PTSD

The wounds that keep on opening

The ship frozen in crystal

The nightmare come unbidden

The wraith that keeps on rising

The overcoming never overcome

The tragedy recurring.

 

How do I come into the present again?

Today I forget what it means to be anything other than a damaged tapestry.

 

How much energy is the past going to swallow today?

Today my self-defence mechanisms are wearing out their own gears.

(Lucky we are built as anxiety-machines! Otherwise there would be nothing left)

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Contradictions

So many contradictions have been unravelling in me recently. It has been an endeavour of two parts: one part an intellectual challenge of ‘Western thinking’ and one part delving into my deepest emotions and lived experience of subconscious wounding. The former I have some degree of direction over, the latter has largely happened to me.

The ‘Western Mind’ wants answers! The problem is, often life’s answers are contradictory. But it wants one anyway and this leads it in circles, or even, disastrously, to throw up its arms and say ‘this just doesn’t make sense!’ or ‘that is just the way it is!’ When it comes to abuse and psychology, this is dangerous. Such lack of understand perpetuates the vileness of abuse, and makes a mystery of something which is uncomfortable, but nowhere near as arcane as it may seem.

At any time there are two forces at work, conscious and unconscious. What the unconscious wounded self seeks, may not be what the conscious mind desires. Hence why you can get what you want without knowing why, or get what you want even if it acts against your own wellbeing. People who deal with only the conscious mind, who deny things such as the need to resolve wounds, who naively and arrogantly think they can just override the subconscious, are those most likely to continue destructive patterns. They are also the most likely to be confused, looking for black or white answers and motivations. But something can be black and white at the same time, and this must first be accepted to truly challenge and understand abusive relations.

Contradictions

There are so many contradictions inherent in us, in you, in me. The greatest in my view is the wounded self. As a child one is helpless, in the guardianship of two or more adults. The wounds of that early era go deep, and we all have them. But some people have more wounds than others. A painful childhood, helpless, hurt, wounded, leaves deep scars. There is a fundamental contradiction: no matter how cruel a parent, a child is small and vulnerable, they also need their guardians, who are large and in control.

So when a child is abused and hurt by their guardians, they have contradictory ideas at the core of their subconscious.  A child abused will learn whatever strategies they can to deal with a seemingly impossible, inescapable and traumatic experience. These strategies can be carried into adulthood. They evolved for a reason, they had their place, and they are a valid part of their being; when they are used effectively. Yet the love and  desire for attachment they feel for their guardians, from an age when they could know no better, also remains. They may want to please their guardians, or even heal their wounds with love. This duty to love is shored up by the values a parent can force into their young – and you don’t have to believe in them for them to work on your subconscious. Simultaneous to belief in obedience and parental authority (i.e. the seeds of abuse), you could believe in dignity and mutual respect. The result is a mangled contradiction.

I want to stand up to these abusive tyrants who caused so much damage, but my deepest core trembles at this great blasphemy. I want to be respected and treated as an equal, yet my deepest core wants to surrender and be cared for by my guardians.

One ultimately has to choose. Do you want to relate with abusers who will likely never change their ways, who will deceive and confuse, hurting themselves and others till the day they die? Or, do you want to learn strategies to cope, and find people who will help you live without that fundamental connection, to stand in truth and face the consequences of such a decision?

What else can I advocate for but that which I truly believe in, at the core of my being. To be free from contradiction, to stand for truth.

Without a font of expression, the contradictory feelings remain in the body, deep, deep at the core. They can make bad feeling seem inevitable and arcane, instigating depression. A child wounded will carry rage at their helplessness into adulthood, lashing out at others without truly knowing why. One of gentler aspect may hurt themselves, with no means of resolving the energies inside them. One who seeks not to understand themselves is the one who is capable of greatest evil. One who denies the power of the deeps, is hiding in cowardice from their own shadows.

Healing the wounded child

The shift away from wounded child to adult is harder than it may seem. Abuse contains the seeds of its replication. Abusers will hold onto whatever power they can, whether or not the outcomes are good. They do not care about wellbeing, they care about power; the domination of others that allows them to escape their inner-fears and feelings of helplessness as children.

Thus the abused and the deeply wounded, no matter how much they may consciously long for something better, have to make that an actuality – this journey always begins against the odds. In a society where it is increasingly more difficult just to meet basic needs, this makes escape even harder. Materially, freedom itself is a challenge.

But there is, I believe, a deeper contradiction and problem, which must precede material challenges. The abused child may have their sometimes-useful shell, but also a deep distrust of the world, and of others. Such distrust is useless. It is very easy to develop a paranoid mind-set, to generalize the world of adults as vile, abusive creatures, when this was your first experience of the world. Yet the distrust perpetuates the abuse, for not being able to love or open up to new people, good people, the abused has to settle for the ‘devil they know’. They also live in contradiction – wanting to be loved but being too distrustful to truly open up; wanting to heal, but daring not to look within.

As I grow older, I learn how important it is to be vulnerable in front of people, and to see it as a sign of strength, a demonstration of trust. The only way out of the abusive relation to the family is to practice this vulnerability with others; to found a new family. Open to the wounded self, we can heal ourselves and heal others at the same time. Trust is needed before healing can take place. Without trust, there is no healing. And without healing, constant healing, the wounds ache, and people continue doing screwed up things. Healing requires an acceptance of our vulnerability, and to turn our love and compassion in upon ourselves, as much as others.

An end to abuse

Abuse benefits no one. The tyrant gains nothing – their wounded selves remain, they paint a sad mark on the tapestry of history, they have not magnanimity of character, and they are essentially the worst of humanity. The abused are least benefited, but worse so if they also become abusers, carrying the attitudes of abuse and the scars of wounding to unfortunate conclusions. There should be no sympathy or respite for those who abuse – to do so is to negate their basic responsibility as sentient creatures. Nothing justifies abuse of another, and to say that being abused determines character is the deepest moral cowardice.

Building a new, mutual way to relate in truth, prepared to face and heal our deepest wounded selves is the only way forward. It is, I would venture, the prerequisite to a better society, and thus world. No ideology or set of attitudes can displace the depth of subconscious desire and motivation, and to live without understanding of this fundamental force is the ultimate folly, and cause of the repetition of so much that is wrong in the world.

 

Deterioration / Recurrence

As of yesterday, my mental health started to rapidly deteriorate. I had sensed it slowly coming in on me, but never thought I could be taken back to that state.

Yesterday, it was precisely one year since this crisis began – when I thought my brain injured, close to possible death, on a traumatic journey to the hospital. I had been dreading this time quite a bit.

But correlation does not imply causation. It could be some kind of PTSD symptom, or it could be closer to a coincidence. The weather has been consistently bad, things to do have dried up a bit, and the person  I am currently living with (not out of choice) has spent the last week or so being extremely critical and occasionally demeaning, herself clearly in the throes of depression and misery.

Whatever the reason – and I strongly think it is more a recurrence of old anxiety – I could barely sleep last night and am in no fit state even to volunteer at a community garden. Its back to being quite debilitated by anxiety – a tremulous state that is also strangely gratifying and earthly. My body is taking over again, and it is pulling me away from the mind.

I used to fear a  recurrence of agoraphobia and severe panic, something I found very crippling and humiliating last year. But its impossible to reach those depths again. This time I know I will get out of it, and that by exposing myself I can heal the worst of it quicker. Still, these days are deeply uncomfortable and harmful to my wellbeing. Like anyone I think I would rather be able to turn feelings off for a bit, or take a break from it all.

There are a few silver linings. My resilience is much higher. I can’t turn off the feelings of absolute shittiness, but I am better equipped to endure them. I also know I have no medical emergency, this is a disorder of the mind. I know what anxiety is, and some strategies to tone it down. Mantras and little phrases have been helpful (anxiety is adaptive, exposure is excellent, and so on). In short, I at least know the limits of how bad it can get now that I am more confident and trained. I have also discovered my limits quite well – such as how much I can do after a night of insomnia, and fear the outcomes of such things less (I can at least write a decent blog post!)

Recurrence means I was right to hold on to my medication! I thought getting off the meds was the sign of some linear progression, but obviously not. Two tabs of Valium go back into my pocket and here we go again.

Perhaps this is a sign of the life which awaits me. Periodic debilitating anxiety, triggers and high stress levels. Perhaps this marks a new phase which will force me to adapt or suffer.

But in spite of all the shit, I am making headway with psychotherapy. So much is unconscious, hence why it seems so hard to explain why we feel a certain way at a certain time, why things trigger us, and so forth. I find it hard to constantly stay at this level of depth – no wonder people like their distractions and routines! But going deep is something I must do, for I am a delver and this is how I work my way out of tunnels.

Ultimately it is better to be thoughtful and sensitive, suffering your extra share of the world’s woes then to be an absolute, out and out drone. Better to be yourself than to conform to the destructive paradigm of the age, and better to be moral and live for your community than be a self-centred prick.

I don’t have many regrets – in a way I have brought myself here. What I must not do is get complacent again. Things had to change, which is why my inner-child is screaming and not letting me sleep it all off. Until I find the keys to the subconscious mind, it is limbo and occasional hell.

A delver, I have no choice but to dive in…

 

Deep are these wounds

I)

Oppression and belittlement

Leave deepest wounds.

After all these years

Still, resting on top of spikes

No bed can be made

Or elysium found.

 

A shadow follows me everywhere

Begging to be seen.

It is ugly and the contours of its face

Are twisted in sorrow

Self-pity, pleading for mercy.

In the next moment it flips

Infinite in its hatred

To spite, clawing down, dragging

A weight inside my skull

A child crying in pain.

 

The abusers take your mind

Like the seed of a rapist

Planted inside a womb

And the foetus inside

Cannot be torn free easily

And not without guilt

Or shame, the army and fortress

Of the abusers

Respectively.

 

II)

They are clueless and warped

Like hungry cattle upon pasture

Leaving nothing to grow again.

No words can reach through

The barred gates of ignorance

No sentiment of mutual love

Can replace their lust for power

Over anything, even their own.

 

They strive to control and dominate

So warped are they themselves

Unable to understand their own inner wounds

They perpetuate pains

Then fly away to lick wounds

And put on apologetic airs

Whilst the demons inside grow again in might.

 

For anyone deep in the bowels

Of these castles – no hope within its walls

No promise of inheritance or freedom

For they will grasp on to their meagre power

Til their corpses rot on petty thrones.

That is all they have.

No soul remains, and all dreams

Withered away into nothing long ago

Only bitterness and ignorance

Can fuel such wretched, barely sentient people.

 

Only outside the walls can the call be heard

The cry for help like a raven’s caw

But not so easily now.

The deranged society around us

Has closed ears, and a venomed-blade

Behind its cloak (a suit of humanitarianism

And a tie of liberty).

 

Only the cracks in the pavement

Offer any chance, the bands of fighters

Scattered lights,  embattled souls

Awash in anxiety and agony

Alike to yours, but with different abuses

And different wounds inside.

They are the only choice and the only chance

Of escape, and then thriving.

 

For it is too late to go back now.

Far have we stepped away

From the cloying circle of conformity

And the addictive drug of obedience.

Long have we dismantled the destructive engine of capital

We cannot go back now.

So all we have is each other

And solidarity.

 

Stay close

 

III)

No one can truly hurt you

More than you can hurt yourself.

The mind is like a poison

Upon a natural plant

An over-used organ, draining its power

And better silenced most days.

No one can harm you

Nor fulfil you or complete you.

This you must do yourself.

Everything you need is already in you

From birth til death;

The only real light you might know

The only real flame against

This cold age of nihilisms.

 

Nurture that soul and respect it

Try not to sell it short

Or sell it out.

 

When you know yourself

As much as you can know that fragment of divinity

Others will know, and you can go among them

In union and friendship

And then you might begin to know freedom

And dignity.

On being dragged down

There is such a thing as being dragged down. And there is also such a thing as dragging others down. The theme of dragging has been…dragging at my heels for about a week now.

I am unpacking what it means to be dragged down. And more importantly, what can be done to prevent it from happening.

Today it stood out in stark relief against a hopeless mist of self-criticism and despair of other people remaining always as they are. It stood out and it said: ‘You can only be criticized by another if you take on board their criticism.’

It is so obvious it should not need spelling out, but there it is. In a way it offers me some freedom from anxiety, and a strength to be myself in my space. You don’t have to avoid the dragging claws of some defeatist, or overly critical person. There words have no power once you realize that it is you feeding them most of that power (in effect, their criticism from without is like a reflection of being overly self-critical from within, and as we have seen before, being self-critical is the path to sadness and makes you more prone to being abused).

Granted, someone can intend to hurt you or drag you down, and this in itself provokes a ‘why?’ and negative feelings. But the full export of such negativity can only be realized if you value the person trying to drag you down’s opinion.

And sadly, as we taught that everyone has a ‘sacred’ right to their opinion and should be listened to, I can understand why this is engrained so deep.

The harsh fact remains however, that some people are not worth listening to. Nature does not spread brains out equally among its children – not even within a species (and least of all in homo sapiens sapiens.) Tune out their voice, let their words flow through you, don’t try to change them. An overly critical idiot will be so until they decide not to be, or, heaven’s be blessed, grow old and die.

Which leads me to my next paragraph on the crab claws of down dragging – empathy.

Empathy also can be extremely destructive in such a dynamic of criticizer and criticized. Being trained to be empathic and understanding, to see these things as virtues, it is very easy to be dragged into a pit of someone else’s despair and defeatism. Empathy and being a good, caring person does not make you the stronger, nor able to handle the emotions of another. The hate of a spited old woman can be the strongest thing in the world, and nothing can overcome or change it. To empathize with that is to enter into its logic, and do oneself a great disservice. Being empathic is like having skin made of sponge – the ‘water’ of the outside enters into you whether you want it to or not; the words of criticism effect some irrational reflex before the conscious mind has a chance to process the truth of it. You will always be playing catch-up to someone else’s words if you are too empathetic.

Best not to listen to some people. This is the only way to navigate the world without being constantly dragged at.

 

 

 

What do I really want?

What do I want?

What do I really, really want?

Do I want a, want a, want a, want, zigga-zigga uh?

No. That would be nonsensical and ridiculous; a post-modern maze best avoided. I know I don’t want that.

So what do I want?

I have wanted many things in this crisis-year, but mostly one thing. A place to belong. A safe place, a nurturing place, a place free from pressure, a place full of life, energy and respect. This has conflicted with another thing I wanted – the freedom to explore, to travel light as a feather, and the danger of adventure.

Conflicting things, which require a balance to attain. An impossible equation I nonetheless strive to solve.

Everything has pros and cons. Yes, even the direst material circumstances has some pros, even if there are much greater cons. And even the most privileged of all people have cons to their privileged life. Weighing up what we truly want means accepting pros and cons, and choosing the right option for us at the time. But in the desiring part of my soul, that desire is pure. It wants the best and it wants it all. In a sense, it is an overachiever and a dreamer!

Expectations are high. Nothing else will do.

What do I really want? How can I know when I have found it?

I am in the fortunate position to be semi-amorphous, so I can try things .

Advice: Don’t say you want to be somewhere until you have been there. Go there, go away. Do you want to go back? Listen to your gut feelings, let your inner-guide show you the way.

What do I want, if anything at all?

There is such a thing as self-delusion.

There is such a thing as rationalizing-away the real world.

There is such a thing as falsehood.

I find that the deep truth of what I want lurks in the shadow-realm of the subconscious. Symbols can take me into those stygian depths with disturbing regularlity – fascinations and fetishes beyond the ‘light’ of the conscious mind.

Often these symbols have been quite erotic and amourous in nature, but there is no love in my life and never has been.

It is all a mystery. Do not put too much faith in the study of the mind, nor the answers of the sages.

What you are is an enigma, and always will be. Necessarily – your consciousness has elements unique only to you, which can be experienced only through you. Even in moments of absolute subsumation and connection with another consciousness, you return to yours, and you experience the loss of ego through your own self. That self will dissipate only on the occasion of death.

The beauty of life is that it is beyond explanation (though art and poetry might come close to getting a feel for its sublimity).

So what you are, like what you want, lurks in this shifting realm of the delightfully unknowable. So best to choose something, and see how it works.

There is no perfect answer, so delight in the imperfection of being human as a human being.

 

Guilt – a major weapon in the abuser’s armoury

An abuser can use guilt as a means of control. Most people are concerned about things such as reputation, moral standing, good character. This is because most people are fundamentally decent. These are all good traits. However the more they try to be a moral person, the more culpable they can be to guilt. If someone self-reflective and sensitive is told they have done something wrong, they tend to take that criticism on. The feeling of having done wrong hits before rational thinking can consider what has happened. The good person can find themselves in a mire of guilt without knowing how they ended up there. This is why an abuser can use false accusations and false wounds as a means of power. They strike with the guilt card, the full extent of the blow is only revealed later.

Taking on a lot of guilt makes us limp, overly self-obsessed and prone to being harmed. Feeling guilty is not a sign of moral character or virtue. Guilt means one feels one has transgressed upon a rule. When that rule is something obscene (such as no sex before marriage or thou shalt not question thy abuser), then that guilt reinforces the obscenity. Guilt is a trap, set in the mind of the abused, trained to snare themselves. Soon they are tip-toeing around their own thoughts. Being able to challenge guilt, to hold it in your hand, turn it to and fro and consider it in the light of day, is essential to avoiding falling into this abuse trap.

Guilt can give people a sense of false duty. For instance, an abuser whining about the impact it would have upon him if he was “abandoned”, can put into the heart of the abused a sense of guilt. ‘If only I had stuck with it and changed him!’ This duty is the morality of an abuser, forced into the mind of the abused through manipulation of their good character.

Obscene rules and expectations are planted in the minds of good people as surely as the moon controls the tides. Being able to challenge these rules and expectations we can see how we are being manipulated. Feeling no guilt for upsetting abusive people and their obscene, violent power-hierarchies, we can move away from them easier. That may mean moving into a void – obscene rules for all their evil are still familiar. This is a leap of faith that is most necessary; a journey down an unknown path that leads to liberty. We have to trust that the void, if it is there, will be filled.

If you want to feel guilty about something, try starting with guilt for letting yourself down first. Then abandon that guilt, because little productive is done in it’s name.

We should love ourselves and other worthy people not from a fear of guilt, but as a good in itself. This is a much healthier love, a positive love.

Defy those guilt-inducing rules inside you. Despoil those temples of patriarchy and hierarchy and evil. The truly sacred then awaits you.

The greatest sin

The greatest sin you can commit is to try and perfect yourself.

To hold yourself up to impossible expectations.

To push your body far beyond its capabilities.

To build expectations to be ever happy, ever productive, ever active.

FUCK THAT.

Perfection is self-harm. The light, when too strong, blinds eyes and makes you feel sick.

Crawl in shadows and feel earth under your fingertips.

Show where you are weak, because people will find out anyhow.

Be a spectrum and a totality, not a linear light with its disembodied soul.

 

But the greatest sin of all is to try and perfect yourself.

 

FUCK THE CAPITALIST WORLD
FUCK THE CAPITALIST WORLD
FUCK THE CAPITALIST WORLD

 

CBT: Challenging core beliefs

We focused this week on challenging core beliefs, primarily by recognizing unhelpful thinking patterns. This is the hardest thing you will ever have to do, the deepest you will have to go.

What can change the nature of a man? CBT? Psychotherapy? Himself? Anything at all? Lets find out.

We challenged one of my deepest core beliefs – that I am weak. This is the dark cousin of ‘I am useless’ and ‘I am undeserving’. Its evil brother is ‘I should be perfect.’ How these things unravel all at once.

My lack of belief in my own strength, this disconnection from my body, makes my own sensations frightening; it makes an enemy of my own corpus. Such a belief has been on in the background, like some annoying programme on Windows running undetected, causing havoc and misery. For years I have looked at the world through these glasses, ignoring evidence to the contrary and focusing, manically, on where it is proven true. To feel weak, to have this as a core belief, is terrible. It makes the world seem much more frightening, it makes doing anything outside of your comfort zone a barrier.

This crisis, which began in early January, was a physical crisis (concussion syndrome), and now at its end it is a physical crisis (bad foot and wrist syndrome). The way my mind fixates and catastrophizes has not changed much – I’m just more used to feeling like shit and being able to wait it out. But the fundamental core belief has not been altered yet. I don’t know or trust myself. My short-term strategies to deal with things are preventing the great update. For instance, being overly cautious about a bad foot, going out full crutches and missing out on things, is anxieties way of being absolutely certain that things are going to be ok. This will then confirm itself by its own methods, however much longer and worse it makes the suffering before recover begins.

But the desire for absolute certainty is a sure means to kill life dead. Life is uncertainty, being out of control is an inevitability, accepting a note of chaos in the symphony of order is healthy. The means by which my anxiety looks after me, trying to ensure an optimum perfect self by its own high standards, sabotages itself and makes its actualization impossible. It is a vicious cycle – the need for perfection creates anxiety about that perfection, preventing any healthy movement toward something better.

I learnt today that the human brain will take an easier route, seeking patterns, making predictions, catastrophizing, trying to protect us. The thinking patterns it develops manifest subconsciously, and operate in the background without our knowing. No wonder if all seems like nothing can change! To displace this toxic thinking with something better is a vast undertaking. The anxious mind sees things in black and white, things must either be perfect and secure or not at all. It catastrophizes, blowing things out of proportion. It mistakes emotions for absolute facts. It filters out what it doesn’t like and leans toward its own subconscious bias.

If I don’t slow down and start changing things now, life is only going to get worse. This crisis has been horrible at times, but it could have been a living hell. In a way it came at a not-so-bad time: better a 70% debilitation when you are healthy than a 90% debilitation later in life when you are jaded and starting to crumble. The question is can I make the changes and eke some success out of life, or be scorched out like a candle burnt at both ends, having never truly achieved anything.

Fucking hell bro, things got very, very real.

Back to catastrophe!!!

It was all going so well.

Panic disorder was all but gone, and there was no way I was going to get complacent about it. I had a regular routine for my week – two days of garden volunteering, three or four days of adventures and meeting friends, and one day of rest. I finally made it back to see my comrades in West London, and all seemed to be improving in a decidedly linear and inevitable fashion!

Then I kicked a wall three times.

It might sound stupid, viewed out of context, but when you consider that I had insomnia for many nights, and that it was 2am, and that the man next door was singing the same, appalling melody over and over again (interspersed with the occasional wail-like shout and return), I think it was almost justified. If only I had sandals on and hadn’t bruised my heel!

But I didn’t have sandals on, and it looks like I did. So now I can’t walk properly and go around on crutches. Missing work at the garden makes me feel utterly incompetent and useless. Not being able to socialize is making me fear the envelopment of darkness again. Already I have less interest in doing the things I love.

But this is, as they say, the real world bruv.

Anxiety latched onto my heel very quickly. For the first few days after the wall-kick it was fine. After that it started to ache. On that night I slept about an hour and a half. It was my first time with cold sweats (horrible) and a real deep sense of anxiety and danger. What if it’s broken? What if I am trapped here? What if I get the same abject emotions as before and fall back into a void? What if an opportunity comes up and I have to miss it? Will I have to miss volunteering tomorrow? Cyclically these thoughts and similar dooms went round and round. I tried to challenge the significance of them or question them, but this would only make them go away so long.

Horrible.

Naturally the catastrophizing wasn’t an accurate prediction. The next day at A&E went pretty smoothly. I was also greatly helped by family, who I was at first afraid to expose my vulnerability to. The anxiety still fixated on the injury, even after confirmed it was nothing serious, because it could become so. My leg muscles, for instance, feel sore from trying to compensate for heel pain. This kind of thing can make you lame in the long run, which does not bare thinking about. But the anxiety also forced me to work out how to deal with the situation. To accept that I have to rest. To elevate the leg. To change my posture. To ice it twice a day. To get decent insoles and medical tape to protect the heel. Even though anxiety has made me feel like utter shite on a daily basis, it has also driven me to sort this crisis out and stop it from becoming worse.

So its back to catastrophe! It shows how frail a thing ‘progress’ is I suppose. I thought I was doing well, but maybe I was just putting on a band aid. Things have to change for me to be healthy – not just things like posture and medical related, but on a much more fundamental and difficult level. I couldn’t keep going as I was before, and I was in a way imitate that before the heel struck the wall in rage.

Lets see what comes out of this. I should focus on the positives: it has brought me much closer to Professor Tolkien (I have had the Silmarillion lying around for months) and inspired me to finally start my own mythic stories. It has taught me about the foot, and how important one little part on  the lowest bit of the human being really is. I will never take having an unhurt skull for granted again. Now I can add mobility to that list of gratitudes.

Hopefully I end up looking after myself better. I always had a sense that I wouldn’t live much past 40, and that my latter years would be terrible, painful, warped and bent! Acknowledging such anxiety, I have to make sure it isn’t so.