A GLIMPSE INTO MY JOURNEY:HEALING FROM TRAUMA, ADDICTION AND MENTAL HEALTH DISORDERS – LOVE, WENDY

I had been emotionally beaten repeatedly for decades…NO MORE.

I thought because it was multiple family members, I had to be silent…NOT TRUE.

I was too afraid to speak my truth for fear of losing my “family”…NO MORE. Family does not intentionally hurt a loved one.

As an adolescent, I was sexually abused and NEVER told anyone, until I began my recovery 7 1/2 years ago.  I was sexually abused again as an adult, and also kept it a “secret” until I began my recovery.

I was physically abused as a young mom, and as is the mindset of the victim, I continued to believe the lies of “I’m sorry, I won’t do it again.” I had witnessed this at home growing up, so this was my “normal.” I now have a new normal, which I have created with boundaries, with my using my voice, with loving support, and with God at the center of my life. I am NO LONGER a VICTIM.

I lived through decades of witnessing domestic abuse, and subsequently being on the receiving end as a young mom. I witnessed things as a child that no child should have to see.

I sought help as others looked the other way too afraid themselves to “get involved.”  So, I learned to stay silent, and to endure, as I had witnessed as a young child.

I began using prescription drugs at age 14 to self medicate. I began every now and then using a legal prescription given by my gynecologist, monthly, for a diagnosis of endometriosis at age 14, to self medicate, and to “numb out” physically and mentally. I quickly became addicted. I played up my physical pain in many different ways through creating, purposefully, illness within, so that I would easily be prescribed mind altering drugs. Eventually, I created real illness and dis-ease from self harming behaviors, and abusing these pills.

Unfortunately, I did not have parents who could be present due to their own mental health and addiction challenges. My sister and I, before my mother passed away 5 months ago, (our father died in 1977), talked in depth about all that we had endured…ongoing. I was 55 years old before I found the courage to set boundaries, and found my voice.

And so the story goes…

We now know through documented research that Mental Illness and Substance Use Disorder have both a genetic component, and an environmental component. I inherited both.

In my extensive training and work in the mental health field both with youth and adults, I have dedicated my life to helping and supporting others to heal from trauma, mental health disorders, and substance use disorder, and most importantly to normalize these disorders as we all have mental health.

Today, at 62 years old, an ex family member, and a family member attempt to continue this emotional abuse and control. ABSOLUTELY NOT.

I am so grateful for my training, education, and the inner strength to be able to walk away, albeit so very difficult. My unwavering faith in God/Sprit, which is at the core of my recovery, is what guides me daily. I know that I am always choosing the next right action because the Universe lovingly guides and supports me every step of my journey. I ask for Divine guidance each day in prayer, and receive my answers in meditation following my prayer practice. I always come from a place of love, compassion, and support, for others who ask for my help, even those that may have hurt me deeply. People do change when they are “sick and tired of being sick and tired,” and I will always be there to help.

I have said this so many times but it bears repeating, “I will not be defined by a disease that nearly took my life in early 2013 after almost 40 years of addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders. I was a victim of circumstance.”  It was all that I knew. I lived what I learned and experienced, “through no fault of my own.” This is exactly what I said to one of my family members who is experiencing severe and persistent mental illness, and substance use disorder, “This is through no fault of  your own.” And, I will NOT allow this family member to continuously emotionally beat me for having been so ill most of my life, as a child, young adult and middle aged adult. I was a victim…NO MORE.

I chose to ask for help to save my life, heal and be well on April 3, 2013.

As an adult, when I began to notice and observe the way others lived and experienced each other, I knew that somehow I wanted the same things, the same relationships, the same experiences. My brain development had definitely been “arrested” at the age of 14 when I began using pills to self medicate. I see this in my family member who unfortunately has lived the same path. This family member lived what they learned and experienced.

I’ll even tell you here that for the first couple of years of my recovery, my brain was that of a teenager, where it had been arrested due to my addiction to prescription pills. My behaviors, my actions, my thoughts and words revealed my deficits, and at times, my juvenile behavior. I remember driving around in my car with the radio blasting, and dancing while driving too fast, and looking around to see if anyone was noticing me. “Was I still pretty? Was I desirable? Was I good enough? Was I lovable?” I had work to do to grow up, to build self esteem, to practice self love and self care, and to evolve. And…I have.

I would actually be cognizant of unhealthy “teenage thoughts,” which presented clearly in a relationship that I had been in at that time with a man I loved deeply. He too, noticed it from time to time.

I was blessed to have the awareness of my still “arrested” brain, so this gave me the opportunity to continuously seek support, to purposefully and mindfully focus on what I wanted as a 50 something year old woman, mom, grandmother, friend and girlfriend, and to surround myself with those who would be able to guide me in that direction. I continued to learn, and to practice skills that would provide me with self regulating tools and coping strategies, as well as adult like social skills, and to continue my holistic lifestyle in choosing healthy practices which I began practicing straight out of recovery in 2013. Some people are not as fortunate to recover in their brain health so steadily and relatively so quickly.

In my training as a mental health first aid educator certified by the National Council for Behavioral Health, a Suicide Safety for School Staff educator certified by the Suicide Prevention Center of NYS, a Certified Peer Specialist certified by the Office of Mental Health NYS, and as a Certified Holistic Health Counselor/Practitioner, as well as my 7 1/2 years of lived experience, and my work experience with the Mental Health Association where I worked as a Mental Health Educator, Recovery Specialist, Client and Family Advocate, and the Crisis contact in our county, working with patients and clients who live with a severe and persistent mental illness, suicidal thoughts and behaviors, non-suicidal self harming behaviors, and substance use disorder, I know when I must take action to save a life. I have never once regretted any action that I have taken to help another, especially when my help has been enlisted for a patient, client, or a family member. And, even for my own family.

I noticed a dear friend on a Facebook LIVE one night around 11:00 PM, who at that time, had just moved to another state pretty far away who was experiencing a serious mental health crisis…LIVE, and who was obviously intoxicated. For just a minute, I sat startled at what I was observing, and, I am usually NEVER awake at this time, so I immediately knew that the Universe had put me here intentionally. I also NEVER used to join anyone’s LIVE event on Facebook, but when I saw his name, I clicked. Spiritual alignment and intervention.

I thought for a second, and began sending him PMs through Facebook CHAT, but he was spiraling quickly and talking incoherently. I moved very quickly in getting him help. I got off the LIVE, called the police in his town hundreds of miles away, and alerted them to what I had just witnessed, and asked them to do a wellness check.

I will tell you that my education, training, and quick instinct, aligned with definite Divine intervention got him the immediate help he needed. I was able to connect him to some amazing recovery people that I am connected to in another part of the country, and he went to their facility for treatment. I originally realized that he may never speak to me again, and I was at peace with that because if I could save his life, that was my only goal. THAT IS ALWAYS MY ONLY GOAL.

He was so very grateful, and today, is living in recovery, and doing so well. We are still dear friends, and we cherish our friendship.

My story of my own journey is one that I share honestly and openly so that others living with mental illness and substance use disorder will know that they are loved and not alone. That their life is just as meaningful and important as anyone else. I had no such support during my active illness. I was terrified of speaking about anything that I had experienced, and most especially about the mental health and addiction that I was living with for decades. I had no idea where, or who to turn to for help. In early 2013, I nearly died from a drug overdose.

My life was saved, and I made a promise to God/Spirit/Universe that I would spend the rest of my life following whatever path was put before me to help others…it is an honor and privilege to do so.

We must continue to have these ongoing dialogues about trauma, and the disorders/diseases that develop through no fault of our own, and sometimes partially due to a predetermined genetic factor and our environment. We must normalize these symptoms and disorders because…

WE ALL HAVE MENTAL HEALTH.

SUBSTANCE USE DISORDER IS CLASSIFIED AS A MENTAL ILLNESS.

The great news is that these co-occurring disorders are diagnosable, treatable and manageable, if we are willing to talk about it, to ask for help, and to do the work. Eventually when we have a moment of clarity of awareness, that is our window to speak our truth…which I did. It is a lifelong process. It is so amazing to be  alive and in full recovery, and helping others.

For more information on my holistic health counseling sessions where I work with others currently in addiction and mental health recovery, referred to me by our local hospital mental health recovery and addiction recovery units, please either fill out the contact page on this website, or email me at wendyblanchard044@gmail.com. I work with a team of professionals chosen by each individual client including a psychiatrist, and a licensed clinical social worker, and/or Credentialed Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counselor.

I tell my clients that they are in charge. We are their treatment team. They just need to let us know what they need, and how they want to heal and to recover, and we will guide them on their journey. I encourage them to use their voice honestly and openly…speak their truth. Being a CPS (Certified Peer Specialist) and Mental Health Educator and Professional is very appealing to many of my clients as having my particular work experience and lived experience allows me to meet them where they are, be person centered, and guide them holistically…body, mind and spirit. Ninety nine percent of my clients ask to have me included in their treatment plan because they want to heal either fully through natural and organic solutions, or to practice traditional and holistic means simultaneously. It is always their choice.

I myself recovered fully holistically, and continue to practice all of my skills, tools, strategies, and healthy practices daily. This is how I build resiliency and grit. I still have days where I feel unwell, but I have learned what I, as an individual, need, and desire, to bring myself back to wellness…body, mind and spirit.

Love and blessings,

Wendy