The Aquarium

•April 7, 2016 • Leave a Comment

The spring evening settles around us as we keen, sailboats shifting and clattering restless in our berths. We are trapped souls, our barren masts scratching skywards, pulsing, almost vibrating against the indignity of our nakedness. Waiting for the disguise of darkness to camouflage our wounds.

We are still alive.  We are the clinical trials which never took place, finely aged and toned veterans of the Decade of the Brain, the bravest of the Big Pharma Guinea Pigs. Prozac GenOne Survivors. You find us on discussion board threads like Crazyboards, Out of the Fog,  or PsychCentral.  Shape-shifting, starboard wingmen, over sensitive to the tide, we have all, most of us, lost count of the months, the years even, we survived as anchor-outs.

If you look closely, if I look closely, beyond the casted film, amidst the flicker of flowers, hovering in a shadowed corner where light may yet still fall, I am there still. I am waiting still. Hopeful still,  not only to reconnect with those vital parts of me, the parts I truly loved, the parts which have been lost to me for too long, but also to discover that the work I  have done in the interim, the endless struggle towards personal, interpersonal and spiritual growth will be reflected in the glow of a new, a better self, a faith in a self I have tended with  utmost care and respect. 

If you look closely, if I look closely, beyond the crusted film, within the flickers of flowers, hovering in a shadowed corner where light may yet still fall, I am there still. Waiting still. Hopeful still. To reconnect with those vital parts of me, the parts I truly loved, the parts which have been lost to me for too long. – To discover that the work I have done in the interim – the endless struggle towards personal, interpersonal and spiritual growth – will be reflected in the glow of a transcendent self, a self I have faithfully tended … for twenty years. Not knowing if she is still there.

The energy healer comes aboard at dawn, a dancing lizard didgeridoo draped over his shoulder. He is framed in fluid yellow, reminiscent of a sunrise just beyond my grasp. He rubs the Awakening Bell to summon me up from a drugged sleep and settle me back into Theta consciousness.   I float on a narrow bed vibrant with colors, cleansed by tingshas and Tibetan singing chakra bowls.

He strikes the Hu Yin ‘Tiger’ Gong. A signal. He waits.

“Where are you?” he asks.

I have traveled so far. His voice so far away. I wince for words. Resistant. So distant.

“Where are you?”

Centuries pass.  Cymbals, bells, the didgeridoo accompany me as I travel. He places two cool crystals on the tops of my feet.

And so I tell him.




I was in a huge aquarium. There was no where to hide from all the people looking in and I could not look out but I knew they were out there and that I was the sole focus of their attention. They were glued to glass, to the spectacle of observing my terror. They could see all my flaws, my vulnerabilities. I was powerless. Trapped. Until from somewhere deep inside me, from a place I had never touched before, I gathered all the energy I never knew I had and burst through the glass.

I am in a huge aquarium. There is no where to hide. Scores of people are  looking in and I cannot see out but I knew they are out there and that I am the sole focus of their attention. They are glued to the glass, to the spectacle of observing my terror. They can see all my flaws, my vulnerabilities. I am powerless. Trapped. Until from somewhere deep inside me, from a place I have never touched before, a place I never knew existed, I gather all the energy I never knew I had and burst through the glass.

I am tossed and turned, violently catapulted within the water as it surges into the room, bursting through the walls of the building, barreling through city streets, merging with the ocean.  For a moment, I find myself on shore, beached alongside Richard Parker, but before I can even experience awe, before I can even rise on my arm, I am gently  sucked back into a sea tunnel.  


Breathless, loosing consciousness, I awake, trampolined out, reborn, buoyant in the body of an angel fish.   I flick and swish through the water through strobes of brilliant light — passing under the flipper of a Hawksbill turtle, alongside anglers and batfish, a frilled shark, white anemone and sea stars. I twist and slide around rocks wrapped in  marina seagrass, reveling as it teases the transparency of my gills.  

In a flash around a bend I am swallowed into the sanctity of a school of angelfish. As if I were never alive before. We are magnificent. We dart and weave, dancing through the water, gathering speed,   We are our own illumination. We move so fast everything around us a blur. Gaining momentum, we rise as one, a shimmering ribbon reeled upward.  We disappear indistinguishable from the stars.


This post is in response to all the comments and questions I have received on my initial post Effexor XR and Memory Loss.

Follow my journey, which began in 2012.

Latest Update:

My So Called Life – An update on the continuing battle with Effexor …






Rocks in my Pockets: a crazy quest for sanity

•February 2, 2015 • Leave a Comment

HIghly suggested!

Everything Matters: Beyond Meds

This film is delightful and profound both. I hope you can enjoy it like I have. I may write more about it later. I’m taking a bit of a break right now from writing and the blog. I never know how long those might last as this healing journey (called life) demands my moment by moment attention.


Rocks In My Pockets

Rocks In My Pockets” is a story of mystery and redemption. The film is based on true events involving five women of the filmmaker’s family, including herself, and their battles with depression and suicide. It raises questions of how much family genetics determine who we are and if it is possible to outsmart one’s own DNA. The film is packed with visual metaphors, surreal images and a twisted sense of humor. It is an animated tale full of art, women, strange daring…

View original post 116 more words

“Leap And The Net Will Appear”

•January 29, 2015 • Leave a Comment
Experiencing the terror. The imminent danger of being swallowed by the forces of your emotions into the hopeless abyss. Tumbling, severed strings, into the darkness.

Experiencing the terror. The imminent danger of being swallowed by the forces of your emotions into the hopeless abyss. Tumbling, severed strings, into the darkness.

I am in constant battle with the demon of emotional imbalance. Dis-ordered moods. I no longer pathologize the conditions of my mind, my spirit, my emotions with a label. Emotional disturbances, frequent fractures with my connectivity to the here and now, are the stuff of my everyday life. Before my eyes open each and every morning, I scan my inner landscape in preparation to meet the day as it gathers outside my window. Just how powerful today the enemy, my self?

“In order to heal, it has to hurt like hell” is the mantra, which has dictated my interaction with my distorted relationship with reality.

Perhaps, I think, I have been wrong about this.

After my latest major psychological/spiritual episode late last year, I opt to do things differently. I decide to concurrently take the terrifying plunge and change my meds by consulting with an unconventional and highly respected psychiatrist. I follow this with five days working one-on-one with my master yoga teacher, an aruvedic healer. At first glance, an unusual choice, this combination of western psychiatry and ancient natural healing.

It turns out this leap of faith, this movement into unchartered territories, was without doubt the wisest decision of my life.

“Well, I must be in the right place,” I note, when the doctor opens the door to find me holding his copy of Carl Rogers’ On Becoming A Person. “A psychiatrist with this book in his waiting room. Exciting.”

His eyes light up. Five minutes into our meeting and he can hardly contain his glee when I tell him I’ve known for 20 years that my problems have nothing to do with depression, that my imbalance is directly related to dysfunction of my HPA Axis. And when I note having reported about ‘brainzaps’ before any doctor had an inkling of their existence (that I had actually created a blog “Brainzaps”) he is nearly rhapsodic. We talk like colleagues about dysfunctions of the glutamatergic system, the enteric nervous system , and how Effexor XR with its neuronal excitatory signaling is absolutely counter indicated for my particular endochronogical proclivities.

Ten minutes in, we know we are about to launch into a magnificent therapeutic relationship.

Staying with the darkness allows something to happen that escapes us if we are hasty. If we resist our natural tendency to take flight before painful experiences, we can descend into the dark aspects of the unconscious, which is necessary if we are to make contact with what Goethe calls ‘infinite nature.’

Staying with the darkness allows something to happen that escapes us if we are hasty. If we resist our natural tendency to take flight before painful experiences, we can descend into the dark aspects of the unconscious, which is necessary if we are to make contact with what Goethe calls ‘infinite nature.’

With a highly finessed flick of his Honoré de Balzac Mont Blanc fountain pen, he scribbles a script guaranteed to squelch the cortisol rushes tout de suite, a drug he says we will use as a ‘bridge’ in our journey to end my reliance on pharmaceuticals forever. He sends me off with his blessing to delve in the ancient wonders of Aruvedic healing. “Be prepared, he says. “The stomache is, after all, the second brain.”

" I would surround myself with beauty no matter how primitive and artless–objects, colors, sounds. I would eat and drink well." Carl Jung.

” I would surround myself with beauty no matter how primitive and artless–objects, colors, sounds. I would eat and drink well.” Carl Jung.

The little house on Clement Street sits across the way from foresty Lincoln Park and the Legion of Honor. I take off my shoes and enter rooms scented by Bergamot Beeswax candles. Mungbeans, broccoli, sunflowers and fenugreek sprout in the sunlight of the kitchen. The sound of mantras resounds throughout the house. My teacher radiates love and acceptance as she sits me down at a table, which I share with five tightly wound pink peonies. I will observe them each day as they open.

“We can not hope to address your emotional imbalance until we deal with your digestion,” my teacher says. “Your lack of appetite. You will not sleep until your body reconnects with its natural rhythm. Right now, there is too much vata. So, first you will eat. Then you will rest. Then we will begin the work. The mind is the second stomache.”

But before anything, she sends me out into the garden where I walk for ten minutes while swishing pure Sesame Oil around in my mouth. Then on to a tiny bathroom where after scraping my tongue, I scrub neem into my gums.

A glass of warm water, brown with herbs to aide digestion. A sliver of lemon and ginger to awaken hunger. A small salad of sprouted beans and spinach, some kraut, seasoned with pink salt and a blend of cumin, turmeric, coriander. Cream of broccoli soup and kitcherie.

Small portions all, yet I have not eaten this much in months.

Five days of being fed. Resting. Breathing. Walking. Meditating. Having oils massaged into my scalp, all over my body. Resting. Breathing. Walking. More oils. Resting. Breathing.

With all this love, with all this caring for, I sleep more deeply. The new med (which is NOT, by the way, a psychotrophic) kicks in. I am no longer waking four or five times each night. The rushing leaves my chest. Yet still my mind is unable to rest. It ruminates. Worries. Clings. Meanders. My body relaxes. Softens. My spirit stills. But my mind can find no peace.

I return home and follow her instructions. Stock up on organic Indian spices. Ghee. Chai. Turkish Apricots. I begin cooking. Mung soup. Dal. Quinoa with Mint, Cilantro & Red Onion. Carrot Soup. Beets and greens. Chickpea breads. Drink only warm water or chai, which I sweeten, if at all, with brown coconut sugar. I listen to the music of Snatam Kaur, Mirabai Ceiba, Jai-Jagdeesh. Burn beeswax candles. Place fragrant peonies, lavender and stargazers in my home. I limit use of my cellphone and computer. Am asleep by ten.

“Listen to your heart,” my teacher says. “You are loved. You will heal. Trust your heart. Your inner teacher.”

Two days before Christmas. A two-hour candlelight Yin Yoga Class. A new teacher. She scents the room with Frankincense and myrrh. We hold each asana for five minutes.

I stay with it, settling in each posture up to edge of pain.

I notice a subtle shift. Colors seem to have a scent to them. Smells vibrate. My feet connect more smoothly with the earth.


After the holidays, I begin exploring brainspotting, a new modality of addressing trauma
Brainspotting involves working to modify the mammalian ‘midbrain,’ (home to the the flight-fright response triggered by trauma). The process involves bypassing the ‘thinking brain’ (the left prefrontal) and using the intuitive right brain to access both the mid- and the hindbrain.

Here’s an example. A young woman is asked to focus on some trauma from her childhood. She locates the spot associated with being five as being to the right and upwards. She focuses on that spot and experiences a sense of weight within her chest.

By intensely honing in on these ‘trauma cells’ where painful feelings or memories are lodged, the conscious brain “observes’ the unconscious brain and begins “traveling down the neural pathways that are unpredictable and kind of mysterious to our conscious selves. But by doing it, we’re actually watching the brain process the experience and watching the brain healing itself.”

Visoka : state free from pain, or suffering; Va : or ( other practices from 1.34 to 1.39) Jyotismati : inner light , supreme or divine light ... Or By Perception Which Is Free From Sorrow And Is Radiant (Stability Of Mind Can Also Be Produced )  Patanjali Yoga Sutra 1.36 (Parisamvad)

Visoka : state free from pain, or suffering; Va : or ( other practices from 1.34 to 1.39) Jyotismati : inner light , supreme or divine light … Or By Perception Which Is Free From Sorrow And Is Radiant (Stability Of Mind Can Also Be Produced ) Patanjali Yoga Sutra 1.36 (Parisamvad)

Leaping into Darkness

I find myself brainspotting Thursday night at an Ivengar Yoga class. The instructor has us place chairs at the top of our mats and we move through a progression of postures in preparation for the evening’s final asana. A shoulder stand.

I’ve done shoulder stands from the floor before. But this time, our end posture involves not just the inversion but also moving the buttocks away from any contact with the chair, without the support of your hands on your back. After launching your legs over your head, you move your body forward so that it is only you on your shoulders. You hover in space, seeking balance in darkness. Unsupported. This is no leap into darkness, trusting a net will appear.

No. You are the net.

As I mull over whether to venture this far tonight, my conscious mind travels at unprecedented speed and connects with deep feelings of my inability to trust. Of not trusting others, but perhaps, more importantly, not trusting in myself.

And as if a magnificent light shines intensely and transformatively on that feeling, I awake to the knowledge that it is no longer serving me. That I have moved beyond this. And, simultaneously, something shifts just enough and I am able to risk.

I move my body a few inches away from the chair.

In the very first moment, I feel blessed and utterly exhilarated. Courageous. Triumphant. Amazed.

But then, as my legs struggle for stasis, my consciousness rapidly cycles between moments of absolute terror and bliss. I can only compare it to the utter intimacy, one experiences when making love with someone for the first time. That co-mingling delicious tension between total vulnerability and fear, anticipation and moving forward into the moment. Being there. Fluttering, ironically, while in absolute balance.

After class that night, as we pull on our shoes, scarves and coats, I ask the teacher what would happen if you could not hold the pose, if your body could not support you, if you lost control. She shrugs, as if it would be no big deal.

But to me it seems enormous. As if something catastrophic would occur.

“Would you die?” I ask.

And in that moment, I realize that I actually care. That for the first time in I don’t know how many years, I actually want to live. I have such an acute awareness of how much more I have to accomplish. Of how many secret yearnings I hold in my heart of hearts. And I feel such gratitude that I am finally untethered to this profound battle with darkness.

I listen recently to a lecture about applying the concept of loving kindness to oneself. The teacher encourages you to imagine your interactions with a person you love and respect. To think about how you would fight for them, advocate for them. Reserve a sacred space that is theirs only, a space and a time in which you would nurture and cherish them.

And then, he says, trade places and imagine that person is you.

It is not until you learn to do the same for yourself that you can truly heal.

"When you adopt the viewpoint that there is nothing that exists that is not a part of you, that there is no one who exists who is not a part of you, that any judgment you make is self-judgement, that any criticism you level is self-criticism, you will wisely extend to yourself an unconditional love that will be the light of your world." Harry Palmer.

“When you adopt the viewpoint that there is nothing that exists that is not a part of you, that there is no one who exists who is not a part of you, that any judgment you make is self-judgement, that any criticism you level is self-criticism, you will wisely extend to yourself an unconditional love that will be the light of your world.” Harry Palmer.

(cross posted from Daily Kos … Just to keep track of my progress … )

This Magic Moment

•January 29, 2015 • Leave a Comment

It’s well before 8 Saturday morning, the eve of the Winter Solstice, as I set out for the waterfront, dogs trotting, impatient, beside me. The fog hovers over the puddled pavement.
A mere five minute walk to the marina, a grassy promenade grazing the bay near the houseboats and anchor outs. A well guarded perch for local birdwatchers on the lookout for sightings of Slaty-backed gulls, Belted Kingfishers, Spotted sandpipers, Bufflehead ducks; home to the usual suspects – surf scooters, cormorants, terns, skimmers, egrets, on occasion a pelican.

This morning, though, at least a hundred pelicans convene along the shore, conversing in their characteristic shrill and hoarse calls.

It is just us. The birds, the dogs and I.


Releasing my pets, I walk deep into the mist. Saturated in the surroundings.
I linger, at the pier’s end, losing all awareness of unleashed dogs, of time, of any salient schedule. I smooch, still and silent, with the music of the moment.


And then, perhaps ten minutes elapse, I consciously reach for my camera. Leaning into the crisscrossed steel fence blocking access to the sailboat slips, I tease the lens through an aperture, focusing on just one magnificent bird moored before me.
I wait.

I linger and, in doing so, find temporary furlough from the endlessness of clinging, from the relentless grasp of seared patterns of thinking, acting and reacting so imperfectly in the world, now behind me.


I am swallowed into the scents, the sounds, the frothy fog, the tone, the texture. I taste herring fresh in my mouth. My feathers settle, resting soft against my body. A lengthening interval between each breath. I bend my beak to glimpse my smooth reflection, soft in the bay.


In my quest for balance, I stand on one foot, lift and roll my wings, lengthen my neck to the right, to the left.


And then I lift. In a sequence of micro alignments invisible to the observer yet burned throughout millennia into my DNA, I fly. Without hesitation. Never looking back. Samadhi.


I wake to the blissful sounds of dogs at play.


Back home, I am acutely aware of a grouping of three pink peonies. I notice that each one is in a different phase of awakening. And I wonder, had I not lingered earlier, would I have been aware, atuned to the miracles, the nuances of life? To observe. To marvel. To wonder why.


Cross posted from Daily Kos

Complex PTSD & Resting In Stillness

•January 29, 2015 • Leave a Comment


It took the death of my father to free me from a lifetime of emotional abuse as the daughter of a narcissistic mother. To open my eyes and swim away. To save myself from drowning.
At first, I experienced one of those ‘pink cloud’ periods. Out of her sphere of influence, I was liberated. Powerful. Invincible. And I sailed on that cloud for a month or so. Until my first EMDR session. The ensuing flood of memories. The vibrantly real visions of flailing, submerged, for safety, alone in the middle of a pond whose ice was too thin to bear the weight of even the frailest of the fragile.

It was then that I realized the true pain had just begun. Pinpointing the root of my problems involved ripping wide open poorly healed wounds. Recracking bones. What emerged was the wreckage of my life.

Everything became a trigger. There was no still point. Except in yoga. In meditation. In carrying around the book and studying each day The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. It is this immersion into the spiritual which is saving me. Repairing my wounds. Reconnecting me with my soul.


My light bulb moment first occurred last year, when my new pdoc, just ten minutes into our 15 minute session, said “I knew right away what your problem is. You have PTSD. I saw it the moment you walked in the door.”
Imagine that, after over 20 years of treatment for Major Depressive Disorder!

True, I had immersed myself years before in studying narcissistic mothers. I had done all the reading back then. The Gifted Child. Trapped in the Mirror. Codependent No More. I had gone through periods of No Contact. Limited Contact. But years of treating the symptoms with medication, with sliding through life saddled with the stigma MDD had diverted my attention from the true issue. Had kept me ‘coming back for more.’

t was only after that visit with the pDoc that I began researching Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD), defined as “a condition that results from chronic or long-term exposure to emotional trauma over which a victim has little or no control and from which there is little or no hope of escape. ”
PTSD, in contrast, results from single events, or short term exposure to extreme stress or trauma.

For me C-PTSD involved emotional abuse, physical violations of personal boundaries, entrapment , long-term objectification, exposure to gaslighting & false accusations, long-term exposure to inconsistent, push-pull, splitting or alternating raging & hoovering behaviors.

The consequences? Hypervigilance, hypersensitivity, inability to trust, feeling deformed, defective. Unworthy of being loved. Isolating. Adrenal fatigue. Chronic sleep problems. Battlling and overcoming addictions. Inability to hold onto a job. Incapable of true intimacy. The list goes on. And on. And on. I read the symptoms and there is nary a one I cannot relate to.

My NM succeeded time after time in reeling me back in, keeping me entrapped in an obsessive need to ‘get it right this time,’ to find a way to correct the misconceptions she had about me, to redeem myself for being such a failure.

But I was a failure the moment I was born. How can one correct that?


There were times like this most recent period, during the last two years, when I thought I had succeeded. When I was able to swoop in and work magic as she and my father battled major illness. I felt loved. I flew back and forth to the East Coast maybe seven times for extensive stays in hotels near their home. For hospitalizations. Doctors visits. Setting up home health care services. We all thought my mother would die first.

But it was my dad who lost his battle with cancer. Just four days before his death, while I was supervising hospice and home nurses and battling with doctors to issue the right cocktail of meds to relieve my dad of his suffering, she struck out with an attack of such deluded vengeance, I came this close to a psychotic break. When my dad needed me most.

That was the end for me. I told her the next morning I would be staying until he died. And I flew back home the day after his funeral.


My mother’s self absorption, her inability to express love, her preventing me from forming any close friendships, her adeptness at triangulation, her severe punishments which often took the form of weeks of being ignored, the continuous lack of consistency between what she said one day and the next, the radical shifts in reality between when one went to bed in the evening and awoke in the morning. The false accusations. It was always me causing the problems, the drama, the family rifts. As I see it, some of the most damaging episodes of dealing with my my mother in my life happened after I ended my first period of no contact. My daughter was perhaps two. I recall phone conversations when my mother said such horrible things I experienced emotional traumas so intense they manifested as inflicted physical wounds.
• Feeling like someone had pulled the earth out from under your feet: A short time sober and emerging (unbeknownst to her) out the other end of a psychic break, she told me she had been disappointed with me since my senior year in high school – I looked down to see if I still had legs.
• Feeling as if the top of my head had exploded: she said I had no right to have a child so soon after getting married when we weren’t financially set – I reached my hands to see if my head was still there.
• Feeling as if l had been stabbed in the heart: I was the only girl of all 23 cousins who was a failure – I looked down for the knife, the blood.


In the three months since my dad’s death, I had been in limited contact mode. I was calling her once a week. And then, a few weeks ago, she said something so hurtful and vindictive, I looked down to see if my wrists had been slit. I continued to look down at my wrists, on and off through the day, for a week afterwards. As I write this I notice I look down again.

Today, I am in my 12th day of “No Contact.” And as much as others may view me as a horrible daughter, for my own survival ‘No Contact’ must define my status until she dies. To be “No Contact” means to allow no contact from her, either. To avoid all contact with people she may use as messengers of actions she is taking to hurt, discredit and paint false pictures about me.

Trauma and Your Lost Self: How To Heal the Pain

A lot of the literature on PTSD or CPTSD cues you to think back to the person you were before the narcissist entered your life. I entered life through the birth canal of a narcissist. I know no other self.

One way to work with the pain of what you miss is to lessen the distance between you and what you love/value. Try this:
Ask yourself, What do I miss most about my past self or who I imagine I was or could have been if trauma hadn’t interfered?
Make a list of as many answers as you can think of, i.e. “I miss feeling connected to my past self.”
Identify what value each item represents, i.e. the value is “connection”.
For each item on the list recognize (by writing it out) why that value is important to you, i.e. “Connection is important to me because ….”
Identify how you can give yourself an experience and sense of that value today. Brainstorm new types of experiences (or recreate old experiences that are available to you today) so that you create an ongoing program of bringing what you value about the past into your present. Do this weekly or even daily.


So I find myself today on yet another journey towards recovery yet I begin this one with much gratitude as I already have some major props in place to support me. I incorporated Yoga and Meditation into my life years ago as tools to help me cope with severe depression and anxiety. I practice Yoga at my small neighborhood studio five or six days a week. I completed a few years back a clinical trial on the role of Mindfulness, Cognitive Behavior Therapy for treatment resistant depression.
A few weeks back, my yoga master introduced me to the work of Richard D. Miller whose iRest program employs Yoga Nidra to help deal with, among other things, PTSD. (His programs are being used at Walter Reed to help soldiers cope with posttraumatic stress disorder.)

I’d been doing Yoga Nidra for some time to help me sleep, but Miller’s work is truly outstanding.

iRest provides simple, easy to follow guided instructions and is usually done in a comfortable reclining position. It is well suited for people with PTSD or stress symptoms because of the continuous verbal instructions which keep attention focused and re-focused on specific body sensations, breathing, emotions, beliefs and images. Yoga Nidra Now

“The Eastern yoga principles took it for granted that you were at a certain state of health and well-being,” writes Miller. “What I saw was that this was not true of most students. So I added the element of the Inner Resource.”

Upon beginning to relax, the practitioner is asked to find their own “Inner Resource,” a feeling or a vision of a place where they feel safe and secure. When and if intense memories or emotions surface during the practice, returning the focus to this inner resource is a vital tool in coping. (see irest)


(cross posted from Daily Kos

Thirty Years

•March 7, 2014 • Leave a Comment

“Within us is a secret longing to remember the light, to step out of time in this dancing world. It’s where we began and where we return.” Jack Kornfield

Last night, I shared my story at AA for the first time. I don’t owe my sobriety to AA, however.  I was one of those people who have a hard time with the God thing and the jargon and the ‘my way or the highway’ mentality which sorta defined ‘The Program’ when I took my last drink 30 years ago.

No, rather I  dropped in and out over the years and began to reinvest in the program about three years ago.  The fact that I am an Alcoholic had, in fact, become a side note in my battle with Major Depressive Disorder, the underlying condition  I had medicated with alcohol.  Finally, ten years into sobriety, after all else had failed, I hit bottom,   diagnosed with psychotic depression and borderline personality disorder.  Sixteen years of  treatment consisted of  various psychopharmaceutical cocktails and weekly therapy.

I spent those years researching alternative treatments (and writing about much of what I discovered here at Brainzaps) because , as the years went by, the side effects of the medication were so difficult to deal with: Cognitive problems with memory and complex thinking; inability to make decisions or follow through; uncharacteristic rages and an inability to control impulses. Weight gain. Dental problems. Stinging and watering eyes. Elevated white blood cell count, Elevated Cholesterol. Elevated blood sugar.

And the loss of job after job after job due to personality conflicts. Paranoia. Major anxiety attacks. Obsessive attachments to my view of how something should be written or edited.  An inability to compromise my integrity to mesh with corruption of principles of journalism.

Three years ago, I fired my psychiatrist, and began working with a therapist who practices integrative medicine and psychotherapy.  I participated in a life changing UCSF Clinical trial on Mindful Meditation for treatment resistant MDD.

I discovered in my research that the principles of the twelve steps actually ‘mimic’ the manner by which ancient spiritual teachings instruct an individual on how to lead a healthy, balanced life, how to find a new way of moving in the world through integrating deep inner work into external reality.


As Judith Lasater writes in Beginning the Journey: Living the Yamas of Patanjali:

“Significantly Patanjali gives the reader this set of ethical guidelines as he begins to list the steps of the practice of yoga, not at the end.  While Westerners are often more familiar with another step in the “ladder” of yoga practice, the postures, or asana, the yamas are  the first. It is surprising to some that the classical teaching of yoga actually begins with precepts about how to live in the world. (The next step in the practice of yoga is the “niyamas”, even more personal practices. The succeeding limbs become increasingly more personal.(1) But the practices of yoga are meant to be about the whole fabric of our lives, not just about physical health or a withdrawn spiritual life.”

I was hesitant to share my story last night because it is not about AA. Because there still are many in this program who believe depression is not a disease. That if you follow the 12 steps religiously and turn your life over to god, you will walk again.  IMO? Snake oil if one is truly crippled by a disease like Major Depressive Disorder.

I talked about growing up in a large extended Irish Catholic family, mostly about my mother’s father, my grandfather, an Irish immigrant from Macroom listed on his ship’s manifesto as a teacher.  He was a poet who owned for some time what would become a highly valuable piece of land in Jamaica, New York. He was a farmer who didn’t know much about building a house but built several.  My mother recounted how as a child she would lie awake on the nights when he went out, hopping the subway  to Far Rockaway to walk the beach until dawn.


He had come to New York with dreams of joining his brother in California and studying Law. But then he knocked on the door of a Long Island City boarding house and my grandmother answered the door, and he fell hopelessly in love.

I wanted to succeed in life as a writer because I emulated my grandfather. Because I wanted his approval and love. But then alcohol swallowed my 20s and that was only the beginning of my battle with disease. Mental health and its treatment and the side effects from the medications took away a huge part of life. My will to live.

I was brutally truthful last night.  I discussed my battle with my diagnosis ten years in to my sobriety, how unfortunate it was that I had fought so hard, had been in denial for so long, about facing the extent of my mental illness. How my mental condition would not have become so intense had I addressed it head on when symptoms of depression emerged so intensely during my teens. The theory of   ‘kindling’, the concept that while a major experience usually precipitates the initial incident, the ensuing sensitization enables the triggering of subsequent events which can increase in frequency and intensity.  When Peter Kramer wrote in Against Depression about the holes in the brains of people who had experienced MDD, I knew exactly what he meant. My mind at times feels like a loosely woven well-worn basket.


I read voraciously — the ususals like  Kay Jamison, Peter Kramer, William Styron, and finally discovered information about neuroplasaticity with Norman Doidge’s The Brain that Changes Itself and neuroscientist Vilyanur S Ramachandran’s mirror therapy.

Two years ago, I  picked up a copy of  The Mindful Way Through Depression , the work of Zindel V. Segal, J. Mark G. Williams, and John D. Teasdale, which applies the principles of Jon Kabat-Zinn to the treatment of depression.

Practicing these principles in all my affairs, to the best of my ability, one day at a time is how I live my life.

It wasn’t until recently that I learned how to navigate mud puddles without drowning.

I admitted last night how still today I wake up every morning heavily blanketed in state of deep despair. That I have to create my life new every morning. That I have learned that it is only by not giving in to this powerful lure, only by being mindful that I do have tools to use, that I can create meaning from nothing. That sanity and peace in my mind are within reach if I do what I know I need to do each and every day. And that I STILL DO NOT ALWAYS WIN!  But the relapses are not as long now.

For me, maintaining a delicate balance in my life means accepting as reality there will be times during each and every day when I feel totally lost and alone. On the verge of disaster. Praying for oblivion. Accepting this as  part of the journey.

Life for me today means maintaining a schedule which includes daily meditation, five yoga classes a week, four AA and one AlAnon Meeting, two daily hikes or brisk walks with my dog and not allowing myself to isolate until after 8 o’clock in the evening. My support ‘team’  as I battle through  the end stages to achieve a life with NO need for pharmaceuticals includes a pDoc, a therapist, a nutritionist/pharmacologist and an acupuncturist.

My diet is gluten free, extremely low in carbs of all types. Mega doses of protein, difficult because I am a vegetarian. My daily supplements include Dopatone, 3000 mg Complete Omegas, probiotics, 100 mg 5HTP, Gaba, Magnesium, Adrena Calm and Progesterone Cream. I take l’theanine as needed. I avoid sugar. Dairy products.

Every night when the lights go out I do yoga in bed – Yoga Nidra.


And then I wake up again. To create another day.

Calm in Chaos

•September 2, 2013 • Leave a Comment