Tag Archives: therapy

One Year of Trauma Therapy 2. Learning to Look Forward

Here’s to shedding the weight of the past.

This is my new minimalist art. Last week it was “The White Album” and White whales, this week it is all about black because it is slimming, “I have that which passeth shew,” ” ’cause black is how I feel on the inside,” and all the reasons cited by Johnny Cash. Pick one.

Last week I took a trip through my first year of trauma informed therapy. This week is more challenging. Looking forward! I say challenging because of all I have gone through — particularly the reason I am still writing from a hotel room — getting run out of town by psychotic neckbeards. But also because I was stuck. Weighted down. Angry, listless, and depressed by turns. I had lost any sense of who I was or was becoming.

A perspicacious woman once told me I was very “intentional.” I am a fan of plans and planning. It is very much like only wearing black. What should I wear? Black. What should I do? Check the plan.

We plan and the gods laugh. I know. I am Greek.  And inevitably your black clothes will stop matching as they fade. Last January I had no reason to think I would be living in a hotel room.  But I did begin the work of thinking about where I was in life, and where I wanted to be. And, as an unexpected side effect, I added color to my closet.

I wanted to look and feel like myself again. The Pandemic weight upset my self-image. I was depressed. And that made me feel and look old. Even my posture had become hunched. And no amount of black tunic tops was hiding anything as they got scrubby looking and dull.

So I started a mens sana in corpore sano  (healthy mind in a healthy body) journey that helped push me to think more about where I was going, and aided me through the unending trauma that was nearly every day since July back at the former [ducking] house. And I got some clothes…with color!

I went back to yoga. I first got into yoga and meditation as a teen when I was reading a lot about The Beatles. I was a good gymnast as a kid. Yoga seemed to come naturally. And I took two semesters of yoga in college with a great teacher. And it worked hand in glove with my anatomy classes (yay art school).

But I really committed last year, and I have done about 669 yoga classes since then. Maybe half were Sun Salutations, but still!

Yoga means “practice.” So you could think of all life as yoga, as practice. And like life, it is not static. Neither is it all “aaaaah.” I curse plenty at the lovely Australian woman on my favorite yoga app. Yoga requires focus. You work with your mind, breath, and body. Even in stillness, your breath moves you, as you hold your mind and body in gentle intention.

That gentle intention is called your “sankalpa,” and it took time me to find. Simply, a sankalpa is a short sentence in the first person, present tense that signifies your reason for any practice, it can be “I keep my floors clean,” “I do not drink alcohol,” or “I bring peace to the world.”

It is both a heartfelt desire and a promise, and it is gentle. I spent a lot of time in meditation and yoga nidra searching for my sankalpa. And it turned out to be very simple. It was as strong and flexible as my body and mind were becoming. And it was always there. But life, past experiences, traumas, hang ups, difficulties of all sorts crusted it over, and I became hardened to even myself.

Through my work in therapy, and the work we did to find the softening of the the body that allows us to truly listen to ourselves, I came to see what I had forgotten. And my journey now consists in continuously bringing my mind back to my sankalpa, what I give myself as a purpose, my heart’s desire, my promise to myself.

Of course, a promise is nothing. Air, pixels, ink in a certain form and order. Unless you honor yourself and the one you make the promise to. In this case, both parties are you. But having a practice, a promise, and are committed, gently, to honoring yourself helps.

You respect and honor yourself. And you honor your promises. Practice that for a while. Sit with it. Move with it. Breathe into and through it. And suddenly old Polonius’ advice to his son Laertes — that if one is true and honest with oneself, you will be honest and true to others — will change your way of seeing and being.

Your sankalpa is your own. It is not shared. Please do not ask your yoga class crush, “So, what is your sankalpa?” Protect what is precious, gently.

And you thought the whale post was esoteric! I did go through a change, a shedding of mental, emotional, physical weight. Of crusty old thoughts and feels. And of pilled up black tunic tops with bleach stains.

I have bright pink, purple, and blue yoga tops! Pink walking shoes?! And you cannot go around in yoga pants (now with pockets!) without tennis socks in fun colors. And you know what else? I can still just order five packs of everything from Amazon, and switch out dirty yoga top to clean yoga top of different color! Fancy.

So, after a lot of softening, strengthening, shedding, and clarity seeking: I decided on my sankalpa. And here I am, still in my hotel room, living it now. Practice can only lead to exploring where this will lead me, but I have a general idea, gods willing and the crick don’t rise.

So, that is where I am, and where I am looking to go. The woman who helped lead me here, my therapist of the last year, with whom I have to part ways. In her shining smile and laugh dwelt hundreds of happy fairies. Her gentleness, boundless joy and compassion, and halo of light around her blond hair, made me think of Galadriel in The Lord of the Rings. And she did possess a light, like the bottled starlight the Elven Lady of Lorien gave to Frodo to light his way when all other lights went out. It is as awake as a plunge into ice water; a diamond reflecting warmth, strength, kindness, and love, gently.

Thank you for everything Haley. Including the homework! I love professional students. I am looking forward to this new stage of my life. I went through an enforced crisis. I know what I can do. And I have every confidence that something is bound to turn up!

– JL βœŒπŸΌπŸ’šπŸ––πŸΌπŸ’πŸŽΈβ„οΈ

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The Whale Chapter. A Look Back on One Year of Trauma Therapy & Beyond

Psst!

Fans and decidedly non-fans of Moby Dick will remember “The Whale Chapter.” Like “The White Album,” that is not its name, but that is what I call it. In Moby Dick, Ishmael takes us on a long, slow ride through cetology, just as the Pequod’s voyage is getting under way. After the lengthy description of all things whale, Ishmael declares a whale a fish. I kind of like it.

My therapist thought it would be helpful to do a look back at our year of working together. After several attempts with markers and pencil and mixed media and my guitar, I decided to write it. That is what I do!

This can be my Whale Chapter from the trauma and tragedy I have been chronicling in my last two posts, and maybe my conclusions will ultimately be wrong! And I will declare a whale a fish. One can never be sure.

Over a year ago, I spoke with my doctor about how normal therapy was not helping. In fact, it began making me worse. Two places in a row had dumped me. One most unceremoniously. That is when I began getting pictures of my brain taken, and was referred to Trauma Informed Therapy.

I looked back in my journal and discovered I was really into Hannibal at the time, and I called my first session “rough.” And it was! You can skip back to my first post on it.

There are two especially difficult pieces. The first is learning to establish and enforce my own boundaries (which may contribute to me living in a hotel room), but also how to be kind and mindful of others’ needs and boundaries as well. It is a difficult trick. I hope I am getting the knack of it. It is kindness.

Also, I learned to really forgive. I know we all have that spiritual ick inside us. That makes us feel shameful or unworthy. We all have it. Love it out of existence. Unclench, soften, breathe, relax right into it. And it will pass. You may even see what a lie it really was.

Have a therapist to guide you back to integration with those pieces that you want cut off. They will check your thoughts, or suggest a different point of view. A good therapist is invaluable. I never like when folks only take pills. That is just to steady the foundation. The work that you rebuild on is the work you put into therapy.

Anyhow, now for whales. I think I’m turning into Bob Geldolf in The Wall living in this hotel room. I even broke a guitar string. Yeh-heh! I can not get either my desktop or laptop online. So I have been doing credit stuff and online apps on my phone. It is not cool man.

I keep busy. I clean the place, practice yoga and guitar, do my work for the day, argue with my dog. Fairly normal. It’s not like I’m dying to get out. I mean, I have zero desire to go out in below freezing weather no matter the lovely backdrop. I would rather be warm and safe.

But, in the end, it is liberating to be able to name and call out your problems. But be careful. You must face it, fighting will take you down with it. Learn it, know it, name it, face it, but you fought that monster once. Do not try that again.

And now I’ve come to the next part of my assignment: figuring out what to do with the rest of my life. Yeah. That is all. Get over my recent traumas, move, restart life with new purpose. Whales are fish. And I’m happy to be back in the USSR, thank you.

– JL βœŒπŸΌπŸ’šπŸ––πŸΌπŸŽΈπŸ’πŸ•ΊπŸ»

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My Rock God Delusion Therapy

May kill fascists?

Oh you all are missing out! I’m telling you. If you were my neighbors you could enjoy the joyous noise of my totally sweet guitar stylings every evening. And, if you were super lucky, the dulcid tones of my voice echoing up through the valley. It’s so sad. I’m so sorry.

I haven’t had any official complaints yet, but it’s THERAPY. OK? So go ride your ATV around and let the dogs chase you, noisy. You’re missing out. Anyhow. It’s true. I live in a sort of natural amphitheater back here in a hill at the bottom of a big open valley. And I have a kitchen porch that is one floor up. And that is my stage. And on it I am a rock god, and all my neighbors, my adoring fans.

I can’t help it. I’ve experienced difficulties lately. This is how I’m adapting to my new reality since I moved here and, you know, when we fell into the Twilight Zone in November twenty billion years ago in 2016? There were two main offshoots of that. First was that I had no idea what to do. I felt overwhelmed and PISSED. I’m in a new house. Totally inundated. My dog had just died. I did not know what to take care of first. The second became an inability to be articulate. To speak, yes, but mainly to write! And that’s me. My thing. La cosa mia. Writing.

So much flew out of my control, and my world was turned around. I felt powerless. That spiraled into rage, constant anxiety, and abject depression. So, I tried a lot of things. Coloring, gardening, playing Star Wars Battlefront II, vegetarian and vegan cooking, making gardens with a pick axe, but I was also led back to the arts. I painted again. And then I picked up my Dad’s old guitar. And that was it.

I practice guitar whenever I have a moment. I always want to play my guitar. I always want to bring it with me. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because music can express what other art forms cannot. A sort of soul-longing. And in general I play The Pogues, Woody Guthrie, other traditional music, and The Smiths. I have the same music as a Spotify playlist that I call Pissed Poor.

This music reflects struggle with a world that doesn’t really like the fact that you exist. Okies, Irishmen, Morrissey. And hard times and a bad place: The Dustbowl, the history of the Irish, Thatcherite England in a post-industrial town. Playing this music helps me engage with feelings that are similar to my own. It’s a way to sympathize and not be alone. Be connected by the feeling in the music.

Music became a new tool to experience and process more complicated emotions and difficulties than I could in words or pictures. Partly this is because it is instant. It appears, exists, then disappears. Like magic. But I credit the emotionally honest state that I achieve when playing with my complete lack of musical knowledge. It is by far my worst “art.” Medium. Whatever. What sort of medium is music anyway? It’s mathematical vibrations in the air.

I don’t get music. But I think that’s why it works for me. I know how to draw. I know how to write. I understand the concepts and practices of those art forms or media. So I can contrive to achieve a feel, but music for me is just raw, how it comes out. Like Shane MacGowan spitting out a song while wrestling with gravity.

It’s not important what I do anymore, so much as that I am doing something besides freak out with rage, depression, or anxiety. And music helps me achieve that. I have a system for my daily routine, but it’s wide about edges. I just need extra time. That’s all. I usually use the rule of three. Whatever you think it’s going to be in time, or money, or whatever, multiply that by three.

Music comes in because I want to squeeze every second of time for practicing. It gives me joy. So I look forward to when I can play. Of course, sometimes I cheat. But I can’t just drop a song I just picked up at prime time like that. Jeez. I have to have time to practice the song before I debut it. But I do that when no one can hear.

So this late Spring season we’ve added some Guthrie and Pogues, but my current musical therapy session is focused on learning “I Know it’s Over” by The Smiths. So my neighbors are no doubt happy about that. Lucky them. I don’t normally play six and a half minute songs. So my fingers get tired. But don’t you worry. I’m getting close to it. You’ll all hear the full performance, sobbing and all, someday, live, on my porch, in my rock god delusion therapy session. Lucky.

Check it out: I’m writing again, about music. Nice trick, huh?

While you’re here: check out the wonderful work done by the people at The National Alliance on Mental Illness and donate.

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