#Alice and Avoidance

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I haven’t written for this blog in a very long time, and I have to ask myself “Why?” I think that part of it is that I associate ajdowntherabbithole with a part of myself that I don’t like to think about, especially when I am feeling well. But the truth is, I am reminded of my illness four times a day when I have to take my medications. Sometimes I take them without really thinking about it much, but it is a constant tap on the shoulder.

During the months between my last post and this one, I have had a few minor “off moments”. Not a full blown episode, thankfully, but a few moments when I had to reign in my racing, delusional, and obsessive thoughts. It’s hard work being me – sometimes. I am in a struggle with my brain often enough to get tired of it.

But I am one of the blessed ones. I have people to talk to who understand – I know I am not alone, even if it feels like it. And I have, over the years, acquired many useful tools to help me deal with the “off” times. I pretty much know what I need to do, and I do it. Sure, it’s not a simple thing, but I manage.

If nothing else, all this always reminds me how strong I am, and what a survivor I have become. No one else is really responsible for where and who I am today.  I did it! Not by myself of course – I had plenty of help. But ultimately, all the decisions were mine, and their consequences as well. I am proud of me. That’s no small thing.I have had to go through a lot for me to be able to say that. And the people who matter to me, are proud of me as well.

The truth is, I am the sum total of my parts, and each part counts for something. Accepting the totality of myself and all that that involves, is the most difficult thing for me to do, but I am almost there. I am as close as I could be, without actually arriving. But that’s just fine with me. After all, it’s the journey and not the destination. Becoming teaches us far more than having become, if you get my drift. And it’s the lessons that matter. I hope I never arrive!

ALICE AND NEW MEXICO

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Getting here was all a bit frantic and so I was never able to feel how I felt or think about what was happening. So upon arriving, it was all a bit surreal – the mountains, the animals, the welcoming people, our little casita – and I was actually a bit numb. When I finally did start to feel I was weepy and, while not the least homesick, I missed my loved ones terribly and felt very far away. It didn’t help that I also ran out of my antipsychotic medication and was beginning to feel “off”.  But I was adjusting too quickly, without feeling how I was really feeling, if that makes any sense. It was overwhelming.

Then something happened that changed everything. I’m not completely sure what it was. Perhaps I started to feel safe again within myself, perhaps it had something to do with the fact that my new insurance was covering all my meds and I finally had enough of everything, perhaps it was just that enough time had passed for me. But all of a sudden, one day in the car, speeding through the mountains, the surreal feeling shifted. I felt here. I felt what I had felt when I first decided, last spring, that I wanted to live in New Mexico. I felt it was all meant to be. That I am where I am supposed to be right now. That all is well in my world and that the Universe supports me. I felt I could surrender to the Universal flow of intention, fulfill my destiny – and I felt completely alive! It was like being able to exhale for the first time. A calm and peace flowed through me and love permeated my every cell. And now I feel a sense of belonging that is indescribable.

I talk a lot about change and how it happens with or without our choosing it. This was a change that I had initially chosen, but was sort of forced upon me a few months sooner than I was planning, as if the Universe were calling my bluff. There was no preparation, no sweet goodbyes over time, none of that. One day I was in Florida, and two days later I was in Santa Fe. There was little thought – just action. It was weird, and it felt so.  My best friend and business partner, Kim and I didn’t even know where we were going to lay our heads. But the angels were certainly with us, and we met a new angel, the woman  who became our  landlady and who rescued us. It has been one serendipitous moment after another. We have landed in the proverbial shit!

Time and a true and deep connection with who we are, are great healers. I was temporarily dis-connected and very rushed, but not any longer. I am home.

Alice, and Here We Are

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The change that I have talked about so much has happened. And it happened quite abruptly and without preparation. So I am in a new city, in New Mexico, with my best friend and business partner, Kim, and we are trying to build a new life. At my age, I find the courage it took to make this change pretty amazing. I think in some ways it hasn’t all hit me that we spent 2 days and nights in my little Ford Focus, with 3 animals in tow, and the car stuffed with everything we could pack into it. I left a lot of stuff behind that I cherish, especially books and cd’s, but in the scheme of things they seem insignificant compared to the need to go.

Interestingly to me, my illness has not been a concern during this entire relocation. I have my medications, certainly, and am faithful about taking them when I should. But what could have been too stressful for me, hasn’t been in the least. I think I have adjusted amazingly well to this complete change of lifestyle.

We are living on a horse ranch in the mountains just north of Santa Fe, and it is glorious! We have no TV and have not missed it at all thanks to technology and Hulu and Netflix. The family we are renting from who own all this property, have been welcoming and generous. The animals are settling in nicely and we are beginning to develop a rhythm to our days. There are no real amenities in the town we are in so we have to drive 20 miles north to do laundry and buy food, etc. But it is all seeming to come quite naturally to us. Outside our front door are the mountains and the horses and at night there are more stars than I have ever seen. It is surely a feast for the soul on so many levels.

When I started ajdowntherabbithole, I intended to talk about what it is like to live with a mental illness, but it seems there is less of that and more just about life in general. In many ways , I haven’t been down the rabbit hole in a bad way, in a very long time. This, it seems to me, is a testament to my strength, and also to the “rightness” of my chosen path. The Universe has ways of putting obstacles in your way when your journey is headed in the wrong direction, and so far, the obstacles have been almost non-existent. We are here, just where we wanted to be, and so it begins for us. At the ripe age of 66 I am changing the course of my life, creating new goals and dreams, and walking steadily toward them. It all feels right. And so it is.

ALICE AND DEPRESSION

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depressionimageI haven’t been here in quite some time and I haven’t been fully myself in even longer. A few months ago severe depression overtook me, the darkness descending deep and thick and enveloping. My eyes are open but I see through a black haze and my feelings are dampened and stunted. What usually gives me joy gives me nothing but a sadness that I can’t experience it fully right now.

I am here now because the dark is beginning to lift, I can feel the flowers again, and very recently I have laughed hard. All good signs. Of course I had to increase one of my anti-depressants to get here, but if that is the only price I must pay, I can live with it. It will only be a temporary thing. My psychiatrist was very touched by seeing how distressed I was, and that touched me. I had to see him sooner than scheduled because I couldn’t stand myself a minute longer. I did all the right things to help myself – well, at least most of them. I am still not exercising or eating better. If my weight is an indicator of anything it is that  things are not all right in the kingdom. But I’ll get there. Of that I have no doubt.

When you are depressed, you need to be allowed to be. Folks trying to get you to snap out of it only increase the darkness and make you feel less connected. I am blessed in that those who love me most accept me as I come. I am not asked to change for anyone. I am not made to feel less than because of where I am inside. And no guilt is attached to me. Not that I don’t feel any guilt, but it is guilt that only I bring on myself. Nobody throws guilt at me. That is a gift and I am eternally grateful for it.

My therapist is a Cognitive and he is only interested in what I can DO to get myself out of depression. He is s good therapist, don’t get me wrong, but I need someone a bit more spiritual right now, someone a bit more interested in my psychic journey, my soul crisis. Those words are not in my current therapist’s vocabulary and so I haven’t seen him during this time. He will understand my words but not “get it” on a deep level. And that would only frustrate me and encourage my guilt. So I have had to do the work on my own, and I admit that has added to my burden a bit. I have also tried hard to keep as much of the darkness to myself and not impose it on those I love. I love them too much.

Depression sucks at the best of times, which is a bit of an oxymoron. But it is even more difficult when you are in flux, transition, going through major changes. It makes taking action a supreme effort, and failure to do so just increases your guilt level. I cycle through a bout of major depression about once a year, sometimes twice. I am one of the lucky ones. That fact is not lost on me. I have a good doctor and a lot of love in my life. I am able to afford my meds and I have all of life’s most basic needs. And if I am not able to find my purpose during a serious depression, I will say that at the least, when it does lift, I am more deeply present and accessible and able to love back. Depression has it’s own function in my life. It makes me stop and think and assess. It gets me real again.

ALICE AND DUALITY

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With every loss there is a gain, every death a birth, and so on and so on. It is the incorrigible  duality of human existence.  It never doesn’t happen that way. Recently someone I love so very much, someone who has changed my life and helped me affect personal change, moved to the other side of the country to begin a new chapter in her life. I am excited for her and envious too, as I had planned to be someplace else by now myself. And I am bereft. I am grieving. Without her here I am afraid I will allow circumstance and pressure from others to keep me stuck, to lose faith in the dream. My dream. She helped me find that, and now she’s not here. In a way, I am on my own now.  But it was always up to me.

I realize it is only physical distance that separates us right now and there are many ways to stay connected with all the technology at our disposal.  But there is a hole in my heart and an emptiness in my house, that cannot be filled by Skype or a text message. And though she has indeed left me a better person for her being here, there is the other side of the duality – she is gone and a virtual hug will never replace a real one. Gain and loss.

I have, all my life, struggled to see life as a circle and not as a series of dual aspects. I have studied zen and believed in the oneness of all things and all life, but living in a body, having this human experience means that there will always be light and dark, good and bad, sweet and sour, et al. I find myself living in constant limbo, floating between two seemingly opposite qualities forever.

Kahlil Gibran, an often maligned poet and artist, uses duality in the most beautiful ways. “Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.”, and “Pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.”  Here both things combine to become one, both are interconnected and interdependent. There cannot be one without the other and so they are the same. If I take away the concept of “two sides of the same coin”, and think of it only and always as one coin, I have defied the principle of duality and made two aspects one thing. It becomes my circle and the hard edges disappear.

As for my departed friend, I grieve still for the loss of her physical presence. But what she gave me and what I have become with help from her are still with me and therefore, so is she. Duality be damned.

ALICE AND LIMBO

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I have been in this space of not knowing for quite some months and have written about it under other titles. But both the figurative and literal aspects of the phenomenon are now really getting to me and I cannot waft lyrical about it anymore.

In short, limbo sucks. It doesn’t matter what form it takes. It is unsettling and exhausting. It can drain the life out of you if you aren’t careful. How I have managed to not run through the house screaming is a puzzle to me. I have felt like it at some point at least once every day – meditations not withstanding. And sometimes the harder I try to deal with it constructively, the wider and deeper the limbo gets. I am at sea in the proverbial boat-with-no-paddle. No flares, no horns, no flags, no radio. I feel like a speck of dust in a gale storm. And I have no voice. Or do I?

The scientific nature of limbo is a mystery. After all, its nature changes from person-to-person. I can’t say what it’s like for anyone else, but for me, limbo is like floating on nothing, in nothing. But knowing that there is someplace I have to go, if not where.  Yes, I know some philosophies would say that it is the journey not the destination that is important. I agree. But that being said, the metaphor of the boat without a paddle is very apt, and in that scenario, the journey isn’t happening. Nothing is happening except that I am getting seasick. And there is no one to hold my head when I start vomiting. Mommy, where are you?

Limbo will capture all of us from time to time between the hours of birth and death. It lasts an indeterminate amount of time each time – minutes, hours, days, months – and lets you go only when it is ready. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what you do while held captive. You can lie there and count the holes in the acoustical tile on the ceiling, or you can try to use your hands as oars to get moving. You can meditate to center yourself, or yell and thrash around, all at high volume. Limbo will hold you until it thinks you are ready to move on and the only comfort you will ever have during your captivity is the knowing that change is forever in motion. Nothing stays the same indefinitely. That has to be enough to keep you going. There is nothing else.

For me, this particular limbo has made me gain weight – I am an emotional eater – and it has caused me to retreat into myself more when I am among others. I have less to offer, or so it seems. Then why, I must ask myself, am I (finally!) sending my poetry to publishing houses now? Why have I (finally!) ordered a massage table to do my energy healing work now? Limbo, there is movement in spite of you. The survival instinct is alive and well and Alice writes to write another day. Amen.