Sunday, November 13, 2011

Big Lies I Believe

Fundamental beliefs (aka Big Lies) held in common by people who suffer from chronic illness:

1.     I have to be strong. (Strong enough to handle anything, regardless of whether the weight is unbearable by anyone.)
2.     It is not right for me to be angry. (I have no right to anger, my anger is not justified, or even that anger is a sin akin to murder.)
3.     If I’m angry, I will not be loveable. (Love and acceptance are earned by our character or our behaviors—which are inseparable.)
4.     I’m responsible for the whole world. (Leading to hyper-controlling behaviors, being the Fixer, a compulsion to “save the world.”)
5.     I can handle anything. (It is easier just to do it myself than get other people to do it, if you want it done “right” you have to do it yourself, needing to be perfectly competent in all areas of life—perfect mom, perfectly decorated and kept house, perfect garden, perfect on the job, in the bedroom, in the ministry—being good enough is never acceptable in anything.)
6.     I’m not wanted—I’m not lovable. (Regardless of others’ intentions, I perceive that I am unwanted/unloved.)
7.     I don’t exist unless I do something.  I must justify my existence.  (My only worth lies in my utility.  I cannot fathom being valuable simple for Being.)
8.     I have to be very ill to deserve being taken care of.  (I should be able to buck up, mind-over-matter, just get on with things, no matte what.)

A major contributor to the genesis of many diseases… is an overload of stress induced by unconscious beliefs.  If we would heal, it is essential to being the painfully incremental task of reversing the biology of belief we adopted very early in life.  Whatever external treatment is administered, the healing agent lies within.  The internal milieu must be changed.  To find health, and to know it fully, necessitates a quest, a journey to the center of our own biology of belief.  That means rethinking and recognizing—re-cognizing: literally, to “know again”—in our lives.

…The key to healing is the individual’s active, free and informed choice.  … Liberation from oppressive and stressful external circumstances is essential, but that is only possible if we first liberate ourselves from the tyranny of our ingrained biology of belief.

From When the Body Says No by Gabor Mate, MD (the parenthetical remarks are my own)

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Yesterday's procedure went as well as could be expected, I guess.  They didn't find anything immediately scary and the biopsy won't have results for two weeks.  I feel like a tiny little angry Mack truck ran up my insides and caromed wildly around in there.  So, another day of lying in bed, popping pain remedies. 

An interesting thing happened during the test.  I expected pain, and it hurt a lot, but I totally didn't expect to feel like some hidden emotional trauma had been triggered in the poking around in my body.  Maybe you know that emotional memories are held in every cell in our bodies: the more pathological the cell tissue, the more intense the emotional charge of the memory.  From the first moment the tools of the test entered my body, before the current physical pain even registered, I was bawling.  I was obviously (to me, anyway) being reminded of emotions that were hidden away in my body.  I was overwhelmed with a grievous rage.

A couple new cysts were found of a type that mind-body experts associate with constantly replaying old "movies" of hurts one can't let go of.  As if there were, say, some insults that I am hideously angry about, can't let go of, and can barely admit even to myself. Perhaps the deeply mired issues represented by the fact that none of my family responded with so much as an "I'm glad you're not dead" to my several messages about my health crises and my Halloween trip to the ER.   Both of my siblings and their spouses roundly ignored my emails but betook themselves to comment on some of my frivolous Facebook posts.  I wrote to them to ask why they bothered to FB with me if they were going to ignore the big scary stuff.  My brother hasn't answered; my sister said in response to my questioning whether she had even received the emails, "oh, yeah, I got those," without a single explanation of why she had ignored them.  I am so deeply offended, I can't even articulate it.

Clearly, I have some deep psycho-spiritual work to do--undoubtedly around this same as-yet-unforgivable collection of bitter and angry baggage about my family.  It is more than a little depressing to realize.  I have done sooo much work distentangling my psyche from my past yet my body is telling me I have so much more to do.  

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Dear Anonymous

…what would it be like for myself or my immediate family to become sick or involved in an accident or something-- how would I approach it being that all the stuff I used to believe has changed and I no longer do all the stuff I use to do as a result of that. In the past, of course, I knew every scripture to quote and "stand on" and, of course, there would be church and all the pray lists of the saints and intercessors. But now what would I do especially since pretty much the only thing I can honestly say that I do believe at this point is that God is, sigh. I am interested to know how you are dealing with this from that stance.

Dear Anonymous,

My family and the churches we participated in had no overt theology on illness or misfortune—like, it was a test from God, or punishment, or caused by our own lack of faith.  Nor did we particularly have a theology of healing—like, "stand on the promises of God" (as the old hymn says) and you will be guaranteed health, wealth, healing.

Covertly, of course, I picked up a lot of those ideas—especially as we moved from denomination to denomination, and later as I wandered even farther afield in college (strong Calvinism from my college but "name it and claim it" from the church I attended).  But I never had a clearly articulated doctrine for myself.  We had a lot of health problems in my family and, though we prayed for restoration of health, we didn't seem too spiritually distraught when that didn't happen.  I mean, we grieved and were personally distressed by death and major illness but didn't feel we'd been cheated by God nor that we were guilty of something.

Actually, I developed a rather rigid doctrine of personal responsibility for health after I left religion and became a fundamentalist alternative healing nut.  I felt obligated to have a successful homebirth as a proof to the unbelievers—those who still went to hospitals for births.  Every cough or sniffle my kids got was a personal affront to me—that somehow I wasn't feeding them the proper nutrition and that if they didn't respond immediately to my dosing them that I'd be despised by my fellow-crunchy granoloids and the conventional medicos both.

As I have faced chronic illness these last four years, I have had to confront my beliefs that physical/mental health is indistinguishable from psychological/spiritual health AND that therefore I have control over it.  I still believe that health of body mind and soul are all of a piece but I am slowly coming to accept that much of it is outside our individual capacity to regulate.  Medical doctors and alternative therapists both have done a lot of victim-blaming toward me over the years, if not for the original dysfunction (assuming they didn’t imply I was conjuring it up to begin with) then for the lack of healing—that I didn’t have the proper strength of will to sustain the healing protocols prescribed, that I cheated on diets, or just plain “wanted to be sick” because it provided me more psychological benefit than not be ill.  In religion, I received this kind of condescension over attitudes and behaviors but never health issues.

If this post didn't address your question directly enough, please comment again and ask more questions, because I will be glad to write more specifically to your concerns.  

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Day of the Dead

Partied down with the ER docs last night. I went as a middle-aged woman with dysfunctional bleeding. It was a heart-pounding, dizzying experience. My costume rocked! Risque cutaways at the bust and booty, super realistic-looking blood on everything. I got some drugs and spent a lot of time on my back with my feet in the air while men toyed with my ladyparts. I even got to bring home pictures. Best Halloween party I ever went to but this morning after kinda sucks!

Ha!  The backstory is that I’ve been spotting or bleeding for nearly six weeks.  While each burst of actual bleeding was accompanied by extreme anxiety, I knew that I wasn’t bleeding anything like a hemorrhage so I tried to breathe deeply. Compounding the panic was the memory of my mom’s odyssey with cancer that started with exactly the same symptoms at exactly my age.  She was dead two years later.

I tried some of my own healing arts but found that I couldn’t concentrate through the anxiety.  Not surprisingly, my efforts were ineffective.  Last week I started a round of visits to conventional medical professionals—I posted some of that story on my Facebook Page.  None of the medicos wanted responsibility for my long term care: the GP sent me to a gynecologist, after ordering a raft of blood tests and radiology; the gynecologist insisted that I needed to follow up with the GP, after ordering more tests, because they “only do vaginas and babies here” and clearly I had bigger issues going on. 

The ob-gyn did prescribe some Provera (synthetic progesterone, the hormone that down-regulates menstrual bleeding among other things) to shut of the faucet, as it were.  Being the crunchy granola, nuts and berries kinda gal I am, I asked for natural progesterone but she never studied the natural stuff and didn’t know what it would do.  I agreed to take the Provera after a two-day trial of over-the-counter progesterone, though I would rather have taken a prescription compound that was regulated for potency, if the progesterone didn’t do the trick.

It did seem to work fairly well—if I didn’t eat or ingest anything that inflamed the ongoing allergic cough I’ve had for weeks, or do too much (since hubby was out of town, as usual, it was hard not to overdo)—until Saturday, when it didn’t.  So I trotted off to the pharmacy only to discover that the script never arrived!  Argh!  I called the doc yesterday morning to have it called in again but couldn’t pick it up until evening.  I planned to start it this morning after the hormone cream I’d been using all day had worn off. 

Just before five in the afternoon, I heard from the GP’s office that my bloodwork, ultrasound, and x-ray had all come back normal; everything seemed fine (!?!) But about nine o’clock last night, the bleeding switch turned on overdrive and I started to bleed quite heavily.  By ten-thirty, I was checking into the Emergency Hospital.  They were so quick and efficient, I didn’t even have time to make the necessary Mom arrangements.  I ended up phoning and texting my daughter at her party, my husband in Indiana, and other moms to pick up my slack, all while lying on the gurney with my feet in stirrups or being briskly wheeled around the halls (wow, talk about dizzying!)

Of course, the ER ran their own blood workup and ultrasound but their results agreed with the GP.  Nothing obvious to be causing the bleed—which, while heavy, was becoming clear was not nearly the dangerous state I feared.  So they watched me take the Provera that the ob-gyn had prescribed and sent me home.  Within a couple hours, the drug did its thing and dried everything pretty much right up.

Now that major polyps, tumors, giant fibroids, etc, have all been ruled out, I have a couple more tests scheduled: still to come, endometrial biopsy for cancer and something long and painful for fibroids not otherwise visible on ultrasound. But it is looking like a hormonal disruption consistent with incipient menopause—also consistent with the autonomic nervous system dysfunction that I can’t get anyone to notice. 

Meanwhile, on this the Day of the Dead, I feel hung-over, exhausted, and used up.  I feel beat up on the inside, weak and helpless on the outside.  Getting out of bed to use the toilet seemed more effort than it was worth.  In the last couple hours, though, I have been able to scramble some eggs, shower off my Halloween party residue, and crash back into bed.  Had enough energy to write this post but I feel a nap coming on now!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

What If Women Had a Voice at Nicea?

What if women had been given a voice at Nicea? What if the Apostle Junia had written an epistle that survived, even if only in references by ancient critics? What if the cult of Jesus had not won the economic and political turf war against the mystic gnostics? What if the Acts of Paul and Thecla had made the canon? What if we still believed Jesus really was a totally flesh-and-blood, sweaty, sexy man?

Would women have not become second-class citizens of the Kingdom? Would we have quit making excuses for ignoring "male and female, created He them" and "in Christ there is no slave nor free, male or female"? Would women be respected in the Christian community as whole, complex people instead of wombs with legs?

What if we had taken Jesus seriously when he honored the whore, the women disciples, the adulteress, the mother, the rich patroness, rather than only following his example as the destroyer of the temple?

Who would we think God is? Who would we think we are?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

In Memoriam

Matishayahu "One Day"

It’s not about win or lose because we all lose when we feed on the souls of the innocent.

There is, however, a difference between memory—the snapshots that stay in our minds always—and RE-membering.  Remembering means to “put back together” the pieces of the past, to rearrange the pictures of memory in order to make meaning, to heal, to forgive, or to inspire.

Today is not for politicians fighting the culture wars. It is not for religious leaders to try to score converts or demonize those who believe differently. It is not for posturing for the 2012 election. Today is for those who were there, for those who made it home, and for the families of those who didn't. It's for heroes and victims alike, and the people they left behind. Today is THEIR day.

But "living in the shadow of 9/11" means something very different to at least 16 children who grew up in Lower Manhattan. It means being engulfed in the "shadow" of the dust cloud, then watching it hover over your home for months (if your home wasn't destroyed). It means standing in the "shadow" of your apartment building whose entire north side had been burned off, allowing you to look directly into people's apartments. It means living in the "shadow" of your health that's been compromised from breathing toxic fumes. It means living in the "shadow" of the person you could have been, which was more than just interrupted.

For ten years after 9/11, the Arab Spring is here, reminding us that the future need not look anything like the past. Yet the past hasn't gone anywhere. It still demands its day of reckoning. But first, let us say Kaddish for the dead.

Our innocence is over, and if we try to protect our children or the flying public or the nation in general, we are going to see the beginning of a new dark ages.

Scott Morizot, Faith and Food "Reflections from September 11, 2001"
From my perspective, sadly, we did allow the terrorists to win. I don’t think in their wildest dreams they ever though they could provoke such drastic and lasting change in our nation from a single attack. They successfully instilled fear in our nation and acting under the impetus of that fear, we changed in ways that would have been inconceivable before that attack.

in that hour of inconceivable terror
when you take back your name
from all things.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A Counterfeit Spirit

As I have become more comfortable in my own heretical skin this last year, embracing all of who and what I am as wholly Holy, I had begun to doubt how seriously I would have been spiritually annihilated as a child if I had come out of the mystical closet.  I castigated myself for hiding in that closet for 40 years.  I reprimanded my self with “See?  It hasn’t been that bad coming out! What were you so afraid of?” 

The writing of someone who had embraced everything that I have spent a lifetime struggling to integrate before she threw it away on a limited, exclusionary, superstitious Christianity.  Her words are echoes, resounding gongs, screeching nails on the blackboard of my memory, of the teachings I heard over and over in my childhood.  Everything I was trying to convince myself was overblown, childish hyperbole is right there calmly damning me from my computer screen.

Even the calmly logical, condescendingly simple explanations of how Satan takes over the mind and will of the unsuspecting mystic who uses prayer beads, walks a labyrinth, prays with imagination, or meets with a spiritual mentor sounds like the patronizing, self-righteous, religious know-it-alls of my childhood.   Did I risk a verbal, emotional, if not literally physical, stoning as a witch, a dupe of Satan, evil incarnate, if I had freely shared my psychic knowledge, my awareness of mystical union with God?

Hell, yes.