Masochistic Perceptions, Trials and Truths

These are my cyberfied cerebral synapses ricocheting off reality as I perceive it: thoughts, opinions, passions, rants, art and poetry...

Saturday, September 05, 2009


I have battled with insomnia, anxiety, depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for most of my life, though nothing was diagnosed officially until around the year 2000. Since then I have been treating my condition with anti-depressant medications, therapy and a regular Yoga and meditation practice. Despite these things, I continue to be affected by the waves associated with such psychological tumult, though for certain the seas have been calmer to what they were years ago.

Perhaps the most difficult and lowest point in this battle came during my first year back at teaching in 2006, after having spent half a decade working as a Correctional Officer in a maximum security prison. I was feeling suicidal (though I had had dark thoughts of self-harm in the years prior to this, they were fleeting at their worst and never a truly intentioned idealizations) for a couple of months and hit an all time emotional/psychological low. I believe that this was triggered by my removal from the intensity of my prison work, where I had witnessed some pretty terrible stuff (murders, assaults, colleagues taken hostage), and experienced more than my share of action (riots, being assaulted, uses of force) on top of the 'normal' day to day tensions of walking in the midst of maximum security inmates. This of course was all piggy backed on my childhood where I was beaten and psychologically abused regularly by my Mother (and included one Christmas when a drunk uncle took it upon himself to hold a loaded shot-gun to my head), the victim of bullying by my peers as I was a bit husky and terrible at sports, and a general angst that was embedded in many members of Generation X.

Since my lowest point in 2006, I have found myself growing stronger, but far from feeling 'good' on a continuous basis. Of course one battles with the stigma of the whole mental health thing, being on meds and whatnot, but, on the other hand, I have never been one to conceal such things or to live in a proverbial closet.

I have felt myself going to a low over this past month or so, but I am dealing with it the best that I can, and am confident that I will "tame my Gremilins" once more. In fact, I know that I am incredibly strong and resilient as a direct result of my experiences that, while still feeling, I am able to detach myself somewhat from the experience in that I can see beyond the immediate sense of foreboding and emotional pain.

That takes me to the reasons that I am writing this post: (a) it's partly therapy for myself and a reinforcement that I shall overcome and (b) to offer some insight to others who might be affected by a similar condition or set of circumstances.

I think many of us are messed up, but simply don't realise it. I've always been an academic and in my head (as most of my blog entries will provide evidence to this statement of fact), and this is often a two edged sword. I suppose this is why depression is so common amongst many of the world's great Artists and Academics (not that I am including myself with these people). In the words of Nietzsche: "If you gaze for long into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you". Nietzsche himself, of course, went mad.

In an attempt to put an Eastern Philosophical spin on all of this, part of me is thankful for my condition. I have felt intense emotional extremes and survived them. In being afflicted, I have sought to understand my psychological state and, in doing so, have become to better know myself and believe in my strength to endure anything. In this, I have seen the black and white - the light and dark - as depicted in the Yin Yang and have endeavored to find that precarious balance. It's rather interesting to see how many Psychologists are turning to Eastern wisdom as their path for treatment...

Through all of this, Yoga and meditation have been my rock. While depression always seems to be the one that stands out with psychological distresses, most likely because of the suicide aspect often attached with it, anxiety has been the worst for me. Yoga and meditation do so much to centre one's self and, if offering only a temporary refuge from the deluge that can make one feel like their skeletal frame is being ripped out whole from one's flesh, is what truly keeps me sane. The biggest problem I find is transforming that sense of calm off the mat during the other times of day when these feelings arise. If I could master that sensation of serenity I achieve after a half hour to hour of Yoga in every moment in my life, then perhaps I would know a better peace. Being mindful and being present are things that I have learned from a number of resources, but it is a discipline that still requires significant effort on my part.

But this is where acceptance comes into play. It is a bit of a catch-22 for me as the logical and emotional do battle. The mind sees the logic, but the emotions just can't seem to habitualise it. In the end, you simply must remind yourself, no matter how great the challenge, that all emotions are temporary and will recycle themselves at random, so just ride out the storms the best that you are able. I am grateful that I have never sought relief from my condition through self destructive means (in fact I've never even tried pot, let alone seek escape through drugs, etc.), for such decisions would only make the ferocity and intensity of these feelings multiply. I do confess to washing down sleeping pills with scotch on occasion in the past, desperate for a good night's sleep which, of course, did not come. Also, I am not even remotely a violent person, which is a blessing in that the negative energies have never resulted in any self-harm or been a threat to others.

In the end, I know that 'normal' is a mythical thread that I no longer seek. I know that I posses these energies I experience, and know that I am able to transform them into light. I maintain a daily gratitude journal that forces me to seek some of that light, even when it appears that I am enveloped in darkness. In having just written this, I am already feeling better than I have in the past few weeks, but accept that these feelings too are only temporary.

So, in closing, it is my hopes that in sharing as I have that you, my reader, take what is here with a grain of salt. Perhaps you think I've shared too much and that I'm a freak, or, perhaps you have found some comfort or verification that we all have our fair share of shit to plod through and that's okay. Whatever the case may be, things are what they are for each of us, and that is all that really matters. We take what we will, just as we give what we will. That is the cycle of life. In the lyrics of X's "The World's A Mess (It's In My Kiss)":

No one is united/ all things are untied/ perhaps we're boiling over inside/ they've been telling lies/ who's been telling lies?/ there are no angels/ there are devils in many ways/ take it like a man/ the world's a mess it's in my kiss/ you can't take it back/ pull it out/ of the fire/ pull it out/ in the bottom of the ninth/ pull it out/ in chords of red-disease/ drag on the system/ drag on my head and body/ there are some facts here/ that refuse to escape/ i could say it stronger/ but it's too much trouble/ i was wondering down at the bricks/ hectic, isn't it?/ down we go/ cradle and all/ the world's a mess it's in my kiss/

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