Feelings Rise

Emotional overload. My feelings rise up so quickly and leave me cornered. I strike out in anger, my favorite defense. I don’t know why these people love me, but I wonder if my emotional disconnection has affected them. I try to be happy and kind, but my nature is angry and suspicious.

All my life I have been waiting to be understood. I want to say and do the things I want, but the reality is that as soon as I do, I encounter resistance from others. When I am well, things move along nicely and everyone is content. When I am struggling, they vacillate between concern and anger.

I am so angry inside. I feel like all of the people that were supposed to guide and support me to adulthood failed to do anything but the basics. I was fed and clothed, but emotionally starved. I grew up nervous and suspicious but I did my best to hide it under an amiable, people-pleasing exterior. Now that I am not interested in saying what others want to hear, I realize I am going to start finding the conflict I have always avoided.

My heart feels heavy and alone. I am loved by my husband more than I deserve to be loved. He puts up with my shit and supports anything I decide to undertake. He accepts people unconditionally, and is the most genuine person I have ever known. He has changed my life for the better in too many ways to count. He accepts me, but he doesn’t understand me. When I begin an emotional freefall, all he can do is love me until it passes. I truly wonder how long another person will put up with emotional instability. I know he loves me, but someday, I am afraid this will be too tiring for him to continue.

I live in some kind of emotional freezer. I fight to keep everything neutral, but the wrong look, tone or words send me instantly into a raging animal. I feel cornered and trapped and all I want to do is explode and hurt the person in front of me the way I am hurting.

I see my children triumph and I cry tears of relief, pride and joy. Then the feelings turn, and I am them, alone on an island of isolation in my own childhood, wishing I had a parent like me who enriched my strengths, and helped improve my weaknesses. The tears are selfish then, for a middle aged woman who never stopped being a child waiting to be loved and accepted.

I ache to be understood. When I was in grade 10 or 11, I read a Steven King novella, “The Body”. There was a passage that made my heart skip a beat.

The most important things are the hardest to say. They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them — words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they’re brought out. But it’s more than that, isn’t it? The most important things lie too close to wherever your secret heart is buried, like landmarks to a treasure your enemies would love to steal away. And you may make revelations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way, not understanding what you’ve said at all, or why you thought it was so important that you almost cried while you were saying it. That’s the worst, I think. When the secret stays locked within not for want of a teller but for want of an understanding ear.”

Some part of my teenage self started when I read this passage. I read it over and over, and highlighted it. Something about it felt so authentic to me.

This is who I am. This is my fear. I am afraid I will never find those friends who think like I do, and dream like I do. I want to be understood so badly. I’ve been to therapists and psychiatrists, friends and acquaintances, teachers and mentors; I’m still waiting to find my people. I’m afraid it’s been too long, and their beautiful, brave hearts have grown old, waiting to be recognized.

Detox. Meh.

I have had a relationship with cannabis for more than a few years now. I have gone back and forth with fear and worry that my use of cannabis is somehow damaging to me spiritually, or that I am trying to escape from something I don’t want to deal with. In November, a new friend who grows his own medical marijuana stopped by with a ‘Welcome to BC’ gift for me, with assorted samples of the bud he grows. I have likely never received a gift that made me happier. I have been enjoying that bag immensely.

Yesterday the day came that I have been dreading. My stash had dwindled down to one bud. There might be enough there for an emergency puff or two, but this morning I find myself in the position of having no more pot, and a renewed reason for a tolerance break.

There isn’t much joy in the idea of living without cannabis. It’s like a daily appointment to meet with the part of myself that can’t seem to rise without it. I feel relaxed and safe in my body when I use it. There is a part of me that doesn’t care what the rest of the world has to say about using marijuana in lieu of a pharmaceutical drug. For some reason, it’s totally okay for people to have an alcohol dependency. In fact, it’s socially sanctioned. Lots of people are afraid of cannabis. Maybe it shows you more than you want to see about yourself.

I would be under the influence of cannabis every waking moment if I could. I love the way it makes my body feel free and at home. I like the way my mind works, even if it makes other people less comfortable. I feel like the me I am supposed to be, rather than the person who is always trying to do and say the right thing. Pot lets me bypass the filter that stops me from saying, doing or even thinking the things I want to, AND my body feels great. For me it’s a win/win.

I take this tolerance break because I can feel it’s time. The medicine doesn’t work as well after a while. I have decided that I won’t be getting more until I can afford it myself, or until it shows up again organically in my life.

I love you Mary Jane, and I will see you as soon as I am able.

I’m giving up on you.

Therapy. It’s really such a crap shoot.

I have unpacked my psychological bags for 7 different health care professionals in the past 18 months, in order to gain assistance in sorting out my difficulties in living in this body, in this life. The difficulty in condensing the concerns of a lifetime into an hour long appointment is obvious. It takes several appointments just to get the information shared, and start working on solutions.

My first counselor was an icy clone of my mother. I spent most of the time trying to get her to warm to me, as therapy in a frozen vortex is difficult.
The next was a comical physical representation of one of my abusers. He was like a caricature. I didn’t notice the resemblance until I was in my next therapists office.
My psychiatrist met me in 15 minute blocks, via skype. This was the sum total of the help I received in Ontario.

It was a ridiculous situation, but I managed to find
something from each of them that helped me move forward. It never occurred to me that therapy is only as good as the therapist leading the parade. I didn’t think about what would happen if the therapist was a harried new mother, and only vaguely connected to her job. Perhaps it’s difficult seeing so many people who feel helpless. Maybe you stop thinking you can help any of them.

In BC, the wait time was short, and the candidates impressive. My first counselor here was an unemotional Asian man, who listened without expression, and mirrored back my feelings to me. Our time together was brief, 2 sessions, as he was being replaced by someone new.
My last therapist was the best so far. He was engaging, reflective and probably too good looking. I had to take my glasses off so I couldn’t see how attractive he was when I was talking to him. As it turns out, our two sessions will be all we have, since he is not returning either.

When he went to make another appointment, and he told me that he wouldn’t be returning, I decided to give up on the process of having a professional help me navigate my own mental wilderness. I’m so tired of sharing the warts and moles of my life, only to be shuffled off to someone new. It takes so long to build trust and empathy with someone, and there is never any guarantee that the employee will be able, willing or interested in helping the client make a lifelong change. It’s so frustrating to know that another person holds the keys to wellness, but I cannot maintain contact long enough to have a successful exchange.

In the end, I guess I will take what I can from these sessions.

From the frosty lady I learned about radical acceptance. I have adopted the idea that all of my life has contributed to the person I am now. I love that person, despite her flaws, and she deserves to be encouraged to move forward.

From the doddering old man I learned that it’s okay to stop caring for people who don’t care for me.

From the skype psychiatrist I realized that therapy needs time, and a personal connection. Good work can happen, but everyone needs to be very goal-oriented, with the ability to prioritize mental health needs. I learned how to advocate for myself to take medication, and what kind.

From the expressionless Asian I learned that being heard is so valuable. Just having a place to talk about things, and a therapist who doesn’t judge is wonderful. I liked how rational and emotionless he was about his job. Unfortunately for me, emotion is one of my greatest challenges, so we were not the best match in a therapy situation.

From the last, and best version of therapy I have experienced, I felt understood. I realize that there are others with problems that they are NOT handling well. Since I am stable, and coping well with my difficulties, I no longer have a need to be supported I suppose.

I am a person with a rich inner world, who is lonely and experiencing the first real isolation I have consciously known. I am living in a beautiful, isolated mountain town.
I have the most amazing husband, great kids, and a beautiful, inviting new locale to call home. I see so much potential here for healing and becoming the person I am supposed to be. I am impatient for my new life to begin.

I wanted to write this to remember my frustration with therapy, and how every time I start the process I have high hopes for what it will bring to my life. The reality is, no one can possibly understand what it’s like to be another person. One cannot begin to imagine the compound interest of the experiences that shape another human being, without investing a great deal of time and energy into such a relationship. It is difficult to enter into a one-sided conversation about healing when the person who is scheduled to be the guide has never personally navigated the waters they find themselves in.

I find therapy to be unsatisfying exercise in you vs me, where YOU get to know all of my mistakes and problems, and I don’t know any of yours. You tell me how to solve the problems you have never had. Learning about mental illness is not the same as living with it, and it’s very unsatisfying to be bounced from service to service by smiling service providers who don’t have the slightest idea how to reach and help a drowning person.

Art Imitates Life

Pain and distress is as much as aspect of our experience as love and happiness.  Often we only honor the comfortable aspect of ourselves, while pretending, or avoiding the aspects that give us pain.   Turning our attention to our lesser-loved, and more troubling feelings gives us access to parts of ourselves that need to be heard, held and helped. Sadness can connect us to the truth of our pain, the honour of our experiences, and the ability to move past it to something better.

In the early weeks of 2014, I was completely overtaken by The Artist.  S(he) wanted to see if other people were hiding pain too.

I wanted to know if other people would experiment with their sadness, and see if they could make some progress with their own pain.  They didn’t really understand what I was doing, and luckily they didn’t care.  They were brave, and they trusted that it was worth trying.  The agreement was that no one had to participate, but once they did, the image was mine to keep.  I used one image from each subject, as part of a collective project.

It took about 7 weeks to shoot 19 people.  I had no problem finding volunteers, but a few people backed out at the last minute, understandably.

Some thought it would be difficult to cry for no reason, but once we got down to it, the tears often started on the interview couch.  I was not surprised to find out that everyone had something to cry about.

There were aching, soulful sobs, and tight, angry tears, and sad lonely tears of things long ago left behind.  I shot 19 women, and each story is unique.  The tears are easy to spot, but are hard to look at sometimes.

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The process allowed me to connect personally with things that used to be ideas.  Areas of expertise that no person wants to claim. I can’t explain what happens when you see yourself in a way you didn’t expect.  Or when you find your face looks fierce and proud when you thought it would look weak. What a pleasant and grateful truth to see a warrior in the mirror, and not a mouse.

Around the same time, there was a photographer that got a lot of attention for the images he shot of John Schneider crying on a shoot for a show called ‘The Haves and Have Nots”.  I had not seen these images, although they happened right around the same time that I was absorbed in my self-portrait series.  The parallels were obvious.

JS had just lost his father, and he allowed the photographer to capture images of his pain, after the required images for the show were complete.  I thought they were breathtakingly beautiful.  Some of the people who had seen my project sent me the link to the photographs.

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http://www.jeremycowart.com is the artist (and photographer) that captured these images.

I always loved John Schneider when he was on the Dukes of Hazzard.  I loved him even more after I saw these images.

I understood these images more than most, and I thought it ironic that these sort of feelings are welcomed and congratulated as brave when it’s done by a celebrity.  I don’t know what I had expected from my own set of images.  I imagined they would be experienced as uncomfortable and interesting. I thought people might be interested in exploring the boundaries of experiencing emotional pain, and discussing the feelings the images provoke.  I thought there was some value to looking at the opposite of the feelings I was regularly being paid to produce.  I thought it was art.

I was so wrong.

Someday I believe these images will be seen by the people who will understand them.  Maybe then I will understand why they were so important to me that I destroyed my career, and my comfortable, veneer-covered life to make them.

I hope I will be able to know why I spent all of my waking time thinking of these images, and trying to make more.  Something in me wanted to be certain I knew I was deeply unhappy.  I believe most people are deeply unhappy in many ways, but are so brainwashed by the way we ‘live’ that they can no longer feel their disconnect.

I realize it’s probably only art when a famous person does it.  I think JC’s images are powerful and real.  This is the only kind of work I’m interested in creating any more, and there seems to be little market for it.

How will I ever sell people on the idea that feeling their own real, authentic feelings, is the gateway to a life connected to the real world.  In this place, there are no tv’s or cell phones.  There is nothing to distract you from the job of being human, and reveling in your own experience of life.

The paradox?  You must awaken to your own discomfort, to live the way you are meant to live.

Healing Rituals ~ Burning Shit Up

Sometimes I feel like my brain needs a physical cue from my body to make the connection between what I am feeling, and what I want as an outcome.

When I want to symbolically break an old connection, I burn something.  I make a little funeral pyre, and include something that belongs to the person, or something that reminds me of them.  I have a ceremonial burning to release the bonds of the past, and to make the intention of creating something different in the space I create.   While the contents burn, I reflect on why I am requesting a mental adjustment in my obligations to that person.

Burning feels good.  It feels real.  I connect with the power of making my own decisions, and removing the familial bonds that have shackled me.  I say goodbye with love and with acceptance for all missed opportunities.  I release us from our previous obligations to each other.

This burn was to disconnect my father.

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I am sure to many he was a great, fun fellow.  To his family, he was something quite different.  I don’t need to defend my feelings.  Even emotionally crippled people have the capacity to rise out of their own misery, and change their behavior.

How limiting to excuse the behavior of a selfish, calculating liar because he was also a victim.  We are all victims in some way.  It doesn’t lessen our obligation to try to do better.

In my current, emotionally healthy life, I choose who gets to be in my inner circle.  There are no obligations to prior bonds of family or friendship.  I choose people who respect my boundaries, recognize my worth, and accept me with unconditional love.  That may be a tall order, but it’s my boundary, and I won’t accept less anymore.   In my new standard, people earn their place in my life.  If the person is no longer living, I sever the connection that previously existed based on societal obligation.  Whether living or dead, people who don’t take their responsibilities as a human being seriously, aren’t granted access to anything more than my politeness.

I have made peace with my past, even if I haven’t decided if I want to make peace with all of the people in it.  It’s my choice to decide who gets to stay in my heart, and who gets evicted.

Coming Out as a Collection of Parts

Telling people you are being treated for DID is not something I have really brought myself to do just yet.  It is a hard topic to introduce.  People have shown me their extreme fear and reluctance to be around me as I have struggled in the past year.  I have spent a great deal of time alone.

The most recent version of me was completely unaware that I had any mental illness at all.  It kept me busy and distracted all of the time.  I relate to this song:

 

Not the part about throwing up in the bathtub, or picking up daddies in the playground.  The part about keeping yourself distracted all the time so you never notice how alone you are.

“You’re gone and I gotta stay
High all the time
To keep you off my mind
High all the time
To keep you off my mind
Spend my days locked in a haze
Trying to forget you babe
I fall back down
Gotta stay high all my life
To forget I’m missing you”

‘High’ is a metaphor for any activity, drink, drug or person that kept me distracted and unaware.  I was keeping myself entertained every second of my day.  Before one thing was over, I would be thinking about the next thing I was going to do.  I didn’t live in the moment.  I wasn’t committed to the future.  I had erased the past.  My life was in complete chaos.  My home was like a bomb shelter.  Disorganization was my preferred coping strategy, although as a strategy, it only succeeded in reminding me what a fuck-up I was, and how I was never going to get it together.

I didn’t know what I was missing.  I was a shell of a person.  When I looked in the mirror (which I mostly avoided), I was looking at the reflection of my body, but couldn’t find me in the image.  I am not sure why these thoughts never seemed odd to me.  I suppose no one was talking about how much they identified with the person they were.  I identified with my thoughts, and with my experiences.  I had strong opinions and felt deep pain, so I assumed I was just like everyone else.

I was unaware of the extent of my incredible disconnect to my physical, emotional and spiritual world.  After my mental health started slipping last December (with the onset of emotional PTSD flashbacks), my extreme disconnect kept me from losing my mind with fear.  Occasionally there would be a few days, or a week where I seemed to be losing my ability to remain unafraid.  There were times of such extreme worry and fear that I had to separate from the thoughts just to remain grounded.  One of my most upsetting flashbacks caused me to mildly lose my grip on reality.  I have never felt such fury.  I felt like the terminator as I strode furiously towards the man who was the object of my anger.  His crime was apathy.  That was a real eye opener.

After many of these flashbacks, it became clear that my body was creating an opportunity to release stress from within my body, and find a way to introduce emotions that I had never had the freedom to express.   In many ways, finding my inner FURY was incredible.  It was freeing and exhilarating, as well as terrifying.   Keeping friendships during this period in my life was a great challenge.  People stayed clear of me as I imploded, which only infuriated me more.  I was angry at myself for surrounding myself with people who were unable to handle the reality of what was going on.  This might sound like I am blaming the people around me, but in reality, I had surrounded myself with people who were not equipped to handle the gravity of my issues.

It is easy to be unaware of your highly fragmented identity when the relationships in your life are mostly superficial.   In these situations, everyone is disconnected and exchanging what seems to be meaningful information, but what is truly filler in the sandwich of life.   These people are wonderful people, but they weren’t wonderful for me.  Introducing mental illness into a party crowd is a definite killjoy.  🙂

Without these relationships, I wouldn’t have seen the emptiness that I had come to accept as true connection to others in my world.  I had been trying to create important, meaningful relationships with people who did not want to have them with me.

It was the start of a fall that took months to complete.  When it as over, I was mostly alone, and happy with the step back I had taken in my life. As I quieted every aspect of my life, deleted my social media accounts, and stopped reaching out every time I felt afraid, life began to make much more sense.    I clawed back as much of myself as I could.  I retreated from the many places I had extended myself, and found peace and clarity that had been eluding me when I was in the middle of my own chaotic life.

 

 

 

 

Mental Illness Epidemic

Mental illness seems to serve the purpose of connecting the gaps between perceived and actual reality.   The smaller the gap, the less problematic this system is.  When there are huge discrepancies between what we want our lives to be, and what they really are, there are a myriad of mental defenses available for our brain to put into place.  Even as the walls are built, it is always with the understanding that they can be removed in the future when the self is more secure, and ready to accept the difference between reality and perception.

OUR CULTURE ENCOURAGES US TO IGNORE THE REALITY.  We cannot keep living in such a disconnect.  Physically, emotionally and environmentally, we are headed for disaster if there is no intervention.

Our higher selves are moving us towards all things that will remind us of our ‘home’.  I refer to a frequency in life where our needs are met, we are happy and secure, and moving towards reaching the goals we have set for ourselves.

If we stay close to our ‘path’, life begins to get easier and easier.  Following our path means taking good care of ourself, listening to our body, and overriding the ego-demands of our mind when they are not in alignment with our true needs.  This is the path to mental wellness.

If we continue to ignore the redirection from our higher self (in the form of thoughts, feelings and opportunities), we will find less and less clarity, and less fulfillment.  We may begin to experience a loss in physical well-being as a reflection of our degrading mental health.  Eventually, the evidence of cognitive dissonance will force the body and mind to get on the same page in some way or another.

I anticipate an epidemic of mental illness, increased stress and continuing pressure on people who have lost their center, and let their ego call all the shots.  Ego without temperance is trouble.

Ego is like the bully who has been hiding his own secret fear and shame.  It works hard to kick up lots of problems in other areas, to distract from the mess in its own back yard.  It focuses on short term rewards, avoiding pain, and prefers to ignore discrepancies in fact.  (This is very much like every DID alter that is created, btw)

There is going to be some very bad mental illness on the loose in the future.  We have an epidemic of untreated mental dis-ease and a culture that rewards passive absorption of mental candy and glittering distractions.

One only has to traverse the mental health system as a patient briefly, to see how terrifying this possibility is.  Forget Ebola.  Mental illness will bring this world to its knees if we don’t start taking care of our minds.  The people assigned to care for this population are burnt out, overworked, underfunded and feeling desperately hopeless.  They are barely making a dent in the problem.

I had my head in the sand about how the medical community and the pubic react to mental illness.  My initiation into the club was terrifying and shocking.  People I knew virtually ignored me, or treated me with distaste.   Nearly everyone ignored the implosion that was taking place in plain sight.  No one wondered why I was making images like these:

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I found out that you can cry in front of the whole world, and they will ignore it completely.  I learned that you can get a whole bunch of other people to cry in front of the world, and they will ignore that too.

I knew I wasn’t crazy, but there sure as hell was SOMETHING very wrong, and no one wanted to talk about it.

It was a terrifying time for me.  Nervous Breakdown vs Spiritual Emergency.  I believe the outcome is directly reflected by the description of the problem.  If you believe you are sick and getting sicker, you will be terrified.  If you believe that you are having an evolution of soul, you can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  What we know about mental illness, and how we treat it is going in the wrong direction.  We need to give people hope and strategies for wellness.

Check out this post from The Mind Unleashed:

What A Shaman Sees in a Mental Hospital

It’s classic NLP.  You see what you want to see.  Our world needs to see people worth supporting, instead of giving up hope on a population that includes the likes of Abraham Lincoln, Michelangelo, Newton and Beethoven.