In late September 1992, my world changed forever in a matter of seconds. I was at work. I suddenly had an ominous feeling that something was “wrong”. Then it happened. My heart started to beat so fast and hard I thought it was going to explode. I felt this overwhelming pressure in my head. I ended up on the floor. A few days later a doctor diagnosed me with anxiety and prescribed me Xanax. The Xanax allowed me to work and socialize. I decided, on my own, in July of the following year to stop taking the Xanax. My doctor had failed to inform me that stopping Xanax suddenly after long use was not safe. What followed was a complete physical meltdown. I started talk therapy immediately thereafter. I was then given the more specific diagnosis of PTSD. By December of that year, I could no longer do paid work, and I have not done paid work since.
I am now in my 26th year of being disabled. Most of my difficulties over the years have been energy based. When I say energy I am talking about the life force known in eastern terms as chi or kundalini. Over the last 26 years, I have sought to be free of the tortuous energy hurricane that has swirled around inside me every waking second of every day for almost all of that time. There have been huge chunks of time that I was stuck at home, unable to go out. Even something as benign as showering would make my energy issues worse. For the first 4 or so years I vomited every day, sometimes more than once. It has just been in this last year that I have experienced tangible physical, and thus mental and emotional, relief.
The mental health component has been a struggle right alongside the physical energy torture. The main source of both of these struggles is, I believe, early childhood sexual abuse. The PTSD that resulted led to many self-destructive behaviors. These have been addiction to food, addiction to alcohol, cutting, and constant suicidal thoughts which included a suicide attempt in February 1997. This attempt occurred after my life had deteriorated to sitting on my bed, rocking back and forth 12 hours a day. After 2 weeks of that kind of extreme suffering, I couldn’t take it anymore and tried to kill myself. I should be dead. But the universe intervened in a creative way. I ended up in the psych ward for two weeks.
In the first three and a half years of my illness leading up to my suicide attempt, I tried many psychiatric medications. None of them helped at all. After the suicide attempt, while I was in the psych ward, I was put on a very old type of psych med. It turned me into a zombie. I couldn’t really think too well and I constantly felt like I wanted to sleep. The relief I experienced from the years of physical torture made taking the medicine worth dealing with the unwanted side effects.
In July of 1998, my doctor and I decided to have me try going off the medication. When I did that, I had a hypomanic attack. Though I didn’t know it at the time because I had never had one before. When I next saw my doctor she concluded I was having a hypomanic attack and diagnosed me with Bipolar 2. She put me on another medication to control the mania. The mania went away quickly and I was back to feeling extremely depressed by the fact that the physical torture had returned, and the isolation that accompanied it.
Isolation has been a huge challenge over these last 26 years. The 3 closest female friends I had all ended their friendships with me due to my illness. It caused me great pain and great frustration because they ended their friendships with me due to an illness beyond my control.
As for the therapies that have helped me get to where I am now — much more stable and far less physically tortured — I started with talk therapy. At the same time, I used EMDR therapy to clear out PTSD from a 1993 rape. Since the memories related to the early childhood sexual abuse are not visual but body and energetic memories, EMDR was not helpful with that PTSD. I’ve had to use other therapeutic methods. These have included as of now, August 2019: 10 years of Integrated Awareness Bodywork, 6 years of Somatic therapy (ongoing), 3 years of Hypnotherapy, and 9 months of Reiki (ongoing). Each therapy has been a stepping stone to the next. They build upon each other. My mind has been mostly peaceful for a couple of years now. But it really wasn’t until this last year that I’ve had tangible, extended relief from my energy issues which caused so much physical suffering, and thus mental, emotional and spiritual suffering.
I can safely say the only reason I’m alive today is that I have always viewed these physical and mental maladies as part of my spiritual path. My spiritual life is what I value the most. So even when I thought I couldn’t go on any longer, which I have thought constantly, I would defer to that part of my deepest spiritual self that just would not give up. And I believe it’s that spiritual self that led me to the therapies that have given me the freedom I have today.
If you had told me 26 years ago I would still be disabled, that I would still be challenged energetically, I would have given up, tried to kill myself at the beginning of this illness. So in the end not knowing the future was a good thing. I can say that the length and severity of my suffering have led me to understand many things about myself and about people and life in general.
I went from being consumed by PTSD, being an active alcoholic, chronically depressed, and often suicidal before my illness hit, to being mostly peaceful, sober, and living life as the spiritual person I had wanted to be even before the onset of my illness. In experiencing my own illness I gained insight into the suffering of so many of us. It seems to me we all try the best we can. Sometimes we come up short, sometimes very short. And sometimes we excel at the art of living a healing, meaningful life.
There is still some serious work to be done to reach the goals I’ve had since day one. That includes working, even if it is only part-time. Doing all the social things I want to do, including dating. Pursuing creative endeavors. Being a healing force in the world, whether in a personal way or a more universal way. I’m not sure how being a healer in the world will manifest, but I am open to wherever my path takes me.
Our bodies, our minds, can give us so much joy and they can also cause us unimaginable suffering. One of the most enjoyable things that I experience now is just the overwhelming gratitude to be calm and grounded in my body and in my mind. I see it as a gift that I can take a deep breath without experiencing anxiety. I can move in my body without being tortured. I can also experience emotions and thoughts free from drama, free from neurosis.