Monday, July 26, 2010

The Awareness of Pain & the Pain of Awareness

I've been thinking about this post for many days, but it kept feeling overwhelming to me because I was in the middle of all the muck that I wanted to write about.  Now I feel like I am emerging a bit and am getting some perspective...if not just a wee amount.

Remember, too, that I am really struggling with how much to write.  I mean, I am essentially a private person.  You'll notice (or not) that I don't write a lot of details on this blog about my past.  I generalize, assuming that people who need the writing, people who have had similar experiences...they'll "get it."

Like we are talking in code.

At the same time, I want to be honest.  I want to be open.  I think it is super important to my own development and growth and healing, as well as to those who might be reading this blog for this very reason.

Here we go...

When I returned to dance just a year ago, it was a Miracle of the sort that cannot be overemphasized.  My life was suddenly filled with the possibility of Big Happiness, a possibility I had sorta decided was just not for me. I had thought that the level of contentment, peace, and love that I had was more than enough, and it really scared me to even think about asking the Universe for more.  I didn't want to "jinx" what I already had.  And staying small and relatively unseen felt comfortable and safe.

Then I started dancing again, and God, it makes me breathless to think about it.  I cannot describe to you the Joy and the Big. I do not have the words to tell you accurately what happened to my heart.  And what continues to happen to this day.

I really thought I was done.

I really thought that I had completely defeated all the demons in my life.

I did not know that my mind and body and soul were waiting for me to be strong enough to handle the demons that were hiding in the deepest and darkest places.

When my depression started to leak back into my life a few months ago, I tried to ignore it.  I kept telling myself that it wasn't real, that it was just old habit, that more dancing was all I needed.

More dancing is always good, don't get me wrong.  I continue to work on this every day because I know I am who I am because of it.

But the depression and anxiety kept growing regardless of the dancing and this just made me feel worse.  How could this be?  I had found my "thing!"  I had found my bliss path.  I had found what I was born to be.

I had, but like I said, the mind and body are brilliant and they knew to wait for my Strength to assert itself before allowing me to go all the way down.

I started getting angry.  My argumentative defenses started to take over my life, which includes Marcy, of course.  Poor thing.

I got to the point where I really thought (and Marcy really thought) that I might be losing it.  That I might need to go into a hospital.

I was devastated.

And one day, Marcy came home with a probable diagnosis for what was going on.  We were desperate for an explanation, for some sort of guidance through this hell, and a diagnosis seemed like the right place to start.

At first, it brought me a level of awareness that brought some relief.  Naming something is very powerful.

But if you name it incorrectly, watch out.

When I first attempted talk therapy 15 years ago, my therapist immediately had me read a book about Borderline Personality Disorder, convinced that one of my parents fit the bill.

I came back to her and said, "But this is me..."

She said, "NO! Children of BPD often fit the bill but it's learned behaviors that can be overcome..."

Phew.  Fast forward to recent time and Marcy and I were sorta convinced that I really was BPD.  Like I said, at first, this felt like a relief...oh, look...this is what has been happening to me.

But then I started to get worse.  As I wrote to a blogging friend, this diagnosis was birthing some serious self-disgust.  I hated this person.  Everything felt wrong.

Then (angels singing here and light coming down from the heavens) I happened upon the work of Dr. Judith Herman, who believes (and she is not alone) that many, many women who are diagnosed BPD are actually Complex PTSD, which leads to horrible consequences.

The mainstream psychological community, for instance, perceives most personality disorders as serious mental illness that can never be cured.  On the other hand, Complex-PTSD is not an illness but an injury and just that change in language means the world!

There is hope!  There are methods to overcome this.  Lo and behold, one of the most promising methods is all about getting into your body.

So we come back to the beginning of this long

Beautiful dance.

Also, as soon as we identified the Complex PTSD (which is way way way more accurate for me and my history), we created this boat load of coping mechanisms, and here is the most beautiful thing of all:


I have so much work to do, but I am not afraid of work.  I am afraid, though, of being told that I am "crazy" and "broken" and completely "unfixable."  That was too much.

Now I know with just time and patience and care that there really is that Big Happy in my future, that dancing was not lying to me at all.  Rather, dancing was making me strong enough and brave enough to move toward the Big Happy.


svasti said...

The wisdom of our body and mind is amazing, isn't it? The way it reveals only as much as you can handle at any one time. And how when you get stronger, more can be revealed but only when you are ready.

And so, you are ready.

I honestly don't believe that anyone is "crazy" and "broken" and completely "unfixable." Although in some cases, people have more work to do than others. A LOT more. But it is still doable I think.

Ah... Big Happy. It's still something of a dream for me. Not something I see in my near future but I refuse to give up :)

Linnea said...

Ugh, this stuff is hard, isn't it?

Yesterday, I was so far down in the pit of self-loathing brought on by numerous factors from the heat to an injured shoulder to an utter lack of time to myself that I wanted nothing more than to run away.

I agree with savasti -- I don't believe anyone is completely unfixable. I believe you are amazing, and so very brave to share this. As for Big Happy ... I have no answers there. I mostly strive for Big Contentment these days, but that's only because I've discovered that for me, balance is crucial.

I believe in you.

StorytellERdoc said...

Incredible post, C. I know you are not one for labels, so to have such self-awareness and self-insight into the source of some problems, only to find that you are not alone, is a HUGE step forward. Keep going, friend...

Linda-Sama said...

there is a concept in Buddhism about "pain and the pain of pain." it is akin to when Buddha spoke about the "two arrows." the first arrow is when something is done to us. the second arrow is our reaction to the first arrow, that which we create ourselves.

self-loathing is that second arrow.


Christine Claire Reed said...

Linda, Yes, exactly what I'm talking about. :)

I am thankful that I have attained enough awareness to SEE the second arrow, eventually. To SEE that it was not truth but that it had a story to tell me that was important to pay attention to.

Bob Weisenberg said...

Hi, Christine.

I've been enjoying this riveting series on the brain on Charlie Rose:

You won't find any of these researchers thinking any brain problems are ultimately unsolvable. Some of them actually suffer from the same problems they're studying.

Thanks for this blog and best wishes.

Bob Weisenberg

Christine Claire Reed said...

Bob! Excellent resource! Marcy and I do a lot of brain reading and research so we will definitely watch some of these.

And yes, I've written about neuroplasticity on here. It gives us all hope, doesn't it?

Emma said...

In short: I'm cheering you on as you continue to do this hard work! I'm so glad you're seeing some good results.

dragonfly said...

If it helps at all, I'm right there with you, so much so that I feel compelled to comment, I think for the first time here...

I love the title of the post, I am familiar with the whole 2 arrows thing but somehow "awareness of the pain and the pain of awareness" really captures it all very neatly.

I wish I had something specifically useful to offer but I don't, just a whole file of similiar observations and discoveries along the path. The brain is fascinating and fallible and most encouragingly... flexible.

Sometimes my brain feels a bit like a rescue puppy that needs to be gently and lovingly re-trained on how to use it's power for good... or maybe a shell shocked ship captain that needs to be coaxed into letting go and trusting that the rest of the ship will play their part... sometimes as the rest of the crew gets stronger the captain rebels a little, not quite ready to relinquish her grip, not quite convinced that everything really is now ok... you know what I mean?

It sounds like you are definitely on the right path even if there are still some dark, overgrown sections to work through... and dancing must surely be the absolute best way to travel on :)

(For some reason that made me think of the dr. seuss story about the pants... do you know that one? The whole premise of befriending the dark and things that lurk there is also really well worked out in Tsultrim Allione's book/process Feeding Your Demons... really interesting stuff, she's at Kripalu sometimes)


Brooks Hall said...

I love the way you are present for your process. This totally makes sense, and I can relate with what you've shared.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your great writing. This is what I am going through right now.
I am going through the Big Bliss period (I just switched from a vegan diet to a Raw food vegan diet about a week ago, and I am on cloud 9, and more inspired than I have been in YEARS about life)
I keep thinking to myself, "when is the Big depression and the darkness going to blind fold me from behind again?"
I do kundalini yoga to help get me out of my head and into my body. This usually helps me when I am feeling empty or bored.
My childhood was all of the "adults" childhood. With a BPD/agoraphobic mother, alcoholic/anti-social/brain damaged from drugs father, an older brother who did drugs and committed suicide when I was seven years old, I went to live with my drug addicted sister in law (his widow) in his house and many other family friends (read: drug addicts) that lived with us, and so on...I was diagnosed with BPD when I was eighteen years old. I suffer from severe PTSD. I understand where you are coming from. Your blog has such a calming effect on me. Just knowing that someone else is out there that understands. Thank you for being a constant inspiration to me "in code"

Allysa said...

I'm so happy for you that you're finding ways of healing, that place of what if I never get better? what if this never ends? is one of the scariest places to be in, It is wonderful to here stories of moving forward like this one. thank you.

Lori-Lyn said...

Beautiful, beautiful post.

Jaliya said...

Talking in code ... yes. I haven't written much in detail about what happened in my early life, either ... There comes a time when what happened then isn't figural any more ... What becomes most important is what is happening *now* and what we, as maturing adults, can do with what's happening ...

Christine, I'm very interested to know the small details of what turned you to dance ... to move ... I struggle so with the existential paralysis of severe trauma ... I've often wondered if there's anyone out there teaching yoga (or other such gentle disciplines) specifically for people who are *terrified* to move.

I will say that I experienced violent physical abuse as early as two years of age ... My survival quickly became dissociation, smallness, invisibility ... I would barely breathe, let alone move. In the 80s and 90s I devoted myself to learning, being certified in, and practicing somatic-based therapies ... and here I am now, seemingly all frozen over again. Hmm.

Like you, I've experienced a major "leakage" of depression and an awful upsurge of C-PTSD symptoms ... and I completely understand your horror at the possibility of a BPD label being attached to you ... *and* I agree with Judith Herman -- big time!!

The essential injury, I think, is a grave rupture in our relational bonds -- and ability to bond -- when we have been existentially wounded ... and being the creatures we are, we will do *anything* to bond with someone or something ... I once allowed myself to bond to a therapist who wanted me to call her "Mom" (while paying for the service, of course). I was a black hole of need at the time, and the "therapy" did a horrible number on me.

I have come to be very mindful of who I bond with ... and what I want to attach myself to. My first bond has to be with my own life force, my own light (as you wrote of in your most recent post) ... and then with those fellow souls with whom I resonate deeply ... and then to the beauties of life like music, literature, colour, pattern and design ...

Christine, you are a sage :-)

The demons are never defeated, are they ... and yet I think it was Rainer Maria Rilke who wrote that if his demons were to be taken away from him, so would his angels ... It was a perspective that caught me and made me think ...

I think too that demons become daimons if we offer them enough respect to see them as worthy opponents -- and even lifesavers in their paradoxical ways ... One of my "demons" was always the demon of shame --> therefore I was always silent, small, as nonexistent as possible. There have been times when forcing myself into that total silence saved me from further injury ...

... So I have come to respect those "demons" for how they helped me to stay alive and sane ... and I relate differently with them now. I don't see them as demons anymore -- more as messengers of distress ...

I want to thank you, Christine, for this post today --> A good friend of mine has just been diagnosed w/ BPD ... I am going to get her in touch with Judith Herman's work ... THANK YOU xoxoxoxoxo

Jaliya said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing. I, too, agree with Judith Herman's compassionate view of BDP.

I also read your posts with understanding, because I, too, struggle. I'm older than you and unable to cope for most of my life. I have been on disability (your ss?) for many years and have a lot of attachment trauma. While I have loving friends, I have not formed a lasting relationship with a caring partner. Fortunately, I have been in 12 step for many years and thus understand one day at a time and at least, trying to live in the moment.

I'm L MCG on your 'friends' page, but don't post about my issues because of family on FB. I truly doubt that I can heal. I don't seem to be able to 'get it', but I have to learn to be okay with that. I have many freinds who have healed, however, and they are an inspiration to me.

I am looking forward to buying Clarissa Pinkola Estes's book "The Stone Child". I have the tape. Many blessings to you and your healing journey. Lisa

Art D. said...

You're very brave to put all of that out there...

My therapist once mentioned that petting furry creatures has been shown to elevate mood in the short term,(she was serious), so if you feel yourself sliding into a pit, go see Dr. Zoe. I'm sure she'll fit you in.

good luck!

Megan Matthieson said...

I will never ever ever see you as anyone but the light that you are. All the labels and difficulties and past stuff and present challenges are waves in the ocean. The ocean is you. I get that every time I read your post. Keep dancing and loving.

writeonyoga said...

Thanks so much for sharing this. I recently shared my experience with depression on my blog. I hope that one day we can talk about mental illness just like a case of cancer or a broken arm. It is real, and we have to start talking about it. Namaste.

Gretchen said...

Your honesty continues to amaze me. I love that you're willing to share this incredibly personal thing that still has such a stigma attached to it. You inspired me to tell me own story on my blog. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your strength, honesty, and positivity.

Susan said...

Yes. I am sighing with relief for you to be finding your healing path.