Tag Archives: anxiety

Life got better. From Suicidal Ideation to Scholastic Art Award for Photography.

The information and photography in this post is shared with permission from Preston Blackburne. It is our hope to continue to spread the message that Life Gets Better. 

Yesterday, I watched my 16 year-old son, Preston, accept his Scholastic Art Award, a Silver Key, that he won for his photo “Into the Digital Age.” The ceremony was held in the Pickney Hall on the campus at Central Oregon Community College in a large auditorium with several hundred people. He stood amongst his schoolmates, while his photography teacher and mentor, Mr. Fox, handed out each award. I struggled to hold back tears. No one knows Preston’s story like I do…

In the fall of his freshman year, he fell into the black hole of a “severe depressive episode”. I learned of how broken he was when he exhibited dangerous behavior and admitted to suicidal ideation that required immediate emergency intervention. He spent several days at our local hospital on a one-to-one psych hold, waiting for an inpatient room to become available in Portland, 4 hours away. Fortunately, time has allowed some of the painful details to fade and the memories are no longer so vivid. I do recall that I kept telling him how much I loved him and I wasn’t upset with him. There was no judgement from me and frankly I was proud of him for being brave enough to save his own life. All of a sudden parts of my own dark, depressed past shifted into place and I knew what to say, when to shut up and how to make the hard decisions to get him the help he needed.

His psychiatrist is an incredible man. Previously, I was personally resistant to using medications for depression and anxiety. During our decision making progress about which modalities to use for Preston, Dr C made a great analogy. He said to me, “If someone is drowning, do you just hand them a life-jacket and hope for the best? Or, do you give them the life-jacket, throw them a life-ring, call the Coast Guard and others with expertise to help?” Obviously the latter. He started medication, which has been modified as the crisis episode passed, that he still has chosen to continue to take. The mundane details of his inpatient hospital stays, he had two of them, aren’t important. Just believe me when I say I’ve seen this kid at his lowest points. One noteworthy moment is when he came out to me as bisexual. I said “So?” It was such a nonissue for me. I want my kids to know love and I don’t care what parts their partner has. I honestly could NOT care less. Despite all the emotions Preston was experiencing, he slowly began to believe, with some testing, that I do love him unconditionally.

At the end of Thanksgiving weekend in 2013, he showed again that he was in crisis and when we met with Dr C on Monday morning, Preston asked to go to residential treatment. That isn’t something you say “No” to. It was overwhelming and took a lot of work to arrange but we did just that and he had to wait, as an inpatient, for the bed to become available. Going to the Children’s Farm Home run by Trillium Family Services in Albany was what Preston needed. I drove the several hundred miles at least twice a week, once to visit and once to participate in family therapy. Through this process, I learned what expectations I had set and behavior that I had shown, that was damaging to Preston’s spirit. I took responsibility. I apologized. I committed to changing. (Other people in his life were unable to take less ownership of their negative contributions and those relationships have suffered.) I rarely yell now and I’ve changed my expectations about school success. Preston knows that we expect him to go to school every day, do his best by completing assignments. We no longer press about getting a specific letter grade. Instead, we encourage him to develop good behaviors and habits that will help him be successful in life.

He has really embraced the life he is building for himself. Preston has a diverse group of friends and shows them the same love and acceptance that I showed him. As a family, we have moved away from concerning ourselves with the gender binary and often have open discussions about the LGBTQ community. Life is open and honest and Preston knows he can show us all of himself. I’ve told him time and time again that I am not scared of his truth. I will be here for him no matter what.

Due to his hospital stays, he ended up without credit for the first semester of his freshman year. It was a difficult hole to dig out of, but within the last two weeks, he has completed the last credit recovery classes and is caught up!!!!

As Preston has grown into his own person, he has started sharing his artistic talent with the world. His artful expression that gets the most energy is his photography. He has some incredible photos that you can see on his website gallery https://prestonblackburne.wix.com/preston-blackburne#!photos/c1zeq . It’s a work-in-progress, but his site shows he is getting his feet wet.

He has some incredible photography mentors that include, but are not limited to; Doug H., Brian Z., and An V. With the encouragement of his photography teacher, Mr. Fox, he entered three photos into the Scholastic Art and Writing Contest for 2016. There were 300,000 entrants nationwide in grades 7-12. His photo, shown here, won a Silver Key. The accomplishment of winning a Silver is admirable in it’s own right. However, when you know where this young man has come from, overcoming the obstacle of major depression and suicidal ideation, it means even more. Just two short years ago, at this time, he was just going back to school after missing 2.5 months of school. Preston was able to go into a grocery store and get our shopping done, without having to rush back to the car in a panic. He’d only just started sleeping in his own bed, alone in his own room. Life gets better. Fast forward to yesterday, he wove through the crowd in the gallery, with his girlfriend of 15 months, to see his own photo hanging on the wall with the rest of the Silver Key, Gold Key and Honorable Mention winners. He was relaxed and seemed 100% comfortable in his own skin. As he told me, artists can dress the way they want so he was wearing jeans and one of his two Millenium Falcon t-shirts. His best accessory was his easy smile. I tried really hard not to be all mushy and cry. I failed. As I sat in the college auditorium, with his younger brother, Logan and my parents down the row, I felt overwhelmed by the feeling that he had ARRIVED! Life has gotten better.

I know that thinking “what if?”, is usually a useless past time. However, I can’t help but thinking what Preston, and the rest of the world, would have missed out on, if he hadn’t made the commitment to save his own life. Regardless of my decisions, which medical providers or facilities he went to, his success at life is because of the pain he walked through, that he faced and dealt with.

I’m so grateful that he has shared his talent and made his photography publicly available. I share his story so that other hurting people can have hope that life gets better.IMG_7715.JPG

“Into the Digital Age.” Photo by Preston Blackburne, Age 16, Scholastic Art Silver Key Award Winner 2106.

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The business of reinvention is a busy one.

It’s been nearly a month since I have taken the time to blog. Now, on a quiet, sunny, Sunday morning, I find myself on my front porch with my laptop on my lap. Around the time of my last post, my Up 24 fitness band arrived in the mail. A few friends and coworkers had them and the concept of concrete date and accountability appealed to me. For most of my life, I have avoided exercise for one reason or another. Great excuses, explanations for avoidance, legitimate medical issues have kept me from it. 2 years ago I did Turbo Fire by Beach Body in the spring. It was great but life got busy due to a merger at work and I stopped making time for fitness. I looked great and felt great while I was doing Turbo Fire. I don’t recall that my anxiety and depression were improved at all but it was a crazy, crazy time. This time, however, with my daily minimum step goal of 10,000 steps daily, I notice a difference in my anxiety symptoms. The Up app tracks sleep and has a feature that you can track your food. You tell it what you ate, it add the calories and tracks the nutrition info. It’s nothing short of my new best friend. Rather than guessing at calories, skipping meals to restrict my calories/fasting, it’s helping me make better food choices. IU can see how many calories I am allowed based on how much exercise I’ve gotten. If I want to eat Tortellini Gorgonzola, I can walk at lunch or hop on the elliptical machine when I get home. This is the first time in my entire life that my attempts at better eating, fitness and weight loss are dangerous. When I see my therapist, she weighs me, as always, and reviews the highlights in my app. Yes, I am super motivated and last weekend covered 12 1/2 miles without ever leaving my house. Some nights, I’m jogging at the side of my bed to get to my goal. My husband and children have been so supportive. I’ve left behind statements about being fat or jiggly, which are uncomfortable for everyone, and I’ve talked about accomplishments. Things that never seemed possible before, seem within my grasp. Longer hikes, maybe even a 5k RUN? It’s so exciting! I’ve already seen results but more importantly, have felt them. My endurance is so much better. When I first started exercising again, I could only go 15 minutes on the elliptical. Lately, 1 1/2 hours is my tiring point. I’ll admit, I’ve become somewhat obsessed with checking my step counter over and over. I no longer sit in a desk at work but rather choose to stand. I can be found pacing back and forth while I am on hold with an insurance company. There is a large portion of my focus and attention on my step counter. This doesn’t leave time for WORRY! I am making new habits and my brain is better for it. I can’t help but say I wish I’d done this sooner. It won’t change anything though. The past is where it belongs and the future is now. Everything happens on God’s timing. Speaking of time, it’s time to get moving. I leave you with a new example of better eating. A recipe I created just this morning.

RU's Fruit 'n More Muffins

RU's Fruit 'n More Muffins

Ru’s Fruit ‘n More Muffins
Ingredients:
1 cup milk
1 cup cook rolled oats (I used Old Fashioned and just soaked them longer.)
1 egg
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 & 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup white sugar
2 smashed ripened bananas
1/3 cup honey roasted sunflower nuts
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees (I’d do 410 due to altitude, the outside got brown before the inside was 100% baked.) Grease muffin cups or line with paper muffin liners.
2. In a small bowl, add milk to oats and let it soak for 15 minutes. (Mine were Old Fashioned and soaked for 25 minutes.
3. In a second bowl, beat egg into the oil. Add completely smashed bananas to the oatmeal mixture and then and then stir into the egg/oil mixture. In a third bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir flour mixture into wet ingredients until just combined.
4. Fold sunflower nuts, raisins and cranberries into batter. Do not overstir. Spoon batter (I used my cookie dough scoop) into muffin cups until they are 2/3 full. (I made both mini muffins and Jumbo muffins.)
5. Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. The outside of the muffin should be golden brown.
I choose to dump my muffins out immediately onto a rack to cool. Then I store them in a tightly covered container. The recipe above makes about 12 regular sized muffins. They are very filling and great for taking out on the trail. Putting either almond butter or peanut butter on them would be awesome. ENJOY!


The thorn in my flesh.

Yesterday, I participated in an online bible study on FB in the evening. A good friend of mine told me that she enjoyed her experience and it sounded good to me too. I really like the book that we are reading for the bible study. The idea of connecting with other Christian women online, very much appealed to me. The reality however, rocked my world and not in a good way. I was unprepared for the rapid fire nature of the comment alerts that popped up on my screen. So badly I wanted to fit in and keep up and participate. My anxiety got the better of me. I didn’t just myself for feeling anxious in the circumstances of something new and challenging, but I was so disappointed. Lately, due to the problems I’ve been having with my low blood pressure, I have been trying to cut back on the beta blocker that I take twice per day to control my adrenaline response. When things were at their worst with my son’s illness, I was having debilitating panic attacks. I don’t want to relive them by describing them. Trust me when I say that the physical symptoms of a panic attack can be horrible to experience. I’d cut back on my medication at the beginning of this week and was feeling good. I had more energy, better blood pressure and was feeling successful. I even talked about how encouraged I was with my therapist yesterday morning at my weekly appointment. I hadn’t had a panic attack in months. The milder symptoms of anxiety had been kept at bay, even during stressful situations. I felt cured of my anxiety. Really I believed that the coping skills I’d been using including radical positivity and Heart Math had changed my life. I wanted to give myself the credit for living better, rather than rely on medication. I don’t like medications. I hate the side effects.

My experience with physical anxiety symptoms last night really made me feel so discouraged. Being faced with the reality that I can only do so much to control my over exaggerated adrenaline response feels like a failure. Logically, I know that this is a medical condition to be managed with multiple modalities, once of the most important, the appropriate medication. I think I’ve finally gotten to the acceptance phase of my life with anxiety. For years, I’ve posted slides on FB and Pinterest about depression and anxiety being medical conditions. It’s so hard for me to accept and not to see it as a shortcoming. I’m very hard on myself and hold myself to very high standards. (Unresolved issues from being an adopted child. It was hard for me to understand that I was still worthy of love when my mother gave me away.)

I was sharing my discouragement with a trusted and respected coworker that I have much admiration for, today at work. She listened and easily, thoughtfully said “Maybe this is the thorn in your flesh.” I knew the moment the words escaped her lips that they were right from God. I’m sure I had a stunned expression on my face. Her words resonated with me so strongly! Later, in my office alone, I looked up the phrase on my iPhone. I knew it would lead me to the Bible and a verse I was as of yet, unfamiliar with. Google’s first search result took me to Biblehub.com. There I found 2 Corinthians 12:7.

The New International Version “or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me.”

New Living Translation “even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me to keep me from becoming proud.”

It goes on and on. I’ll admit that although I love and praise God and his Son, Jesus Christ, I don’t know my way around the bible very well. I’d like to. I know that I can apply much of it to my life and grow stronger in my faith. I’ve never been a fan of reading about Satan but this verse spoke to me. Reflecting on the verse, I strongly feel that God is behind all the things in my life. The good, the bad and the annoying. He gives me hope that I will learn to live with and appreciate the challenges and continue to look for the positive in everything. I have more to say about this but need more time to reflect first.

As always, thank you for time and attention. With love and hugs, Rebecca