My Heart Bleeds For Baltimore

There is no good or bad, only perception

A view of rowhomes on Patterson Park Avenue with downtown in the background, taken from an upper level of the Patterson Park Pagoda.  (Barbara Haddock Taylor/Baltimore Sun)

Baltimore was my home for five years during my early twenties.  The city gave me countless irreplaceable memories.  When I think about my time living there I become incredibly nostalgic.

Playing football at Patterson Park and dodgeball at Du Burns Arena.  Going out drinking every weekend in Canton or Federal Hill.  Getting sushi and buckets of beer at Cross Street Market.  Orioles games at Camden Yards.  Looking back on those times I am incredibly grateful for those experiences.   A part of me will always love Baltimore.

I have continued to spend time in Charm City for the last 10 years.  Seeing riots break out in Baltimore struck a chord with me.  I felt anguish and anger as I watched areas I frequented being looted and destroyed.  It forced me to reevaluate and change my perspective on civil unrest.

I felt like the riots in Ferguson earlier this year were happening in another country.  I was rather indifferent to them.  My view of the riots was that a bunch of animals were destroying their homes.  People were responding in a violent manner over the police shooting of a criminal.  The cries of police abusing power were heard in my ears, but I didn’t take them to heart.  Having been the subject of police brutality myself, one would think I would be more sympathetic.

When the riots first started in Baltimore I kept the same narrow minded view as I had on Ferguson.  The police abused their power and took the life of another criminal.  Now opportunists were using this tragedy as the impetus to loot and riot for their own personal gain.

The way much of the media depicted this situation perpetuated the same parochial view to the rest of the public.  The news doesn’t normally show the peaceful protesters who are fed up, but are going about their way in a nonviolent manner.  In my opinion they tend to show volatile events in an irresponsible and dangerous manner in the name of ratings.

When I would look at social media, the majority of my feed was made up of clips pushing the media’s agenda.  Showing the riots instead of the nonviolent protests.  There is a certain rush from the injustice we feel when we see people acting barbaric, attacking innocent bystanders and burning down their own neighborhoods.

It’s easy to join in with that gang mentality and push what the media outlets show us. They dictate how we should perceive and feel about what was occurring .  In the past I would have joined in and shared the videos.  I would have made insensitive statements without thinking twice.  Hate and ignorance begets hate and ignorance.

image1Somewhere after the first day of the riots my mindset started to change.  My thoughts shifted to the people I love in Baltimore.  I became scared knowing they could possibly be victims of violence.   I feared for a little boy, who’s only 5, that has to grow up in the face of this type of unrest in this country.  The spill over and rage of people who feel that they have not been heard or seen for too long can no longer be silenced.

Out of every disaster and hardship comes opportunity if you look for it.  Deep down I truly believe that somewhere in these tumultuous events lies hope for a better future with more understanding.  This is possibly IF (and that is a gigantic if) we get the right people to look at and assess the situation.  Not the same people who continue to get us into these devastating catastrophes.

The unfortunate fact is that so many of us, myself included, have a set belief system that interferes with us seeing opportunity in tragedy.  It’s easy for me to drive on my default setting of what I have always thought was right and wrong.  Life’s simple that way.  I don’t have to make hard choices and think for myself.  I just stick to what I have always believed and stay ignorant.

However, there are people with the ability to see the bigger picture.  They have learned to expand their minds and remove the blinders that keep others from seeing the grey area where the opportunities live.  They have the capability to take something like these riots and turn it into something exceptional.

The biggest problem with finding opportunity in these occurrences is that the truly gifted people with that ability want nothing to do with politics.  We tend to have the most inept people, who are unwilling to perceive things differently, in power. That’s on both sides of the political spectrum. Until that changes, not much else will change.

When the right people examine a problem anything is possible.  Our country can no longer tolerate the pain and suffering of individuals without trying to empower them.  Archaic methods of making people dependent on a system that is broken and does not serve their best interests can no longer be allowed to exist.  We need to create new ways to stimulate growth and development throughout our country and improve relations across the racial divide.

I’m Kicking Again

man having painful depressionCrawling out of my skin; all the familiar symptoms rush over my mind and body.  Weakness and fatigue beating me down.  My body fluctuating from hot to cold.  The inability to think or focus because my mind is clogged up and foggy with thoughts that don’t serve me well.  Restlessness and irritation.  The bloating and stomach pains.  The night sweats.  All this evidence leads me to one conclusion: I’m going through withdrawal.

My doctor has prescribed me Xanax for several years now.   I have been using it to fall sleep on a regular basis for the last 18 months.  I’ve tried many other natural supplements and sleep techniques over that time period with little to no success.  I know its not the best option, but it’s worked for me.

I’ve slept horribly for the better part of 15 years.  I wake up numerous times every night.  A myriad of factors effect my ability to get enough sleep.  Having to urinate during the night, body pains, anxiety and the inability to shut off my mind are the main culprits.

I decided several weeks ago that it was time to wean myself off Xanax.  I have become dependent on it for sleep, but my body has developed a tolerance to it.  Continuing to take it this medication in the future isn’t a sustainable option.

Coming off of benzo’s can be a very difficult and dangerous process.  Quite often people experience very adverse side effects including seizures.  I tried kicking cold turkey when I was in California a month ago and the withdrawal symptoms were too great.  I didn’t want to ruin my vacation.

When I returned home from vacation I decided it was time to come off.  I cut my usual dosage in half for two weeks; then in half again for another two weeks.  I should have kept taking it every other day for another week or two, but I was ready to come off.

It’s been over seven months since I had to kick opiates.  I’m employing many of the same supplements and methods I have in the past to mitigate some of the side effects:

  • Plenty of water with fresh squeezed lemon – Withdrawal makes me very dehydrated.  I’m drinking at least 1.5 gallons of water a day.  This keeps me hydrated and the lemon is a natural way to detox the liver.
  • Vitamin C –  Keeps the immune system healthy.  There’s been studies showing mega doses can ameliorate withdrawal symptoms in opiate addicts.
  • Magnesium – It calms the nervous system and lessens anxiety.
  • Getting plenty of sunlight – This is important for vitamin D production.  Being in the sun makes me feel invigorated and my mood appreciates.  Taking a walk in the sun is shown to release oxytocin which is known as the “happiness hormone.”
  • Exercise – No matter how weak I feel, partaking in some sort of exercise always aids in this process.  It gets the blood flowing, endorphin’s going and takes my focus off of other symptoms.
  • L-Tyrosine – This amino acid helps immensely with energy.  Unlike with caffeine or other stimulants, L-Tyrosine does not make me jittery.  It gives me nice, smooth, prolonged energy.  It can also increase dopamine in the brain to counteract depression.
  • Alleve – To deal with all the body aches and pains.

Last night I tried smoking weed to counteract how miserable I felt.  Getting high completely wiped me out to the point where I could barely function.  It took me 20 minutes to walk my dog around the block.  My motor functions slowed to a crawl.  I lay on my couch half paralyzed until I fell asleep.

I stopped taking Xanax seven days ago.  The last two days my symptoms have been the most intense.  As I write this I’m not sure if it will turn out to be intelligible.  My brain is barely functioning and my body would like to shut down.  However, I feel like am nearing the tail end of this debacle.

This experiment didn’t go as smoothly as planned.  Nonetheless, It’s a surreal feeling knowing what I’m going through internally and still having the ability to be in control of my feelings and emotions. Having a clear head and being in a more stable place in my life makes handling this situation much easier.  It’s a completely different experience then kicking drugs I was using recreationally.