Wow. And then some…
To be in Big Sur is to be touched by water, to deeply feel our liquid body and the community of this larger water-body that we live in each moment. Here, we participate in a fluid and animate world while knowing our ancient belonging. This watery foundation is a fertile bed for the many seeds, the tending, weeding, blossoming, and fruition of all that Esalen has brought forth and will bring forth into each individual and our collective, ever-changing world.
– Steven Harper, 2016 Photos by Emma Barry
Source: Waters of the Sur | Esalen
Learning How to Be Unapologetically Myself
I’m not sure, whether that is a rather common side-effect of seasons changing, but I am feeling a sense of loss these days. And fear, very deep fear. But I’m digressing at the outset.
For the past two years I have camped in my home folks’ house. I had lost my former appartment due to my landlord needing to occupy the space I lived in and so I got the termination note. Having depended on welfare checks since 2009 for reasons of disability and incapacity finding another abode and then actually getting to move in has become nearly impossible for people of “my ilk.” Although I don’t consider myself anywhere near those whose routines and appearance started the stigma with disabled or unemployed citizens and don’t come across as disabled – which is a problem in itsself as I’m being met with high expectations, the latter I often can’t meet due to the disability -, landlords don’t discriminate in that regard according to my experience. At first I thought of asking friends whether I could stay with them for a little while – and one or two actually made that offer and in a tone of voice that gave me reason to believe that they were sincere. In the end, though, I didn’t feel comfortable placing such a burden on them and had my piece of humble pie by asking home folks, whether they’d be able to accommodate me for a while. Generous as they are, they let me move back in for free, even gave me an entire unused floor in their house. But needless to say that having to ask in the first place doesn’t work wonders on your self esteem. Anyway. In the face of much larger problems, self esteem or pride and any such luxurious ideas aren’t much more than a side note – one that has to be discarded in the light of the hard times I fell on and the lack of real support from the system in getting myself out of it again.
So I brought my stuff, unpacked just as much as I thought I’d immediately need and didn’t reckon I’d be there for two years. After I had landed back here, word must have gotten out among friends of old and I was given the opportunity to reconnect with some and even make new friends along the way, most notably with some very talented musicians who had then started out at Vocational Music College Krumbach, my hometown. In other words: I went from having become a recluse on account of my situation to an at least half-social being again – which was a very welcome and actually much needed side effect of moving here. So I’m very grateful for that and I’d socialize as often as my supermeager means allow for (generally maybe twice per month at most, unless we meet in private and when it’s an affair where I’m not expected to bring gifts, like a birthday or such). And now the bulk of my new friends have all completed their diplomas and move on, taking the next step in life and leaving Krumbach. Under different circumstances, one might maintain some contact and go see each other here and there. But I don’t have a travel budget, so in being realistic I don’t guess I’m going to see any of them anytime soon, maybe never again. So there’s that.
But that’s not all there is to it. The part that gives me serious trouble is that I’m beginning to wonder whether I’ve got any good emotion left in me that I might get to rekindle given better circumstances and the right people. Here’s why: Tonight I got to see my new friends again and we’d actually play some music together in their rehearsal room downstairs. Musicians’ jargon is “to jam”, meaning to say we just got together and improvised on a whim. I do remember how I’d religiously devote any spare moment in my teenage years to improve on my instrument – main instrument guitar, second piano/keyboards, some singing – and how I couldn’t imagine anything more important on Saturday afternoons than getting together with the band and rehearse for little gigs in the vicinity. Naturally, we’d cover popular music on the radio, but went on to writing original material in the end (and ultimately won a regional battle-of-the-bands contest with a professional studio production as first prize win). The excitement of bringing the songs I loved to life with a band was always enough to keep my mind busy and also give me the feeling of being part of something, something good.
As we jammed along tonight – and the music flowed naturally and we kind of “clicked”, musically speaking – I was expecting for that “religious”, all engulfing feeling to come back full throttle – when it didn’t. I mean, eversince making friends with these guys I had dreamed of such an opportunity and finally upon their leaving it manifests! So I should be grateful – and I am, don’t get me wrong. But on the other hand…. it’s as if something inside of me is broken so bad that I don’t seem to get to repair it – or reinvoke those feelings of a nurturing kind, feelings that were powerful enough to let me rise beyond and above my C-PTSD and its large number of almost impossible to handle symptoms that I’ve been dragging along for all my life, almost since day one. That trick doesn’t seem to work any more. Ok, even here, you could go and say: “Alright, we all go through that at some point. What’s lost is lost. Find something new and move on.” Fair enough. Where? And what? And how? With very limited resources and very independable ones, I’d have to say.
I think, I may have used that phrase before, “stranded in life”. That’s where I’m at, that’s where I’ve been for the past 10 years. I just don’t know what to seek out any more – or where. My former survival strategy was to set a goal, assess my resources, attain missing qualifications and skills if necessary and then – go for it! That’s how I’ve been living most of my adult life. For the first time, I seem to have run out of ideas as to what goal might even be worthwhile pursuing. Music was my first dream. And I still can’t entirely let go of it for some reason. But when I’m at it, when I’m actually doing the darn thing, it nowhere near moves me as hard any more as it used to. And I need it to do that for me, because just being functional and showing up takes an all resolved effort on my part. I’m not even addressing the real humdingers here like diligent practice and discipline and all that. No. I’m talking about the mundane things like not exuding an air of danger to peers by letting on my hypervigilance and such. Handling my body, learning to navigate it all anew after learning of food intolerances, things of that nature, in other words: All the stuff other people don’t even have to spare one single thought on.
I did have quite my share of fun tonight, admitted. But only to be able to be there and deliver, I have to go a number of extra miles compared to other people. In other words: I have to work for the mere ability to be there and not stand out negatively. Nutrition, sleep, regular body functions – they’re all a constant problem that needs managing. In one phrase: There is no such thing as spontaneity for me any more. (on account of the symptoms and now in addition to that on account of the precarious living situation). I’ve learned to fight alright, but this time it seems that the opposition I’m facing is too much to handle for one person (and mind you, I have been handling it for some 10 years – on my very own). But more importantly, I seem to have lost sight of and connection with all these things that make life worthwhile in the first place: Love – for anything for starters by the way, we’ll get to the “people” or “significant other” part later… Actually, yes. It all boils down to love. I seem to have lost love somewhere along the way. And chuzpe, the go-getter sense. And I have no clue how to get the latter back, much less the first.
This – is – a – scary place to be in. Can’t recall having been in a place like this ever before.
Here’s an article on recent findings at Imperial College London, where Robin Carhart-Harris found that DMT induced hallucinations and near death experiences (NDEs) are most likely one and the same as the nature of both experiences is fairly identical (minus seeing deceased loved ones).
I’ve arrived at this very conclusion myself a long time prior to the release of this study and after thoroughly comparing reports on DMT induced “trips” with accounts of near death experiences. We know that DMT is at play at birth and in the process of the dying brain. No need to invoke a “supernatural” world at all. Yup. Sounds legit to my ears.
Recently, Kimberly Callis shared an article on The Mighty, a mental health platform where survivors of varying mental health issues meet and publish. This particular article listed and described 12 common symptoms a person with CPTSD has to deal with on a daily basis.
I had to go “yup, been there, know this” with almost every line of this brutally honest write-up, particularly when Lilly Hope Lucario talks about the somatic impact after a triggering situation. In my case, sleep is the humdinger in the room: The slightest noise when I try to fall asleep or even when I’m sleeping “soundly” not only brutally wakes me up – it puts my body in “high alert” mode instantaneously – and keeps it there for hours. Actually, it’s not so much the noise as the vibrations coming from it, say a W.C. lid falling down hard, a door being slammed or just something toppling over etc. I am pretty sure that my early experiences on the planet with pediatric hospital have “emblazoned” this somatic response on my nervous system. I’m actually almost sure of it as a period of hypnotherapy brought up images from that time – but months after I had ceased to see the hypnotherapist. Very specific images, but more importantly the feelings I must have felt at that time. A similar thing happened when I got retraumatized in 2009 from a brutal panic attack that had me wake myself from my own screams. On the next “morning”, only hours after the event, I had the strange feeling of being a four-year-old again – or even younger. Bottomline is that I felt completely exposed, vulnerable and helpless – then and in 2009 at age 44….
My thinking is this: As an infant being hospitalized in that pediatric clinic, nurses would come to my bed to get me to the doctor, the metal railing goes down, the bed rattles a little, they pick me up and take me to the pediatrician, who’ll then perform painful and highly intrusive explorations on me – without any anesthesia or sedation. So when I am awoken by such noises, it’s not 53-year-old me that wakes up. It’s the infant at two weeks who finds himself in a hostile environment again with noone there to protect him from what’s likely going to happen, i.e. something traumatizingly painful.
I recently moved after a violent and near-physical fight with my old man. For reasons too numerous and detailed to elaborate on here, I’ll just say I had to “camp” at my old folks’ house for two years, a situation which health professionals dealing with trauma survivors call “in close proximity with perpetraitor”. The situation took the shape and intensity of a full blown retraumatization. I was shaking for the entire rest of the day. Nonetheless and needless to say, I had to get myself out of there, so I packed a few things and immediately rushed to the apartment I had found and rented a while ago (but not properly moved in yet for lack of basic utilities and furniture). First night there, I wake up from a panic attack so hard, I hear myself scream (see above, 2009). Lay awake for hours on end, briefly fall asleep again. Nightmares to end all nightmares. The point being: I had experienced a triggering situation and it sort of “reversed” my 53 year old “me” to that helpless infant – in an instant. After all the studying of CPTSD I have done, I believe that the nature of a triggering situation is exactly that: A situation, an experience that mimicks one or more properties/qualities of the original trauma and thus takes you right back to that moment so that your soma, your body finds itsself right in that original situation all over. All this is not new and well understood in the mental health community and among professionals. I can’t help but be “amazed” at the infallability and immediacy with which this happens time and time and time again.
Over the years, the physical/somatic responses of my body to such threats have solidified, meaning to say: From one trigger and somatic response to the next, the neural connections in the brain sparking a survival reflex have become stronger, thus making it harder from one time to the next to “modulate” those somatic responses (by way of e.g. self-compassion, self-soothing, that sort of thing).
So, eventually and after years of battling the system, I might get to receive specific in-patient treatment soon. There’s only one thing I hope to come out with and that is a method of reversing that die-hard conditioned reflex when experiencing a situation that sends my body right back to being that helpless infant! Anything else I benefit from will certainly be a welcome bonus. But to get to sleep soundly and healthy is my prime objective as I find myself utterly exhausted from only one week of being in the new environment. I need to sleep!
Found on Kimberly’s excellent blog (but originally from a different source):
This is an excellent article about Complex PTSD symptoms. It is important to know that time and therapy, within a supportive environment, can bring healing in all of these areas. Post traumatic gro…
How does it feel to die and be resurrected?
After reading the article I’m more convinced than ever that so-called near death experiences are a phenomenon brought about by DMT, believed to be produced in the pineal gland in humans and massively flooding the brain – and entire system – during the process we so poorly call “death” (when by all accounts it seems to be a process like everything else we encounter during our lifetimes). The features of both experiences just seem way too similar in my understanding.