Dear Guides & Guardian Spirits, I have been having a confusing time with this new part that’s waked up in me.  It seems clear that integrating her is my job for now.  But I’m uncertain.  I’m afraid it’s too “self-involved.”  Please help me.

Dear Jenny, “self-involved” is not a problem.  You are not “self-involved” when you are studying cosmology, or teaching circle dance.  It is not having yourself as the object of your attention that is the problem with “self-involved.”  The problem is being self-involved to the exclusion of everything else, of making yourself the center of the universe, of seeing everything you come in contact with in reference to yourself only.  This is what your mother did.  It is not what you are doing.  Jalaja said your work in the depths of psyche has more benefits to the larger world than you can imagine.  You are treading a difficult path, it’s no wonder you make an occasional mis-step, or get confused or feel lost.  Sometimes you have to be unconscious to take the next step as you did on Tower Peak.  Sometimes really protecting yourself gets sabotaged by old patterns.  But you are actually doing rather well with a difficult path.  This is your part of the “Great Turning” that the whole planet is going through.  Keep on just as you are.  You are doing fine.  We are so proud of you.

Thank you.  I feel much more solid, but on the edge of tears.

Jalaja’s comment: “The work you are doing is a gift to all beings, a blessing that will bear fruit in ways you cannot see or even imagine.”

When I was on a Sierra Club trip we climbed Tower Peak.  At one point, the trail went along a narrow ledge, and there was a gap about a yard wide that we had to step over.  Before I got to it, my mind shut down.  After I was on the other side I realized that my thinking shut down so I wouldn’t be disabled by fear.

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A New Part of Me

I haven’t posted for a while, because I’ve been having serious trouble verbalizing my experience.  It’s been about developing a relationship with a very early fragment of myself.  It started with recognizing that the non-verbal, scared experience that I’ve been having for a couple of months, is not some new phase of aging.  That was my biggest fear, that my loss of confidence and verbal skill meant that my aging brain was beginning to malfunction.  Now it looks like what was going on was the awakening of a very early part of myself.  My experience, over the last couple of months, has been largely that of an infant, probably who I was before I got traumatized.  I say that because it was my first intuitive feeling once I got that this was not me now, but another part of me from the past.

Driving home from grief group, suspecting she was a very young part of me, I tried reaching out to her.  I felt my way through what felt like very dense, almost solid, fog.  pushing through layers, I finally came to a crack in the rock.  I started in, it narrowed to something impassible, but there was a sort of shelf to the right, a small cave broken into the rock.  I reached in and found the baby, and started swimming home with her.

Once I got back to my rooms, I found a baby doll I had used in some of my early work with an inner child.  I got her out and sat with her tucked into my chest, next to my heart.  I could feel she was afraid, so I said to her “It’s OK that you’re afraid.  I wish you weren’t, but I’m not going to push you away.  I’m here, and I’ve got you.”  When I had to get up and do something, I put her in a box, cushioned and wrapped up in silk and flannel, with the box partly covered so she was hidden, but could still see out.  That’s how I’ve felt the safest.

I’ve started to have the odd, uncanny experience of feeling like I was new here, seeing things for the first time.  Also experiencing more beauty and richness.  Once I even had a sense of the gift of life, something I’ve never felt before.

Now, as I go through my day, I say the loving kindness prayer like this:

May I be held in lovingkindness.
May we be held in lovingkindness.  (meaning both me and the baby)
May all beings be held in lovingkindness.

Sometimes I have the sense that I’m holding a newborn.  Sometimes she looks out at the world with delighted curiosity, sometimes she buries her face in my chest.  I feel a lot of love.

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Being Cared For

I had been at Kendal since November and this was July – eight months later.  The day before I had had a tooth pulled, and then I fell for a computer scam.  I had to cancel my debit card and my checking account, and it was complicated.

From my journal for July 13:

Yesterday was on the one hand horrible, and on the other hand it felt like I got past the bad place.  I got the email from Leah (my stockbroker’s assistant) with the document to sign so that they can transfer funds to my Mascoma account so I can use it to pay bills.  First I had trouble opening it.  Turns out it wasn’t the attachment place to click but a link in the letter.  Then I went to print it, but when I tried to put in the new ink cartridge, I found that I had bought the wrong one.  So I called the reception desk to see if there was any way that someone else could print it.  Nicole thought we could figure it out.  So I took my computer down there.  No way I could hook it into hers, so she said “Forward me the email.”  I tried, but it would only do “send later.”  Turns out my wi-fi channel is only in my room.  Jeff came out of his office for something, Nicole explained to him, and he said come into my office.  Somewhere along there I burst into tears and Nicole gave me a hug and patted me, and the two other people standing there, waiting, said things like “We’ll work it out,” in reassuring tones of voice.  In his office, Jeff went to the link on my stockbroker’s website, I put in my info, he downloaded it, printed it off, gave it to me to sign, then scanned and sent it back to Leah.  I made a mistake with my signature, so he just printed it out again.  After sending the good copy to Leah, he gave it to me, and then took me through the office maze to shred the bad one.  I felt so well taken care of.  It was such a beautiful antidote to my feelings of not being able to trust anyone.  They restored my faith in the basic goodness of human beings.

I had gone down there to ask for help, but I had expected them to be annoyed and grudging about helping.  The friendliness and kindness of the staff was something so different from my expectation that I had to look more closely.  I was able to take in the kindness instead of erasing it according to my conditioning.

Even taking it in at the moment, is subject to my conditioned erasing of everything that suggests that I might be worth taking care of.  That’s why writing it down is so helpful.

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Blind Terror

What a strange experience.  I’m not even sure I can write about it accurately.  I thought my brain had stopped working.  I was afraid it had to do with getting old.  Erica reframed it as a stage in spiritual growth, Buddhist detachment.  When I was able to get so many practical things done last Thursday, I thought I was better.  But then I started again having difficulty doing practical things.  Looking back, I can see that I was actually afraid to go out in the car and do a small shopping.  At the time it felt like extreme reluctance, or maybe just exhaustion.  Then I realized that when my brain feels blunt and jammed, that’s the same as the state I call “blind terror,” except that there was no feeling of terror.  It’s a state I often feel when I’m packing to go somewhere.  The last time I remember feeling it was when I went to California for the Francis Weller workshop.  I was actually so scared I thought seriously about cancelling.  Then I realized how important it was to me to do it.  Once I got on the road, the terror disappeared.  Of course, there were lots of other times when the terror wasn’t connected to anything.  And in fact, I don’t know why packing to go on a trip should trigger terror.  I’m afraid I’ll forget something important.  Oh! I see it!  I don’t trust the world to supply my needs, so I have to make sure that I take everything with me.

What was the knowledge that came with the blankness?  That I was absolutely alone, that the world was not to be trusted, it obeyed no laws of nature, it would shift the ground under me without warning.  When Erica suggested “suffocation,” and “hall of mirrors,” that was exactly right.  Suffocation is to be deprived of the most basic need for life, hall of mirrors is not being able to trust your own experience.

When I saw that the blankness of mind was blind terror without the terror, I started to experience the terror.  Hall of mirrors.  It was bad enough that I decided to take some Buspar.  But I didn’t trust my decision so I dowsed.  But the dowsing was inconclusive.  Then I asked if I should take half a tablet, 5 mg.  Dowsing confirmed, so I took it.  Then I was able to relax a little, but when I checked with my body, the fear appeared.  Unable to trust my own judgement, to trust my own experience.  This reminds me of the idea that I want to be depressed.  But I don’t want to be depressed.  But my wanting to not be depressed doesn’t change anything.  So I must really want to be depressed.  I’m making it happen, but I don’t have any control over it.  This is a horrible belief to be caught in.  Momentarily feeling relaxed, but then checking the feeling and having it immediately change to terror is the same kind of Catch-22.  I can’t trust my feelings, can’t trust my experience.

Fortunately, I went down to hang out with Dulany.  I felt safe with her.  I was able to tell her that I was terrified, and she ordered me to get a wrap from her bed, and curl up on the couch with my book.  If I started to pay attention to what she was doing, she ordered me back to my book.  I did start to feel better.  It had as much to do with her caring and her desire to help as with what she told me to do.  I realize, as I think about it, that she contained me, put me in a safe place and made me stay there.

I wasn’t until I got to grief group the next day, and one woman with a terrible history of childhood abuse talked about her “parts,” that I realized I was caught in a younger Jenny, in the frozen terror of infant Jenny, possibly the youngest one of all.  That helped me see that the state I was in was not something real in the present, but something real that happened in the past.  I was totally caught in that infant state with no access to adult Jenny.  I said something to the woman afterward, that I was caught in the past.  She suggested I talk to the part, which made me angry because she hadn’t understood that adult Jenny wasn’t present.

Writing this, I see that to be able to connect with that deepest Jenny, her terrible isolation and lack of trust, I had to be here at Kendal, to be supported in basic ways like having meals always available.  I had to be here long enough to begin to trust on a deep level that I was cared for.  I also needed to be in a relationship with someone where there was mutual need of each other’s support and mutual trust of each other’s honesty.

Realizing that I can trust that caring and kindness are available to me throws a blinding light on the gaslighting nature of mother’s treatment of me.  Hall of mirrors indeed, except that all the mirrors reflect her, not me.  No wonder I keep erasing all my experiences of appreciation from others. I can’t trust them, and I can’t trust my own perceptions.

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The Practice of Self-love

(Written in February 2003 and posted April 25, 2010)
Yesterday I was thinking that I had this wonderful new technique for transforming my life, that my relationship with terror and despair is completely different.  Well, actually that’s still true.  Just because the misery doesn’t change right away doesn’t mean I’m not doing the practice.  There’s a quality of hopelessness this morning, and then the feeling that life is a chore, a difficult unrewarding task that nevertheless I must go on with.  I see Jenny in her disappointment with herself this morning, and my heart goes out to her.  It’s not hopeless at all, it’s just difficult.  At least when the misery comes I turn to it as my first priority.  Nothing is more important than healing my relationship with myself.  I think that, because this is so, when I take a break from the work I’m able to be free to enjoy life instead of having the misery around me like a cloud.
I see what’s so strange this morning — disconcerting and disorienting.  Spending time with myself and especially taking good care of myself has always felt like the most god-awful chore and burden, and now suddenly it’s my top priority.  So I’m going against all that old conditioning that Jenny is worthless and not worth spending time, energy, patience, mercy, tenderness, on.

This is a practice, dear Jenny, obviously you are not going to be good at it right away.  Just because you are now moving toward yourself in misery instead of away does not mean you are any more skillful at it than you were before.  You’re working on transforming the habits of a lifetime, of course it’s hard.  You’re offering caring and patience to that little girl who is so disappointed and hating herself for being disappointed, and whose parents never took the time to be with her, just pushed her away when she was upset and needing comfort and wise guidance.

Came back from massage bummed out.  But it’s different from the usual bummed out because it has to do with remorse for having directed so much hate and anger at a little person who was just doing the best she could with no models or examples or guidance.  It’s very clear to me that this is where the work is, to bring mercy & compassion to the anger, hatred, and remorse.  To forgive myself for having treated myself so badly.  To go into those unpleasant states instead of trying to run away or change them.  To let all the pain in.  And then I become aware of how much I don’t want to feel the pain.  A temptation to make myself wrong for that, and immediate understanding that I must allow myself to feel how much I don’t want to feel the pain, how much I have run away and denied, and how I have refused to believe that the damage was really that bad, and kept on pushing a “shell shocked” person to do things that were too hard for her.  O little Jenny, I am so sorry.

Note from today, seventeen years later: I see that I’ve come a long way.  Going into misery, choosing to be with myself in the pain, has become almost automatic.  That’s what I did when I sat with Little Jenny in the Pit.

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Stunted Tree

I have just been to a retreat in Burlington.  Winter Wonder: A Circle of Trust Retreat.  It was quite wonderful and helped a lot with the emptiness and confusion I’ve been feeling.  “Circle of Trust” is based on the work of Parker Palmer, and described in the book we are using for a book discussion group: A Hidden Wholeness.

One result of being around younger people who are active with rewarding jobs, is feeling like a failure.  My struggle with PTSD has made my life much smaller than it should have been.  This came today as part of the daily meditation sent by Richard Rohr, founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation.

This passage is from Howard Thurman’s Meditations of the Heart:

It was above the timber line. The steady march of the forest had stopped as if some invisible barrier had been erected beyond which no trees dared move in a single file. Beyond was barrenness, sheer rocks, snow patches and strong untrammeled winds. Here and there were short tufts of evergreen bushes that had somehow managed to survive despite the severe pressures under which they had to live. They were not lush, they lacked the kind of grace of the vegetation below the timber line, but they were alive and hardy. Upon close investigation, however, it was found that these were not ordinary shrubs. The formation of the needles, etc., was identical with that of the trees further down; as a matter of fact, they looked like branches of the other trees. When one actually examined them, the astounding revelation was that they were branches. For, hugging the ground, following the shape of the terrain, were trees that could not grow upright, following the pattern of their kind. Instead, they were growing as vines grow along the ground, and what seemed to be patches of stunted shrubs were rows of branches of growing, developing trees. What must have been the torturous frustration and the stubborn battle that had finally resulted in this strange phenomenon! It is as if the tree had said, “I am destined to reach for the skies and embrace in my arms the wind, the rain, the snow and the sun, singing my song of joy to all the heavens. But this I cannot do. I have taken root beyond the timber line, and yet I do not want to die; I must not die. I shall make a careful survey of my situation and work out a method, a way of life, that will yield growth and development for me despite the contradictions under which I must eke out my days. In the end I may not look like the other trees, I may not be what all that is within me cries out to be. But I will not give up. I will use to the full every resource in me and about me to answer life with life. In so doing I shall affirm that this is the kind of universe that sustains, upon demand, the life that is in it.” I wonder if I dare to act even as the tree acts. I wonder! I wonder! Do you?

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Anatomy of a Breakdown

I’ve been reading through my blog from the very beginning.  I am once again in the 12 year cycle, at a time when Jupiter in the sky is opposed Jupiter’s position when I was born.  Ever since 1972 I have had a breakdown every 12 years, and I have worried about 2020 for a long time.  I am going through a strange time right now, but I think it’s actually a process toward a new stage of health.  Can’t tell yet.

I went back to my journal for 2008 and pulled out entries that seemed to relate to the breakdown.  I had hoped to be able to write a commentary that would explain what was going on, but I am finding verbal comment to be very difficult at this time.  Here are the entries:

Saturday, August 9

Dear Guides and Guardian Spirits, I’m tired and bummed out.  All the talk around me has been of people struggling with unfair governmental, bureaucratic, societal practices, and people who are too numb to care or fight about it.  Please help me.

Dear Jenny, we love you.  The real world is much bigger than the human world of misery and grief.  There are stars and planets, mountains and oceans, trees growing and rain falling.  Millions of organisms going about their business.  And many humans of courage and compassion doing their best: The Dalai Lama, Joanna Macy, Al Gore, and many many others “under the radar.” There are also ranks upon ranks of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, Angels and Devas and Nature spirits, all watching over your planet with love, encouraging growth and health and compassion.  You are not alone, dear, you are profoundly accompanied and watched over by many spirits.  Relax.  All shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.

Wednesday, August 13

I’m feeling pretty completely bummed out.  I’ve decided to raise my meds.  Took 25 right away.

etty: “I try to look things straight in the face, even the worst crimes, and to discover the small, naked human being amid the monstrous wreckage caused by man’s senseless deeds.”

Friday, August 15   posted on March 29, 2010

I’m finding it hard to accept that I need to keep taking 50mg imipramine just to be able to keep going.  It feels like such a defeat, such a proof that I’m a weakling.  I was so proud that all my hard work in S.E. had brought me to a place where it was possible to have the experience of what it would be like to live a “real life.” But I can’t stay at that level.  I don’t have the strength, and I don’t have the support of a community.  So I blame myself for not having what it takes.  But do I blame someone struggling with poverty for not having “what it takes”, not being willing to work hard?  No, because I know that the mechanics of Western Industrial Culture have made poverty inevitable.  Just as the same mechanics have meant that large numbers of us, struggling with invisible childhood wounds, have been unable to live out our real potential for creating a healthy and sustainable society.  So, despite having been born with “all the advantages” I too am one of “the poor.”

Monday, August 18

Wounded too badly to live.  I’m sitting here looking at the broken pieces of my life and acknowledging that I don’t have what it takes to pull it together and to even live a little of that wild, wide, and creative life that I think I had the capacity for.  Though who knows, maybe I’m wrong.  But I feel a tremendous pressure of unlived life inside me — that led me to the Nia training and the drama project — but I don’t have the physical strength and psychological robustness to keep going, to make up new Nia choreographies, etc.  I don’t have the base of support — a community of like-minded friends, some way to have meals be easier.  Without that greater level of support, I don’t see how to live that bigger life — but without some aspect of that bigger life, why go on?  Why go on fighting the daily battles: to get food, to walk the dog, to deal with the bureaucracy, to keep up the house, etc?  Only if it could support a life worth living.

Wednesday, August 20

I’ve stopped trying.  I feel completely defeated by life.  I’m on a death march, and I want to keep going as well as I can, to strengthen my comrades, or at least not be a nuisance, but to stop fighting the inevitable.  It’s so funny, I was so proud of myself for being a fighter, for keeping going despite all the odds, and to arrive at a brief flowering of what my life might have been.  I’m glad I had that experience, I’m glad to know that what I always thought was possible, and kept striving for, is real.  But I see that I can’t sustain it by my own efforts, and that I don’t have enough support in my life for that level of good living to be sustained.  It takes everything I’ve got just to keep going, to keep feeding myself, walking the dog, and honoring my commitments.  At least I feel strengthened, that I can/will keep going as best I can.

Thursday, August 28

Took 100 mg last night.  Woke after 3 in a state of complete self-hatred, frozen self-rejection.  I’ve been praying for help but have no sense of anything but cold stony indifference.  I listened to both Sharon Salzberg CDs, tried to feel compassion for myself, prayed for compassion for myself.

I keep thinking “I just want to die.” Then I say No— I want life to be easier.  I want to be in touch with the sacred.  And I want to have compassion for myself — my poor foolish arrogant stupid self who wanted to have more and wrecked what she had.  Wanted more excitement in my life & got overtired.  And am finding it incredibly difficult to forgive myself.  Tho maybe I just got there — imagined I was somebody else and how bad they would feel, and then something softened.  There, there, dear, you didn’t mean to do it.

Still doing very badly.  My brain isn’t working well enough to make the computer solitaire work as a distraction.

Friday, August 29

Woke early & used the Salzberg CD.  Felt a level of frozen despair I don’t think I’ve ever felt before.  At first I tried to avoid it, but then tried to be with it.  It doesn’t last, comes and goes.  “May I be free of suffering.  May I be filled with loving kindness.” It makes sense that this is the way a baby would feel when it’s been left alone too long.  It’s a kind of ultimate helplessness.  I feel like I’ll never move again.  Sitting here trying to describe it, I felt a momentary movement of compassion for the baby that happened to, then I’m back to being completely swallowed up by her suffering.

Tuesday, September 2

I emailed Kevin to get an appt with Caryn for Somatic Experiencing.  I see Karen today thank goodness.  I suppose I’d better call Dr. L & ask about taking buspar.  I read through the first part of 2007 and it looks like the first 3 months were pretty rocky.  I was struggling with depression and terror.  I got up to 175 mg imipramine and 20 buspar.  But I can’t tell from my journal if it actually helped.  

I also checked the Ephemeris: Jupiter is in Capricorn, Rx.  It was also there in ‘96 and in ‘84.  That’s really fascinating.  There’s a lot about this current bout of terror that reminds me of ‘96.

Saturday, September 6

Doing very badly.  Anxiety pretty bad, brain not working very well.  I come out of it, sort of, when I have something very straightforward to do like going to the dump.  I’m wondering how the hell I’m going to get thru the next 9 days until my next appointment with Caryn.  I looked at two books L had, but they’re too grown up for the state I’m in.  It feels almost like a story of an alien species, and I get waves of despair and terror.  Fortunately the despair doesn’t last long.  But the terror just doesn’t calm down.

Sunday, September 7

It’s pretty clear that I’m going through a PTSD replay of the Paxil episode in ‘96.  If I can get in to see either Dave or Caryn or both, I think I can make it to the 15th.  Otherwise I may be looking at hospitalization.  Unfortunately the triggers are fear, being alone, and medication.

Tuesday, September 9

I feel the hot electrical zingy fear and then there’s the cold strangling nauseous fear.  That’s what I felt with Karen, that awful lost fear of the baby.

There, there, Little One, I’m glad you’ve waked up in my life.  It wasn’t fair what they did to you.  You deserved better than that.  You deserved to be cherished and nurtured and comforted when you were hurt or scared.

To give an image to the fear: I’m all alone in a bleak landscape.  There is no food or water.  There is no one to help me.  It’s the end of the world.  How horrible.  And that’s what mom let me feel because she couldn’t be bothered, or she was drunk, or she thought it was OK to let me cry.  I deserved better than that.

Friday, September 19

Slept hardly at all, 2 hrs before midnight but nothing after that.  Anxiety has spiralled out of control.  I’m too exhausted to do any of my coping strategies — EFT, yoga breathing.  I can’t even read.  I left a message for Dr. L asking her to prescribe Ativan — since I know I’m OK with it.  I don’t dare try anything new.  I think what’s happening is flashbacks to the Paxil episode.

4:30 Emergency appt with Dr. L.  Gene drove me.  Dr. L gave me some seroquel and a prescription for ativan.  The seroquel certainly calmed me down but I got scared again when L gave me her take on it: she thinks my medication is not working for me, and I’ll need to find something new — a hospital would be the best place.

I quit this morning.  Just gave up the struggle and put myself in the hands of    whoever.  Fortunately I did get ahold of Dr. L and she seemed able to help.  At least I did feel contained talking to her, and even after I left.

Saturday, September 20

Checking Jupiter opposition Jupiter in Robert Hand — says it’s basically a good transit but with warnings not to overdo, not to take on too much, and a reference to “restlessness”, to feeling the “everyday world not ‘big’ enough” which could lead to a danger of overdoing which is just what I did.  sigh.

Just out of curiosity, Jupiter was at 18° Capricorn for the first time back in March.  That was the week I was at Kripalu for Ingrid Bacci and Kali woke up.

Monday, September 29

Work with Caryn was fascinating.  I started by crying, and then shaking, and then talking about my fears about my dog who has a bladder infection.  She said it was too much, to stop piling it on and connect with resources, with the present moment, location etc.  So I did that and then my shoulders kept jumping/discharging while I was aware of my lower body containing and grounding me, and also being able to talk to Caryn about all kinds of things.  Nia, the drama workshop, Journey, the fall from the ladder, my pain about never really being part of theater.  The warrior reappeared (with 6-pack abs!) Kali reappeared, the articulate spokesperson for the journey women appeared.  Caryn suggested I find a story to reframe what happened at the Nia training — the fall and not being able to insist on what I needed — but I couldn’t quite do it — it feels like the pieces are still moving and not yet ready to integrate.  I’m being OK with the slight discomfort of that.

Tuesday, September 30

Another interesting piece from the work with Caryn — I was talking about how the drama project had been disappointing, how there is no way to show what it’s like to live with PTSD.  Then I said maybe a movie could do it, I’d be walking down the streets in Littleton and suddenly it becomes a battlefield: grey, dark, ruined buildings, burning cars, dead bodies…  She asked how did my body feel and I realized there was a sort of layer of greyness, like grey armor, down the whole front of my body — beyond it was the battlefield — but at the same time I was aware of my body in the corner of the room, pressed into the cushions, the floor, and the walls, held securely in present time.

I talked a bit about the scientist, my search for truth, my training in paradigm shift — Caryn said I was building bridges between the trauma vortex and the present.  Certainly I am much more present than I was the first time I saw her.  I’m also back in touch with many resources that I just couldn’t find when things were really bad.

Found this in a more recent blog post.  It’s a good description of the process delineated in the above excerpts:

In the late spring of 2007 I was feeling pretty good about myself.  I’d had some big successes.  But I did too much, got exhausted, once again tried to get off medication, and plunged down into a pit of terror and despair that was worse than it had ever been.  It took me a year and a half to climb back out and it was hard work.  That struggle appears in many entries in this blog.  I finally learned to love myself even when I was too depressed to cope with daily living and had to ask my friends for help making meals and walking the dog.   posted on April 22, 2010

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Guidance from August 2008

(Written in August 2008 and originally posted on March 16, 2010)
Dear Guides and Guardian Spirits, it’s been a very stressful time, and I feel totally out of touch with Spirit.  Please help me.

Dear Jenny, we love you.  Take flower remedies.  Yes, you have impossibly high expectations of your own performance, and traumatized fear of what will happen if you don’t do it “right”.  Of course you’re upset and triggered.  There, there, dear.  Yes, an appointment with Karen would be a good idea.  Your feelings of inadequacy and hopelessness are triggered from your childhood.  This is how you felt growing up in your family with parents who were badly prepared to raise children and crippled by alcoholism.  You could see that things were very wrong, but you had no examples of how it could be done well, how children could be raised in a healthy and functional manner.  There was no one you could trust, or lean on, or ask for guidance and support.  So you “soldiered on.”   It’s the only thing you know how to do. And when things get tough, it’s your default mechanism, it’s what you fall into easily — it’s the only coping skill you have when you get triggered into the past.  Unfortunately, it cuts you off from other people, from the help and support that is there for you.  You don’t ask for it because you learned from your parents not to “burden” other people with your difficulties.  So you “soldier on”, use up your reserves of energy, and then collapse.  This is your life.  This does not mean that you aren’t doing good work for the world you love.  Despite your wounds, you continue to hold a vision of peace and love, kindness and cooperation, sustainability and justice.  You continue to do your best to act out of kindness not anger, out of love and vision, not fear.  Yes, you get tired.  But you do not quit.  We love you and we are so proud of you.

Thank you.  I’m sitting here in tears, my armor has softened, everything relaxing and resting on the earth.  This is what I needed to hear from Mom & Dad, or teachers, or that older & wiser person I keep wishing I had to turn to.

Comment from present day: in 2008 I was going through a breakdown.  I had noticed that I went though a breakdown every twelve years since 1972.  1984, 1996, 2008.  Twelve years is the time it takes Jupiter to go through the whole zodiac.  In the years when I had breakdowns, Jupiter was opposed my natal Jupiter in Cancer.  This year, 2020, is the next in the series.  I have worried about a possible breakdown this year.  Jupiter is at opposition to my natal Jupiter (the position of Jupiter in my birth chart) for a few days in February.  I have been going back and looking at my journal for 2008 to see how things happened.

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The Pit Crumbles

In my Friday talk session with Erica, I told her about the Pit, sitting in it with Younger Jenny, describing how deep it was, how narrow, made entirely of stone.  She said “What does it feel like to sit there now?”  I paid attention and suddenly realized that the stone was crumbling.  Like sandstone after years of erosion, becoming separate pieces crumbling into sand at the edges.  I stayed with it, and it began to feel like a friendly container.  I was blown away.

Erica said that the process began with accepting, being willing to sit with Younger Jenny forever, and then allowing, being open to whatever might happen.  I think of the mantra learned at Kripalu “I offer myself to this process.”  It was very helpful to me in the years when I could not say “Thy will be done” to that capricious, malicious and willful “God” who was the only one I knew.

Then she said that “Surrender” was different from “Collapse.”  Collapse is the last stage in trauma, when you give up trying to stay alive.  “Surrender” is not the same as “giving up,” though we live in a culture that fails to understand that.

These ideas were very helpful to me in understanding the process I had just gone through, where I had been seeing only the details.

Something else I saw was that I had not done anything, but commit to being there for Younger Jenny.  Help came by synchronicities, not by direct action.

December 10 was when I decided to sit with Younger Jenny, just be with her, not try to change anything.  In Grief Group there are people dealing with the suicide of a loved one.  I talked about what it felt like when I wanted to commit suicide — I didn’t think about anybody else, I never thought any one would miss me, I even thought they might be glad I was gone.

After the talk with Erica, I made some notes about that time in my life when the journal was written.

Driving to Grief Group, I took some CD’s to the car to change for ones I had been listening to for a while.  I picked up my CD’s of Messiah by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and also another one, just because it happened to be there.  David Whyte: Poems of Self-Compassion.  When I reached into my bag in the car, David Whyte was what I pulled out, and listened to driving to and from Grief Group.

I had ordered a Jack Kornfield book: A Lamp in the Darkness, “illuminating the path through difficult times,” and it came that day and I devoured it.

December 11

3rd cup of tea writing, suggested by planning for book discussion group for Quaker Meeting.  The first Chapter in Parker Palmer’s A Hidden Wholeness is about integrity.  I wrote:

So the question is what does integrity look like when I’m in the pit?  Staying with myself, not trying to change anything, just accepting what comes.  Doing the best I can, and accepting that my best may not be good enough.  Refuse to numb out in the various ways I know so well.  Refuse to pretend that I am fine, except with people who wouldn’t get it, who just want to know I’m “fine,” so they can forget me and go on their way.  Protecting myself in this situation is legitimate.

December 12

I watched a video on the New Story Hub about the man who built the Nature Sanctuary at Findhorn.  He talked about using recycled materials and how they contributed to its design.  He said some of the rock in the outer wall was “Lewisian Gneiss,” a rock type I remember from my favorite stone circle, Callanish on the Island of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides.  It was in the Nature Sanctuary that I had my experience of the Ocean of Compassion.

The daily meditations from Richard Rohr’s Center for Action and contemplation, were this week all about AA’s Twelve Steps which are about surrender, and work to deal with our addiction to our own limiting habits of thought.

December 13

Erica asked what the Pit was feeling like, and I realized that the rock was crumbling, and the crumbled rock was starting to feel like a comforting container instead of a stone prison.

Total transformation.  I am so grateful to all of the friends: people, rocks, videos, emails that just showed up, that helped me get here.

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Turnaround in the Pit

I’ve been feeling like a combination of the Dan Siegel material, the diagnosis of macular degeneration, and reading my early journals brought me to a place where I feel beyond redemption.  I think of this as the Pit, a deep well, too far down for light to penetrate, stone walls, a stone bottom.  I’ve been feeling extremely vulnerable, especially to unexpected happenings that demand something of me.  Here are some journal entries relating to being pulled down and what happened to me there.

Wednesday, December 4
What I’m in now doesn’t feel like depression, I don’t feel like I don’t deserve to live, I don’t feel like I have to do something to change the things that have gone wrong, but I want to do something to lift my spirits.  It occurred to me that I might start reading my beginning journals.

Friday, December 6
I read more of my journal yesterday.  I’m finding it very sad.  The writing is faintly hysterical.  I think I’m trying to counteract depression with writing that’s over poeticized — if that’s the right word.  It’s more self-consciously poetic than actually poetic.  Very adolescent.  I’ve started work with a therapist, and I’m trying to stop being so self-involved and get more interested in other people.  But I’m hurt so easily and I’ve been hurt so badly.

Saturday, December 7
I am badly thrown off by just finding out that the Adult Education Committee is going to meet this morning at 11 at a café in Hanover.  I had planned to have a lazy morning.  I feel so thrown off.

Sunday, December 8
I am feeling totally disconnected.  Partly reading my journal — which may not be a good idea.  I’m seeing how disconnected I was from people, maybe that’s triggered disconnect, along with the Dan Siegel information about brain damage from neglect.  I’m also a little worried because the idea of ceremony lifted me so high on Friday, and then I dropped so badly yesterday.  I’ve been cutting back on the lamotrigine, and wonder if that’s a problem.

Actually, the Dan Siegel material is not about “damage” but about failure to develop certain connections in the brain.  The fact that I call it “damage” shows that I’ve already been triggered.

Lamotrigine is a medication that is supposed to smooth out the ups and downs.

I felt so thrown off my learning about the committee meeting at the last minute.  I was worried about driving there.  I tried to meditate, I tried to just be with the discomfort, but it didn’t settle or change.  Finally I started reading Parker Palmer’s book and that helped.

“A Hidden Wholeness” is the book we will be discussing in Quaker Meeting.  I am one of the co-leaders, and I suddenly felt very incompetent to lead any discussion group.  I notice how badly my confidence in myself has fallen.

In the afternoon I went to the memorial service for Faith Mattison.  She was a very special person, loved by her family, did a lot of good in the world, never married or had kids.  I’m afraid it left me feeling like a useless blot on the surface of the earth.

Monday, December 9
Headache.  Discouraged and disconnected.  But Karen was a big help.  I no longer feel “irredeemably bad,” so I am finding my way out of this.  Yesterday, in Meeting — which was held here at Kendal — I remembered about “that of God within,” and checked that space under my heart.  There was warmth there — not the blazing star I once found, but enough warmth so I knew there was something not nothing.  Then I thought of all the other people who were feeling unredeemable, and I went down into the pit to sit with them.  That felt like the absolutely right thing to do.

Karen is my therapist in Montpelier, who I’ve been seeing since the early 90’s.  I continue to see her once a month because she is an emotional anchor for me.

I realized that feeling smashed beyond hope of recovery was the root of the desperate need to “prove I deserve to live.”

The other reason I’m feeling so vulnerable, so expecting to be rejected or ignored, is because of reading my early journal.  I’m just at the time when I smashed David’s windows and was hospitalized.  Sitting with the other unredeemable/disposables in the Pit is like sitting with my younger self, desperate for connection and yet terrified of reaching out.

Tuesday, December 10
I woke up feeling very cold emotionally, with images of Robert and Jim killing the professors.  Then I start to be afraid that I’m possessed.  Then I think about Jenny and her painful journals, and her painful journey, and I see that she’s not possessed, just badly hurt.  I really want to get to grief group today, I feel connected and at home there.

I buckled down and worked on the blog post about the turnaround in the Pit.  It seems so astonishing, it felt like I was there for weeks, but it was less than 24 hours.  It’s true I wasn’t there very long because first I thought of all the other people who felt that unredeemable, and then I remembered Younger Jenny who’d written the journal that triggered me.  When I sat beside that Jenny, I was prepared to just be with her for weeks.  I didn’t try to do anything, I didn’t try to help her, just reassured her I’d stay with her, but help showed up all over the place — the David Whyte CD, grief group, Erica, Richard Rohr’s daily meditations— this week on the first steps of AA’s program, the stones of Callanish…  I never thought of the natural world as being friendly support, but it was to Nature I went as a troubled teen.

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