Kali and Trauma Cleansing

This post contains a suggestion for a visualization technique that I have used to reduce the symptoms of PTSD. It is not meant to cure or diagnose. It can be used by magical practitioners and non-practitioners alike. I left the wording vague.

I have found that sometimes my darkness is so thick that only other darkness can approach it and relieve painful psychological symptoms. I think I discovered this at 16 when I fell in love with Joy Division or even Bikini Kill and their songs of isolation and righteous anger. The therapist was very concerned when she heard what was coming out of my earphones. “Doesn’t that just make you angrier?”

I thought about it. “No, it eats my anger.”

I have had a lot of trauma in my life, great long unlit roads of depression and anguish peppered with the bright light of hypomania. There were times I felt hexed but who would hex me? I don’t know anyone with the power to hex backward in time to blight someone’s childhood.

I spent some time away from witchcraft because I was afraid I was magickally crossing myself.

When I returned to it, it was through the goddess Kali*. I went down to the local new-age bookstore and they had a single image of her. No statues or posters, just a little 4×6 picture with Kali so blue, her eyes popping from her head with ravenous and lustful anger, the garland of skulls hanging from her neck, the decapitated head gripped by one of her hands and her foot on poor Shiva who, upon seeing that she would not, on her own, stop the rampage, placed his own body as a stopper. It’s a powerful image and one that immediately made me feel safer.

kaliferrebeekeeper

Upon seeing the picture, the bookstore clerk reacted the same way my therapist had when I was 16 listening to Bikini Kill, slightly aghast. These white-lighters can’t recognize the virtue in the “dark side” of the force.

At the time, I was in the grips of a painful and seemingly endless bout of PTSD symptoms that were starting to have physical effects (fibromyalgia, considered by some doctors to be the physical aspect of PTSD). I needed someone powerful enough to eat my trauma. Kali had reached out to me

I embarked on weeks of visualizations, pouring my internal bile into the earth that could transmute it. I gave Kali an altar and charged a bit of obsidian with her energy, running it all over my body, watching her vampire teeth rip apart the flesh of my inner enemies.

It was damn effective. A word about working with Kali. She is an extremely potent ally but falls under the mothering style of “tough love.” As I have a real life one of those, I am drawn to Kali and other deities considered “dark.” She is extremely nurturing but not in a warm fuzzy kind of way. She also has no boundaries. You need to set them.

After a certain point I switched to lovingkindness meditations that were also very effective (especially after Kali had sufficiently disarmed my foes).. If Kali intimidates you, I highly recommend beginning with lovingkindness meditation.

This past full moon, to commemorate of the anniversary of starting my work with Kali, as well as to get rid of lingering grief, pain etc., I underwent a vigorous cleansing ritual (Can be done in shower or tub).

Kali Demon Cleanse

1 cup each Sea Salt/Epsom Salt
3 Drops of lavender
3 Drops of geranium
3 Drops of tea tree oil
Teaspoon Kali Clay (bentonite clay, activated charcoal, coconut oil, essential oils)

If you are using this in a bath, 1 cup total per bath, dissolved fully. If you are using it in the shower, use it like an exfoliating scrub.

Prepare your bathroom: clean, light incense or a candle, cleanse, cast a circle if it is your tradition, et al.

It’s very important to link visualization to action and word. As you are doing this, repeat an invocation of Kali or and/or other goddess/god(s) and scrub in counter-clockwise motion.. Make your petition and make it with an appropriate amount of force for your situation. If you feel like your situation is dire, don’t shy from pleading like you are pleading for your life, which you are.

As you scrub, visualize your inner demons, no matter how ugly they are and how little you want to see their faces. If this is effective for you, you will notice the images become fainter and triggering fewer negative emotions as you do this. Go through your script three times, scrubbing arms, torso and legs three times as well.

The Upshot

A year later, another Halloween/Samhain approaching, I am a different person. I still have work to do but I feel cleaned out. I’m still doing visualizations, mindfulness and lovingkindness meditations daily but I am fighting myself less. You have to figure that a mental and physical state that was over three decades in the making will take awhile to resolve but that ain’t never going to happen unless you start.

*I also have a great shrink. I don’t recommend embarking on this without someone who has a grasp on your psychological state, preferably someone with an open mind to meditation and visualization or better yet, spiritual healing, but that’s not always possible.

My Body, Lithium and Other Unmixy Things

It’s not the lithium itself. It’s too much of. At first, for about two weeks, I did not pay attention to my body as it started to overdose. I had been peeing like a racehorse on Adderal for days. We switched bottled-water brands and I really liked the new stuff. So I thought I was just hydrated. And I had simultaneously started and anti-depressant, or as it’s known “wakefulness agent.” It did not occur to me that this was caused by too much lithium.

The symptoms became worse. I got what felt like the most mighty bladder infection I’ve ever had. I was literally screaming in pain but I am so used to a variety of types of pain that I didn’t occur to me that I should call my doctor. I took my cranberry supplement. It seemed to help

Then, when I was throwing up, with a headache that made me want to smash my frontal bone into the bathroom tile, I though to hell with this. I didn’t even drink. Over the course of seasickness I felt the day the, whole world kept getting further away until I could watch myself. I was making soup in the microwave but it seemed to take hours. Then I couldn’t eat it. I felt like I was losing my shit.

Lithium toxicity or a slow and painful lithium overdose is not a good way to spend a September. Screw that.

What Happens When Things Fall Apart

Pin Down That Mummy Hand

In my outpatient crazy classes we talked about self-care–a lot, actually. The first thing I did that helped to lift me out of my wretched little hole was to clean and organize my space. I know very well that my external surroundings are a projection of my inner state. Peaceful and zen like? Every thing is in its place. The bed is made. The laundry is put away. As I sink further and further into the chaos my space gets less and less organized. It’s one of my warning signs that things are out of whack. When I stop meditating, that is a definite flashing red light.

Somehow I managed to make it to work today, unraveled and with flashing red lights, my insides all squishy, my cognitive function deteriorating. Let’s not mention the crying fits. I work in a place that is inhabited almost exclusively by men. I need to sneak out of my office, into the bathroom and push the tears out. Like a tiny birth. Today I accidentally double dosed on Wellbutrin. It didn’t really take effect until halfway through my work day when I was on the phone and all of the sudden things became unreal like they do with LSD. My jaw started grinding, my heart started pounding and I started pacing. I think I managed to pull the phone call off without obvious signs of insanity. But did I pull the day off? I don’t know.

I’m at a familiar crossroads here. Many times in the past I have reached this point in a job and have just dissolved into depression, anxiety or mania. I make too many mistakes thanks to my holey brain and my inability to focus. At first the boss is somewhat understanding, then a little testy then pissed. So I apply the over-compensation–working extra hours that I don’t clock on for. The ensuing anxiety and down right terror wakes me up at night because I have all of this work-related anxiety.

Now that this has happened so many times I’m starting to think that maybe it is a choose your own adventure. Or better yet, maybe it’s like the Buffy the Vampire Slayer mummy hand episode where our saintly heroine was magicked into reliving the same torturous hour of retail service over and over again until she succeeded in satisfying her customer.

This was tricky because the Mummy hand was a devious trickster and the customer was a bitch. Bewitching aside, I think it’s an apt metaphor. Buffy realized that using the same tactics yet again would land her in the basement wrastling a mummy hand to the ground. She tried a new approach. It’s time for my new approach but I haven’t quite pinned it down. Much like Buffy did the mummy hand with a knife.

So I’m going to be sans husband for the next ten days. His band is touring and I can’t go with because of work and money, yadda yadda. I think that taking this time for some spring cleaning would be a good move. Maybe I’ll actually get some stuff done.

Deep Panic Breaths

Don't Panic

I have been in panic mode since childhood. Violent household. Hiding in the closet with my fingers in my ears and holding my breath until my face was red. That’s how I learned to play possum. If I couldn’t cope with my surroundings, I would just make myself numb, still, silent until it passed (or I passed out). There would be some dissociation. Sometimes I could see my body, balled up and trying to disappear. When it was over I would cry so hard I’d choke on my own tears, my sinuses would puff up and I would still not be able to breathe.

Now all of the stress I have shoved down into various parts of my body forms a well-worn path. If something stressful comes up, I go into full panic mode. I automatically assume crash position. A type-o becomes a worst case scenario and I become neurotic and hypervigilant. I can’t relax until I have made it right. And sometimes I can’t make it right. I know that’s the shallow end of my PTSD but it is enough to really get in the way of my happiness and productivity.

I think I might find my way out of this feedback loop by going into my body. By getting deep body work and motion therapy. Currently all of my past injuries, still very much alive but usually dormant, are acting up. My neck is frozen, my lower lumbar is in spasm, I have pain shooting down my leg into my foot and across my hip, latching on like an itchy sweater. I just can’t get comfortable. But maybe that’s the point. I should no longer ignore this pattern and go about my day until the next cataclysm takes hold.

Any thoughts? Any volunteers to be my panic buddy?

The Mind and the Muscle

Image

I feel the connection between mind and body deeply when my mental pathologies are in high gear. When I am depressed, my bones hurt, I feel burnt from the inside, my metabolism slows down. When I am in the throes of a mixed episode with heightened anxiety I have a flight or flight reflex that is catlike. My adrenals dump into my bloodstream and my nervous system zaps away. I have horrible agitation and all of the wonderful self-care tools like meditation, Reiki, breathing and even exercise are futile. It’s obvious to me that these illnesses aren’t just in my head, they’re in my body too.

I’ve recently developed an ongoing left lower lumbar spasm. It just won’t heal. It causes radiating pain and weakness and is in general a pain my ass. I’ve had unpleasant dealings with doctors who don’t want to treat patients who are in pain. They prescribed a short course of a muscle relaxer and recommended ice and heat. It wasn’t cutting it. They had no further answers for me and no concept of how all of my symptoms connected.

So I went to the chiropractor who I visited when my lumbar went into spasm last year before the ACA kicked in and before I had insurance. I needed to talk to someone who would listen to me, someone who actually understands the body. Doctors are good for the prevention and curing of diseases but when it comes to anatomy, many seem to have skipped that class. My chiropractor, after doing a series of strength and range of motion tests directed my attention to the psoas, the muscle at the root of a lot of lower back and hip pain (some people think it’s the root to almost all chronic pain).

When I first learned about the psoas muscle in massage therapy school, something about it stood out to me. It is the deepest muscle in both the back and the abdomen, it holds you up, it creates a shelf for all of your organs as well as massaging them and the spinal fluid. It is the core that supports health and longevity–not the abs or obliques but the psoas. But it seems nobody really talks about it that way. People talk about core strengthening in terms of abs but nobody mentions the humble psoas that takes the biggest beating from not only physical activities but mental and emotional stressors.

Since it is also deeply linked to the sympathetic nervous system holding up and massaging the body’s organs its job, among other things, is to protect them from the hailstorm of stress. When trapped in a state of flight or fright–when a person is pathologically scared, filled with anxiety, panic, terror and is hypervigalent–the psoas constricts to protect the precious organs and spinal fluid but it can cause crippling conditions wearing away joints and harming spinal disks. This wearing away doesn’t kill us but it can make us a lot weaker.

So, according to the philosophy of the body set forth in Yoga, as well as the understanding of human anatomy and psychology, it turns out this relationship works both ways. The releasing of my psoas, encouraging it to work correctly will theoretically help reduce my nervous symptoms as well as the physical ones. My new favorite body blogger Brook over at Fascia Freedom Fighters shared this. It’s called constructive rest. I love the idea of intentionally incorporating rest into the day. Apparently some people fight it wanting to multi-task but I say no way, my body needs a break from the perpetuality of doing.

We’ll see how that works. Anybody have any experience working with the psoas? This is a part of the body that I am definitely going to explore further because as I mentioned, when I am in a state of flight/fright and my adrenals are pumping for no good reason, the mind-oriented self-care techniques I’ve accumulated do not work.