Read the full story here.
As it’s becoming more and more obvious that I’m very very unlikely to ever find help in the conventional medical/therapeutic system (for reasons too numerous to detail), I seem to turn to the unconventional and even illegal realm of medicinal treatment in order to get to continue to navigate this earth plane. Because my life got stripped of everything that should make life worthwhile to continue.
So, this “morning” over my usual coffee, I happened upon another interesting article on Amber Lyon’s reset.me-platform and found the above linked young man, whose own project called “The True Light of Darkness” is the follow-up of a two-part book about his a) research into and b) sharing of experiences with psilocybin mushrooms and the insights and behavioral modifications gained from that. In the context of this work I came across this video, where he talks about “COEX Systems”, a term coined by Stanislav Grof in his book LSD: Doorway to the Numinous: The Groundbreaking Psychedelic Research into the Realm of the Human Unconscious. Right away it strongly resonated with my own somewhat jiggery introspection into the root cause of my own trauma and strife with ongoing emotional pain that won’t let up one bit so far (despite my very committed efforts and some help from a compassionate therapist).
There are more and more experienced and legitimate researchers and therapists coming out of the closet of conventional in-the-box-thinking in regards to so-called “mental” illness – a misnomer IMO – and their causes and how to address them. Just recently, I linked to a video with Dr. Gabor Maté, who clearly identifies trauma as the root cause of all kinds of addiction according to his experience with thousands of patients he has treated.
As far as I’m concerned, I don’t seem to have other options left as to tap into the realm of psychedelics, most notably psilocybin, in order to continue my own path. Because frankly speaking, it’s come down to either this or …. in the very near future as the pain has become utterly unbearable and conventional options fall away one after another.
On Friday night, I had written a longer blog along with this video. For some reason, it vanished into the recesses of the server cloud at wordpress.com – or I was too drunk at the time to actually hit the “publish” button and closed that text window prior to saving. I don’t think this was actually the case as far as I remember, but maybe this was the universe’s/internet’s funny way of saying that my blog post sucked to begin with… 🙂 So here I am, trying to capture the thoughts and sentiments again that were sparked by this clip. First off, upon watching above linked video, I realized without a shred of a doubt that Dr. Maté is right. What he says about pain and the role it plays in an addict’s life resonates strongly with me. How am I being an addict? Well, I think, I’ve become an addict to food by way of recurring bouts of binge eating accompanied by the “bright” choice of washing said food down with fairly sizable quantities of alcohol. (they feel sizable to me, as my constantly overclocked, overheated, overcharged nervous system – a “gift” from a lifelong existing C-PTSD as I learnt in 2013 – doesn’t require large amounts of any substance to produce even wilder modes of altered consciousness). So in admitting to the fact that I have become addicted to food and quite a bit of alcohol, I just mean to say that I think I get the “addict” part of his monolog here (and since I am aware of the health risks coming from that behavior I think about replacing these choices of self medicating with cannabis, which I believe to go easier on the system according to the research I’ve done on it – and maybe even produce some welcome positive side effects in regards to physical and emotional health). The urge to soothe the pain by overeating and then slipping into a quite comfortable sedation, the latter amplified by alcohol, is a way of using these substances as a pain killer – or to drive out utter depression from sometimes feeling completely void, empty, destroyed inside. At those times, the feeling is that the sentient part of me is irreversibly shattered. (By now, I think I have come to understand this as a false assumption brought on by lingering outcomes of experiences from my early and later past growing up, which seem to have dominated my inner monolog and thought process for … well forever. But realistically speaking, for as long as I can feel anything, if even just for fleeting moments, the sentient part of my being can’t be dead. I try to remind myself of this during times of severe distress serving as an anchor for not losing sight of the goal and perspective).
When I had sat down that night to link to the video and add my personal comments, I had gone through a series of strong, negative emotions that brought me to the brink of completely freaking out with red rage over spending a couple of days at my former home. I say “former home”, because I feel that I have made a new home for myself where I currently live – and I think I did so more or less consciously, because that former home never felt much like a good home to begin with. For reasons too mundane to go into detail about, I had to accept help with money from family in recent years and in order to make it acceptable for me in some way, I tried to talk myself into the idea that this might also be an opportunity to regrow a relationship that has wreaked havoc on my very being from pretty much the get-go. So I guess I’m saying that spending those two, three days there exposed me to XXL-sized triggers, the nature of which I even believe the Buddha to have driven beyond any measure of impulse control, not to mention preserving the “sweet spot” of that heartspace of balanced and centered awareness. Needless to say that I have to make quite the effort to get more control over my life and my actions and decisions again, if I’m not to keep betraying myself completely and thus sabotage any serious attempt at healing the still lingering, deep wounds from the past and their outcomes. But I’m digressing.
Emotional loss and trauma – I think, I can say from plenty of years of personal, felt experience that Dr. Maté nails it here. There were brief moments in my more recent past and in an attempt to heal myself all by myself when I gave myself permission to feel that loss, be with that pain of having lost true connection with my former caretakers from early on, brought on by being seperated from them and then later for all the abuse that went on and prevented me from expressing the true nature of self or even getting seen and maybe even loved for it. Those things definitely didn’t happen in healthy ways and it became never more evident to me than over those recent few days.
I mention these things, because – quite naively – I believed that if I could access this deeply rooted pain over isolation and loss, and feel it and let it come out, a natural consequence would be that I’d thus release that pain from my bodymind. But I now have to admit to myself that this was indeed a short-sighted approach. “No man is an island”, the saying goes and I had to find out that this is true. In order to truly release the still largely unaddressed and unprocessed pain from my earliest days on the planet, someone has to be there with me when I’m with my pain, as Maté points out from his experience as a therapist. Apparently, it doesn’t suffice to just feel that pain and then let it come out (in quite violent emotional break- and meltdowns that sometimes lasted for hours). Apparently, the witnessing part is an important component I had overlooked and which seems necessary to experience some sort of natural bonding that should have happened much earlier and feel a sense of connection with someone in order to truly have a healing effect. And the other aspect I realize about this loss is that the need to fill that void left behind by initial emotional loss doesn’t vanish over time. Time doesn’t heal those deep wounds from the past at all. Only compassion does. At least, I hope so.
I would have preferred to do the healing all by myself. But apparently it doesn’t work that way. In terms of taking pragmatic steps, I am now happy to report that I have contacted researchers conducting clinical trials for MAPS.org and made it on a wait list for another round of phase III clinical trials some time in late 2016/2017. Frankly speaking, I have no idea how to keep going until then. I can only hope that my innate wish to live and become healthy, which has kept me going for 50 years, won’t let me down so close to the actual first-time ever prospect of experiencing a potential true recovery from those deeply engraved wounds from day one… Wish me luck, if so inclined!
Michele Rosenthal addresses the issue of loneliness with recovering PTSDer’s:
Before I go on: The below text will trigger you. Proceed at your own discretion. I am not promising a rose garden…
Here we go: I keep quoting her (Michele Rosenthal), because she knows what she’s talking about. Today, after having lived with the outcomes of complex PTSD for 50 years, I require a person to have had personal experience with the issue in order to get to talk to me about that. I’ve had to encounter too many wannabe therapists and people with helper’s syndrome to still have enough patience with them – I don’t! Although someone living with PTSD may be categorized a victim, I emancipate myself and demand of people to meet me at eyes level today when it comes to the process of recovery from the events in our biographies that “blessed” us with this heinous condition. But I’m digressing.
Loneliness. I had to bring myself to the understanding that the loneliness I feel about this is real. There still isn’t too good an understanding about PTSD and the incredibly limiting, debilitating effects it has on an individual in the general public. It’s also become my pet-peeve that it’s still categorized as a “mental” illness. I don’t think this is accurate as the limitations are physical in nature. Emotional strife as a side effect may be a given, true. But I think at the bottom of this brutal condition sits a nervous system that was tossed out of equilibrium for good due to completely overwhelming experiences. And the moment that did it never goes away, not really. It always comes back to torture your body, rob you of a good night’s sleep, give you the shakes for no apparent reason (not apparent to others as they don’t understand triggers and flashbacks). The majority of people get to have this chat with a good friend when they encounter problems at work, trouble in their relationships, financial woes or whatever. As a survivor of PTSD – you don’t have the benefit of getting to vent or simply talk all that often other than in your therapist’s office or in a group setting. And the latter – to me – have become breeding grounds for depression. How am I supposed to feel better when I get together with an entire group of people all struggling with incredibly sad issues in their lives and sharing their feelings about them? Yes, I understand – eventually it’s my turn to share my feelings. But is a sorrow shared really a sorrow halved? I don’t think so any longer. I think it’s a sorrow doubled – if for nothing else than simply for the fact that the focus is on all the negative. Usually. I might overgeneralize, but my experiences were largely of this nature in this regard.
When the chips are down, I need to face the cruel fact that I am badly and irreversibly damaged: On the physical, emotional and spiritual level – the latter, if you are open to that idea at all. I know I wasn’t for a long time as it felt like taking the second, third or n-th step before the first. In other words: Not exactly helping. Or making things worse (“You’ve decided on this journey prior to being born.” “Fine. Can’t you just listen and show some compassion? If not, can’t you just say you aren’t interested in hearing my story?” Fuck.) In very real ways – my reality is of a very different nature as most other people’s reality. I have been living in a parallel universe of sorts. And still do. It’s a prison I can’t seem to break free from. My past always catches up on me.
I am well aware that I should do the Buddha thing in so far as I understand that others who lack the experience can’t understand. But damn! That requires me to be the bigger man than them, doesn’t it? What if I can’t be that man? What if I’m still stuck in that place where a part of me knows I was deprived of very vital things in life, the essentials, actually, those aspects of a person’s life that noone ever should have to go without?
Instead, anger – or rather: fury – drives me by and large. And why not feel anger? I think it’s a very natural response to getting robbed of something dear to you. Isn’t that the response of any healthy person? To be angry at whomever takes something significant from them? (At least, after the initial shock wears off).
But it gets “better”: I seriously tried hard to rise above my past, my issues, my … story. “Extrapolated” what it takes to be a good person simply from watching those around me of whom I got the feeling they are pretty happy campers. You might say, I taught myself how to not be damaged – at least act as if I wasn’t. You know what? You become everybody’s doormat for being kind. Everyone’s doormat and people feel entitled to make you into their night listener. For a while, this way of overcompensating seemed to work for me. I say, “seemed” to work, because at the end of the day and when the particular conversation was over – I still had to admit to myself that I felt fucking lonely like hell! The battered child in me sat in darkness again, wondering if anyone would ever care about – me? Does that sound self-absorbed? No. It is. Because that’s what healthy children are entitled to: Being all self-absorbed and having someone to tend to their needs – 24/7 and unconditionally!
I am afraid, I’ll always have periods of feeling this way, this lonely, particularly so when I’m alone or – with a person of whom I flatter myself into thinking they might become a significant other in my life. Just recently, I had a few new encounters of that nature. I should have known better and should have learnt by now: Opening up, becoming vulnerable – gets you hurt. And that’s the end of that story. You get hurt. Period.
The last thing I ever needed in my life was more injury. Right now, my coping strategies aren’t the best to put it mildly. I guess, they rather qualify as self-harming: Binge eating, booze, overindulging on the few little things that give me a shred of pleasure. The only way I can participate in life again – the life as defined by the majority and I take it: those, who were fortunate enough not to have something happen to them that pulled the rug out from under them – is by doing what I did in earlier years in my life: Pretend I was o.k. and act accordingly. The positive experiences coming from that will carry me on for a while – so long as things stay on the surface. The minute shit gets real – shit is about to hit the fan. Always has, always will. Fuck me.
“The isolation of PTSD can lead to intense loneliness. How do you cope with and reduce that feeling?”
I oscillate between “it’s killing me” and “y’all leave me the f… alone”. There is hardly any middle ground at any time. Realistically speaking and from my experience, extreme experiences like this make you lonely for real. Because we hardly get to share and vent. Noone understands (unless in a group setting, but that can be depressing as hell…)
Other than that: Lots of time in nature and – unfortunately – booze at times. Sorry to say. About to replace that with weed. That’s not gonna make me any less lonely, but it’s a different, healthier kind of drowning out the extreme pain. Talking to other people with issues has proven to be a very bad idea. They project their own shit and feel entitled to give advice. No. Just listen, the fuck!
I will openly admit that following my material demise in 2008, I had taken to the bottle quite a bit (and prior to that as well) as a form of self-medicating. While I’m aware of the adverse effects of alcohol on physical health and have no intention of promoting alcohol use, I do seem to have found one potentially helpful effect of it on people dealing with one or the other kind of trauma and emotional injuries from the past. I’ll try to describe this as best as I can here while reiterating my cautioning or warning in following suit in similar ways. (i.e. “don’t try this at home”)
In my own quest, introspection and some associated research in regards to identifying the damage done to me from repeated severe childhood trauma right from postnatal weeks along with an upbringing later, which sported quite its share of verbal, emotional and mild physical abuse, alcohol turned out to be a catalyst in recent years in regards to washing up pent up emotions, largely emotions of pain I had either been made to suppress as part of my “rearing” or was forced to suppress in order to keep going and to function “normally”. In retrospect, what stuns me the most is that I actually did function fairly normal, at least when looked upon from the outside. However, it’s been from early on that I’ve wondered about this sense of isolation and how it was that I wasn’t given the right to express my true nature like everybody else seemed to do without any inhibition or moderation – or so it appeared to me. Yet the conditioning from a guardian with a narcisstic personality disorder sharing roof and bed with a co-dependent person suffering from their own unprocessed trauma – I strongly suggest the introduction of a general parenting aptitude test prior to reproducing, seriously! – was so pronounced and complete that it never even occurred to me to protest or make an attempt to break free from the behavioral patterns I was forced into. Plus, from mere survivalist pragmatism I gained an understanding from early on that it wouldn’t do anything but get me in more trouble than I already was in, if I made attempts of standing up for myself. My own sister was a vivid example to me of this approach – i.e. standing up for yourself – going nowhere, at least not in a dysfunctional family. So I increasingly preferred to suffer in silence rather than stand up to the abuse I was subjected to. However, one day the silence part didn’t pan out any longer as at one point out of the proverbial blue skies my childhood best buddy declared he’d refuse to come visit me at home any more for reasons of inadvertently being made witness of the verbal abuse going on in our home and his personal feelings of comfort and sanity getting compromised from that (my words today, he expressed himself differently, but nonetheless clear and decidedly; we were 11 years old when this happened. Luckily, I got him to concede and ring the door bell without coming upstairs…).
In light of this background and a long history of repeated failure as an adult, both in my personal as well as my career life and this coming from my history of emotional immaturity due to an unnurturing upbringing and being left at dealing with severe emotional deficits to this day, I began to realize that I needed to dig deeper and that “acting normal” as a coping strategy hadn’t really worked for me. It should have rung a bell with me to see one significant other after another eventually break up with me after varying lengths of time. Out of some past 20 romantic relationships there is only one that I walked out of. In all other cases the person meaning to have a rewarding emotional bond with me became frustrated and hopeless and walked away. And sure enough, I’d do what I had always been doing: Distract myself, immerse myself in work, find a new quick fix – like taking up waterskiing – or whatever I deemed fit to deal with in the situation. But after ultimately getting divorced in 2003 and this happening after a period of roughly four years during which my ex-wife and I were alternating between breaking up, getting back together, trying to reconcile our differences, then getting put through the horrific experience of a miscarriage and the ensuing trauma for my beloved ex-wife that ultimately had us end up in counselling, both as a couple and each of us individually, with all this craziness going on for quite some time, we both realized in 2002 that we had exhausted our options and thus were left at needing to split for good. I had no idea how devastating the aftermath of actually calling it quits for good would be to me and I believe the ensuing downward spiral in my life to have originated from that horrible loss. After all, with all the abuse inflicted on me for all these years growing up, thus never having experienced all the trials and tribulations of normal puberty and adolescence and missing out on too many things to mention here, for the first time I actually get the feeling to have someone in my life, who really loves me for no other reason than – sharp breath – me being the person I am, an experience I had missed out on until then (I was some 28 years of age when I first met my ex-wife). I recall genuine happiness for the first time in my life in the years that followed. A close friend at the time once said, he experienced me as “blossoming” and coming into my own skin like never before. I think he was more accurate than he could have known: For the first time, I was just being myself – and someone loved me for it! It’s still an epic thought and feeling when thinking about this. And then this would be taken from me again…
So I understood that something was fundamentally wrong with me, if women kept escaping from me once they had come to really know me better and once the level of intimacy had surpassed a threshold of “skin deep”. And I also intuitively knew that there was no point to ever try again until I was “fixed”. After seeing my wife for the last time following our divorce appointment in court, I consciously decided: “That’s it. No more romantic endeavours for you any more!” I felt so broken, so infinitely corrupted from the inside out that I even began to see myself as an emotional poison noone in their right mind and heart would be able to tolerate. (actually, and quite frighteningly – this is probably a very accurate description of my inner self). So I began to look at each of my perceived shortcomings, contacted our former therapist again, booked some sessions, ordered and read just about any book the abstract of which resonated with me and started to pick at and dissect the mess I felt I was. Which brings us to what I’m alluding to in the headline: Alcohol.
I think, we can all agree on the empirical fact that alcohol lowers inhibition in people – for better or worse, unfortunately often times worse. I found this lowered inhibition to be very true for me: Every time I’d treated myself to a bit of a head “buzz”, the inner critic would fall silent, thus giving me access to emotional realms I’d usually wall myself off from in order to “keep it together” and staying functional – whatever the latter means for a person no longer employed or actively participating in the general workforce. As I noticed my guards coming down following an intoxication that was strong enough to alter my consciousness but not as strong as to completely shroud or even halt thought processes, I also noticed an emotionally stronger response to certain stimuli, particularly when watching movies that somehow resonated with my own history of abuse and multiple trauma. As I noticed this effect, I actively ventured further into this direction and gave myself permission to let these feelings manifest in me – even to the point when I’d repeatedly fall apart on the sofa, sobbing and whimpering for hours on end and allowing myself to feel the full effect of all the bottled up pain washing over me and dominate me for as long as it lasted – all this in the private setting of my home, of course, which I inhabited all by myself and didn’t share with anyone (and still do). For now, I can’t say, whether or not these meltdowns have fixed anything, but they sure gave me a sense of relief mixed with a sense of reconnecting with my authentic, albeit badly bruised and damaged self and allowing the heart to express its full emotional virility, even if it comes out as pain.
I think, my tentative finding from these meltdowns is that they instilled a sense of being more at peace with myself. In addition to that, I think I am now better able to have more control over some impulses and violent outbursts of anger, which would often take hold of me over seemingly small things and all this being basically rooted in a persisting sense of helplessness, where I’m overcompensating the latter by becoming overly defensive. Does this make sense to you?
Like I said: I don’t mean to vouch for alcohol as a catalyst or driver of emotional exploration. For mere despair and not having access to better-suited options of treatment any longer, I found it to be the only “tool” available at the time. I am well aware that this can’t become a long-term approach…
Your thoughts, if so inclined?
I thought I was going to post something positive tonight, something that might be uplifting to read, something that might speak of my sense of perseverance and how I had come close to coming out of it on the other side, still somewhat intact or discovering or building a “new intactness of my own” or something along those lines. I had meant to make this into an inspiring post about how keeping at it pays off. And then I succumbed to binge eating again for reasons I can’t even put my finger on, every time getting worse and pretty much nearing La Grande Bouffe from one time to the next – in other words, each time getting closer to suicide by overeating and having my guts explode. I feel I have burnt every ember I ever had – and I made the last one of them burn for the past seven, eight years. This… is not manageable any longer, although I found another bit of relief via medical marijuana (which is illegal in my country and which I’ll only be able to afford by growing it myself – which I plan on doing once I can put the money aside for seeds.) This – is not living, it’s surviving from one day to the next … and it feels as if there was nothing worthwhile in sight any longer or in the numbers for me at all.
I don’t consider myself a quitter. After all, I’ve just made the 50 years mark. Yes, I have been putting up with this thing for pretty much all of those 50 years (it started in my infancy when I was only a few weeks old). But lack of perseverance is not my problem. It’s the absence of something to look forward to. It’s funny, in many ways I feel like I’ve lived twice the amount of years and everything feels like “been there, done that, spare me now”, you know? And this goes beyond a simple episode of major depression (which it could be, I’m aware, but again – that’s beside the point, I don’t think, that’s the main problem). This insane survival trip has been going on for just too damn long and for the life of me – I can barely remember any day that felt … well, how about “easy”, “worthwhile”, “significant”? I get the feeling that surely a few of us must have come across that experience – despite the odds being firmly aligned against us.
Was I whining again? Probably. More like… getting ready to exhale. Let go. Just let go of this fickle flame of survival instinct – or whatever it was that had me hold out for this long. It feels like that flame has been dying on me for quite some time now and I hadn’t even realized that it had been dying inside of me. I come home after a day of appointments, seeing a friend, even doing something that many might consider “quality time”: Taking a walk in the bright winter sunshine, smelling and inhaling the crisp air, sharing laughs here and there, having a cup of coffee overlooking a gorgeous vista of lake, snow capped mountains, mist in the valley and sunlight illuminating it all. Yes, it was gorgeous weather today and I commanded my inner dialog to sound something like “this is aweome, just look at all this beauty” and things of that nature. But … I didn’t really feel any of that. It’s actually scary how I have arrived at being a socially inconspicuous zombie who says and does all the right things to pass for “normal”… really scary. If it was a part in a movie and someone paid me for it, I gather they’d at least acknowlege the profund effort going into it all – and the latter visualization of my imagination being a privilege I’ll never have in this lifetime. Like – ever. Have this insane survival trip acknowledged by anyone? If not myself, then noone. And that’s what it’s been like until now: Literally an insane ride – or rather: a faint reminiscence of it. If only it had been a rollercoaster, a breathtaking trip that would have had me cling to the handlebar with my feelings swiftly oscillating between ultimate terror and exuberant joy… I can’t think of a time like that. It was rather this thick smelly soup of insignifiance and indifference that had me engulfed right after waking up pretty much for most of my life. And waking up to… exactly what? Whining on my blog? Checking Facebook for yet another mundane status post or comment? Freaking myself out over the world’s news with all her recent atrocities committed in the name of “freedom”, “democracy”, “western culture” and all the other smokescreens they keep holding up to our faces? Or that other realm of insanity coined “islamic fundamentalism” with those monsters of the IS and whatnot. This fucking species not only kills in the worst possible ways, they are even being creative with the abhorrent ways of ending another species member’s life… I can’t think of any species doing anything like that.
At least I knew love once – or the closest thing to it that I was able to come to. I tried to pursue my perceived dream when I was young, I adjusted to a conventional life style later, I travelled a bit, I married, I loved – and then saw all of it fall apart. I wasn’t able to rekindle any kind of passion, let alone courage.
Maybe, that was that. It’s been feeling like there’s nothing at all in the cards for me any longer for some time now. And I can’t even think of anything that might get me excited enough to put up with … well all of it, all of them. I.feel.thoroughly.spent.Done. Kaputt.
I had really meant to sound different tonight. I apologize.
What can I say… “guilty as charged” per this article and of all 11 habits listed and described: 11 Habits of People With Concealed Depression | Lexi Herrick. Been there, done that, as they say.
“Mired in a deep depression and feeling overwhelmed by symptoms of PTSD didn’t seem like the right time to become a pet owner but I took the plunge and boy, was it the right decision!”
I had thought about that a couple of times myself – it would have felt like the right thing to do at the time. However, I also thought I was going to be a fulltime musician again at some point, which would have made it very difficult to always find someone to take care of him – I’d have gotten a dog – every time I’m out of the house for rehearsals, gigs or even tours. On one hand that was a selfish thought, on the other I also thought it wouldn’t have been fair to my little comrad-to-be. Michele Rosenthal, however, and along with her a number of similarly affected people or otherwise familiar with the PTSD-recovery-journey seem to have become strong proponents of pets as therapeutic supporters. Find out more by following the link below: