Issues, Therapy and Me

I couldn’t write about issues without including this song; it’s been the anthem for my whole life, especially when it comes to love. Enjoy.

I know it’s been quite a long time since I last wrote, but I have been going through an awakening, of sorts. Actually, it may be more of a emergence from a long-term state of denial. I have known for quite some time that there are some deeply seated, dark and painful memories that have haunted me in my weaker moments from time to time. I say in my weaker moments because like anyone who is in denial, there is a certain amount of energy and headspace that you have to maintain, like throwing a sheet over an attacking mountain lion, basically. As long as the sheet stays in place, the big kitty can’t see me and therefore, cannot bite, chew and eat me. But once the sheet slips, the eyes lock, the body lowers and the hindquarters twitch, pupils dilate and the mouth waters in anticipation of that delicious first bite into my sweet, white flesh. Denial is the sheet and the memories are the mountain lion; so long as my state of denial was firmly in place, I was protected from those memories and if they even came up, they were  heavily photoshopped and edited to the point of being unrecognizable. That is another component of not only denial, but basic human survival. Our mind will do whatever it takes to get through whatever is happening, whether that be fracturing into different personalities, wiping the memory entirely from the mind or rewriting the scene to be an entirely different experience and transporting oneself to that beautiful, safe place. At any rate, I have known on an intellectual level for some time now that therapy would be something that could potentially help me to really, truly work through the memories, the events, the recurring thoughts and anxiety that are frequent visitors to my psyche. Having my 50th birthday approaching may have been the extra nudge from the Universe that I needed or maybe I had made an agreement with myself a long time ago (when I thought 50 was basically on death’s door) that I would deal with any demons I picked up along the way well before that specific birthday; whatever the case, I found a therapist named Lisa, had a getting to know you session and now have an appointment to come back and begin therapy.

The type of therapy that Lisa would like to do with me is EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy) and I actually know someone who has had many sessions with her therapist and was amazed at the results. It is a relatively new form of therapy and does not involve pharmaceuticals in any form, so therefore there is a belief in some circles that it’s not real therapy. I believe the people’s experiences speak for themselves and there are a great deal of them. It has shown great promise with victims of rape, violent crime, natural disaster survivors and those diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) including but not limited to military veterans. In the book I’m currently reading entitled “EMDR” by Francine Shapiro, there is a woman who survived the Oklahoma City bombing and her story, along with many others are nothing short of miraculous. Should you wish to learn more about EMDR, click on the link below.

http://www.emdr.com/what-is-emdr/

Now, all that said, there is still a certain hesitation to open Pandora’s box, to remove the sheet and face the mountain lion; there is a comfort in stagnation for me in many ways. Change is pain and pain is what I’ll do anything to avoid even if it means more pain. Funny how that works. These issues have been my unwanted passengers for decades now and have effected my life in every possible way imaginable. Even then, they have not been successful in their desire to see me fold, quit and ultimately take my life. I have dreamt of being free of them all, the burden lifted, the darkness made to light. Well, dreams are all fine and good but at some point, I must wake up. This is my awakening and I’m going to share it with you as I go. I believe that we as a whole have more in common when it comes to dealing with demons and living through horrific events than we are aware. If any portion of my story reaches someone else, causes a shift in thinking, an opening where hope can shine through, I’m all for that. That’s basically why I keep waking up each morning, apparently. I have to believe that all of the negative that has attached itself to me throughout my life thus far has simply been for my education and in return, to share those lessons, revelations or insights.

In the words of the great Malcolm X –

“There is no better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance the next time.”

All that being said, I will be more than happy when I have been able to get the lesson wrapped in a shell of pain, unwrap it, throw away the shell and take the lesson with me as I move forward, a bit more stronger and wiser. I’m happy to have you on this journey with me and as always, amazed and pleased that someone is still reading what I’m writing. Thanks for that and thanks for believing in me.

Wishing you a great 4th of July everyone! May you celebrate your own personal independence in whatever way you choose. A huge thank you, hugs and kisses to all our military service men and women out there. You are the heart and soul of all of us. Words will never be enough to thank those who are with us and those who have fought and sacrificed their lives for what they believed in and what we enjoy today; freedom.

Begin Again (Again)

Another year, another month in rehab; seems like this cycle never fails to repeat itself. Stress, depression, poor coping skills and ultimately, drinking. Drinking is not the origin of the problem, but the one that usually brings the issue to life in glorious Technicolor and Surround Sound. Learning who I am and why I do the things I do will more than likely be a lifetime project, but I am getting closer to my truths each time. How many times does one have to travel down a road before they recognize it leads to a destination that is not the one they want? How many times do I try again, only to fail? How many times can people be there for me, encourage me and help me when I just fall back to pieces again? Compassionate people have their limits and everyone has something they are battling, be it depression, simple unhappiness, a toxic relationship, addiction, avoidance and a painful past. The painful past doesn’t stay in the past; like a child coloring for the first time, it goes outside the lines of the past and bleeds into the present time, often without our knowing.

One of the things we learn in therapy is why we react the way we do to certain people, places and things (emotions can be included with things) and I am learning that my painful past is fully present in my present day. The strings that lead back to the original pain are like telephone wires, communicating and echoing the pain of the incident long ago. If I do nothing to cut those ties, heal those wounds and exorcise those demons, I will be destined to repeat this process over and over again, until I can fight no more or until I am dead and gone. This is not a post about blaming others for my past, but more to understand how the past is still manipulating my thoughts and with them, my emotional well-being. I have created a great deal of my painful past, simply by being a human being and trying to make myself happy, without having the understanding of how to create real happiness. Alcohol made me happy until it made me dangerous to myself and others; men made me happy until I realized the emotion I was feeling wasn’t happiness, but some ugly deformed cousin of happiness in which their happiness (supposedly) made me happy. The old saying “It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” may be true, but it’s better to not pretend love when it’s lust you’re feeling. Not to confuse the two, which I have done for most of my life. If you’ve never felt true, unconditional and pure love from someone, how would you recognize it? The thrill of the love affair brings about emotions that could be mistaken for happiness, but I’m fairly certain that the formula for happiness does not include compromising ones morals or living in secret, experiencing alternating moments of bliss and shame. My life is what I have made it and will continue to be a mix of good and bad, but mostly what lies between the two. I am responsible for my happiness and my well-being. I am not responsible for everyone else on the planet, I cannot save anyone except possibly myself. Others may care, but their lives demand their time and attention, as it should be. The choices I have made in the past have led me to the place I am today as the choices I make today will lead me to tomorrow’s destination.

My painful past is not without its benefits, as pain is a sure sign of growth. I have learned how precious life is and how easily one (me) can believe that I am not worthy of such a precious gift and try to return it. I’m pretty sure God (or Buddha, or my Higher Power) doesn’t want me to take that gift and s**t all over it and return it to Him with a single finger salute. I’m pretty sure the idea is to live the life, to the best of my ability with whatever gifts and challenges that come with it; learn and grow, love and give, have and hold forever and ever. Understanding that to error is human and to forgive, divine is the formula and there is no pass or fail, there is only learning and growing. To love oneself seems simple enough, but for some of us, it is the most difficult challenge we face, every single day. So, I will begin again (again) and keep trying, keep learning and hopefully, ultimately, I will love myself as those of you who love me do. This is my wish and my most passionate prayer. For a life without love is no life at all.

BrotherWord-Love-Thyself

Heavy Heart & Prayerful Soul

It is with a heavy heart that I wrote this post; yesterday I heard the news that Robin Williams had taken his life. I cannot imagine the pain he must have endured all the 63 years he lived. I cannot claim to know him, to diagnose his condition (if one existed) but I do know that with great brilliance and talent there is often a heavy price that is part and parcel of those gifts. Whether it’s mental illness, loss of privacy due to fame, addiction, or simply the demons that all mankind must bear, each as one different as the person who carries them. What the public sees and what the individual experiences are usually two completely different things. If we were able to see the demons, snarling and snapping hateful, vile things in our ears, then perhaps we would be able to know that no matter how pretty, how rich, how handsome, talented, or morally just a person is, they are not immune to suffering, be it mental, emotional or simply a haunting memory of regret. All too often, we see what we want to see and believe what serves our purpose. People with mental illness know this and it is as if we all have a script of how we are to behave, so as to not appear different or worse, UNWELL. That’s the word that means a trip to the Not So Funny Farm, a series of new medications that make you fat, flat, and absent. Absent of passion, of creative thoughts, pleasant dreams and restful nights. Robin Williams was a genius in making people not only laugh, but FEEL. He was a Live Wire of energy, emotion, humanity and love. I have yet to watch one of his movies or hear an interview of his and not feel moved either by laughter, sadness, hope or just plain love. He delivered, Big Time. It is said that we treat other people the way that we want to be treated and I believe that he loved us as much as we loved him, but the pain was greater than all of us. I cannot condone nor critique his choice, only pray that he has truly found peace and can feel all our love reaching out to him, like a Live Wire.
You have fought the good fight and now I pray for you Eternal Peace, Ever Lasting Love and a return of one thousand fold the kindness and compassion you’ve shown others. God Bless You, Robin Williams. You will live on in our hearts forever.

Note: Please join me in the Out of the Darkness walk if you are in the Sacramento area. For more information, please click on the link below:

http://www.afsp.org/