My sad self : reflections on trauma, Persephone and journeying in the Underworld

Persephone2

My sad self is not the whole of me, though at times it is so strongly present.  There is a side of me that is very dark and heavy and sad, that has lived in a dark and heavy places of isolation, separation and grief and known great loss and pain, awakening at 17 when an accident nearly took me out and stole from me that last semester of my final year at school.  Talking with my therapist a few days ago I spoke of how it felt like at that age a tear appeared in the fabric of the earthly reality and a dark hand reached up to grab me and take me down into the Underworld.  That was just the initial event of many traumatic experiences that unfolded spanning the years from age 17 to 31 when I finally got sober and arrested my active addiction in 1993.

The light returned for a time, then, when I met my ex husband.  We had some happy years of normality as we built a life together but in time the darkness of my unresolved past claimed me.  As I look back I wish I could have made other choices.  I wish I could have remained tethered in the daylight world and gone on to share a life with my husband but it all got torn apart around this time of year and so my sad regretful self is very, very strong some days.   I find myself captured by thoughts of what could have been were we able to build a new life in Cambridge.  I know its useless to regret the past in that regretting solves nothing.

Maybe too, as my therapist says, my ex husband wasn’t a proper life partner for me, maybe it was all ‘meant to be’.  That kind of shift of perspective can make my heart less heavy as I realise that I can be grateful for the time we did have together but also recognise there was a deeper layer to me than could ever truly find a home in that relationship.  And that I had an inner destiny calling me within that had not only a personal but a collective purpose.

As I shared in an earlier post Mercury, planet ruling perception, mind, communication and journeys turned backwards for a glance on Sunday, the 11th and it is not quite on my Pluto/Persephone in the first house, but nearly!  So I am looking back at all the changes and endings that led to now and this new beginning.

I read a very insightful chapter in a book on the Goddesses in Everywoman many years ago and in the chapter on the Persephone woman I found myself.  The Persephone woman’s life journey takes her to the Underworld either through emotional abandonment, depression, abuse, trauma or addiction.  There she lives out the dark side, perhaps sharing a strong connection to the ancestors.  I have Pluto Moon and in her book on that subject, astrologer Judy Hall tells the stories of several Plutonian Moon people, John Lennon was one.  He wasn’t a woman but the early abandonment of his mother left him with wounds.  The other family profiled in that book with a strong Pluto/Persephone signature was the Bronte family.   Several of the Brontes died young and there was mother loss that dogged them all, most especially the younger brother.  The dark heart of Pluto Moon is present in several of the sister Bronte’s books which touch on obsessive love and mental suffering and trauma experienced in and through relationships (Moon) with the traumatised (Pluto).

For myself I feel the heavy blackness at times.  Kat and I were going over the years of my life that led to my oldest sister’s first suicide attempt in 1982, yesterday.  It was such a hard year in my life anyway in other ways.  Following my accident and an aborted attempt to embark on studies up North I returned home to live in hopes of finishing my teaching degree. Instead Dad forced me to go to secretarial college.  As Kat said to me yesterday : “That just wasn’t you”.  I told her that it was as boring as hell and that we had type in triplicate with two carbon papers only being allowed two mistakes a page.  No tippex and no computer autocorrect.  That year my drug taking and alcoholism really escalated.

In later years one smart arse said to me “why didn’t you tell your Dad to stick it up his jumper!”.  That wasn’t done and in any case I didn’t have means to support myself on the back of my accident.   Anyway it was that year my sister’s husband returned her home to us with a one way ticket and one blue tracksuit with a beaten up old case for what she believed was a two week holiday.  He just disappeared and there was no return ticket.  Her four boys were with him.  Suicide attempt in that dark front room at the start of the  hallway, dark, dark emptiness descends like a shroud, laying all joy to waste!   A few years later my father’s illness grew and he was taken, leaving us alone.

Early on I learned relationships were dangerous. Life was unsafe.  Today when I woke up I just lay there and repeated to myself over and over again.   “You are safe, you are loved.”  Trauma repeat on any waking up and coming to consciousness tells me otherwise!  It tells me without words but with body symptoms “you are about to die, or be killed! Or something is about to be stolen.” (As it always is, I guess, as life goes on!)

Death is really rearing its head in therapy lately and coming up a lot (Mercury on Pluto in the first house makes sense!).  In the absence of outside forces collecting to cut me down or kill me I can then internalise the killer within in the form of a nasty anti life critic mean saboteur grim reaper who cuts all life, all joy, all promise, all hope, all faith off.   That is when I find myself once again deep in Hades/Underworld or the inner place of shades with a traumatised Erishkegal crying over and over and over again “Woe to me, woe to my insides. All is black, all is helpless, all is fucked death is stronger than life.  I cannot make it!” (Black side of black/white thinking?)

And yet another part of me knows that this is also not the entire reality of the life that I can have and live to embrace.  There is also happiness that is there when I choose to say to that Underworld place : “No! I have done enough time here now!  Now please, will you let me reach for life, for light, for love, for promise, for joy, for hope?  Please don’t kill me off any more.  Please today let me live free and dance through the fields with Jasper.”

Today I beginning to feel that I can actually make a choice but you know moments before writing this and articulating all of this I felt that I was sucked back so far down in the darkness again and literally could not move  This feeling followed a conversation with my Mum after which I absorbed all her sadness and tiredness.  I came off the phone crying because yesterday a put a schism between us due to my abandonment wound arking up.  She didn’t respond with empathy and then I think on some level that just made us both sad.  Today she sounded so very, very tired and then I thought of how at times I almost feel my psychic energy body is reading or mirroring hers which would be another manifestation of strong Pluto Moon, a very strong psychic connection not only with my mother but with the mother line.

Lucky for me I can use perception, my mind and astrological signatures and archetypes to make sense of this ‘stuff’.   When it has its hooks in me though its a different story,  I am sucked on by the psychic/soup/fog of which I am not fully conscious.

I started this blog to speak about my sad self and to explain how that is not the entirety of me.  I have a happy self too, one that can live in the present moment and positive life energy.  I just have to become aware when the darker, heavier, sadder side is gaining hold, feeling my way into it, connecting with it, but not allowing it to fully possess me is a skill I am finally learning.   I want to be able to be and express from both sides for Persephone never lived the entire time in the Underworld. In spring she returned to upside world again with gifts to give and dark knowledge she earned having eaten and tasted the fruit of suffering of Hades/Pluto fruit, the pomegranate.  She can give then to those who also voyage or get trapped in the Underworld too.  She can affirm that they are not lying or mixed up about that place, that it is real and does exist and is not just some form of aberration that so called saner souls can say is ‘madness’ or ‘insanity’, rather it is like a scar or birthmark that permanently marks the souls of some of us.

Like Innana (another Persephone woman), the recovering Persephone becomes able to travel down to meet the ailing, grieving, inconsolable, wounded, flawed, disturbed and sorrowing, hungering side of others or of ourselves.  Through empathy and compassion (and self compassion ) she develops the resilience to be deeply present with others or herself, for a while, holding their/our hand and saying “woe is you and woe to your insides”.  She can do this with patience and forebearance just long enough for her  Underworld sister Erishkegal’s suffering to be soothed, mirrored, contained and transformed.  And then Innana finally becomes free, free to return once again, for a time to earth, to light, to spring, to sunshine, to hope, to trust, to love at least until the next descent or call is heard.

Anger with my therapist leads to deeper reflection

I found myself feeling a lot of anger towards my therapist, Kat yesterday.  The intensity of what my body goes through on any day and any night as a result of having recently had this tooth removed on the back of a traumatic head injury at occurred after a time I so needed family support and was once again denied it at the end of my marriage bites me hugely.  I feel like I have giant incisor like wounds from that bite lodged in my psychic flesh and over the past few nights of the eclipse I have been bang awake between 3 and 5 with all these powerful sensations coursing through my body as my mind has struggled to make sense of the tangled up jigsaw pieces of the past 17 years of struggle to find and make sense of my true feelings and find a centre of self in the messy conglomerate of energies within and without which like wild currents and eddies swirl this way and that, at times setting up huge surge like storms of ‘meness’ and then at other taking me down with the powerful centrifugal undertow of black inky sludge drowning me completely and making it hard to draw a free breath!!!

I am angry that Kat didn’t seem to even remember the piece of writing I actually read to her last Thursday, I had to read it all over again and I was feeling so tired,  she is my fucking therapist why can’t she remember, why doesn’t she take the time to read my blog before I go to a session so she can help me a bit, for fucks sake its only one hour and reading three or four blogs to catch up is exhausting because often when I write the feelings are there simmering away under the surface and only emerge when I read them in session which now that I write it just goes to show if she did read it then that wouldn’t happen so why am I getting so mad?  I still am because I have to work so fucking hard at times and there is so much to get through in session.

I do know why I am angry though.  This is old anger.  I have had fuck all help in my life in the way that really mattered.  I didn’t need money thrown at me, I needed a parent who got me, and was there emotionally not one who consistently abandoned me and then told me I was a late developer when I shared I got into sobriety.  Yeah Mum it was all my fault that I drank in a situation in which so many painful feelings were going down that I didn’t know how to deal with in the absence of support, after a major traumatic injury at 17 that I never got any help to deal with later only to be followed six months later by even less care available due to my sister’s aneurysm occuring with all the complications that followed all at a time I was trying to develop and mature.  Fuck That!!!

Yet even as I write this and consider my last post about the poor fit between a mother and child that leaves the child, lost, confused, split off from her body and feelings and lacking self containment and integrity of being I realise that I must accept my mother went through the same with her mother and so just passed down the wound. The anger is understandable that I feel but it wont help me unless I use it to drive a deeper understanding and also to set boundaries so that I don’t open up and share intimate emotional stuff she is likely to dismiss, deny or be confused about herself.

So its probably not really even my therapist I am really angry with but with the entire sad history of a child who came to not be able to understand, express, or even tolerate her own feelings and then became an addict, only to get sober and be told it was the result of ‘character defects’ which just reinforces the scapegoats idea fixee of being the ‘bad’, ‘wrong’ or damaged one, inherently flawed in some way.

I don’t actually remember in the rooms of AA being given any help to understand my own feelings.  I do remember sitting there in meetings and crying my eyes out as other’s shared from such a damaged split off place, full of self blame and self denigration.  It broke my heart in two.  And then in Al Anon meetings I got the askance looks from those trying to whip alcoholic loved ones into shape with their own self righteousness not getting for a moment the suffering or deeper dilemma the person concerned was going through.   I remember not being hugged after a meeting or reached out to after I shared from a deep well of pain.

I know it probably wasn’t their job but I do feel that once our buried feelings begin to open up in sobriety we need some form of encouragement and affirmation from others to assist us and yet even that hope or demand has hidden deep in the centre of it a hope or demand that is loaded with the sadness and longing of deep needs of long ago for the parent’s unconditional love, understanding, mirroring and acceptance of feelings; needs we never got to fully understand or contain.

In the end, as I was discussing with Kat yesterday, perhaps no one now can give us enough to make up for what we lost or never received in the first place.  Such an empty void or space in the place where we most needed to be met, filled up, affirmed, received  must be acknowledged, deeply understood and grieved.  And then we must meet the challenge of finding ways to fill our lives with the good energy of connection and love, learning how to understand, feel and tolerate all our feelings.   Being or becoming the good loving mother and father to ourselves so that ultimately we don’t end up re-enacting our emptiness, wound or anger on others or keep ourselves lost and trapped inside the deep dark desolate place of that emptiness.

I do wonder now, though, if we end up alone with no life partner and disconnected from so many friends due to the wounds we have carried driving so many away from us in misunderstanding how sweet can life be?  Can we really fill ourselves up from the life font or spring of spirit that was meant to flow within and through us and can that be enough?

Its obvious to me now that the hyper sensitivity that so many of us feel who were not met or received in the needed ways, grew larger in the absence of such love and care.  The burden of our so called ‘over sensitivity’  needs to be understood and we need to make sure that we don’t blame ourselves while at the same time learning to take responsibility for the wound we carry in terms of taking care of ourselves, learning to be open, vulnerable and honest to ask for what we need rather than demand it or get shitty when it doesn’t just come automatically.

We also need an awareness of the real failures of others which came from the limits of their own capacity to be fully embodied themselves, a wound that seems to plague so many in a technologically driven modern society that has grown increasingly removed from the natural and soulful elements in vibrant earthly life.   To begin to feel that love means that we open ourselves body and soul to the soft caress of the sun on skin, to the luxuriant feeling of sea water on flesh, to the sheer love that shines in our dog’s eyes as he runs to great us, to the joy of feeling our free spirit express its bounty through dance, movement and song.

It surely means we open up again to try to find the love and containment we missed from a loving mother’s arms in places and spaces where it does exist.  And it also means that we as ones who have been damaged and know the cause and consequences of such disconnection and damage make a stand in a world where sensitivity and depth is so often not championed.  For the pain our souls have suffered has perhaps highlighted for us how essential such an earthly connection to life, feeling and nature is and to the deeper realisation that the wound to the mother that leads to severing from body and deep feeling is one we end up enacting on the earth and ourselves over and over again if we don’t fully face, feel and speak for the painful and agonising consequences of its loss or absence.

Feeling my way into my heart

A truly heart centred life is not easy to live in this world.  So many claims are made upon our time and energy.  In many respects I am lucky not to be pulled on by a ‘day job’, as I have shared before I stopped work after two traumas and then I isolated alone for a few years before seeking release or ‘rescue’ through a new relationship, although I did not fully understand at the time that that was what I was doing. Instead this strong guy turned up at the units I was living in, in an semi isolated place on the coast and we were pulled into a relationship.

Our very first conversation was one in which I shared that I was a sober recovering alcoholic. Not that that is really who I AM but it was the space I was in at the point, abstinent from alcohol, trying to get a handle on the forces that had been pulling on my life and heart and struggling to see how I could find a new direction inward to my heart in order to know my way.   But I didn’t even know all of that at the time and I had been severely discombobulated by two accidents, the first of which happened overseas when I was trying to make a ‘break’ and move forward but also being impinged upon by other wills, other voices, others’ resistances.

I now see I was on the edge of my ‘grief work’.  The lost kid inside me was trying to find a way back to herself and if that lost kid lives anywhere, I believe he or she lives in both our gut and our heart.  We absolutely cannot know her ways until we can open the door and find a path inward to those true places of being and knowing inside of us, no matter how long barricaded or buried.

In many ways this guy I met was also a lost child. As I look back I see that at that point in 2007 we two lost kids found each other and then went to war with the barricaded places.  In my case I was sad a lot and angry when old wounds of lack of attention and abandonment were triggered.  In his case the way to his sadness was barricaded by an angry monster who had erected a sign on the door.  ‘Do not enter’.  So I was angry and sad a lot but also full of joy when our two little kids came out to play together at times and we touched base with a place of heart, being and may I say love.

The entire 4 and a half year story is too long to go into here.  We eventually split up and my heart was now not only trying to deal with the grief I took into that relationship but also the resonances of older griefs it had stirred up.  Overpowered I ran back to my home town after another aborted attempt to make a break in a new place.  And here over the past 6 years I have been trying to find my way to my heart, or rather the place in it that is not broken or shattered, the place within it which has a wellspring of hope, joy, promise, self expression and love.

Today I sat in my local shopping centre drinking my coffee at my favourite place, reading the biography of someone also in addiction recovery who eventually after finding sobriety made the decision to leave London and return to her home, Orkney an island in the Scottish Hebrides.  Here she touches base with nature and eventually takes on a position working in the Royal Society For the Preservation of Birds.   It is a biography tinged with isolation and aloneness but also with the courage of a woman trying to find a way forward from a destructive past. Sadly it doesn’t really go into the hidden pain in her heart. As a young child she watched her father flown away to a psychiatric unit after a ‘manic’ attack.   But it is still hauntingly beautiful and today as I read I felt tears in my eyes as I thought both of my self and this woman, two survivors trying to find a way forward after suffering the wreckage of a confused and lost past.

And those tears were a relief because those tears spoke to me of truths that I could never fully articulate in this blog where so much grief and pain lurks in unspoken spaces but also a winged bird of heart awakening to truths that in burgeoning there so long to arise and take flight.   So on a half used tissue I wrote these words, my meagre attempt to express this ;

I can cry,

no one can see me sitting here

silently

fissure deep broken open

to reveal a heart,

longing,

so long buried

forsaken

or denied

where could I find myself

under such barren skies

lost

wandering

artless

it seems so long since I ever had a home.

If home is where the heart is…

where is my heart?

Silently beating

between breathless fits and starts

it flutters in my chest

like a broken winged bird

who so long ago lost direction

finding itself in the middle of the flock

broke off

soared freely

captured by winds of desire and inward turning

it was lured to another destination

beyond the mainstream

Where storm filled skies and winds

Led it to crash amongst the rocks

Slipstream

carry my heart,

let it open its wings to the breeze,

let it surrender those defences

which arrest the flow of breath and blood

so that new life can enter

and that broken winged bird

can finally

gain enough strength

to fly again.

Understanding the power of destructive inner voices

Have any of you ever come across the work of Robert Firestone? When I was living in Cambridge I came across his book Combatting Destructive Thought Processes in a bookshop.  It was very expensive so, sadly I didn’t buy it but going back to read it day after day it connected so many pieces of the puzzle of suicidal ideation and depression for me that I almost jumped for joy.

Yesterday at my meeting the subject Easy Does It was set as one of the topics and I started my share with a reading from Hope for Today.  It was about how painful it can be for us to receive love or support when we actually have had so little experience of that in childhood.   It said how the prospect of kindness or empathy can trigger all our hurt and pain and actually make us feel sad at a deep level for all that we missed and longed for in childhood that was thwarted, but in many ways when we open to this pain we are opening beyond our defences, if only we don’t allow destructive voices to block that process.  Read On for more about that!

I cried myself after reading the reading to the group and it reminded me of what RF wrote in one of his books that intimacy brings up all our past defences and awakens destructive attacking critical voices that try to prevent us truly opening our hearts and connecting if we have been fed lies which have made us believe untruths about our intrinsic value, beauty, strength or worth.

I did buy Robert’s book a few years later second hand which he co wrote with Joyce Catlett called Fear of Intimacy and I have just re-read through a lot of it.   What I read reminded me of his central idea that defences formed in childhood can be triggered when we try to connect with others and we end up suffering internalised voice attacks from hostile energies within that ostensibly form both to keep us safe from a parent’s past criticism and or abuse, insensitivity or hostility.   Such voices in difficult cases can also often urge us to commit suicide.   They are composed of critical things we took in childhood or may have had to develop due to false beliefs instilled in us by a parent or parents’ unconscious hostility to our vibrancy and life energy, but in the end they are kept in place by fear and the inner critic which can becomes self protective to the point of destruction.

Reading those chapters today made me cry again.  The sadness is real because I am being reminded of the many times I have wanted to connect with someone and the voice has besieged such attempts at connection.  Getting a handle on this has taken me a lot of time.  I was very grateful to get to a meeting on Tuesday and be able to come across this reading, because I do believe those of us who resort to addictions are often trying on some level to shut these voices out,  they may have such power or control over us that they lead us to self damage or self neglect.  How sad is it that we came to believe there is something so wrong with ourselves or others that it is just too risky to connect?

In his therapeutic work Robert helps couples in particular to externalise critical attacks from within, a similar technique that is used by the author of Soul Without Shame.  We then learn to disempower the strengths of such criticisms, perhaps getting a reality check with those who help us to disentangle from them.   I myself at critical times of depression heard voices telling me to end my life and at one time a piece of writing I did engaged with this demonic figure who wanted me dead and said how from the age of 6 it had been trying to shut me down.  That experience was a kind of turning point for me.

I still often hear the voice of this energy but these days I try not to take it as seriously.  I no longer want it to cut me off from love both within and without.   I deserve better and so do you, for on the brink of connection is when such voices of separation step in  As Robert point out they are an anti-force, one that is anti love and must not be taken seriously.  Robert reminds us in the book that when we take the risk of breaking the power of these voices we go through a period of intense anxiety and fear.  We need positive ego strength and support to navigate this new terrain for we are taking the risk to change old patterns that open up our vulnerability, a vulnerability that we must bear with if we truly want to open our hearts and change old patterns in order to open ourselves to the fullness of life.

The alternative is to stay safe but alone behind a prison of defences that look as though they are protecting us but are truly not.

Footnote :  Robert Firestone’s latest book is now called : Overcoming the Destructive Inner Voice: True Stories of Therapy and Transformation : a collection of stories that eloquently capture the transformative processes of psychotherapy working with true clients and their own inner voices.

Struggles with guilt : insights into anxiety

I awoke struggling with a lot of guilt this morning.  As much as I can write that its not okay for the critic to beat me up, its also important that as an adult I take responsibility for my own life and feelings.  The complication is that so many of my current feelings date back and are connected to old feelings and hurts, emotional absences and injuries from the past.  When I put the sole focus on those I can become resentful and bitter, hurt and angry which is fair enough but if those feelings are poisoning or affecting certain choices I am making today I am in trouble and not only am I in trouble but others around me are too.

The issue that I am struggling with this morning is my financial dependency on my mother.  Much as I express here all my angry feelings with my Mum she has tried to compensate in many ways for what she failed to give me by providing financial support when I have needed it.  As a result I have chosen not to work for the past 10 years following my accident which gave me a head injury and focus on my healing and recovery work.   Although I posted a post yesterday on how that is the most important work for me, at times I don’t fully believe it.  I feel that I could have been more responsible as an adult for myself financially.

Then I go through all the guilt over the chain of inner causes that contributed to the financial difficulty we had back in March when due to a real estate agents pressure I put in an offer for a townhouse that I then wished to retract but could not, he had kept us pinned at the house on the day of the auction when it was passed in and pressured for an offer that day, knowing that if we made that offer then we would have not cooling off period and no way out.  Due to the fact I had not properly read the contract I was not aware.  I made a mistake and I have had to own it, but my Mum has been the one who paid up.

I was willing to lose the deposit but due to my mother’s issue with money she was not prepared to let it go and so bought the place herself rather than see the deposit forgone.  She has tried to rent it since then but no renters have been willing to take it on and then a few weeks ago she asked me to consider moving into it and I have once again been stuck in a back forward process of trying to take the easier way and move in which means surrendering my older cottage but also the creative beautiful aspects of it.  One part of me says why not just let this place go.  It was my mistake that led to the problem and really as an adult I should own it, not depend on my Mum but it was a failure too on her part on the day when I turned to her for help on that day that made me make the offer and she also left me alone while chatting to her friend at the time the auction was taking place which gave the agent space to move in and try to force my hand by putting in the high bid the owner wanted when no one else was bidding.

All of this is interesting to me as I am in the midst of reading the book Power Over Panic at the moment and in it the author Bronwyn Fox explains how it is the passive perfectionist who most often ends up with an anxiety condition.   She suffered from anxiety and panic attacks herself so she knows what is involved in recovery and the point she makes is that it is our fear which drives so much of what contributes to the condition in the first place, fear of not being all things to all people, fear of being selfish if we care for ourselves and put our own needs first, fear of disappointing others and being real and then fear of the anxiety or panic itself which is what keeps the attacks going.

As I have been reading this book I have seen our own family pattern with poor boundaries and interpersonal connections of truth and emotional honesty.   Our family pattern is to always ‘do the right thing’, swallow our own feelings and needs and then to over extend ourselves and not take good care of our boundaries and body.   And then this can also dovetail into a very strong adult child pattern of taking on responsibility for what is not our issue due to feeling we are responsible for others, which leads to emotional caretaking and then emotional, physical and spiritual depletion.  We also loose our own deeper connection to joy if the inner critic is always driving us with its perfectionistic project and not letting us rest in and find what lights up our own hearts independent of other demands or our own inner pressure to help or be the good guy.

As I look at it I see my Mum has at times helped us too much in the wrong ways.  I went to another meeting yesterday of my Al Anon group and there were a couple there whose son has recently entered into recovery.  They were sharing about how they needed to support him but not too much and to his own detriment, for our recovery is really a personal issue, how others treat us can trigger us ultimately as much as people would like to argue that it doesn’t, but becoming an adult also means learning about what is triggering and taking the steps for self care.

Anyway I don’t know if this blog has a theme.  I just woke up and needed to write down some of the things I am struggling with in my own head.  I had pretty much made the decision I am not going to move into the town house but commit to this place despite all the responsibility such a decision entails.  Winter is a hard time as my house is very cold and really needs a better heating system.  But winter will not last forever and is a time when its good for the emotional psyche to get in tune with the swing of nature and look inwards.   Even as I type this I know I could make another decision and make the best of it and I realise how lucky I really am to have so much choice and the support that I do.

I never fully got the emotional support I needed in the past. I came from a family where we were taught to serve others more than understand and respect our own inner boundaries, feelings and needs.  I see how the pattern has replayed and how so much of it was deeply unconscious.  In a post yesterday I was sharing how we can only say we are free to choose when we are fully conscious of all of these unconscious patterns and factors which makes me question a point that Bronwyn makes in her book on anxiety and panic  attacks.  We develop these conditions not because we are bad or weak but due to the fact that we have lot to learn and become conscious of.  Being diagnosed with such an illness or condition is actually a wake up call to our inner self to begin to become more conscious and aware and to take care of what most needs support, comfort and nurturing in our own lives.  If we beat ourselves up for suffering with them we cant really go forward on our recovery and being kind and compassionate and loving to ourselves is an enormous part of overcoming such conditions. If you suffer from anxiety or panic attacks I really highly recommend the book.  I am learning a lot from it.

Birthing through struggle

ARI

Baby

Our struggle is, in many ways what births us.  I think this is the deeper reason behind why we can feel pissed or ripped off when people tell us platitudes like “it was all for a reason” which is something that formed a large chunk of a post I posted earlier with a quote from Debbie Ford on the shadow.  Even as I was posted it I thought how being told that suffering was all part of the divine plan may anger or be intensely triggering for some reason as the last thing we really all want is to suffer and coming to see the wisdom in awful pain and suffering or abuse is something we have to arrive at in our own time and through our own process.

A central tenant of Buddhist wisdom, though is the fact that suffering is intrinsic to life and we only have power over how we choose to respond.  Do we curse it or bless it?  Do we put our focus on the lack or the gain?  And as I write this it occurs to me that struggle  even attends our first moments on earth depending on how easy or difficult our birth was.

Birthing as a physical being is also not the same as birthing ourselves on a psychological or spiritual level.  For that birth is something that can be stymied or thwarted depending on the environment we were born into and how well it matched out intrinsic soul need.  And then we have the thorny aspect of family karma.  If we come from a family where in past generations traumas, loss and separation from love manifesting in alcoholism or addiction were strong themes.  Add to this the fact of the collective traumas that our families of the past were subject to, to greater or lesser degrees and that is a lot of historic struggle to unravel and unpack.

Understanding my own family karma and patterns has made it a little easier for me to reach for forgiveness lately.   I see how much my own two families, of mother and father were impinged upon by collective events of war and depression.  I see how a battle to survive meant my family was full of struggle and so the issue of nurture was a difficult one.  At times I have felt a bit selfish to be honestly lately when I realise how my own mother struggled in the absence of a dead father and mother who was constantly absent due to providing for her daughter.  At the age of 13 my grandmother also wanted my Mum to go live with a family and become a domestic servant.  I think by then she had a new man on the horizon or maybe she just thought this would give her daughter a better chance at survival.  My Mum rebelled and found herself a job as a tailor’s apprentice.

At age 13 I went into the family business, a clothing store, part time and on weekends.  It was on one of the weekends 4 years later that I had my major motor vehicle smash which aborted my entire last semester of school.  I never formally graduated.  Times of transition or cyclic new birth times are therefore difficult and full of fear for me.  I fear at these kind of times I will literally die.  I had the whole thing retriggered when my marriage ended taking myself far away and smashing up.  I see that this is what I chose to do even though a large part of my soul hungered to stay close to my own Mum at that time.   Separation, transitions and new steps forward are especially fraught for me and that isn’t my fault.  I undergo a lot of separation anxiety.  The best I can do lately is work to become more conscious of the pattern and love myself through it.

Yesterday the beat up voice was back telling me how little I have amounted to my life, casting its distainful gaze on my home and telling me I should end my life.  I was lucky enough to cry from the inner child and then the loving adult showed up and told the critic to back off.  I know the critic is trying to protect me from something but the cost of his criticism on my tender soul is too brutal.  Would the world really be better off if I were dead, as the critic said yesterday?  I don’t think so.  Am I really such a fuck up? And is my life over yet?  NO!

I know in my life I have struggled in all sorts of ways.  I don’t carry deep within me an implicit feeling of trust, security and safety in this life.  I tend to see the negative side and anticipate disaster.  I know more now and that it is a protective mechanism but it isn’t one that always serves me well.  I struggle with believing all the harsh things that happened to me were all part of a plan but in another way I do believe it.  And I was so blessed to get sober at 31.

I may have struggled in later years but my sober life is a big achievement and all the emotional work I have done since.  I don’t check out for the most part,  I front up and try to live and engage to the best of my ability.  And my struggle on many levels is both what births me as well as keeping me realistic and grounded.  Much of my own shadow is not full of darkness but full of repressed light and love.  Its only lately  I am feeling that it is finally putting in an appearance after years and years and years of living in the closet. As someone who almost drowned in her own shadow I am so grateful now that I don’t have to identify myself as permanent scapegoat or victim.  At one time I was powerless over all kinds of things and they did victimise me.  But I also now choose to say, that these things were things I survived and chose to face, not that there is any sin in not doing so, for some darkness weighs too heavy upon more gentle souls and can drown them, especially if there is no one there help with the grand archetypal battle with the inner critic/shame based/shadow.

That is a profound truth that I most implicitly understand.   Yesterday when my inner battle was going on a voice inside my head asked me this.  “Deborah, which voice are you going to give power to, the voice of love or the voice of fear and hate?”  Yesterday I chose love and as I consider the entire thing this afternoon for the rest of my life I want love to be the final word, most of all love for myself, love for the struggle and love for my fellow humans.

The hunger

Baby Bird

This hunger I had for so many years was so huge

Because it came from such a young place

It was a hole that formed

a deep pit when my sister went away

more like a mother to me

she held me and spent time with me

when my mother never did

Later when her brain burst and she laid in a coma

The wine cask became my refuge

And my wounded hungry self then went on such a lonely journey

To find that missing love and fill the terrible deep wound

In sobriety I was told only a higher power could fill it

But how could that be true?

When I needed human recognition

And recognition too of the deepest pain of a severed bond

That left torn tendrils deep inside my gut that bled

That left me open and hungering in addiction

And seeking through thwarted connections

For what could not be healed in that way

Now I am older and a bit wiser

I see the path I trod

How painfully I learned to beat myself up

But also how a loving connection could help me

Both to recognise its roots and feel that pain

So that the empty hole could finally be filled

It was not only a higher power I needed

But a human connection

One that was real and true and validated my deep wounds

And in helping me to bear witness and grieve

Gave me back a home

In that place where once I only found

A deep abyss