Long Days, No Escape

Since I have run out of cannabis naturally, I feel this is a very good time to take advantage of whatever clarity I can gain from detoxing for awhile. I am in no way making a lifetime break, but for now there will be no more until further notice. I need to be able to afford to buy it, and not having a job severely limits my ability to purchase. I don’t want to ask my husband to give me money, as I believe he would prefer me trying to get off if possible. I think it would reassure him (and me) that I have control over the substance. As much as I love it, I recognize the need to take a break. Right now, my world is giving me a great opportunity to try clean living.

During my medical MJ hiatus, I plan to take full advantage of the opportunity. I am making more commitments to myself in the form of activities that keep me engaged and interested in life. I plan to journal every day, so I can have a record of any changes I see in myself while not using. I have been taking my med, getting more physical activity, spending more time outside, meeting new friends and drinking lots of water in the past few weeks. I supposed I knew that the pot would end, and no one would be showing up to replace it.

It’s day two on my pot moratorium and I’m doing fine. I miss it a lot. I washed up my grinder and storage pouch, and cleaned all my gear. It’s so final when I wash my grinder because i know all of that good shake that could be scraped out is gone. It’s better that way, as I know myself. I would scrape it to the metal to get a chance to be comfortable.

Yesterday I went walking with my new friend, H. She and I have been getting together a few times and we get along quite well. We are making some goals, and moving towards achievement, since there doesn’t seem to be much else to do around here. We have plans to create some photographs, and in anticipation of being a subject, we are going to get as fit as we can, in a relaxed and pressure free environment. Since we like walking, it’s pretty easy to get out and get some daily exercise and fresh air. It’s good for the body, and good for the soul.

She’s an artist, both performance and visual. I like hearing how another artist feels about creating art, and also the success or failure of the piece to generate the expected response. It’s good to finally have another friend here. We talk a lot about being outsiders, or other here. We don’t fit in, but I suppose we don’t want to. We are the weirdos.

Lean Into The Discomfort

This is Day One of my pot-less situation. I used up the emergency stash yesterday because I know myself, and as long as it’s here, I will use it. I know I can live without it, but the thought of such a life seems dull. I bet all drug addicts rationalize their addictions, and I am no different. I miss it already. I’m depressed that I have none, and although my coping strategies are excellent, life doesn’t seem as interesting when I am sober.

My thought is that after a few weeks without it, I will see that marijuana is what is holding me back in life, instead of propelling me forward. Perhaps we will both start working again and so many things will improve that I will have no other course of action but to admit that I don’t need it in my life. Even though I want it.

My relationship with cannabis (and it is a relationship) has been the only constant in keeping my spirit happy. When I was alone, lonely and afraid, it kept me anchored to each day. I learned how to use my dependency to motivate myself to do more to ‘earn’ the right to use. I cleaned my house, walked, took the dog for a walk whenever I wanted to feel okay about being dependent on marijuana. I learned to engage in my real life and home in order to feel okay about being a drug user.

I am more patient and understanding when I am using cannabis. My body feels safe and secure. My spirit feels happy. My mind feels unified, even when there are several conversations going on up there at the same time.

Pot has a reputation for making people paranoid, and possibly being linked to developing schizophrenia. I often experienced paranoid thinking when I was high. More correctly, pot allowed me unrestricted entry to the thoughts that usually didn’t make it past my conscious filter. Some thoughts were paranoid stories that fleshed out my greatest fears, using players from my life as the subjects. Some thoughts were truths I didn’t have a place to integrate into my disordered thinking. Some thoughts were dark, old, things that my memory sanitized years ago.

It is scary to let your fear roam unrestricted in your mind. It’s scarier still to board the paranoid thought train and go where it takes you. You dip your thoughts fully into your worst nightmare, where you begin to feel all of the associated pain and hurt, even if only in your imagination.

Fear doesn’t keep pain away. It creates a lush breeding ground for paranoia. When I was high, I would meditate about a problem, and let whatever associations naturally formed, play out. If I wasn’t afraid to think the thoughts, they naturally resolved themselves when I realized how unlikely most of my fears are.

I have a strong belief that the bond I have with the cannabis plant is sacred and an essential part of my healing. I resent that I need to detox from something that feels right. On the other hand, I also need to know if life is better with or without the plant. I am not looking forward to the dry life, but perhaps I will be amazed at the benefits of living without cannabis.

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.

IPP Day 2

DAY 2

Create Your “Theme” for 2016

From the Infinite Possibilities Project

My theme for 2016 is Metamorphosis.

The past several years have been a journey through the darkest parts of me.  I’ve battled with my shadow and become intimate companions.  Trust, intimacy, truth, honor…these have been my adversaries.  I have not known real depth of any until now.

It’s time to put it all together.  It’s time for the butterfly to emerge from the cocoon and find out what she’s here to do.  I don’t know what the rapid expansion of my soul was all about, but I have to believe there is a reason.  I am here to do something meaningful and I am ready to begin.

Infinite Possibilities Project Day 1

DAY 1

Get Clear About the Year 2016 – Know Your Priorities!

Today, write down at least 5 goals for 2016. Make sure to consider all areas of your life that are important to you: health, career, family, relationships, creativity, spirituality, travel, finances, etc. Then, once you are done, re-write your goals in order of their importance to you (highest on top).

  1. Continue to improve my relationship with my body
  2. Make time every day for some physical activity
  3. Speak less; Listen more
  4. Meet like-minded people who are interested in making new friends
  5. Eliminate negative thinking
  6. Travel to interesting places with my husband (and family)
  7. Let go of control
  8. Find a way to contribute to the world in a meaningful way
  9. Be FINANCIALLY FIT.  Settle debts, have savings
  10. Create art.  Pick one of my ideas and proceed with making images
  11. Feel comfortable in my skin in any situation

The most important of my goals is the one that assists in my feeling of safety and survival, financial fitness.  Learning to let go of the need to control, and letting things happen organically is essential to my mental health, and is a goal I revisit daily.  Eliminating negative thinking is a hard goal.  My initial thoughts are often negative, filled with self-doubt and shame.  This doesn’t make me feel good, and I don’t want to be a person who sees the bad before I see anything else.

Learning to speak less will be a tremendous challenge for me.  I seem to think every minute needs to be filled with sound.  I also seem to think that everything I say is important, and this is simply not so.  I need to realize that I am the only person who sees things from my unique perspective.  I need to get over my need for people to understand me, and just learn to accept myself for who I am.  I don’t need to make people like me, and I don’t need to chatter endlessly when I am nervous.  I am trying to learn to feel safe when things are unknown.  I am trying to learn to feel at peace with silence between people.  I am trying to stop filling the blanks, and see what other people do when there is silence.

Feeling comfortable in my skin goes along with learning to speak less.  I am starting to really enjoy my relationship with my body.  Perhaps that’s the first step.  Once we get along well, and I have regained the trust that I forfeited from many years of self-abusive behavior, I believe this goal will be a joy to realize.  I have been waiting all my life to feel at home in my body, and since I moved to BC, that possibility no longer seems remote.  I believe if I continue to stay active and eat less crap, this goal will be easier to achieve.  This physical body has carried me through everything, without much complaint, and I want to honor it by allowing it to take the shape it always should have.