innerlight


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What does recovery mean? | One in Four Magazine

We all think we know what recovery is and what it would look like, but do we? Seaneen Molloy explores

We are told that recovery from mental health difficulty is possible – probable, even. The people we are exhorted to admire, from Stephen Fry to Ruby Wax, are people who have recovered from mental illness. ‘Look!’ they seem to say and by they I mean everybody; from the medical profession to mental health charities. ‘Their lives are great now! Yours can be too! You can recover!’

Recovery. It’s the buzzword. I believe recovery is possible, too. But what does recovery actually mean? That is a question I have been exploring in my own life.

via What does recovery mean? | One in Four Magazine.


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Farther On

This song, by the Alaska String Band has been replaying over and over in my mind for the last week since my roommate first played it for me.

All religious language of God and Jesus aside here (I am not a religious person in any sense of the word), it’s as if my inner one wanted me to hear this when I tried to take my life two and a half years ago. She wants me to hear this now, to comfort me, and reassure me, and help me heal from that time. I’m not sure where she ends and my higher power begins. She and my highest self are the same. This was her voice, steady and unwavering, and which I couldn’t hear. It’s as if she is singing it to me now, telling me how much she loves me. She takes my hand, and tells me she is there, has always been there, and will never leave me. She will never stop singing this song to me. This is her voice now and always.

“Farther on, still go farther … Jesus will foresake you never. It is better farther on.”


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on the homefront

Caged-Owl-630x420

I’m trying to figure out where I am today, how I’m doing (yup, my favourite question. SARCASTICALLY speaking).

I looked at places to rent this morning. Moving in here after having moved just 2 months earlier, and with such an extensive history of transiency and instability on the HOME front; my nesting instinct flooded me, and my bank account. It was like it had been repressed for so long that it all came flooding out of me. I toured second hand shops, bought little statues and decorative items for the deck and the garden and the walls here. I spent an entire week repairing the walls in my room, and painting it, including the french doors, all the trim, the walls and the ceiling.

It was 2 months of bliss with the one roommate I began with here — I’ll call her L. We were a recovery household. Our friends mixed brilliantly, and began to drop by regularly. Our lifestyles flowed so effortlessly and naturally together, we barely even had to think about it. We began creating a culture of authenticity in every moment. We prayed together, and shared with and witnessed each other deeply on a daily basis.

Our third roommate — I’ll call her E — came to us serendipitously through a friend of mine. She spoke the language of circle and spirit, and all of us felt a great ‘yes’ at the thought of her being here. We met a couple of times before making the final decision, and then she moved in.

How I didn’t see it coming is a mystery to me indeed. I feel dismayed. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt so unsafe, and so much hatred and resentment towards a person. Not a pretty side of me is coming out in this situation. Part of me is angry and hurt, part of me is terrified, and part of me is deeply ashamed of how I am feeling. I want her gone. Just the thought of her and my body tenses, my cortisol surges, my heart beats a little faster.

If I am really honest, I feel that all her spirituality and wisdom are a crock of shit. She presents herself as a great healer, and an elder, connected to ceremony and the ways of the First Nations People here. And yet … my experience so far (the story in my mind) is that there is zero vulnerability with this woman. Zero openness to others’ truth and wisdom. She thinks psychotherapy is useless and a waste of time, doesn’t believe in labels or using mental illness as an excuse for a ‘lack of respect’ with regards to relating and house work. She looks down on 12-step recovery work, saying it’s “A good base,” and has expressed that she does not want to be doing “emotional processing” with her housemates.

L sees these things, but is somehow not triggered by them. L has been enjoying E’s company and wisdom, and making long-term plans with her. The connection between L and I has become almost none-existent. We do not have authentic sharing and witnessing around the house any more, unless I ask for it specifically.
Three days ago, I got to the point of ‘her or me,’ (which I have since backed down from), and shared everything with L. It was a hard conversation, but our recovery and NVC skills got us through with shining colours — except that L remained with her ‘hands tied’, saying to me, “Well, I would be so, so sorry to see you go.”

I have been moving in and out of the place of action: This is an unsafe and unhealthy situation and I guess I need to move / I need to communicate … what the fuck to I say in this situation. Ah! … and … getting lulled into a false sense of ‘everything’s fine.’ No one is yelling, and we can all make this work, and there is no way in hell I am going to rock the boat, or rain on anyone’s parade with my little feelings over here. I can just go along in my own little world, and still enjoy this beautiful house on the river, with the beautiful yard and swimming hole, gardens, fire pit, private deck and gazebo. Just avoid the conflct; pretend it isn’t there, trust that the Universe is working it out, stay open — maybe I’m just not seeing this person’s true heart; maybe it’s all a big misunderstanding; — invite her out berry picking, give her a ride, ask her about First Nations traditions, join in the ‘big happy family vibe’ that is between her and L. Don’t be such a downer! Just go with the flow. Think positively.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhkkkkkk.

I wish I could just disappear. I feel there is the potential for me to be back at the place of needing to move AGAIN, feeling humiliated and hopeless, lost and alone in the world. This is what having to move again would do to me. I don’t know if I can survive another move. The chaos, the disruption, the fear of having it not work out AGAIN.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhkkkkkk.

So, although I am not crying or raging or acting out; like a true internal bpd, I am deeply upset inside, and not showing any of it on the outside. It is bottling up inside me. I feel paralized, drugged almost, avoiding the panic that ensues when I acknowledge how I am feeling. Stuffing it so no one, including me, has to feel uncomfortable. The silent, invisible cage.

Tomorrow, I am supposed to be taking E berry picking. I don’t want to; I want to pull out, and I want to tell her why — not in a confrontational way, but in the way that gets the octipus out from under the table. I would feel so much safer if it were acknowledged and out in the open that there are hard feelings between E and me, and that spending time alone together is not very comfortable right now.

I don’t know how to make this happen. I don’t know if I should cancel. If I should make up a different excuse, and be polite and tactful about it.

I don’t know how to honour how I am feeling right now, and not feel like I am hiding it, living with a secret, again.

And so, that’s where I’m at today. I don’t want to admit how much this situation is bothering me, but it is.

Thanks for reading. Love.


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the silenced inner scape

Isolation

Isolation (Photo credit: lovingyourwork.com)

the terror i felt at the feeling
that no one took the inner
side of me seriously
and no one ever would
no one even saw it
no one ever responded

my inner reactions are wrong
they are not real

beyond the defectiveness
and unloveability
and fortotten-ness
beyond the abandon-ness
and hopelessness
there was a silent, deafening
physically threatening
invisible terror

i learned to pretend it wasn't there
and do greatness at all costs
my greatness was pretended
even in crisis
even when i was abused
even when i was suicidal

such shocking aloneness
i have known


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rainbows in the sky

English: Felt Polski: Filc Magyar: Nemez

English: Felt Polski: Filc Magyar: Nemez (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My higher power orchestrated quite the “do-over” at a folk festival here this last weekend.

It was one of the most successful big crowd / high stimuli weekends in my life; and, it was also momentous and ground-breaking in the people from my past who showed up, and my interactions with them.

First of all, I have to acknowledge that I haven’t done so much socializing in 3 days in a very very long time. I don’t know what came over me. By the end of the 2nd of 3 days, my voice was hoarse from talking with so many friends. I felt so wonderfully at ease with whomever was standing in front of me, and that is something that has never happened to me. Throughout the weekend, I never felt estranged, isolated or humiliated, like I have so many times in the past; and I enjoyed having several different friends and groups to land with. Whenever I came to sit and take in a concert, there was always someone I knew to go and sit with. Walking the grounds, there were lots of smiles and hellos and chance meetings along the way.

This might sound normal to many people, but for me, it has not been. I can often end up feeling like the odd one out, and that everyone I know is witnessing me standing there like a square peg in a round hole, perhaps pitying me, perhaps avoiding me especially, perhaps both. It’s like in the movies, when the sound fades out, and all the surroundings go blurry, and suddenly, the whole world is definitely and extremely separate from me. The feeling that I have to hide what I am feeling — the pressure, the shame, the silent panic — is suffocating and horrible. The only thing I can do is disappear, leave immediately. I’ve had horrible times trying to stick it out, filled with awkwardly forced conversations. And so, this weekend was not another one of these experiences, though I was very worried it could be.

The headliner was an artist I had listened to at the time I was abused as a young girl. I had cried myself to sleep each night listening to this woman’s sad, beautiful iconic voice, and here she was, in my back yard. Also in my back yard, having returned to live here, is the teacher who abused me. (Full story here, and follow-up here) I had heard that he was returning, meanwhile continuing to process deeply and remember more of the feelings of what happened. New information has also been coming in, from various folks I run into — people I didn’t know when I was here, but who were involved with the school when my letter was written. I now know that there were two letters written: Mine, in 2005, and another one in 2008. It was the latter that had gotten (I’ll refer to him here as) ‘P’ to resign in the face of defacing dismissal / termination; not my letter.

There are supporters and non-supporters of ‘P’ here. As I have said before, I do not consider him to be a dangerous or evil man. Emotionally needy and unprofessional to a tragic and life-altering fault, and should not be teaching children (which he is currently not); but not in the same category of perverts, pedafiles, and molesters.

And so, on Friday afternoon at the festival, I was walking the main passage way to find my chair in the back row of the main stage area when I spotted him. I stood a few feet away from him, which also happened to be at my chair, having no intention of interacting with him; then spotted a friend and moved my chair to her immediately, not looking up, not looking around, keeping my head down, feeling relatively calm and grounded, but relieved to find a recovery friend I could tell.

But this was not high drama. Remarkably, I actually felt relatively calm and grounded. I think this is where my higher power was there to shelter me, and give me this strength of genuine connection with others. Having so many people I knew there, and feeling so comfortable around them kept me in a place of strength and empowerment, rather than the feeling of smallness and shame that goes with the dissociation and the disappearing act described above. It was fine that he was there; just because he was there did not mean that I would have to interact with him. I felt totally safe and supported to interact or not interact as much as felt right to me, and for the most part, it felt right not to interact at all.

At the same time, there was the question in me of how I would handle coming face to face with P — what I would say or not say, how to respect my own inner boundaries with grace and in a way that wasn’t going to gnaw at my psyche for days afterwards. I was a little bit nervous, and I didn’t know what I was going to do; but in the mean time, I didn’t let it distract me or stop me from enjoying the festival and friends.

The next morning, I came back earlier than I would have normally, for a workshop on vocal harmonies with one of my favourite bands. The room was packed. I scanned it for people I knew, and found a colleague I sing in the same choir with. We sat on a counter at the very back of the room. The energy in the room and between us was light and playful and joyous; the room was large and bright, the sun was shining, gearing itself up for another hot summer day on this beautiful farm, and a delicious breeze wafted through two sets of french doors on either side of the space.

The workshop started, but the people in the back couldn’t hear anything, so we were invited to move up and sit on the floor at the front. I decided to move. As I came around the counter at the back and headed down the isle between seats, someone grabbed my hand and held on to stop me from continuing forward. I turned around, and there he was, smiling, expecting a friendly and jovial greeting; expecting me to be happy to see him, as I would have been even a few years ago. I’m not sure what has changed in me, but I knew that I could not continue that warmth with him while honouring myself here.

In grade school with P, we sang for a hour at the start of each day, sitting on the floor in a circle; we sang around the camp fire on class camping trips, and always, I would sing the harmonies. It was my thing, and he told me how much he appreciated my talent. And now, after all these years, I have been singing again, doing my harmonies around fires and in my choir. And so here I was at this harmony workshop, and here we met.

A smile lingered on my face. I was glowing with the spirit of the weekend and the place, dressed to the hilt in summer folk fest fashion — halter top, bold shell necklace, flowy, hip-hugging pants. More radiant and sensual than I have dressed in years. Aglow. And here, in this moment, was our meeting.

I felt that the smile and a brief moment of acknowledgement were all I could give him, and so, I let the moment linger for as long as I could; and then, without a word, I let go of his hand, turned and walked away to go and sit on the floor in the front and sing.

This was the moment that should have happened so many years ago. If, instead of engaging in a secret together, we had connected in a healthy student-teacher way, and I had run off to play with my classmates …

Did anyone see us, holding hands and smiling strangely at each other, in the middle of the jam-packed room of people all shuffling to move to the front. Was the weight of this fleeting moment, and its richness, visible at all, or hidden from all others, just like it had been all along. Yes, I couldn’t linger here any longer. Time to connect “above board” with a quick hello, a nod to the past, and then move on.

I then found myself once again, not alone, sitting there on the floor, for the rest of the workshop, with a friend at my back and by my side. The friend at my side looked at me with tears in her eyes, and said, in the middle of her own process with her marriage, “I’m caught up in the emotions; I’m overwhelmed.” A tear rolled down her cheek, and I replied, “And here you are, showing up in this moment, in whatever state you are in. And you are safe.” I put my hand on her knee, and we stayed that way for a few minutes, and she let her tears fall. And there I was, feeling like a rock, aglow, in the midst of the fire, dancing.

I didn’t tell anyone what had happened that morning for the rest of the festival; I didn’t feel the need. It happened and I flowed out of it with little notice.

That night was the artist I mentioned above, from the time of the abuse. I noticed P sitting a few rows over, slightly in front of me. And there we were again, listening to this artist, singing the songs from my childhood, even some children’s fairytale songs. I came and went with ease, allowing myself to be seen. He knew I was there, and I knew he was there, and it didn’t matter. Our secret had ended, and this was the first time it showed. We did not engage in it. We let it go.

I could feel my higher self there, watching with wonder and awe; not oblivious in any way to the beacons of our past and the synergy that was present in what was happening.

Residual feelings are there, yes. The memory of how much it hurt when I missed the opportunity to connect with him, be around him, be in our secret place together. It was like oxygen to that young girl, and when it was gone, it felt like dying. I remember. Also is the codependent concern that I have hurt his feelings by avoiding him, changing my stance towards him so drastically and without warning. I want to protect him from that hurt. And that is the old pattern, working its way out of my system. I remember. I feel it. I feel the sadness and the burden of it.

Glory be.

In Love and Healing.


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living amends

It’s not a sense of entitlement; it’s the need to make a living amends to the Child within. To do things differently than they have been done in the past — to replace the unworthiness and the unloveability, with worthiness and loveability, on the most basic of levels, which cannot be accessed or changed with words.

A living amends to me is expressing and validating all the unspoken things in a way that is un-deniably reflective of the past lack, aka abandonment. Saying to my Child, “That shouldn’t have happened; here’s what should have. Here is what a healthy response would have been.”


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visceral healing in therapy

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Two private therapy sessions ago, I sat on a beach by the ocean with my therapist and told him about a visceral memory from my abuse by the teacher.

The memory is one that I hadn’t had before, of a specific moment. It came to me while writing a ptsd inventory sheet in my ACA program. It is the moment the teacher first kissed me, after a long, full-body hug, and eye-to-eye contact, noses brushing. I was 10 years old, staying over at his house to get away from my parents, who had been arguing.

It’s the moment when my adrenaline system first became overwhelmed. My heart began racing immediately; I went into my room and began fantasizing, sexually for the first time. It was the start of my first crush — an obsessive infatuation that would see me waiting by the phone every day for his call, fantasizing wildly about sex on the beach with him, completely disregarding and abandoning my friends at school. My fantasies would involve him rescuing me in various ways, and then making love to me.

In the session, I sat in the sand and wriggled my toes in it, my legs stretched out in front of me. My therapist embodied the healthy, caring adult response to the scene I recalled. As it was a new memory, I had never spoken it aloud, or received this healthy, caring adult response. It felt like I regressed into my young girl self, which ended up lasting for several days. This was a re-do: An acting out of what should have happened so many years ago. I saw how different my life would be if I had been able to tell a caring adult about what had happened. If appropriate disciplinary action had happened at the school towards this teacher, if we had both received therapy out of even just this moment, not to mention all the inappropriate and damaging moments that happened in the coming year afterwards.

The feeling that lingered, from regressing into my young girl state, in the presence of a healthy and caring older man, was a feeling I described at the following session a couple of days ago as “tenderness”.  We talked a lot about what this word means for me, in this context; and this post is a result of that conversation.

At the session, we got to the description of ’emotional intimacy and attunement’, and he began conjuring any memories I had of being touched, swathed, cooed and coddled as a baby and young child. “Being touched with the awareness on the part of the parental figure of how their touch was feeling for me.” These memories do not flow freely in me. Simply imagining myself being touched in this way, as perhaps during a diaper changing, are actually totally repulsive to me. My physical response is to want to writhe and coil up into a ball, shuddering inside my torso.

I cannot recall the experience of being touched by my Father. There are no memories of ordinary moments of touching, such as diaper changing or dressing, bathing, cuddling, etc. with my Father. With my Mother, I remember brash and bold movements, not so much sensitive to how her touch was felt by me — not tender.

I recalled showering with my Father, even up until age 9, but even then, there was no touching; by the time I was showering with him, I was old enough to get in and out of the shower by myself. I also recalled being in a hot tub with both my parents, at around age 12, completely naked, while eating pizza, at a hotel. He had me find a living example of a healthy loving adult, and imagine him or her wrapping me up in a towel, protecting me, and removing me from the situation.

At the end of the session, I had to voice the inner critic that was blasting me with shame and denial — “you are being ridiculous. This is ridiculous. You are making a big deal out of nothing. You are such a flake and a drama queen. You just want attention. Shame on you. He is bored and only humouring you with all these explorations, but sooner or later, he is going to abandon you, and you will be alone again. It’s time you stop belly aching and get over it. Others have had it a whole lot worse than you; you don’t deserve these sessions. You shouldn’t be here. He is laughing at you. You’re not bad enough or sick enough to deserve this.”

When I got home, I cleaned house mindlessly, in a bit of a trance state, as is the norm after these sessions. That night, I sat out on my balcony by the river and wrote. What emerged was an awareness of the part of me that is still not being seen or validated, and would rather die than continue without. A couple of different names have come to mind for this part: My Psychiatric Self, or The Watcher. I don’t know why yet, but this part of me is a He.

I wrote a list of all the things I have been missing and pulling out of lately. It is quite an extensive list — one thing after another. All the people I have had to let down in the last few weeks. I realized that this Psychiatric Self is being honoured in all these cancellations in a way he has been longing most of my life. That I am not emotionally / psychologically well enough to attend … is an accomplishment and an immense relief to him, in the fact that it is being witnessed. I am acknowledging his experience, letting it be seen and seeking the healthy response; and this is something that has never been done in my life.

Letting positive things show around certain others — including my therapist — BETRAYS him; yet, around others — particularly and especially work-related / professional contacts — the positives are all on display. It comes back to my experience of being split, containing two different selves that are in opposition to each other, incongruent. And I am feeling that dynamic very strongly in my present. My gifts and talents are coming out and being seen, but also being undercut by my Psychiatric Self wanting and needing to be seen, acknowledged and responded to in a healthy way.

There is a player in me, and so really there is always one act or the other at play, while the other feels betrayed. It is compulsive and completely out of my control at this point. It is insidious and slippery like an addiction. It creates a constant underlying pain, anxiety and fear of abandonment.

The Watcher is the one in between, experiencing this incongruence and contradictory experiences. The Watcher sees how much pain, instability, isolation and failure this opposition creates in all areas of my life. He says that if he has to continue to witness and experience this, he cannot bear it, and he would rather die. Someone needs to understand and reflect this reality in me. I need to know how to present myself. I can’t bear to continue living this extreme identity crisis. The habitat of the Watcher is so dark that I cannot go fully into feeling it all at once right now.

Finally, I also came back to the definition of tenderness we had been working on. I realized that it is more than just emotional intimacy and attunement. It’s not just intimacy, it’s love. Love, innocence, fondness, affection and caring from a healthy, male, adult figure. These are the things I felt on the beach with my therapist; these are the things I remember also feeling when I was with the teacher. A list of phrases this energy would speak came to me:

I’ll look after you. I’ll always love you and be there for you, no matter what happens.

I’ve got your back.

I think you’re a wonderful person.

I will defend, protect and empower you, and I will never ever leave your side.

I care for you and your well-being deeply, and I will be a guardian and protector of it.

It’s okay. I’ve got you. Let me hold you. It’s okay. I’m here for you. I’m here for you.

I’m not sure how this all relates or doesn’t relate. I’m not sure where it’s all going, but I will speak it out, write it out. Follow it to find the gems that can heal me.