be there and some of them were happy to be there.

The topic for the night was honesty. A gentleman spoke for a bit about how being honest wasn’t natural to him and how he had to change things up so that he could get well. He allowed himself to be vulnerable and in the process opened up a space for others to speak from their hearts. I’m not used to seeing men be vulnerable and honest. I was surprised how much they had to say and how they really didn’t hold a lot back. It was definitely not the normal way that I see people interact, let alone men. At the end of the meeting they offered special coins as recognition to starting over or being sober for a month or longer. Very few people picked up coins while we were there but there was one gentleman who picked up the starting over coin. He bravely stood up and crossed the room to retrieve it and with it received a hug and a huge applause. Thinking of him brings tears to my eyes, knowing (yet not completely) that he’s set himself up on a journey that will try to wrestle him down. I know that he will likely fail again and again and will have to keep getting back up. I know that he’ll have to face his demons in order to push them aside. I can understand that part. Demons have a way of attaching on to you when your down and making you believe you have no worth. I hope he has the support he needs to fight them off.

As a pharmacist in training I know I will have people like him coming into my life time and time again. I hope that they find in me a listening ear and an open heart when they need it. I know life can be tough. If I can make it easier on someone like him then I’ve done well enough.

thanks for reading,

me

Ramblings from the Psych Ward

I’m finishing up my second week working on a psych ward. Before I began I had spoken with my therapist and asked him if he had any recommendations. He asked me only to do one thing, “look at them as if they are real people with real issues. Remember that how they act makes sense, at least to them..” I’ve tried to do just that and in the process I’ve learned a few things about myself.

I’ve learned that it’s a very thin line between ‘normal’ and ‘crazy’. I’ve met people who still have dreams but life has thrown a bunch of garbage at them.

I’ve met a young man who, for no fault of his own, cannot stop moving his mouth. He has tardive dyskenesia along with some catelepsy. It’s not fair that he can’t use one of the drugs we’d like him to have because he’d have no way to pay for it out of the hospital.

There’s a lady who rather than embracing her upcoming retirement has decided that life just isn’t worth living, or at least bothering with. She barely eats, barely sleeps, and just lies in bed all day, despite being on several medicines that should be helping her by now. We keep hoping she’ll try ECT but so far she refuses. She doesn’t believe she is depressed, just that she’s a realist.

Another lady, who is so similar to myself that it scares me, is manic. She doesn’t remember the difficulty the police had bringing her in, nor the way she behaved in the ED. She doesn’t understand why she’s still being held ‘hostage’. When asked about it she has changed the story so much that it makes me wonder why she’s still there. The reality, though, is quite a bit different when you talk to those who met her that first day. Still, some of her story is true. She really has lived several places, really has suffered tragedy, really has had life turn upside down on her. I look at her and I see just how close I came to being there as a patient with her. Instead, though, I discovered ways to handle my stress, ways to grow my way out, and continue to grow. I have to remind myself that she is not me and does not have the skills I’ve learned, despite our similar circumstances.

The truth is all of these people could be you, or me, or someone we walk by. They are no different than we are, not special, not broken. They have just become overwhelmed and need someone to help guide them out of their own caves. Today, I nearly broke down in tears listening to a man who had to move back in with his mother because of an unexplained seizure that then turned his life upside down. He’s my age. I think how my parents would be if I lost my ability to take care of myself, and I think of how I would be if my own children found themselves in a similar place. I feel for them all.

And then, there is a man, who if he could only control his anger could provide such beauty to the world. He’s an artist who has covered his walls with drawings he’s done while waiting. He is also a gifted musician and can provide so much more to this world. Smart, well-kept, handsome, young, and strong… all the qualities a man his age would love to have. He’s there trying to explain to us that his problem is that he can’t sleep, that is the reason, he says, that he sees so many strange things. Visions when he closes his eyes, radio waves in the air, dots on our bodies… He believes there are aliens and he is worried there will be war because of them. He may be right, he might not; it’s not my place to say. There’s a lot of perfectly ‘normal’ people walking around who believe in aliens so that isn’t something worth arguing about.

So what do I say to myself? What do I think? I think it’d be best if when we talk to those who are in the ward that despite how crazy they sound, despite how far-fetched their stories may be, that we should give them the benefit of the doubt. So, yes, I choose to believe my patient when she says she swallowed a bunch of flexeril as well as oxycodone, mobic, and citalopram with vodka. I believe her when she says she doesn’t know why she started feeling suicidal, that it doesn’t make sense to her. I believe her when she says she really wants to live, despite being alive only because someone else found her. I believe her. And? If my patient says he believes in telepathy, why not? Who are we to say what another has experienced? We aren’t them. If they say they lived in Europe, or DC, or wherever, then who are we to say they didn’t?

These are good people, not liars, nor embellishers. They are telling us exactly what they think to be true. They are only being honest with no filters…. if everyone was as honest as these, we’d all be in the psych ward…

thank you for reading,

me