Depression/ Apathy/ Exhaustion/ Despair/ Grief

Last month Erica was away for a week.  On the Tuesday when I would have seen her, I woke up depressed.  It’s the first time I’ve been depressed in a long time.  It gave me a chance to differentiate “depressed” from other similar states.  When I’m depressed I feel without hope, that there’s nothing I can do to change things, and that I’m held down by a weight.

“Apathy” is something I began to pay attention to when someone told me that a baby gets apathetic when left alone too long.  I feel without motive and without energy.  I need someone from outside to get me moving again.

“Exhaustion” is something I have ignored most of my life.  My parents would say things like “How can you be tired?  You haven’t done anything.”  So I would tell myself I’m lazy and cowardly, and push myself way beyond what I could reasonably do.  It’s still hard for me to take care of myself when I’m tired.  The first time I got a hint that I habitually go past what is reasonable or healthy was in a yoga class at Kripalu.  They told us to get into a posture, to push or stretch until we could feel our muscles straining, and then to back off a little and breathe.  They talked about the”zone of tolerance” as the space between relaxing and pushing too hard.  It was the first time that I realized that I habitually push too hard.  Learning to back off has been a long and interesting challenge.

“Despair” is when I feel that nothing I can do will make any difference.  Unlike apathy, I still care about whatever is happening that I want to change.  I don’t feel heavy or complete lack of energy, and despair can certainly be a drain on energy.  But mostly despair is when the difficulty is too big, or something I’ve tried to change many times.  Sometimes what I’m trying to change is my own state of mind — trying to change depression does not work, can even make it worse.  Then there’s a tendency to judge myself for “not really wanting to change” or “holding on to depression.”  I think those two judgements are a pernicious result of a culture that teaches us to blame people for their difficulties.  Sometimes what I want to change is something going on in the world, like the degradation of the environment.  I do everything I can.  My car is a hybrid, a Prius, and I drive more slowly than most people do.  Currently I am getting over 60 miles per gallon.  I recycle as much of my waste as I can, sorting out plastic, metal, glass, paper, putting vegetable matter in a compost pile.  I live at the top of the watershed, and my well gets 25 gallons per minute, but I use as little water as I can.  I have a wood stove, and backup propane heat, and I keep the thermostats in the low sixties.  I also have a solar panel that generates electricity, and solar hot water.  That’s about as much as I can do without more help from the community.  What I can do makes such a tiny dent in the problem that I’m sometimes tempted to quit making the effort.  But I keep doing it as a kind of prayer.

“Grief” feels like a softening, it flows instead of being stuck.  Grief is the act of letting go.  When I started to let myself grieve, I didn’t get depressed.  Grief can be hard to get to.  Often I’m not able to feel it until I start to tell someone else about what I feel or why I’m sad/depressed/discouraged etc…

Typing up from a month ago, I find the seed of that post:

I used the word “hopeless” and Karen produced her usual rejoinder “That’s a thought not a feeling.”  I said yes it is a feeling.  She asked “Where do you feel it in your body?”  like my ribcage is full of concrete, I’m being weighed down, held down.  Apathy, tiredness, depression and grief.  Apathy is having no motivation, tiredness is having motivation but no energy.  Depression is having no motivation, no energy, and being held down, weighted down.  It is hard and stuck.  Grief is a softening into a process, grief moves.

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Kendal Retirement Community

I have mentioned Kendal several times, but never said much about it.

I started having a really hard time after Bella died in September 2013.  Lynelle warned me that it would trigger abandonment issues and it certainly did.  I started working with Erica in June of 2014.  She specialized in working with “trauma and attachment issues.”  Her methods were totally different from anybody I had ever worked with, and I could tell that we were really getting to what happened to me at last.

Trying to support myself, I even got a little stuffed dog to be a “transitional object.”  I think it was about that same time Lynelle mentioned that I might want to look into Kendal.  Someone she knew had moved to Kendal and loved it.  I talked to her on the phone.  I remember that I was actually terrified to make the call.  It turned out that what she really liked was the excellence of the healthcare, and the number of activities she could participate in as a volunteer.  Things like reshelving books in the library.  Those things didn’t interest me at all, nor did I really warm to the woman.  When I first mentioned Kendal to my friend Eve, she was horrified.  “It’s full of rich Republicans.”

I got serious about looking for a retirement community after I went to Kindred Spirits for the first time and found out what it was like to feel like I am really OK just as I am.  By that time I had learned that having people around, and regular meals that I didn’t have to prepare, helped me to at least be functional.  What I hadn’t yet had was the experience of being with people who are willing to tell the truth and to hear the truth even when it’s painful.  I was amazed to find that when I’m with people who are committed to truth, I actually feel that both my “bad” parts (i.e. depression) and my “good” parts (enthusiasm) are completely acceptable.

The importance of not being alone and having food available reminded me of my experience at Caron Institute.  They are in Reading PA, and were the first alcoholism treatment center in the USA.  They run a week-long program for co-dependent people, “people whose lives have been impacted by the disease of addiction.”  I went because two of my brothers went and said it was really good.  When I was signing in, they took my car keys (so I couldn’t leave without talking to someone) and my medication (so there would be no temptation to overdose.)  They said I couldn’t walk around outside without someone else.  Finally they told me that there would be someone available all night if I needed to talk.  That was the most reassuring, since being sleepless and alone has always been very hard for me.  I was surprised that instead of feeling restricted, I felt safe.  I felt safer than I ever had in my life.  I didn’t have the concept of “container” back then, but that’s what made me feel safe.

Seeing that it made sense to join a retirement community I checked out the Westview in Montpelier and Riverglen in Littleton.  They are both small, about thirty people, and I realized that I probably would have a hard time finding enough “Kindred Spirits” to feel comfortable.  The Kendal community is about 400 people, so even if I can only feel really comfortable with 1 out of 10 people, there would be about 40 people that I could find deeper relationships with.  I also investigated “Eco-communities” as I knew they would be people who shared my values.  But all that was available were small houses or apartments.  There was no setup for regular community meals.  I also considered co-housing, but again it would be too easy for me to be isolated.  I know I need to be more involved with people, and at least at first I need to have already established ways of getting together around common interests.  I need to be part of a writing group that already exists, not trying to start a writing group on my own.  I need to have classes in things like yoga and dancing nearby, so they will be easy to get to.  Kendal is big enough that things like fitness classes are in the buildings where we live.

The first question I asked all of them was “Can I bring my dog?”

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I Need Other People to Share my Pain about Current Events.

My heart hurts.  It hurt a lot yesterday as I drove down to Hanover.  I was hurting for the people of Puerto Rico, and the ones in Las Vegas.  I say nothing about the hideous denial by Drumpf and his cohorts of people’s pain and need for help.

When I got to Erica I just cried and cried.  Erica made soothing noises.  I finally managed to say “what can I do with this pain?”  I said something about the vigil after Orlando, how it was comforting to be with people who felt the same way I did.  Driving down I thought I wanted to be in Kendal right away.  I wanted to find other people who were angry about what’s going on and be with them.  Erica talked about things I could do to help strengthen myself.  She said something about a “joy practice.”  I said I can’t do that.  I don’t feel joy.  The best I can do is a sense of contentment, of being OK just as I am.  Erica said “You need other people, you can’t do it alone.”  I think I finally got it.  Usually I get angry at myself for being “weak.”

I took the Tough Little Drip I had made from clay.  Erica was really impressed.  Said she was very strong and determined.  She said she could tell that what she was fighting her way through was no small thing.  I think that was something I found out only from the work with Erica.


It was something I got briefly as I started each new therapy: Children of Alcoholics, clinical depression and medication, possible sexual abuse, PTSD, and then finally getting how trauma in infancy is far more devastating than when it happens to someone whose brain and nervous system have fully matured.  Each time, I would welcome each new explanation for why I was so dysfunctional and unhappy.  I would start working with a new therapist, work hard, and then work hard, and then work hard.  After years of hard work I would feel like I hadn’t got anywhere.  At this same place I would intuit that we still hadn’t gotten to the bottom, but I didn’t trust my intuition.  Other people could see that I was doing better, but for me the struggle was still very difficult.  What’s the matter with me that with this fine new understanding, and years of work, I still don’t have a life?  Now, finally, I get how deeply established the tentacles of trauma are in my body and my brain.  It’s still hard for me to stop blaming myself for not working hard enough.  It’s still easy for me to trivialize what I’m up against.

The work with Erica has brought me enormous pain and despair.  I know we are working at the core and the foundation of my being.  When the work is so painful I wish I hadn’t started it, I am forced to acknowledge that there is no way I could stop trying to get down to the truth.  But I am not at all sure it’s possible for me to heal enough to be able to have a life.  On the other hand, with enough support, who knows what I might be able to do?

“Drumpf” is not a misprint.  I refuse to call that jerk by a name.  I call him “thump” and “tweet” and the best is “Drumpf” from Daily Kos.

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The “Tough Little Drip” Revisited

Friday, September 29

Woke with headache and heart burning.

Yesterday was actually pretty good.  I felt OK when I woke up and had a great talk with Elizabeth.  I was telling her about the painful session with Erica and she said she heard a core of strength in my voice.  I told her about refusing to do anything to help myself, she said that was the real me asserting herself.  It really surprised me.  I thought I was bad for refusing — “weakling and coward” — but Lynelle, Erica, and Elizabeth have all praised me for my courage.

The painful session with Erica was last Tuesday, when I felt that I could not rescue myself, I had to be rescued by someone from outside.  Erica did not say “I will rescue you,” or “You have to rescue yourself,” but she validated how I was feeling as “at the end of my resources.”  She also made suggestions for things I could do to comfort myself, and I just refused to do them, feeling like a bad student who was refusing to do the assignment.  I was imagining that I could do them and was just stubbornly refusing.  The truth is that I was not able to do them, but I’m in denial of that because I can’t bear seeing that I’m truly helpless.

“Weakling and coward” were judgements I made of myself, mostly when I was disabled by depression, for a large part of my life.

I saw and told Elizabeth, that staying with the feeling of “at the end of my resources,” sitting down stubbornly, and refusing to move — no, I’m not refusing to move, not refusing to do something I could do, I’m acknowledging the truth, that I don’t have what it takes to go on, instead of saying “I’m fine.”  In the past, when I’ve been defeated like that, I spend one or two days flat out on the bottom, and then something in me picks herself up and moves on.  What I saw very clearly this time was that it’s a choice, but it’s not a conscious choice, it’s “something in me.”  I realized it’s the “tough little drip that just won’t quit,”  God bless her!  She’s not the one that pushes me, she’s the one who keeps me going in the direction of healing.  In The Feminine of History I say “there is an inner, dynamic thrust toward healing the split.” p85.  It amazes me that the scientist in me didn’t ask for my evidence for that statement.  I had learned from dream work and Jung’s ideas about how opposites can be reconciled.  I haven’t thought of that in terms of myself, though I can see it in what happens to others.  How hurt and damaged people, when offered needed information and an opportunity to heal, will do it.  I see it in how Jack turned his life around with AA, I see it in the homies in LA, who take what Father Greg has to offer and run with it.  Yesterday I realized that I have that thrust toward healing inside me and I can trust it.  I don’t have to keep my nose to the grindstone.

One of the things I’ve been working on recently is the recognition that when I think or say “I’m fine,” I’m really in denial of how badly off I am.

“Keeping my nose to the grindstone.”  The push I’ve felt all my life was to “prove that I deserve to live.”  The times when I don’t feel that are when I’m unselfconscious because I’m teaching something I’m excited about like Astronomy or Circle Dance, or I’m engaged in a passionate conversation.  I feel it most strongly when I’m just sitting, not doing anything at all.  The times when I have been able to do that, sit quietly and just rest, are so rare that I can remember them.

I can trust that there’s someone in me who keeps going toward healing, love, compassion, greater consciousness.  I can relax and let it happen.  I can see that there are synchronicities that help me.  I think of Elizabeth Goudge saying when you think you can’t go on, something or someone else steps in and gives you a burst of new strength.  She says or means God is the one who steps in, but what I’m seeing now is that the Divine Force within me is the Tough Little Drip.  I laugh and start to feel warm inside.  The Tough Little Drip and God in a Sheet are God.  Not some white bearded male sitting up on his thrown (sic!) above us running everything like a puppeteer.  God is within us and constantly growing, reaching for health, love, peace, justice, all those good things.

What a huge relief!  I can trust something in me.  I don’t have to trust anything outside of me.  I don’t have to wait for someone outside to rescue me.  I may have to wait, patiently, for the correct action to appear.

I can trust myself.  I can trust myself to know who is trustworthy and who isn’t, to wait for right action until I see it and then to do it.  I can trust myself to recognize help when it comes.

The truth is that help can come both from outside and from inside.  But when I was a baby I was truly helpless.  Now, I may have to wait patiently, but help does come, either from inside or outside.

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What it Feels Like to be a Baby Left Alone Too Long

Saturday, September 23

This is what I wrote in my journal this morning.  Friday morning is when I have a phone appointment with Erica, because she is in Keene.

Woke up feeling painfully isolated.  I usually say “lonely” but I don’t think lonely is the right word for this morning.  Lonely is when you are aware that other people exist, they just are not with you.  You can feel lonely in a crowd, that means you are not connected.  I guess that’s really what lonely is, not feeling connected to anyone.  What I’m feeling is that there are no other people in the world.  I think this is a baby before object constancy, when Mother is not in the room.

Talking to Erica on the phone, how I experienced her as very far away.  I said I was trying to crawl to her.  “… set myself to cover the distance.”  Can’t remember where that quote is from.  It carries the sense of the person’s difficulty in moving, and their determination and intention to get there.  Then I realized that I can’t go to her, I need someone to come and rescue me.  But no one will come because no one wants me.  So it’s very painful to even become aware of that need.

In our conversation she would ask “What are you aware of?”  Then I could pay attention to my butt on the couch, my feet on the floor, etc.  I noticed that my toes were curling and uncurling.  I asked if  a baby does that and she said yes.  She said maybe I was looking for something soft, so I put a fleece blanket on the floor, and pressed my feet into it.  Then I noticed how the cushion at my back was rounded to accept my weight.  This is an experience I’ve had in S.E. where sometimes the world curves to receive me.

What am I aware of now?  My butt on the couch, my feet on the cushion on the floor, the warmth of the dog.  The colors of the trees outside my windows, the sun sneaking in behind.  Hot tea.  There’s also a pain in my heart.  I think about the babies whose nurses were forbidden to talk to them.  Some emperor wanted to find out what language Adam and Eve spoke.  But the babies all died of lack of connection.

O yes, forgot, while I was talking to Erica and putting the blanket under my feet, I picked up Kiddo, who’s been here on the couch with the little rescue dog who still has no name.  I picked her up and hugged her, and continued to hug hard after I hung up.  She doesn’t feel like a baby, she feels like someone I can hold on to for reassurance.

Thinking about times when I was rescued: the Black maid, Herman, and Rose Marie.  Rose Marie flew across the country because she could tell I was in trouble.  That’s absolutely staggering to me now.  I think I was unable to take it in fully when it happened.  I could not believe that I mattered that much.

I also was imagining Erica’s constant, detailed, positive feedback, and suddenly saw it from the side of a person looking at a small child as another manifestation of God.

Notes:  “Object constancy” is something a baby doesn’t acquire until between 18 and 24 months.  It’s when you know that even though you can’t see mother, she still exists.  Before object constancy, if something isn’t visible, it doesn’t exist.

In Somatic Experiencing this exercise, of paying attention to your physical body in the present, is called “resourcing.”  It doesn’t work to try to remember anything about your trauma unless you are resourced.

For “language deprivation experiments,” see Wikipedia.

“Kiddo” is a doll I made of cloth for a workshop in Children of Alcoholics.  She is about 18” tall, with a sweet face that is also full of confidence.  when I introduced her to the group, she popped up and said “I’m very intelligent.”

The story of the Black maid and Herman

I realized later that my friend Rose Marie actually flew from NYC to Burlington and rented a car to drive to Franconia.  She’s been living in Seattle for the last 20 years, so that’s where I imagined she had come from.  I think my mind changed the distance to help me appreciate what she’d done for me.

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Feeling Unreal

I haven’t posted anything for a while.  My life has been very difficult: overwhelming, crazy-making.  There’s an earlier post about Feeling Unreal, so that’s been another part of this difficult summer.  I don’t even know how much sense this post will make to the reader, I’m trying to give the flavor of my experience.

This post was written on August 5, the earlier post was written only a few days before.

Feeling very strange.  The weather is strange.  Yesterday afternoon it poured while the sun was still out.  This morning it’s warm, humid, and grey.

Yesterday was hot.  I thought about lying down for a nap, but remembered what Erica said about how working “whole-heartedly” was one antidote to exhaustion.  So I started working on my Lammas post for the new Neskaya website.

Very confusing.  Some things the program liked and gave me green dots, some things it didn’t like, and I couldn’t figure out why.  At some point Eleanor came in and told me she’d got the phone jack that splits into 3 at the hardware store, but it didn’t work either.  She’s afraid that mice have gnawed the wires.  I said we would need to call the phone company and have a service person sent.  I asked her if she would do that.  She said something about scheduling, so I looked for my calendar clipboard and couldn’t find it.  I burst into tears and said “This is making me crazy.”  Eleanor said to forget it, she would take care of it after she gets back from her parents.  She has to go next week for her mother’s birthday.  She sounded very cross which made me feel worse, but Erica had said something about negotiating new boundaries with her.  I know that I always feel terrible when something has to be fixed in her apartment.  I feel responsible for everything.  At first I freaked out whenever something went wrong, then there was a period of time when I was OK with it, but yesterday it was a last straw.  Possibly working on the webpage was not a good idea.  Writing is something I can do whole-heartedly, but struggling with unfamiliar technology is not.

I went back and read what I had written in response to Andrew Harvey’s work on Spiritual Activism.  I see that I have always been on the side of the underdog, that I have gone to protest marches and vigils, that I would have done more if they were closer to where I live.  I’m badly handicapped by PTSD, and having to take care of myself so I don’t become totally disabled.  Actually, I’m worried that I’m close to being totally disabled right now.  I haven’t been able to fill the forms out for Kendal, I haven’t been able to take my computer to the bank to solve the password difficulty.  I know there are more — o yes call the dentist and make appt for work that needs to be done — but getting up and looking for the yellow pad where they are written is too much right now.  I have too many pads and I keep losing them.  I keep losing things, that’s something else that drives me crazy.  All this stuff, all these little details that have to be taken care of, are right now making it impossible to take care of myself.  I haven’t been able to mediate for weeks, I keep forgetting to take Mocha for walks — even short walks outside — crazy!  It’s all crazy.  Today I feel unreal, weak, disorganized, uncentered, off balance.  Trying to build balance exercises into my day.

When is there time for spiritual practice, for sitting calmly, for spending time in “liminal space” as Erica said?  No wonder I feel unreal.  Erica says that feeling unreal is due to lack of validation, lack of someone seeing what’s going on with me and naming it.

Kendal is a Retirement Community that I have applied to.

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Pain Becomes Compassion

I was typing up from a month ago when I had woken up feeling sad & scared, and was so disappointed that I had lost the good feelings from the day before.  I was angry at myself for “wrecking” my own good feelings, as though I had done it deliberately.  I tried to understand it as worry about Eleanor’s situation, or as my trauma being triggered.  But mostly my attitude was wanting to get rid of it.  I could have understood my scared and sad feelings as a message about the whole situation, not just my personal problem.  Looking at it that way, I see that my painful feelings were because I care about Eleanor and I’m angry at a society that can’t/won’t take care of so many people who are having a hard time.  If I see it that way, I see that my pain is about a much larger pain in the world, and I start to feel compassion.  Compassion, even mixed with sadness and anger — I was reading somewhere about compassion and anger being the same thing and now I see that anger on another’s behalf is a form of compassion — even mixed with sadness and anger, compassion is much more satisfying and much bigger than worry about my own personal emotions.  I don’t even feel helpless, I see that I’m doing what little I can, I’m not in denial or complacency.  My feeling are about how much I care, not about how I keep making the same mistake.  What a relief!  What an easing and softening of my heart.

I’ve been having a fantasy of working with kids — adolescents — who are dealing with addiction and suicide.  I imagine this is something I could do when I’m in Hanover.  I’m aware of my sympathy for and anger about the situation of a young woman who doesn’t see anything worthwhile in her life.  Then it occurs to me to wonder about my teenage self, and my efforts to contact her.  She thinks the misery she’s going through is her own fault, because she’s a bad person, she’s defective.

Imagining saying to a teenage girl “No one takes drugs unless they are trying to numb unbearable pain,” and she bursts into tears.  Then I see what to say to my adolescent self: “No one cuts themselves unless they are trying to numb unbearable pain.”

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I Feel Pain Because I Love

Last Saturday I didn’t have any human contact all day.  I typed a lot of journal, played a lot of solitaire.  Washed a bunch of dishes.  Dumped a puzzle on the table & started turning pieces right side up.  I finished Wildfire at Midnight and started a biography of Crazy Horse.  I own the book, but I can’t have read it before, and it’s too difficult to keep going.  I started The Middle Window last night.

“Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day unto the last syllable of recorded time. and all our yesterdays light fools the way to dusty death.  Out out brief candle.  Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player who struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more.  It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”  I memorized that as an adolescent, thinking I knew what it felt like.  The truth is I had no idea.  That passage from MacBeth is such an accurate description of despair.  It’s the full-blown version of “that twilight feeling.”  Yes, that’s exactly how I feel.  I ask myself if I really know that that level of despair is based on reality.  And something inside me says “No, it’s not true.”  It’s how you are feeling and that’s a combination of emotional exhaustion, “compassion fatigue,” the ongoing battle with PTSD, the pain of helplessness in the face of Eleanor’s suffering.

I think “If Eleanor weren’t living here, I could have had the kind of life I was hoping to have living in this house.”  I would have been able to scatter seeds and see the birds…  but then I would still have been battling attachment trauma, and I would not have her support.  It’s like the work with Erica, sometimes it’s so painful I wish I had never started.  But I had no choice.  Why did I have no choice about working with Erica?  Because I had to get down to the bottom of what’s causing my suffering.  I had no choice with Eleanor because I love her.  That’s the great learning I got from these past weeks of pain.  That I really do love her very much, that I am capable of loving in such difficult and painful circumstances, that this is what love is.  Some hard thing that you do, not some nice thing that you feel.

I wonder about typing up what I wrote about despair and love for a blog post.  I get that little IRNK feeling that suggests that I am bragging, an old old voice.  Actually, I’m telling the truth.  Because of early trauma, because no matter what I did I couldn’t make my mother happy, I internalized a belief that I am not loving.  This is the first time that I have seen that how much pain I’m in tells me how much I love.  And the fact that we both want to stay in connection with each other is one of the first times I have found out what it feels like to repair a major break in an important relationship.

I think this is how Jesus loved us.  He came to teach us and show us what compassion and forgiveness were, and he accepted a painful death because that was a consequence of his revolutionary teaching.  He didn’t “die for our sins.”  Unlike me, he had had the experience of a loving god and that gave him the strength to challenge those in power with revolutionary teaching.  He knew that they would execute him, but that didn’t stop him.

Because I love, I am willing to accept the pain of my loved one, even pain I have caused.  This is what my ex-husband couldn’t do.  Hurting me made him feel despicable, and the only way he knew to stop it was to cut me off.

“Some hard thing that you do,” and “Hating those we have injured because it makes them feel despicable,” are both quotes from the writings of Elizabeth Goudge.

Wildfire at Midnight is a romance by Mary Stewart
The Journey of Crazy Horse is a biography by Joseph M. Marshall III
The Middle Window is a novel by Elizabeth Goudge

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Feeling Unreal

For the last few days, I have been feeling “unreal.”  I went back in my journal trying to find where I first started to feel that.  July 17 was the first time I wrote something like “I don’t feel like I’m here, don’t know where I am.”  Other entries since then are “I don’t feel like a person,” “no sense of future,” “everything ahead of me feels like a chore.”  I can’t find compassion for myself, and I have no sense of Spirit in the universe.

Last Tuesday I wrote:

I see Erica today, but I can’t imagine she can help me.  Two friends have told me I am much stronger, but I don’t feel that at all.  That’s a little scary.  If that’s true, it means that I haven’t been able to take in, experience, the healing I have done.  If healing doesn’t feel real to me, how can I ever truly heal?

Erica’s waiting room.  I call it “feeling crazy” but really it’s feeling like I can’t trust myself.  I can’t trust myself to remember, I can’t trust myself to make a good choice, I have no idea what to do, or what I want.  My routine is not functioning very well.  I put the eggs in the pan first, not the rice.  I wonder if I’m only seeing what I expect to see instead of what is, so I have no sense of being “better,” of having learned or gotten stronger.  When I asked Jan why she thought I was better, she said I’m more present.  I brought sweet chestnut, for when you are at the end of your rope.  “When anguish overwhelms you and you can see no way out.”  But this doesn’t feel like anguish, it feels like confusion and despair.  It’s true, I don’t see how to go on.

“Sweet Chestnut” is the Bach flower remedy for “Moments when the anguish is too great and seems to be unbearable.  Your mind or body feels as if it has come to the uttermost limit of its endurance. It feels as if there is nothing but destruction and annihilation left to face.”

Posted in Present Day, Trauma | Comments Off on Feeling Unreal

My Pain is Not About Myself

This was in my journal for June 10.  I typed it up today, and saw that I was making my pain personal, and a mistake on my part.  I did not see that it might be related to the state of the world, the awful things going on out there, and my powerlessness in the face of them.  Though I immediately realize I’m not helpless.  I sign petitions, I called the Governor of New Hampshire, and I can teach writing for healing.  Also, when we do the circle dances, I know that we are creating a new and different world, where diversity is celebrated.  It feels like a powerful prayer.

Woke up, and was almost immediately hit by sad & scared.  I look out at the bright green trees, and feel the weight in my heart and belly.  Is my life still worthwhile?  I say yes, but it’s become a concept, not a reality.  Well, I had a good run.

I think it was probably taking a friend to test drive a possible car in Littleton.  On our way in she talked about her fears, about needing to save money for her teeth and someday she’ll have to get another car.

I can see that I’m angry at myself for losing the feeling of being OK.  I tried to tell myself that there are a lot of people out there who feel scared & sad, but it doesn’t seem real.  What happened?  This is so frustrating!  Yes, I’m angry about losing those good feelings.  I’m angry at myself because I have enough money to not have to worry about taking care of my teeth and getting another car.  The political situation doesn’t help.

Yes, I’m angry and disappointed with myself for losing that good state.  Can I find compassion for myself?  Yes, something softens inside.  Can I forgive myself?  What comes up immediately is it’s not my fault.  I don’t do this deliberately, it’s triggered by something.  Compassion for Jenny, who is powerless over her own mental state, who is powerless to help her friend.  Well, that definitely shifts things.  I feel more sad than scared — maybe the scared is related to the anger.

What I see now, especially after rereading Miriam Greenspan’s book “Healing through the Dark Emotions” is that my sadness, my loss of that good feeling, is related to my friend’s situation and all the terrible things that are happening in the world.  It’s not about my individual pain.  It’s not because my trauma has been triggered — though possibly it’s because of my helplessness in the face of so much pain.  It’s another blindness in the culture we live in, actual denial of what we are doing to the world and each other.  Going to a therapist is seen as weakness, that there is something wrong with you, not that you are sensitive enough to perceive what’s happening in the world.  It’s really a sign of how much I care about the world: our planet and all the people and creatures who depend on its life-support.

Posted in Activism, Journal, Present Day | Comments Off on My Pain is Not About Myself