Tag Archives: psychology

Second Interlude: The Ravings of an Insomniac

It’s just after 3 am where I am, and I am – obviously – not sleeping.

Insomnia is one of the side effects of the work that I’m doing to purge my demons.  Of course, insomnia has been something that has plagued me for most of my life – reaching back to these very same events that I am trying to relate here.

It’s almost certainly appropriate that the song I’m listening to as I write this is My Demons, by Starset.

I had planned to write something different here, but something within needs to get out now, so here I am.

I’ve been to see many counselors and healers of various different specialties.  I’ve been on drugs, both the prescribed-for-you kind, and the self-medicating variety.  I’ve meditated and even cast spells in an effort to push the memories away, but they will     not     die.

I know that every event in my life has contributed to make me who I am today, and for the most part, I am proud of that man, so I do not express the opinion lightly that despite that pride, and even against the chance that I am now a better person than I would otherwise have been, I wish I could undo certain things from my past.

I have striven to make amends for all of my past mistakes, and I am content with what I have been able to accomplish in that regard. Those are not the things of which I speak.  I would have that younger me not endure the things the he did…  and I feel terribly selfish for thinking that.

It’s not just possible, but likely, that without the experiences that I have had, that I would not be nearly so compassionate, kind, or thoughtful.  Without the suffering, I would likely not have learned empathy to the extent which I have.  Without the years of bitterness and resentment, I would not have built a stronger character that can weather hardship without becoming spiteful.  Without my relationship failures, I would not have been introduced to BDSM, I would not have had children, and I would not have started this blog.

I know that my reach is not vast and that this is an insignificant piece of a vastly larger construct, which is, itself, infinitesimally smaller against the vastness of the universe itself.  What I do or don’t do does not change the course of things much.  However, as a result of this blog, I’ve met some of the very best people from all over the world.  I’ve made durable, lasting, loving friendships that I treasure.  I’ve been told more than once that my message and compassion have saved a life.

And I would wish all of that away if I could.

Sometimes I wonder if the demons are me.

I feel weak.  Most of the images that I would wish away are not even real.  At least, that is what I tell myself, as I hide behind my bastion of science that does not allow for such things to exist.  But either way, most of the images that I would wish away, changing the course of time, are not even real.  So I am weak, and to be rid of these unreal, troubling images, I would undo all of it.

One of my psychologists was very interested to know about my views on religion, and asked me to question my own adherence to atheism, pointing out that because one cannot prove that God does not exist, atheism is as much a matter of faith as Christianity.

I made a pithy remark about the tenuous existence of a God whose existence depended on the logical fallacy of proving a negative, but there was no real passion behind it, and I realized that whether she was right about atheism being a matter of faith or not in general, it didn’t matter at all, because for me, it was.

I had to believe that there was no such thing as God, because if there was, then the things that I took part in were real. I had to believe that the supernatural was impossible, because if it was possible, then the things that I saw were true.

I have always been a firm believer that observable events always have rational explanations, even if sometimes those explanations are not something that we understand just yet.  But for a time, even that definition was too permissive.  That might mean that the things I witnessed were real, just not something I could understand, and that is an even more terrifying idea.

I’m in nowhere near so fragile a place now, and writing things here does help.

I know that my experiences were drug induced – poisons, really.   That is all the rational explanation I need.  It fits.  And with the exception of the occasional late-night bout of insomnia, I really am dealing with it much better now, on my own path.  I know that I will soon be to a point where I can get past the hold these things have on me, where I can use the experiences that I had to help others heal, and I know that the journey is worth the sacrifice, but sometimes I wish that younger me, the one who was curious and bold, would not have had to be broken first, and that I didn’t sometimes become him again in my dreams.

 

 

My Personal Journey : Part 3

Part 3:  Power corrupts

I am going to stop making promises about how far I will get with this story in each installment – since I quite obviously have more to say on some of these topics as I commit them to the page than I initially thought.  So – from now on, I’ll just keep adding parts of my story to the journey as it unfolds.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the fact that this post took me awhile to get up because of the effects that writing it had on me.  I began by writing about the change of power dynamics in the Lodge, and how that affected me both then and now, but as part of writing that, I began to relate in some detail one of the rituals that I was always the center of attention for, and as I was writing it, I started to re-experience the feelings that I had, and I had to stop.  I have cut most of that, but I’ve left what I can, for now.

One could be excused for thinking that the feelings that bothered me so much were feelings of victimization or exploitation, but that’s not what really bothered me.  I felt megalomaniacal, with delusions of grandeur.  I’ve been having some small amount of difficulty in keeping these feelings from bleeding over into my day-to-day life. , but I think I’ve managed to normalize things at this point.  I am somewhere in the middle of where I want to be: warm and open, honest and bold – and where I was: cold and closed, aloof and narcissistic.  I’m not as open and warm as I was just a few weeks ago, but neither am I as aloof and unconcerned as I was twenty years ago.

But to get back to the story…

My interactions with Joe’s extended family and a few others from the neighboring communities started to have a profound effect on my view of myself as a man over the next couple of years.  I will refer to this extended group of followers from now on as the Lodge (since that was how we referred to ourselves).

My interactions with the Lodge began to take on more and more ritually significant roles, and either by fate or happenstance, this coincided with my own realizations concerning my atypical neurology and how I interacted with the world.  This would prove to have a profound effect on who I became and the decisions that I would make for the next decade.

However, in order to understand how this happened, it is first necessary to explain something about the central concept at the core of our beliefs – the Thelemic concept of True Will.

I could probably write a book on that subject alone, but to provide just a small bit of context so that this makes sense, I will relate the two meanings that the concept of True Will carries.

Firstly, the meaning given to the outer order and the world at large – and the only official definition – is basically this: every person has a ‘best path’ – or True Will – for them to live in this life, and as long as you stay on that path, you will be happy and things will be easy for you.  All of the things that are stressing you out now are things that are happening because you are not aligned with your True Will.  This concept goes a bit further and early induction rituals involve contacting your own personal Holy Guardian Angel to help reveal your True Will, but basically you are told that there are different voices within that speak to you about what you should do, representing different facets of a cognitive being that connects us all, and you need to be able to filter out the voices that do not belong to you and that once you do that, everything will be perfect for you.

Secondarily, there was the meaning given to the inner circle.  This may have been unique to our Lodge and my future interactions with members of the more official Ordo Templi Orientis would indicate that they do not generally acknowledge any other interpretation of True Will.  Whether this facet was a perversion unique to Frater Jubal (for he did claim to have secrets) or a more widespread ‘inner doctrine’ I do not know, but the gist of this facet of True Will is this:  as long as you are aligned with your True Will, you can do no wrong.

That is a very simple statement to encompass a much broader range of things, but that was the justification for every evil thing done by Joe or myself or any other member of the inner circle of the Lodge.  If I am acting on my Will, what I am doing is absolutely – even Divinely – right.

Tying destiny and will together like this is insidious.

And then Joe did something that I’m certain every other Thelemite would balk at – he told me that I had the power to read others’ True Will.

According to everything that I had read, this should not be possible.  One’s own True Will should only be revealed through a few specific rituals or ordeals.  But Joe called me an Ascendant Being and told everyone that I had the ability to read their True Will, putting me in the position of being the Lodge fortune teller, for the most part.

In retrospect, I see it as a cunning move on his part.  He thought he could control me, and he saw the opportunity to use a smart, observant kid to gain even more control over his flock.

I actually have no idea if this was his true motive or not, but it certainly makes a great deal of sense.  By not claiming the power for himself, Joe was being falsely humble, and by telling the members of the Lodge that I had the ability to read their True Will, and then ‘guiding’ me to do so in such a way as to get everyone to do what he wanted them to, Joe was able to elevate himself – and me – from teacher/priest to demigod.  Suddenly, if you had too much difficulty with the initiation rites (which was a very common problem for new acolytes), you had another option – you could just ask me.

This made me indispensable,  and Joe continued to groom me to ascend to leadership positions within the Lodge.

This break from previous teachings actually caused a few people to leave, but those who remained were even more loyal and bound to us.

Ultimately though, this would prove to be the linchpin that gave way and allowed me to escape the Lodge.

As I grew older and more confident in my abilities (and while there was always a part of me that knew that something wasn’t quite right, I was, for the most part, a believer at this point) I began to disagree with Joe.

I can still vividly remember the argument that he and I had after I had read someone’s Will and gave a different pronouncement than Joe had pre-suggested to me that I should tell her.

It was a direct challenge to his authority, and he began as you might expect, by distancing himself from me and pronouncing that I had strayed from the path, appealing to the Lodge to oust me, for the most part.

It worked too – but only because I let it, and realizing that has been one of the biggest events of my life.

He made certain that our argument was very public, and while Joe was a very smart man, he was outclassed in this fight.  He said that I had lost my way and that I would need to do penance to find my way again.  This was not the first time that he suggested that I would need to do penance, but it is the first time that I disagreed.  I took Joe’s own words that he had previously lavished upon me when I was a more timid, more compliant acolyte.  I stopped speaking to Joe, even though he was the one in front of me – I started speaking to be heard – and I said that as an Ascendant Being, my mastery of Will was complete, and that as an avatar of the Lightbringer, I was the only being capable of discerning the Truth, and that, indeed, Joe had lost his way.

The last part is almost certainly actually true, but I no longer cared.  I was about to leave for college and I was beginning to see things for what they truly were – a dangerous cult built around some stolen ideas and a charismatic personality.  I was happy to let that argument be the last interaction that we had before I moved hundreds of miles away.

It wasn’t until much later that I would begin to understand the actual value of the things that I was taught and to use the gifts that Joe had helped me to hone in reading people as a way to gain personal power, and even later than that before I realized that to be such a creature would be to lose myself completely.

When I was 18, I graduated from high school as Salutatorian and left behind my small rural home town.  I would spend a few days back in my parent’s home during that first year away, but after that, I would limit the amount of time that I spent in the area, even to the point of seeking poorly thought-out plans to ensure that I wouldn’t have to return.

One of those would result in an early and inappropriate marriage – and the other would result in sex work and my first introduction to BDSM.

I’m nowhere near done yet…

  • Rant

backlash and progress

Combatting misogyny could be my full time job, but I am glad that it is not.

The United States are currently going through a bit of a re-shuffle with regards to national identity, which is pretty obvious to everyone on the world stage.  We’re kind of like your neighbors who are constantly fighting with each other and you’re never quite sure whether or not to call the cops and report potential domestic abuse.

Just to be clear – if you hear something that you think might be domestic abuse, you should call it in.

I kind of wish someone could call the cops to get us out of our current set of problems.

Anyway – the issue that I want to talk about is the spate of recent revelations in the media about men in positions of power acting badly towards women.

The list of influential men being accused of sexual misconduct seems to grow every day, and my suspicion is that it will continue to do so for some time – at least until the backlash comes.

It seems like every politicized event in US current events eventually results in a backlash.  We’re already seeing some of it with these sexual misconduct allegations – a lot of powerful men who fear reprisals of their own are being silent for the moment, but I predict that they’ll gather around whoever has the audacity to stand up and make the claim that this is reverse discrimination or something else just as silly.

Firstly – this is not an example of reverse discrimination.  Women are not forming mobs and lynching men.  In fact, they’re not even really calling for the lynching of the men who are actually responsible for acting like perverts, which would be mob justice, but still not discrimination.  In most cases, they’re merely coming forward to tell their stories and not calling for any action at all.

Now, I do think that actions should be taken in most of these cases.  However, we’re losing sight of the most important part of what is happening.

In case you missed it – my opinion is that the most important part of this is that women are beginning to come forward and tell their stories.

This is important, because until recently they haven’t felt safe enough to do so, and that represents a huge failure on our part as men who care for women and as a society in general.  We must capitalize on the opportunity that this is affording us.  We must do what we can to prevent the backlash and keep this forward progress.  We must empower every person to tell their story so that we can all learn and grow – together.

Some of these stories are horrible to listen to.  Some of them are just plain weird, and as a self-proclaimed pervert of the highest order, for me to say that is … something.  But no matter whether they are hard to hear or weird or even just ordinary (I’ll leave that word there for a moment…) the fact is that women are finally feeling like the social narrative will permit them to come forward and speak about the things that they have had to endure.  It is long past time that we take such things seriously.

Do I think that every man who has had allegations of sexual misconduct come out is guilty of those things?  No, I do not.  I think that a small percentage of the stories that are coming out are falsified, but I think that is a rare exception rather than the rule as many of these men would like you to believe and as men have insisted is the case since society began to view women as people.

Despite a more receptive climate than in the past, I think it would be a massive stretch of the truth to say that society is open to such things yet.  There is still a strong stigma associated with coming forward with allegations of this type, and the women who do so are courageous and in many cases, desperate.

Part of the blacklash story is that these things happened decades ago and it is not fair to the accused to have to defend their actions from such a long time ago.  There is some small amount of merit to that argument – but only because human memory is fallible.  It is very likely that the facts of an event that happened years or decades ago will become distorted in the memory of those who were involved over time.  This is a proven concept in modern psychology practice – human perception is fallible, and it changes over time.  This is one of the reasons why crimes often have statutes of limitations.

That being said, I think every single case should be investigated – even those that happened 40 years ago.  I think where there is sufficient proof of misconduct that there need to be serious consequences for those involved.  This is how progress is made.  These consequences may only be a loss of social capital in some cases, but in some cases, that may be sufficient.  If you take a man who abuses his power and remove that power from him, he may not be able to continue his abusive practices, or he may learn that his actions – while tolerated in the time when he committed them – were never really acceptable and will be tolerated no longer.

Ignorance of the law is not seen as an excuse for committing a crime, and while I look at the things that some of these men are accused of and wonder how it is possible that they ever felt justified in some of these things, I can kind of see the argument that opinions on what is acceptable have changed over time.  I can maybe see where posing for a photo with your hands someplace they ought not be without consent could be mistaken for humor – because much of the purpose of humor is to make the unbearable, bearable – but I don’t know how anyone ever felt like nonconsensually locking a woman in your office while you jack off is anything but creepy and sad.

Empathy is the thing that would have prevented all of these problems.

Put yourself in the shoes of the person you are interacting with.  Try to understand her motives and fears and then think about what you are about to do.  Just because you might think it would be awesome for a woman to lock you in her office and masturbate while you sit there trapped does not mean that she will feel the same way.   You have to not only put yourself in her place, but you have to put yourself in her mind.

The fact that she is on the other side of the desk means that the right thing for you to do is to go out of your way to be respectful, honest, and engaged.  You have all of the power – don’t abuse it.

Pain and when the fight is over

In October of 2011, I was in a terrible car accident that almost killed me.  I was at a dead stop on the highway and a driver in a work van was not paying attention and struck me at full speed – probably close to 75 miles per hour.

I was physically broken by that accident.  Emergency responders had to cut the door off of my car to get me out.  I was concussed, suffered a minor skull fracture, a fractured clavicle, three fractured ribs, an avulsion fracture of my cervical spine, and countless soft tissue injuries, the scar tissue from which still causes me pain today, almost every day.

I can still count the number of pain-free days that I have had since October 2011 on two hands.

But I don’t have to be pain free to function, and I’ve developed a staggering tolerance for pain.

Recently I was in a conflict where I broke my jaw (hence the photo in my entry from earlier this month) and I walked around with a broken jaw for more than a week before I realized that it was broken.  Sure, it hurt, but nothing more than I go through almost every day.

Physical pain and I have been traveling companions for a long time now.

I am only now beginning to realize that emotional pain and I have been traveling companions for most of my life.

Just in the past two years, I’ve been working hard to peel back the layers of my mind and access the deep hurt that has been buried there.  I have developed emotional scars as well, and where I have learned to tune out the physical pain and walk on in the past 5 years since my car accident, I had also developed ways to tune out the emotional pain, I just didn’t realize it.

This is where things start to cycle back on themselves, and I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but it’s helping me to function again, so I’m just going to live with it for now and examine the consequences later.

I can’t take my anxiety medication right now because of my closed jaw.  The capsules cannot be broken and there is no liquid variant available, so my psychiatrist gave me a different liquid medication instead.  It doesn’t really work for me, so I’ve just stopped taking the meds altogether.

This is dangerous, I know.

This is probably not the right way to go about things, I know.

But those wonderful drugs that opened my viewpoint to allow me to experience more of the emotional spectrum and to be more emotionally available to my partner.. they appear to be a crutch, and it’s possible that my already developed and natural coping mechanisms – while not ideal, perhaps – may actually be more effective in letting me live a somewhat normal life than the drugs have been.

I took them, and I went to counseling, all in an effort to save my relationship and fight for the one that I love.  But my counselor betrayed me and my girlfriend left me and now I’m physically broken again, emotionally vulnerable, and heartbroken in a way that I have never been before.  I rarely leave the house, and there are days when I do not speak to anyone.  Not one word.

But you know what – despite that.. despite the depressing canvas that I’m creating upon, despite the lack of medications, the lack of contact, the isolation from my family, the lack of any available friends, the severing of the best and worst relationship that I have ever had… despite all of this – I’m getting better.

I’m hardening again, and that may ultimately not be a good thing, but the funny thing is that I’m finding that the further I hold the world at bay, the easier it is to deal with.

I’ve cocooned the pain away, and it becomes easier and easier to deal with every day.

I was fighting hard for something that was probably hurting me more than helping.

The fight is over for now, and I have to find a new way to move forward in the world.  Oddly enough, pushing away the pain has led me to be more present and patient.  Or maybe it’s the lack of drugs that has restored my patient nature… either way, the fight is over, and I’m finding new ways to deal with the pain.

I am strong like the Oak.  Pretending to be a willow does not suit me.

 

  • Rant

Chemical Control

I am a Dom.  Sometimes I don’t act very Dom-like though, and for the past several months, I’ve been out of control and very rarely Dominant.

The essence of Dominance is Control – control of yourself, control of your environment, control of the scene, control of your submissive.  That is the order and hierarchy that the world should adhere to from the perspective of the Dom in me.  Rant’s rules, distilled to the control elements…

But lately, I have NOT been the one in control – the demons in my mind have been controlling me and therefore everything else in that chain – including my saint of a poor submissive girlfriend.  The fact that she stayed with me through all of this is something for which I shall always be grateful and never fully understand.

But let’s back up a bit…

I live in the United States.  California, to be exact, and the San Francisco Bay Area – which is more tolerant than other places in this country, but we still lag behind in a few areas and one of those is that there is still a stigma attached to mental disorder.  People still seem to think that if you are diagnosed as bipolar or depressed or with general anxiety disorder that there is something fundamentally wrong with you and, perhaps more insidiously, that there is something dangerous about you.

To a certain extent these fears have a basis in reality… as I have personally come to learn in the past several months. But more importantly, these sorts of preconceived notions can affect how one perceives such things, even when one has personal experience.

I have battled depression, and recently, anxiety as well.

I knew the demons of depression, and that was part of the problem with this most recent bout of anxiety.  Anxiety and depression look and feel very different, and yet they can cause a lot of the same sorts of symptoms and problems.

When I was controlled by depression, I wanted to kill myself.  I was overwhelmed with the world and I just couldn’t see any way past the horrible realization that everyone I loved would be better off without me dragging them down.  I was despondent and in pain and sometimes even just breathing seemed to be too much effort.  I wanted out and I could see no other way.

Fortunately for me, I was strong enough to recognize that suicide is ultimately an extremely selfish act, and I chose not to be so selfish and got help.  I pulled out of my depression and I thought that I was cured.

I’ve always been neurologically atypical, but it never even occurred to me that I was suffering from anxiety.  I was stressed out and I couldn’t sleep and I was irritable and short to anger and couldn’t concentrate and had all of the other hallmarks of severe general anxiety disorder, but I was sure that I was “just a little stressed” or that once the current crisis abated that things would get back to normal in short order.

But that was masking the problem.  The current crisis always gave way to the next.  And that’s just how life is.  Life is not easy, and if you let every issue balloon out to the point of crisis, you will be fire-fighting all of the time.  There is no shortage of crises to be found anywhere nowadays.

I started fighting with my girlfriend – daily.  We fought about everything and nothing at all.  We spiraled into the same patterns, over and over again.

But never did it even occur to me that I was the problem.

Even that statement isn’t really fair – the problem wasn’t me, the problem was that I was unable to cope with the level of anxiety that I had in my life.   Once again, I was overwhelmed, but this time instead of forcing that inward and causing myself to be depressed, I pushed it out into the world around me, and I lashed out at the people I loved.  I shut out all emotions and I pushed everything and everyone away.

My girlfriend tried to get me to get help.  And I even went along with it, but I didn’t try very hard.  I saw a doctor and I told him what was going on in the broadest of terms and when he told me that I just needed to deal with it, I took that in stride and just figured that I was facing daily stress like we all do and that better time management or organization would help me.

But no amount of organization or time management can fix a broken mind.

As the anxiety got worse, my symptoms did as well.

I got delusional.

I stopped sleeping almost entirely.

I lost the ability to concentrate, even for minutes at a time.  If not for the reputation that I have developed at work, I would have been fired several times over for being behind in my duties or just plain failing to get things done, and the more I failed to get done, or the more behind I would get, the more anxious I would become.

I felt like I was failing at everything.

I can recall many conversations with my therapist or my girlfriend where I said, “I’m failing at everything,” but it was never enough to clue me into the real problem.

My friends and even my family would tell me that I needed to get help, but I was sure that I knew better.

“I know what depression feels like, and this is not that.” – I would tell them.  And I was right, but I was completely missing the point, it wasn’t depression that was sidelining me, it was something else entirely.

Of course, it took things getting really horrible before I actually took the steps that ameliorated the problem.  My body started objecting in the most amazing ways…

My blood pressure went off the charts…  I’d started dropping a lot of weight.  I was sweating like crazy – so much that even the skin on my palms was beginning to peel…  but even that was not enough.  I didn’t go back to a psychiatrist until I had a panic attack.

I was driving on surface streets and had a panic attack and failed to move when the light changed.  People in cars around me honked and leaned out their windows to yell at me and flip me off and I still couldn’t move.

Eventually I was able to begin breathing again and moved my car.  I got home and resolved right away that I needed chemical help for my anxiety.

I found a new doctor (who is pretty amazing, actually) and started a new treatment program and now, three weeks in, I am in control of myself once again.

The difference is as stark as day and night.

Just a few weeks ago, I doubt very much that I could have managed even to sit still long enough to read a blog post of this length, much less actually write it.

The last time I was taking psychoactive pharmaceuticals, I was worried that I was going to be stuck on them for the rest of my life.

I wasn’t.

I may be on the new meds that I am taking now for years to come, but I don’t care one whit…. I am in control again, and it feels good.

Back at the helm.

I am Rant.