These Shoes

These shoes have taken me to the place where I would get the diagnoses that would change my life. They have taken me to the place where I have met people that didn’t want the best for me; they wanted to take advantage of me, to see me fail.

These shoes have taken me to places I never want to go again. They have taken me to places where I’ve felt pain, where I’ve felt anxiety, where I’ve felt stuck.

These shoes have taken me to places where I would have to share my feelings with complete strangers and hope that they didn’t judge me. They have taken me to places where I’ve waited and waited to feel whole again, to feel something, anything at all.

But…

These shoes have taken me to places that I recover and try my best to feel significant. They have taken me to the place where I can speak my soul and help it to heal. They have taken me to the place where I can feel free, where I can feel whole, where I can feel human.

People can judge us. They can slander our name. They can look down on us because we’re different than them… but they can’t take our soul. They can’t take our voice. They don’t know our lives or how we live, why we do the things we do. What we have fought for up until this very moment.

These shoes are dirty, beat down, worn out… but nobody can take away what they’ve been through. What I have been through.

Keep fighting for you and I’ll keep fighting for me.

World Suicide Prevention Day

I should have died 5 years ago, but it was like an actual hand pulled the gun away from my head and a voice told me to call my mom. And life got better. It didn’t get perfect, and sometimes it doesn’t feel easier. But I promise you, it’s worth it. You’re worth it.

Stay alive for me. Stay alive for your pets, your parents, your siblings, your job, whatever it is. But most of all, Stay Alive for yourself. Give yourself the chance to experience new things. You are loved and you are worth taking up space in this world.

I never thought I’d ever be able to go to college. People (mostly classmates/bullies) always told me I was stupid because I didn’t talk until the 8th grade. They told me I’d never be able to do certain things because I didn’t talk. They told me I was ugly, stupid, mute, castoff… Teachers didn’t want to help because I was too much work, guidance counselors sent me to the school nurse and even therapists, doctors said “well she just needs to talk.” I had a teacher even send me to the principal’s office because I was too terrified to answer her question in front of the class.

I wasn’t supposed to be happy. That’s what everyone wanted. They enjoyed seeing me fail because it made them look better. It made them feel better when I would cry in front of the class. I caused people frustration, people took offense, they called me “their special project” and didn’t mean it in a good way…

I’ll be 29 in less than a month. Do you think I thought I’d ever make it to 29? I didn’t think I’d make it to 20, and I sure as hell didn’t think I’d make it to 25.

I’m a junior in college. I’ll be a senior in April, and I’ll be done with my Bachelor’s degree program in November 2020. I’m proving so many people wrong and I have no plans to stop.

Yeah I’m in therapy every week, I’ve been to a mental institution a couple times, so what? It helps me. Those things helped make me strong and I live now for myself. For my dog. For those drives in my Jeep. For the day I can say I graduated college and made my parents proud.

And that is why I continue to fight.

Don’t give up hope. The battles you’re fighting today will make you stronger in the future.

#WorldSuicidePreventionDay

2018/2019… let’s do this

(Trigger warning)

2018 was a big year for me, physically and mentally. I can’t say it was all good, as I lost 6 people within my family and friend circle. I don’t think I’ve ever lost that many people in one year. It’s been a heartbreaking year, an eye-opening year, and a victorious year. I can’t believe how much I’ve accomplished. I went into 2018 with a different mindset that I had never had before. I honestly still have no clue where the motivation came from, other than working my butt off in therapy. I didn’t realize my mindset was changing until it hit me like a brick wall.

The year didn’t start off great; my uncle passed away on January 1. I wasn’t as close to him as I had been in my younger years since we lived a state away, but it was still a challenging time. My mother lost her brother, my cousins lost their father. We are now upon the first anniversary of his passing and I know it’s not easier for anyone. In July, I also lost my great uncle. It’s been a rough year for my family.

In previous years, my “new year’s resolution” always included losing weight, but it never worked out because, well, I never worked out. I would work out or diet for maybe a week, maybe two, then go back to my old habits. This year, that would change. I couldn’t lose weight on my own, so I talked to my doctor and she recommended weight loss surgery. I went for it and made an appointment with a bariatric surgeon. After 3 months of preparation, dieting, and exercise, I had the surgery in August. I haven’t lost weight at the pace I would have liked, but I’ve still lost weight and I’m okay with that. I still have a long journey ahead of me, but I’m still motivated to get the weight off.

As for the people I’ve lost this year, it was rough. I lost a few close friends and two family members. One of them, though, hit me like nothing has ever hit before.

I started my mental health journey in 2014, and I won’t get into details with that, because I’ve talked about it in previous posts. I was checked into a mental hospital and then immediately started group therapy after I was discharged. The first person that talked to me when I walked up to the door was named Katy, and she ended up becoming one of the most important people I’d ever meet in my life.

There were times during therapy and even outside of therapy that she would talk me through it and help me through it. I remember one day in therapy that I was called on to speak, and I ended up crying… hard. I couldn’t get through what I was trying to say. Katy sat next to me every day, and on this particular day, she looked at me and said, “I promise you that nobody here is going to judge you, and everybody here loves you, including me. I’m right here. Just talk to me.” Those words helped me get through the duration of my time in group therapy.

I learned that she had a lung disease when I would talk to her everyday, but I didn’t know how bad it was. She passed away this year, in June. The bad thing for me is that I didn’t find out until July. I missed her funeral, I didn’t get to say goodbye, and I didn’t get to tell her how much she meant to me. It was heartbreaking. I still think about her and cry. I have never grieved over anyone else as hard as I have grieved over her.

As much as her passing affected me, I didn’t let it slow me down. I couldn’t. I know she would want me to keep working hard on my mental health, so I have. I have progressed, I think, a lot in therapy. I’m working my butt off daily to stay alive. Everybody has bad days, including me, but I get through them. Finn (my dog) is definitely a huge help with that. I’ve accomplished so much mentally, but also physically. I made a lot of progress in school. I’ve been getting out of the house more, but one of the main goals I have for myself is to get out even more. I’ve got so much planned; hiking, dog park visits, walking trails, yard work, and even just sitting outside getting more fresh air.

Health wise, I am going to continue to take care of myself. For so many years, I put my health on the back burner because I hated myself that much. I wanted to die so bad that my life didn’t matter that much. But now, I feel like I need to stay alive, and I want to stay alive. Some days are very difficult, and I still have suicidal thoughts from time to time, but I don’t feel as if I would act upon them now. It’s even kind of crazy to think about because I got so used to thinking I would be better off dead.

Another goal is to blog more! I’ve had to take a few months off from blogging, but I’m back at it. I felt like if I had writer’s block, then it was going to happen whether I wanted it to happen or not, and I didn’t try to force anything.

With all of that being said, I want to know how your year was and how you want 2019 to be. If you had a bad year, it’s okay. Not everyone is going to have a good year. And its okay to have bad days! Even if you have perfect mental health (and no one does), everyone has bad days. Try your hardest to bounce back the next day. I know it’s easier said than done, trust me. Depression is no joke at all. But stay strong for me, for your family, for your friends, your pets, your spouse, your girlfriend, your boyfriend, but most of all, stay strong for yourself. Because you’re worth staying strong for. You’re worth the life that the universe gave you. You matter.

Happy new year, and let’s have a great 2019.

Addiction

I’ve struggled with the thought of posting this because I have been told not to “look up to someone with addiction problems.”

Demi Lovato, though, is more than that. I don’t want to sound like a “fan girl” but I guess I just will. Demi Lovato has saved my life a few times. She’s open about her mental health, addiction being one of the main things. She was sober for six years and recently relapsed and went into the hospital for a possible overdose. Luckily she is okay, and I think about how life would change without one of my role models in it.

I know… “You’ve never even met her.” I realize that. But the cool thing about social media or even speaking out is that you don’t have to meet someone for them to have a major impact on your life or for you to impact someone else.

I honestly have no idea how to even continue because I’m so terrified of how people will react to me freaking out, crying, and worrying so hard about a celebrity. Celebrities are human too though and I think people forget that.

I remember when I was in group therapy, I would drive there every morning listening to “Warrior” by Demi Lovato because it would give me a sense of power before I started my day. I would sing the words to myself when I could and it would help me fight. I was so scared of dying, but I wanted to die. I know it doesn’t make sense, but it’s the truth.

I’m done sounding like a “fan girl” as someone has told me in the past.

Someone with an addiction is crying out for help right now. Are you going to help them, or judge them and ignore them? Despite what some may think, addiction is not a choice. Addiction is a mental illness and people need our help. It doesn’t matter who it is. Demi Lovato is in the news right now, so let’s send her uplifting messages, not messages that put her down or messages saying that you don’t feel sorry for her.

How in the world would that help anyone dealing with an addiction? The human species are supposed to be in this together; this life. So let’s help each other. Really.

If you or someone you know is dealing with an addiction, please seek help. There is no shame. Those that do shame you do not matter. There are so many resources to get help, so please take that first step! You are worth it!

Being Thankful

Today is Thanksgiving.

We cook a bunch of food, dress up, eat a mountain of food and desserts, watch football and the Macy’s parade, play backyard football, and then take a long nap. But what most of us forget to do is to be thankful, which is what today is all about. Why do we forget the reason for any holiday we celebrate? Is there a scientific reasoning?

Every day in November, I log into Facebook and say one thing I am thankful for. I admit, it actually gets more difficult as the days pass. I’m not sure why, because I am thankful for so much because I have so much. Why don’t I ever remember to remind my family on Thanksgiving to go around the table and say what we are thankful for?

It’s the material things that literally take over our minds and we forget that we are a spoiled people. Take “Black Friday” for example. We gather around the table and eat a mountain of food, and some of us get on Facebook and say what we’re thankful for, but then turn around and fight crowds for material things. I completely understand why people do it; material things just make people happy. I don’t have a problem with people being happy. What I’m confused about is why we make this a priority over everything else.

I want to challenge everyone reading this to stop what you’re doing and make a list of what you’re thankful for. It’s important. Why? Because every single one of us needs to stay grounded. We get too caught up in things that simply don’t matter or what won’t matter in the next 20 years.

Today, let’s be thankful for what we have. In your list, stay positive. Everyone has something positive to be thankful for. Make a list of 10 positive things you are thankful for. You don’t have to show me or anyone else. Keep it to yourself, or share it. It doesn’t matter. Just be thankful.

Here is my list of 10 positive things I am thankful for.

  1. I am thankful for God’s grace and love, even when I’m in doubt.
  2. I am thankful for my parents and all their love and help this year and every year.
  3. I am thankful for my sisters and brothers and their love and support.
  4. I am thankful for my nieces and my nephews for loving me through the depression. They are all young but show so much understanding when I am depressed.
  5. I am thankful for my pets – my cat, my 3 dogs, and 6 chickens – for all the love and entertainment they provide for me. Chickens running is the most hilarious thing to me!
  6. I am more specifically thankful for my service dog, Finn. His unconditional love and help this past year has been out of this world.
  7. I am thankful for shelter from the heat and the cold.
  8. I am thankful for food and water to keep me alive.
  9. I am thankful for the internet to keep in contact with friends and family not close to me.
  10. I am thankful for friends that support me and love me.
  11. Bonus: I am thankful for doctors – for me and for Finn – because they saved my life this year and they saved Finn’s life this year.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Finn’s Fight

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Saturday, October 7 was my birthday. It wasn’t a day I was particularly looking forward to, because every birthday of mine just isn’t great. I would say that this year was no different, but I’d be lying – it was worse.

When I adopted my dog, Finn, in December 2016, I took him straight to the doctor. Included in the adoption fee is neuter/spay and rabies shots. I could not afford much more than that at the time, so I put it off. I knew dogs could get heart worms and other diseases, so I wanted to get it done quickly, but I just never got the money or I would forget.

Before you accuse me of being a horrible dog mom (I already believe it at this point), I love my dog and would take a bullet for him. Yes, I truly mean that.

Finn is my service dog. He does tasks for me directly related to my disability. He does things for me that even humans in my life don’t do. Because of that, he is my world. He is basically my son, just hairier than the regular son. He goes with me almost everywhere – I say almost because he’s not fully trained yet. He’s a very friendly dog, so he wants to say hello to everyone when we’re out. Not a problem, but when he’s on duty, he has to focus on me fully. I digress.

Friday, October 6 was like any other day. He accompanied me to my therapy session, just like every Friday. We then had to go pick up my mother from work, and then went to a couple places to do some errands. He was perfect. Well behaved and focused. But then that evening, I started noticing that he was breathing heavy. Obviously, I started to worry. I kept a close eye on him, but it got worse through the night. The next morning, October 7, I took him outside to walk him and let him use the bathroom. That’s when I saw it. His urine was nothing but blood.

I ran inside and asked my mother if we could take him to the emergency room. We loaded up and took him, not expecting what we would get told.

In the car, we were thinking it could be a kidney stone. I let my brain start thinking it could be just that, but it was much worse.

I don’t know how long we waited after the doctor took Finn to the back, but I know we were at the emergency room for almost 5 hours. The waiting in between was killing me. I needed answers. When we finally got the answer, it was devastating. Finn had Caval Syndrome, which means he had heart worms, but worse than just an initial diagnosis of heart worm disease.

Dogs with caval syndrome usually don’t make it. It causes liver and kidney failure because of the lack of blood flow to the organs. The heartworms are so bad and there are so many that it cuts off the blood to flow freely in the body. Obviously there are some dogs that do make it through this horrible situation, but that really means they weren’t in complete organ failure.

In Finn’s case, he wasn’t in organ failure. The blood in his urine was actually not blood, but actually hemoglobin. His blood was full of clumps, and it was dehydrating him. He was bad shape. He was dying.

From there, I was trying to get my brain back on track. It was a complete mess. I felt my brain and all the thoughts move around so much. I felt my heart break into a billion pieces. That dog is my world. He’s my best friend. The same sentence kept popping into my head: “I can’t lose my best friend.”

I gave the doctor permission to do more blood work. The results of the blood work would tell me if I could opt for surgery or would have to put him down. The doctor said it would take 30-45 minutes, and it seemed like 4 lifetimes. He came back in and said his bloodwork was okay. He explained to me what was happening with his blood. His platelet count was super low. Regular count is 100,000 to 150,000 but Finn had a whopping 27,000.

From there, he explained to me the dangers of not doing the surgery. Finn would die. He then explained the odds of surviving the surgery. We could go to Baton Rouge and get the surgery done there, where it would cost thousands of dollars (which I don’t have) and the odds of survival would be 50%, or we could get it done locally for only hundreds of dollars and his odds of survival would only be 25%.

What decision would you make at this point? I was thinking of the odds for or against him. I needed him to survive this.

The doctor told me about the local doctor and how he has saved dogs with this procedure. He said he trusted him fully. As much as I hated making the decision based on financial reasons, I went local.

Finn had to stay overnight two nights at the emergency room so he could stay on an IV to get fluids. If he came home with me, he would die. Obviously, I let him stay. Happy birthday to me. My best friend was dying.

The next day, October 8, I went to visit Finn, along with my mother, my niece, and my nephew. Finn looked okay, but nervous. Who could blame him? I told him, “Finn, you’re my best boy, which means you only get the best care with the best doctors. I will not give up on you.” At that moment, he put his head on my shoulder.

I gave him a couple pieces of his all time favorite treat, which is duck jerky, but then we had to leave. The doctor scheduled the surgery for Monday morning, gave me the instructions on when to pick up Finn, where to take him, and what the surgery does.

Monday morning, October 10, I picked Finn up from the emergency room at 6:00. I had an hour to spend with him before I had to bring him to the vet clinic. I drove around, but talked to Finn the entire time. I told him from the start that since he is my best boy, he only gets the best care. I told him everything would be okay, even though I didn’t know if I fully believed it. The entire time, even when I felt confident he would be okay, there was that little voice in my head telling me I needed to start finding out what I would do with all of his stuff. I was terrified that the voice would be right, so I worked even harder on pushing it further and further into the back of my brain.

I talked to him until I had to leave him again. I got back in the car, went home, and cried. And prayed. And cried some more. And prayed some more.

The thing is, for the past 6+ months, I was only about 10% sure God was real. I struggled with the fact that I felt like he didn’t listen to me, didn’t love me, or just forgot about me. There were always people who needed him more than me, so I just kind of stopped talking to him. I stopped going to church (for another reason also), I stopped reading the Bible, I stopped praying, I stopped wanting to even talk about him. The “God situation” turned into a touchy subject for me. I felt like if I told someone I was doubting him, they would get offended, because that has happened before.

In another blog, I will talk about this. It’s much too long a story to put into this one.

When all this started happening with Finn, I still didn’t want to acknowledge God or the fact that he could possibly heal my dog. But I did it anyway. I prayed, and I prayed hard. I cried and begged God to heal my dog, my best friend. I prayed with my mom. I prayed alone. I prayed with Finn.

One thing that blows my mind throughout all of this is the fact that despite Finn being “just a dog” to some people, they knew how much he means to me. They knew how bad I would get if I lost him. How depressed I would get. How suicidal I would get. I didn’t plan for it; I never do. But it would have happened, and I know that.

I have over 600 friends on Facebook, over 8,000 followers on Twitter, and over 800 followers on the joint Instagram account for me and Finn. I can safely say that Finn had hundreds of people praying for him, sending him well wishes, thinking about him, and what whatever else. People would ask about him in my Facebook messages, DMs, comments, and texts. People told me that they were praying for him and me. That blows my mind! I had never even thought to ask for prayers for myself.

Monday morning at 8:30, the surgery began. The doctor called me, told me what he planned on doing, and I said “I trust you, but I’m also praying.” Hours passed, no update. I decided to call my mom at around 11:30 because I needed to hear her voice to calm me down. She decided to call the clinic for an update. I waited for her update…

I honestly don’t know if she said anything before “good news” because those two words are all I heard. She had talked to the doctor and he said that Finn was a trooper and made it through the surgery. I got off the phone with her, and I broke down crying. I even fell to the floor. I remember saying “thank you God” over and over again. Finn was okay. He lived. He’s going to continue to live. I get to keep my best friend for longer than the 10 months we had each other.

Later on the same day, the doctor called me to update me. He basically told me the same thing he told my mom. He did an ultrasound of Finn’s heart and it was full of heart worms. He went through Finn’s carotid artery to his heart. He pulled out 33 (!) worms, some of which were 9-10 inches long. He did another ultrasound after the surgery and didn’t see one worm. He had mentioned to me before the surgery that he wouldn’t be able to get all the worms out, but that the treatment in the coming months would kill those.

We visited Finn, and he looked strong. He was on the IV and in ICU. He cried to come home with us, and it broke my heart, but knowing he would be okay helped. The doctor showed us the worms, which grossed me out but also made me angry. They had almost killed my dog. The doctor then showed us the ultrasounds that he took of Finn’s heart before and after the surgery. We were absolutely amazed at the improvement. The doctor said if Finn eats and his urine clears up, he could go home the next day.

The next day, October 10, I called to get an update. Finn was doing wonderful! He could go home at 4:30. At 4:30, my mom, my two nieces, my nephew and I all piled up in the car to bring Finn home. The doctor came in to talk to us and gave us an update and instructions for follow up care.

He was eating, and his urine had cleared up by noon.

Now I write this in the present tense.

Finn is sitting next to me as I write this. He has stitches in his neck which look like it’ll leave a pretty good battle wound. He’s sleeping peacefully; no heart murmur, no heavy breathing. I see him dreaming, and I pray he dreams good dreams. I pray that God puts a thought in his head that his mama did everything she could to save him, and that’s why she had to keep leaving him with the doctor. Because I did. I did everything I could, and for some reason, it worked.

I don’t know why God decided to not give up me even when I had given up on him. But he healed my dog. There’s no other way that Finn would have survived. Yes, I know the doctor knew what he was doing and I will always credit God and the doctor for saving my dog.

I always knew Finn had the heart and soul of a warrior, and this weekend proved it. He was an absolute rock star.

And now, as I sit here on the couch with my best friend next to me, alive, I can only tell you these things:

  1. It’s okay to cry in front of doctors, whether it’s a human doctor or an animal doctor. I’m pretty sure Dr. McDaniel and Dr. Craig have seen plenty of criers in their careers, and I was 1,000,000% one of them.
  2. Trust the doctor. He knows what he’s talking about 95% of the time. In Finn’s case, everything was 100% the whole time. I got nothing but the truth the whole time.

And the most important thing:

God is real.

 

 

If you want to follow Finn’s recovery, look up the hashtag #FinnTheWarrior and follow us on social media.

Facebook: Ali and Finn

Instagram: @aliandfinn

Twitter: @aliandfinn

 

Where I Belong

I’ve stared at the blank screen for days now and the words I want to write still won’t resonate on the screen. The right words are in my head, but for some reason, I can’t seem to type them.

My second college term is officially complete, but in my psychology class a couple of weeks ago, we talked about where we belong in the world. All of my classmates were answering without hesitation. Some answered church or other group, others with their best friend, children, husbands, and wives.

I couldn’t answer. I honestly have no idea where I belong.

Yes, I have my dog, I know, but it still gets lonely since he can’t talk. I don’t have any friends that I talk to regularly or hang out with. I feel like a complete outcast in my family, both immediate and extended. I don’t belong to a church anymore. Even when I went to church, I didn’t belong.

I know this looks like I am begging for sympathy, but that is far from the truth. I don’t need attention. In fact, I hate it.

Where do I belong? Where can I feel like I’m not completely worthless? I don’t belong at home, at church, at school, even online. I try to talk to people on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, even on Xbox Live, and I get nothing. I don’t have a husband or kids. I just truly do not belong anywhere.

I never knew I was having this problem until that particular class a couple of weeks ago. Being a psychology major has opened my eyes to so many problems within myself that I never knew I had. I never really realized that I had them, so I’ve never talked to a therapist about them. But now I can work on fixing them.

So, positive? I know I have this problem of unbelonging so I can hopefully fix it.

Negative? The problem itself.

What about you? Where do you belong?