Click here to listen to Cat Stevens’ “Don’t Be Shy”:
his piece was inspired by Brendan’s “Madness and the Creative” at http://blueoran.wordpress.com/2011/01/10/madness-and-the-creative/
It is this—I healed because I wrote it. I was in the full fall-down, I was hearing voices at night (bipolar/psychosis) as the complex PTSD boiled to its apex. I had put down the pen awhile before because I was so lost in what was coming, I knew it was coming—and what came was me having to step off the ledge and into the dark, into the madness. I had “psychotic breakthroughs” every day, where nothing is real, the room is an illusion, voices looked like strings or threads from some distant world. I was having body memories, I was hypervigilent, I was holding my head, running around the empty house, a real screaming in my head, crying and talking to myself, talking to my dead grandmother, begging for relief. It only got worse. I spent so much time on that edge—how strong our will is when we are terrified. I knew that falling down into that darkness meant one thing—I would somehow make it through and be cleansed, saved, find my grace, get through it, and live. Survive. OR I would be completely destroyed. Annihilated. For a long time after I fell/ as I fell, I believed I was completely annihilated. The girl I was was dead. Something—the pain—took her away from me, and however dirty and fucked up she was I wanted her back not because I liked her, but because I wanted to be a self, a someone, an identity that was naked and raw at the bottom of the well. The world was pointless and endless. I wanted reason and purpose to guide me out. I wanted to see a point, but there was none. It was vast empty space that took you a step beyond terror and into dissociation, where you see with real eyes the mystery of things you can’t name. Dissociation scared me but while I was in it I was too separate to express any fear. I’d lay there for hours in the infinite space, my body numb but floating, my mind aware that it was gone. How had I gotten to this point? How had I lost? I thought I was losing. I spent many nights in the psych ward believing with all that was left of me that I had lost the life. I would forever be this empty pit, this shell, suffering the psychotic waves that made me cling to my mother like a drowning little girl. There was no logic or base to end the fear. I was reliving years of sexual, psychological, and physical abuse (the physical not as damaging as the others), I was skinned alive and thrown backwards, back into the gut of my memories, and I had to sink or swim in that acid. I chose to swim, even though I believed I was gone and dead. I died, I really did. This woman today can’t even feel what it was like to be her anymore. She is a lost shadow that taught me and built me, I blossomed out of her. Because she was brave enough to swim. How did she swim? She wrote it down. All of it. Poetry, essays, scribbles, stories. I was sick like that for a year. I died for a year. Sorry to repeat but its difficult to see those words. I lost it every day, I died every day. My family was so supportive. We had codes and a support system, built by my sisters, and I chose to use it. I didn’t know then that I was making choices—going to the hospital again and again, trying new meds, going to psychotherapy, the psychiatrist, taking my meds, calling for help help help, saying simply to my fiancé “it’s coming” and he’d hold me as I shrieked. Yes you have to fall and know you will either make it or die, its fifty-fifty. And because of the sickness, you believe with all that’s left of you that you will die. And you do. The falling is death as you climb into the mouth of your monster and realize the very thing that’s killing you is the very thing that will heal you. Your monster is your teacher. And your monster and teacher is you, and it is also something greater—something nameless and divine and holy. Faith from somewhere gets you through the sludge of time. Faith wakes you up slowly to a day where you for the first time in a year, see the sun, you’re even so close you can almost feel it, and faith tells you that you will. I never believed in anything before, I was too lost my whole life. Now I know with every ounce of me that I’ve earned that SOMETHING wondrous and huge and as full and as vast as that void I was in was also a space of awareness. Acceptance. Something held me in that dark time, something not of myself or the others. Something that makes my heart sing today, something that gives me peace, a kind of grace I feel running through me every day. I’ve never felt so good in my life. I’m not this split girl with multiple, broken identities, broken. I am this whole being that is calm in settling into every moment. Every moment is a blessing. I guess you have to believe once that every moment could be the end, could be your destruction, and believe it, in order to find the grace in loving every blessing, and appreciating everything—right down to the bumble bee.
I’m writing this today, it comes out like a flood. I was inspired by a friend named Brendan who introduced me to this:
In the Gospel of St. Thomas, Jesus said “If you bring out what is inside you, what is inside you will save you. If you fail to bring out what is inside you, what you fail to bring out will destroy you.”
My madness was expressed in psychotic delusions and writing. Writing saved me, I swear to all that’s holy.
Another thing—in my vast amount of time I spent healing towards the end of that year (last year), I traveled through my writing and began to question how I’d gotten there, how I’d made it. I was propelled like a crazy magnet to Tao and Buddhism and Hinduism. I read the Upanishads and other books/sources. I read the poetry. I meditated on my back porch in the spring air. I read books on Buddhism, I read books on Christianity (my favorite being Why Christian? By Douglas John Hall). The Rig Veda, The Buddhist Scriptures, The Secret of the Golden Flower, The Bhagavad Gita, parts of the Bible, most of Alan Watts—my personal favorite that made my heart pound was The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are. EVERYONE should read that book. Ever since then, at the very secret core of me, I want to take my daughter and move somewhere remote, somewhere surrounded by Zen and no pop-culture, no consumerism. I wanted to live off the land and use my hands and teach her with my soul. Teach her what I’ve learned and seen and how beautiful life can be. If I could do anything in this world, it would be that. Unattainable? Can I find a way to do that here? That is what I struggle with now. Off track. Anyways, writing. I’ve always been a writer, even when I was a young girl. It is something naturally in me, it is what saved me (along with a few other things—God, the Godhead, time, meds, and love—not my love, I couldn’t love myself, but the love given to me by others, I borrowed their love to hold me up a little). My friend Brendan wrote “whatever great wounds we suffer are the very wombs of their healing, if we find a way to approach them and name them, let them sing their litanies and tragedies, grieve them, let them go.” He nailed it.
I encourage to check out the poet/writer Brendan at http://blueoran.wordpress.com
3 thoughts on “Heart. No Mind.”
Very moving post. I don’t have the same sort of history, but I think I too am writing toward my salvation.
No, you nailed it, or are nailing it, line by line, laddering down and through and back up again. So much of this is old, deep-psychic stuff; myths are rich with tales of those who “go down, walk three nights in darkness and return,” harrowing the most hellish depths of the soul. It’s the essence of shamanic initiation, going mad, being hauled down to the underworld where demons/daimons tear the initiate apart and reassemble her on a soul-forge that is 50 percent deadly. I remember my early 20s when I fell to pieces, drinking endlessly, suffering storms of petit-mal seizures that left me helpless, unable even to cry help … a long bad mad suicidal drunken winter I got through. My journal of that period really are rags and rages of words, but I kept writing, kept moving, kept going. And got through, eventually, though decades later the damage is still real, still in need of more healing. Maybe the damage is important to keep us writing, to keep us growing, building these chapels of heart by the sea. So we can live, love, even praise the thing that damn near killed us. How could we have come to write otherwise? And end up galway decent human beings? Anyway, I see such powerful possibility in you now taking wing–there really is greatness in your writing. But don’t stop taking your meds–continued surrender and growth, IMO, are what make those wings possible. Your outreach to fellow sufferers–through your willingness to be relentlessly truthful, to be supportive, part of a healing community–is essential, too I think. Sorry to go on, keep up the great work, Brendan
Sometimes I feel like you’re the first person out there that’s ever understood me. You make more sense about me then I can 🙂 I don’t know how you read everything I write, and come back with comments that blow me away–that say all the things I’m just on the brink of learning. I want to know so much more about shamanism–it’s enchanting in its darkness and healing. I think you’re onto something–how we are always healing; it’s constant. There is no end result, no goal, it’s a process. And that IS how we write, not why we write but how we write. The damage IS important. I wish I could’ve been there for you when you went through that dark, hellish time. Were you all alone? But look where it’s taken you–you have such a vast knowledge (on everything!) and experience and you use it so damn beautifully. You showed me that the healing is in the wound itself, and I’m saying thank you. Thank you for taking the time to really read and absorb me in all my “difficult degrees”, I swear you understand that theme better than I do.