This is as complete of a story as I can make of some things that I have either done or have had happen to me in the last couple of months since I last posted my rant about psychiatrists, medications, and mental health in America. Since that post, it’s pretty easy to break time down into three main chunks: that last post until 7/11, 7/11-22, and 7/22 to now, 8/23.
Between my last post and 7/11, I basically ranted and raved on Twitter about the various mental health-related injustices of the world and researched that and related topics until I had circled back to The Icarus Project, the first serious alternative mental healthcare website I ever ran across. They’re often classified as anti-psychiatry, but they’re just highly critical of psychiatry. As am I now. I need meds: I’m not stupid and I’m aware enough of my mental and emotional processes to understand that I need chemical help from time to time. But not to the extent that Western psychiatry insists I do. Nor should many of the thoughts and thought processes I have be dismissed as pathological.
Around the same time, a terrible old feeling set in, the sensation that “every day is exactly the same” that I had for at least four years, if not more. I had been taking an antipsychotic fairly regularly for about 3 weeks, at first for sleep problems, then for anxiety, then just for basic mood maintenance. That sucker kicked in and life ground to a halt, just like it had been the year before when I was taking meds I didn’t need. After three days of joyless existence, I said, “Oh hell no, we’re not doing this shit again,” and I threw two meds in the trash after making sure I wasn’t taking a dose high enough to require tapering (I wasn’t). Luckily I was using a mood tracker by then, so it was easy to quickly identify what was wrong. I also shot off an email to my old acupuncturist in the hopes she could help.
Serendipitously, pretty much at the same time I decided to take a different approach to treating my mental illness, my oldest and best friend sent me a link on 7/11 to a regrettably now-deceased gentleman who had had a very similar experience to mine. A couple of clicks later and I found myself at the ACISTE website: the American Center for the Integration of Spiritually Transformative Experiences. That pretty much kicked a door wide open and I spent the next few days reading about things like spiritual crisis, spiritual emergence, spiritual awakening, kundalini awakening, and several related topics. I looked at the list of bipolar/mania symptoms and compared it to the list of typical “awakening” symptoms, and there was no comparison. A skeptical psychiatrist would accuse me of seeing what I want to see, obscured by faulty mental processes, but I’ve got a really strong reality check in the form of a well-rounded and intelligent yet open-minded husband who has no problem telling me if I’ve got a really wacky idea, and that’s not the feedback I was getting.
7/17 began like most days, but it was pretty clear by mid-morning that my mind had taken off on a journey of its own, though not like the one it went on in May. I took note of it with more than a bit of alarm, but I felt pretty good and fairly grounded. I sent an email to X letting him know what was going on upstairs with the admonition DO NOT CALL MY SHRINK. I DO NOT NEED HIS HELP YET. I did ask him to call the pharmacy and refill one of my scrips, though, just in case.
The details of the next five days are important, but I’m still sorting them out, and they’re very personal, so I’m not willing to share much from all that, except to say that I had a divine encounter, and no one can tell me otherwise. Anyone who wants to argue with me needs to watch Contact and then we can talk. Just be prepared for a lengthy discussion about Occam’s Razor.
I will say this, though: you know that scene in The Matrix where Tank plugs Neo in for the first time and teaches him ju-jitsu in five seconds? That pained face followed by “holy shit I’ll have some more of that please”? It was a lot like that. While surfing. Now I’m on shore emptying my head as fast as I can, and learning to accept that I will never, ever be able to chase every ball that my brain spits out. As such, I’m learning to be selective about which balls to chase, knowing that if I let one go, if it’s really important I’ll circle back to it, or it to me. It also means I’m glued to my phone most of the time, because at the moment I need access to one of my apps to record my thoughts, pictures, photos, etc., or just to listen to music or something else audio: my ambient environment has become exceedingly important to me after ignoring it for…I don’t know how long.
My little trip was over by 7/23, and I pretty much took the week off. I didn’t tweet, I didn’t blog, and at the time I had not yet resumed the practice of keeping a daily document, something I began in June and promptly dropped around the same time as my last blog post, though I was tweeting madly at the time so there’s a record of my thoughts until 7/17. I was reading, though, mostly topics I was once familiar with but had abandoned long ago: magick, witchcraft, and astrology, mostly, with a heaping helping of Hinduism and a dash of Buddhism, largely set in a Jungian structure that I shaped to my own purposes. My spiritual framework is, um, eclectic and syncretic, to say the least. There’s something to offend and/or please everyone in my world, depending on their viewpoint. Monotheists? Well, we need to talk about dualism, but sure. Polytheists? Ah, my people! Agnostics? Would love to chat. Atheists? If you’re one of those dickhead atheists that is basically a fundamentalist without belief, then no, not unless you’re willing to talk about how you missed the point and wound up right back at dogma. Good work. Witches? I’ll see you folks in October, it’s been too long. Magicians? See the witches, but if one of you can talk chaos, we need to sit down. Did I miss anyone?
By the end of that week, I was back to “okay, I must write some of this stuff down before I forget it” and resumed daily writing on August 1, Lughnasadh. I’ve managed to write something, sometimes a lot, almost every day since then. I have a lot of mental energy in the morning, so I get up, usually with X around 7am, make coffee, listen to music and fiddle with my phone while I wait for it, sit outside and smoke and either think or fiddle with my phone some more, and until this past Monday, then I went back upstairs and sat in bed and worked all morning until lunch, ate, then did less mentally strenuous stuff in the afternoon unless my brain was on a roll I couldn’t stop, a common situation I’m working to address. I also try not to “work” in the evenings, again, unless my brain just will not shut up, in which case I’ve gotten used to watching/not-watching a movie or show while I take notes and do stuff on my phone.
I had already undertaken the task of creating a timeline using Facebook, Twitter, emails, and blog posts to reconstruct, as best as I could, my mental state since October of last year, which was when I first posted after months of silence, but before I had stopped taking the most offending meds. I had also begun the daunting but fascinating task of looking at the astrological transits for certain important dates. That would turn out to be a very eye-opening exercise. Let’s just say I no longer doubt the validity of astrology, though I’m willing to bet I don’t use it the way most astrologers do, not entirely. That’s another post, though.
After a few days of sorting, collating, collecting, and condensing data from various sources, I had enough information to spit out a bullet list of important points. I showed it to X and he was like, “hmmm, that needs fleshing out”. Right. I kept at it, being slightly desperate to share my experience with someone, as I had been fairly tight-lipped about the inner goings-on of my head. At the same time, I was anticipating my next shrink appointment and wondering what in the hell to tell him. I couldn’t figure that out until I ran it all by X, so one day I did my best to give him the Reader’s Digest version of the previous 2.5 months: seven pages came out. I waited for his response with a bit of trepidation, really hoping I didn’t get, “honey, we need to talk about your medication”.
I didn’t. I got, basically, “that’s really beautiful and wonderful and I hope you chase as many balls as you can because that’s great stuff, and you shouldn’t tell ANY of it to your shrink, because he doesn’t care about that and he’ll take it the wrong way”. Ah, validation two ways. With that, I was able to silence the ongoing anticipatory argument I kept having in my head with my shrink.
Everything has just kind of shifted and clicked into place since then, and shifts and clicks again every time I get a new tool, or make a new connection, or rediscover something old I left behind for whatever reason. I sort of feel like part of me has been keeping an eye on myself for a really long time, and whenever I dropped something important, it would pick it back up and tuck it into my subconscious for safekeeping, knowing I’d need it one day. When I need something, I don’t have to look too hard for it, if at all (with the exception of my truck title, but that’s another story). Typically I’ve already encountered it and just need to remember it, or it’s something I’m already using and need to look at in a different way. Sometimes it’s a book. Sometimes it’s a movie.
Sometimes it’s a person.
At some point during the last couple of weeks and doing my best to record the not-always-predictable stream of thoughts in my head, I was like, “okay, I have to find someone to talk to about this stuff”. I started wondering about local therapists that wouldn’t immediately throw me out of their office and send me back to my shrink, and one of my old therapists from when I went to the local sliding scale clinic popped into my head, and not for the first time since I stopped seeing him five years ago. “THAT GUY” I said. Okay. So I sent an email with the hopes that he would remember me, and he did. He also had biweekly appointments available on Wednesday mornings. Perfect. I’ll save my first visit for a separate post, but I feel fairly confident in saying that I have found the right person to be my guide for the time being, something that just about every awakening forum on the internet says you should do. He seems to speak all my languages, and that’s a really tall order right now.
At the moment, I’m trying not to get lost in the details or burden myself with too many tools. “Keep it simple” really is my motto right now, and if I’m trying to organize something and it’s in groups of more than four, I know I need to scale it back. I try to start with two. Too much? Fine, just use one. Once I can handle two of something, I move onto three. Then four. Those are pretty much my instructions from the Universe, for lack of a better term, for the foreseeable future, which really grates against a couple of parts of me, but there’s that whole “trust the process” thing, so I’m just going with it. Most of my anxiety and impatience comes from a practical perspective. X has been the main breadwinner for a damn long time, and since I began slowly checking out one psyche aspect at a time beginning ???, he has slowly done his best to take over the running of the house and caring of the family. It’s high time he had some help, especially if we have any hope of having a decent retirement and not working ourselves into the grave. But that’s way, way in the future and I’m not supposed to think that far ahead, so I just have to pull back sometimes and go back to contemplating things and putting them together. My head is working on something. I don’t know what it is yet, but I know what it’s made of, so I’m pretty sure the result will be pretty interesting, and it will come along at the right time. Somewhere down the line, maybe sooner than I need but probably longer than I want, everything unfolds.
Until then, I start each day with either passive or active excitement for what the day might bring. Sometimes I have a plan and wake up all ready to go, or even before I’m ready to go, like yesterday when I woke up at 2:30am for no good reason despite being dog-tired. Other days I’m just open to whatever comes.
At the moment, I see my internal thoughtstream like a river flowing through a forested mountain range. Each day I get up and hop into my mental boat and push off. Some days I have an idea of where I’d like to go, but I don’t always wind up there. Rarely, in fact. So often that I have largely abandoned that mindset and just start paddling. I make notes and observations as I go. Some days the trip is fairly placid and occasionally even boring, but not usually. Sometimes the river is merely a passive vehicle and my job is to observe the scenery. Other days the river is turbulent and I have to pay more attention to it than what’s around me if I don’t want to capsize. Some days are like today: the river is very slow and wide with a lot of eddies along the banks to get stuck in: those are frustrating days. Sometimes I’m in unfamiliar territory I don’t recognize. And sometimes I can’t find a safe place on the shore to park my boat for the night so I can get some sleep, so I stay there. I don’t like sitting still so I usually just keep paddling. Those are the nights I wake up early, if I ever went to sleep, and just think, surf, read, take notes, watch YouTube, and generally follow my desires. A potentially bad time is when the river is flowing so swiftly I can’t reach the bank, and I just have to ride it until the current slows and hope the rapids aren’t too bad and the rocks are few. And it always does eventually. If it doesn’t, I have “dams” up and downstream to control the waterflow, with meditation and other tools, and block it if utterly necessary with drugs. Most of the time, though, I am happy to hop into my mental boat, even excited on occasion.
Every now and then I’m like, “Fuck it, I’m not getting on the river today,” and that is totally fine. I may be under the guidance of divine influences, but I’m the one in control of this ride (mostly), and if I don’t want to ride that day, most of the time I don’t have to. Sometimes, though, my psyche is like, “Ok, come on, let’s go, we’re going on a trip. Nope, not telling you where we’re going, just sit down, shut up, and hang on. And pay attention, there’ll be a quiz.” I just sigh internally, reach down and tighten the laces on the combat boots my inner self is still wearing from 1995, and get in.
Working on myself is fun, but it’s hard. There’s a lot of locks to pick in here. And secret passageways. And the occasional booby trap, though since I’m the one that made them, they can’t really hurt me. All they do is slam the door shut and send me back to where I was. It just means I’m not ready to look there yet. It’s all good, everything circles back around eventually. For now, my psyche has a torch, a key, and a dog, and that’s pretty much all I need. She wanders, I observe and take notes, and at some point we get together and see what we have. Right now I’ve got an assload of really interesting data that doesn’t pull together to really go anywhere solid, but I have total faith that a pattern will emerge. Scientists laughed at pilots for two decades before admitting the existence of the jet stream. Just because I see something others don’t doesn’t mean it isn’t real.
I leave you with my favorite quote for the week from Matrix: Reloaded
We can never see past the choices we don’t understand. – The Oracle