Standing Up to Live

 

When my physicians “discharged me without notice” flinging me headlong into massive withdrawals from some of the strongest narcotics on the market, I thought my life was over. My blood pressure reading when a paramedic was called by my Facebook friends echoed that assumption. 50/30 is not the blood pressure of someone who is doing well at living. Six months later, I was dancing with a Saint, celebrating a life I didn’t understand ahead of me. But I knew I was alive. That was something of a miracle.

In a pool of vomit and other detritus that any self-respecting adult would be embarrassed to be found in, in level 10 pain, I prayed. I prayed to a God I didn’t know if He knew who I was. I called out in tears, “PLEASE HELP ME!!!!”   He did.

look-into-my-eyes-what-do-you-see-001About 4 years prior to that breakdown, while I was still on Fentanyl, percocet, neurontin (gabapentin), and 16 other medications, a friend asked me if I had ever tried marijuana for my pain. I had used it as a teenager, then as a young adult when I wanted to drink and party with my friends, noticing it’s anti-emetic properties allowed me to drink when I was taking medications I should not have been drinking with (my bad!), but I had put my “stash” far away when I began having pain that completely ruined my life… overtaking every aspect, finally putting me in bed. It was in that bed that I lived. A life consisting of watching DVDs from the library (I could check out an entire season of a television program at a time) and Netflix. When I could focus.  When I said to my friend, “but won’t it make me unable to do anything?” She told me to look around at my life. That was a sobering experience.

Once I looked at the life that had been crumbling before and around me for the previous 3 years, I thought, “what can it hurt?” After all, the mind-numbing narcotics and antidepressants and antianxiety medications had made me nearly a drooling idiot, what more could marijuana do? Hey, maybe I could “get high” and stop thinking about the pain? Either way, it was worth a try. 11182775_1624731581136715_86556055208525763_o

I tried it, and it worked. This was in 2006, two years before my youngest graduated high school, four years after my physical disabilities had taken my permanent employment from me, 10 years before I was to learn about the emotional and mental disabilities that had been haunting me my entire life. Before 2006, I had been heard to say on several occasions that people were just using the “medical marijuana” excuse to get high. God proved me WRONG on that account.

By 2008, while I was still using multiple opioid and other medications (19 of them, total), I found “breakthrough pain” relief in cannabis, marijuana. I talked to my urologist and internist (my primary care physician) and they both agreed that the changes they had seen since I had been using it were positive and they agreed with me using it, but neither of them sugar-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-awww-honey-honeywere ready to put their license on the line by recommending it (the marijuana alternative to “prescriptions” due to the federal illegality it can not be “prescribed”). So, they referred me to a specialist that JUST recommended marijuana.

I met her in a hotel conference center with my $200 and a large file full of my medical records. After completing a short exam and reviewing my records, I was given a paper that allowed me to have an “affirmative defense” if I was ever in legal trouble for my use of marijuana. At that time there were NO dispensaries and I was left to find my own supply of medicine from the streets.

In 2008, one ounce of fairly decent bud would range from $250-$300. I needed at least that for a month. But that was a lot of money to someone living on $900 in disability. I made it work, running out nearly every month towards the 25th of the month. But the difference in my abilities was ASTOUNDING!!! Not only could I get out of bed, but I learned to ride a bug-catchin-on-2002-low-rider-damn-fun-2009Harley Davidson (2002 Low Rider)! Riding on the wind was so much more freedom than I could have imagined. My disabilities still had me bed-bound 5/7th of the week, but for 2 days each week I felt like I was LIVING again!

THEN, in August of 2009, I felt like I was dying. Around the 20th of the month was when I would make my monthly trip to Tacoma from Olympia, Washington to visit my urologist for the purposes of picking up the paper script for my Fentanyl patches and percocet. When I arrived at the doctor’s office, I was told that I had been “discharged;” I was no longer a patient of that clinic. They claimed to have sent me a letter, but it was never received.

I began to panic. The 3-day patch on my arm was my last and I was on the last day of it. Even the idea of withdrawals from an opioid 100x stronger than morphine scared the living daylights out of me. The reality sent me into a panic like none I had ever experienced before. Although my diagnosis of Dissociative Identity Disorder wasn’t to come until 2015, my symptoms were in full swing, causing me to lose more time than I could remember during frantic panics and pain.

The next few weeks were physically and emotionally gruelling. My body and brain gave out completely: days and nights blended together as I lay on the carpeted floor of the bathroom not knowing what end should be towards the commode when both needed to be. I felt like I was in absolute hell. This continued for days until a Facebook friend heard my pleadings and worried about me, called 911.

3209497472117The paramedics arrived, taking my blood pressure both they and I were surprised I was conscious: 50/30 are numbers I won’t forget. After they loaded me up and took me into the hospital, my husband at the time demanded my release before I could be admitted to a rehab, he needed me at home was the excuse. The nurses looked at me like a junkie. They all looked at me as an addict, not as someone who was dependant on a medication prescribed by the doctor… I felt lower than dirt and went home with a prescription of clonidine (a blood pressure medication to LOWER my blood pressure from the impending pain) knowing I would likely be committing suicide to take it.

It was the 25th of August, 2009 and my monthly ounce of cannabis was long gone. One of my personalities hid my pocket knife from me… as my nightmares continued day to day. After the spasming in my legs and the pain in my body and brain evened out to a “normal” of about a 8-9 waking level on a scale of 1-10, I tried to do my best to get on with my life. I had lost about 40 pounds during the withdrawals, and looked emaciated to my family and friends. In March 2010 I met a man who taught me how to maximize my cannabis medication by infusing it into butter in addition to smoking it.

The first time I ate a cannabis-buttered piece of toast, the difference was unbelievable! green-grilled-cheeseMy pain was MUCH better, lowering to about a 6 or a 7 within a half hour… then I began LIVING!!! Out of bed, I started looking around me to see what I was missing. I was missing out on LIFE!

My last child had “flown the coop” in June of 2009, moving in with the man who would become her husband within a few years. I left my husband and the confusingly abusive relationship with him (and parts of my brain I wouldn’t begin to understand for 7 more years) in March 2010; by October 2010 I was finally recovered enough from the physical trials to start exploring. My Facebook friends who had saved my life the previous year by calling 911 continued to bolster me and invited me to visit them all across the country.

12027761_854199591361628_1229843056908513068_nSomehow, through the Grace of God, I was able to put my MASSIVE social anxiety aside and get on a train, then a bus and a plane, finally in my own vehicle to visit many of them. What I found was that all around the country there were people like me in pain physically and emotionally who needed a reason to live. A reason and a method to Stand Up To Live. That is why I travel to this day: To show it can be done.

As I travel and talk to people, learning more about humanity than even about the herb I have spent the last 7 years researching, I have found not only a following, but deep friendships that I could not live without. As I continue my goals to write my books and then develop the “Lightehouse Recovery Center Network” (a holistically-based wellness recovery center network for the disabled with a focus on hemp production and use), my focus is on helping others to “Stand Up to Live.”12004115_843631165751804_1709398889653203692_n

While reading a children’s book on writing, I came across the quote, “How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.” By Henry David Thoreau, A few weeks after I read it, I saw Mr. Thoreau’s name on a report by Relative Finder as my distant ancestral cousin.

I took both of those instances as a sign. The quote that so perfectly described the decision I made almost 7 years ago was destined to influence the title of my journey.

“Standing Up to Live” is the title of the book I am writing about this journey. I prayed to know what to do then I used that faith I had hiding in the back of my soul, followed the impressions I received from God, through the Holy Spirit: I stood up and I began to live; Now I share that life in my writing and photos. Thank you all for being with me on this journey, I could not have done it without you!!!

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The Ink in Our Veins

 

My father had always said we had ink in our veins. So many of us worked in publishing, on both sides of my father’s family. When I began to delve earnestly into my family history, I soon discovered that when your family works on the backside of the paper, they are more likely than not going to have their stories printed on the front.

When I entered the family history center that stormy April afternoon, I had one thing on my mind; I had never seen a photo of my father’s father.  I was 46 and I had never seen my grandfather’s face.

I typed his name into the search bar on the site, Newspapers.com, “George R. Slighte,” the results came back instantly.

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Oakland Tribune from Newspapers.com

Under a photo, I read the words exactly as I had just typed: “George R. Slighte,” then the caption continued: “31, Pacific war veteran, surrendered to police as a driver of a hit-run car. -Tribune photo.”

I continued to read the story below his photo. It first detailed his surrender by phone, after striking an unknown object the night before. He was arrested and held that Christmas Eve day.

As I sat in the sparsely populated Family History room of the Stake Center, the hum of the computers and microfiche reader behind me and the constant quiet conversation of the volunteers on the computers to the right of me seemed to fade away as I was drawn further into my grandfather’s story. The bits and pieces I had been told as a small child hadn’t included anything about an accident. As I studied his face on the screen searching for similarities in my own and my children’s, I longed to know more about George’s life.

My grandfather’s sad tale played out like a soap opera in clippings from the Oakland Daily Tribune where both his brothers, Tom and Ray, worked. His father and he were also printers, working together at a private print shop at the time he enlisted in the Army a few years before.

The printers at the Tribune knew the story behind George’s brave service to his country and possibly they included his tale to temper the words that were so difficult to tell about another holiday drunk driving tragedy.

My memories about my grandfather were scarce and very confusing to my child mind. My father, in loud angry, insulting words, would describe how my brother was not named after his father, George, because my mother didn’t think George was the type of man you named a child after. My mother debates that statement. I grew up knowing this to be true.  No matter who had said it, my perception was that my family thought George was a bad man. As I continued to read the words about his service to our country, my attitude about the grandfather I never knew changed. My respect for the hero that had served our country began to grow.

Through the mouths of several generations, a phrase was highlighted in my memory, I knew that he was injured in World War II, “hit in the back of the head by a Jap rifle,” was always how it was told. I was never told where, although a recent trip to the World War II Memorial in Washington D.C. found me on my knees at an impression of the words, “New Guinea” in the concrete. Here it was in black and white:

“Slighte, a printer, who enlisted in the Army five days after the Pearl Harbor attack, was partly paralyzed during the fighting on New Guinea in 1943 when he was struck on the back of the head by a Jap rifle butt.”

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Oakland Tribune on Newspapers.com

The results of George’s injuries, untreated, created a domino-effect of trauma that is still echoing four generations later. Although our family attempted to erase George’s death through disposing of his photos and forbidding to speak of him; that didn’t keep his own son, then a great-grandson from following in his footsteps in the manner of their deaths. Sitting in that Family History Center, I realized that my own post-traumatic stress disorder could be directly traced to my grandfather’s service.

“George and his wife have one child, Ronald, 1 ½, and expect another early next year.” The last sentence shuddered through me. The other they expected, would be my aunt Pegi; My father was Ronald. Adversity hit the little family at it’s core before my aunt was born.  Tragedy was to be her life for her first few years. The only years she was to share on earth with her father.

The one memory that was shared with me from the time I was far too young to comprehend its relationship to my abuse, was the memory my father carried about his father’s death. I don’t remember how old I was the first time I heard the words from my dad, “he took off his watch [speaking about his father], gave it to me, then went in his office and closed the door. The next thing I heard was a gunshot.” My father was four years old at the time. His little sister was 2. The man who was to cause my own mental illness, experienced the trauma that would be the undoing of at least two more generation’s psychological health on that day.

For the first 46 years of my life, one thing I knew about my paternal grandfather was the method of his death. I had no idea why, or who he was before he died. I had never seen his face. The day I saw his face, I also found another article in the Oakland Tribune about George Ronald Slighte. This piece confirmed what I knew to be true as well. It ran twenty-one years to the day from his grandson’s, my brother Jason’s birth, on 6 June 1949. It was printed on page 7:

In the three years since discovering those clips about my grandfather, George Ronald Slighte, I have continued to search for more clues.

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George R. Slighte about 17

The newspaper clippings continued the tale backwards and forwards in time from 1932 to 1999.  My grandfather’s and father’s tales and traumas wove through the press. The ink in our veins was in fact splashed upon the front pages.

A newspaper person, a journalist, printer, typesetter, editor and even the errand boy all know one thing: Everyone sees what is on top of the fold on the front page. It is the display copy in the newspaper boxes, it is what was shouted from the corner newsboys. In my children’s generation the term translates into the readable webpage upon loading. Above the fold lies the news. Everyone and no one wants to be there.

On Christmas Eve day, George’s face fell above the fold. On the front page of the local section, his story ran in all it’s glory. The word in the black and white print that made me gulp, when I thought of the service the article delineated so well below it, was “surrendered,” I only could imagine how my grandfather felt at the same word.

Surrender. After having his head literally bashed in by the butt of a rifle, then carried over a ragged mountain range for eight days by natives, I imagine “surrender” was the last word George would have ever wanted attributed to him. But there it was in black and white.

This 5’6” man, my grandfather, stood the same height as both my grandmother stood and now I stand. For a man that’s not too tall at all. But he stood those five feet six inches proudly. He stood up for what he thought was right. This time he knew he had done wrong and it was time to stand up and say that too.

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George, his wife Margaret, his mother Margaret and his father, Thomas

In my immediate family, I have tried to teach my children the value of telling the truth. Sometimes that was difficult, withholding a punishment you thought well-deserved just because the child came forward. As difficult as it was, such actions proved to teach the lesson that my grandfather already understood: No matter what, it’s always best to tell the truth.

The Tribune went on to describe how his honesty was not rewarded. He was found guilty of vehicular manslaughter and the family sued for wrongful death. The legal results of those cases have since been lost to the annals of time, but the personal result was clear: George was a broken man.

What wasn’t delineated in neat black-and-white newsprint, was the toll George’s actions and injuries were to take on generations to come. Trauma is like that. One traumatic event in a person’s life can scar generations not yet conceived in ways never imagined.

“Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be caused by any trauma such as first-hand abuse, sexual abuse, witnessing any type of violence, car accidents, personal injury, or seeing death firsthand, not only in war. Although PTSD is commonly associated with veterans at war, this group in reality only accounts for 38.2% of all diagnosed PTSD cases. The other 61.8% is majorly made up of victims of abuse or violent crime” (Cole).  

0419150856When my four-year-old father witnessed his father’s suicide, my grandfather effectively handed down the PTSD one generation. When my father acted out in his own trauma and abused myself and my brother, this non-genetic disorder of the brain was to affect yet another generation: My brother’s son passed in the same manner as his grandfather, down to the caliber of the gun.

It is not uncommon for a family to have a tendency towards PTSD. There has been recent research that indicates susceptibility to a PTSD response to trauma is possibly up to 40% genetic. In 2012 UCLA geneticists discovered two genes that appear to be linked to the development of PTSD (Schmidt, 2012).

SgtMaj. Casey D. Cole, USMC (ret) feels that the plague of PTSD-related suicides has to stop. So much so that he testified in front of a Senate committee on Veteran Suicide in 2011 about a simple programming addition that could be made into the Department of Veteran’s Affairs’ (VA) automated answering prompts that would immediately connect a veteran who is calling for help to a person who can do so. That has currently been implemented. Since this happened, the number of veteran suicides has fallen from the infamous “Twenty22Many” to twenty every day. While we all agree that is still far too many, it is less. I was thankful to have the opportunity to thank SgtMaj. Cole for not only his service to his country, but also for his service to generations of families yet to be conceived.

As I learned about my grandfather’s service, and his life before both the accident and then his tragic death, I learned to respect the man that he was. Upon realizing that our family probably carries at least one of the genes that make us all more susceptible to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder reactions to traumatic events, I realized that we have opportunities ahead of us as a family to help future generations by becoming more informed about this disorder.

 

References

Cole, SgtMaj. Casey D, USMC (ret). Personal Interview. 12-13 Oct 2016.

Department of Health Services, State of California. “Certificate of Death: George Ronald Slighte.” State file 49-042891 1 and 2 of 2. Certificate issued on APR 30, 2002.
Certificate barcode number 001380964.

Frissa, Souci, et al. “Challenges In The Retrospective Assessment Of Trauma: Comparing A Checklist Approach To A Single Item Trauma Experience Screening Question.” BMC Psychiatry 16.(2016): PsycINFO. Web. 12 Oct. 2016.

King, John Charles. Personal Interview. 18 September 2016.

National Archives and Records Administration. “U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records,  1938-1946: George Ronald Slighte.” Ancestry.com Operations Inc. 2005. Provo, UT, USA.

Oakland Tribune. “Accident Death Results in Suit.” Oakland, California. 12 Jan 1947. Page 13. Print.

Oakland Tribune. “Injured Veteran Shoots Himself.” Oakland, California. 6 Dec 1949. Page 7. Print.

Oakland Tribune. “Man Surrenders as Hit-Runner.” Oakland, California. 24 Dec 1946. Page 13. Print.

Oakland Tribune. Oakland, California. 7 June 1949. Page 22. Print.

Oakland Tribune. Oakland, California. 27 Dec 1946. Page 12. Print.

Santa Cruz Sentinel. “Ray E. Slighte.” Obituaries. Santa Cruz, California. 28 Dec 1994. Page 8. Print.

Schmidt, Elaine. “UCLA study identifies genes linked to post-traumatic stress disorder.” UCLA Newsroom. 02 April 2012. Retrieved 12 Oct 2016. <http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/ucla-study-identifies-first-genes-231248&gt;

Slighte, Margaret E. “George Ronald Slighte.” Slightely Mormon. 27 March 2013. Retrieved 18 Sept 2016. Web. <https://slightelymormon.org/2013/03/27/george-ronald-slighte/>

Kaminsky, Lara. “Twenty22Many.” The Cannabis Alliance. July 2016. Retrieved 12 Oct 2016. <http://www.thecannabisalliance.us/twenty22many&gt;

Standing up to WRITE

Today I begin the journey of this book.

The name has it’s own story.

While reading a children’s book on writing, I came across the quote, “How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.” By Henry David Thoreau, A few weeks after I read it, I saw Mr. Thoreau’s name on a report by Relative Finder as my distant ancestral cousin.

I took both of those instances as a sign. The quote that so perfectly described the decision I made almost 6 years ago, was destined to influence the title of my journey.

Standing UP to Live is the story of how this Grandma made the decision to get out of bed, and get her life back.

It chronicals my journey from a pharmalogical pain medication addiction to finding a treatment that gave me my life back. Then, what I did with the life I gained.

This is my story. My story of faith in my Heavenly Father. Faith in His daughter. Faith in Jesus Christ.