September marks eight years since I’ve started my private practice counseling endeavor. I want to start by thanking all my past and present clients who have shared their lives with me! It is a honor and privilege to do what I do. Over these eight years my practice has gone from part time to full time, private pay to accepting insurance and every thing in between. I’ve been able to hire an administrative assistant, utilize Insight Medical Billing for billing purposes, and I’ve hosted support groups for grief, young women’s empowerment, vision boards, and most recently a trip to the Demolition Zone (a great way to release frustrations). My office have moved from Country Club Road to Charnelton Street in Eugene, Oregon. I’ve been able to work with a professional production company, Blazing Heart Productions to create a video to help promote the work I do. More recently I’ve honed in my practice to specialize in adolescents and have been providing Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy. Grateful to have stayed healthy during this pandemic so far and I have continued providing in person as well as telehealth sessions. Love that my office space offers enough room to stay socially distanced. With isolation as one of the major challenges of this pandemic, I find it even more essential to offer in person services for folks who feel comfortable to do that. As always, take good care. Jasmine
This week I wrote my first meditation which can be heard on my podcast. Decided I would put the words to this mediation here:
I am a rock in a river…water rolling over me as leaves pass above me…fish swim by. The dirt beneath me…the birds sing as the wind picks up….the smell of the woods, water, of nature, the air, the green foliage. The river flows into a lake which slows the current and the water warms in the sun. The trees stand tall as the wind ruffles the leaves, as one slowly falls to the river below…
I am a rock in a lake, beneath the fish, birds, prey. I am smoothed by the rushing of water and rocks beside me. I am one in a million and still uniquely different in color, shape, and where I am in the world.
As the sun sets, the day cools, the crickets and frogs sing. Shadows cast making new colors, hues through a different light as the last rays of sun fall behind the hills and the moon and the stars begin to show themselves. The water cools and echoes. Creatures sleep as others wake for the night. Different sounds surround me. The air is a little more still.
I am a rock on the edge of a lake beneath the twinkling stars in a sky that is limitless.
The moon shines brightly over head and is full and round. At the waters edge there is the sound of water against the fallen tree limbs, between the reeds of grass.
I can be seen amongst the other rocks, my colors change with the light’s reflection on water with indigo, forest green, and sienna.
As the night recedes, a new day approaches. I’m reminded of all the opportunities before me, the past behind me, and here, where I am…..I am still…Calm. Present. Hopeful.
In January I got the idea that a podcast might be fun to do. This feels like less pressure to me then video and six months later I finally recorded my first one! It was much easier to do than I had thought and I had a couple clients inspire me to record a meditation as they both use those to decrease anxiety and ground themselves. I have one other meditation I want to record and then I think my third podcast I will cover how I use Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR) in my practice since it is a newer technique I have been trained in that I’ve seen some really positive results from. I welcome my readers and listeners to submit topics they might like me to cover. Right now I think my goal is to do one podcast a week if I can. This might help me update my blog more as I can add written content as well as promote the podcast. As always I appreciate finding new ways to support my clients as we all continue to heal and process all we have been through this past year.
A client of mine reminded me that it is Mental Health Awareness Month. I have known her for years and have had the pleasure of her more recently returning to counseling. Over the past months she has talked about wanting to write about her story to sobriety and how she might do that. She considered writing her own blog but is still not sure if she is ready for that. When we were talking about her upcoming anniversary of her overdose I read what she had already written and suggested that if she wanted, I would be more than willing to feature her post here with her permission. Clients walk into my office with so many stories of pain, suffering, shame, and fear and I believe by sharing those stories often this allows for some healing, less shame and suffering and an understanding that we need to treat ourselves with the kindness we would show our loved ones. Honored to share Amber’s story with her permission this month.
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.”-Maya Angelou
With May being Mental Health Awareness month, I thought it was the perfect time to share my story; to open up about my struggles with addiction and what I have overcome to get to where I am today. For a year now (as of today) I have kept a huge secret from most of the people in my life and it has been weighing heavy on my heart. I am terrified of the judgement that may come along with sharing this, I worry this will change the way some of you may see me, but I also know that many people will relate to what I am about to share and if my story can help any one, that is all that matters! I am scared – but here it goes.
I come from a family of addicts, unfortunately we fight with both alcohol and drug addictions. I have seen first hand what addiction can do to a person, to the family, and to loved ones who surround them. I, however, never thought I would succumb to the fight. I never thought I would have to label myself as an addict.
On May 25th, 2020 (only 5 days before my 26th birthday), I overdosed in my home, from opiates. I am alive and here because of my husband. He saw my face turn white and he saw me gasp for my last breath. He gave me CPR for about ten minutes until the paramedics arrived. I was dead. The paramedics administered two doses of Narcan; I came back about a minute after the second dose was given to me. I was rushed to the hospital where I stayed for about five hours – I think I must have been in and out of consciousness because I remember the hospital trip being very short, maybe two hours tops. As I laid in the hospital bed, the guilt began to set in. I was questioned and I was treated terribly, everyone was rude and acted like I was a criminal or a big time junky. I felt extremely ashamed and belittled. It’s hard to find the right words for what happened that night, it felt like a nightmare and it was just terrifying. We got home from the hospital around 5am. I couldn’t get out of bed for days. I cried, I slept, I couldn’t eat. The guilt and the shame was overwhelming. And then the withdrawals set in. Those withdrawals were MISERABLE. My whole body cramped up, it felt like I had been hit by a bus. Nights were restless and I would move back and forth from the bed to the couch. I was in so much pain. I remember one night crying and asking Daily, “How am I going to come back from this?” I thought I had ruined my life and his. I’ve never felt such guilt as I felt then. I had kept my drug use a secret from Daily. When we first got together he knew I drank a lot and he knew I would take pain pills here and there, but I never told him how serious my problem really was. So, the truth of my problem finally came out that night as I lay dying in my husband’s arms. My heart was broken knowing that I put Daily through that. He now has PTSD from that night. Any time I am snoring in my sleep, he will check on me, because it might be me gasping for air again…Even though I put him through that, he never once has shamed me, he never yelled at me or belittled me, he never made me feel bad for what I did, he NEVER turned his back on me. I am forever grateful to have this man by my side.
Looking back now I see clearly that my problem began many years ago. At the age of 17 I started partying every weekend, drinking to the point of blacking out and dabbling in drugs for the first time. By the age of 21, my problem became worse as I would go out to bars every weekend and drink to the point of blacking out. When I was 22 I had a DUI. By 23 I was drinking more frequently, not just on the weekends. At this point I was drinking to numb it all, to get rid of all of the feelings that I didn’t want to feel. I was in a very sad state of mind at the age of 23. This is also the age that the excessive pill popping began and this secret was kept for two years. I would take anything I could get my hands on – uppers to get me through the day, downers to knock the edge off, and painkillers to numb the rest. By 25, taking pills was a daily thing. I always had something on hand. Many people began to notice a difference in me. Some knew I was taking pills, but no one knew the true extent of my problem. I never realized I had a problem until it almost took my life. After my overdose I was sad and depressed for days, I didn’t know if I would ever get my life back on track. But, after a few days I got up and got going. I realized I had much more to live for and my purpose awaits! Miracles began happening for me and things just started falling into place. I knew I was going to be ok.
Days after my overdose I got approved for health insurance after not having any for years, this was huge! They fully covered the ambulance and hospital bill – a weight was lifted from my shoulders. I then found a new primary care Doctor who was amazing and so helpful in getting me the extra help I needed. I also was able to meet with a psychiatrist who diagnosed me with PTSD, Bipolar Depression and anxiety. I was put on the proper medication and it has helped me tremendously. I was feeling better, so I chopped my hair off and found some new confidence within myself. I got out of my comfort zone by going on a 3 day, soul awakening hiking trip with a good friend. And I even got a new job! My overdose was not the end of me, it was my new beginning. A fresh start.
Being an addict is a daily battle. Some days are harder than others. It is crazy to me that the one thing that almost took my life, is the one thing that constantly consumes my mind. This is a battle I will not lose. I will fight everyday to stay sober, this beautiful life is worth the fight. I share my story not only to overcome the guilt and shame that I have felt, but I also share my story in hopes that it will help someone else. If I can help anyone at all, then maybe I have found my purpose. Mental illness and addiction are so much more common than they are given credit. It seems as though both topics typically get swept under the rug and often hidden in shame. I hope to bring more awareness to both. To those struggling, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. If you need someone to talk to, please reach out to me. I am here. We are in this together.
Today, May 25th (and every day) I celebrate life! This day is a reminder to me that not everyday is promised. Live life to the fullest and know that you are not alone.
When thinking about therapy, a person would normally imagine two people sitting diagonal from each other. One speaking their truth and the other taking notes on a tiny pad of paper with a pen. For some, that might be how therapy is, but for others, it can be more interactive. I asked a few people what therapy meant to them and whether they preferred it in person or telehealth during this crazy world that we all live in. It was an even split between which they preferred over another but they are both equally productive in their own unique ways.
In person therapy allows for the person seeking the help to see who they may be talking to and for some, they feel they can be more open during in person sessions. One of the few interviewed said, “In person allows someone to pay more attention to the person talking, less distractions than at home where you can purposely distract yourself with other things.” They make a great point. If a person is in an environment that isn’t their own, they are more likely to focus on the task at hand rather than finding things to do and avoiding the session all together.
Whereas some prefer telehealth due to the fact that they feel they can be more free in their speech due to being more comfortable in their home. One said, “I don’t mind telehealth as long as video is being used in order for me to see who I am speaking to”. But it doesn’t always have to be a video call, it can be a normal phone call. It has been noted that most teens would pick telehealth over in person so they don’t have to leave the comfort of their bed and it allows them to be more open in an environment they trust.
Each person has an opinion about which they feel more comfortable doing and that is completely okay. Having someone from the outside perspective to talk to can be beneficial with the pandemic and quarantine. Even if you don’t believe in counseling or whatever it may be, be sure to check on your family and friends during this crazy time. Maybe someone you know could use an outside friend, whether it is in person or over a screen because you never know who is hurting inside until you talk about it.
Over the hill & through the woods… It feels like 2020 brought us some new different sort of woods that we were unaware & unprepared for. The climate has been unpredictable..frightening…forceful… it could put us in awe.
The twists & turns… we’re unsure of the stops… the lights are both red & green. Our hearts beat faster, our anxiety higher, the loneliness more apparent. The changes….. in finances, jobs, schools, businesses, dots on floors, plexiglass up, wash, wash, wash your hands, sanitizing, signs of new hours adjusted, new hours worked, lay offs, hunger…And still more change as we Zoom; commute through our homes… if we are blessed to have a home & the technology to do so.
And still….we age….grow….live.
We now may stop to consider the ramifications of giving and receiving a hug, a handshake. Our faces are covered so the baby can’t see our smile….the stranger behind the mask.
There are so many firsts….haven’t those generally been a good thing, a goal to work towards? How many days has it been since I saw a movie in a theater, watched a live in person performance, played soccer, or planned a trip that included an airplane?
Somehow it seems like a break up we didn’t see coming. I didn’t know that was going to be the last kiss, the last day I would walk into school, the last day of not thinking about… 6… feet.
The list of to dos before I leave my home…..mask, hands washed, sanitizer, temperature checked…..and the question… do I really need to leave? Is this worth the risk?
With all the pain, sorrow & grief…the grief of not attending a memorial, a graduation, a wedding, the grief of not getting to be with family or friends at all or…. the same way. People are dying alone… more than ever before.
And still….. there’s light, the unexpected. A vaccine becoming available at a pivotal time, new leaders preparing to take hold of their part of the reigns, past leaders teaching us tales we can learn from. Perspectives have changed….. some things can no longer be taken for granted.
And still…… we are human. Flawed, beautiful, unique beings living amongst one another. Trying to turn on the flashlights in the darkness, to show one another……that despite distance, despair, sorrow, conflict, war, and trauma…..that there’s still the genuine, kind gesture. A laugh, a masked smile and joy in a moment to share if only brief…..
It lights up a day.
~Jasmine Rose Penter, LCSW 12/20/2020