Authentic Community

My heart has been quite heavy this week with the passing of some very iconic people. Society often forgets that mental illness physically changes a person’s brain chemistry. It is very much a physical illness but this aspect often gets left out of the picture. People still hold on to the belief that material wealth and success can make it all disappear somehow. Headlines of recent show us quite the opposite. Please remember that from the outside you can’t always tell what someone’s ill brain is poisoning them with. Try to embrace the concept that suicide is a symptom of mental illness and that these beautiful humans, and all the beautiful ones taken too early from this life, died from a mental illness, not simply because they killed themselves. Somewhere along the line their brain chemistry became hijacked and they weren’t able to get the help they needed. While it is important for crises numbers or text lines to be available – I will personally attest to the fact that in a moment of crises there was and still is a very slim chance I would ever reach out to a stranger. Others have benefited greatly from these resources which is why it is important to share, but we can do more. I have realized lately that I need to do more as an advocate. I need to make my story more available to others in hopes that it can reflect the fact that recovery is not only attainable, but sustainable. I need to work every day to keep it that way, which is why I need to be one of the people to stop and say here are my tools. Here is how I get through a tough situation or day. I believe honesty and transparency will create a community that allows for people to ask how they can get to a better place too. I know it is hard to ask for help when you are struggling. So I urge others to reach out to people to bridge that gap. Ask two or three people in your life today what they are grateful for. What their passions are. Go beyond the how are you bs and have real conversations. Talk about life and love and dreams and show people you care about them as a person, not just as a formality. There is a lot on my heart but for now I will leave you with a quote from Anthony Bourdain – “If I’m an advocate for anything, it’s to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simple across the river. Walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food. It’s a plus for everybody.”

A Missing Piece

Maybe it is no surprise to you, but some of my greatest supporters in recovery have four legs and a tail.  My horses and my puppies could comfort me in ways that no person could ever do.  I have always had an extreme difficulty expressing myself to others, let alone understanding my thoughts myself, but I never had to with them.  Just holding them or hugging them made everything calm and okay.  It is hard to describe this connection until a piece is missing.  I woke up this morning with a heavy heart.  After a week long ordeal with vets and emergency visits, it was discovered that my miniature dachshund, Sawyer, had a large tumor on his heart.  It was compressing his trachea, liver, and lungs and it just grew quick enough to make him slid downhill in a matter of days.  As I held him in my arms and his suffering came to an end, mine began.  He has been my whole world for the past nine years.  He always burrowed under the covers and slept with me every night.

I got him as a 6 week old puppy on a trip to visit family in Oklahoma.  He was part of an April Fool’s joke which was really no joke at all.  “Wait, you really brought home a dog?!” This was my stepfather’s reply when we pulled into the driveway.  He had played a rather mean joke on me earlier so he thought I was just messing with him when I told him I was bringing home a puppy.  Just like me though, he fell in love with him instantly.

I got him when I was 16.  For a little more background, ages 16-18 were the most difficult for me.  I had really just began my recovery journey, but my life still revolved around eating disorder and self-harm behaviors.  Sawyer (yes he was named after the super fine LOST character) became a new coping mechanism for me.  Many nights I would hold him tight, fighting urges, and crying all over his fur coat.  Poor guy!  But he would always lick my tears away and keep me motivated to keep trying.  He was the first dog that was truly my own and he even switched houses with me every couple weeks as my parents had been divorced since I was young and that is how I grew up.  He loved toy ducks, loved camping, loved eating, and loved sleeping.

I have nine years of wonderful memories and photos to hang on to, but the sting right now is so real.  I do have two beautiful and healthy dogs at home to continue to hold and rely on.  It breaks my heart to see my other love Nessie pace the house looking for him.  She loved him so much and always got on his level to play with him.  Just this past Sunday we were all playing in the yard roughhousing together.  It was perfect.  This is one of those moments I am grateful that I am practicing mindfulness because being fully present in that moment allows me the pleasure of remembering it in great detail and makes me smile.

Sawyer made me take responsibility for my recovery.  He made me get up every day to take care of him, even on the days that I didn’t want to move.  I am very thankful I am in a strong place of recovery today.  Even though he is physically gone, he continues to motivate me.  I feel very low, but I still need to stay busy, follow my meal plan, reach out for support, write, paint, color, etc.  Self-care.  His loss is not a reason to relapse.  I need to celebrate his life and continue to move forward.  It is also important that I let myself feel.  Feel the sadness and grief and not stuff it away to haunt me.

I will miss you weenie.  Thanks for all the amazing memories, I love you with all my heart.  I hope everyone can have a deep connections to their animals, especially if you are healing and need some unconditional comfort.  Take time to hug your fur children for me today because life is so fragile and precious.