Archive for March, 2017

Not the Revelations Anticipated

Posted in About me on March 15, 2017 by Tyrienne

For my birthday, I scheduled a float at Metta Relaxation Spa  in Bethlehem- the staff was excellent, the massage I received was excellent, and I fell so deeply asleep in the float room they sent in my husband to wake me.
That is the review I put on their site- 5 stars.  I would do it again, it was pretty great.

I recall observations about the clientele, ourselves included, which looked like characters from a Winston Rowntree comic: Bethlehem is a weird place like that, a steel town that ended up surviving via colleges and music festivals- where everyone is clearly a hipster just by being there, which is sort of comforting in a way. Ed and I dislike the town of Bethlehem, but Bethlehem does not dislike us.  Perhaps, we fit in too well.  In the waiting room I enjoyed tea and coloring in a mandala as I noticed  almost every other client in waiting was on their cell phone, including my husband, despite signs everywhere asking kindly to the contrary.  (Not the staff, though- they were in the present…Although they can’t ban cell phones they did not seem to be the type of people obsessed with them like the rest of our culture.)

There, I swore to myself I would lessen my dependence on my own phone.  I check it less- I see it as an addiction after seeing a room full of people who were seeking some sort of breakthrough, enlightening experience too tethered to their phones to even notice how cool the place really was and how much attention there was to every detail.  The floor was literally made of pennies individually placed, grouted, and lacquered into a neat surface, the sign for the spa was made of perhaps hundreds of small screws drilled in one by one- and the staff was so nice- but I have to wonder out of how many clients they see a day how many people actually appreciate them, and how frustrated I would be if I ran a spa, one that specialized in facilitating life changing experiences to see people day in and day out bring everything that is wrong with modern life, i.e. the constant addiction to technology into the space they so carefully created to be free from such distraction.  I noticed signs to turn off phones, but like any other location where that mandate is in effect (planes, hospitals, therapists offices, funeral homes) it was patently ignored.

I suppose I am a bit of a self righteous hipster myself- I intentionally left my phone in the truck, and I do not own a television.  My laptop was broken for over a month and my brother fixed it for my birthday-  I survived.  In feeling resentment towards other people I swore I was going to cut down on my addictions to technology, and more particularly, the addiction to the constant feed of new information given by social media- the very same source that spreads malcontent by dividing people by faux political divisions, faux news stories, and even more fake lives and lies that people live online but not in real life-  What is it that people are avoiding, including myself to seek such constant distraction?

I went seeking an enlightening experience, and what I found, although enlightening, was not what I anticipated: I am in a great deal of physical pain, all the time.  Like a frog in a pot of slowly heating water I had not realized before how much pain limits my daily activities, and how only when a small amount of that pain is relieved that I could truly actually feel what it is I am experiencing as the backdrop to my everyday life experience:  smoldering pain over most of my body, with concentrations around my neck, shoulders, and parts of my legs.  I have had Lyme’s disease twice, lived most of my adult life (prior to my hysterectomy) with endometriosis, and have had recent-ish operations on my foot and around the hysterectomy site to remove over a pound of excess scar tissue… and realized long ago pain killers only help dull emergent pain, not the sort of pain that encloses a person like a large over-warm fur coat that is too big to remove without assistance, the constant throbbing like techno in the background of every action I do- that keeps me from getting things done to which I had perhaps incorrectly blamed exclusively on my depression.

I recall reading up on floats before hand, on sensory deprivation, and on the great metaphysical insights people received from this experience-  I normally can hear my own heartbeat anyway from tachycardia, and asthma makes my breathing something I pay attention to anyway so the two major points of focus that normally astound people in the silent environment were not new revelations (I thought this meant I could skip ahead to the ‘cool stuff’).  In the tank itself, after I removed my wedding band I realized how badly my finger hurt from wearing a ring that was too small even when we first bought it,  giving my hand an hour of relief made it impossible to put back on without breaking my finger further (funny story, I broke my finger with my own wedding ring 5 years ago, I went to a doctor, nothing happened except “Hey, that is a stress fracture.”) and realized my finger never got better.  I now have it on a necklace I wear when I go out.  Days after removing it, I notice the finger still hurts like crazy.

In the tank, I realized “Wow, I fucking hurt all the time….and I only just noticed it in floating in water when I have no distractions.  I wonder if anyone else ever came to this realization as well?”

When I was getting my massage I indicated my neck is always stiff-  I was strangled a couple of times as a child and it deformed my vertebrae, and I thought about how many times over the years I glossed over that fact non-nonchalantly. “Yeah, hello- my neck hurts, but that’s normal… I was strangled repeatedly as a child.  I just live with it.”

That is not cool.  Why did I think I should be cool with that?

Thinking to when I had excellent insurance where a weekly massage was covered by my premiums and how even then going to a chiropractor made it worse except for the massage at the end- how the doofus with his two year degree who called himself “doctor” explained some wacky new age bullshit about some cult leader who created chiropractic medicine out of snake oil, bullshit, making joints create popping noises, and nice massages- but fully believing it.

Chiropractic medicine, to me, is the accidental alcohol distilled from bullshit.  Alcohol can relieve symptoms of pain and give a sense of well being no matter what the source of the initial fermentation.  Just because “it works” for some people does not make it any more of a valid practice than Scientologists making you hold the bars of an E-reader checking for “thetans” as the imaginary source to all the ills of humanity.

I am honestly writing this post to organized my thoughts in what I what to speak to my therapist, and likely my doctor about later this week.
I realize I have a pattern with pain,  I reach my threshold, go to a doctor, they give me painkillers I seldom take as the real cause is unknown, I am sent to specialists who either do not believe me and misdiagnose me a few times, then the next thing I know I am in the prep area for yet another necessary surgery if I ever want to live/walk/exist in any state resembling normalcy.

I do not believe my body has fully recovered from most of what I have surgically experienced.   I do not want to see a chiropractor- but I am unaware of what sort of doctor I need that is scientifically sound and can figure out what it means to have this insanely high pain tolerance, and more importantly, how can it be possible to live a life that relieves this physical pain significantly if not completely?
I recall my shrink telling me about his intensely busy schedule in our first session- how after his therapy job, he had to teach a few classes at the college, then he needed to weed the garden, stain his staircase, and play his guitar for two hours on top of that- when any one of those things would knock me out for an entire day.

The float tank experience has forced me to consider this:  Am I depressed because I am in constant, mind numbing pain, or am I in pain because I am depressed?

Where do I go from here?

As far as Gods go…I did feel a bit connected to Rán.  A Goddess I never thought much about prior, as I tried (and succeeded) in relaxing in the tank… In the sense I did not wish to leave the water.  But then, most of my life has been using water in some way or another to sooth myself- hot showers, cold baths, immersing myself in the stream running through my yard on hot days, pools, hot tubs, oceans I have lived near, lakes and ponds in which I (illegally) swam with friends, and realized my attraction to water is that it relieves the pain I live with and try not to admit to myself…mostly, because I hate painkillers: they make me itchy, bitchy, and cruel as a person.

I am wondering how much of my psychological distress is caused by pain, and how much pain I have caused myself because of psychological distress.  I do not believe my mental health and physical health exists in separate spheres that only tangentially connect;  I wish I were wealthy enough to afford the type of care in the US which other countries I have lived in take for granted.  Where the doctor doesn’t thrust more pills, but rather finds the root cause, treats that with whatever the body needs to heal if it is a deficiency or overabundance and you get to enjoy life again.

The only times I am not in physical pain are when I am in water.  As I am writing this post at this moment I am aware of shooting pain in my right upper arm,  painful pressure on my neck and back, my ankle aches from a sprain several months back, and I have the ever-present headache that never “quite” goes away but I also never really talk about, either.

It is very fucking distracting.  Then, add to the mix the kidney stone, phantom pain from my prior surgeries, and that I am light sensitive.  Instead of dealing with any of the overreaching “Everything hurts, all the time” I only see doctors for breakthrough pain…and when pain breaks though, there is always something massively wrong with me- which is another reason why I just do not go unless it is unbearable. I get very large tattoos for the endorphin rush.  I have said it many times before but never thought about it.  I get tattoos to relieve both psychological as well as physical pain.  (which sounds counter intuitive unless the pain experienced is greater than the tattoo…which for me, it always has been.)

Kidney stones?  Last time I called my urologist with a flare up and they asked me what it felt like I replied “Worse than being stabbed, but not so bad as my hysterectomy.” the nurse on the phone said I must have lived a fascinating life.

As for Rán,  other than totally digging her name, perhaps she might be one of the Goddesses that has cared for me in my life- in the relief that water provides me without my conscious awareness…  she carries a net, drags people to their deaths, has a sort of strange frenemy sort of relationship with Loki, is technically a Jotun, married to Aegir, have 9 daughters, coincidentally as Heimdallr has 9 mothers it is implied she is the grandmother to the guardian of bifrost, the most Aesic of the Aesir himself.  She represents something primordial, instinctive, and deeper than our common modern experience.  Water as rage, mercurial, and destructive.  Water that can destroy or facilitate change.

As far as analogies go: Rán is the perfect symbolism for what in this stage of my life needs attention.  Unless I can somehow suspend myself in fluid 24/7, I am going to have to face my doctors and actually get this shit worked out.  As far as floating in a sensory deprivation tank goes?  As much as I wish I had the enlightening “I am one with the universe” experience instead of “Every time I am not in water I am in pain” experience I did have, I am going to have actually fix this somehow.

Although the easy answer is “Just take the fucking pain killers”- it solves nothing.  As much as I do not want to think there is some overreaching medical condition that flows through all other medical conditions I have experienced, like water, I need to sit down with someone, compile everything I have experienced in 35 years of pretty awful surgeries and present it all to someone competent saying

“Look, this is not normal.  There has to be a common thread here, why does my body keep creating horrendously painful issues that require surgery?  What is causing all of this?  Can we treat that?”

Wish me luck.  I have fear this will get worse before it gets better.

ran-vikings-cc

Art by Elisabeth Alba: source

All That is Strange and Wonderful

Posted in About me on March 10, 2017 by Tyrienne

Around certain times of year I cannot avoid my PTSD, and I am sure some people wonder why I post my flashbacks so openly.  My prior post was written as a form of catharsis, and seeing as I am on disability for my condition and work my chaplaincy around my bad times, I feel that hiding my bad times is disingenuous.  Although I am accomplished enough by most standards academically (Two BA’s in Theology and Philosophy, respectively, a published thesis, and enough credit for a third BA in Diplomacy), I would not be able to help as many people as I do without my past, nor have the inspiration or motivation to do so.  I suppose I feel guilty for the years when I was suicidal myself which drives me to give others an ear whenever I am able to justify my own existence.
Writing is cathartic, and I suppose with the Gods I feel most aligned with, Tyr and Loki, I prefer to not simply portray myself only when I am well- but all of me- and from this I have learned that there are so many other people in this world who can relate who have their own nightmares they have lived through.   I strive for honesty when I write- and sometimes that honesty is far from beautiful- and sometimes, life is beautiful and I do not wish to neglect those occasions as well.

Last weekend was my thirty fifth birthday- hence the flashbacks.  Generally, even a “good”  birthday is accompanied with a maelstrom of invasive flashbacks I cannot control.  Most holidays are the same, and everything positive in my life is put temporarily on hold as I try to climb through the mess that is my confused and distraught mind so much so that not very much gets accomplished at all.

Typically, I begin to obsess about “what would make me feel better,”  When I am symptomatic, I often spend time in animal shelters- but agoraphobia makes driving difficult.  We have a new pick up truck which feels more like driving a tank  than the puny sedan we used to have (which was pretty terrifying to drive. I dislike the fragility of most modern cars) and I was rather desperate to get out anyway. The shelter is only five minutes away off of scarcely used highways- I filled out paperwork that allowed me into the cat room…played with a few abandoned kitties and reassured them they would find nice homes.  I actually did not go home with (yet another) cat that day….however, I had to fill out my details anyway to even play with the animals with no intention of adoption.

Off and on for several years I have dreamt of a little white cat with the name Ophelia, usually one of those “mystic, remember this” sort of ambiance that often becomes a blog post or at very least written down on scratch paper somewhere.   In the middle of the worst of my flashbacks I recalled the last dream- a small white kitten with blue eyes and subtle stripes in her fur of white on white-  even though I was just at the shelter and found nothing of the sort, I checked on petfinder anyway…and found this cat, listed as fostered at the shelter from which I had just returned, named Ophelia, with the only information listed was “young spayed female”

ophelia-cat1

I was told later this picture was taken the day she was found outside and fostered.  Her tail is actually white in person.

She was being fostered by nice people via the Animal Rescue League near my home,  I sent off an email and did not anticipate much of a response.  We already have three cats, two dogs, a small snake, and we are breeding (or attempting to breed) Flemish giant rabbits in our basement, soon to be transferred to a hutch outside- weather depending.

For any number of reasons I could have been rejected.  Most adoptable cats hate dogs, many are best alone without other felines, and further, she may have been already adopted.  Ed was chagrined I even contacted them, but hey-  I literally have been having dreams of a white cat named “Ophelia” for several years.  If it was not the “correct” cat to those dreams, nothing would happen.

To my surprise, my application was approved- but then I became nervous:  What if the cat is awful?  I was not about to subject the others living in my household to a screeching, snarling bandit- and I recall going to bed that night even more nervous about meeting this cat, all ready convinced that there would be no connection, she would not be a good fit- all in all, expecting wasted time, feeling let down, and most of all guilty for the foster parents who had a 50% chance of taking her back home after driving so far just to allow me to meet her.

On Sunday, the morning of my birthday I met the couple fostering Ophelia on the steps outside of the animal rescue league- The cat was pure albino, with pink/blue eyes and only the vaguest suggestion of white on white stripes if you looked at her in certain conditions.  She was adorably sweet and only six pounds and although young, is full grown.

Opheliahead

Her story, tragic-

This region has several lakes and a local guy fishing heard her and found her soaking wet by the edge of one of them.  He took her to a local house which just so happened to be a foster home for abused animals and it was determined she had just given birth and was likely thrown into the lake with her kittens- her kittens were not able to be recovered.  She was malnourished and soaking wet, but nonetheless sought people for help. The foster family took her in and named her “Ophelia” for her soggy beginnings, and she stayed with them for about six month or so, as they learned she was completely deaf, albino, and light sensitive.  The brevity of her online profile and the intentional lack of pictures was to discourage assholes looking for a white cat “just to have one” who would not be able to understand her needs.  Being in a foster home meant she was already well acclimated to other animals, including large dogs, and the foster family and the ARL both felt the transition would go smoothly.

I brought her home while Ed was still sleeping and transformed our library into a Cat-Utopia…finding even more to my amazement she did not have any violent or aggressive reaction to really anyone at all.  Unlike our other animals she can jump to the stop of any shelf we seem to own when she feels cramped but also, every time I would enter the room she would come down and mew loudly for attention.    Ed lost his kitten Hela  in 2013, she was also a climber, loved to destroy feathers, and exhibited similar fearless qualities.

When Hela passed away due to a genetic defect I let her body go onto the same lake from which Ophelia was found.  Despite Ophelia’s rough start with water, she enjoys rolling around in the bathtub and then drying off near the Loki altar.  Ed and I used to see Hela’s shadow in the hallway, I saw it last the day I brought Ophelia home.   I cannot help but wonder if reincarnation also applies to cats.  Freyja, Hela’s twin sister never formed a bond with any of our other cats but instantly took to Ophelia very well.

If she is or is not our former kitty back for a second round- it makes no difference, she is a great Heathen cat who is (mostly) respectful of altar spaces and loves to rearrange rocks and other small objects to suit her own aesthetic- or boredom.
Lokicat

In short, I adopted a cat for my birthday- the other cats are now getting along better with one another for some reason, and I can now honestly say we are at one hundred percent capacity for mammals in this home.  She seems to have adjusted nicely, and on her account, the library (where I keep my Loki and Tyr altars) is now cat safe and guarded with a baby gate against the two dogs who occasionally chase them.

I believe she has made herself at home:

fox kitty

At the mouth of the great fox, Ophelia relaxes.

As of today, the only true inconvenience is she attacks my bow when I practice my instruments,    I have been learning Viola and Violin since July as part of my music therapy-  and her favorite food appears to be sheet music.  With my the kindness of my mother in law I purchased a music stand to prevent further casualty to my music books.

Easiest, Ophelia makes it necessary to practice when Ed is home which may assist me in overcoming some of my performance anxieties.  I am far from “good” at either instrument by any means, but I am relieved I have worked hard enough to play the Bach Minuet series past the horrendous nursery rhyme stage.   Without me even attempting to play it first- she utterly devoured a photocopy of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”.  C’est le’vie.

In further news in my life Edward is taking me to a float spa to end off my birthday week tomorrow- I have never tried a sensory deprivation experience prior to this and have been wanting to for several years.  I like the idea of floating in a small, dark room with no external stimuli.  It sounds like heaven…and it comes with a sixty minute massage beforehand- all in a reasonable package price for a birthday gift.  Even if the new-age benefits are psychosomatic, the benefits of a good massage and spending alone time in warm water is appealing regardless of the alleged out-of-this-world mental and physical health claims to the practice.

Again, I do not wish to promote the company prior to our trip, but I have several ideas for coming blog posts I am hoping I may be able to flesh out during tomorrow’s experience if it does turn out to be as inspiring as some describe.  I imagine I would write a review of the floating experience, but also, there are ideas to write a “what if” fiction of “What would happen if writers treated Judaism/Christianity the way they treat Odinism in popular movies” as well as skipping over that idea entirely to write how I would like to see a truly Heathen story created into a movie format that would be more engaging and far less cringe worthy than what already exists.  At this moment, I think I would have the narrative follow mostly Tyr and Hel.

I am already anticipating with the release of Neil Gaiman’s “American God’s” series a new villainization of Odin the likes of which has not been seen since the Christians converted our ancestors by the sword and idiots hailing the character Shadow at a sumbel near you in the ever nearing future.  Although I did enjoy the book itself many years ago- I have learned from the Marvel fiasco that discernment is lacking from the larger populace.

Please combat this by writing good, accurate, positive Heathen fiction my friends.  As funny as the character of Wednesday is in the novel, he is not our Odin.  (To Mr. Gaiman’s credit, our Odin is in the epilogue…but it will take years to get to see that point in the story if the show lasts that long.)

….or if the propaganda regarding floating is true, I may suddenly find myself with the energy to write all three.  I attempt to live as an optimistic pessimist:  Expect the worst, and be pleasantly surprised by the outcome.

Regardless, I close this post with yet another picture of Ophelia:

sleepy kitty

Cats are a liquid.