I was going back and forth about whether to write this post, but then was talking to a friend who was really at a low point and I thought telling her this story would give her some hope. So, I have now decided to share some of it with all of you. This is a difficult post for me to write because it requires me to talk about things and be open about something I have only shared with a few people. A year ago tonight, I was in a very bad place and I wasn’t even sure how I would make it through the night. This time last year I had 11 years of unimaginable pain and suffering, had to endure 14 major operations, was very ashamed of my disease and spent so much time trying to hide it from the world, felt like an enormous burden on my parents, and was just fighting to exist every single day. Not only did I have the trauma from my experiences with IBD, but I also had chronic daily migraines. I have a huge pain tolerance- I have to with all that my body has gone through. I was on and off pain medications from ulcerative colitis, surgeries, procedures, and migraines. I developed such an enormous tolerance to medications that I can’t even count the number of times a doctor has said to me “if I was taking what you were, I would be on the floor and I am twice your size” on my fingers. I had to have special instructions after surgeries since the dose they would give someone my size seemed like they were giving me water. I was on the edge. One year ago from right now, I was on the edge. I was at my wits end. I was fed up. I was down. I had hit rock bottom.
But, one year ago tonight was also the night I admitted that I needed help. It was a huge turning point for me. I was in so much physical and emotional pain that it caused me to pop pills like candy. At first it was only every so often after surgeries, but then once the migraines became debilitating in addition to the other physical challenges I was met with, my pain became so severe that I started taking more pain medications than I should. I just needed a higher dose to help me and give me at least some relief. As the years went by and my tolerance level got higher and higher, my pain worse and worse, and my spirit crumbling down with each passing day…I turned to pain medicines. I turned to them for physical pain relief, emotional pain relief, sleeping issues, and a lot of the time I was just taking them to get through the day. I hated being at Manhattanville College because everything was just tainted. It only represented instability and uncertainty since I wasn’t there for any sustained period of time. It seemed as if I would just flutter in and out over the course of 5 ½ years. There were some classes that I wouldn’t have made it through without the pills. They were comforting to me. I brought the bottle with me as a crutch so I always knew that I had them if I couldn’t handle something.
My mom told me a friend of hers was sitting next to a man on a plane who she never met before and opened up about some drug issues in her family, which caused the guy to burst out hysterically crying. He told my mom’s friend that he was on his way to an intervention for his daughter and that he had told no one about what was going on. My mom’s friend gave him hope since the person in her family was now doing so well. It showed this stranger that things like he was experiencing with his daughter can turn out okay. It is stories like this that make me think about how you can touch someone’s life by sharing your story without even knowing it.
“When you stand and share your story in an empowering way, your story will heal you and your story will heal somebody else.” -Iyana Vansant
This part of my story was something that was pretty much kept within my family. A few friends of mine could probably tell I had some issues relying on prescription medications, but it was never something I openly discussed with anyone. That was, until a year ago today. My parents knew what was going on but they also knew me, and knew that nothing would change unless I was willing to admit that I could no longer continue to live the way I was. I am so grateful to them for giving me that time, and also so sorry for what I put them and my brother through. The night of September 20th, 2011, I went into the car and was screaming and crying. I didn’t want to wake my parents or bother them since I already felt like such a drain on them, so the car seemed like a good option. It was after hours of whaling that I realized I needed help. I was so beaten down, so emotionally and physically drained, so unhappy, so angry, so frustrated, and so fed up that I just could no longer fight. I felt like my body had been violated and was reliving many of the things I had experienced night after night. They came out in my sleep since I tried so hard when I was awake to suppress them. I was defeated, broken, weighing only 85lbs, and desperately needed help. And thankfully, being the wonderfully supportive and loving parents that they were, help was what I got.
On September 21st of last year my dad stayed home from work with me since my mom had a project to do. We talked and came up with a game plan. The next day, I admitted myself into Four Winds Hospital. It was the first time I was actually around other people who had the same kind of emotional issues as me, and the first time I ever learned that I wasn’t the only one who over medicated as a way of coping. It was the best thing I could have ever done for myself. I had gotten off all of the pills by this point, and was only weening off of the extremely high dose of klonopin I required so it wasn’t a detox program. It was a lot of talking and a lot of groups. The people who were there with me made the experience so much easier. It is amazing how quickly you connect with people when you bond over something that you just can’t explain to the rest of the world. I actually had a single room there and requested to switch rooms since I became such good friends with one of the girls who were there. It was a short stay and I did their outpatient program after that which was really good for me. I got to go home, but still had the group therapy every day.
I was pretty out of it that late September night of last year, but I do know that that was a huge turning point in my life. Finally being able to admit that I needed help, and then seeing that there was help available and getting that hope back again was incredible. It was an amazing feeling to know I wasn’t alone. I even met someone who had Crohns disease and dealing with the same issues as me (pain med reliance, chronic migraines, etc). It was eerie how much we had in common but also extremely comforting.
I am sharing this publically because if I can help one person know they aren’t alone, than it was worth me rehashing what happened to me last year. Although this topic is not something that is openly discussed, it is something that is very real, and very relevant in today’s world with all the extra stresses that come with living in this period of time where you are always connected to the world, always can be reached, and never truly can take a break from the anxieties that life throws at us. I am not ashamed in the least bit about what I have gone through. I feel badly for putting my parents and brother through it, like I previously mentioned, but in terms of talking about it – I am very open. I am not embarrassed. I know exactly why I did everything I did. I was surviving. That is all. Trying to exist and get through each day the best I could. Was it the right way to handle things? Of course not. Was it necessary at that time? Yes. And it is because of this that I now have a unique perspective about just how much of a toll IBD and other chronic illnesses can affect a person. I know there are those who will read this and judge me but I honestly don’t care because I know that unless someone has lived in my shoes, they have no understanding of the pain I was in.
“Most of the time people will look at what you did when in fact; they should be looking at why you did it.”- unknown