We are all experiencing such adversity and challenge and we worry constantly about how this is affecting our children no matter how old they are. There has been so much loss this year on so many different levels. Loss of life, loss of job, loss of home, the ability to buy food to eat, loss of security and feelings of safety, loss of contact in the way that the human condition thrives, and many of us wake up each day wondering “how does this end?“ And this year due to COVID, no Thanksgiving, no Hanukkah or Christmas in person. It’s a “ZOOMOLIDAY.”
I worry about my adult children in the different challenging situations that they are facing. I worry about my 12 year old granddaughter, Rosie, and wonder what emotional and physical challenges may manifest in the future related to the pandemic. I worry about my pregnant daughter, Olivia, who is a school counselor and COVID cases that are in her school, and her baby, my future granddaughter’s health, my daughter, Sarah, who is feeling deeply saddened by a broken relationship and the social distancing from our family and friends where hugs and connection are healing and that which she craves and longs for, especially now, and my beloved son, Matthew, who moved last week and placed us further away in proximity, and that is heartbreaking for both of us. I visited him and spent quality time with him every week. I am already crying as even more distance now prevails.
I worry. I cry. I pray. I meditate. I practice self care. And each day I get up, show up, stay connected to my loving family, friends, colleagues, and clients, and go to work. I live my life believing that God is in control and that these experiences are planned for us for reasons known only to Him. I trust Him. I have great faith that one day, in the coming years that we will all be reunited and truly appreciate all of what we have been blessed with…family.
Happy Thanksgiving however you are celebrating.
Love and blessings,
AWARENESS OF SELF, OTHERS, AND SPIRIT
As we practice awareness of ourselves and others through spiritually aligned actions, especially when we are met with conflict, it is helpful to remember these four suggestions in arriving at a mutually beneficial and constructive resolution:
1. Do not react.
2. Listen without judgement of others, and practice non-judgement of ourselves.
3. BREATHE…Observe your feelings and emotions, allow them to pass through you and, if warranted, take a timeout.
4. Respond with respect, sincerely validate all feelings, and state a clear intention of a positive outcome that will be beneficial to both parties.
Recently, I created these four steps as a way to remind myself of how to practice implementing spiritually aligned actions, at a glance. My friend and colleague, and the author of the foreword to this book, David Rahman and I disagreed on his initial draft to be used.
In an email David sent me the draft, and as a teacher, I could see a few places that, in my opinion, needed to be edited for clarity of meaning. I edited the foreword, and sent it back for David’s approval. David sent it back immediately and said that he was not okay with some of the edits as he felt that it changed the meaning of what he was trying to convey.
Immediately, I felt old triggers sneak in. As a child and young adult, I was never heard and my feelings had to be kept quiet. Whenever I wanted to discuss or share my feelings, I was told to “get out of my sight or I’ll break your neck!” So, I was allowing my past traumatic experiences to bleed into this present situation, and David had not said or done anything remotely similar to my childhood experience that warranted the rush of feelings that surfaced! My heart began to race, my head got a tight feeling, and I felt hot all over. Without thinking or breathing, or allowing myself the space to understand David’s words, or to offer validation of what he was feeling, I sent the email right back to him and said, “Then maybe we shouldn’t use your foreword.” I was literally in a fight/flight mindset. I had hundreds of irrational thoughts swirling around in my mind that, looking back, had absolutely nothing to do with the present situation. So, having an old behavior mindset (we all falter, but it’s how quickly we recover that counts!) was my way of “being heard.” What happens with trauma is it leaves an emotional, behavioral and mental imprint. So, when something feels the same as that traumatic painful experience, it activates your thought patterns linked to the initial trauma. This makes you think, act, react and feel in the same way you did when it first happened even though it is a different experience. David emailed back and said, “Okay, we won’t use it.”
The moment that I read his words, it was as if Spirit embraced all of me and suggested I reach out to David coming from a humble, loving, and spiritually aligned action. I felt an immediate calm. I texted David and asked if we could have a conversation, and he said, “Of course!” David and I are close friends in addition to being colleagues, and I admire him in his own right as a man and as a business man who helps thousands around the world who are living with mental health challenges to “reset their mindset,” and I value his friendship. So, we were going to FaceTime in an hour (David lives in the U.K. and we FaceTime a few times a week). Before then, I wanted to write down, as a reminder, my spiritually aligned action(s) that would offer an outcome we could both be excited about, and that would act as a reminder to myself to remain present throughout our dialogue.
The four steps listed above came pouring onto the paper immediately. I knew Spirit was speaking through me as I wrote it down and placed it in front of me on my bed next to my laptop where I would soon FaceTime with David.
As I allowed David to explain why he was feeling that some of the edits were not edits he could live with, I could feel my anger/anxiety escalating and I could hear intrusive thoughts yelling at him, “You’re not right! I’m a teacher!” Trauma is hard to tame, but not impossible, and because I wrote down the steps I wanted to follow and had it within view, I kept saying to myself, “David has the right to feel how he is feeling, and I must validate his feelings as I would like my feelings to be validated. I listened to his words with an intermittent reminder to myself to come back to the present, and that this situation is the present and in no way linked to, or reflective of my past trauma.
We spoke and negotiated for about an hour, and the result is the eloquent and heartfelt foreword that we agreed upon.
When we are aware of our trauma and how it can pop up without warning, and we are willing to heal it, and we are connected to the Universe/God/Spirit, we can create magnificent and permanent change.
“Throughout my active prescription drug addiction, I was blessed with a strong and loving connection to the Universe/God/Spirit. So, although my mindset was altered by the pills that I was taking, I still experienced a deep awareness to Spirit. I knew, intuitively, that I was gravely ill and that I needed to tell someone that I needed help to save my life, or that my death would be imminent. It was so clear to me that the more I prayed, the more I heard and felt Spirit present offering me many opportunities to ask for help. I would experience serendipity. I would receive messages and what I refer to as “signs” that would offer me solutions and reassurance that I was surrounded by loving Spirit. It is even a stronger presence today than ever before. My senses are highly aligned with Spirit’s connection and daily communication.
I can recall on the morning before I asked for help Spirit speaking to me through a moderator on the morning NBC newscast. I remember it so vividly and knew that the Universe/God/Spirit was speaking directly to me. I was completely awake, and aware of an intense spiritual awakening happening for me. The newscaster at that time, Matt L., began talking about prescription drug addiction and the seriousness of the way it had been on the rise, and the loss of life related to addiction. He went on further to say that there was help available, and offered resources. I remember this newscaster looking directly into the camera and saying, “There is help available.” I got a visceral feeling in the pit of my stomach. I knew he was speaking to me on behalf of the Universe/God/Spirit. I immediately began sobbing and saying, “Thank you,” to God for this reassurance. Being so self aware of my truth, and of my deeply rooted spiritual connection allowed me to finally speak my truth to my primary care physician, Dr. Bruce Levitt. Dr. Levitt sent me to the emergency room at our local hospital, and after 24 hours post medical stabilization, I was transferred to the detox and recovery unit. After five days, I left for California to visit my 100 year old grandmother who was my loving lifeline throughout my life, where I thought I would rest and recover on my own terms. However, after just 48 hours, I became aware of just how physically and mentally ill I was by the Grace of God’s profound presence. I was going through a severe withdrawal from having no pills for about a week. I was experiencing flu like symptoms that were crippling. I was experiencing severe cardiac symptoms, gastrointestinal symptoms, and severe irritability that I could not calm. I was experiencing serious delusions where I began seeing things and hearing things that nobody else heard or saw. I was painfully aware that I needed intensive treatment, inpatient, and medical supervision.
As alone as I felt in my mental and physical pain, I was so cognizant of my Spiritual connection and felt Divinely loved and supported. I never felt judged. I had a distinct “knowing” that the moment I would be ready to ask for this next stage of care, the Universe would guide me to safety through Spirit. Once I spoke my truth, out loud, and asked God to “show me the way out of this hopelessness, helplessness, and disease,” I was led directly and immediately to the people who could provide me with the care that I needed, and the tools to begin my recovery. I picked up the phone and called a facility in Costa Mesa, California. One of the substance abuse counselors that I met at the hospital during my five day detox in New York, provided me with this contact information when I left the hospital in case I decided to ask for further intensive care in the future. This was Divine intervention lovingly guiding me, and I was so aware of God’s plan. All I had to do was ask, and I would be guided. I asked, and I received.”
A NEW BEGINNING…BY THE GRACE OF GOD
“In early 2013, shortly after I began my own recovery from lifelong addiction to prescription pills, and co-occurring disorders, my son, Matthew, and I, began a blog and website (no longer online) called The Rx Diaries, where my son designed a platform for me to write about my recovery from substance use disorder and mental illness. He came up with the words, “recovery, rebirth, release,” and used a butterfly as the focal point of my logo. No truer words resonate with me. The butterfly is an accurate depiction of my journey. I have broken free from the darkness, abandoned the cocoon, and I am free to live in my truth.
We have many “rebirths” throughout our lives, and each time we release what we learned that no longer serves us. As we shed that skin, we continue to learn, grow, and evolve, and to remain in a state of ease within our truest and highest self, where we are also able to offer ourselves, fully, to helping others on their journeys.
Recovery from anything is ongoing. It is a journey, and it is all about what road we choose to travel. There are times when we travel in the darkness and there are times when we hit a roadblock. We must remember that as we remain focused, as we remain in faith, as we remain determined, the sun will shine the light on us once again so we may continue on our way home. For me, I chose the road less travelled, yet have never lost my way.
It is said that everyone loves a comeback story. This is especially true for the woman who came back from a life of substance use disorder and co-occurring disorders. The woman with an inspirational story to share that offers hope to others struggling with this disease. A woman that nearly died of this disease in early 2013.
On April 2, 2013, I got ready for bed and in a moment where I had some clarity, I dropped to my knees and asked the Universe/God/Spirit to please help me, to save my life. I said, “God/Universe/Spirit, if you show me the way out of this, I will devote my life to any path you put before me.”
I have always felt a deep spiritual connection to the Universe through music, and said to the Universe at the end of my prayer, “In the next song on the radio, please give me a sign that you are with me.” I sat down on the edge of my bed, turned on the radio, and the first song to play was, “Jesus, Take the Wheel.” The words touched my heart, and I became so emotional. “Jesus, take the wheel, take it from my hands. I can’t do this on my own. I’m letting go… So give me one more chance. Save me from this road I’m on. Jesus, take the wheel.”
I went to bed knowing that I would soon be given specific guidance from the Universe that would ultimately save my life. I woke up the next morning and I heard a strong intuitive voice say to me, “Call for help. It is time.” And I heard this voice tell me that “everything is going to be alright.” I have been listening to that voice ever since. April 3, 2013 was the day that my life was saved by the Grace of God.”
Each of us, in our own individual way, is experiencing a response to our current global Pandemic.
And, we all have a right to our response. We are experiencing an impending mental health crisis. Lives, jobs, homes lost. Others paralyzed in fear that disables them from leaving their homes…even for food. Shortages of food and supplies. Loved ones, friends and neighbors succumbing to COVID19…maybe even oneself.
Our children feeling ongoing uncertainty, fear, and many a loss of experiences such as prom, sports and even a graduation ceremony, distance learning which for many is extremely challenging for a variety of reasons, especially if one has learning challenges…all of which occurred in the form of a sucker punch…never saw it coming.
As a mental health educator, holistic health practitioner, and teacher, I am receiving many requests for wellness support and mental health support.
This is always a positive and proactive approach to recovery. As professionals, we don’t have all of the answers, but as for me, I share all that I have in wellness strategies, and practice my training in mental health first aid both for youth, and for adults, as well as suicide safety. And, when I cannot serve the potential clients, and/or family and friends, I refer out to a select few mental health/holistic professionals with whom I collaborate and for whom I have the utmost highest regard.
A trauma response may look like debilitating anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts and behaviors, extreme sadness and excessive worry, and an inability to function in daily living activities… The inability to live, laugh, love, and learn.
if you or a loved one is experiencing any of the above symptoms or anything that mimics these symptoms for two weeks or more, and it is impacting your daily living activities with severe impact so that you may not be eating, eating too much, not sleeping, or sleeping too much, unable to find the joy in anything, excessive fear that causes physical symptoms such as headaches, gastrointestinal symptoms, lethargy, not interacting with loved ones, or self-medicating with drugs or alcohol, I urge you to reach out for support. You can reach out to your primary care physician, and through telemedicine, your local mental health providers, social workers, psychologist, and even peer specialists. There are also some wonderful APPS for anxiety.
in New York State, there is a wonderful online resources and training center that provides an abundance of resources and support for educators, families, students, and community partners.
For this information, visit http://www.mentalhealthednys.org. Also, feel free to email me for information on resources in the Hudson Valley region at WendyBlanchard044@gmail.com. Please put the word RESOURCES in the subject line.
If you are feeling unwell, you are not alone. Please reach out immediately for support. Everyone who has a trauma response to our current situation will experience different symptoms and these symptoms may change as time goes on. Early intervention is key!
With love, blessings and prayers,