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what’s up, on the inside

I received this last night from a fellow member of CoDA:

I hope you are feeling way better today than last night, it was visible, at least for me.
(…) The other thing that I can’t get out of my head is your telling us about your humiliation, feeling that the world is watching you, waiting to see you fail at what everybody is expected to master : Life.  – What is ‘succeeding at life’ ? How is it measured in the first place, and who is authorized to judge success or failure ?
Let me tell you a little secret: Before the meeting started, I overheard  a few women talking about you. Yes You. “Where is (Innerlight), is she coming ?”  “I would miss her”  “We all would”   “She said she would probably take it easy, she is too busy with her private program” There you have it.  Everybody likes you!  Me included.  THAT is the best proof that you have already succeeded at life ! What more can a person wish for, than being loved by many people?  Please put that on your balance sheet, on the credit side. Judging from the few times I have heard you speak, I cannot say that I know you, but you have a lot going for yourself. The most obvious are your intelligence and charisma. How could you not succeed ?

My reply:

First of all, I want you to know that it is extremely comforting for me to hear that people were talking about me before I came in. I can’t feel this or know this unless someone tells me. It’s also extremely comforting that my dis-comfort was visible to at least one person, and that there is a response, instead of disregarding or dismissing it as not serious. So thank you for taking the time to write.

I remember that you first wrote me about the program wanting to learn more about the condition of your partner at the time – more her than you.  Without having met her, I think I am probably similar to her in many ways; and you may be looking for some insights and answers, as well as coming from a caring place. I appreciate what I hear as you wanting to understand something in me; also though, in my experience, the people I am most taken by / pissed off by / obsessed with are reflecting something about myself that I am desperate to understand … So, I am responding to that curiosity in you, hoping that my experience may shed some light on whatever that curiosity is in you. That’s the beauty of CoDA to me. So …

You ask how I could not succeed? Well, I ask myself that question a lot, and I am just as baffled as you are, and that’s what makes me feel humiliated and hopeless to the point of wanting to off myself.

You have managed to capture the essence of exactly the dis-ease in me. The disparity between external and internal realities. The fact that I am gifted in so many ways, AND that I also spend birthdays and holidays alone, have no family, career, home, job, etc. I have a community life, and I participate in things, but struggle for friends to do things with, that other people often take for granted, like go to concerts or on camping trips or Sunday brunch, etc.

All my life this has happened. Sometimes it seems I have no excuse for not succeeding and yet I keep getting stuck at this place. 

If I was missing a limb, or more obviously mentally ill, it would be so much easier to forgive myself; but seem to have everything and not be able to make something of it after several crashes and re-starts, and therapy and self-help work?

As our fellow member George put it, I’m apparently fine because I ‘think’ about what is going on. And yet, I have to disagree with that statement. As I wrote earlier in my recovery, “I am alive during the operation of living.” Just because I can articulate it all doesn’t mean I am any safer or in any less pain than the person who can’t. In fact, I would almost rather be the person who is not aware of all this.

I am not crazy enough to belong in the psych ward; yet I am not sane enough to thrive in life and provide for myself. This is a very dark place. There is a part of me who is willing to die in order to communicate this pain and more-importantly, end it.

I have been diagnosed with Bipolar II, General Anxiety Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder and Mixed Personality Disorder for this condition — the extraordinary contrast of realities in me and the paralyzation this creates. It is disabling. In these moments, I truly do feel disabled. It is not a nice feeling.

If I did manage to off myself, people would be baffled and bewildered and dismayed and probably blame me. The part of me that is hurting just wants to be heard, so desperately that it may kill me.

For the past month or so, I have been hearing a scream in my mind. There is a part of me that is screaming with this paralysis and humiliation I feel that has been gradually and steadily building up in my mind again. It is familiar.

What is not familiar is me talking about it with fellow people in recovery. I am noticing where my thoughts are going, and speaking them so that they are not a secret. That is something I have never done before. I am aware of the crisis line number here. And so, I give it over to my higher power to solve, and that is all I can do for this moment. One day at a time is all there ever is.

It’s been healing for me to write all this.

May it be of service in the Greatest way.

Be well, and let’s all take care of each other, everyone.




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'sea of dreams' by vcrimson

'sea of dreams' by vcrimson

Monday, March 12, 2012

I was about to give some kind of a speech about a new cd and the social commentary it was making, prior to a show at the arts centre in the place I last lived. It was a new centre, and I had to pass through a café on the way to the stage, then wait in a back stage area before going on. It was a big and open space, and I passed by an old colleague, who was sitting at a table off to the side. She didn’t look up in time to say hello, but only as I was just past her.

There had been some technical issues getting my speech printed out, but I was expecting an event producer I had been working with to come through with it before I went on.

It soon became clear that this was not going to happen; that I was going to have to go on without any notes whatsoever.

No one had seen me since I had left.

It was like I was simply not capable of stressing out.

I just had to be transparent, and radically accept my predicament, instead of trying to cover it up and fake it, as I would have done in my years there. Had I done that, it would have been painfully obvious to everyone how much pressure and stress I was feeling.

I woke up and realized that my whole life there felt like that. Like I was on stage without a script, trying to hide the fact that I was unprepared, caught off guard, feeling inadequate and utterly horrified. found myself thinking about how uncomfortable people must have felt; how they would have had to forgive me for my anxiety so much. How hard I tried and how evident that must have been. How much awkwardness there was. There was always an underlying level of stress that I tried to hide — actually, I can’t even say that hiding it was a conscious effort at all. My anxiety was so buried that I was not even aware that it was there in the first place. It’s not till now that I can understand how this must have felt for others. That I couldn’t just drop into the moment and be there in its fullness, and in the fullness of who I am.

I half dreamed about how the speech went. How I joked with the audience, played a bit of the clown, made everyone laugh, said hi to (colleague), and announced him as my boss. In some versions of the dream I replayed in my half waking state, this type of demeanor went over well; in others, it was completely inappropriate, but I worked hard in the dream to make it so that it may have been inappropriate, but a welcome addition to the evening through the spontaneity and genuine presence and connection that I brought to the circumstance. Life is one big long improvisation, responding to the moment without judgement, exploring it, seeing where it leads you, channeling the Universe, as I have said recently.

I thought how this is a side of me that has emerged here, and how I simply would no longer find myself in a situation that would not allow for this. On the contrary, I seem to be drawing people and situations where this is the desired presentation – always radically present. That people would no longer expect me to be the saavy professional I once tried so transparently painstakingly to be. I was always trying so hard, and that was the ultimate sabotage of me and everything I tried to do.

Now, I have been embracing the fact that I am a creative soul who cannot be expected to be professional in that “arts event” kind of way. I don’t try to be that any more. I am farther and farther from that sense of what is “normal.”

The weight and the sadness of how many years I was not honest about who I was landed in me.

The feeling of the dream was walking into a situation I had been before, feeling a little shy to “come out” as whatever kind of authentic being I was in that moment, because I had never been authentic before. What would people think? It would cause a stir. People might expect me to be this way always, but what if this strength and calm transparency, radical acceptance is gone tomorrow, or the next day? What then? What if I find myself back in the feeling of being so small and needy? Then I will look like a liar, and people will say that haven’t really changed at all, and I will wonder if it’s true.

I realized that if there were a movie made about me, my struggles would not be so hard to understand. All this time, I thought that no one knew how much I struggled, when actually, I think most people did; they just never knew what to say or how to help me. They just stayed away. I was the elephant in the room. It’s as if I was on stage all along, but I am only realizing it now, in layers, and with each layer, I feel mortified all over again.

I just spent 7 years being the elephant in the room (actually, more like 22 years). There was an unconscious yet unbearable pressure to be what I thought people kept telling me I was – exceptional, intelligent, beautiful, talented, capable, a leader. I kept thinking, “What is wrong with me, that I can’t seem to be what is appropriate to be? I can’t let people down. I can’t let them see that I’m not what they think I am. I have to pretend that it’s not hard, pretend that I am.” I was so misguided, so off my track, so lost, and no one could do anything. What were they to do? I was the elephant and an island unto myself because I couldn’t see what was happening. I couldn’t feel it. I couldn’t feel how fake I was being, how much I was hiding, how much strain I was under.

I feel like I’ve stood naked, walked the streets naked, pretending I am clothed, as if no one can see, hoping that if I pretended hard enough, if I was strong and determined enough, if I thought positive enough, tried hard enough to overcome my fears, it would be true, and no one would ever have to know about these embarrassments of my past, and I could finally be free of my failures and forget about them.

In step four I am currently taking in my CoDA program, this is going to be a huge chunk of my “moral inventory” – an inventory of the resentments I hold, and the people and places I betrayed myself, betrayed what was in my heart (a fellow member’s definition of the word moral).

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perfectionism and prayer

Today, I am digesting an experience of seeing my perfectionism sabotage my relations. It is painful, and feels out of control. I have prayed for the insight that will allow me to release this to my hp (higher power / CoDA lingo). I woke this morning at 6am and wrote:

Everything ego-based eventually comes tumbling down — everything we attempt to hide is inevitably and relentlessly exposed. The solution is to stop hiding it. Nothing can bring us to our knees if we are already there.

unknown image of prayer

unknown image of prayer