Health, Unveiling Invisible Illnesses

Invisible Illnesses Unveiled – Addiction with Red

Alicia (Red) Campitelli

Sobriety / Clean Date March 7th, 2016

Fifty percent of addiction is due to genetic factors. The other 50% is due to poor lifestyle choices. The same could be said for heart disease and other health issues. You may be genetically predisposed to something, like skin cancer, but there are ways to protect yourself and try to minimize your genetic risk.

One gene, for example, is the MTHFR gene mutation. This gene is common in 40% of the population and in a nut shell, it means that you can not process folic acid. Folic acid is a synthetic form of folate. If you can not process it, it will build up toxicity in your body and cause a folate deficiency which can lead to many health issues: autism, ADHD, depression, anxiety, addiction, heart palpitations, insomnia, mood disorders and even cancer. This is just one gene mutation, a common one, but there a many others.

It is important to take care of yourself, be healthy and learn to cope with life’s stressful situations. These important skills are not always taught in life or can be fogged by low self worth. Throw in poor nutrition, deficiencies and crappy sleep habits and you have a hostile environment for your body to produce chemical imbalances that can put you at risk for addiction.

I chose to interview Red because addiction truly is an invisible illness. It does not discriminate against sex, race, wealth or fame. It is not always obvious to others and some people can shine a light on the pieces they want you to see in their life, while keeping the rest in the shadows. There are many stories and these stories grow and grow and our country is overgrown with this epidemic. In hopes that we touch someone and inspire even just one person to become sober, I am helping Red unveil her story.

What is your official diagnosis and when were you diagnosed?

I am an addict. Substance abuse / drug addict with other borderline issues. I would say I was 21 when drugs and alcohol started to effect my life in a negative way.

What was your addiction?

My drug of choice was opioids (pain killers like oxycodone / roxicodone) and narcotics (heroin). Downers were my every day drug but I would do anything that was in front of me. I hated cocaine & crack but I would use till it was gone, even if I was the creepy chick in the corner freaking out alone. Blues made me feel “normal.” It’s kind of crazy to say, but it was true for that time period of my life.

Looking back, can you think of any warning signs that may have led you to addiction?

Low self-esteem throughout my whole life and never feeling good enough, in my own head, or to others. I engaged in an emotionally, mentally and physically abusive relationship, which soon started isolation, depression, lost of self-worth, diminished family ties and lack of interest in things I once enjoyed. After that relationship had ended I turned to drinking and childhood friends where replaced with using friends. I would build up an identity and when I lost it, I would fall apart.

What helped you get sober?

Enough was enough. I was tired of living the life I was, which wasn’t living at all. I didn’t want to die but I wasn’t thrilled about living. I was surviving. Groundhog Day (movie) surrounding around the getting and using and means to get more drugs day after day. Getting high wasn’t fun anymore and hadn’t been for a long time, but I couldn’t stop. I can’t put into words of how horrible that feeling was. I started heavily drinking at 21 but I could take a couple days off; however, once I started using opioids and narcotics it was all over. I used drugs all day and everyday. I remember quitting cold turkey one time, in the beginning, and lasted four days. I wasn’t ready until I went to rehab 2 1/2 years ago. I choose to go to rehab in a different state because I didn’t trust myself to get through withdrawals and not check myself out or sneek drugs in the facility, in my neck of the woods. I had to be honest if I was serious about changing. I am not saying another addict couldn’t get clean on a friends couch, by themselves, cold turkey or in the same state they used in, but I needed to escape to help with my obsession.

What advice could you offer to someone who is currently struggling with addiction?

Ask for help. I know it doesn’t feel like it, but things will get better; hold on.

There are so many possible ways to stay clean: 12 step fellowships, religion, celebrate recovery, working out / organized sports, family, maintenance programs, etc. If one of the listed above doesn’t work for you then switch it up. I don’t care what you have to do in order to change your life and get the needle out of your arm, liquor bottle out of your hand, pills out of your tummy, powder out of your nose and smoke out of your lungs; you need to create a new life. Stop repeating your negative self-destructive patterns. Try to find out why you do what you do and better yourself. Relapse can happen but its important to stop using as soon as possible and surround yourself with people in recovery. Keep in mind that relapse doesn’t have to be part of your story. You are not alone!

What advice could you offer to someone who is sober, in regards to staying sober?

Don’t pick up NO MATTER WHAT! The feelings of using will pass. Play the tape all the way through. Drugging will only make things worse in the situation you are trying to escape from.

When you were struggling with addiction, what was your mindset? At what point did you realize that you were struggling with addiction?

When I put drugs before anything or anyone, I realized I had a problem. I did care about people when I was in active addiction but if I had to choice between using and a particular person or drugs, drugs would win that fight. It’s sad yet it’s true, but in the moment, I didn’t look at it that way.

Favorite quote:

Oh man, my favorite quote… This is funny to me because my life before sobriety was so different. One of the quotes I used often was: “If anything could go wrong it will. I even have “Murphy’s Law” tattooed on my leg. Now I have turned into that annoying person I used to hate (on social media) with all the inspiration quotes.

“Don’t let you stop you”

“Fear is a liar”

“You are incharge of your own happiness”

“Get comfortable with being uncomfortable”

“When you are grateful you become less self-destructive”

“Oneday at a time”

Simple, right? I put this in my mind daily:

“My philosophy is, Its none of my business what people say of me and think of me. I am what I am and I do what I do. I expect nothing & accept everything. And it makes life so much easier.

-Anthony Hopkins

Three things you can’t live without:

Besides the obvious, in order to survive: Laughter, nature and companionship.

What are your goals? Where do you see yourself in five years?

Staying clean from drugs & alcohol, paying bill’s on time, building credit, being here for my family’s lives as a loving, trusted and supporting member, furthering my education, building meaningful relationships, helping others and dedicating time to the community, being happy and filled with joy. Some people might look at that list and think that is what adults are supposed to do and I should want more for my life life a top of the line car, big house with white picked fence, money, travel around the world, the perfect husband, three kids… Well, you’re not wrong with wanting more but I’m just now learning to be an adult. I was very selfish in my active addiction and I was given a 2nd chance, so I’m taking it and trying to become a better person. I’ve been working on these goals since I got clean but I’ll have to continue the rest of my life.

Resources

National Suicide Prevention Hotline

1-800-273-8255

SAMHSA’s National Helpline 

1-800-662-HELP

Florida based recovery program

Peace Club

Non-profit movement to help people with depression, addiction and suicide

TWLOHA

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Photos by Misti Blu

Shoot location at Rockledge Gardens

Health

Invisible Illnesses Unveiled – Major Depressive Disorder

This year I have decided to speak up and share my story in hopes that I can break stigmas, knock down walls, inspire others to take their health into their hands by advocacy and research, to help others realize that they are not alone and to grow from all of this.
I finally started seeing a therapist for the first time and was officially diagnosed with severe Major Depressive Disorder. Not mild but SEVERE! I was shocked. However, it is time to acknowledge this and do something about it. It is real and it exists and ignoring it will not make it go away.
Throughout my health journey, I had decided to look into my genes. One of the genes I carry is SLC6A4, a type of monoamine transporter protein that transports seratonin. This provides a lower rate of response to SSRIs (antidepressants). Genetically speaking, this affects individuals when experiencing stressful events in their lives and their cortisol response. Cortisol is a hormone that your body produces to respond to stress. This particular gene is a risk marker for Anxiety, Depression, OCD, PTSD,  Alzheimers and even Autism.  For those who have alcoholism that “runs in their family” actually have association with this gene variant. These are all reason why I feel that EVERYONE should be tested genetically to know what you are predisposed to for preventative measure as well as proper treatments due to certain genes causing resistance to treatments.
Here I am at 33 and finally dealing with something that I saw signs of in my early childhood. Mental health has always been wrapped in shame and stigmas which make it hard for anyone to accept and even wrap their head around. When I felt down and depressed, I did not ever think of it as a chemical imbalance or a disorder. I thought of its as insecurities and a lack of self worth because I truly believed that I was worthless. Now, I have the ability to check myself and remind myself that I am not worthless and that I am having a depressive moment that will pass. I know that this is a never ending effort on my end to continuously work on. I am so sad for the young girl, teenager and young woman that I was. She did not realize that it was a dark cloud blurring her view of the world and that she could take a deep breath and wait for it to pass. Instead, the stigmas and closed doors made her feel alone as she spent her entire life suffering.
Opening up about mental health is incredibly difficult to do. People judge, form their opinions, label you, make assumptions or just completely shut down. For example, I opened up today to a friend about my recent diagnosis and how it was never real to me and what I was feeling with this new acknowledgement and the subject was changed as if I never even spoke of it. When you open up to someone about your health and it gets dismissed you feel like you cannot trust or open up to anyone. However, I knew I could let that go and move on and find the right friend who would understand and listen. Maybe not everyone is cut out for it but I hope to make others aware of this epidemic of depression which takes so many lives. If you are a friend or a person that someone chose to confide in but don’t know how to handle the situation, direct them to someone who can. Dismissing them or ignoring the issues may cause them to feel more isolated.
Mental health disorders are another form of invisible illnesses. When people meet me, I smile and am generally friendly and most people would never guess I battled depression my entire life.
I can’t even fathom to explain how much I can’t stand when a complete stranger says, “Smile! It can’t be that bad!” I like to suggest that if you are that type of person, say something else like, “I hope you have a great day” instead. Those are the little things that make our head sink less.
My advice to anyone in a relationship with someone who struggles with depression is that you have to be patient and when they isolate themselves or push you away, keep a close distance instead so they get their space but don’t feel more alone. We never want to push you away, we self sabotage because in that moment we truly feel like you are better off. My husband always reminds me that it will pass and we even came up with a code word. Communication is so valuable. Always discuss these moments and how you can work through them better next time.
If you are the depressed one in the relationship, you need to be patient as well. They do not understand but they are loving enough to try, so bear with them and listen to them, no matter how stubborn as you can be. You have to do the work. You have to read the self help books and go to therapy and try or their help and support is going to be useless for you. No one can save you besides yourself. This is your battle to fight even if you have people on your side. If you feel like you cannot manage or handle your depression then do not be afraid to seek help. Some people do not know what to do or how to handle a situation, so finding local resources is recommended for more professional help.
There are people who are prisoners to their own mind. I am fortunate to have found a way to cope and get through my depression, but for those who have not can fall into a colossal traumatic, dark hole that may lead them to hurt themselves or others. There is a spectrum for everything, from mild to severe and everyone copes differently but as a community we need to open our eyes whether it is to seek help for yourself or know where to point someone to if they turn to you for help.