To There and Back Again

Six months ago in the wee hours of a Sunday morning I dreamed about my oldest son. In this dream, a police officer told me that my son had been hurt and was taken to the hospital. I kept asking over and over again, what happened? Was he going to be okay? There was never a response, just a click and then a dial tone on the other end.

A mother’s intuition can sometimes be unsettling and I woke up with a terrible sense of foreboding.

The next morning I received a phone call with the caller I.D. displaying West Virginia. Normally I don’t answer calls from another state because more times than not they are solicitors. However, I knew from the dream that I had that this call was going to be different. From my solar plexus, I knew that it wasn’t about my daughter overdosing again on heroin. I thank my lucky stars every day that she has gotten her life together and our relationship has blossomed because of her recovery. No, this was definitely different and I knew that I wasn’t going to be prepared, dream or not, for the news coming from the other end of the line.

I was relieved to hear that he was fine and that he was going to be okay, but he was in the hospital.

And then the story unfolded with information that I found difficult to process.

It was Two weeks before the incdent that he called me. He didn’t need money or anything, he just wanted to talk. He was living less than an hour away from us in Portland, but his daily life was busy with working full time and going to college.

I knew that he was stressed, his girlfriend of three years went off to college out of state and the long distance thing wasn’t working out too well. It was on again off again for 6 months before they officially ended it. He hated his job and had taken on too many classes. Add to that, he was having to deal with his alcoholic father who called him incessantly, all hours of the day and night while in a drunken stupor asking for favors that my son would inevitably give in to.

This was a 20 year-old who had reached his breaking point, but I never knew just how bad it had gotten for him. Yes, I knew these things were happening in his life, but the more I pried, the less I knew. He was careful to omit the sordid details; details that would eventually be revealed. He was always one who didn’t want to burden others with his problems, so he kept the conversation light, thanked me for listening and told me he loved me.

A few days later he just up and left at 3 a.m. He packed his car and headed to Kentucky of all places, to visit “friends” he had met on an online game. When he called me from Missouri, I was shocked, but he was an adult. As hard as it was, I bit my tongue. I couldn’t very well ask him what the hell was he doing or demand that he come right home. He was in good spirits and sounded happier than he had for several months.However, this journey he was on wasn’t all he had hoped it would be. He realized that no matter how far he went, he wasn’t going to be able to escape his problems.

So he had decided that there was really only one solution to his misery. After some quick research, he found what he was looking for. He got in his car and drove four hours east. With a Sharpie he wrote his first and last name on one arm (to make sure his body could be identified) and the password to his phone and laptop on the other. He then climbed out onto the ledge of a bridge that is known as a hot spot for suicides. People are drawn to this place with its impressive height and view of the Appalachian Mountains. It was a sure thing to extinguish feelings of hopelessness.

It just so happened that on this sunny day a sheriff’s deputy was on patrol and saw a car illegally parked alongside the bridge. This usually meant only thing, and sure enough he was found standing on the 3 foot wide ledge. This situation was very personal to the deputy because she lost her sister to suicide just three weeks prior. She called for backup and they were able to talk him into being helped from the ledge and taken to the psychiatric unit at the hospital.

The next 5 days were a blur as we caught a flight across the country to West Virginia. We got his car out of impound, and met with the doctors at the hospital. The relief that I felt when I saw him walking down the hall overwhelmed me. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t help the tears that flowed. My hands were trembling when I hugged him. Through his own tears, he kept apologizing for what he put us through, just as he had apologized to the sheriff’s deputy for causing a traffic jam on the bridge. At that time, I could only tell him how much he was loved, and how happy I was that he was still “here”.

The drive home was more of a rollercoaster ride for my emotions, and we sought intensive outpatient care as soon as we got home. We also began family counseling, where we learned that he began thinking about self-harm at 11 years-old. By the time he was 12, he was cutting himself on his upper thighs where the wounds would be hidden.

But he seemed so happy! He laughed; a lot. He played with his younger siblings who were 9 and 10 years his junior. He loved sports. He had lots of friends. But deep down, where we couldn’t see, there was a sadness that grew and grew. We have talked about why he didn’t come to us then. He explained that with the chaos and anxiety surrounding his older sister and her addiction, he didn’t want to add more to our stress. So he kept it in. We didn’t see. We never knew. Not until it was almost too late.

Fast forward 6 months and we are still trying to navigate the choppy waters. The treatment is ongoing and he is still living with us. He recently got a new job that he likes and has begun to think about his future in constructive, positive ways. He now will talk honestly about his emotions and we can only take it day by day, dealing with the ups and downs of life. We notice and appreciate the small victories. But then there is the underlying fear that my husband and I share. I’m not sure if it will ever truly go away. It’s a familiar fear, but it’s a different sort of vibe, because each child is unique. Things are far from perfect, but I see subtle changes in all of us and how we connect. There is now hope where once there was only invisible hopelessness.

***This event made me aware of how preventative measures are desperately needed to close the communication gap. There needs to be a willingness to talk about depression and other mental health issues between parents and children and the teachers that we entrust them to. There also needs to be a willingness to listen and give support. Enough of the avoidance and looking the other way. Uncomfortable as it may be, learning about depression and feelings of self-harm should be just as important as the (sometimes controversial) 5th grade health films they show our kids in school. These issues need to be included in the topics covered in said films to hopefully lessen the stigma for those who reach out for help.***

Just Keeping it Real

Wow. I don’t even know where to begin so I guess I’ll just start by writing about the Good in my life. I have so many things I feel incredibly thankful for, but I want to share the fact that I am officially off of the opioids! Yay!

No thanks to the pain management doctor though. He was becoming less and less helpful in working with me tapering off. I think the pain clinics will take your money as long as they can while they push for you to try the “new and improved” spinal cord stimulator or another spinal injection (I’ve had 18 of those injections and they never worked, but I knew it kept my doctor(s) happy and me leaving the office with new scripts).

I had been at a standstill for months and was really, really frustrated. Then the morning of my last scheduled appointment (in August) I simply woke up and said, “I’m done.” That was a defining moment for me. Not showing up to an appointment could easily break my pain management contract. And with the opioid epidemic, it was no secret that it was getting harder and harder to find pain management doctors that would accept the responsibility of new patients.

But I truly felt those words, “I’m done”. They were Soul Words. It was a Body-Mind-Spirit moment of consciousness; the kind that can make your toes curl, like the blissful moment you fall into an orgasm. But unlike orgasms, Soul Words tended to elude me. This was profoundly different than saying “I’m working on getting off these meds that I’ve been taking for the past decade”, which I always meant each time I said it, but during that mind-blowing moment it became crystal clear to me that I would be on the meds as long as a dr. told me I needed them; that it was okay; go on, have some more. It was all simultaneous, and from the very center of my Soul, the Source of those two powerful words, I faced honesty and truth without judgement and without doubt. I was done. So I didn’t go to that appointment.

The next day I felt a little uneasy, but I put on a new fentanyl patch (which would end up being my final one) and began to take note of when I actually “needed” a pill for the breakthrough pain. I was still being prescribed 180 of the 10mg oxycodones for the “breakthrough” pain each month to take along with the fentanyl. I’ve been prescribed as many as 210 pills with the 15 patches; but this didn’t change the fact that I had way more than I should. Way more than I needed. People without the opioid tolerance are usually sent home after surgery with 30 pills of 5mg oxy, vicodin, percocet, etc. with maybe one refill, if they’re lucky. For me, that would be like getting a box of Tic Tacs, because every month the pharmacist would hand me enough opioids to kill a pack of mules.

Making the decision that I was done made me realize what a habit it had become to just take a breakthrough pain pill at the first sign of pain, even the slightest twinge. You see, it had been drilled into my head that “you can’t let the pain get too bad because it’ll be harder to get under control”. Well, of course I didn’t want that to happen!

Now I had to face the unpleasant task of re-shaping my thoughts and begin to lessen my fear of something getting out of control. Oh, the irony! At first it was awful to make myself stop each time I reached for pill and ask, what else can I try first? (and not in conjunction with?). I knew I would have to deal with some additional discomfort than what I already lived with every day.

I knew I could try an ice pack. A warm epsom salt bath. Some gentle yoga. Qigong. Meditation. The tens unit. The compound cream. Writing. Creating. Reading. Even that awful acupressure mat. I had this mental list of the things I knew I could try first and If those things failed, I took some Advil or Tylenol. Then I took an oxy. Sometimes another one an hour later. Then I began to notice that as I reached for the pills less and less, the first options were working better and better.

It took a long time though.

And I am not a patient person.

I knew I had hit a milestone when I began breaking the oxys in half. Little by little, day by day, I made progress. Then something totally amazing happened. I went a day without any pills and didn’t even realize it until I went to bed and saw half an oxy from the day before still sitting there on the shelf of my medicine cabinet.

I’m in no more pain than when I was on the opioids. I haven’t had any worse Fibromyalgia flare-ups either (my rheumatologist had once told me that long-term opioid use can actually cause Fibro). Well, no dwelling on the past decade, eh?

My therapist told me it could take another month or two to get my serotonin and dopamine levels back to normal, but at least he’s not suggesting we increase my antidepressants. I will more than likely be on the neurontin the rest of my life because of nerve damage from surgery #1. But I’m okay with that.

Moving forward, I ended up flushing 6 leftover patches and 97 oxycodones. l still have the other half of the last oxycodone sitting on the middle shelf of my medicine cabinet. When I see it every morning and night when I take my other meds, I think about how it no longer has any power over me. It’s a reminder of how far I have come.

Many Blessing on Your Journey )O(

Luna, I Love You and All…But…

Full Moons and I don’t get along. It’s a simple fact that I have finally come to terms with. The Full Moon is just so…so…….present. She demands attention. Now, I love to look up at the Full Moon and feel the glow of Her smiling down upon me. And there are full moons that absolutely take my breath away with their beauty. During her fullness I look up at Her, acknowledge Her, but I don’t linger. I’ve never lingered.

Last night there was no hint of her light because it’s been cold, cloudy, and raining for days. But whether I can look up at her and see a bright or faint glow, or no light at all, I still feel Her. We all do. For me, at the same time every month, within the realm of about 72 hours (give or take) I am a total emotional wreck. And that is putting it mildly.

It wasn’t until about two years ago that I realized I preferred the New Moon’s energy. A lot (I also think the waning crescent totally rocks too). It was drawing close to the New Moon and I was writing in my journal when it hit me. It was like an epiphany of sorts. It was one of those smack my palm to my forehead moments while slowly sliding it down thinking: It’s okay to prefer the energy of the New Moon. It’s Okay.

So I let go of the idea that as a Witch I was supposed to prefer the Full Moon. To do my magick at the Full Moon. To Draw Down the Full Moon.

That was two years ago and I still sometimes forget my relationship with the Full Moon.

Then came yesterday.

Yesterday I cried. I sobbed. I felt stretched thin. The tension was so taught. I can usually find a contributing factor, but yesterday I was at a loss. I was bitchy, moody, and grieving for something I couldn’t quite grasp. And it scared me. Really scared me.

I could attribute some of the feelings of hopelessness to several things going on in my life right now. I’m upset with how unproductive I have been feeling. Even more than usual.

I haven’t been weaning down in the meds anymore, instead I had plateaued. I also hurt my hand. Again. That’s twice in two months. This time I was finishing up a painting when once again I felt a “pop” on the top of my hand. I couldn’t open or close my hand without feeling a lot of pain. I also couldn’t flex my wrist. I was put in another, even more restricting brace than before that I’m supposed to wear 24 hours a day for 10-14 days. Puleeze! I don’t have time for that!

My house is in disarray. I can’t wash dishes, fold laundry, use scissors, sweep, write, draw, or use a fork (I am so left-handed it’s insane). It hurts to wash my hair. Hell, I can barely even type.This post is taking me literally hours. But I was warned that if I take off the clunky brace I risk doing some serious damage to my tendons that would most likely require surgery. Then I think, pfft. What’s another surgery?

Something within me broke yesterday. I felt so completely lost that I wished for the earth to open up and swallow me whole. So I sat in holed up in my studio, in gloom and doom. My husband checked on me a few times and brought me some tea and toast. And I waited it out. I sat there with sage burning most of the time and today I feel like I’ve smoked a pack of cloves. I slept out there on the massage table. And I’m glad I did. My back feels great!

What a serious difference a day makes in the cycle of the moon. I usually follow the moon aspects, but this month, with hurting my hand and all the other usual b.s. I didn’t bother. Little did I know that the Full Moon was in Sagittarius with dear ole Saturn conjunct stirring the pot. If I had understood what was happening amongst the stars then maybe things would have been a bit more bearable. But then again, maybe not.

I truly believe in natal charts and that our etheric souls have a say in mapping out our next incarnation. My Sun Sign is in Cancer. I know my rising sign is 6 degrees Scorpio, and my Moon is in Taurus. .01 degrees in fact. Which means, karmically I’m an infant in the realm of the light of the moon.

Cancer, Scorpio, Taurus. I don’t know about you, but I sure as hell wouldn’t want to get into a bar brawl with that trio. Or a fight of any kind for that matter. They can be moody, oversensitive, stubborn, and suspicious of everything and everyone.

Of course those are on the bad days.

Their good qualities are actually pretty terrific. So I’m told.

I still don’t know what was truly at the heart of yesterday’s pain. Yes, there are some challenges in my life right now, but I still feel like I didn’t quite grasp something buried deep within. I’m missing something.

But hey, the good news is, the New Moon will be here soon to guide me. Yes, it will be void of light, but it’s through the darkness that we must feel our way through. Without light we rely on our other senses to guide us along. Besides, I’ve never been one to be afraid of the dark. At least not in this incarnation.

Many Blessings on Your Journey )O(

Preparing for a Different Kind of Storm

My life has been busy over the past few weeks. We’ve had some storms come by, along with remnants of Typhoon Songda. The Oregon Coast weathered 2 tornadoes and while we received over 9 inches of rain in two days, we were fortunate and didn’t lose any big trees, only our power.

We held onto our plans, dropping the kids off with my parents to head home to do some much needed (in my opinion) work on my studio. As promised, my husband helped me declutter and paint. I had been gearing up for this for quite some time so when the power went out we continued to paint by candlelight and ate cold pizza while listening to the giant trees outside creak and groan with the wind. It was really rather romantic, that is until our backs both ached and we joined in the groaning of the trees. My husband couldn’t help but allude to the fact that we should be groaning while throwing our backs out doing something that was actually fun. I told him to shut up and keep painting so we could both actually finish. His only response was to flick paint at me. My husband…speechless? Encouraged by his lapse in sarcastic comebacks, I told him it would be nice if he tried not to make a mess this time. A little back and forth innuendo match ensued which made for great entertainment.

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Almost there!

What once resembled a curio/new age store now feels very “Zen” to me. A little sparse in comparison, it has become a place of serene solitude. I have organized my herbs, crystals, and tools of the trade in a way that I can actually find something easily. My craft area and supplies are separate from my writing desk. It’s a humble, quiet retreat that calms and soothes my spirit as soon as I walk in whereas before I felt weighed down in a mess of unfinished craft projects and candle stubs from a previous ritual.

Remember that binder of daily routines, tasks, and lists? I condensed things further into a Witchy bullet journal. I have my weekly plan, daily tasks, important and not-so-important tasks, weekly menu plan, the moon phase and the sign(s) it’s currently in, the weather, Tarot card of the day, spaces for quotes I like, and my long wish list of things I want to try, places I want to see, and things I want just for the sake of wanting. I have a place for my accomplishments, several pages for a brain dump, and a place for a monthly memory collage. I also made a symptom log in order to find any trends or connections to certain activities I did, and another log to track my meditation/yoga/tai chi practices. All of this easily fits in this one little 5×8 journal that will easily see me through to Imbolc.

The process of clearing out and simplifying has led me to reevaluate the other stagnant areas of my life that are in need of attention as well. One in particular I have been avoiding for some time.

It’s not easy to choose the path opposite of least resistance, but I did. I saw my pain management doctor today and I told him that I wanted to step-down on my pain meds. I told him what I wanted in the long run and the accompanying fears that go along with it.

We agreed that over the course of the next two weeks I will step-down from my current dose of Fentanyl 75 mcg/hour to a 50 mcg/hour patch. I will also go from 80 mg oxycodone for breakthrough pain down to 60. That’s the short-term goal. If things go well, the next step will be to drop down from the 50 dose of Fentanyl to a 25 mcg patch with an additional 12.5 mcg patch if needed. At that point I’ll have dropped down to 30-40 mg oxycodone.

I honestly don’t know where it’ll go from there, but my ultimate goal is to be off of the fentanyl completely by August. I haven’t set a complete shut off time for the oxy, but that will more than likely be revealed as I get closer to my goal.

My doctor and I talked in great detail about the possible hard times ahead. I have been on pain medication for so long (starting like so many others like me; with a little vicodin, on to morphine, then to oxycontin and methadone, to where I am now) that I probably won’t feel too great and I’ll have to deal with my pain spike in other ways. He paused here and there as if giving me the opportunity to change my mind. We ended the appointment with the agreement that I give him a call between now and my visit next month if things became “unmanageable”. That made me laugh. I told him that things were already unmanageable for me in the opioid department. Duh!

So there you have it. Whatever the oncoming weather, be it storm or sunny skies, whether I’m huddled in the corner in a cold sweat or sitting in a chair reading a good book, I’ll be ready to deal with whatever comes my way and stand behind whatever choices I will make. It’s up to me now.

Many Blessings on Your Journey )O(

The Comfort Zone

You have probably heard that getting out of your comfort zone is a good thing. Stretch your wings. Aim high and venture forth.

But honestly I don’t want to.

I like it here in our little house in the trees, where I can’t see the road, or neighbors, and where the deer bed down in the meadow at night. It’s comfortable, it’s isolated, and it’s far removed from the outside world. Yes, I am a hermit, one who imagines herself being just fine with living out here in the woods alone. Someday I want to be the crazy old woman in the forest with a big cauldron in her front yard and everyone will think I’m completely nuts. Even the UPS driver will wish I wasn’t on his delivery route. Of course I’ll have a few cats and a pet crow that likes to perch on my shoulder and whisper secrets in my ear.

And if that’s all I had for companionship I think I’d be alright. Besides, other than my cute cats and cool crow, I’d have myself to talk to.

Anyone like me who suffers with Social Anxiety Disorder, whether it’s from chronic pain, anxiety, depression, PTSD, etc. can relate to what I’m saying and know how debilitating it can be.The truth for me is the longer I stay away from people and public places, the more I stress about doing so. The more I don’t want to. And there are more of us than people think there are.

Over the entire month of January I left the house for only what was necessary; my kids’ basketball practices & their Saturday games, which of course puts me in a social situation with other parents who (more times than not) are overly aggressive. I’ve been to doctor’s appointments, and the grocery store. That pretty much sums it up. I don’t think the art studio counts.

This is coming from a woman who traveled to Europe to meet up with her girlfriend back in the day. Wow, a lot has happened over the last 15 years.

But I ventured away from my house last night, just for fun, which was something I fought really hard against. I knew this outing would put me in a public setting that I wasn’t used to. It was far away from my comfort zone, like the little town 12 miles up the road. It wasn’t the elementary school gym and it wasn’t my doctor’s office. I was headed into the metropolis of busy freeways, lots of bridges, and narrow city streets. There would also be people. A lot of people. My level of anxiety was high when I put on my coat and several times I wondered if I could just maybe, somehow get out of it. But I sucked it up and spritzed on my best perfume then smiled at myself in the mirror because my husband and I were going on a date. The first one in many moons.

We saw a movie at a theater downtown then walked along Hawthorne where we spent way too much time in Powell’s Books. We skipped the trendy restaurants and Portland’s food trucks and finally settled in at our favorite burger joint. We both ordered pepper bacon cheeseburgers and waffle fries. We kinda shared a large milkshake- I say “kinda” because I slurped down way more than my fair so I could get the most (I’m bratty that way). It was an absolutely disgusting meal, and I enjoyed every bite.

It’s times like last night that I’m reminded of the good things that exist outside my comfort zone. There’s no guarantee in life that I won’t be in a car accident, mugged, or worse. But then again there’s no guarantee that I won’t slip and fall in my own home while holding scissors the wrong way or not get trampled by a deer (that actually injured me once, but that’s another story) while wandering along our trails.

Ask me today and I’ll tell you I’d love to see an old friend and catch up. Hell, I’ll even drive to the mall and do some shopping in the Macy’s store where that horrible shooting happened a few years ago. If I keep pushing myself, especially in times I don’t want to, I may begin seeing the world from beyond my comfort zone as somewhere I sometimes would rather be!

As much as the eccentric crazy old woman who lives deep in the forest spending her time conjuring magick and the occasional mayhem just to keep things interesting sounds fun, maybe I don’t really want to be alone. At least not yet.

But if I finally do find myself there I really hope I will have earned it. That I’ll have come full circle by venturing out of my comfort zone. I’ll travel and do great deeds. I’ll meet new people and hopefully share lots of laughter and joy. I’ll spend years and years loving my grandchildren, and teaching them the Ways of the Witch.

And there’s so much more. I want to give more time and energy to charity. I want to sew quilts for the newborns in the neonatal unit (I’ll never forget that small yet caring gesture from a stranger and how it gave me and Atticus so much comfort when he spent his first month of life there). I want to spend oodles and oodles of time with my husband, walking on the beach, playing chess, watching stupid movies, and laughing together until it hurts. And of course making love. A lot.

I want to see Greenland one day. I want to watch a play on Broadway. And while I’m at it, I want to have backstage passes to a Duran Duran concert and a private dinner~and stuff~with John Taylor (hey, a girl can dream)….He’s the one “free pass” *wink, wink* that my husband has given me, no questions asked. I only said okay because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings (another *wink, wink*). But gosh I love my man.

I want to keep making time for my watercolor painting and Soulcollage work. I want to continue guest speaking at Tarot workshops and at the University. I want to write a book. And I want to blog.

I suppose I have a lot of living I want to get done.

I know there will be bad bouts of pain where days and weeks will easily slip by, but I know that I have to fight to be a part of the outside world and push through my comfort zone once the pain episode subsides. Who knows? Maybe something greater than I ever thought possible will come out of it all. But before I get busy, I think I’ll go and call my friend and catch up. Maybe meet for lunch…. In the city.

Many Blessings on your Journey )O(