Yesterday I had a powerful and unexpected experience in my psyche. I fell into a deep dark place of suffering I have not experienced in over twenty years. This deep dark suffering was a gripping depression I lived with all through my adolescence and early twenties. During those years I would vacillate between feeling creatively inspired and “on my path” of healing into feeling complete self hatred and betrayed by life, utterly helpless and hopeless and wishing to die on a constant basis. I was at the mercy of these cycles born from trauma mixing with my own inner nature. I was definitely not in control of my psyche.
At the time, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder with a more mellow experience of mania, which they now label bipolar one but back then I think they called it rapid diurnal mania or something like that. I don’t resonate with the DSM diagnostic model for mental illness for myself (if it helps you I am all for it, medication included. I am only sharing my personal experience). I never did resonate with the medical model. Medications never helped me. I was on lithium and other meds for bipolar disorder, along with an antidepressant, an anti-anxiety, a sleeping medication and at one point an anti-psychotic medication for when my psyche had become confused during the worst years of the mental illness. I was on this cocktail of meds for about 10 years. I was in therapy for 10 years. I was hospitalized twice for suicidal ideation. I would consider what I experienced to be severe mental illness.
At age 23, I had a spiritual awakening. I quit my cocktail of meds cold turkey and experienced no side effects. The suicidal ideation was taken away from me as was an eating disorder I could not control. My psyche went through a transformation so fast and mammoth that western medicine and existential thought cannot explain it through their lenses. I don’t want to write about it in this blog but I want to share that after this awakening, I was connected to the transpersonal in a way that was like a child connected to a mother. Undeniable. You cannot say you did not come out of your mother’s body to get into this world and that she is not real. With the same felt experience, I was reconnected to the transpersonal and my soul. It was then, I truly began healing.
Disclaimer: I realize I am not like most people with how I awakened and I do not condone getting off meds cold turkey, nor do I condone ignoring western medicine, existential thought, or any lens or method that meets you with where you are at. You can only use the methods that meet you at your level and what is effective for you. I honor and respect all methods and treat them contextually based upon individual needs.
The spiritual awakening did not heal me completely. It connected me to my soul and the transpersonal which took away the scary suicidal darkness and the all-encompassing food addiction that was leading me right into destruction. What I gain from this twenty three years later, is that spiritual connection is a powerful healer and sometimes the only healer. Sometimes no technique or psychological method of any kind will “make the suffering go away” and relieve the pain inside that presents as suicidal ideation and addiction because the only thing that will heal the pain is love. Connecting with the transpersonal is connecting to love. A love so potent and powerful you cannot deny it. I remember at the time of this awakening my mantra became, “I have become part of a larger mother.”
Since that awakening, I re-traumatized myself a lot, battled with my addiction, was sexually assaulted twice and life became a lot more complicated, making the suffering a lot more complex. But I never returned to suicidal ideation, self-hatred, the eating disorder, or feeling a complete absence of love that I used to suffer from before connecting with the transpersonal. I felt low self esteem, low self worth, battled with depression and manic episodes but there always has been a cushion bigger than me that holds me in love, truth, wisdom and nurturing. I talk with the goddess all the time. She guides me all the time. I speak with my guides, I get signs, I have prophetic dreams, and my relationship with the collective unconscious nourishes and heals me each day.
At the time of my awakening I began giving readings to other people out of the need to do so not to become a professional. I was in college getting my degree in Psychology but my passion was always to “make it as an artist” and I rebelled from the path of becoming a healer because I felt too much of my life was about healing. Healing all the time. Healing healing healing healing. Yet in action, I was always reading people’s souls, mothering the lost souls, and healing myself. Obsessively. This became my cushion too. My connection with the transpersonal naturally bled into my connection with others because everything is connected. Yet I always battled with the healer calling because I wanted life to be more light hearted. Not this lifetime for me though.
Fast forward to the present. I have healed from severe PTSD, manage my “bipolar” cycles, feel self love and worth, completely rely on spirit and never experience my shadow question whether or not spirit is real like I used to before the awakening. Although I still suffer as much as anyone (if not more), love, beauty, inspiration, and wisdom have a louder presence inside of me. I feel inner peace much of the time. I have learned to not identify with the suffering or wounds I carry. I have transformed. I feel solid these days. My calling to do healing work I am embracing with open arms, ditching my rebellion as I slowly integrate art and healing together to create a new dream.
Well, I got too high on my ego horse and forgot that there is no arrival point and healing is a spiral. I did not realize that my mother dying after a long cancer battle and having no partner to call home has left me feeling terribly lonely and vulnerable through this grief. What happened yesterday is that I fell from grace. I did not experience suicidal ideation but I did feel like dying. I questioned my soul purpose and spiritual connection with critical judgement, telling myself that it’s just a fabrication of a suffering mind wanting relief. This was the voice of my shadow, full on. I felt a suffering I had not felt in over twenty years. I could not feel my transpersonal connection. I fully engaged my food addiction all day and fell deeper…deeper into suffering.
Due to skills that have taken years to hone, I was able to witness this fall from grace. Meaning, I did not fully identify with it. I watched it happen to me. I practiced non-resistance, allowing my shadow to express fully. I texted with a friend, whom I called my “shadow sponsor”. She helped me to not judge myself and not resist the pain. I let it in all the way. I allowed my shadow self to have reign over my psyche. Not that I had a choice but I did have a choice about whether or not to fight my shadow or let her express. I chose to not be afraid of her and let her express fully.
Melissa (the name I have given my shadow) did just that. With her cut-throat Queen of Swords intelligence she completely dismantled my spiritual purpose and connection as a mere fabrication of a suffering mind seeking relief from a life of misery. She felt betrayed by life, abandoned by life, and wished only for life to be over and to let her return to dust from where she came. Melissa ate all bad food and had a few yeasty drinks knowing damn well it would set off the autoimmune disease. Melissa went to bed, exhausted after bawling her eyes out. I watched it all happen, staring into the almost full moon remembering to stay the witness and practice non-resistance.
When I woke up in the morning, Melissa was gone. Totally and completely gone. I felt no suffering, no self hatred, no inner torment. My spiritual connection was back in place and I felt balanced again. The realization came to me that spirit put me through this experience as a test. I passed the test. Not only did I pass the test, I released Melissa from the shadow and allowed her to return to the dust from where she came…just like she wanted.
I needed to be completely seized by the shadow and to allow her to express fully and to love her fully. You cannot integrate the shadow by running away from it by doing all the good and healthy things and having all the good and healthy thoughts, trying to stay on top of your ego game. This is ego’s favorite trick and only makes the divide bigger between shadow and light. You must love the shadow and practice non-resistance to the shadow when it seizes you. Only love and non-resistance allows for for integration and the release of long repressed feelings and identifications.
I needed to experience my shadow in full and give her full allowance to be who she is. Paradoxically, but doing this, I can transcended the shadow/light model a little bit more because integration is only a stage. Everything is only a stage because life is always moving, there is no arrival point. Once we fully integrate shadow and light we transcend the shadow and light model all together. The psyche is always changing and evolving just as life is always changing and evolving.
Healing is love. Until you love what you judge, allow what you fear to express, and practice non-resistance with the pain, it will haunt you, seize you, and keep you split into two so that you are running away from the big bad wolf in your head and heart. To love the big bad wolf you have to allow it to express without reacting to it just like that scene where Siddhartha is sitting under the Bodhi tree and Mara is tempting him with one shadow/ego appearance after the next…shooting arrows at him to see if he will fight, putting a beautiful woman in front of him to see if he will possess her, all the things Mara makes appear. Siddhartha calmly watches the display and does not react to the temptations. With a quiet love, he allows all the forms of shadow and ego to display before him.
This turns Siddhartha into the Buddha. Love and awareness transforms him.
I wasn’t as graceful or as skilled as good ole Sid yesterday. There was no Bodhi tree and I was not calmly observing myself. But in my storminess, I witnessed the shadow take me over and allowed the shadow to take me over without resisting and shooting second arrows of judgement into my heart. I did not try to make the suffering go away nor did I exaggerate it by identifying with it. I found that quiet, loving, and aware middle space and traversed through the storm, waking up the Buddha. We are all the Buddha. We are all capable of witnessing and not reacting, bringing compassion to the worst suffering, and healing through the path of love and awareness.