In the United States about 78 million adults have high blood pressure, which can lead to heart and kidney damage.
This is her story.
If we're getting technical about it, my chart says "Primary Idiopathic Hypertension." Translated, that means "We have no idea why your blood pressure is high. Here are some pills."
I've had high blood pressure since I was eighteen.
In the beginning, no one even tried to figure out why. My doctor at the time just looked at my readings, said it probably explained my headaches, and sent me home with some medication. It worked, so I took it and didn't think anything about it.
Several years later, another doctor told me how unusual it was for someone to have high blood pressure at my age and proceeded to do every test she could think of. Cortisol tests, an MRI to make sure I didn't have a shunt, and metabolic blood tests galore. They all came back completely normal and the doctor wrote my prescription as always and sent me home. I think she was actually a little disappointed.
This has gone on for years now and I manage it by taking my medication (three kinds now!), watching my sodium and caffeine, and exercising. The only thing that seems to make a difference is the medication, though. As always.
My favorite part about having high blood pressure is the body-shaming. I have lost count of how many doctors have told me "if you just lost some weight your blood pressure would be normal."
I wish it was that easy.
When I was first diagnosed, I was just this side of underweight. At one point I weighed well over two hundred pounds. When I lost sixty, my blood pressure didn't change. Not one point. I try to explain this to the doctors and they just don't listen. None of them. And it feels just great to be told how fat you are when the medication you're on is what caused the weight gain in the first place.
Judging from the way my life has gone so far, I'll never be able to completely go off my medication. If I were to become a champion marathon runner, I would probably still be on it. I don't love it, but there it is.
For the rest of my life I'll have to have blood tests to check my kidneys, eye exams to check my retinas, and use my home pressure monitor to make sure I'm still in the right range because untreated hypertension can cause all kinds of horrors. Sometimes if my readings are off, I get dizzy and disoriented. Sometimes I get headaches. Occasionally my feet and hands will swell.
The point is, you can never tell what someone else has going on inside them. I hear "You have high blood pressure? But you're so young!" all the time. I didn't ask for it. I certainly don't enjoy it. But I can do my best to control it.
I am the face of high blood pressure.
Now where did those pills go?
Rape is a trauma that lasts with you a lifetime.
This is her story:
About a year ago, my best friend was really into this older guy, and I didn't want to be around him; he gave me the creeps. But she always said, "Come on! I don't want to go alone," so I'd give in and hang out with them.
She'd always been a horrible friend, but I suppose I didn't care (don't worry, because thanks to my current wonderfully supportive, long- term boyfriend, I've since gotten her out of my life.)
She'd accused me of wanting him, which, for some reason, made me want to prove her right. He suggested, through text, that we have sex. I thought, "Hell, she deserves it," and went with it, even though I knew it was wrong.
He asked to hang out with me alone, and I said "sure," but to make it abundantly clear that I didn't want to have sex, I followed that up with, "I DON'T want to have sex with you."
He replied, "Okay, I don't have sex on Sundays anyway; it's a sin."
I'm so stupid - why would I believe such a bullshit excuse? I don't know, I'm young and naive.
We were watching the movie Saw, just as friends, so I wasn't expecting, or hoping for anything sexual. He was.
He started kissing me. I was semi-unsure of what was going on, so I went with it for a moment. Then, he rolled on top of me and started to unbutton my pants.
I was confused.
I pushed up on his chest and asked as quietly and calmly as I could, "What are you doing?" He ignored me. I must have asked at least five more times getting more and more anxious when he didn't reply.
Things got a little blurry - after he put on a condom, I accepted what was about to happen.
I knew no one else was home and I was afraid to run home and telling my parents because I didn't want to get in trouble. So I just laid there with my arms at my sides; I didn't really know what else I could do.
I thought I was okay. I really did.
I felt guilty and for a while I convinced myself that we'd just had sex. Soon, though, I began to feel ashamed and disgusted. The tears came and I realized, I had been raped, violated, assaulted.
After I realized I'd been raped, I went into a very deep depression.
I managed to keep both the depression and the rape to myself, though I came clean to my friend. I was happy that she believed me, because she's the type who thinks people get what they deserve. Soon, though, she began to use the rape against me in arguments. That hurt. A lot.
I told my dad about the rape.
We talked about the rape and decided together not to report it to the police as my rapist had just been arrested for raping and statutory raping a number of girls, so he was in jail for over twenty years.
I became suicidal and I didn't believe it had anything to do with the rape
I went to the psychiatric hospital for a five day stay. Now that I understand the stages of grief after a rape: depression, regret, anger, and guilt you go through it makes sense.
I'm currently working through the guilt stage following the rape. I know logically that the rape wasn't my fault; that he should have taken no for an answer the first time. But still, I feel I need to go back and change the past; like it was all my fault.
I was raped.
But I have a voice and I intend to use it to help myself and anyone else who has been through a rape.
Have you survived a rape? How did you cope?
While we, at The Band, work tirelessly to bring you expert resource pages, sometimes the best advice is from someone who has been where you're standing. What follows is a mixture between a resource page and a post.
I introduce to you, The Band, a Demo Tape.
Take what you need and leave the rest.
Part of what makes reintegrating into society after being in prison so difficult is healing from the experience that landed a person in prison in the first place. Many ex-offenders are saddled with PTSD from prison itself, and many struggle with guilt over the offense that sent them there. Aside from working through all the random little things that crop up in daily life and tackling the major issues of employment, living arrangements, and repairing relationships, ex-offenders need to address the mental and emotional ramifications of prison and release.
These are the things that aren’t so easy to let go, the things that keep people awake at night, the things that might very well land them back in prison. Things like dealing with the guilt of what landed them in prison; the depression and fatigue that comes with trying to rebuild a life, facing obstacles at every turn; the fear of dealing with law enforcement in any circumstance, even when one is the victim or knows for absolute certainty they have done NOTHING wrong.
It is the RARE prison facility that has any kind of mental health care available for inmates; no therapy, no medications, no follow-up care. Inmates are left to deal with the guilt of their offense on their own, or maybe, with the help of a 12-step program, if it’s available. Prisons don’t do shit to help these people prepare for life after prison, or even to live with themselves and what they’ve done. Granted, not all offenders feel remorse, but those that do deserve some kind of counseling to help them deal with it.
The guilt over having caused someone else’s death, even though the other person wasn’t blameless, is soul-crushing and crippling. People need to know that being the surviving driver in a two-impaired-driver-crash is traumatic. People need to understand that some offenders truly feel remorse and need help to deal with the trauma. Had my friend Michael not found a way to forgive himself, he would have returned to prison again, sooner or later. It took him years of step-work and another program to begin to deal with the trauma, to begin to forgive himself, and to “rejoin the human race.” Had he not gone through that program, I truly believe that he would have used again and subsequently returned to prison or died. He had to find a way to feel like he was a human being worthy of love, respect, and peace in spite of his past mistakes. (Of course, he was always worthy of those things, but he had given that away. This feeling of worthlessness among ex-offenders is probably more common than people realize and something that should be addressed in order to help ex-inmates reintegrate more successfully.)
When you’re released, if you’re very lucky, you get the parole officer whose mission in life is something OTHER than finding an excuse to put you back in prison. You pay your fees, stay clean, show up for your scheduled appointments, start putting your life together, and chances are good you’ll stay out of prison. But what happens if you’re the victim of a crime? Who do you turn to then? Fear and distrust of law enforcement are hard habits to break for ex-offenders.
One time, Sunshine and I had spent the weekend in south Louisiana for some N.A. something-or-other. We came back to his place to discover that some of his nephew's dumbass friends had broken into the house while he was gone. I immediately grabbed my phone to call the police and make an incident report. Sunshine and I argued for quite some time about this; he didn't want police at his house because it might cause him trouble with his parole officer. He feared the police might arrest him because he had delinquents hanging around his property and he was on parole. I made the arguments that: a) the police are there to protect and serve; they are there to protect citizens--even the ones on parole--from delinquents that break into houses; and b) it would be far better for his parole officer to hear he had contact with the police because HE called them on his nephew's delinquent friends than for something those delinquents might do in the future to bring the police there without anyone having knowledge that Sunshine was trying to stop the behavior. I think argument B convinced him, because he let me make the call.
When Sunshine completed a major contract doing masonry work on the house of a sergeant in the Louisiana State Patrol, his next major contract was for an investigator in the D.A.'s office. His first reaction after getting the job was to start thinking about everything that could put him back in prison: “Has the statute of limitations run out on all the shit I did in active addiction?” (Yes.) Are my business practices possibly under investigation?” (No.) He finally realized that these people just saw him as a business-man; that the police and D.A.s are not to be feared, they are a source of prosperity for him today.
If we get pulled over for a traffic stop, there is always the distinct possibility that the vehicle is going to be tossed. A game warden searched the hell out of Sunshine's truck based on nothing other than the Narcotics Anonymous key-chains holding Sunshine's keys. This asshole game warden actually said something along the lines of "once an addict always an addict", searched the truck based on that reasoning alone, and left the truck a mess, too. My car has been searched and torn to shreds (the visors were ripped off, the console was destroyed, and the turbo-charger didn't work anymore) over the course of a THREE hour traffic stop (for not using a blinker when turning) based solely on the fact that the asshat cop that pulled us over saw my face and said "I know you". (He was one of the officers that questioned me after my first drug arrest in Louisiana seven years before that). Three hours and hundreds of dollars of damage to my car later, they had to let me go because they found no dope in the car. They did call my parole officer to tell her she should drug test me, and she made me come in the office right then. She sat in that office for over two hours waiting for me and actually called the cops later to verify that I wasn't lying when I said they kept me on the road all that time.
We were recently the victims of a theft at Sunshine’s business. One of his employees stole some very expensive equipment. Again, Sunshine didn’t want to report the theft because he was afraid the cops would come after him instead of the asshole employee. I finally managed to convince him to make the call, but the fear of losing everything he has worked so hard to build since his release is very real and always on his mind.
Truthfully, Sunshine and I have been luckier than most. We had parole officers who were willing to give us a chance. We had employers who looked beyond the convictions and saw the person inside, willing to work hard, grateful for the chance at a life beyond prison. We have a home, friends, and family who love us and are willing to stick by us. We’ve searched out and received the mental and emotional help we needed. So many others have not. That’s what pisses me off and what keeps me writing about mine and Sunshine’s experiences. People need to know how it REALLY is for ex-offenders out there. And ex-offenders need to know that they are not alone.
Sometimes, we at the Band know that part of owning who you are is admitting it to the world. It's one reason why we at The Band work tirelessly to break down stigmas and find the ties that connect us all, the ties that remind us that we are none of us alone.
Please join us in standing tall and proud as we tell the world who we are.
What are you, The Band, The Face Of?
I am fairly open, I am aware that the only way people are going to understand various things is to have people speak out about them to be the face of them.
I am fine being the face of things; I proudly wear my labels as an ACOA, rape/incest survivor, special needs parent, non-traditional student, and self-injurer. But, I have spent years hiding, pretty well denying, a label that I should be wearing. It's a label that gives me butterflies as I sit here getting ready to type it.
I am, in no uncertain terms, an addict. Yet, when asked what I am the face of or talking about me and my past I never use that term. In fact, I often comment on how my family has history (a strong history of) addiction, I just fail to mention I am part of that history.
But, I can't hide it any longer. And I am not even sure why I hide it; I mean I know why, I am scared of what people will think and say. But, why? I am not ashamed or worried about anything else in my past, though a lot of the dumb things I chose to do occurred or were a result of not being sober.
I spent much of my youth from about 14-15 using pain medication and alcohol. I mean pain medication was easy to get because I was an active kid who was prone to injury. I often went to the doc for an injury and they would write me a script. While I took them "as prescribed" I would take them too long when I actually no longer needed them.
I would find a way to get different medication so I could "alternate" and maintain the high longer. I would toss in alcohol when I could because my parents were open about alcohol, that it wasn't taboo. My parents didn't know about a lot of the drinking that occurred nor the extent to which it happened.
It made me numb, I made dumb decisions on it. I hurt myself and others, but I still doubt that many people of my youth realize what I was doing. After all most addicts are good at manipulating the situation.
Yet, still this label has been one I denied and disowned which in the long run did as much harm to me and my psyche as if I had denied my own left arm. Because this label, being an addict, is as much a part of me as my left arm.
What baffles me is when a friend slips or enters recovery I am the first to be there. Never saying a word about my issues, I offer to go to meetings and have a "safe space" at my home. All the while biting my tongue and not finding the camaraderie I could have, should have.
So, what brought me to the point of revealing this layer? Well, I slipped and fell HARD this week. We have been having lots of struggles, mostly financial, and this isn't an excuse just a telling of the events. I ran out of coping skills, ultimately that is what happened, I ran out of fucking coping skills.
I started popping again, finding a way to take the pain medication every hour. Never letting my feet touch the ground, so to speak, for about a week. I would pull into work and start calculating when I could leave and get home to take another pill. I would take a pill and immediately look at the clock and figure out when I could take another. This whole time rationalizing that I was "taking it as prescribed." Technically I wasn't taking any more pills than what the bottle said, never mind I wasn't in pain.
I finally told hubby two nights ago that I snuck a pill in yesterday morning, then he made them disappear (honestly, I wasn't here so I have no idea about the disappearance--other than I asked him to get them someplace I don't know of) and bought me pomegranate juice, which I love. I still have been holding close to my secret.
Ultimately I chose to peel open this layer because I can no longer be silent, because the silence is killing me. It's allowing my illness to fester and then allows it to be fed. And I know that's not okay. I need a support network more now then ever, one that I know "in person" doesn't exist but one that I know I have here "online" and far away.
I know many of my friends will recoil, wondering how it could be. I don't know how or why, I just know it is. I just know I can't go on denying such a huge part of me. I need to find the fellowship, I need to be able to reach out when I am falling down that black hole. I need help figuring out what this means for me, my life, and how this slip is going to color my world from now on.
Last week was officially the start of my summer break between semesters. I have kicked ass in school for the first two semesters of my library science master's program, and I deserve a little break.
Why is this my happy today?
Because last week I didn't know what to do with myself other than work, I was getting restless. But I have found lots of things to do. It will be a great, fulfilling summer.
I'm stoked about being busy and having fun, while leaving the stress behind.
What's your Happy?
Don't think you have one? Look harder. Something will make you smile today.
We want to know!
Share it with the world on your blog and then link up below, tweet it out (hashtag #DOHMonday #WithTheBand) or share it on Facebook. Whatever you want to do, do it. Just find a bit of happy in this Monday!
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