therapy journey

My journey to better mental & spiritual health

Tag: change

Humbled by wonder, joy and truth.

“All Joy reminds. It is never a possession, always a desire for something longer ago or further away or still ‘about to be’.” ― C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy.

The search for truth, which I now realise is what the Therapy Journey always was, is strewn with many obstacles, time drains, wrong turns and false gods. My research was leading me down a route I thought was filled with harmony, joy, peace and spiritual truth. I was quite taken with New Age philosophies and practices. I am going to detail the sorts of things I thought were Very Good Things. Some are from the “therapy” part of my journey and some are related to my supposed “awakening”.

-kundalini yoga, Emotional Freedom Techniques, the Zeitgeist Movement, David Icke, chakra opening, chi, Buddhism, ‘Conversations With God’, (some forms of ) meditation, Eckhart Tolle, ‘The Secret’ & the law of attraction, The Age of Aquarius, craniosacral therapy…. Anything connected with New Ageism, ‘alternative’ spirituality.

I’m sure most people will be aware of at least a handful of these aspects of modern spirituality. So what is it that underscores all New Age systems? They are mostly Eastern-influenced, and have a variety of teachings concerning salvation but almost always make man central to the process, for man is the divine co-creator of his reality. It is a theology of feelgoodism, universal tolerance and moral relativism.

Pretty harmless, right? Just tools to help busy, modern people achieve a modicum of calm and inner peace. That’s what I used to believe. But now I have become aware of the truth, that all the above philosophies and more that are connected to New Ageism are nothing but revamped Satanism. Satanism made palatable to the masses!

So what makes these systems Satanic ones?  Look carefully at even the simplified synopsis two paragraphs above, and you will see the belief that the individual can be their own God. Man can look to himself for salvation….

Before I continue with what comes next, I must explain what I reckon my awakening was really about. But first, what it is not. A year ago, I thought it was a spiritual one. Then months later I thought it was a truther / conspiracy theory awakening. I was rather taken with New Agers that reject religion and believe there is a grand manipulation at play which entails sinister power in the hands of the few who control the many. Advocates include David Icke and Peter Joseph. I came to understand at a basic level, the manipulation that is inherent in the structures and strictures of our world today.

Only very recently have I come to realise that the process of my awakening is the path to my becoming a Christian. The truth I have found to be the one and only truth, is directly at odds with the majority of what I have written on this blog in the past. It is incompatible with the New Age philosophies that now dominate mainstream culture, many of which I tried on for size myself. It is at odds with some of my previous writings about belief in God being tantamount to mental illness – a literal mind virus. It was of course, necessary to go through various stages of discovery, because this is part of the journey. Sometimes, you have to go a ways down a road to realise you’ve gone the wrong way, and must turn back.

This has all been part of God’s plan for me and there is no way as a mortal that I can see the smallest fraction of what He can. It is like viewing one pixel for one second and trying to fathom the whole movie. What I can say about the journey to get here, to the very beginning of my eternal walk with Christ, is that I am grateful and humbled to be saved. My turning away from sin and into the light of the truth didn’t happen overnight. There were no visions, no signs, no bright lights or spiritual events. It was a gradual realisation where the truth just dawns on me little by little.

I had tried this religion on for size many times over the past 15 years, since I was a teenager. But in the past there was always a block to actual faith. No matter how much of an academic understanding I had, the faith was missing. I simply couldn’t believe it. Yes, I wanted to follow Christ. Yes, I wanted to believe God came to earth as a man, who then lived the perfect life and shed his blood for our salvation. Yes, I was fascinated by the Bible and wanted to read more. Yes, I wanted to join Christians in worship, not merely as a critical bystander only in it for the architecture and singing. But always there was the nagging thought in my mind, “it’s beautiful, but it’s not real”.

I’ve been aware of belief growing since August 2015, around 7 months ago. I’m truly grateful. I have a constant little thrill in my heart because I have so much in my life to be truly happy and thankful for. That is humbling, that is wondrous.

humble-art-painting

Fear and loving.

“The seat of fear is in your heart and not in the hand of the feared.” – Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

Life continues on its mad meander, always. Finding myself returning to a community I always thought of as indifferent, I’ve made efforts to reach out and feel a sense of oneness on a par with true nature. I launched a group which aims to help other people to explore themselves, exchange ideas, embrace spirituality, engage with our fellow adventurers, and let go of fear, negativity and anything else that holds us back. I would like this group to unlock participants’ childlike inner states such as joy, creativity and being outside of time. It is my fond hope that as we build momentum through deeper connection and diverse activities, we find some measure of peace, happiness and unity.

We met for our first session a few days ago and had a great connective experience, meditating and reading. One participant read from Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet. Freedom, according to the speaker in the story, is in rising above physical concerns. Freedom is painted as a strong, glittering chain, as a ‘yoke and a handcuff’. There was a line that refers to casting off ‘fragments of yourself’ in order to become free, which highlights the absurdity of that which, through sentimentality, materialism or notions of ownership, we think of as part of ourselves. All that we need for freedom is already an intrinsic part of the self, though expressing freedom requires self-discipline, integrity and sacrifice. Casting off the shackles of the slave’s imprisonment becomes itself the fetter of a greater freedom.

Peace and freedom are very noble, but days like yesterday remind me that I still have a long way to go on my little journey. I felt the resurgence of anger, and I took it out on someone. A stranger, who happened to get my goat and validated every stinking rotten suspicion I had about the people in this village. Of course, that makes me a hypocrite: what happened to engaging with community? The feeling of love for all is not automatic; it’s beyond hard, and for me right now, impossible. Not being able overcome the instinct to lash out makes me worry. I worry that all the time I’m being nice I was merely pretending. I wonder whether loving and respecting everyone ever can become automatic.

It comes from consciously choosing what we want in our lives. It comes from choosing what thoughts to have. So, I made a decision to become angry. While I regretted it almost immediately, I have to accept that it’s OK to feel less than OK. With everything I’m doing, I am learning. I haven’t yet had an experience that has changed me fundamentally. The last thing I would want is to miss out on my own humanity in single-minded pursuit of high-end spiritual programs.

When I am utterly frustrated, which seems to be happening a lot lately, I don’t feel very myself. For someone who runs a group about being authentic, this could be troubling. But what I want to say to myself is, “it’s OK”. Sometimes I sit and feel sorry for myself. Sometimes I silently sulk and stew. Sometimes I act like a giant baby. Sometimes I cry with epic frustration and total sadness. I both love and hate the fact that my life is so comfortable at the moment. I hate what that makes me.

To step out of my cushy comfort zone, I’ve developed this game in which every day I try to do something that scares me. I’m going to try and push through this every day I am in England. Years ago I attempted to commit to a guiding mantra of “let nothing and nobody scare me”. It was conceived at a time when alcohol provided me with a handy Invincibility Cloak. I’ve carried it around all this time. Now, rather than that motto be full of spurious braggadocio, I’m coming at things from a humble and loving standpoint. I’m seeking out fear, challenging its very existence and staring it down. It’s shown to be nothing more than a figment of my imagination.

Into the heartspace.

We’re bored. We’re all bored now. But has it ever occurred to you, Wally, that the process that created this boredom that we see in the world now may well be a self-perpetuating, unconscious form of brainwashing created by a world totalitarian government based on money and that all of this is much more dangerous than one thinks? And it’s not just a question of individual survival, Wally, but that somebody who’s bored is asleep, and somebody who’s asleep will not say no? – Andre, ‘My Dinner With Andre’.

Some time has passed since the last time I wrote on therapy journey. In that time, therapy journey has turned one year old, and a new calendar year has also commenced with haste. It has been a period of readjustment and coming around. It has been a time of cold winds and hot baths; long goodbyes and short days; high hopes and low pressure; a time for shining brightly in the dark. I feel like I’ve been gathering myself up, and expressing what I am in all that I do more clearly than ever before.

I’ve cast out the old. In a literal sense, I’ve got around to a task I’d been putting off for years, namely selling, giving away or throwing out hundreds of old possessions that I no longer need. This has been a difficult operation to get my head around, as many of the things I’m disposing of still fit, are current or have plenty of use left. But I’ve realised I simply have too many of these things – mainly clothes and accessories – and rather than hang on to them while they depreciate (and for it to cost me, in various resources, for the privilege), I made the decision that it would be better for them to find a new home while they still hold some value.

It’s been a shaming but humbling experience. From the spiritual side of my being, I can say with certainty that things don’t matter. But from the point of view of minimising waste, allocating resources efficiently, enabling others, sharing my prosperity and respecting the abundance of the planet, it has been important to me that my unwanted possessions go to homes where they too can find a new lease of life until planned obsolesce kicks in, as it inevitably will. I aim to live not only more frugally but with what I already have, which is perfectly adequate in every way. Items may need to be replaced over time but at a more ambling pace. It is my hope that while adjusting to less, for every new item in my wardrobe I get rid of two already in it.

I wrote on this blog some weeks ago about the awful situation that befell me when I unexpectedly ran out of anti-depressant medication. Recently I wrote a letter to my GP informing him of exactly what my predicament was. I chose the letter format to express this because I didn’t want to miss anything out, and one can be more formal and cogent in writing. It also served to express how cut off I was when I requested his help, as I was rebuffed contact by phone and email, leaving only the medium of fax which has been entirely useless for the past fifteen years. I was jubilant after delivering the letter, if only with the hope that the doctor thinks twice about prescribing this medication without a well-thought out weaning-off method worked out. It was my own fault however, to leave for an extended trip without thinking through how to resupply, but I naively thought it would be easy.

In that letter I was able to express some of my darker moments which while I am not proud of, were important to keep hold of during my recovery. “I had an episode where I became convinced that I would kill myself, not out of depressive thoughts but because I became paranoid that the drug was intended to kill me, control me and rot my mind and I would never be free of it. I phoned a couple of my friends and they talked me round.” I am more grateful to the people (and dogs) that surrounded me and comforted me, than to the medical establishment and its wider structure of red tape and loopholes which let them off the hook.

These matters are behind me now, thankfully. Tonight I took myself off to a local meditation group in its second week. This meditation aims to go deep into the heartspace, using sound and our ability to listen to our own heartbeat to focus on emotion. This is in contrast to breath meditation in which mental thought is channelled or invoked. We allow our inner processes to interact with the outside. But we wore earplugs, so all we heard was within ourselves.

Others reported peacefulness, space around them, seeing flowers and wanting to smell them, being enveloped by a cushion that turned liquid. I have to admit that during the powerful 45 minute meditation, I didn’t feel anything profound, no vital energy bubbling up within, nor visions nor even a clearing of the mind. I felt acutely aware of my body and of time passing. I didn’t “go” anywhere. It was beyond me, a beginner, to give into the fullness of the meditative experience, especially one that wasn’t guided. We are meant to learn about our inner nature but I only learned that my energy is not settled in this place. It is shifting, it is unsettled. No matter what I do to gloss over the fact – and I am not consciously aware of it, but I found out tonight that it is wanting to return to a place that is more home than this one.

And then I realised I was the earthchild.

The title of this post comes from a creativity meditation I attended a couple of nights ago. I felt it strongly and powerfully and it made my aching soul sing just a little bit. I’ve been feeling strangely misaligned recently – that really is the best word for it. My intentions are out of kilter with my reality, my perception isn’t in accord with true nature, and I’m failing to see abundance and joy some of the time. I’m experiencing anger rising sometimes. I’m rubbing up against people’s bad sides. And I’m experiencing that most ungodly of all emotions: fear.

However this is just one small part of who I am today. Yes there’s fear, neuroticism, panic, worry, anger, paranoia and doubt. But there are also measures of true authenticity, joy, laughter, the ability to see absurdity, as well as magnetism, happiness and the pure sublime. Above all the feeling is freedom, which propels me forward in a world without limits.

My wishes for this most sacred of times, the winter solstice of the year 2014, are to trust myself, to live with authenticity and to see the abundance that is all around. I also wish to be kind to myself, although I find this concept the hardest to understand let alone put into practice. I wish to acknowledge some of my struggles of the past as I work hard to put them behind me. There is literally no time for the past.

A friend sent me the link today to an article which puts everything I wanted to say better than I ever could on this auspicious day. We learn that by facing up to our deepest, darkest emotions we can move forward.  I believe that no-one is broken and ‘healing’ is a redundant concept but I agree with the sentiment that self-forgiveness leads to the release of toxic and self-sabotaging patterns. However challenging this may prove to be, writing about it here is one of the steps to making it reality.

As part of the ‘releasing the darkness’ stage, we are urged to write an intention, and then burn the paper on which it is written, followed by smudging sage. I am not doing this myself because I can’t get my head around rituals yet, coming as I do from a tradition full of them, and finding pain and inauthenticity there. Rituals still freak me out. Nevertheless the words Syma Kharal uses are beautiful and I wanted to share them here:

“Dear Higher Self/God/Spirit/Universe: No matter what has happened in the past, I am now willing to release everything about it that brought me fear and pain. I surrender to you all that no longer serves me for healing, cleansing and purification. Help me to forgive and be forgiven by all involved. Align my vision that I may see everything from your enlightened perspective and move forward with wisdom, grace, strength and love. So be it.”

Speaking of rituals, it is my fond hope that in the future I overcome my fear of ritual and prayer, and participate in spiritual rituals in order to experience what’s called “liminality”, derived from the Latin limen meaning boundary or threshold. These boundaries might separate the sacred from the profane. A ritual is a dynamic and engaged creative prayer that allows us to set aside the time to recognise, honour and celebrate seminal aspects of life. I’m currently reading about this in ‘The Red Book’ by Sera Beak. The book is all about igniting one’s divine spark and is intended as a no-nonsense guide for young women.

It’s a very inspirational book that I wish I could have read fifteen years ago. But – no regretting the past in any way, shape or form, as the present time is all we have. That’s why the present is a gift. Beak writes that when we open ourselves up to the divine,

“[…] life becomes much  more flavorful. Profound meaning illuminates even the most mundane of events. My relationships deepen. My voice becomes clearer. My work excels. My personal issues become less draining and dramatic. I am less affected I require less outside approval. My self-confidence beams. I laugh more. I judge less. My sexuality roars. Random acts of kindness become a necessity, not just a whim. […] My perspectives are amplified. I see the world around me at much more than face value, and as a result, I make clearer choices across the board […] I realize I’m not just some well-dressed biped trudging through life but actually an incredibly powerful and integral piece of the divine pie.”

She’s a spunky chick and I aim to go deep with my learnings into my divine spark and how to enhance it and be true to myself. Remembering always that authentic divine truth never separates people from each other, countries from each other, religions from each other. I’m receiving the tiniest spark of divinity but it’s possible to smother it with too much kindling, or to let the fire go out without the right nurturing. I want to see this through. Intention is everything. There will be times when I am rude to people. There will be times I am frustrated and utterly disappointed. I will continue to be angry some of the time, because this is a divine part of me, but these will be fewer and further between, I hope, as intentions and reality align. I am the earthchild, I am divine, I am myself, I am everything and nothing.

“It’s all about paradox, mystery, meditation, sexuality, long walks, and momentous haircuts.” – Sera Beak, ‘The Red Book’.

abundance

Own it.

The things you own end up owning you. – Tyler Durden.

The idea of owning something seems so normal, and indeed property is an ancient notion: but make no mistake, ownership is an invention, and a costly one at that, spawning so much waste and inefficiency which is at the heart of our current money system. It’s wasteful because of the care that’s needed to look after our things. In no small part due to the money system’s inbuilt planned obsolescence. It’s wasteful also because of having to protect our accumulation of things from those who might covet them due to inequality and perceived scarcity in or society which creates what we call crime.

The Earth itself is largely owned by individuals and by national governments. On the whole we have rigid notions of property (‘a thing or things belonging to someone’), and as long as we have the means to pay for something, we can call it ours. When an item becomes waste however, it ceases to be our property – our problem – any longer. If something is abundant or has no use, it has no value and falls into the category of waste. Use creates value when we acquire something such as a plate. But we have no such claim of ownership to our poop, because it is abundant (we can always make more) and has no use (at least not for most people). However the idea of waste is entirely antithetical to how natural ecosystems operate.

The Venus Project’s most recent newsletter picks apart notions of ownership and waste. It’s clear that owning property enhances status is society, because stuff equals wealth equals power. Consider the average car owner in the US. He drives 36 miles per day, or less than one hour. That means his car is not used for 23 hours per day. In this country there are 2.28 cars per household. 35% of households own three or more cars, with 1.2 billion cars in the world and 65 million produced every year. What a waste of the Earth’s resources it is for each car owner to buy their vehicle, store it, take care of it and dispose of it, for the sake of the mere 4% of the time when it’s being used.

With the case of food waste, it’s estimated that 30 – 50% (1.2 – 2 billion tons) of all food that is produced remains uneaten. This is in large part down to the fact that someone owns the food and someone else has to acquire it to gain ownership and the right to eat it.

Our notion of property is the result of cultural conditioning and it is not necessarily the same everywhere even in today’s homogenised world. A remote tribe was brought to a city in the UK and taught the whys and wherefores of our societal norms such as why not to poop in the street or hunt cats. Without such guidance, they would have had no clue how to survive in a modern Western city. In the same way, there needs to be a shift in consciousness for our ownership hang-ups to change, and people might be taught how things could be different. This touching example of cross cultural naiveté that can teach us a lot. On seeing a homeless man sleeping outside an office block, a tribe member remarked, “Aren’t there any places left for this man in these big buildings?” In the tribe’s culture, when an outsider with no home arrives, a new place is built for him or he is welcomed into someone’s hut. The tribe member had no notion of property.

Everything that falls under the money system’s pervasive remit is tainted by overconsumption and waste. Clothes for example. 12.2 million tons of the 14.3 million tons of textile waste generated in 2012 wasn’t recycled. That’s equivalent to three times the mass of the world’s African elephant and blue whale populations combined.

Is the solution to rent rather than buy stuff? No, because waste is a part of the system of overconsumption. Being in business means selling a product or service, if you don’t sell enough, bankruptcy ensues. Also, décor and fashion objects are specifically designed to be owned as they represent social status. Even if we could conceive of a world in which we solely rented our cars, clothes, appliances and only ate in restaurants, it wouldn’t stop the artificially manufactured desire that is created by advertising. We’d be encouraged to rent more, as planned obsolescence would just involve constant updates to our mounds of rented stuff.

The Venus Project’s idealistic solution is a system which monitors all of the earth’s resources, tracking them in real time. In their utopia, there would be no barter or exchange and all products would be easily upgradeable. I would add to this, no ‘thing’ in itself would be seen to make a statement about its user. Without advertising, there’d be no false needs created. Stuff as a means of defining one’s shaky sense of self would disappear.

I would love to discard the mountains of stuff that prevent me from moving around the world at will, and instead use what I needed when I needed, wherever I happened to be. The Venus Project is optimistic about this happening but I think the current system would collapse and be plunged into chaos before mass consciousness voluntarily changes. Yes, the example of the tribe shows it is possible, but this is a small community that has never been bitten by the affluenza bug. We collectively are a tribe of more than seven billion people and a huge proportion of us, whether we live in China, Russia, America, Europe or Australia, know nothing else except buy what you want and trash what you don’t. I suspect near-Armageddon would have to happen before we decide it’s time to stop trashing the planet.

The bottom line is this: when your time comes and your whole life flashes before you, will it hold your interest? How much of the story will be about moments of clarity and grace, kindness, and caring? Will the main character – you – appear as large and noble as life itself, or as tiny and absurd as a cartoon figure, darting frantically among mountains of stuff? It’s up to you, and indeed, it’s up to all of us! – ‘Affluenza’

I have no self. I am not a self. There is no I. There is nothing.

I chanced upon an entirely philosophical idea recently that has mind-boggling power. There is a universal notion that we all take for granted – the notion of I. Me. That is, the first person self or “unified being which is the source of consciousness”. The thing I refer to as I is separate from the whole. It is unique and we each have a special personal duty to our individual Is. It is almost impossible to dispense with oneself as the source for the individual’s thoughts and actions. Every society has the idea of accountability or personal responsibility once we become adult.

It is interesting to see what happens when we shift our understanding and start to see this I as a fictional creation. What happens? We now the world as the seamless, dynamic and discrete organism that it is. Now consider that I am a part of this thing without an enduring ego or self. Suddenly there are no static pieces of the puzzle to be removed, reassembled and replaced at will. There are no meaningful boundaries between one organism and another. There is just what is. The detail dissolves into the bigger picture. It helps if we imagine consciousness as a mistake.

Of course we need Is in order to function in society. On the whole, we avoid what is threatening and seek out that which is beneficial to our survival and personal fulfilment. I search for ego validation constantly to confirm my sense of self. We all do. Self-affirmation proves that people that matter understand me, love me, accept me, respect me or whatever it is I’m craving at any given moment.

I’m considering the idea that the I is not real in an ultimate sense. It’s a meaningless fiction that only exists in our minds in the manner of a useful collective delusion. It represents a shallow and restrictive way of being that for many people, is absorbing to the point of obsession.

I know I am quite deep and self-obsessed. I like the I that… well, I have constructed. Not only does it serve me well in my interactions with other people, but it is endlessly fascinating. But suppose for a moment I consider the alternative. The Śūnyatā is a beautiful Buddhist concept which refers to emptiness, vacuity, openness. I have been watching a lot of maths programmes lately and an interesting connection is that Śūnyatā comes from the very culture that gave us the zero (śhūnya). The scriptures of the Theravadan Buddhist tradition, called the Pāli Canon, uses the Śūnyatā term in three ways. Firstly as a meditative dwelling. Secondly as an attribute of objects. And lastly as a type of awareness-release. It’s Śūnyatā as awareness-release that I’m most interested in.

One simply notes what is present without identifying those things with one’s own self. It is achieved through intense concentration and increased awareness of shifting and subtle levels of disturbance. This is an exchange between the Buddha and his attendant Ānanda:

Ānanda: It is said that the world is empty […] in what respect […] is it empty?
Buddha: Insofar as it is empty of a self or of anything pertaining to a self: thus it is said, Ānanda, that the world is empty.

I love this idea of emptiness as a huge positive affirmation of life, its interconnectedness and oneness, rather than a sadness. Tonight I went to a creativity meditation class, in which we focussed on feeling awareness in our bodies rather than minds. It was a welcome relief as my mind has been chattering incessantly since I stopped taking paroxetine a week ago. The good news is the withdrawal only lasts between 2 and 6 weeks. I’ve started a heady cocktail of herbal medication which should combat some of the side effects of the withdrawal. The remedies I’ve started are Omega 3 EFA complex (for head zaps); B-Complex 100 (to boost mood as well as supporting metabolism and nervous system); melatonin (for sleep); ‘Scullcap’ (Scutellaria lateriflora for sleep, relaxing and overcoming anxiety); and an anti-anxiety blend of kava kava, passionflower, bacopa, albizia & lavender. I took my first dose of the anti-anxiety stuff a few hours ago and feel a little better already, plus the head zaps have abated touchwood as my brain readjusts.

Last night was one of my worst experiences. I didn’t fall asleep until 11am and then only for two hours. During the night I took six herbal sleeping tablets I had lying around to no avail. By 7am I was cold, bored and at my wits’ end so decided to go for a run around the neighbourhood. It helped warm me up, but I just couldn’t feel tired. The insomnia wasn’t even the worst part. That was saved for the fog of confusion in my head, the uncontrollable crying, feeling sadness so palpably, sheer irritability, feeling nauseous, diarrhoea every few hours – and the mind zaps.

That’s one of the worst things. Mid-morning, before I fell asleep, I counted how often they came. There were between one and four zaps every five seconds on average and this is for a few hours. Coming off paroxetine it feels like my mind just does not work. It takes a long time to do very simple things, and they feel utterly pointless. Earlier all I wanted to do was curl up and shut the doors on the world, but I’m making a huge effort to go about my life in a normal way, meeting friends for coffee, going to spiritual meet ups, doing my artwork, feeding myself, writing, playing with the dogs etc. I have faith I’ll get there, even if I have to go about everything in a slow and forced way for the time being.

Love is the drug.

I had some realisations about love recently. I don’t doubt that love is all that the universe is made from. I don’t doubt that to love is to live authentically. But I have my doubts about the existence of the love between two people in a romantic sense. This hit me like a punch in the stomach in the not so wee hours of yesterday morning, at a moment when I needed the kind of solace that only I can provide to myself. A shroud lifted and I felt strangely brighter. I felt relieved rather than saddened. It put an abrupt end to my epic and ridiculous nighttime weeping.

I’ve been living with more fear than I am used to because a few days ago I unexpectedly and suddenly ceased taking my anti-depressant paroxetine. I’ve found myself cold turkey just before Thanksgiving. The circumstances are somewhat convoluted but I will outline them so that others can see how easily these things can happen in the fractured world we live in. So, I came to the States a few weeks ago with a small supply of my anti-depressant, thinking that it would be easy enough to get hold of more. I intended for my friend to post me a couple of months’ supply, and provided her with the paper prescription. Unfortunately she informed me it turns out that all items entering the US through the postage system are scanned and medication isn’t allowed in.

My second idea was to see a doctor out here and get him to write me a prescription. Medical care is covered under my travel insurance so I thought I would claim back the costs of the physician visit plus the meds. Wrong. Because the meds treat a pre-existing medical condition, no costs associated with obtaining anti-depressants will be reimbursed by the insurance provider. And as the cost I was quoted was $220 for the appointment alone, I won’t be going down that route. My final idea was to buy from an online pharmacy, the kind that dispense anything you want without a prescription. After a bit of searching I was surprised to find the cheapest option would work out in excess of $2 per single 20mg pill for a small order. So that also isn’t going to work for me.

The upshot of all of this means going through real or imagined withdrawal symptoms of coming off paroxetine. These for me included complex and very disturbing dreams, severe difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep at any time of day, fear, anxiety, irritability, vertigo-like “welling up” short waves in my head not stomach, and bouts of crying for no ostensible reason. I did some research online and found that the following symptoms were reported in patients coming off Paxil. This is from the Royal College of Psychiatry website, with the rate of reported incidence in brackets:

anxiety (70%)
dizziness (61%)
vivid dreams (51%)
electric shocks/head zaps (48%)
stomach upsets (33%)
flu-like symptoms (32%)
depression (7%)
headaches (3%)
suicidal thoughts (2%)
insomnia (2%)

I have had all of them apart from suicidal thoughts. That’s probably a good one to skip out on.

While I didn’t plan coming off anti-depressants to be so sudden, I plan on weathering this storm. My doctor back home suggested staying on paroxetine until I am successfully installed in a more permanent and stable living arrangement in the UK, and I agreed with his advice but the non-availability of my drug here in the States has rather scuppered that plan. No matter though. I will stay off the meds even if by some weird chance there is a way for me to get my hands on more. I just hope the withdrawal symptoms abate soon. Not that I am letting that stop me from doing all the things I normally do, most of which includes “venturing into the complete unknown” which is awfully good fun.

The realisations I’ve had have made me feel somewhat disillusioned but at the same time grateful that a veil has been lifted that kept me encased in a bubble. I was willing to believe anything other than what was right in front of my eyes. Love is indeed all, and it’s simpler than I ever imagined. It is oneness without the complication of romantic relationships which are by their very nature confused, conflicting, contradictory, frustrating, complex and impossibly, horribly, resolution-free. I’ve heard it said  ‘let each soul walk its path’ and I understood the meaning of those words for the first time.

amor y respeto

Self-transformation leads to global transformation.

I truly believe in the providence that is all around me. It gets a bit cloying me banging on and on about the universe this and abundance that, but it’s the most important thing I’ve learned on my journey so far. There is enough air to breathe and land to plant crops. There is only an imbalance where humans intervene and upset the natural order of things, and made-up nonsense like money, politics and greed are invoked. There is also enough happiness in our souls, enough potential that exists in our minds like seeds in a tomato. With this potential we can achieve anything – yes, anything!

In crisp soundbite form: Self-transformation leads to global transformation. Think about all the amazingness and truth that that statement contains. Our biggest mistake is thinking that we don’t matter. When we believe our voice doesn’t count or our happiness is not paramount or we somehow don’t matter or don’t deserve the good things in life, the universe is so sad, it cries. Its tears permeate every solar system, every galaxy. The only reason you are here is to embrace the benevolent energy of the universe, to share in her innate and singular state of happiness.

We each deserve the best for ourselves, whatever that happens to be and it is different for each of us. We are here to learn and grow through change, challenge, belief, observation and simple enjoyment of every moment. We create our own reality as the universe lovingly feeds and nurtures us. Feeling good about ourselves helps other people. I know with absolute certainty that the more I give, the more I receive. I know that by focussing on what I would like to be, do or have I bring it into existence. My thoughts radiate out to every part of the universe and that influence never diminishes for all of time.

A lot of incredibly fortuitous things have been happening lately and I am convinced it’s because of the place I am in. I have spent my time so far in Oakland, San Francisco and Berkeley: together quite a large area hosting almost a million inhabitants. And yet I keep running into people I’ve met before, and that help me somehow and vice versa. On the day I twigged on that I really should look for somewhere to live when my current accommodation ends on Monday, I ran into a guy I had met at the hostel in the City and the first thing he told me was about a shared house which is cheap and creative. The next day I ran into him again at San Francisco Public Library. A couple of days before that I ran into an artist that I knew from the painting class she runs. It turns out that someone I met at a spiritual event just happens to rent studio space with the artist from the class.

Most fortuitously of all, while I was planting beautiful redwoods at a primary school in Oakland on Saturday, I got distracted by a couple of cute dogs on the other side of the fence. I got chatting to their owner and in fact one of the dogs was found two days beforehand and he was looking after her. I said I’d be happy to look after her while she goes to work. And it just so happens that he and his housemate have a spare room and I’ll be moving in there and dogsitting in the daytime. What a great connection – thank you universe!

The people here are giving me so much and I like to think I am contributing positively to society too. I was privileged enough to have the second show of my prints last week, at not one but two galleries, which was a wonderful experience. It’s all thanks to the amazing people that I’ve met here and the friend that lets me tag along and exhibit at her shows. I’ve never been so creatively engaged, except for when I was a mad teenager. I am making all the time, reading, researching, pulling strands of thought together and doing positive things that benefit the community.

I’m lucky that my finances rarely cross my mind but that’s because I live humbly and within my means. I’m making an effort not to buy more stuff especially not after having shipped a load back home. I’ve also adopted a vegetarian diet for the moment and feel much better for it both physically, from an animal welfare perspective, and knowing that fewer of our precious resources have been wasted (70 percent of the grain and cereals grown in the US are fed to farmed animals); land hasn’t been wrecked (grazing uses a staggering 30 percent of the Earth’s land mass) and my meal hasn’t contributed to the 80 million metric tons of methane produced annually by the world’s livestock.

Every day I wake up thinking “I have never been happier”. That is pretty awesome. You should try it.

I cant find the map

Inflammation, mutation, sex in the religious biosphere. A token mother rant.

Tuesday 28th October 2014

I’m going to continue my musings on how believe I religion is a virus after reading Darrel W. Ray’s excellent book. I had talked about the parallels between religion and a biological virus, both of them infect people, propagate the virus, create antibodies to make itself stronger, spread to viable targets using certain covert methods and ultimately take over the host to the point where they are no longer a useful, intelligent member of their wider society, and unknown even to themselves. So, the God virus infects the individual and inoculates that person against other viruses.

On a pathogenic level a strain of virus mutates over several generations. Mutations can either be eliminated by the original virus or as in biology they survive even the strongest defences and the mutated strains infect totally new populations such as Martin Luther’s god virus of the sixteenth century which swept through uneducated populations of northern Germany faster than the original Catholic virus had done a thousand years previously. Buddhism similarly swept through India from 480BCE – 180BCE which was a mutation of Hinduism; Islam in the Middle East from 600CE – 800CE.

Sometimes it pays to exist in a crowded religious biota or in the highly pluralistic Western world, as an ecosystem develops in which viruses actually depend on one another to strengthen each other, as well as giving the illusion of choice to the infected, but only where there is little threat to each competing pathogen. In Islam for example the polytheistic viruses that live side by side are weak in comparison. Judaism is not parasitic and Christian sects are fragmented. Islam is in fact the only virus to combine religious and political controls – it is institutionally incapable of separating the two.

Fundamentalism is an inflammation of the virus. Just like in human immune systems, inflammation is a tool for fighting infection but should only occur for a short time, until the threat has subsided. Otherwise, uncontrolled fundamentalism can feed on society itself, upending it, left unchecked. But unfortunately inflammation can continue even after the immediate threat has passed as in the case of hay fever and rheumatoid arthritis. Fundamentalism, and with it terrorism, serves the parent religion well for the short term but causes collateral damage to institutions and the very fabric of society after it has served its purpose and the usefulness of the inflammation has passed.

So what is the antidote to the virus?  Like a hangover there is no cure, only prevention. Time can also have a healing effect, but unlike a hangover, to many infected the effect of time only makes the virus stronger. A preventative measure as far as one exists is a solid education in the sciences.

“Rational parents want to raise well-educated and well-balanced children with full logical and critical faculties. But once infected, no parent is rational. As a result, parents are unable to teach their children critical thinking skills with respect to religion, especially their particular religion.” – Darrel W. Ray, ‘The God Virus’.

Infected parents use guilt and fear, more related to the emotion of shame which feeds off anxiety. They ensure that every available resource is utilised to infect the child. Thoughts are sure to evoke primal fear of letting god down and failing in the eyes of others. Anxieties in sex-negative religions such as the one I grew up with centre around sexual shame and guilt. This prevents rational discussion about sex and relationships.

I have always been privy to adult matters, even as a child. When I was undergoing therapy recently in the village where I was raised, my mother grew suspicious of me. I came home once and told her that I had been out at an appointment, and she demanded to know where. I told her only the name of the road, and later heard from my father that my mother believed I was sneakily visiting a childhood friend of mine (who in fact lives 130 miles away, incidentally) – and by simple virtue of his being a boy, of course mum had cooked up in her head a scenario in which he was living in her village, corrupting her angelic daughter.

I thought this was so disgusting and pathetic of her, on a few levels. It demonstrates total lack of trust, it represents invasion of privacy, it betrays her paranoia, and I think more than any of that it’s really f***ed up. She has raised me to be pretty much asexual – I’m not supposed to have a sexual side to my being until I get married. Yet when I exercise the teensiest bit of freedom while under her roof, the conclusion she jumps to is that I must be with a boy? And surely as she knows so much about my life over the twelve years I’ve been away, it must be that I’m seeing the one and only male that she knows I am close friends with?

Is there any wonder that having been raised by a woman who expects me (even now) to be a nun, I have always sought illicit thrills wherever I could? I actually avoided meaningful relationships until I was 23 years old, and I only then renounced sluttiness because a boy that loved me very much pursued me relentlessly for two years. Before him, I was so deliciously wrapped up in creeping around, getting drunk and laid wherever and whenever I could. It was a taboo in my household growing up, despite it being talked about a lot and having to keep my dad’s affairs secret – the idea that I might have boyfriends growing up was an unequivocal no-no. For my entire sexual youth I had no idea about respecting myself, being safe, and falling in love. For me, it was all about screwing. Love didn’t exist.

This is the f***ed up result of bad parenting from my mother. If there are any parents reading this who are infected by the god virus or just prefer to bury their heads in the sand as regards the subject of their young daughters having sex, don’t. Be real, be honest and wise up! It’s going to happen anyway, and if it doesn’t then you’ve raised a freak. Your daughter can either respect herself and not be embarrassed, or she can sneak around and get it from wrong ’uns who fuel her self-contempt because they don’t love her.

beautiful burnout

The God Virus.

Monday 27th October 2014

Once in a while you get a revelation that, like the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle, makes everything to fall into place. You finally see the big picture that was staring you in the face all along. This is how I felt when I read a book that flipped my mind upside down a few days ago. The book was The God Virus by Darrel W. Ray. The truth is that religion affects our society in different ways that we might not realise. It is prevalent and it is a disease. But what makes it so powerful? What makes people blind to the irrationalities of their own religions yet clearly see the problems of others? I wrote about my mother’s painful hyperreligiosity and how it might be some OCD-type condition, but reading this book has got me thinking that the compulsion towards religious devotion works far more insidiously and on a biological, rather than purely mental, level. That makes certain people genetically susceptible, whereas I have never been able to follow a religion or believe in God even when I have very much wanted to in the past.

The book outlines the ways in which is a virus that infects the minds of its devotees in the same way as biological viruses do. Both religion and viruses have the following five abilities that are present in varying degrees:

  • To infect people
  • To create antibodies or defences against other viruses
  • To take over certain mental and physical function and hide themselves
  • To use specific methods for spreading the virus
  • To program the host to replicate the virus

The God virus infects the brain and alters critical faculties. Neurological science has shown that religious visions can be recreated with brain stimulation. William James, in his book The Varieties of Religious Experience wrote about this as long ago as 1902. Dr. Olaf Banks, neurologist at Ecole Polytechnique in Lausanne, explains that the true explanation as to why the supernatural is invoked, is a very natural one, the brain’s attempt to make sense of conflicting information.

To go into the five properties above in a little more detail, infection takes place usually early on in childhood. This is a symbiotic method of infection, a vertical strategy in which one is born into a system and the virus remains strong as it binds the community together. Certain religions such as the Druze, Yazadi and Amish communities even have a further stipulation which prohibits outsiders from joining the group. It pays in these viral communities to preserve the unit of propagation, namely the family. Islam for example limits female freedoms and has always sought to expand male power. Sex is mandated as a procreative activity with extramarital relationships banned.

The other type of infection is the parasitic kind. Cults are the number one form of the virus which go down this route. The Unification Church maintains that for example marriages must be approved, if not arranged, by the Church ostensibly to propagate its virus across cultural boundaries.

The second on the list, the antibodies of the virus offer religious immunity which protects the beliefs and that of the children once they have been affected. Antibodies take the form of the creed of the religion. Ideas such as heresy were developed to protect the faith. Individuals rarely switch allegiances once indoctrinated. Eighteenth century physician Edward Jenner demonstrated that infecting a person with the cow pox virus immunised them against the small pox virus.

The overpowering of faculties occurs as followers fall back on doctrines that they learned as children. It is so strong that it hides even from internal detection. The individual sees their belief systems as self-evident. It might be activated by stress and traumatic experiences, as it was in the case of my mother who lost her high-power management job around eight years ago due to her misconduct, abuse, victimisation and negligence. A lengthy court case ensued, which she lost and in the process many tens of thousands of pounds. It was around this time that she began to turn to religion in an unhealthy turbo-charged way, as if it was going to save her or something when everyone else had let her down – she had no friends, family or partner in whom she could confide, she couldn’t tell me (her only daughter) and her ex-husband had no sympathy.

A virus needs an effective vector – a organism that transmits a disease or parasite from one animal to another, such as a mosquito in the case of malaria. In the case of the God virus it is spread usually by religious leaders who are reengineered to become effective carriers. Vectors are expensive for the ecosystem to produce so they are protected and supported to an extreme degree, as in the case of recent paedophilic sex abuse cover-ups. In the symbiotic strain, where the virus goes down a family line, the vector (priest in Catholicism) effectively commits genetic suicide by remaining celibate in order that his church may propagate. Just as the rabies virus takes over the brain of the host animal and infects specific neurons which induces the host animal to act aggressively without regard for its own life. The animal dies but the virus propagates itself by infecting those that are bitten.

Indeed, groups such as Jehovah’s Witnesses take the view that each and every baptised member has a divine mandate to spread the word to the best of their ability. Members are required to submit regular reports on their evangelical efforts, and failure to do so will result in disfellowshipping. A recent article from Priceonomics projects a simplified formula for viral growth to account for and predict its advancement in the U.S, albeit modest.

The fifth on the list of parallels is programming. The host’s children are not usually immune. They are plied with guilt-inducing ideas that create a sense of security in incur the wrath of God, condemnation from respected leaders, hellfire damnation etc. I remember all of these threats from my own childhood, when I was very little they seemed real. But it only took me until I was ten years old to figure out that there was no God and I was free to do as I please in this life.

I’m no longer a dyspeptic critic of religion, or of anything else for that matter. I find a lot of atheist discourse self-indulgent claptrap in fact. But with such a convincing argument, I have no choice but to agree with Ray’s elegant and compelling elaboration on Richard Dawkins’ meme concept. Religion is dangerous and doesn’t show any sign of abating as it isn’t seen as a threat to public health, merely a harmless lifestyle choice. The God virus is real, it hurts people and tears families to shreds, it kills people while they are still breathing.

What is truly mine to do in this moment?

 Sunday 26th October 2014

As part of my journey I am attending events and talks that have a spiritual bent, as well as continuing to indulge in a bit of lino printing at an amazing workshop I am privileged to feel a part of. It makes me very happy. I attended a ‘guided meditation’ run by Carsten Spencer called Awakened Living, ‘A truly unique spiritual experience. This is not your normal Sunday morning service. It is a morning filled with interactive processes, inspirational messages, connected community and spiritual exploration!’ The theme for October was ‘BEING in Community’ which seemed appropriate to my learnings at the minute.

Asking the right questions is something we need to open our eyes to, and with it we will find our time to bloom. A question that matters is ‘what is truly mine to do in this moment?’ Who we surround ourselves with in a spiritual sense doesn’t just mean our spiritual leaders, it is everybody in our lives, even those seemingly unenlightened, who strangely enough can teach us very much on this journey. Two favourite sayings Carsten cited were ‘Don’t just do something, sit there’ and ‘Relax, nothing’s under control’.

Coming back to the metaphor of blooming, which I really like, the group mentioned spirals, launching pads, trees and renewals quite a bit. It’s a simple idea but releasing the stuff we no longer need like a tree does, is the only way to allow the new to grow when the season is right. The significance of a spiral is that we often think we are trapped in a cycle or a rut, endlessly the same, whereas a spiral moves in a particular direction and thus is more synonymous with the journey of our lives. We truly grow when we shed the old deadwood. The tree also makes us think of the ancestral tree and that we embody each of our ancestors – they live within us.

There was more beautiful imagery when two of the group’s participants cried, both of them ‘happy tears’ and Carsten pointed out that tears are chemically the same as the ocean. Crying is an ultimate expression of now. I hadn’t thought about that before but I do agree, crying isn’t always bad, it’s just a release though it can bring awkwardness to others. The two women that cried were either side of me in the circle of ten, and I gave them both tissues. Before we left, Carsten put on a song, Van Morrison’s Into The Mystic. The song is about a spiritual quest and being part of the universe. It had personal meaning to the leader of the group who moved to San Francisco after emotional events in his personal life, and now the fog seems like home to him; the melding of the air and the ocean into that unknown place.

When we trust in the unknown of the fog, we make a commitment to human experience and thus we trust in ourselves. In this way we make the best use of the fact that we are expressions of the divine. The best message from the session was: just be present – break the attachment to the outcome. Someone in the group explained in her share how she was going for a job that she wasn’t really that interested in, i.e she wasn’t focussed on the outcome. She was honest in explaining to her potential new employers what she couldn’t do as well as where her skills lay, and she was successful and had a productive strategising meeting which was exactly what the boss was looking for. She was in the now, with all the honesty, trust and submission that that entails. I’d like to apply this learning to my life.

Desires of wanting take us away from ourselves. Wants are what we create to avoid confronting deeper feelings within. Our needs are simple – shelter, food, water, warmth, sleep, love – but we confuse needs with wants. Signals I think get confused in our materialistic world and it is hard to keep your head and rise above the messages of advertising, keeping up with the Joneses and the desire to have our own style and define ourselves by what we own. The group leader read a poetic prose piece he penned in Central Park, New York with lines like ‘Instinct and intuition like digestive juices dissolve the things I thought I knew’.

During my share I explained about my journey, my creativity and my last relationship ending and said that this was only the beginning. Carsten said I was probably further along on the journey than I realise. The choice consciously to reject spirituality that I made in the past (and have since gone back on) was itself of course a spiritual choice. I am glad I realised the errors of my ways and am getting my life back on a more authentic and fun track. On my way back, I walked slowly and unplugged myself from my loud music. I felt lighter and rejuvenated.

light

Community living & disposable cultures.

Saturday 18th October 2014

I am thinking about my role as a consumer while reading The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard – an essential read that should be on every school curriculum. It is an exposé on the West’s dire overconsumption from a sustainable and human rights point of view, critiquing many of the industrialised processes that we as consumers are not informed about, and lead to our waste being dumped on the doorstep of third world countries, toxic PVC ‘offgassing’ in our homes, and babies being born with over 250 toxins already in their blood. It’s the most disturbing read I’ve experienced in a long time, made all the more scary by the exponential march of what we are forced to term ‘progress’ with its inbuilt planned technology obsolescence, exploitative and cynical practices, human rights violations and moral vacuity.

Reading this book has got me angry – but this time in a good way. There are so many depths to the filthy system we are all trapped in and bound by to whatever extent. What is missing is the social self – the citizen of the local community. The idea of feeling a part of where I live has been on my mind a lot at the moment as I flit from one place to another. I don’t have a fixed abode as such as I am moving around California and have nowhere specific to return to in England. This is a fine situation that I have designed for myself as it allows total freedom but I accept that others may find it disconcerting or unconventional. They may not understand that this is exactly where I need to be at the current time.

I am enjoying slumming it in Oakland, a bosom of enterprise, creativity and the dispossessed. I have never seen so many homeless or hopeless people. Every wall I have seen in my fleabag hotel is pockmarked with dents and craters: scars from murders, scuffles and madness. You would not stay in a place like this unless you had no other choice. Which makes me wonder what the assorted vagrants that pass through are running away from or hurtling towards, that is so terrible that staying at this hotel is their best or only option? One cheerful long term resident gave me some advice to be careful after dark, as one block over is where “murders and injuries happen”. I took heed and wasn’t horrified. I am fascinated by this decrepit run down place, by far the most squalid I have ever visited – and this is coming from someone who has spent her entire adult life thus far in London ghettos in Tower Hamlets, Hackney and Lambeth.

Strangely though, perhaps as a result of being ‘homeless’ myself, I am engaging with this community and this city far more than my previous homes. I am, in true Annie Leonard style, reactivating my inner citizen and I am enjoying the feeling. This place is proud of what it is and there is no pretence there. In amongst the derelict department stores there are reclaimed wood-panelled boutiques and coffee shops that proudly display messages and sell wares declaring civic pride.

This isn’t my city but the idea of my own conscious societal displacement segues nicely with what I am learning about the importance of social relationships. There is evidence to suggest that people with strong social ties live longer and of course feel safer. A small example from Leonard’s book: the filmmaker Judith Helfand made a documentary about a massive heatwave in Chicago which killed six hundred people. She explains that most of the victims were socially isolated and didn’t have trusted neighbours so nobody to check up on them or their facilities at home.

On a planet where we are rapidly running out of resources (since 1986 every year we have been consuming more than the earth is able to regenerate in a year), think how many fewer resources we could consume if only we shared? From cars and vegetables to tools and homes, not only would the planet be saved from having to produce ever more stuff to sustain our insatiable desires, we would enjoy the satisfaction and pleasure that comes from interaction with other humans! Not only a good in itself but it would lead to numerous other benefits like being able to call on each other for favours, having the good company of others, and saving money and time in myriad ways. Participation gives us a warm glow but unfortunately it’s so easy to shun this on the basis that you can’t trust people these days, you haven’t got time (too busy working like donkeys so we can pay for all the meaningless crap we just can’t live without). Or maybe, just maybe, quality of life overall could be improved if we made time for each other and got over our own reserve.

From my vantage point as an elected outsider, I can consider how it might feel to be part of a community. I have never really engaged with my local area before and certainly not considered ways to make local people come together and help each other out. The way I had previously conducted my social affairs was to keep my head down, avoid looking at anyone and set my heart on the next place I’d live, where surely everything would be perfect and I’d have no trouble wanting to play a part socially. The truth is it’s going to be difficult putting myself out there, risking ridicule or worse, being ignored. I might not feel like it. I might be too busy or tired. I might have other problems. But I can try and remember that the community aspect of being human is important to individual and collective wellbeing in conjunction with other socially-aware initiatives.

more stuff

Choosing to trust myself.

I am very excited and happy about so many things in my life at the moment. I feel truly blessed. Soon I will start a new adventure in California, which I am naturally looking forward to. The way I am with myself, I concentrate on where I am at the present moment – in the meantime I have plenty of matters, big and small, to attend to. The ‘work’ I am doing currently is more rewarding and more demanding than any paid job I have ever undertaken. I have high hopes and make copious demands of myself, but somehow I know it’s all worth it.

I met with a new counsellor, H, today who is trained in psychodynamic theory. After listening to my life in a nutshell, she said that I sounded unhappy. I was surprised to hear her say this because it seemed to me that I was very sorted. Gradually it dawned on me though that my ideas flit about and what seems like determination is sometimes stubbornness. I am constantly both making excuses for and blaming myself. I have trouble figuring out why I am going to carry through with one particular course of action; I know only that I must do it.

I will only have another two sessions with H in my home village, before setting off on my little adventure, hopefully not returning to this place for more than a week at a stretch in the future. So if I’m not in it for the long haul, what are my aims with the therapy I’m undertaking and for life in general? What I realised during my session was I would like to be able to trust myself. I mean really and truly. When I am violent, it is a complete disavowal of myself and everything I’ve worked for. In a heartbeat, all the positive energy, good habits, honourable intentions and lofty thoughts are broken. In this way, I can never be sure when the beast might strike. So I have to tame that beast once and for all, so whatever arises in the future, violence will not be part of my response to it.

The way I see it, every moment is a part of my life and I choose to enjoy all of those moments, wherever I am. I am learning to avoid the things I don’t like, and to be OK with that. Just because certain friends enjoy sitting in a field chewing their faces off, doesn’t mean I have to find that entertaining myself. I can just walk away from the activities, culture and lifestyles that don’t do it for me. I don’t live for the future or the past because now is all we have.

I spoke to my new GP last week. In fact, being back here again in my village, it turns out he was a doctor that I already know and trust. When I was 19 and severely depressed, he was the one I turned to for ‘a little bottle of confidence’ as I worded it in my diaries at the time. As it happened, back then he refused me the anti-depressants I thought would be the panacea, and instead referred me for counselling with a youth service. That was eleven years ago, and I am grateful for his interventions. He saw that somewhere within me was a happy and capable individual, a girl capable of digging herself out of her noisy mind’s many layers of muck and detritus.

I spoke to him about my self-medicating with Paroxetine (Seroxat). He asked many probing questions and sought to understand what my dosage was, when it was raised, what problems I sought to treat, any changes I have found with it, and any side effects. I told him that at first I took only 5mg, which he believed was equivalent to not taking it at all, being purely homeopathic. As I upped it though, I didn’t feel increased curtailment of depressive feelings, nor an increase in euphoric or reckless behaviour. I just felt the same, responding to my circumstances which got a whole lot better when my last relationship ended at the end of August. Now, I feel very productive and calmer in my mind but I am loath to put this down to the Paroxetine, as I honestly think I’d be dealing with life exactly the same way if I had never touched it.

The question of whether to continue on this path was a tricky one. My doctor discussed it with the medical student that sat in on the session, and with me. At first they seemed to waver towards weaning me off it, as I hardly need it anymore in truth. And as my doctor admitted, it’s not readily prescribed these days because it has a higher than normal level of addiction. But after understanding a little about my circumstances, it was decided I would stay on Paroxetine for a maximum of six months (starting from when I began taking 20mg). I am undergoing various periods of transition – one as I returned from Spain alone, another when I head over to California and yet another when I settle in a different part of the UK on my return to the UK in the New Year. This dovetails quite neatly with the six month thing, so I should be off it by the end of January, start of February. This shouldn’t be a hard habit to kick as I can’t feel any symptoms of addiction, sometimes I forget to take it without realising. I only don’t want the risk of any upset while my life is so in flux – if this is one thing I can keep in check then so be it.

 

trust

The problem of female violence.

I have been thinking about violence in women and the causes and upsets behind it. The following passage in ‘An Unquiet Mind’ triggered off my research.

‘Violence, especially if you are a woman, is not something spoken about with ease. Being wildly out of control […] is frightening to others and unspeakably terrifying to oneself. […] I remain acutely and painfully aware of how difficult it is to control or understand such behaviors, much less explain them to others. I have, in my psychotic, seizure-like attacks […] pushed to the utter edge people I love, and survived to think I could never recover from the shame. […]

After each of my violent psychotic episodes, I had to try and reconcile my notion of myself as a reasonably quiet-spoken and highly disciplined person, one at least generally sensitive to the moods and feeling of others, with an enraged, utterly insane, and abusive woman who has lost access to all control or reason.’ – Kay Redfield Jamison, ‘An Unquiet Mind’.

The book was written in 1996 but still holds painfully true. According to a study conducted in 2000 by Dr Malcolm George, a lecturer in neuroscience at London University, 50 per cent of those who initiate aggression are women. This isn’t self-defence. This is a woman who consciously decides to cross boundaries, just like her inexcusable male counterparts. One facet of my own violence I sought to understand was whether it was premeditated in some insane way, and I can only conclude that it isn’t. My violence occurs when either I don’t have the words or I’m not being heard and so to hit my partner seems like the only way to get his attention. I can relate to this, written by Nikki Gouldeman of Ravishly:

‘When I resorted to violence, it truly felt like my only recourse at a point of complete powerlessness –like I couldn’t effectively communicate the fury within me unless I resorted to primal, prototypically masculine violent rage. I was also, of course, lacking good sense, drunk as I was on a heady cocktail of confusion, hatred and breathless pain.’ – ‘Why Women Shouldn’t Be Excused for Violence Against Men’, Huffington Post, 27th May 2014

This sort of behaviour was a part of my own personality particularly when I used to drink a lot in my early twenties, and in a similar way, craved attention because of poor communication. It was senseless and self-serving. I would pass it off as funny, but I am sure others found it unacceptable. To be honest, I never saw it as a problem.

This 1997 article by Erin Pizzey, founder of a women’s shelter in Chiswick, describes women who enact disturbances out of proportion with acceptable and appropriate levels of distress. Such individuals Pizzey terms ‘family terrorists’, who quietly manipulate other family members into ‘uproar through guilt, cunning taunts, and barely perceptive provocations’. She writes, ‘Although the terrorist may be consciously aware only of the spouse’s alleged offence, the pain of this offence (real or imagined) is invariably an echo of the past, a mirrored recreation of some painful situation in the terrorist’s childhood’. Residual pain from childhood, whether experiencing it directly or through witnessing it amongst parents or siblings, may create a pathological addiction to physical and emotional violence or pain.

From my own perspective, I would not say my family home was one where domestic violence was prevalent but it certainly was present. With regard to my parents’ relationship with each other, my mother has never been violent physically but, as my father testified very recently, had a way of causing immense hurt with painful insults. My father on the other hand has hit my mother, and as a child I often heard objects used as missiles being hurled across the kitchen and stormy arguments after I had gone upstairs. I never saw injuries except to furniture but I believe their relationship was a tempestuous and sometimes violent one. I was certainly aware of this growing up. It didn’t end when, in 1994 after twenty years together, they divorced, as they remained in one another’s lives. I had not felt that their violence had an effect in making me some sort of emotional terrorist, and have never regarded my compulsions towards violence as an addiction, but I have to admit it has reared its ugly head in more than one relationship.

The further I go on this journey, the more inclined I am to believe that as a sufferer of mental illness and behavioural problems, I must help myself and learn to use the resources inside me. You can find a therapist to provide justification for every sort of wrongdoing. In the article by Pizzey, she details a case in which the ‘terrorist’ started seeing a feminist therapist who staunchly supported the erroneous view that all feelings behaviours are valid. Such reassurances serve only to fortify the terrorist’s already pathological, solipsistic, and eternally self-justifying perspective. I am not looking for excuses. I would like, quietly and without fanfare, to change the patterns in my nature.

‘[Female abusers] are often promiscuous, selfish, and narcissistic. So they use their moods, rages, and impulses to control people around her and she cannot be satisfied until all others come to admire her. Then these women choose deceit, fury, and assault to get their own way and then they revel in the addicting exhilarating emotional unrest that they have created. In doing that, she presents a false image of herself to conceal her true character; she is addicted to her own personality and feeds on the emotions of others, for she is a narcissist who is in love with herself.’ – Edward Steven Nunes, ‘Abusive and Violent Women in Relationships

splintered

There is something wrong with you.

I made a lot of mistakes and the best I can do is to prevent them from happening again. I was violent and a domestic abuser. There is no recourse from this in terms of what’s passed, but I can address the causes of my problem and resolve never, ever to take my anger out on another person physically or mentally. Violence is unacceptable, full stop. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but only I have the power to change my negative patterns. I lost a good man because I couldn’t control my temper. I insulted, criticised, belittled and nobody on this earth deserves that

Oh life. The past sometimes seems to fall away so fast, but my failing has been never to learn from the errors of my ways even when I see them clearly. This is a change I have to make a lasting one. A permanent one.

The Seroxat continues to keep any ill feelings at bay. In Spain, my last week there, I was a bag of nerves. Back home though and two weeks on, I feel strong and positive and quite ridiculously happy. I will make sure I see my GP about the meds I am on. I’m not ready to start a course of therapy yet; I would like the dust to settle first. J voiced a concern to me last time we spoke, on our last meeting together in the house we shared. I have not shaken it out of my head yet. In the same way that some people feel suicidal urges during the first few weeks of taking Seroxat, it is possible that I ended the relationship in the same way that some unfortunates choose to end their lives. The drug gives you a blasé attitude, where you feel able to rise above whatever contingent circumstances you happen to be in, and believe that nothing really matters – there’s always an easy way out. When under the influence of certain anti-depressants difficult problems don’t deserve tackling when you can just eliminate the problem entirely.

I had a painful conversation with my father, in which I chose to be open and honest about the serious matters that had arisen in my relationship. I had never spoken to him before about my violence and all I wanted from the conversation was simply to communicate to him that the problem has caused me and others deep personal pain. I didn’t want him feeling sorry for me or getting the wrong end of the stick as regards who was the victim. I managed to convey to him what happened in a nutshell – and his response showed me that he really understood. He thought and spoke slowly, “physically, mentally, spiritually, there is something wrong with you.” I’ve got a long way to go on this journey of life, but being heard and understood is fundamental and gives me hope and courage. I don’t see what he said as insulting in the slightest.

I am reading Kay Redfield Jamison’s ‘An Unquiet Mind’, after reading her memoir of life with her husband who eventually died of lung cancer, entitled ‘Nothing Was The Same’. In ‘An Unquiet Mind’ there was a passage that struck home. Jamison and her schoolfriends perceive the local loony bin as the world of the mad. Jamison muses,

“Despite the fact I had no obvious reason to believe that I was anything else but passably sane, irrational fears began to poke away at my mind. I had a terrible temper, after all, and though it rarely erupted, when it did it frightened me and anyone near its epicentre. It was the only crack, but a disturbing one, in the otherwise vacuum-sealed casing of my behaviour. God only knew what ran underneath the fierce self-discipline and emotional control that had come with my upbringing. But the cracks were there, I knew it, and they frightened me.”

I wonder what lies underneath my cracks. I’m going to find out, but there’s no rush. It’s OK to be boring. It’s OK to live a quiet life, and to be slow. I enjoy my art work and I’m making again. It’s OK to be happy for every moment. There’s dignity in that. And I love my life.

 

all I see