Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Emotional Pillar

Of the four pillars supporting the platform of our lives, the emotional seems to be the most difficult to bring into balance. As children, we are taught to deny so much of the emotional experience that we grow up believing that strength is being able to suppress any emotion that makes others uncomfortable. Instead of accepting our selves with all our moods and feelings, we learn to suppress anger, fear, sadness, pain ……….and put a brave face on for the world to see.

We deny ourselves the tears that heal our pain in favor of denying that we feel it at all. We deny our natural fears until they become so large that we fear anything new and cannot communicate it. We deny our anger until it becomes turned inward on ourselves, causing real physical damage to our bodies. We deny our pain until it becomes the central force of our lives and we deny our sadness to the point that we can no longer feel joy.

As bad as it is for women, it is even harder for men. From the time they are small boys, they are taught to “suck it up” and take it like a man. With no acceptable outlet for fear and sadness and even anger, many men become so conflicted that they actually become violent, which was more acceptable in our society than tears or sadness. Then when they enter into an adult relationship with a woman, they are unable to express the tender feelings they have almost forgotten to even recognize. They are left with rage and violence as their only acceptable outlet. Not a very satisfactory relationship for either the man or the woman, who is at least partly in touch with her feelings. Isn't it ironic that we as mothers, raise sons to be such conflicted partners!

It is also far too easy to blame others or life in general for our woes. It is a thing I have observed with some “self help” groups. They take things to the point of identifying the probable cause of some emotional problem, then stop there, blaming their current problems on past experiences and absolving themselves of any responsibility for their lives or the events in them. This stops emotional growth in its tracks and robs one of the chance to deal with the fears and the pain and work through it to become a more complete and happier human being.

Many years ago, I learned that the best way for me to deal with a heart break was to find a quiet, private place, preferably near running water and let the tears flow. If I allowed myself to experience the whole spectrum of emotions that come with loss, loss of a loved one, loss of a freedom, loss of health, in short, any traumatic loss, the tears would flow freely, bathing my heart and soul with their healing power.

Afterward, I would be emotionally exhausted, wrung out to the point that there were no more tears to shed. However, I would no longer be caught unaware and have to shove the pain and tears down inside where they would grow and become even more unbearable. I would be able to go on with the daily process of living while healing began. Sometimes healing took a long time and sometimes not so long at all, but without the release of the grief of loss, the healing could not begin. Alternatively, if I forced the pain back inside and hid it even from myself, it would grow and fester and come to the surface in unbearable waves, each one worse than the last and always at the most importune moment.

Recently, I have had occasion to deal with others who are going through terrible times in their lives. They tried to get by with denying any release of the emotions, forcing the pain and tears down deep inside and pretending there is nothing wrong. Any time they have found it unbearable, and tears spilled out, they would work so hard to deny the pain and tears that they became numb inside, unable to feel either pain or pleasure in their lives.

We are taught that crying is a weakness and is to be avoided at all cost. This denies the release and healing that comes with allowing ourselves to work through our feelings and shed the tears that heal. It is all a part of the process of claiming our lives and our selves, being responsible for our own actions and the results of them. It is a way to allow ourselves to heal emotionally and bring the emotional pillar more into line with the other three.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Astral Projection

I believe that many people have out-of-body experiences, particularly when very ill. Most are unable to articulate the experience because they don’t have the words or the concept in their mind.

My first experience happened when I was twenty years old and very ill. During surgery, I suddenly found myself in an upper corner of the operating room watching the surgeons at work on me for the third time in a week. As I watched, I felt I had the choice to either return to my body or continue my existence in whatever the next phase would be. After considering the fact that I had a six month old daughter at home, I realized I had a duty to return and continue my life here on earth.

Instantly I found myself back in my body, in excruciating pain, as they lifted the four corners of the sheet under me and put me back on the stretcher. The surgery was finished and I was moaning in pain. They must have given me medication for pain as the next thing I remembered was being in my hospital room, awake and in much less pain. It took three months, but I walked out of there. Forty-two years later, I am still here, still having interesting experiences and still learning.

A friend, also very ill, had a similar experience last week, which caused me to remember my first experience. Not knowing what was happening to her, she assumed she was dying. It can be a very frightening experience when it happens out of the blue, with no prior knowledge of the phenomenon or even that it was possible.

If we accept that there is more to us than this earthly existence, that there is a soul personality which survives death and continues on, then it is only a short step to accepting that the real, enduring person can separate from this earthly existence for a period of time, either due to dire circumstances or through practice and training.

Enlightenment and The Path

Many people feel that when they find their right and proper path all will smooth out in front of them. They will be rich, famous and loved by all. They expect to be instantly enlightened with no work on their part.

This is not necessarily true. The things of this world, fame and riches have no real bearing on whether we are on our spiritual path. Enlightenment comes in stages as we work for it. We must learn what is required of us. We must balance the pillars of our lives. Only when we have succeeded in balancing physical, mental, emotional and spiritual can we claim to be a truly enlightened being,

This is the work of many lifetimes and few if any of us will achieve perfection in this lifetime. The joy must be in the journey and not only in reaching the objective or we will give up long before reaching even the first plateau.

I have spent a lifetime seeking and have achieved some success in that I am much more in control of myself, much more aware of life in general and much more in tune with my journey than I was in my youth and young adulthood. I have learned to trust the process. If I do my very best to learn and to grow, to always help when asked and try to make this world a tiny bit better for my having been here, the things of this world will look after themselves. That does not mean that life will be easy, only that I spend a lot less time worrying about it and more time learning and growing.

We seldom know why the events in our lives happen, but if we accept that there is an intelligence greater than our own earthly minds at the helm, then we must accept that there is a purpose. Each birth is chosen for the opportunities it will offer for growth, for learning and for practicing what we have learned.

Sunday, November 19, 2006


So many things I never expected to write about..............................

I remember when the word breast was not to be said aloud, let alone breast cancer. By the time everyone knew someone who had it; the words had lost the stigma and could be said out loud, and even in mixed company. Lives are being saved every day because we can talk about it.

Now men are in the same situation we women were. The words prostate and testicle are spoken in whispers only, and to link them with the word cancer is not to be considered. At the time my grandfather passed away from the complications of prostate cancer at the age of 87, I did not even know what a prostate was. Lives are being lost because of it.

A very few years ago, a young friend was shoeing his horse when she kicked him in the groin, damaging one testicle to the point that it had to be removed. As is common practice, it was sent for biopsy. The report came back positive for cancer, the silent type where there is no indication that something is wrong until far too late. The only way it could have been detected was by blood tests, which would have shown elevated hormone levels. All of the cancerous tissue had been removed so he opted for follow up blood tests rather than invasive preventative treatment. He was still clear after five years and has since married and has a young son.

In order to have more success stories, we must do the same for men as we have done for ourselves…..we must desensitize the words so that it is OK to talk about, OK to perform self examinations to spot changes in the early stages, OK to go to the doctor for regular check ups or if they suspect a problem.

As women, wives, mothers, sisters, daughters… we need to help make the subject talked about as freely as breast cancer. We can help save lives that way.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Vegetable Soup

Written many years ago when life was in one of its major lows. We all go through these dark nights and endure until the new dawn, which always comes even when we do not believe it will ever change.

Vegetable Soup

I feel afraid because he is slipping
Into nowhere and maybe he can’t stop.

I see both his beauty and his need, and
I feel helpless because I can’t help him
To hang on and find his way back.

I feel protective because the world is a cold,
cruel place that does not recognize his worth.

I feel exultant when he has a good day.
I feel hopeful that tomorrow will be better.

I feel anger at the world for hurting him,
And at him for letting it.

I can’t understand where he is and why
He can’t just come back by himself.

I feel inadequate in the face of the demands
put on me by my love for him.

I feel responsible in some way,
But I don’t know what I should be doing,
Or what I may have done.

I feel his pain and my frustration because
I can’t give him my strength.

I feel despair that “Someday” may
Never come and today is so long.

I feel empty because I gave all I have
And it isn’t enough.

I feel impatient because sometimes I forget
That he can’t help what is happening
And I want my needs met too.

I feel guilty because I feel angry, impatient,
Frustrated, inadequate and
I know that is not the answer.

But most of all, and through it all,
I feel love and acceptance for him
Because he IS, and that is
all that really matters.

The Depressions

I have had quite a bit of experience with depression, having had a mother, brother, daughter......in short, four very dear ones close to me, who all at one time or another suffered from deep, deep depression. It is hell. It is hell to watch helplessly while a loved one goes through it. It is hell for the person experiencing it. It is hell for all who are affected by it. It is not a place one goes by choice, it is not a place that one can climb out of by one's self. It can not be cured by bludgeoning, or by appealing to reason, or lecturing, or abandonment, or wishing.

Some depressions are caused by situations and mitigate themselves with time and with love and support. Those experiencing this type are the lucky ones, and I have been down that road a time or two. My first personal encounter with the dark days was at the age of 25 when I lost a 5 year old daughter to encephalitis. Even with another child at home, it took me a year to find a reason to want to get out of bed in the mornings. Obviously I did it, I got up. I went through the motions of living each day and got through it somehow, until finally the pain was lessened enough that I could take pleasure in life's daily events.

The second time, I was just 40 and was struck down with a hereditary neuromuscular disease. I went through about 3 months of getting weaker and weaker and being able to work shorter and shorter days, until finally I was in hospital for 6 weeks. I was never able to return to my flourishing career. My professional life and the income it brought in was OVER at 40. Again, it took me a year to adjust. Each night I would write in my journal the things I had done that day and what I needed to accomplish the next. Not only was my professional life over, but I knew that an uncle had died from the disease 5 years after it showing up, and my mother in less than 10 years. I was a ticking time bomb. With my husband's help, we changed our life style, moved to the country and decided that we would fight it with every fiber of our beings. That was in 1984! We made a conscious effort to make the best of whatever time was left for us to be together and we have done so. I have no regrets on that score.

The third episode is just now easing up. As you all know, on April 6th of this year I died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. They were successful in resuscitating me but nicked a lung in the process which left me with tubes coming out of every orifice of my body, plus one extra under my arm that led into the lung they had collapsed by accident. For one week they kept me comatose with a drug that made life in my head worse than any hell one can conjure up. I was crawling over burning hot, broken sharp, stones in the blazing sun with no way out, and only the occasional hallucination of a room somewhere with kind people in it, but I could not find that room except for a couple of times by accident. After a week of this, my husband demanded that the doctors wake me up so that he and my daughter could communicate with me for a short time. Under duress, they did! That saved my life because they were both able to tell me that if I needed to go, it would be alright, but that if I wanted to fight, I could win. Seeing their faces, I chose to fight. The dose of the medication that kept me comatose was reduced immediately and within 2 days, was replaced with morphine which did not have the same effect on me. After another week, there was real concern that the respirator tube would cause permanent damage and/or infection and they wanted to do a trach to replace it. I was reluctant, but they convinced me and it did hasten my healing immensely. The doctors and nurses expected me to be in intensive care for months at least, if I recovered at all. When I told them I would be going home on a day pass, the third weekend and home permanently on the fourth, they laughed but humored me. I went home on pass the third weekend and home for good on the fourth. Since then, I found that the trach would be permanent, to be changed every 4 to 6 weeks in hospital, I have been in and out of emergency every few weeks and had to go back on prednisone and antibiotics frequently. Every cold and every germ that passes by stops in for a visit. I have had to have more scopes, tests and whatever than you can shake a stick at. The emergency department is always interesting as I have one of the only two trachs walking around outside the hospital in this area. I am a rarity here. It has been 6 months and I can not regain any of the strength I lost that month and there are days that I am not sure I made the right decisions. But with the help of my loving family, by birth, marriage and choice, I am learning to live and enjoy what I have been left with. That is what I know personally about depression.

Now let's visit the other kind of depression caused by chemical imbalances and exacerbated by life's events. What I know about it is all from the outside looking in, right from the time I was a child. My mother was given to depression all her life, and in my very early teens, I repeatedly had to go to the neighbour's house and phone the family doctor to come and get her through the newest attempt at suicide. He finally told me that I must leave home at the earliest opportunity and pursue my own life or I would never get away. Over the next number of years, she was in and out of hospital, on and off various drugs and had a number of series of shock treatments. I really never understood it and resented her very much.

It was only after I had also dealt with others in my life who suffered a chemically induced depression that I began to understand and to empathize. My daughter inherited the same chemical imbalance and has also battled her whole life with both depression and ADHD. She does well with the new generation of antidepressants, therapy and the love and support that we all try to give her. There are bad times, sometimes brought on by life's events and sometimes by the medications no longer working. It is a life sentence, but she is making the best of it and finding her happiness where she can.

My husband, whom I love with all of my being also suffers from chronic depression and during the diagnostic phase, life was hell for both of us. He would go to sleep in the middle of conversations, could not motivate himself to do anything, became capable of causing himself harm and ended up in hospital for both diagnosis and treatment. From that point, life began to improve but when it got bad again, he self-medicated as they say. He could not leave a gathering if there was a drop of alcohol around. No matter how hard he tried to escape, the alcohol simply made it worse. We even separated for a year because I could not cope with the whole situation. He quit drinking and we got back together. The whole vicious circle started up again and one night it was finally all I could stand and told him that he had better like wherever he got drunk because he would not be coming home again. That was his last drink and he has been sober now for over 15 years now. We have both learned. He takes antidepressants and increases them when necessary, backing down the dose again when the crisis is over. If I notice he is falling into apathy, I mention it, he denies it, thinks about it and then increases his meds again. One of the good things is that the new generation of antidepressants does not stifle the personality or flat line the emotions, it simply allows the person to cope with life and enjoy the things that others enjoy. I would not be alive without him and I have learned so very much from this wonderful man with one little flaw that could have destroyed his life and mine.

I could go on, but the other stories do not vary enough to add anything material here.

So Long

I can not believe it has been over 6 weeks since I have been here. My apologies. I did not mean to stay away. RL got in the way and learning to adjust to this new way of being in my skin. The later stages of COPD are taking their toll, both physically and emotionally, however that is not what I wish to write about, at least not directly.

I have a dear friend who has suffered from mild chronic depression for a lifetime. When the rug got pulled out from under him a couple years ago, he slid into a full blown major depression and those whom he had helped and supported in the past refused to understand what he was going through. Through misguided love for him, they proceeded to browbeat him and give him all sorts of well meaning advice, meant to get him to pull up his sox and get on with it. I have also been guilty of that self same thing in the past before having to learn more than I ever wanted to know about depression.

I want to write about what I know about this cruel disabling disease and share what I have learned about dealing with it. The next two posts will be about that same thing from my own point of view.

There is a dissertation on healing tears waiting in the wings to be written, and my beloved husband has ordered a new state of the art note book computer for me to write either a revision of my first book or a new one on. I am so loved and cared about by my family and friends by birth, marriage and choice, both in RL and here in cyberspace that I thank the Creator every day for my life (even when I am not sure I want it).