May is Mental Health Awareness Month

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.
~Amber H.

Through the Woods

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

Happy New Year

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As I reflect on 2017 I’m looking forward to what 2018 will bring.  I’m beyond honored to have welcomed new clients as well as continue to support some who have been with me since the start (September 2013 to be exact).  What I’ve noticed this year is a deeper understanding of the complexities of grief.  Grief has been one of my specialties – one of those topics I’ve always been comfortable thinking about and in my adult years have pursued looking at how to talk about when my own personal grief shook the very ground I was walking on.  I find the research on healing and trauma fascinating and continue to learn about the neuroscience behind this work (which I fell in love with as I completed my last stent in school).

This last year I put on my first Young Women’s Empowerment Class where I introduced gratitude jars, vision boards, and journaling as ways to pay attention to hopes and dreams, as well as barriers and challenges that get in the way of those very same hopes and dreams.  In February 2018 I’m putting on my first Young Women’s Retreat which will incorporate some of those same ideas however in a different setting~ at the coast in a cozy house where I find healing comes more naturally with the ocean air, the sound of the waves, the quiet, music, creations, and a whole lot of laughing.

So thank you, to everyone walking alongside me as we journey through this thing called life.

With Deep Gratitude,
Jasmine

 

If you can make the world a little better, then you have accomplished a great deal.

Summer is in full swing and things at Ignite are going well.  The Young Women’s Empowerment Class completed last month and they liked it so much we are going to continue monthly check ins!  I’m hoping there will be more interest in this class to start a new one this fall.  Here are our final vision boards: 18556764_973500899419846_3954842052511610983_o

I’ve welcomed some new clients recently who are looking for support as they transition out of unhealthy relationships, as well as some couples who are trying to find healthier ways to communicate.  Stress can impact our relationships, how we communicate, as well as how we make progress towards our goals.  Self-care is a must as we manage day to day responsibilities as well as find ways to address the grief and loss in our lives.

One of my favorite subjects is gratitude.  Finding ways to pay attention to what we have rather than what is missing can really make a difference in our frame of mind.  Gratitude jars were a hit in my class as well as many of my clients are tracking gratitude in their journals.   Right now I have a couple more spots open for new clients; I hope that if you or someone you know could benefit from counseling or a life coach that you will contact me!  17635441_925114810925122_5231406512144647996_o

Taking Care of Yourself After a Break Up

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A few clients and some friends have been going through some tough break ups recently. Break ups can be very difficult when tensions are high, emotions are raw, and they can be complicated more when couples have been living together as well. It is important to be patient with yourself as well as to utilize supports.
Here are some things to consider doing for yourself as you go through this transition:
1. Journal: Write down your feelings, experiences, and don’t hold back.
2. Listen to music- find music that speaks to your heart!
3. Lean on your friends and family; tell them what will be helpful in supporting you.
4. Stay active- staying in may feel easier and
5. Separate yourself mentally, physically, and emotionally from the person. Disconnect from them on social media.
6. Take time for yourself.  A quiet book, a soak in the bath tub, a walk in the park?  Taking time to reflect can be very beneficial.
7. Pet therapy – animals can be a great way to receive physical affection and can help keep you in the moment.
8. See a counselor- find someone to talk this out with. The benefits of using a third party is that you can get perspective from someone not attached to your ex. This person can also help you grieve your relationship, set new goals, and provide a safe environment to share what is on your heart and mind.
9. Try something new. This can help you focus on something exciting and challenging in your life.

Pay attention to your body and give yourself time to heal.  Know that you are processing a loss which can impact your life in numerous ways and staying in tune with this can help as you rediscover this new chapter in  your life.

How to Know When a Relationship Has Run Its Course

Lately I’ve been working with some clients who are struggling in their relationships.  Feelings include frustration, anger, resentment, loneliness, pain, confusion, and sadness.  Questions I’ve seen clients ask themselves include:

  • Have I done all I can to save this relationship?
  • Am I ready to lose this person from my life entirely?
  • What else will I lose in my life if I say goodbye to this person (friends, family, financial stability, home, belongings)?
  • Will I be able to find love again?
  • Will I regret leaving?
  • Will I be happier?

Often times there are imbalances in relationships that can be looked at and discussed and those include the division of chores, time spent together, financial discrepancies, health issues, lack of support systems, and conflicting visions/goals for the future.  It can be helpful for couples to keep talking about what they want their lives to look like both individually and as a couple.  Too often we may assume odd dreams remain the same, but the truth is that we are evolving being and what we wanted 3 years ago may have changed.relationship

There are other signs that indicate that the relationship is an unhealthy one and those include:

  • physical and sexual violence
  • name calling and degrading comments
  • extreme jealousy
  • controlling behaviors
  • problematic alcohol use
  • drug use
  • cheating
  • lying
  • lack of intimacy

If you find any number of these problems in your relationship it would be beneficial for you to talk to someone to make a safe place to reduce the chance of harm.  Intimate partner violence is a serious matter and utilizing professionals is highly recommended.  Use this hotline if you or someone you know needs to talk to someone now: (800)799-SAFE (800.799.7233).

Knowing when to leave can often be a difficult process.  If you find challenges in your relationship are not improving but you are not ready to leave, consider couples counseling which can help foster difficult discussions about what each individual wants and needs.  It can provide time to reflect on what’s working and what’s not working, and a counselor can provide tools for discussions and goal setting that can be beneficial.

Letting go can be difficult and accompanying that is a process of grief and loss.  Remember this does not need to take place in isolation and many could benefit from individual counseling at this point.  This can be helpful in the grieving process, taking time to re-group and think about what you want in your life, and reflect on what you’ve learned about yourself in this process.