Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A Safe Place To Go

I mentioned in my last entry that I have a Safe Place in my head where I can go and be calm and alone. Well, my psychiatrist has me working on building Safe Places in the real world. It is part of the process of overcoming my paranoia of going outside the house and dealing with the social anxiety. I have successfully developed several Safe Places outside the house where I can go and feel calm and relaxed - the cafe at my grocery store, a favorite restaurant, etc. I have even miraculously made my psychiatrist's office into a Safe Place, the only medical/doctor location I have been able to do that with.

Well, today I went in for a Dexa scan, which measures bone density or something like that. My primary physician ordered it because I haven't been taking any kind of hormone replacement after getting my hysterectomy. It was a medical place, and a new one at that, so my anxiety was already up. The whole thing was quick and painless - I think I was in the office a total of 20 minutes - but it totally freaked me out. The scanner was an arch that moved up and down my body in lurches and stops. It would move toward my face, jerking closer and closer, then go the other way, then back again. I don't know why it triggered hysteria, but it did. I got out of the care and I was shaking so bad I had trouble getting the keys in the ignition.

I didn't want to go home. I would just sit and shake and the hysteria would probably get worse. So I sat and went through my head to find a Safe Place. The first to pop into my head was a restaurant I really like, but I wasn't hungry. Next to pop in was Affogato, a beverage food truck owned and operated by my dear friend Elise. When it isn't driving around to fairs, concerts, and farmer's markets, the truck has a parking spot at a bicycle shop not far from my house. It has an awning and chairs and, best of all, fair trade and absolutely yummy coffee, tea, smoothies, and other delightful things.

I made it over there and had to sit in my car for a few minutes before I could even get out. I was still shaking like crazy and trying to not break out sobbing. I got over to the order window and Elise was there with a huge smile and a "It's wonderful to see you." She mixed me up an iced Chai made with coconut milk and I sat in one of chairs in the shade and I could feel the hysteria start to drain away. Elise and her friend and cohort Chris and I chatted for a while and I sipped that luscious Chai and just let myself listen to the traffic and the wind chimes and just be for a while. I probably sat there for about an hour, and it was wonderful. I finally said my goodbyes and made my way home.

My mom, of course, wanted to know how it went. A bit of the hysteria tried to surface while I talked about it, but I remembered the cooling breeze and the taste of the Chai and I stayed calm.

I realize now just how vital it is to have those Safe Places to go to when I feel like I'm on the verge of breaking down. Home usually does it, but not always. And sometimes I am too far from home to make it there in time. It is a work in progress, but I see now just how important it is to push my comfort zone just enough to stretch its boundaries.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Stopping To Listen

I am going to admit something to you, something I've never admitted to anyone before. I truly believe that some of the voices I hear are real. Some of them aren't, and I can tell the difference because they "sound" different. I also believe that the "delusional" other world that I visit in my mind is real. I know a lot of my paranoia and anxiety are caused by the unreal stuff, the "voices" that tell me bad things will happen or that I am worthless and better off dead. But there are also voices - they are truly friends - who help me. They tell me I am beautiful, that I can take a few deep breaths and make it through the next 10 minutes and things will be fine. They are my own personal cheerleading squad.

I have never admitted this to any psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist, or any other medical professional. I have always been afraid of what they would do or diagnose. I don't trust them to believe that there are worlds beyond ours and that maybe - just maybe - those like me are in fact peering between the veils and catching a glimpse of the wonderful, the terrifying, and the awesome.

I am not a religious person - religions tend to label schizophrenics as deluded, possessed, or just sick. But I am very spiritual. If I let my mind go still, I can feel the life blood pumping up the trunk of a tree or feel the fires that forged the lava rock under my feet. Every animal has a pure soul inside of it and every plant breathes for our Mother Earth. It I had to give a name to my beliefs I would have to say I was Wiccan. The "Harm None" rule is one I follow diligently and the Celtic names of the deities and spirits resonate with me better than other cultures. And while I have left the more structured parts of the Wiccan road behind me, at one time they gave me the support I needed and gave me names like empath and seer to let me see my schizophrenia in a softer light. It taught me to meditate, to listen to the Earth, and understand that I am a vital part of something much larger than me. It saved me in one of the darkest times of my life.

And it continues to do so. In the beginning of my Wiccan path, I walked ceremony to find my patron deity. The one who came to me was The Morrigan. She is a warrior goddess, the Great Queen, and a great healer. She reaps the battlefields for the souls that are ready to pass on to the next life and her Ravens clean the field of all the ugliness so that new life can move in. I was terrified of her at first and wondered why she would choose me. I thought it meant that I needed to become a warrior - a belief that led to a misguided and short-lived effort to join the US Army.

Over time I learned that there are many ways to be one of her warriors. I learned to use my words as weapons and as a means to heal. I gave every bit of myself to helping others, fighting against poverty, abuse, and misinformation. It gave me a true purpose, but it was exhausting and eventually I couldn't do it any more.

And so I find myself now cut off from all the ways I fought. I believed that The Morrigan had abandoned me. Instead, I had stopped listening. I feel weak and useless, and it was stopping me from making the connection.

Two nights ago I was meditating in my Safe Place. This is a place inside myself where it is only me. I can't always get there because the voices and anxiety can get so loud that I can't find the stillness. But if I can really get deep into the meditation, I can get there. It is a dome of faceted crystal that holds everything else out - everything except The Morrigan. Over the years she is the ONLY thing that join me in the Safe Place. The floor of the dome is scattered with shimmering black raven wings from her past visits and there are obsidian-like facets in the crystal where she has helped me mend cracks and fissures.

Well, two nights ago I got to my Safe Place and was enjoying the solitude and watching light play off of the crystal. Then a saying popped into my head, one I really dislike. It is one of those inspirational sayings that has never made sense to me. It goes "A bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking, because her trust is not on the branch but on her own wings." It sounds good on the surface - but I DO fear the branch will break because I don't have wings.

And that was when she came. She wrapped her huge, soft, Raven wings around me and whispered "My dear Indigo Child, I am your wings." (She always calls me that, and She is the only one to do so. I don't really know why.) She cradled me in her arms and her wings and let me sob at the relief and joy that She was with me again. And without words she showed me that my task wasn't to fight, but to heal and clean the battlefield of all its ugliness. I must spread kindness to combat the hate and let my smile shine wherever I go. I am not useless - I am doing vital work simply by writing, painting, and going out and saying hello to strangers and telling my friends how beautiful they are inside and out.

Yes, I have schizophrenia. Yes, I do hear voices that are not real. But there are some who are, I just have to stop and listen so I can hear love and encouragement that is hidden beneath the shouting voices of hate.

Listen. Truly listen. This world is full of beauty if you just take the time to look.