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.

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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.

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.

Bipolar Mixed States and PTSD – Finding Doctors Who Can Deal

FreudIn the last city I lived in I had a Freudian psychiatrist. Don’t ask me how it happened because like many things in my life I didn’t really plan it. He looked very much like a short version of my father and that just made the whole Freudian thing a lot weirder. In his narrative regarding my bouts of anxiety and workaholism, I was always trying to save a man who couldn’t be saved. It was true that I tore through a number of jobs in establishments owned by dysfunctional men but when I tried to tell my doc that my interest in improving the business was selfishly motivated he would shake that conviction.

It’s weird for a psychiatrist to be Freudian. Usually they have more interest in cocktailing drugs than rehashing the past to fit an analytic narrative. But I he listened to my stories and responded with meaningful questions and suggestions (most of the time_. We had a good rapport and for the most part we had the meds on track. Until I went hypomanic. I don’t think he was quite ready for that.

Bipolar disorder is extremely hard to diagnose accurately in a timespan less than a year or even two. In my experience, the psychiatrist or psychologist has to witness the mood disruption first hand to really believe in the diagnoses. Most bipolar people don’t go to the doctors when the hypomania takes hold because it feels good. But I did, finally. I have found that psychiatrists, used to seeing me in a depressed state, when confronted with my crazy, they balk. My psychiatrist in the new city pretty much dumped me as a client when I fell into the K hole of a mixed state and wound up in the hospital. It did not make the whole thing any better

I could tell the difference in Dr. F’s assessment of me. I was experiencing a mixed state which is usually what drives me over the edge. I am miserable but with energy that is turned against me in the form of panic, restlessness and agitation. Unfortunately he upped my dose of Lithium at the same time he reduced my Wellbutrin. This did bad things for me including amping up the tremors. As a Reiki practitioner and artist this was a problem–my hands would shake on my clients which was distracting to say the least. That mixed state unraveled my life. All of my traumas that been coiled tightly in the realm of my subconscious broke free.

Mixed states are hard to treat. For me, the most effective method is heavy sedation in the form of Klonipin. It takes the anxiety down a notch or two and while it doesn’t allow me to function, it does allow me some reprieve from my adrenals. Now this has become almost a pattern–it happened again this year. I don’t know what the answer is because the BP and PTSD are tied up in knots, together.

Has anybody experienced this recurrence of mixed states that is triggered by PTSD? All of my self-care like meditation, Reiki, exercise and balanced meals may help prevent these episodes but once they are upon me, nothing seems to work. Any suggestions?