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Long time, no see!

Hi everyone! It’s been a long, long time since I last wrote in this blog.

What’s kept me away?
• I started school and became a full-time student (I made honors last semester!)
• Willow and I left the shelter and moved into our own apartment.
• Willow turned TWO.
• I’ve been taking on more responsibilities at work and I’ve been working hard in school.

There are a lot of days that I’ve been happy and hopeful and staying afloat with a lot going on.

There have also been a lot of days that I’m busy all day. When I wake up early and stay up late and I’m exhausted and stressed. And that has been hard.

But I’m also staying afloat, in fact I’m doing well, too. Not all the time, of course, but still, I’m not giving up. If this were a few years ago, normally in a time like this, I wouldn’t be ok. I’d run at the slightest feeling of defeat, self-destruct then hide away.
At a time like this, I would be doing the worst I’d ever done, again.

But, I’m not. I’ve been doing better than I remember being for a long time. And I’m so grateful for that. I feel like I have found who I always was underneath the things that glued me to the floor.

Every so often though, I feel scared. Scared because I know I have so much at stake, and because I know I have come so far.
I wonder, sometimes, why am I ok? I wonder not if but when I will fail?
Then I remember the same things that scare me also help me be ok. They motivate me, support me and remind me to keep working. I think about the things that make me want to be ok.

I think about Willow, about being able to do more than just function, about being hopeful for our future, about school and my job, and I think about peer support. I think about the things I went through, the journey of shifting between the fine lines of patient and peer. About getting to speak with people who I understand, people who are struggling through high school with depression or anxiety or while fighting with their family every night. I think about how much peer support and the opportunity to use my story to better empathize with others, which have helped me be ok in times like this.

And I even though sometimes I feel scared, anxious, or doubtful – I feel good about continuing to move forward. I don’t feel tempted to stop, or give up, I feel excited to see what comes next; that fills me and keeps me going forward through fear and doubt.

How To Clean Your Wounds

Well my friends, tis been a while no? Almost a month actually, wow. I had a girlfriend I had been dating for a little over a year and a half, and we had a very healthy relationship together, she had also been there for me throughout my whole recovery process. She had seen me at my bottom, and watched me climb back up. But unfortunately a few weeks ago she had left for college in Florida and decided she didn’t want to continue our relationship here while she was away, and so I had to take it like a champ lol. When you’re that emotionally involved in a relationship it’s obviously quite difficult to come to terms with a decision your partner might make for decent reasons. In this case, it was purely situational, and I can’t make her stay with me or stay in the area, I needed to let her go because she is starting a new chapter in her life and I’m not at the same point as her yet. SO, the first days were obviously very rough, then it started to get a little better for a week, then a little tough again, but we’re back on track now baby. I decided it would be good for me to maybe hide her snapchat story from my feed and get rid of some pictures of us to help myself in that healing process since they became difficult to revisit. I have always known, and continue to know friends, or peers that take an excessive amount of time to grieve over the loss of a relationship. A divorce is one thing, and taking it on the chin for a few months is completely normal. But when one takes 7 months, 9 months, over a year, to let a past relationship hurt them it begins to become unhealthy and starts to affect character and personality. That was something I was very scared about in the beginning, having the healing process last an eternity, because I know how good I am at feeding into negative emotions, but this time around I decided to do some things differently to help myself. So here are some of those things I plan on sharing in hopes to help the next person in line dealing with a heartbreak.

Take a Break from the Person for a While:
I know it’s difficult not to talk to your other half, ask them questions, see what they’re doing, look for closure, etc. But this can become problematic especially if it seems like the other person might be taking the situation better than you are. The best thing to do is maybe hide them from your social media, delete or set aside pictures of them, and try to distract yourself the best you can when you get the urge to talk or text them.

Healthy Distractions:
It’s important to utilize and sports or hobby’s you might have in order to use them as “Healthy” distractions to keep your mind running off to bad places, which happens all too often if you don’t stay busy. Distractions you obviously want to avoid are drinking and drugging. Even on an unrelated note, say your friends invite you out to party, or have a few drinks, it’s still not a good idea because your subconscious mind is still vulnerable and has the potential to take you down with your emotions either during or after you get loaded.

Music:
Music is a very strong communicator, and has the power to manipulate your emotions. So maybe listening to those songs that remind you of her/him isn’t such a good idea after all, because in the words of the great late Ronny James Dio “They will only bring you DOOOOWWWWWWWWWWWWWOOOOWWWNNNNN”. Love songs, Sad songs, Nostalgic Songs, cross those off the list my friends, try listening to empowering music, feel good music, upbeat music, calm music, even angry music, whatever will scramble and occupy your brain so you’re not left thinking about what was and could’ve been.

Okay that’s all I’ve got for right now, otherwise I’m gonna fall asleep, here’s that Dio song:

Dio – “Don’t Talk To Strangers”

Voices 4 Hope

Voices 4 Hope is a peer run website that (similar to us) aims to connect young people with mental illness to each other with the goal of living happily and independently. They also use Young Adult peer voice to drive research and create new treatment that are helpful to the people who know most- the ones with lived experience!
Sounds cool, right?
Check them out!

Today, I Was Triggered

Today I was triggered.

It happened early in the day. I woke up tired, so tired. But I was happy, I was ok.
I looked out of my bedroom window. My small bedroom inside of a shelter, where I sleep alone with my daughter.
It wasn’t raining, just wet, it was dim and the air looked wet. It looked so comfortable.
I blinked, not a normal quick blink, the type that lasts years and years and sends images of memories running through your head. I was in Redding, waking up for school, living with my mom and my brother.
And for a moment, without quite realizing it, I became sad, so sad.
My eyes got heavy, and my mind became wet with thoughts and feelings.

Then, in the shower, with soap all over my body, the water pressure slowed gradually until nothing came out. I stood there for a few moments, trying to wash the soap off myself with the final, cold drips falling from the pipes.
Willow smiled up at me and reached to be picked up.

While we were getting ready Willow began to cry. She whined, and reached, and yelled a few times. She wanted something, but I didn’t know what it was.
I made a conscious effort to keep hold of my patience and not become upset with her. We both just felt a lot and needed a moment.
So we sat in bed, half dressed, and read a few books and had some quiet time.
By the time we were ready, we both felt a little better.

Then, leaving a few minutes later than I intended, I stepped outside.
Again, I was triggered.

The air was filled with a smell and a feeling and a look that filled me with a feeling of memory.
Someone came from behind me and hit me in the back with a bag of feelings and thoughts and half-memories.

Nostalgia.

The memories weren’t whole; they were feelings that were happy and sad, and thoughts that were too fuzzy to really be thoughts. No actual memories came. It was a feeling of memory.
As I walked, I felt somber.
I was also really content. The air smelled so good, and I felt very mindful. I enjoyed the foggy air, and I felt calm and able to observe everything around me.

Suddenly, I would feel sad, or have an intense longing for something, although I wasn’t sure what for exactly.
I would look at a building, one I see every day, and it was as if I had just noticed it was there. Suddenly, I would be clubbed with this feeling of memory.
I saw the water through the buildings and felt a strong urge to wander.
I felt no urgency or sense of time, almost as if I had been suspended into my own universe, within the outside world but separated by a strong sense of awareness.
Or something like that.

As I continued to walk, I thought about how I felt, I wrote about it in my head.
My contentedness grew into a subtle happiness. I felt so calm.

The wind blew my hair over my eyes and nose. The smell of shampoo filled my nostrils.

Again this wave hit me.
No actual memories.
But the bodily sensation of being somewhere I wasn’t.
The nostalgia.
A vague mixture of happiness and sadness.
And many thoughts I couldn’t quite place or identify.

Today I was triggered.
And I’ve never quite handled it so well, and I’m so glad I was.

Spring is almost here! To celebrate, here is Willow destroying nature. (P.S. I do not pick flowers or disturb nature, someone gave this to us)

Faith-it Till You Make It

Time for me to switch up my usual story-writing technique and just give you guys the unfiltered version of Ally today. Not to say I’m not authentic in my other posts, but today it’s time to just tell it like it is. P.s. Why am I defending myself? The struggle of a self-esteem/anxiety issue is real, man. Ugh, anyways…

Have you ever heard of the term, fake-it till you make it?

As much as I feel as if I do that, it doesn’t sit right with me…

I’m not faking. I’m not good at faking. Why do I have to fake anything? Why can’t I just be?

So what is it that I’m feeling? Am I just putting on a good face? Am I simply putting aside my stuff so that I can focus at my task in front of me?

Or am I practicing faith?

Yeah, faith. That’s it.

I’m holding onto the faith that I will get through whatever feeling or situation is at hand. I’m “faithing-it till I make it”

Today is Wednesday and on Saturday, I will have two years in recovery. This is the longest time that I have ever been able to maintain my recovery since experimenting and abusing substances.

YAYYYY, right? Well, yeah, but it hasn’t been so “yay” for me lately.

So as many of you know, The Monkey is my addiction talking. He definitely has a love-hate relationship with anniversaries.

He loves to use them to try to stop them from even existing.
He loves to try to convince me that they are not worth celebrating.
He loves to try to use them as an opportunity to prey on my weaknesses.
He hates when I celebrate them, he hates when I continue in my recovery. And he hates when I don’t fall.

Literally for the past few weeks I have been overwhelmed. Someone had told me that it’s really common around the time for a recovery anniversary to be feeling this way. I’m definitely not some singled-out person, but MAN, it’s been difficult.

Let’s start with school. (pause: I’m already fighting the good fight by staying in school. Ally 1, Monkey 0)

Since I’m studying to be a Drug and Alcohol Recovery Counselor, take a wild guess of what I learn throughout the day: Drugs. People using drugs. How people use drugs (yes, actual videos and images of people getting high).

I can either have the perspective of:
A) Wow I’m so glad that’s not me anymore, I can’t wait to go out there and help people!
B) I could totally do that and no one would know.

You guys all know which perspective came from The Monkey right?

I was able to shake that off. I’m not gunna lie though, it was tough. EVERYTHING HAS BEEN EXTRA DIFFICULT THESE PAST FEW WEEKS. I mean, after watching a video of a young girl shoot up heroin (aka me two years ago), you’d think I would be like eww… but The Monkey, my addiction, wants me to focus on the head nod the girl gets, the way her eyes close as she falls into a world of relaxation and calmness.

Thank God (really, thank you Jesus) I focused more on the other parts of the video: the part where she couldn’t get a vein, the part where she was dripping with sweat and her hand was shaking when trying to inject because she was in deep withdrawal, the part where she sold her body to purchase the dope, the part where she waited hours for the drug dealer. Those parts kept me sober. (Ally 2, Monkey 0)

Work has been fine. Work is always great actually. My supervisor snuck a sweet cheering-me-on message on my calendar for me. My co-worker is encouraging me to celebrate. My colleagues are congratulating me. Speeches have been a bit tough. Standing in front of hundreds of people trying to make recovery look happy is difficult when deep inside you have The Monkey screaming at you saying, “YOU AREN’T SH*T!!!!!”

But remember what I said before, I’m Faithing-it till I make it.

Social life/home life: My family is the best, they really are. My mom was so empathetic towards me when I told her how much pressure I feel like I’m under. My dad is his usual uplifting spiritual self. My friends are great, the few I have (ew, did you hear that passive aggressive complaining I just did, smh!). Not gunna lie, I’ve been a hibernating bear lately. But I like to call it self-care. Cozied up in my super cozy-themed room watching a show with snacks (specifically Smartfood Popcorn falling into my shirt) and my furry son Pete, is literally the best.

But, I’ve definitely been extra cranky. Definitely snappy. Definitely rude.

I’m so sorry to anyone I’ve been cancelling plans with and have been snappy and sassy and just straight up evil towards.

Well, phew, that was quite the venting paragraphs.

If you skipped over a lot, here’s where you want to pick back up.

Those moments I’m feeling: overwhelmed, agitated, hateful, pressured, not good enough, worthless, useless, hopeless, and filled with sorrow…

I have to stop and think, “is this from God?”

It isn’t.

But God, I feel like this because blah blah blah blah blah”

Again, no matter how justified I am in a worldly sense of my feeling, God’s not giving me that.

He may allow it, but, what the enemy meant for evil, God allowed for good. (Genesis 50:20)

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

“But God WHYYYYYY why do I have to feel like this?! It’s overwhelming, I can’t do it, I’m going to break” – said me, billions of times.

Because no matter what, God is always good. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The same “good God” that I claimed He was when He lifted me up, held me tight, grasped my hand to guide me, and blessed me with recovery (and a job, school, family, food, shelter, etc) ….

Is the same “good God” that is allowing me to go through this trial, this temptation, this discouragement. When I am weak, He is strong. “Greater is He in me than in the World” (1 John 4:4)

But how do I see His goodness, when I’m being proud by being selfish and consumed with my own stuff, struggling to get through even just the seconds of the day?

Faith, humility.

(and sometimes mixed with some of my stubbornness because I’m not perfect)

God allows storms in our lives for so many reasons. Some we may never know, but some become known in ways we would never have imagined.

I never thought that my addiction and all the pain that came along with it, was going to happen to me so that I can help someone else.

I have to remember that these feelings that I hold onto don’t need to be stuck on me. I can give them to God and hold onto the faith that He will get me through them.

I thank God that He always, always gets me through every temptation, trial, barrier, and harmful feelings. He’s in the healing business, not hurting.

So as my two year anniversary is a few days away, I’m gunna continue to faith-it till I make it, because that’s truth, that authenticity.

Faking something doesn’t seem right, because you are really doing it, even if it’s just externally or even internally.

No matter how many different ways my addiction tries to stop my anniversary, recovery has a different plan.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Hebrews 11:1

CT DMHAS Bed Availability Tool

Looking for help but can’t find anything available?

Check out this new tool that CT DMHAS has created for those looking for a place to begin their journey to recovery! This is an informational tool that is available 24/7, letting users know where a bed is available.

Any questions you may have can be sent in via the comments page.

Raising the Barre Since 1997

Anxiety has taken many things from me.
She has taken my sanity, my comfort.
She has robbed me of experiences.
Anxiety screams at me constantly. She is louder than the voice inside my head.

There is one thing in the world that settles her.
As soon as I slide my feet into one of three pairs of shoes, she knows her time is up.

She can’t get to me when I am dancing.

I have been many, many things in the last twenty years. I’ve taken on different roles. I’ve played many parts. My weight has fluctuated. My face has changed. I have grown in so many different ways.
Three things in my life have been constant.

Anxiety.
Depression.

And dancing.

My favorite me is who I get to be when I am dancing. I am fearless. I am safe. I am free.
I am any personality I want to be. I am anything I want people to feel when they watch me perform.
I can feel the music move through my soul. My world is whole when my body is in a rhythm.

The hour and a half I get to spend in the studio on Wednesday nights is the only hour and a half of peace I get all week.
Peace of mind.
Peace and quiet.
The speakers could be shaking because of the volume of the music, and it is still the quietest my brain will be all week.

This peace wouldn’t be possible without the support of the greatest group of women in the entire world. Wednesday at 6:30, you are my entire heart. It’s been 8 years, and every week is better than the last. You make me a better dancer, and a better person. You push me to move, create, inspire. Each of you holds a place in my heart, and your love gets me through my darkest hours.

My mental illnesses have constantly let me down, disappointed me, hurt me, and stopped me from living my best life for the last twenty years, but that’s okay. Because at least dance has never given up on me.

My Attitude and My Outlook

I am tired of the ever-mind-numbing question, 

“Are you okay?”

I’m even more tired of meekly replying,

“Is anyone?”

Most days I have to put on my “socialization doesn’t terrify me” costume, and pretend that the world and its inhabitants don’t horrify me.
The days are growing darker earlier, and if that isn’t a metaphor for my depression, I don’t know what is.

I read a post this morning that said, “There is a difference between being happy and being distracted from sadness.”
So, so often I find myself falling victim to this truth. For a few hours a day, I’m able to distract myself from the depression that sleeps on my left shoulder. Sometimes it’s by reading, or dancing, or even working. But for the other (approx.) 19.75 hours, my brain is thinking of all the reasons that I am sad. Or anxious. Or nervous. Or curious. Or obsessive. Or irritated. Or angry.
For no particular reason.

19.75 hours of the day, my depression sleeping on my left shoulder battles the anxiety that is screaming at the top of her lungs on my right shoulder.
They fight.
My brain is a war zone. It is a battlefield.
I am caught in the middle of their aggressive altercations.
I am the collateral damage that is left behind after my mental illnesses have exhausted themselves by arguing.

I wish I was able to see myself as the rest of the world sees me. I have an unbelievable support system that make me the person I am. The encouragement I receive from my Earth Angels is the closest thing to magic I will ever have. I am able to wrap myself in their love and kindness, and most of the time, that is enough protection from the Dementors that linger around me.

I have not always had this overwhelming support. I didn’t always have a place where I felt I could fit in. I battled many, many years seemingly alone. I spent many, many days dreaming of a better world, a world that accepted everyone for exactly who they were- a world that embraced the differences that make us so beautiful.

But I am living proof that help is given to those who ask for it. So today, know that you are worth getting help. Know that you are worth being happy. You are worth the whole world.
And if you know someone who maybe, like me, needs people to lean on- reach out to them. Let them know you are thinking about them. Or tell them a joke you heard. Or send them a picture of a cat. That will always work for me.

Men’s Health Month

Men’s Health Month – Celebrate Men’s Health Month with us.

This week is Men’s Health Week. Make sure to wear blue on Friday, June 16th or any other day of the month to show support.

Additionally, here is a link to the CDC about men’s health so make sure to read it and raise awareness!

Men's Health

Here, you can learn more about men’s health and stay informed.

Unorthodox Learning

@thepublicbench

You don’t like to your life?
“No I don’t like my life.”
Me neither. I need a change.  That’s why I’m trying out school again..
“But I’m old.  I know I can’t change it now.”
An do is to take care of someone.  If I can do that, I’ll be successful

This encounter was a wake up call screaming to me what listening really means.  As this guy slurred his way through this conversation, a moment of clarity put me at the fork in the road.  I could firmly get him to leave me alone, which would only feed his isolation and capacity of public disturbance.  On the other hand, I could just do what I planned to do- start my new book as I wait on the bench- and if he starts talking I’ll listen. 

Simple, right?  It is because my perspective has changed.  I don’t have to be mean and say &÷@! off.  I also dont have to run in the other direction scared of this poor guy as if he is undeniably dangerous.  I can keep boundaries and just listen.  Not even a conversation.  Just listening.

As a result, I began to think how ‘listening’ can be defined differently across different contexts.  on that bench in that moment, I had a sense that only a professional could help a case like this, yet simultaneously, this case was just a person with no intention to get treated.  The sort of listening a pro could provide would by no means effectively help the person in any way.  There’s no way my form of  non-diagnostic listening could ever help…is there?

I’m really not sure.  I know “just wanting to take care of somebody” may not always raise a flag to the pro’s.  As someone who understands things from an experiential perspective, this raised a red flag to me- as if that’s the root of all his suffering.  I’m really unsure of the dynamics of his suffering soul and he isn’t my responsibility…though I know he smiled and laughed.  He quieted down and stopped making a scene…

So I’d say it helped him for the moment!
Yay! But wait, am I just enabling and perpetuating his struggle then?

Also! I don’t want to be like a crooked study and leave out some facts….uhm…It all ended with him screaming as I walk away, “I’m gonna kill you.” 

Yep.  Clearly he held on to my kindness with great yearning and desperation to ‘have someone to take care of.’  I imagined he felt abandoned after a fleeting sense of hope.  I felt bad.

I left feeling uneasy and pulled in multiple directions.  I just don’t know.  Do you???  My only answer is that I don’t have an answer.  I don’t think I even need answers- I just need to talk this shit out!

Outspoken – LGBT youth group

Check out one of TCC’s oldest groups for the LGBT youth. Its a support group called Outspoken for teenagers and young adults between ages 13 and 22 years old. Its held everything Sunday at TCC in Norwalk, CT. Click on this link to learn more:
http://www.ctpridecenter.org/outspoken_20160904

Arts In The Woods 2

During Camp I joined a writing track that required us to compose a poem that includes chants that we would use at a protest rally. I think everyone should try this as a simple way to start their own protest. I included a draft of my poem plus some of the interviews that I did and promised to share below:

The Government doesnt speak for us
The media doesnt speak for us
We are our own champions
…The change we want to see
We are aggravated and disgruntled
By social prejudice and systematic oppression
In our schools and on our streets.
There is is too much going on
For too long
Too much racism
Too much homophobia
And trans-phobia
And classism
And sexism
Too much isms.
Society needs to exist for all of us
And social norms need not define how we dress
How we look
Who we marry
Or who we choose to love.
What excuse does our government has for our homeless youth
Who are sleeping on trains
And standing in soup lines
When they should be in school.
What excuse does our government has for our black brothers and sisters
Who hardly have a choice between welfare and a good job?
Where do they get employed if they are too black?
Too uneducated or too thug?
What messages do we send
To that child of a single mother
…A mother who struggles to get home
Night after night
To her sobbing child
Who is still up late and cannot sleep
Through the shock and trauma
from the ringing of bullets from her bedroom window

Where is our voice? Who answers our questions?
How do we channel our messages into actions?

We are bruised by prejudice and ignorance and we need change now!

Not because we are poor, or because we are gay or because we are black
But because we are humans!

What’s Up with the WARMLINE ?

Really excited to be joining the WARMLINE folks in Hartford today @ TOIVO. The young adult Warmline ,through Advocacy Unlimited, is a peer run phone support that connects young adults to community resources and offers motivation and inspiration from young adults who’ve rocked recovery. We’ll be joining the operators for an afternoon of Wii, interviews and plenty of great conversation. We’ll get the scoop on the Warmline, how it came to be, how these young adults have stayed connected, as well why they’ve decided to be a part of such an amazing initiative. Look for the upcoming feature really soon in our Features section on the website within the next week. We’ll post an announcement in the media room so be sure to keep up 🙂

Arts In The Woods

This weekend I took a trip out into the woods with some of the most amazing people in life. I was at a retreat called Arts in the Woods, a short break for LGBT youth around the country, in upstate New York.

This is just about the safest place that you can call home. For me it was that and more: cultural authenticity, introspection and a do-whatever-you-want kind of ambiance.

Arts in the woods brought together people from all over but most of all it brought our stories together, of young adults hoping to see their dreams come true but who have been pushed to the edge of society because of who they are.

It was an experience that brought me to laughter and tears. We came together in these woods to find the family – that for many of us, and for a very long time, only existed in our minds.

A family that you can only hope would last forever. If only we could have more bonfires, make more dresses together, do more drag, read more poems, vogue a little more, go tubing every day, cook and eat together sing together, hide in the dark together and just forget all the madness that scourges our lives outside the woods, life would pretty much be one amazing experience- and simply that.

I felt so much joy from being there. The interviews that I did with some of my fellow campers (which I will share next week) taught me a lot and most importantly they showed me that everyone owns their own stories, their own protest, their own experience and their ambition.

And there were so many bold faces enriched with talents that were tailored to perfection and that filled the lounge hall with shouting, screaming, clapping and snapping every night.

Going to arts in the woods, I was hoping to find support and make friendships but instead I have found a community and a family.
The theme for this year, “Thrive in the Woods” – the underlying meaning of which stems from yearning to go beyond the obstacles that may confront us in our day to day life.

Writers, musicians, rappers, videographers, dancers, drag stars, this has been a talent galore – you are either in the woods to find your glitter or to share your glitter – of trial and error; here I have discovered so many great talents, it’s only a wonder where all these people have been.

To tap it off, there is that strong bond that made us believe that we have always known each other and this was just a huge family reunion.

Recovery Community Open Mic

Hey everyone! Check out this KOOL Open Mic event on June 24th in Bridgeport, CT.

Its a free event hosted by CCAR, BRCC and YAF at the Bridgeport Recovery Community Center. Please the see flyer below.
This is an opportunity for all young adults in recovery to express themselves and their perspectives through music, poetry, spoken, you name it!

The event is open to ALL… bring family and friends and get ready for a sober afternoon.