Authors note: This article will be more meaningful if you’ve read Suicide Is Not an Option first.
When I began writing the article, Suicide Is Not an Option, I was surprised that what manifested in front of me on paper went back to 1979 and was the story of my creation of sobriety from a severe addiction to alcohol and cocaine in this lifetime. After writing that, which became Part 1 of the article, the rest of my story as I was experiencing it in 2005, unfolded into Parts 2 and 3, and by then I understood why Part 1 appeared when it did. The suicidal ideation that had plagued me most of my life was similar to an addiction. It was a family pattern that had been passed on from my grandfather (who committed suicide) to my father (who attempted suicide) to me (who also attempted suicide), and probably existed in the family lineage before that. The suicide trigger in that lineage is loss of honor, loss of job/business, loss of manhood…triggering the belief that I no longer have a right to be. Now I’m confronting my final addiction: Depression … and it’s a good thing I cleared suicide first or I would not have made it through this experience at all!
This journey started July 30, 2007 which was precisely 28 years and one day from my original sobriety date, although I don’t remember noticing that then. I was so full of anxiety verging on panic at the time that it was all I could do to handle what was in front of me at the moment. I had realized at the end of nine years together, that the work I had been doing with my wife, Jelaila, was coming to an end. Our final task was to publish The Mission Remembered and we had accomplished that. We were complete. I could really feel that awareness of completion at the final workshop we did together at the end of 2006. It was very difficult for me to be in the workshop and it was very difficult to contribute. The sadness and depression was at times overwhelming. This was not at all the way I had imagined things would work out if we did our job well, and I did believe that we had done our job well. But I also felt that probably, while I was confident in what we had done together, I had failed in some deep and serious way on a personal level and now I was stuck in a deep spiral of failure/depression … that I had gone too far down and now I couldn’t get out. In addition, the idea that a new phase was beginning didn’t really occur to either one of us. It seemed much more negative at the time.
When did I know what to do? When the next workshop was scheduled, having had such a difficult time at the last workshop, I decided to go visit my friends in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Mark and Nancy Joy Heffron have a large beautiful home on 40 wooded acres with a stream. I’ve always loved visiting there, but this time it was different. The beauty of everything seemed accelerated, almost surrealistic … it felt like I was in heaven! I knew at the time that this had meaning for me, but I didn’t know exactly what it meant then. When I returned to my home from my vacation with Mark and Nancy, I returned to a very angry wife who felt she was tired of doing it all and being married to someone in so much pain. She actually, I’m embarrassed to say, asked for a divorce! I couldn’t believe things could get worse, but they had. It was either at that moment or shortly thereafter that I knew what the meaning of my heaven experience in Cedar Rapids was. My wife was quick to agree … a door was opening, would I have the courage to walk through it? Did I have a choice?
Once I decided that, yes, I would take this next step, the two of us formed a team committed to helping each other through the transition. Since we were splitting a single household up, some shopping was necessary. The very first day we went out I found just the bed I wanted. That afternoon we stopped by a car dealer (we only had one car since we worked from home and didn’t need two) and I ended up buying the very first car I looked at … usually a no no, of course. The car was perfect and Jelaila was there to encourage buying a newer model than I had originally planned to give to myself. This is something we tend to do for each other – encourage the other to stretch that little extra bit and get what you really want. So there I had it … my two biggest purchases handled the first day out; talk about a flow! I next began the overwhelming task of packing … something I’ve always hated doing. But, fortunately for me, my wife is a master packer having moved many times as a child. As I packed, I made notes of items I needed that she was keeping and that I would need, as we would make several shopping trips together helping each other find and purchase what we needed to live separately.
Physically, things were more challenging. My body felt exhausted with chronic fatigue, and my left side struggled to function through the minor paralysis symptoms from what was apparently a small stroke. I didn’t really believe I would be able to physically make this move. I had even stopped believing that I could make it on my own. While I was struggling with quite a bit of depression when I met Jelaila, I was physically strong and healthy and felt I could do anything that I really wanted to do. What a change! I had deteriorated into what felt like a withered, shaky, weak old man. This state of mind required that I stay very much in the moment, focusing only on what was in front of me, one day at a time. This was a difficult transition for Jelaila as well, as she needed to relearn and remember all the details of the business for which I was responsible, so working as a team really worked out well. Good thing we had the Keys of Compassion embedded in our consciousness, because we used these principles along with our love for one another on a daily basis. For indeed , love is not enough when going through painful transitions/situations. We had become adept at constantly looking at our projections as mirrors, looking for the lesson, and taking responsibility. This allowed us to nurture ourselves with the love that we have for each other while, at the same time, supporting each other through this difficult time. I remember joking with Jelaila while walking through a furniture store looking for her new sofa. I wonder how many couples who are getting divorced shop for new furniture together?! We both laughed merrily as I helped her to pick out a color and style from the selections before us.
In the meantime, I needed to find a place to live in Cedar Rapids. I knew what I wanted: a cozy two bedroom house on a quiet street with a fenced backyard so our Beagels, Gracie and Lucy, could visit. Nancy had given me a friend’s daughter’s name who worked for a property management company. I called her up and she asked, What are you looking for? I told her about the house I had in mind. I really don’t have many houses, we have mostly apartments and condominiums … oh, look, she exclaimed. Here’s a house we just got yesterday; it’s near the college in a quiet neighborhood. I think it’s just what you want. I knew at that very moment that it was, and I had only to go through the procedure of going to look at it for it to be so. I drove to Cedar Rapids the next week, and, surprise, it was perfect. It’s the only place I even looked at … just like the car! Everything was falling together beautifully, and yet terror still gripped my heart. I knew from past experience that the only thing to do with fear was to lean into it, move toward it and experience it. I was very clear that that was what I was doing, even as I felt the unreasonable terror that I could not possibly actually do this.
Next, I interviewed movers and, of course, the first one I was drawn to turned out to be the best choice. At the end of 60 days everything was packed, I felt prepared and relatively relaxed and the movers showed up on July 30, as we had arranged. The move, like everything else as I stepped through this mysterious open-door, went off without a hitch even though they had underestimated the total weight of my things. The total load actually ended up being within 300 pounds of maximum weight for their truck. They showed up on time, just when they said they would. A few hours later they would drive off in their truck, leaving me alone and sad with my furniture, a new house and stacks of boxes. I would love to report that I was standing there excited and exhilarated with this new opportunity, but the truth was that I intellectually knew that this was true, even while these feelings of overwhelm, fear and dread just would just not cooperate and follow my thoughts. Oh well, into action I went, beginning the unpacking and organizing of my new household. This is pretty much how I spent the first 60 days in Cedar Rapids, unpacking and organizing what I could before becoming exhausted and needing to rest. I even unboxed artwork that had not seen the light of day since my place in California, which gave me a warm feeling associated with creating the new me, a more centered, self empowered, in control me similar to the version of myself that originally hung these pictures in California. I was creating my new reality bit by bit, and this is the reality that would support me through the painful months of integration that were in front of me.
I understand now the pain I was feeling then as resistance to all of this change, a change I feared greatly even though some of the fear was unreasonable. At times I could feel the nerve in my left arm burning as I lay in bed. The individual cells in my body burned at other times along with muscle pain stimulated by extreme nervous tension. Emotionally I felt often overcome with uncontrollable grief, which made talking about it feel even more humiliating. Then crushing depression was stimulated unconsciously as the preferred option to cover up the feelings of humiliation and shame. These feelings and emotions were so predominant and overwhelming but all I could really do was express them to friends who were kind enough to listen to me whine and complain. The greatest pain, however, came from my absolute unwavering conviction that things should be different; I should be different. I am broken and I need to get fixed to be okay. At the same time I knew that by having this attitude I was my own worst enemy, but most of the time I could just not seem to shift it. My greatest help at the time was my friend Nancy, who with great patience and compassion listened attentively and reflected back to me the non-judgment that I so desperately needed within myself. She was able to offer words of encouragement and suggested alternatives for my thinking while, at the same time, not buying into my story. It’s hard to imagine how I would have gotten through these first few months without her, a real trooper in a time of need.
Talking to other friends that I knew in town also helped a lot. I knew from past experience that I was very safe with Nancy, but I had not yet established that kind of closeness and trust with the others. Speaking to them about my thoughts and feelings was more difficult and therefore expanded my movement into the fear. I was surprised that they were so open and interested, supportive and compassionate which is no reflection on them. I just felt so terrible about who I was that I couldn’t imagine them feeling any different. Insane, you say? I agree, but that was me at the time. Moving into a space of acceptance was a long, slow, painful and tedious process.
My next expansion of movement into the fear came with an idea to go to some AA meetings. These meetings have always felt like a safe haven even though I had not gone for many years at a time. I knew that that group consciousness was always there if needed. This time was different though. I felt completely out of place and disconnected. It seemed that people at the meetings talked mostly of their addiction to alcohol which was so far in my past that I just could not relate anymore. In order to participate by sharing in the meeting, which I felt was imperative for my progress, I would need to listen to what each person talked about to trigger some old memory of mine that I might share that would be relevant. This was extremely stressful and contributed even more to my conviction that things should be different, and I was not okay. When I did speak it was extremely difficult to keep my thoughts connected with my words and I would easily lose track of what I had said versus what I was going to say. I would feel my heart pounding in my chest and my face flushing with blood. Somehow I would finish, wondering if I had made any sense at all, but also thinking that perhaps I had moved an inch forward in my journey of integration. My next phase was to begin to talk about how I was actually feeling, but I could only do that in very small meetings. Often the grief overwhelmed me and I found myself sitting there blubbering in front of strangers feeling humiliated. Each time the humiliation was alleviated as they consistently responded with compassion and caring. I just kept forcing myself to continue this process figuring that, sooner or later, I would integrate this fear and alleviate the pain.
Another person who was a good friend and a great support to me was Jackie Salvitti of EThealing.com. In my first session with her, her guides, known as The Team, told me that I had what they call a piggyback situation in that I coexisted with another being in my body! As wild as this sounds, it did resonate with how I felt, for I often did feel like there was a battle going on within me. They described this other being as one of my other life times explaining that all lifetimes exist concurrently. They explained that one part of me deals with a lot of planetary and personal fear, as well as dealing with issues of deservability. The other aspect is more wholly who I really am and is fully conscious, they continued. The reason I say that this resonated with me is because it’s pretty much how I experience myself … brilliantly connected at times, and at other times terrified and disconnected. It was very validating to hear this information and that assisted me in aligning myself with the idea that things really are as they are supposed to be (in other words, I am going through a healing/integration experience, just as I should be). This information became even more significant three months later when I had a dream, part of which is as follows:
I was sitting with Jelaila awaiting the start of a workshop that the two of us were attending as participants. I noticed that I was quite thirsty and was unwilling to be in workshop without having some water. I was on my way back to the workshop with a bottle of water that I had obtained when something occurred that led me to being in a beautiful home which I very much liked. I walked into the living room and meant a handsome man who was pleasing to meet, other than the fact that he had a huge gash in his chest where his heart was. The blood was gushing out but it was very thick, like clay. A big chunk oozed out and plopped onto the floor! I was horrified, but he was very calm as he merely touched the wound and closed it up, telling me not to be concerned. Then I looked down and saw the same thick blood oozing from a small cut on my wrist and saw blood on my hands. I walked over to the sink and began washing my hands as I awoke from the dream.
The dream was much longer than I have related here, vividly clear in its details and easy to remember … not typical of my dream experiences as a whole. That morning I took care to write it down in all its details to draw it more firmly into my consciousness, as I knew intuitively that it was very important. I knew for sure that the dream had to do with the piggyback situation that I’d heard about from The Team three months ago. A few days later I would speak to Ezekiel, who channels through Nancy Joy (Heartlights.net), and would learn more specifically that I actually have two DNA vibrations in my cells, two distinct DNA codings that have been activated at an early age – like birthing twins in one body. One twin is very powerful, very dominant, very knowing, able to create and centered in self. The other twin is cautious, careful and can easily lose himself to addiction and depression, he stated. It is by soul agreement, he continued, that these two lifetimes or parts of self have come back. They are of equal power, but very different So I now understand more clearly that my work is to integrate these two parts, not to stay locked in battle, because even the powerful part that could touch/heal his wound did in fact have the wound, and it was deep and of the heart. Ezekiel went on to explain that the other twin’ s wrist wound was more surface, but it represented a clearing of the familial pattern of taking one’s life that I am healing in my genetic line (see article: Suicide Is Not Option). Another piece of information that he shared is that a major part of the wound of the heart of the one twin is in fact the other twin that is so lost. It is so intertwined and connected, but is representative of the experiences that I’ve had as a soul and where these experiences have taken me, that they do struggle with one another. It is clearly for me to reach a state of surrender in order to integrate these two parts, definitely easier said than done! I must take responsibility for the soul choices I have made to integrate these lifetimes, and respond appropriately as so guided. I then learned some methods of dealing with these two opposites on a day-to-day basis, some of which I’ll describe below.
One of the tools that I am using for this work, besides the AA meetings, is another meeting that I found at a facility dedicated to helping runaway children and suicide prevention. They call it a depression and anxiety support group. I love going there because as the individuals describe their symptoms of various mental disorders, I totally identify! I realized, listening to one man describe his manic depressive episodes, that this was exactly what I experienced in the 1970s. Schizophrenia, obsessive -compulsive disorder, suicidal ideation, catatonia … I have at one time or the other experienced tendencies to be drawn into those various energies , but have fortunately, from some apparent knowingness, caught myself before becoming ensnarled like these poor folks have. I’m the only one in the group not on heavy medication in order to cope. And I can understand why they’ve chosen medication… it’s the only option! Even many people in AA take such drugs as antidepressants.
What I’ve now started doing at these various meetings…and it took me a while to get to where I could do this … is to talk about this, what is really going on with these two parts of me and the feelings connected to the experience. Once again, my block in this regard is fear of humiliation, being misunderstood and rejected. Some of the time it is extremely uncomfortable and I get confused in the middle of what I’m saying. But then I remember my old standby: tell the truth and take what you get! So then I begin to talk about how I get mentally confused and feel embarrassed and humiliated. This takes the pressure off and alleviates the anxiety and fear to some degree. I have found the people open and receptive to what I had to say, and someone will often come up to me after the meeting to talk about where they identify with what I’ve said. From many meetings with uncomfortable, sometimes emotionally terrifying experiences, I have moved into experiences where things actually feel like they go so well in a meeting that I find myself looking forward to the next meeting. Sometimes the next meeting is uncomfortable and terrifying again, so I begin the process over in this layer after layer healing experience.
Another thing I’ve learned to do in order to deal with the fear/anxiety part of these experiences is to go back into the part of the dream where I see the really empowered part of me healing the gaping wound in his chest. I replay that scenario, focusing on drawing that energy into my heart by envisioning and breathing it in deeply. Sometimes I just think of a time when I felt calm and centered, and breathe that energy into me, feeling it in my heart.
It’s probably worth noting at this point that I have not always been in such a state in this lifetime. In the 12 years before I met my wife, I apparently had these two parts of me working quite well together. I’d started my own business in 1986 in an industry that I really liked and was very successful. I had had to work through many fears during my first six years of sobriety and I had had to relearn many things that I knew before, but now without the use of alcohol and drugs. But it all paid off and I had a company that I had founded with the express purpose in mind to take what I’d learned from the 12 steps, psychologists and working in hospitals into the corporate environment. I was having fun and making lots of money. But I was still very aware that what I call the buzz of depression was still there in my mind, just at a very low level. The tendency toward depression, as well as the intensity of that depression when it did occur, returned during the last five years that I owned that business.
So what is that about? Well, I had never really dealt with the depression other than by using behavioral modification – forcing myself to function normally, even while feeling very depressed. I found that after doing this long enough the buzz of the depression would diminish to a low level that was tolerable. This was, of course, not a cure but merely a coping mechanism. Now I know that one of the things that was haunting me at the time, and has haunted me most of my life, was the familial pattern of suicide as an option in life. I cleared that in 2005 as I wrote in Suicide Is Not an Option. What was left undone? The depression itself, of course. And what is depression? The psychologists tell us: anger turned inward. And from where does most anger emanate? Resentment. Resentment is so toxic that the Big Book of AA tells us, Resentment is the dubious pleasure of normal men. Three of the 12 Steps focus on eliminating resentment, it is so important. How could I have missed this? At this writing, I believe that the reason I didn’t think of this sooner is because depression was, in its own way, an emotional safety net – a place to go when the pain/fear/anxiety was too great. And what pain was too great? Resentment against self … self-hatred and criticism. Despite all my successes, this self-criticism/self-hatred has always been in the background as part of my belief system, on an unconscious level. I never questioned it, it was just there, it was just true. I had no idea how to be any other way. The spiritual leaders teach that self-love is the answer, but how do I get to self-love from self-loathing?
One way is that I have consciously questioned my perspective. I’ve made a decision that self criticism/hatred is no more okay with me than hating or resenting someone else. It seems silly now to think that it was ever okay with me. But that’s programming for you. Things that we’re programmed to believe, especially as children stick very powerfully in our consciousness, to the point where we may never question them.
I found that the only way I could truly question my perspective was to be very clear about the details and construction of that perspective. So I used a time tested old friend of mine, The 4th Step: a personal inventory of resentment. In this case, however, all the resentment was against me since I had written previous 4th Steps and used the Formula of Compassion when it came to resentment against others. The way I do a 4th Step is to really spew out the resentment on paper in its entirety … to really let it flow out without judgment or restraint. I continue in that mode as I do my writing over a period of days until I’m absolutely clear that I’m done. Then I reread everything to see if anything new comes up. When I’m sure I’m done with that part of the writing, I go back and write down how I created the resentment, or participated in the resentment if it involves another. What I discovered in part is the following: I hated myself for being a bad parent, making mistakes, being inadequate; I hated my stroke symptoms and I hated me for having them; and hated myself for allowing myself to deteriorate to the point of having a stroke; I hated me for being depressed, and for being a bad husband; I even hated myself for hating myself! I discovered in writing all these things down, how these thoughts weren’t like normal thoughts of the day which involve a conscious decision to have the thought. These were more like software playing in the background of my life influencing how I felt without really being examined for authenticity or acceptance. They were just a part of my life and where I was coming from on an unconscious/semi-conscious level. They were there as a result of childhood programming. I pushed them away and ignored them, but I didn’t really examine them and think about them like I had a choice. So now I went back and wrote about how I held each resentment in place. For example, the rage I feel toward myself sometimes when I make a mistake or drop something comes from the choice to believe in and embrace the doctrine of perfectionism. I have unrealistic expectations of myself, and I just won’t let go of this belief system.
So now when I think of something connected to myself that brings forth negative thoughts, I immediately question what is going on. Invariably I will find something triggered that is connected to something I had written down in my 4th Step as I described above. So I become very conscious of what thought is in play and to what is connected. Next, I think of how I would feel toward a five-year-old child who is wounded. Would I be angry and judgmental or would I feel compassion and concern? Compassion and concern, of course! I then choose to feel compassion and concern for myself which seems to stimulate a feeling of self-love within me. This doesn’t always happen immediately, especially if I’m triggered by something. So I will consciously say to myself, I love you; I’m sorry for the pain I’ve caused you; I release you from all blame absolutely. The pain I’m referring to is that which I caused myself/Inner Child by my judgment, criticism and blaming that emanated from the self-loathing which spewed forth from the resentment.
Another piece that I got from the author Byron Katie is that I now question all my thoughts. So I may have the thought, I made such a bad decision to sell my business, and then feel discouraged and depressed. Then I ask, Is this true? Can I prove that this is true? Invariably the truthful answer is, No! So I can now choose to stop believing the programming and therefore stop feeling badly about my thoughts which means I no longer have to feel badly about myself. I choose to feel differently based on my choice regarding my thought.
I must also be very careful about my feelings relative to my physicality. I’m still experiencing chronic fatigue. I know that the fatigue results from the two parts of me struggling against each other. I now choose to see this as an integration gauge. The fatigue tells me how well the two are working together. When they are working together, I typically feel excited and on. So why, when I wake up tired, do I feel depressed? Because I have not totally accepted the higher purpose of what is really a gift. I still have the thought, Fatigue is bad. Then I feel sad or depressed. I’m still getting to the point of, Fatigue is here; therefore integration of the two is still to come. Thank you for that report. It’s like a thermometer: It’s 32°; therefore it’s cold outside – I need a jacket as opposed to, It’s 32° … oh no! How horrible; I don’t want to go anywhere. So I have chosen to not automatically let depression in relative to how I am feeling.
It is true that I have some malfunctioning of the left side of my body, and with this I struggle the most. I take responsibility for allowing this condition to occur due to the attitude of giving up/hopelessness that I carried for such a long time that resulted in some type of minor stroke. It is very easy for me to slip into blame and self-hatred as the rage flares up when I struggle with the simple tasks of getting dressed or combing my hair. But true responsibility requires that I respond appropriately, and self-hatred is an inappropriate response. I know that the higher purpose of these symptoms is to keep me from spacing out because of the long -term pain, depression and anxiety…they hold me in my body until I do not need them any longer. Then I can heal them. I’m just not there yet with total acceptance, but I’m working on it. So I allow myself to express the anger and frustration, but I do not allow self-hatred to accompany it.
In conclusion, I have proved to myself that there is a way to take responsibility for one’s depression, and how I’ve taken responsibility for my own depression is what I’ve described above. I’m not done. I’m a work in progress … and now I know how to do the work.
Written May 2008