The Secret To Being Your Own Hero

Trigger Warning: Overdose

I’m 30 years old, and I feel like I just met myself.

For a long time, I was caught in a revolving door; spinning through a cycle of adrenaline rush, negatively reacting, and then picking up the pieces in the aftermath. These episodes were rough, but small enough to sweep under the rug and deal with later, until later eventually came. 

Almost 2 years ago that revolving door started to spin into overdrive as I experienced a couple of stressful experiences that I was in no way prepared for. The first was getting robbed. I was living in a studio apartment in downtown Baltimore. I propped the door open as I finished unloading groceries and sat down to watch the Animaniacs. After about half an hour, I got up and went into my room. I heard my front door open and I froze. I convinced myself it was just an upstairs neighbor but I couldn’t shake the negative feeling from my body. I nervously texted my friend about it and she assured me that it had to be the neighbor. However, something didn't feel right and even my apartment looked different to me-but I couldn’t put my finger on it. It wasn’t until the next day I realized things were missing. 

I got ready for work and couldn’t find my purse. Did I leave it in the car? I went to look and the car was gone. Wait, what? I went inside and looked around and realized my couch had been pulled out away from the wall. Then it all kind of hit me. Was someone hiding behind my couch while I was watching tv? I checked my bank statements and my credit cards were maxed out. What. Is. Going. On?! For the next few weeks I obsessed over the what ifs. What if he hurt me? What if I had never got up to go into my room? What if he had a weapon?

About 2 months later, I moved into an apartment with a couple of friends. One was a recovering addict. 6 months clean. Awesome dude. Super funny. Very kind.After about a month I realized he was using again. He would nod off while talking to me or lock himself in the bathroom for long periods of time. I found heroin needles in the bathroom and told him not to do it in the apartment. I never lectured him or anything like that-just asked if he wouldn’t do it there. In retrospect, I wish I would had said more to him, but I know it wouldn’t have actually mattered. I talked to a friend about my fears of finding him dead in the apartment. 

Then it happened - I think the very next day, actually. I was pretty mad at him because he was supposed to pick me up from the bar but I couldn’t get a hold of him. I texted him and asked if he would take my dog, Vader, for a walk. He said “already done”. Sweet. I asked when he was coming to the bar. Hours went by and I didn’t hear from him and I started to get angry. “I know what you’re doing…you probably passed out”, “We’re not friends anymore”, “You’re dead to me” -that was the last thing I said to him. I’ll never say it to anyone ever again. I walked home all mad and even more so when I got to the door and it was locked. My key was in the apartment. Perfect. Knocked on the door. Nothing. Ughhhhh. I called a Locksmith and he finagled his way in. I walked down the hall and there was my roommate- blue and unresponsive. I threw $100 at the Locksmith and told him to leave. I called 911 and they gave instructions on how to clear his airway. He made some noises so I thought he’d be okay-I learned later that the noises were most likely the last of his air leaving his lungs. That will always stick with me. I sat on the counter and watched him leave in a body bag. No one ever came back in to tell me what to do next. I felt like I had just sat through a really terrible play. Did that really happen? Did I make that up? I waited for a while then walked down the hall. I passed the bathroom and there was a mess of blood, puke, needles, and a bag of heroin left behind. Is this real life? I numbingly cleaned it up and sat on the couch until the sun came up.

I took off from work that weekend and stayed at my friend’s parent’s house to decompress. When Monday came I got in the car, put it in reverse, and BAM! I crashed right into their brick mailbox. I opened the door to assess the damage. Before I even stepped out of the car I started to laugh uncontrollably. I’m talking full on belly busting, tears spilling over my eyes, breathless laughter. “Add it to the tab!” I challenged the universe out loud. I was definitely not okay.

Months went by and things seemed to get easier. Someone suggested that I should see a therapist but I thought I had everything handled. I had confused numbness for strength. Slowly I started to become unglued and developed disruptive OCD thoughts and delusions, which ultimately ended with a wild involuntary psychotic episode. The only thing I know for sure is how terrified I was feeling. I thought someone was trying to hurt me and that I was on the run. I had no idea who I was or where I was but I must have thought I was Godzilla because the night ended up with 4 cops detaining all 100 pounds of me, 4 broken teeth, and a night in the hospital with security guarding my door.

After I was released from the hospital, I replayed the events of the night before and tried to piece together what happened. Who was that? That wasn’t me. I became extremely self-aware after that. Self-stigma is something I never gave much thought to but I knew that it was holding me back from coping. To overcome self-stigma, I had to 110% commit. This was not easy but I realized that the stigma was controlling and disconnecting me from reality and the people I truly loved. I stole my own happiness, and it was time to get it back.

These are some of the most important things that I did to get to the happier place where I am today...

  • Quit playing the victim: I realized I couldn’t change anything that’s happened to me but I could change my response to it.
  • Stop isolating yourself and rebuild the connections that you have lost: It's never too late and your efforts speak volumes.
  • Invest in a planner and organize your responsibilities: I utilized checklists and put something on the checklist that I had already completed that day, giving myself a head start and motivation.
  • Fake it until you make it: I pretended like I was already the best version of myself.
  • Leave no time in the day for your mind to idle: Mental stimulation is so important-maybe the most important. I picked up random hobbies and chose a “hobby on hand” (needlepoint) for when I had random moments of insecurity. If my mind starts to go somewhere else then I’ll meditate and think with purpose. This stopped me from over-thinking, over-analyzing, and driving myself mad.
  • Stop looking for guarantees in life: I expect nothing now and try to appreciate everything- a gratitude journal helps.
  • Find time every day to unwind: Yoga and bubble baths are my go to. We physically carry anxiety in our muscles. Release it. Tension is who we think we should be-relaxation is who we are. 

Overcoming stigma is NOT easy and there is no finish line. You will have to work on it for the rest of your life. But, once you take that first step into being your own advocate, you will realize that self-care is far more important than stigma: whether it is public-stigma, or it is caused by your own insecurities. So put on your invisible cape, become your own hero, and you'll get to meet the real, strong, and the incredible person that you are.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kaytee-Imperatore.jpg

 

My name is Kaytee and I live in Baltimore, Maryland. I'm very new to the blog scene. When I'm not writing, I love to travel and go on adventures, hang out with capybaras, and watch ridiculous B-list movies. I'm so excited to see where the blogging world takes me and truly hope to make an impact and help others break out of their own toxic cycles.

 

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