Sunday, 24 March 2013

To my friends...

(written to the friends close to me in real life and on Facebook...  wanted to share here with a wider audience and explain why I have been a bit quiet with posts, and why I may not have responded to messages/emails recently)

The whole month of March has been a struggle. This past week being (hopefully) the lowest I could get.

Lots of you, my friends, have been worried, and I feel terrible for worrying you or causing any of you upset. This guilt often means I start to spiral inwards even more, and the negative feelings grow. It has been a long time since I have written like this, but I feel it's the only way to try and help myself, and others, understand.

As most of you know, I have a mood/hormone disorder... at least, that's how you will understand it in the 'normal' way. The label Pre Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder is something I am trying to move away from, but it's the easier label to give when trying to explain what I go through. It's medical. It's a real disorder. No one knows what causes it or how best to treat it. It's still not widely known about, or should I say, it's widely misdiagnosed as bipolar, borderline personality disorder, depression... Many sufferers feel schizophrenic, although, unlike schizophrenia, we rarely lose all concept of one personality in favour of the other, but rather stay in state of transition, the battle, the fight between two aspects of the self. We also tend to remain consciously aware of all our actions even when we feel like we have no control over them. PMDD cycles are monthly and therefore, when the symptoms are particularly bad, they can really take their toll on your physical and mental health.
So I have that going on... I hit challenging times almost every month, but since coming off all medications etc I have got a much better hold on this. I have learned how to manage my month, my LIFE, around it. I know my energy changes and fluctuates. There are better times of the month for socialising and times when I have to hide away. I know my cycle well, and can predict when I will have enough energy to go out and be social and when I will be struggling with tiredness and need to rest.

This week however, I was not at a point in my cycle when I should be going through this stuff. Day 7 is usually a time of increasing energy, busy-ness, lots of ideas and planning.. becoming more social etc I had had a particularly crap cycle anyway, coupled with my birthday, which this year I was really not up for celebrating.. the 'depression' had started right back then. The negativity swallowed me up. I couldn't see the point in trying. I was easily angered, wound up, hurt, upset... I did a lot of shouting and stamping about. When these times happen, it's like I have left my body and am outside watching everything unfold. I upset my children... I pushed my man away. I rejected my friends offers of help. The negative thoughts tell me that it's all false. No one really wants to help. Everyone is judging. People think I am weird, a pain in the ass, over dramatic... it's like I can hear all the sighs of everyone when they see another negative status message. Even with lots of PMDD friends around, who I know will understand, I can't connect. I can't talk.

It's like being bound, gagged, blindfolded and thrown into a pit of terror. We would call this dysphoria, which is commonly known to include persecutory feelings and suicidal tendencies.
For 4 days I barely ate a thing. I went from not being able to get out of bed despite sleeping for hours and hours, to being unable to sleep and staying up all night. I couldn't deal with the kids. By the end of the week they were both avoiding me and trying to stay out of my way. Rhiannon doing an amazing job of being a stand in mum for Fae while I am emotionally unavailable. All of it kills me emotionally.. I do and say things I normally wouldn't. It makes me feel like a terrible person...

I've had uncontrollable flashbacks to times in my life when I was going through hell, all the emotions from those times surface. I rid myself of one thought only to be bombarded with more negative imagery and feelings. Feelings of panic and palpitations which can last all day. Fear of having to leave the house and face anyone was too much and I spent a lot of time in the dark, in my bedroom. Thoughts of escaping... running away... hurting myself. I did not get the usual suicidal feelings this time, but the desire to destroy, cause myself pain were very strong. THAT'S when keeping yourself locked away in a bedroom is a good idea. My mind was taking me to all sorts of crazy places. Should I cut off all my dreads? should I destroy the last painting I created? I could burn myself, crash the car, find something sharp... drink a bottle of vodka... (yes to me, alcohol is a form of self destruction.. it makes me ill and so would achieve the desired result). All I have to do is hang on until it passes. Wait, till the demon leaves me. Try and get through without letting any of these impulses take over. It's not easy, and as yet, I haven't figured out what I should do in these situations. What I need is a place to go while going through it all, away from my friends and family.. but it's not likely to ever be possible, so hey, you just gotta do what you can. My body has been curled up and tense all week, the pain in my back and shoulders from the tension is awful. The exhaustion from the endless thoughts and visions knocks me for six.

So, if it's happening out of cycle, at a time when I would not expect it, then I have to look at what else is going on. I follow a shamanic path. I always have, although when I was younger it took the form of witchcraft. Moving on from the restrictions and rules that are set when following such belief systems, led me to where I am now. As a woman, my cycle is shamanic in itself. Every woman has a direct connection to the Earth and the Moon. The menstrual cycle echoes the seasons of the year in it's energetic changes and also follows the phases of the moon. We are currently entering Spring. Pre ovulation. It's a transition time. The Spring Equinox this week symbolises this. A time when the Sun and the Moon are in balance, but also, a time when one half of the world welcomes in Spring and the other half kisses goodbye to Summer and is seeing in the Autumn. A duality, a time of balance and extremes all at the same time. Confusing eh?

I digress. In following a shamanic path, in dedicating myself to it, in stepping deeper into the mysteries I have to allow the necessary shifts to occur within me. Thing is, you don't get an email telling you you are about to go through another shamanic healing process... To be honest, I wasn't overly familiar with shamanic initiatory illness and it's symptoms until now, but the more I look at what is going on right now, the more it makes sense. I could just call it a breakdown, a PMDD episode that has arisen due to the stresses and strains of life, the terrible British weather and SAD, but that is almost dismissing the importance of these happenings (It does make it easier for others to understand, especially those who think shamanism etc is a load of bollox). The healing that follows the darkest times are invaluable... IF you can develop an understanding of why it's happened.

LOOK at the symptoms for shamanic initiatory illness... (these can also be symptoms of coming off psychiatric meds or the rising of the kundalini)

Shaking, vibration, altered states of consciousness ranging from comatose to euphoric, extremely long periods of insomnia or hypersomnia, inability to tolerate eating, food cravings, headaches, nausea and vomiting, nightmares, suicidality, pain, heart palpitations, fear of going crazy, feeling tormented, terror, being bed-ridden, agitation, weakness, cognitive confusion, seizures, muscular rigidity, tingling, impaired vision, hearing unusual sounds, seeing lights, other hallucinations or visions, obsessive or impulsive behavior, rages, crying jags, severe depression, vertigo, seeming drunk without taking any substance, exhaustion, chills, heat, sweating, tendency to withdrawal and agoraphobia.

I can tick off many of the above and have just experienced them. There is much documented about how shamans view schizophrenia and episodes like the one I have just described. In fact such things as schizophrenia do not exist in shamanic tribes. Shamans would view these things as a spirit trying to contact the living world, or a possession of a body by a spirit. Likewise, PMS or PMDD would not exist in these circles either. Women's menstruation was seen as a very powerful thing, and an essential part of their (and the tribe's) spiritual well being. Menstruation, itself, is an altered state of being/consciousness. You can read more about how shaman's deal with mental illness in the following link. It's an amazing article.

I can't say for sure that this is some kind of shamanic thing going on... but I also don't class myself as truly mentally ill. I am also not a flaky character that can't deal with the things life throws at her, as I have gone through a whole heap of difficult situations and life traumas over the years and am still here to tell the tale. My counselor, a few sessions in, told me she is amazed I am still here. My reply, is always... my kids keep me here. They are the reason I continue to live out my life on this planet... that and the fact that I have been blessed with a life, so really, I better make the most of it, however alien the world seems, and however difficult this particular life seems to be. Life, now, is actually better that it has ever been.. a gorgeous, loving and understanding husband, better relationships with family and friends, two amazing children and my art, my writing, the wonderful web, and a future that hopefully holds some great things.

About 15 years ago, during another challenging time of my life, my tarot teacher once said to me 'The hardest steel is tempered in the hottest fire'. That has stuck with me ever since. To be strong, to understand another person's pain, to feel empathy, to be able to help, heal, you need to undergo it yourself. I never consciously asked for this path, it just is... I find most of my life is 'out of my hands' these days. I rely on my instinct, on catching the wave and feeling the flow. I guess that with that comes the storms that turn the boat over, throw you into the water and leave you fighting for your life. What I wish though is that it didn't affect my family and friendships so much. 

So I'm doing my best. To understand, to learn, to develop and grow. I wanted to share all this stuff as I do freak out some times and think that everyone must think I am completely nuts, or just a depressive personality with no joy or fun, but that's not the case. I'm just different, and dealing with some really weird shit that no body gave me a manual for! Thank you to everyone who contacted me with kind words and who offered the hand of support. I'm sorry I couldn't accept, and especially sorry if my actions or words hurt or upset anyone...

I'm still 'coming round', settling down. It takes a while to flush out the adrenaline and anxiety, it takes even longer to get rid of the guilt and the feeling of embarrassment and shame, but writing this, focusing on some art will help, and hopefully I will re-integrate what I've learned through all this and next time wont be so bad... I have no idea how many of these I need to go through, but I couldn't actually begin to count the times that this sort of thing has happened. The last time was 6 months ago at the Autumn Equinox (pattern? who knows!)

Love to you all, and thank you for being a friend, in whatever capacity... (cyber, real life.. it's all the same)
Cat xx

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