Worth Living Ambassador Lisa Anderson from Texas
“My name is Lisa. Formerly a successful marketing manager for Fortune 50 corporations, I am now passionately dedicated to advocating for mental health awareness, chronic pain education, and suicide prevention.”
I had been successful at almost everything in life except for coping with negative emotions. I spent years shrugging off sorrow and burying despair. They would be dealt with later. I ignored the physical warnings that signaled an inevitable world-class meltdown as I artfully dodged processing any trauma that I encountered.
After a two-year period of tragedy, my “safe” emotional bubble burst and I landed squarely on my ass.
The downward spiral began when the love of my life, Richard, was diagnosed with throat cancer. I watched my strong, vibrant man dwindle to a shadow of himself through chemo and daily radiation. When he was no longer able to eat, I fed him through a tube inserted in his stomach. I stayed awake at night to watch for signs that he was still breathing. Those were dark days.
Thankfully, he overcame the cancer and life began to return to normal. We were engaged to marry on a bright, chilly Christmas morning and our home was once again filled with hope for the future. Until the call came on that fateful spring afternoon.
Richard’s son, at the age of 23, had died by suicide. Harry was bright, devilishly handsome, and oozing with charm. He could sell ice to an Alaskan. To meet Harry, you could immediately see the potential for a bounty of great things in his future. The problem was, he could not. Under all of the joking and young male bluster, Harry hid a terrible secret. He was in pain. The confidence that he portrayed was a symptom of that “selling ice” thing. We never imagined the depths of Harry’s depression. We never imagined a world without him.
Life marched on and we wed in the fall. Shortly afterwards, the pain began. As a new bride, I chalked it up to the busy months before the wedding and the “normal stress” that was an ever-present part of my life in the corporate arena. Surely nothing that happy hour and a nice massage couldn’t remedy. Well, that wasn’t to be the case. My body and my mind betrayed me.
After months of being unable to work due to the chronic pain, I was out of a job. The career that had defined me for so many years was gone, along with my healthy salary. My perception of myself was trashed. I had always self-identified with the “professional me.” My sense of guilt increased as our bank account decreased.
By that summer, I felt that there was nothing to look forward to but endless, debilitating pain. The life that I had known – the PERSON that I had been – was gone. The downward spiral continued as I started losing my words and became unable to think in a straight line. When I became anxious, I’d stutter, so I stopped talking unless I had to. I felt stupid, worthless and a huge burden on my husband.
There were so many doctors, it was hard to keep track of where I needed to be on any given day. I was a human pin cushion after having blood drawn so frequently, yet no one could identify exactly what was wrong with me for quite some time. Remaining undiagnosed for so long left me frustrated and afraid. New symptoms rained down and I never knew what was going to fall off next. My roller-coaster ride with various meds had left me ruined. For months I ricocheted between lying incoherently in bed for days, and sleepless nights where I struggled to take a breath. Every empty day ran into the next.
On August 21, I was ready to die. I had a drawer full of pills within reach. I didn’t even need to get out of bed to end all of the pain and loss. As fate would have it, I also had the suicide prevention number within reach as well. In that one critical moment I remembered what I had learned from losing Harry.
There are always ripples. The split second action of one person will reverberate through others for the rest of their lives. The end of one person’s pain is the beginning of sorrow for so many. It is like passing the baton of despair, handing off the pain to those left behind. How well will they run the race? How will they face each day?
I chose life. For my husband, for my mother, for my daughter, for my friends. I summoned the courage to try – just one more day.
My experience at the mental health facility, which I lovingly call “my week at Band Camp,” was the best thing that ever could have happened to me. I found that I was ready to heal, and learned valuable coping skills that would carry me through to the next phase of my healing journey.
When I came home I immediately began working with a therapist. Over time, a whole beautiful world of opportunity opened up to me. By incorporating guided imagery, meditation, Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), and other mindfulness-based coping skills into my toolbox, I began to relish every session. Between visits I would pour all of my thoughts and feelings into my journal, which helped to purge the pain and shine a light on my healing path. I was learning to love myself and to value the miracle of life that I had almost thrown away. I was able to take back my personal power and change my relationship with pain.
I was hungry to understand more about my physical and emotional pain and how the two were intrinsically intertwined. The more I learned about the Mind/Body/Spirit connection and the role that the brain plays in processing pain, the more I could see my way to WHOLE HEALTH.
Am I pain-free today? Nope. I still have some bad days, but I have far more GREAT DAYS. I continue to use the tools that I’ve learned and I gain new strength and insights each day. My quest for knowledge of healing through modern medicine and ancient practices continues and my life has become a more amazing journey than I ever could have imagined.
That place in my soul that used to hide my pain is now overflowing with joy and gratitude. Now it’s my turn to give back. Moving forward, my focus is on advocacy. I’m currently creating a resource to “speak my truth” about mental health and suicide and to share my insights, my sources of inspiration, and the tools and resources that made the difference between life and death. My story of Power Not Pain. Perhaps someone who has lost their way will find it as a way-sign. And, at that critical moment they will remember my story and choose life.
Please visit my facebook page – www.facebook.com/powernotpain