I knew he had contracted skin cancer a while ago. They removed the bits from his nose. Skin cancer. A late “postcard” from his time in New Mexico in the late 60ies, early 70ies with massive UV radiation all over the place and taking pictures in some of the nuclear bomb test sites. That and UV reflecting back from the “White Sands”. Guess, that could have anyone done in, much more so a fair-skinned European. Even some 50 years later. Our skin has a memory of its own, I hear. Doesn’t take things easy on “over-radiating”…
Doctors thought they had it in check. That is – until three massive tumors showed up around his neck. “Your body has created a recipé for cancer from the skin cancer”, said the oncologist. I think I can see George scoff upon this very unscientific assessment. Treatment: Cut half his head off to remove the tumors, stitch him back up and – hoping for the best. At age 92. I suspect love to have gotten him so far. His wife’s love who stood by him for 66+ years. Spent time knitting while he was busy squeezing the last bit of horsepower out of his race-grade tuned motorcycles – and racing them and winning, too! (on a shoestring, as he called it himself). Love got ’em a good while further – almost until her 93rd birthday and some way past his 93rd one. Beloved, beautiful wife passed only days shy of her 93rd birthday – which clearly must have broken his big heart. Would have cut mine into a gazillion pieces from only looking at her, let alone getting to spend every waking and sleeping hour with her.
And then: Tumors removed, some permanent malfunction to the facial nerve from that, wife dies, gets buried. And now: Brain tumors! “It’s big,”, he went upon sharing the news with me out of the proverbial blue one late Friday afternoon. WTF?! I’m up to my ears with crap myself and you pester me with your little dying episode? No. Of course, not. It was my way of not going crazy from hearing it.
Couple of weeks later… we lost him. I have been a lousy friend in your remaining weeks, George. Hope, you’ll forgive me one day. R.I.P., brother!
The more I hear and read about NDEs, the more convinced I become that they’re really just a by-product of acute physical and emotional stress in the face of getting annihilated. Understandably, for some. Personally, I seem to learn more and more towards the idea that going back to non-being and thus to unawareness holds an aspect of relief I seem to begin to treasure. Just my 2 cents.
Recently, a new therapist enlightened me on the fact – oooh, drumroll, newsflash! – that much of human connection hinges on feeling resonance. We didn’t go into detail as to the specifics of what this very ambigious, poorly defined term that is very much en vogue in New Age circles actually means. But I’d like to state that I’ve heard it before – resonance, I mean – and so played along with that concept while displaying what I thought to come out as an understanding face.
Resonance. Let me try to define it according to what I’ve gathered so far: You feel in resonance with other people when the nature of mutual experiences and their emotional outcomes in each of the conversants match. No? I look forward to your comments corroborating or arguing the idea. But for now, let’s just employ this concept as a working idea, shall we?
OK. Experiences plus emotional outcome(s). Let’s break that down for a sec: Experiences. Let’s be easy and say: Common experiences. Experiences “everyone” goes through at some point in their lives. You with me? Let’s try and find one: How about – school? Ah! Yeah. Most people – in the western world at least – have attended school, right? No? Beginning to see my point? Maybe no. Then …. how can you resonate with anyone who’s been attending school as if it was a given?
Next: Emotional outcome. Aha! Now, there’s some common ground, right? As we all experience emotional states. And those tend to run a sort of predefined gamut. No? Ha! Again: See my point?
Resonance, my fucking ass. As a trauma survivor you’ll be hard pressed to find any-effin’-single-one person who even has the beginning of an idea as to what that trauma actually encompasses, let alone feels like. However – somehow having survived the agony that trauma leaves behind is the first “off-the-mark” phenomenon many of us were forced to learn to navigate in order to…. well, yes: Survive. Sometimes very verbatim as in: Physically. Sometimes “only” emotionally (quotes because science e.g. know of the “broken heart syndrome”. Not a syndrome at all, but a real physical response to what goes on in your life). My point: YOU CAN’T RESONATE WITH THE BULK OF MAINSTREAM as their lives have ZERO semblance with ours!
I’m taking liberty to place the concept of resonance with where the rest of unfruitful concepts already reside, the latter of which so many – well meaning, though, gotta give ’em that – “experts” tried to shove down my throat. (I have a very… nasty … idea as to what enacting the reverse of that concept might entail…. 3:) )
P.S. Very much politically-incorrect encore (and fun): I’ll gladly – no sarcasm, intended, I mean it – listen to a – say – Holocaust survivor and their take on feeling resonance. Maybe I should do that exact thing: Find me a still living Holocaust survivor and listen to them as to how they managed to overcome their experiences. In my book, noone can be an expert on anything unless… they lived their field of expertise in their own flesh and blood. The rest? Imposters. With a state-approved paper in their pocket. Con-artists, actually.
It’s the most bizarre experience next to the NDE at age four: I’m back in my home town, even back under the roof where I grew up. I’m seeing old friends and making new ones. We’re on the verge of summer. I feel my body for the first time. I’m getting glimpses of what life could have – should have – felt like: Innocent. Unencumbered. Carefree. Sensual. I’m feeling my body for the first time in a way I have never felt it before. All I’ve ever felt was distress, anguish, allergies, physical discomfort to the n-th degree. And now there is the promise of summer upon us, upon me, with scents so manifold, so tempting, so sweet I never even had an idea that all this existed. Life …. is – or let’s say can be – one ongoing sensation of sensuality with each following sensation trumping the previous one. It truly is a miracle, a gift, one I had no idea existed.
How bizarre. I’ve lived to see half a century. And haven’t lived at all. Until now. (Hopefully).
Wow. I was not prepared for this….
Context: I’ve “always” played musical instruments for as long as I can think back. I was playing in several bands during my High School years, had a brief stint as professional musician in my early twens, released a couple of tracks I had written, recorded and produced on my own in more recent years. And in those bands I had appeared with, I had also always been a lead singer and background vocalist while playing my instruments on stage. So let’s just say: My body knows music. In case your attention starts to wander away because you might feel you’re not a musical person at all: Bear with me – and yourself – for a little while longer. We’ll get to it in a minute.
Regular visitors to this blog will know that I have traversed the dark night of the soul various times in recent years and since having started this blog. I have experienced loooooong bouts of utter depression, hopelessness, despair, red rage – the whole gamut of negative emotions, you might say. These negative emotions ran at an intensity that they sometimes even managed to cancel out the musical vibe in me altogether. There were days I laid my hands on the guitar and started playing a song I had always enjoyed and it felt like a mechanical exercise. Now, singing? I couldn’t even begin to think about pulling the strength to take a breath deep enough that it would move the respiratory tract hard enough to have my vocal chords resonate strongly enough to carry a tone, let alone a tune. In fact, when you’re deeply depressed, your vocal volume is reduced, there is sluggish articulation and other parameters indicating a profound change in mood. So singing was pretty much out of the picture. For good, I thought.
However, I sometimes muster this flurry of desperate activity when being despondent enough. It’s almost like tricking myself away from killing myself. One such bout of activity had me attend a “meet the board/school” day with the local musical school training professional music educators. Their targeted age group is between 18 and maybe some 25 years of age. People my age showing up there were – the parent(s)! But when you’re desperate enough, you’ll try to make anything work, right? Right. So I’m outing myself right in the first session boldly going “How about this program as a later in life second kinda career decision? (And in front of a room of about 100 people) Immediate silence from all the ADD-prone 15-somethings around me with their Moms and Dads sitting somewhere at the back of the room, so the former would get to put their cool on – and wear it, too! Another male looking my age blurting out after me “Yeah, what about it?!” Good thing to learn that the school’s principal seemed to be a seasoned orator as he didn’t fall flat on his back right away. Anyway, I’m digressing – as usual.
Singing – what about it? Long story short, after having spent an afternoon between eager teens and very proud parents along with my new friend who apparently finds himself in a similar situation as I, I felt inclined to audition for them. And that’s where we tie back into the singing thingy: I auditioned for the guitar coach first on a separate day. As the vocal coach offered me to see him on that same day, I agreed on having a preparatory talk with him. Turns out he auditioned me anyways, unprepared, unpracticed, unwilling and all. And that’s where things got interesting: After years of being down on myself, years of ending the day wishing and praying not to wake up the next day, years of humiliation, years of facing homelessness more than once, years of writing my own version of the Book of Jobe, after all this – I started to feel something again! In fact, I felt no more than a simple physical sensation, which is that of the air column standing between your vocal chords, travelling past your laryngeal, tipping its hat to the chest area and the respiratory tract, then reaching all the way down into your stomach – while your upper cavities in the head, near the nose and at the back of your throat help mold the sound that’s coming out of your mouth – wow! And then some! Right there – I transformed into a better version of me, a more confident, self-assured one, the one I remember having been in younger years, regardless of childhood trauma and C-PTSD outcomes I have been living with forever. Right there – I was nothing but a resonating physical vessel, being put on earth for no other reason than – singing a few notes at the prompt of the vocal coach.
My point being: Singing will transform you! You don’t think you’re musical? Who cares? Sing anyway!!! You can’t carry a tune? Nobody gives a shit! Sing anyway! Intonation, dynamics, remembering lyrics – you’re all poor on those three? Fuck it. Sing anyways! Why? It is going to save.your.life! And I mean it. It is likely to save mine. And yours, too – I hope?
Have you found one? If so, please kindly share. In the past 10 years there is exactly one single reason for not having taken my own life: That I can’t prove that I’ll find myself in a different and worse place after the fact/act. I can’t rule it out as there hasn’t been proof nor counterproof. But I am so utterly done. Done. Done. Done. I’m ready to go. I have been ready forever. There are people for exactly one reason: To hurt and maime you, to keep hurting and torturing you any fucking way they can. What a fucking mess this life is!
…people always – and at an impeccable, perfect 100% rate – hurt you the most with that which they think nothing of…? And then we have to go and forgive their sorry ass, completely unevolved meat-pack they take for brains? What’s with that shit?
I have this eerie recollection of a – telepathic? – conversation: (Me) “I don’t want to do this.” (i.e.: This life on earth). (Some unseen entities) “You don’t have to. You can come back and not do it. But if you do, you won’t ever have to go back. (i.e. reincarnate). This will be the last time you were in the flesh. And you’re going to come back here and won’t ever have to leave again.” (Me) “Alright then. Let’s get it over and done with as quickly as possible, shall we?”.
My mother told me when I was old enough to understand that I “couldn’t wait to get delivered”. Between her going into labor and undersized, underweighed me poppin’ out were only a few hours. When I did, the midwife greeted me with the words “Dear Lord, he’s got a neuropath’s hair.” (that was a reference to what little hair I had stand up on ends on my tiny head). The usual procedure was performed then: Slap on the back to get you screamin’ and fill your lungs with air, cut the umbillical chord, rinse off all the childbirthing gore, dry, clothe and – take away to a different room filled with newborns.
Fast forward by two weeks: I seem to be too weak to “milk that tit”, they give me formula, I keep throwing up and – lose weight. At the meager weight I was born with – some 4.5 pounds -, losing weight means impending death from malnutrition. (if I had to give a time frame for above eerie conversation, I’d place it somewhere there: Anywhere between day 1 and 10.) The pediatrician’s words: “He’s got to go to hospital or he’ll die in your arms.” Full score for medical analysis, zero score for “charms”. So they take me there the coming week. I’ve been living for two weeks by that day. Now I’m going to a totally foreign environment – alone. No “rooming in” at the time, no extended visiting hours upon delivering me there. I’m two weeks old and I’m on my own. (A feeling that has proven to be the underpinning first feeling above any other to this day, after having lived half a century in survival mode).
I don’t have “conscious” memory of that time, whatever the first means. But my body remembers. It remembers the giant needles that went into my spine for reasons of performing a spinal tap – twice on two different days. The academic consensus of the time was that babies this young haven’t developed the neurological “infrastructure” yet to notice pain. Ah! Those genies! It must be for that reason that they also decided shoving a hose down my nose into my stomach to artificially feed – warning! Very graphic content! – me was the appropriate measure to take back in those days. Not once, not twice, not three times. No. For weeks on end. And my body remembers it all. I can’t sleep right, I don’t eat right. The only time I feel safe is when I’m by myself. Out there. In the wilderness, where chances to run into someone are small, next to zero. At all other times – I feel as if I was charged at, attacked, hurt, mutilated. That’s been my feel to life – to this day.
Let’s just say we know better today than to put children somewhere they shouldn’t be this early into their young lives… I still got to keep the questionable reward of having known better for all of my life for reasons of needing to live with the outcomes of this weird “school of thought” back in those days. What was I talking about? I’m talking about complex post-traumatic stress disorder having found ideal “breeding grounds” right there in my early history. (and for other experiences following suit, I take the liberty of regarding myself a “textbook case” of C-PTSD).
And why the hell was I bringing this same old lame story up like a broken record? I keep bringing it up, so that others, who may not be so sure as to what exactly it is they were suffering from, might get a clue. I keep bringing it up for the average of 20+ vets who commit suidice every day for reasons of not getting to settle back into their lives they led prior to their assignments (and for many of those “cases” PTSD being the reason for the first! And yes, I’m aware: There is debate over whether or not this figure is accurate; for the record, let’s just say that number crunching isn’t exactly what we need here, o.k.? Any one fucking suicide based on being deprived of the help these brave men and women need is one fucking too goddamn many! Can we agree on this?!)
That’s the context. On a more personal note: I’ve been living with this thing. For 50+ goddamn years. And yes: “Living” is quite the exaggeration here! I have survived. Some days more comfortably, others not so comfortably. Speaking of which: I don’t know what exactly a “comfort zone” feels like. I’ve had some experiences that were less bad than the ones I describe at the onset of this article. For the most part, I’ve felt like a hunted down animal evading gun fire from all four directions.
But now… there is hope for many of us. Better than hope: MDMA assisted therapy can actually amount to a 100% cure of this debilitating condition. I contacted MAPS a couple of years ago and upon finding that I’m exempt from any specific help here in my country of birth (and after having paid my health insurance premium for all my life and having paid taxes since the age of 14). They put me on a wait list for their Boulder, CO phase III study. However, it seems to be reserved for veterans of war. Hm. I wonder, if I get to convince them that I’ve been living the equivalent of that for 50+ years, thus having survived about half a million soldiers. You think, I might have a shot? Wish me luck.
(Oh, and P.S. and as to “Self Compassion Redefined”: I will find me a “cocktail” to give myself the ultimate break, if all else fails. I really owe this to my child self.)
Update: I’m going to talk to the study’s co-investigator some time tomorrow or on the weekend. This is exciting! Wish me luck!
This… is HUGE!!!
(On a sidenote: I now know beyond a shred of doubt that I suffered derealization in the context of a throat surgery at age 4, which I remember as something like a near death experience [when it was actually just a case of derealization per this.] I have no idea and no way of finding out, whether Ketamine was actually used as anesthesia back in those days, but give the fact that the FDA only approved it as a legal substance in the 1970ies, I can safely derive that Ketamine was not at play at the time of my surgery at age 4 [which translates into 1969]. However, the experience of derealization in the context of this article is something I clearly remember. I think this may bear some significance when starting outpatient trauma treatment for the first time on Monday)