The Losses, The Advocates, The Hope

This is Mama Penny. I’ve known her since I was 10, when her and my dad began to date. She has been a part of my life for 16 years, and stood with me as “Mother of the Bride” when Daniel and I got married.

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On my way into work, Friday, July 14, 2017, my dad sent me a message. “Call me when you get a chance.” Well it’s pretty odd for my dad to say give me a call when he knows I’m at work. But I really didn’t think anything of it. Most of the time it’s a flat tire or something wrong with this car, to be honest. So I decided, I have a few minutes as I’m walking to the entrance of work. I’ll give him a call now.

“Hey what’s up,” I said. “Penny just called me. (brief silence) Vin died.”

I stopped. I stopped right there in the misty rain. “What?”

“Penny just called me. Jon [Vin’s dad] found him.”  “What?” It was odd. I was taking these like very shallow but very deep breaths. My chest got tight. My mind went blank. My hand went over my mouth and tears rolled down my face. “What?” It was the only thing that was coming out of my mouth. I couldn’t speak. I heard my dad’s voice and disbelief in a similar fashion on the other end. This bomb, this incomprehensible tragedy had just happened and I needed to compose myself for work. What do I say to Penny? What do you say to someone who lost their son? What do I say to Gab? Her little brother is…. I can’t say it… What can I even do? I don’t know how to react. I just want to hug them and be with them and I have to go to work. Should I go to work? I have to go to work. How will I work?

You need to compose yourself, Sam! Compose yourself.

I took a deep breath as I walked to the entrance of work and as I entered, my eyes still watering, I couldn’t stop shaking. Come on Sam, you’ve got patients that are depending on you. Get it together. It took me a good 25 minutes to stop shaking. What the hell do I do? what the hell CAN I do? What can I say? I called Penny when I got the opportunity, but the voice mailbox was full. I sent her a text message pretty much saying just that.

I don’t know what I can say. I don’t know what I can do. Please know I love you and I’m here, whatever you need.

The next day, after work I went to Penny’s house, selfishly terrified of how I would handle everything. I don’t know what will happen when I get to her house. I don’t know what her State of Mind will be like. Will the kids be there? Do they understand what happened? Will Gab be there? How do I watch people that I love hurt so deeply? How do I watch them hurt knowing that I can’t do anything to make it better?

That day and the days following were spent in typical Italian style, the place packed with an assortment of homemade food, mostly carbs, sitting around the table with wine, sharing stories of not just Vin, but everything! Laughing so hard we cried, at times. I sat there, talking with Penny and friends and family and it amazed me, not only just how strong she was, but how much love was in that room.

In the following days, Facebook was flooded with beautiful memories and kind words from friends and family. The day came and I started shaking all over again because, again, I was selfishly terrified of what this day had in store. I hugged the family and I cried with Gab. There was a moment that happened that I don’t even know how to describe. Like, it penetrated the depths of my soul as I watched. I watched my dad extend his hand to shake the hand of Jon’s, Vin’s dad,  as Jon pulled him in for a hug. And he held my dad there. I watched as he tried to speak to my dad in a low voice and he couldn’t get it out. He was choked up and stuttered as he said, “I just wanted to thank you for everything.” I kiss my hand and laid it on Vincent’s urn.

As I waited for the services to begin, I looked around the room seeing familiar faces. None of them the way that I remembered them. Just this look of loss and being lost. The service progressed as usual and, then, came the eulogy. Penny had written it, but a good friend of the family read it for her. It was beautiful. It flooded my mind with memories of Vincent. And, then, it transitioned into why it’s so important that we stand united. That we can’t blame ourselves. That we need to embrace the very few resources that are available, but how God sent those resources are. Penny has allowed me to share her powerful words with you all as we all said “See you later, Vin.”

My dad hides his emotions. The most I ever saw at my nonna’s funeral was him teary-eyed. He never cried in front of me. As the eulogy was read, I held my dad’s hand tight, and would occasionally look at him. There were tears. I could see this raw side of my father as he become entranced by Penny’s words.

I kept looking at Penny and Gab and just wanting to wrap my arms around them. After the services, there was an opportunity to go up and speak or say a few words about Vin and I had a whole list of things in my head, but when I got to the podium, nothing came out the way I wanted it to. I talked about how when he was living with my dad I used to steal his Crunch Berry cereal and Oreos. I talked about how when I was a kid and Penny and my dad first started dating that I was jealous of Vincent. For so long, I was the only person in my Dad’s life. I was daughter and son. I can have a catch. I can watch football. And I remember thinking well, dads going to have a son now… he’s not going to need me. And years went by and then Vincent stayed with my dad, in my old bedroom, as he got back on his feet and started working. It was the cleanest my Dad’s kitchen had been since I had moved out (haha!) and I felt like there was this full circle of events… my dad was alone, and now this kid I was once jealous of, I saw as a blessing… it was like my dad had a new friend. He had someone to keep him company and talk with him and drive him crazy, at times, and I thought that was a blessing. And all of that came out in a very jumbled, very incoherent way through my shaking voice. I looked at Vin’s sister, Gab, niece and nephew, and mother, Penny…told them that I loved them. That they are family. And they’ve got one heck of a guardian angel looking over them.

I left the podium completely frazzled and disoriented, still shaking. Silly little stories that I wanted to talk about, like when I used to pick up cannolis when Serpes Bakery reopened and bring them over to the apartment for him and my dad, had just completely left my mind .

There are so many things that we want to say or we want to do. There are so many things that we want to experience. But our time is being cut short. The resources are not available and the resources that are are understaffed and under managed for the explosive need in this country. There are so many who want to condemn rather than uplift. I’ve been so frustrated losing people to drug addiction. Vincent was the last straw. I’d lost friends before but now I lost family. I’m very blessed that those in my family who have fought this particular addiction are still here and still fighting. I battled my own addiction  and mental health demons and I continue to battle everyday.  But why couldn’t I get the help that I needed? Why did I have to do it alone, armed with just family and friends, just as uneducated in the topic of recovery as me? Why couldn’t I afford the treatment that every doctor who saw me emphatically voiced that I needed? Was my life not worth saving?

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Please take the time to watch the video, featuring Penny, in the link below, as well as read through the article:

http://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/local/heroindelaware/2017/08/10/delawares-heroin-crisis-federal-state-emergency-could-help-treatment/550869001/?fb_action_ids=10159151609300228&fb_action_types=og.comments

Whether you try marijuana in college or start working out, addiction is something that unconsciously rewires your brain. “When did you become anorexic?” Well, if I knew that I wouldn’t be 95 lb . You are sucked into whatever fixes that desire and you have no idea you’re doing it. Until the reality check happens… The rock bottom. Then, the conscious mind makes the choice to get the help needed to get better.  It’s a rollercoaster. Yes, it hurts the people around you, but you need those strong people in your life to keep you going, from whom to borrow some strength when you have nothing left to keep you driving forward. You are rewiring your brain, again, but on a conscious level. It’s both biological and psychological.  Yes, it is a disease. You would never abandon a chemo patient, would you?

Don’t stay silent. Don’t condemn. Don’t blame yourself. Learn. Educate yourself.  Be compassionate. Be strong and supportive. You and your family are not impenetrable to any addiction. Speak Out. Advocate for your neighbors and the resources your community needs.

atTAcK Addiction

Hope Street

What’s Your Story?

Another year of a successful Vagina Monologue performances! We raised over a grand for Natasha’s Justice Project, all while empowering others and ourselves. This year, I was in three scenes: Wear and Say, The Little Coochie Snorcher That Could, a moan in Woman.

Wear and Say

Wear and Say

Middle Coochi  (ages

Middle Coochi
(ages 10 and 13)

The Starwars Moan

The Starwars Moan of “Woman”

I tell the girls of the cast the same thing every year, “I’m surrounded by 30 or so females, but this is the one place that I’m not afraid to change my clothes, goof off, be myself, by proud… Its because of you, ladies… ” They empower me. Most of us are complete strangers, but we end each year making new friends, finding common ground, and growing and being inspired by each other’s strengths.

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An Army of Vagina Warriors

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That O Face!

Cast Party Beer Pong

Cast Party Beer Pong

 

Still Friends since High School

Still Friends since High School

This year, a few weeks post the conclusion of the show, we got approval to host another event. This time, its OUR story. Any member that wanted to write and perform their OWN story, was welcome to do so. I knew immediately I wanted to participate.

I wanted to share the struggle and  the fight of perfectionism. The OCD that overcomes our minds. The hidden pain, anxiety, fear, and self mutilation that is experienced.

The following is MY story: Perfection

234 lbs. That was me 4 years ago.

She’s so pretty. Why can’t I be that pretty? She’s thin, and chesty, does her hair, make up… All the guys like her. God, I long to be in a bikini.

I hate going shopping for clothes. Another party? “ Sammy, how do I look,” she asks… “Wow,” I say, “fantastic.” In my mind, I’m crying. Someone hide me. Can’t I just curl up in a ball? Suck it in, Sam! Why am I always the third wheel? Why doesn’t anyone like me? I’m a nice person…

Enough is enough! I can’t be the fat friend anymore! Run, Sammy Run! You can do it. No cookies, veggies please.

Yes! 5 more pounds gone! “You’ve lost the weight of a third grader, Sam! You need new clothes!” my friends say to me.” Sure! Let’s go shopping! No, I’m not hungry, but thank you.

I can’t sleep, I’m going to the gym. “Sammy, this is your second time going today,” she says “ we think you have a problem. You’re scaring us.” I storm out the door and spend the next two hours pedaling a stationary bike.

130 lbs! I can’t believe it!

Suck it Sam! Yes, I do have ribs! Wait! What is that? How can I still have stomach fat? No! No!

Walk everywhere…

150 calories? I think to myself, for one snack bar? No thank you. How many carbs are in this? No only 30 carbs a day for me!

Run! Damn it, Sam! Run, you fat ass!

Why? Why won’t this fat go away?!?!  I wish I could just cut it off!  Cut it off… Cut… It cuts so smoothly through my skin. Ahhh. I can breath. Again. Ahhh, yes.  I watch the blood drip down.

94 lbs.

I’m not eating today. No way. I need to work out.

I’m cooking daddy dinner. I don’t feel well. Oh man… “Dad!” I’m down. On the ground. “How many calories have you eaten today? “He yells to me. “50,” I reply.

Mom watches me sleep, fearing that each shallow breath would be my last.

“Samantha,” my boss say to me, “ You’re late, your weak, you’ve become a hazard to your patients and for the company. You need to resign or we’ll have to terminate you. ” No, not my patient’s. I can’t lose my patients.

12 weeks of FMLA. 12 weeks of crying, cutting, fasting, binging, purging. 12 weeks of no exercise. 12 weeks of denial, realization, bargaining with God, pleading for help, yet unable to actually help myself.

Physically, emotionally, spiritually weak.

140 lbs

I wake up at 3am and write.

From sound asleep, I awaken,          Frantic, Nervous, shaken,

My mind racing a mile a minute,           Pumping the brakes, but its in it to in it.

Memories of my past mistakes flashing before my eyes,            How did I? I could I? How will I survive?

Trembling, ashamed, wanting to cry,            This mind fuck is a game, wishing I would die.

Take me home, Heavenly Father,           I beg of you, please

I’m down here, screaming, crying,             Pleading on my knees

Swallow another handful to numb myself,              Oh God, I’m begging you for your help

This blood I bleed,          These scars I see

This pain I feel,          Shits getting too real

Hearts racing, hearts pounding,          All these thoughts, taunting, resounding

Grit my teeth, fists getting tighter,          Look out world, ’cause this bitch is a fighter

The good I’ve done,         The lives I’ve touched

It must outweigh,          This hatred of self

I am my enemy,          And you are my Savior

With your many blessing, Oh Lord,          My faith should never waiver

I did it once,          I can do it twice

Can’t hold me down,           I’m still alive

Dear Disease,

You don’t make me,          I make me

And your foolish games,          Can only strengthen me

The marks on my body,          I wear them with pride

They’re not a sign of weakness,            They’re proof I survived

That I thrive,          That I strive

To carry on,          Head held high

Watching my world around me crumble,          You reached out, Lord, grabbed my hand

Pulled me from the rubble,          You’re my rock, my hope

The light of my tunnel,            The strength getting me through this struggle.

154lbs

The constant comparison of her to me to her and her and her.  No one can see the pain behind the scrubs and the smile. I ride a rollercoaster. Never sure if the day will bring anxiety, if I can bring myself to have dinner with my family and friends, if I can pull myself out of bed in the morning, if I can control a binge, how many pills I will take, how deep the next cut will be…

WHAT’S YOUR STORY?

 

Emotion-Coaster

It was rather a rollercoaster of a day. It started out great, then got bad, then it got better, and then it was just okay.

Before I get into that, I have to share with you some of my mad scientist brain. My hot chocolate did not quite satisfy my sweet tooth last night. I popped a mini bag of popcorn, for crunch, drizzled a bit of SF chocolate syrup, for the sweet, and a handful of raspberries for juice and tartness! Sounds crazy but it was pretty awesome and did the trick!

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I got up to make dad breakfast before he headed off to work. Today is National Scrapple Day, so I made his favorite: scrapple, egg whites, and cheese on a toasted everything bagelthin with hot sauce!

After a mug of coffee and some resume sending, I thought scrapple sounded great! How dare I, a Delawarean, not celebrate National Scrapple Day?! Right as I was about to toss a slice of toast in the toaster oven, it hit me! While picking out my bell peppers, yesterday, at the farmers market, a woman mention stuffed peppers. I could totally make a breakfast stuffed pepper! I could stuff it with anything! Its genius! (If you want stuffed peppers for dinner, try out my Quinoa Stuffed Peppers!)

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serves 2

  • 1 medium bell pepper, sliced in half
  • 1/2 cup liquid egg substitute, divided
  • 2 oz scrapple (or meat of choice), divided
  • hot sauce (or condiment of choice)
  • cheese (optional)

Spray a pan with non stick cooking spray, and lay the pepper halves, boat style, and bake at 350 F for 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, brown 1 oz of scrapple, or meat of choice. Once browned, roughly dice the meat, spray the pan with non stick cooking spray and pour 1/4 cup egg over top. Top egg with condiment (and cheese). Quickly, fold the eggs over to just barely cook. Transfer the egg mix into a pepper half. Repeat with the remaining meat, eggs, and pepper. Bake at 350 F for another 15 minutes.

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I sprinkled mine with reduced fat grated parm! MMMMM!

It really was a great idea! A few hours later, I knew I needed to get food in my stomach before work. There was no way I could run my shift with some little calories in my system. Some peanut butter and pretzel sticks later? An anxiety attack!

Not only was I frustrated, for some reason, about eating lunch, I was frustrated with myself for this stupid anxiety attack! I had been doing so well! Why now? Darn it!!!!

I pulled myself together, enough, to get ready for work. My thinking was Sammy, if your at work, your moving, which means you’re burning calories…

As always, work pulled me out of my funk and I threw myself into my patients. I kept myself busy until, my stomach told me it was time to eat. Amy and I headed down to the caf and I was pleased to find steamed broccoli on the menu. I dug into some steamed broccoli, sprinkled with Old Bay, and raw mushrooms and baby corn. I grabbed the plum for mom.

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WP_004543Around 830, I sat down, once more, to the last slice of Sweet Pumpkin Quiche, which I topped with toasted coconut and raisins! I felt a little leery about eating, but I knew that it was best for me! How can I take care of my patients and set an example if I’m not healthy and taking care of myself? 

I had to have been the most hydrated I have ever been, tonight! Early in my shift, I grabbed a 32 oz cup so I could refill it throughout the night. I drank FOUR of these! FOUR!

More to Offer

I’ve come to the conclusion that its all in my head. Okay, I already knew that…

The last even of my shift was enjoying a serving of Golden Grahams. This was around 5am. It was delicious! I hadn’t had Golden Grahams in years! Well, guess what… my mind didn’t think the same way. Immediately, as I saw the last few bites left in the bowl, I threw it out and ran to the bathroom. I tried so hard to purge.

I ate like a normal person. I didn’t even go over my calorie allotment.

So why did I freak out? 

When I tried to purge, it actually hurt and nothing came up. Maybe I actually was hungry. Yes, Sammy, your bloated. Every woman feels this way. Get over it. Not all of them purge to deal with it!

A while back, my dad had found a woman who hosts group sessions for those with anorexia and bulimia. I emailed her today.

I need to remember all the things I can offer the world and being my healthiest self, mentally and physically, is the only way I can put forth my best. I text my mom about something that happened at work last night. I assisted a child in respiratory distress, who was blue and required the ambu-bag. My mom text back, “You saved a life!”

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I did. I was able to help this child, and run down the halls, and act fast because my mind and body are being supplied with nutrients. I remember how foggy my job and my life was when I was sick; how slow I moved… Would I have been able to assist the way I did last night? I don’t think so.

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I was filled with fatigue and anxiety as I arrived home this morning. I laid down, and unable to relax, I am typing this post.

I’m signing off with one last thought:

Albert Einstein said, “Only a life lived for others is worth living.” If anything keeps me going, its knowing I can make a difference in the lives of God’s children and it all starts with taking care of myself.

I love you, readers. Thank you for listening to me.

PMS… What a Bitch!

After dad and I were greeted back to Delaware with a brief down pour of rain, we heated up the remaining pizza from the Sawmill, and a small buffalo chicken cheesesteak for dad and I went for some frozen veggies.

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The last few days, I’ve been wanting all things sweet, salty, and crunchy. Peanut M&M! Pretzel sticks! Semi-sweet morsels! Almond Joy! Butterfinger! Cookie dough! Crunchy ice cream! Chinese food!  Yeah, I was all over it, last night!

Give me Sweet, Salty, Crunchy, Indulgence! NOW!!!!

Last night was it! Yesterday was a fabulous day with dad in seaside! It began with breakfast, which I pre-planned in MyFitnessPal the night before. I also planned on having a bite or so of Sawmill pizza, which I put into my calorie counter. By the time I had gotten home, last night, my calories were enough to allow for dinner and a treat! Time to play it safe.

I microwaved some green beans and broccoli. That just wasn’t cutting it. Ah, some cantaloupe from the farm market should help… Nope. Popcorn! 94% fat free… safe choice, good for chewing, and popping… Still not doing it. Maybe a few semi-sweet morsels… Mmm salty popcorn and chocolate. That’s what I want! I need salty, sweet, crunch! 

I allowed myself a nice treat! I quickly popped a few M&Ms and dialed the Chinese restaurant around the corner. Dad and I split a Hot and Sour soup and an order of shrimp toast. Many people have no clue what shrimp toast is. Essentially, its a shrimp- “imperial” like mixture on a slice of bread that is covered in panko and deep fried. I like to dip mine in the mustard and duck sauce mixed together. Here’s the deal… It’s not exactly in the lowest calories, lowest fat content categories…

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I haven’t had shrimp toast in almost two years. When my eating disorder set in, I swore off all things fried, breaded, and ordered out. I’ve learned that even though I usually have melt downs after tasting any of these foods, its okay to treat yourself. I don’t do it every day… I’m  slowly learning to incorporate treats in my life in a way that is in moderation and good for my mind and body. (I have lots of recipes for shrimp toast so I think I’m going to Bundo-ize this typically unhealthy splurge).

Back to the point of this post… PMS is a bitch. I’m human, and a female, at that. Before I got sick, I was never really a sweets person. I was big because my portions were large and I didn’t exercise. Ever  since recovery, I have loved chocolate! In fact, I was snacking on semi-sweet morsels all night! So…

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Female+Recovery+PMS= Oh crap!

If you’ve ever seen or read The Vagina Monologues, “Angry Vagina” pretty much sums its up…Its a hilarious monologue about all the things women put up with. In general, I highly recommend for everyone to check out the monologues! But as I write up this post, its all I can think about that accurately portrays my feelings.

The cramps, the bloating, the cravings, the mood swings, the fatigue… and its almost uncontrollable! Like a tic! What a bitch!

In fact, yesterday actually started at 330am, for me, as I woke up with cramps. I laid in bed, desperately trying to fall back asleep, curled into the fetal position. No such luck…

As I cracked into my fortune cookie, I thought my fortune was most fitting:

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“Our perception and attitude toward any situation will determine the outcome.”

I don’t look at last night as a failure in my eating or my progress. I look at it as normal. Everyone get the munchies. Everyone has indulgent times. Everyone just needs chocolate sometimes! It happens! Even with my mini-binges the last few days, my calorie count has still been within limits. I allowed myself these treats yesterday, knowing that I am allowed to enjoy a little indulgence. I know it sounds like I’m trying to convince myself of this, and I partly am. It takes 3,500 calories to gain 1 lb. I eat to live, not live to eat. Cooking and eating are passions of mine. How can I let these eating disorders destroy my passions. I am in control.

But, wow, did I really need last night’s munchie-fest. It was good for the mind and it made my body shut up with the cravings. Plus, it made my dad smile to see me really enjoy what I was eating and not stressing about calories! (He actually asked me the calorie count of the shrimp toast! Good job, daddy!)

With all of this rambling and pseudo-inspirational mindset, I am always honest with you. After dad headed to bed and I thought I could trust myself, I began to pop a few semi-sweet morsels. After a bit of this, despite being on the phone with Barry, I knew I was getting out of hand. I was testing my own boundaries. How far could I take this? Why didn’t I tell Barry? Instead, I put on a front to him like everything was fine; Like I was proud that I allowed myself the indulgence. (I kind of was.) Bottom line, I purged. Not all of it, but the shear action, after not doing for weeks, proves I still have a long way to go.

With that said, I am sorry, dad. It was a selfish action and I know it hurts you when I hurt myself.

I just realized that many of my posts have a similar pattern: inspirational and then spiral into a black hole!

Eating disorders are a bitch!

PMS… What a Bitch!

Everyone Needs Cheerleaders

Last night, I mentioned I began to mindlessly eat. It began because I actually was hungry and planned on having some Fiber One cereal. It quickly grew into nibbling on a bit of everything. I didn’t stress too much because I had spare calories from not having much of an appetite today. (*Lack of an appetite always catches up with me, darn it!*) But, nonetheless, it was a mini-binge.

My dad and Frank have been really supportive of me with it! Frank brings it to my attention if he sees it, and both of them allow me to vent to them. My dad also reminds me that I should be proud that I can recognize when this is happening, now, and stop myself, rather than dwelling on the lack of control I previously had.

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Its really important in life to have people that support your goals, your health, and over all well-being. Its also important to have people who you can talk with and vent to about the good and the bad. I’m really thankful for people like my dad, Frank, and my sponsor, Katie. These are the people in my life who tell me the truth, provide tough love, and unending encouragement. They are my cheerleaders, always reminding me how strong of a person I am.

I am a stronger person than these eating disorders that I battle.