Thursday, May 22, 2014

Looking Back One Year Ago: May 22, 2013

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The following was written one year ago today...

Day 10, Part I

I awoke to the sound of a gale blowing outside. It appears today will be an "indoors day". I also awoke to a lot of pain...some of which is probably just the old disappointments and pain of the past being more present in my consciousness as they leave my body. This trip has been great fun...and a lot of work.

Day 10, Part II - It Is Done

I received an email from my Aunt Annette this morning. She confirmed she had completed the last part of my ritual which I had begun on Monday. I am very happy it has been completed. And I am also very sad.

When we do deep personal work on ourselves it seems there almost always comes that feeling of great elation when we create a breakthrough for ourselves...or the Universe breaks through to us. And then, at some point thereafter, there comes the inevitable deflation when the longer term process of dealing with the aftermath sets in. I feel myself on that downhill ride now.

The gale winds outside keep keening around my hotel room. The strength of the gale is an apt metaphor for how I am tearing down and building anew at this moment in my life. There remains such a darkness, such a lack of clarity regarding what will come to pass next. In some moments I find the lack of clarity exhilarating. In other moments I find it confounding. And in still other moments it is frightening. But at least the old and stuck grief within me is leaving me now. There is a huge space within me now for something much better to come into my life.

And now for the present moment...

As I make my preparations to attend the International Mister Leather weekend this weekend in Chicago I have a veritable collection of feelings within me:

Wistfulness: I lived in Chicago during the academic year of 1998-1999. I was attending Loyola University at the time. Strange how fifteen years has already passed. There was this one picture taken of me during the winter season that year I lived there. I was only 25 at the time. In the picture I am standing with a mound of snow behind me. We had a blizzard in January of that year. I was 25 but I looked more like I was about 19. I was smiling in the picture...but "I" was not completely there. I had basically my whole life ahead of me...and yet I wasn't fully present. The trauma from my childhood had done quite a number on me...and I still did not appreciate just how much it had. I had a lot of anger in me...and for good reason. I didn't feel safe for much of my childhood.

Excitement: I am excited to see my local community represented in Chicago. I'm also excited to see people in person whom I am only virtually connected with here on Facebook.

Anxiety: I also feel some anxiety because I wonder how it will feel to be back in Chicago. I expect I will recognize some of the places around town that I will pass through this weekend. While attending school at Loyola University Chicago I had a great partial view of Lake Michigan. I think it might be a little strange to see the lake again. Rogers Park used to be my stomping grounds. What is it like now?

Sadness: In the last year I have done a lot of personal exploration and "internal inquiry". I feel more at home among the leather community than I have the many other gay subcultural realms I have been a part of...such as the Radical Faeries and the gay chorus crows. I feel a bit sad it took me so long to find my way to what seems to be the best "tribe" for me.

This time of year also has a bittersweet edge to it because I saw my mother in Germany this time last year. It was difficult to see her and then part again after eleven years had previously passed. I don't know how much longer she will live. But then again can any of us know such mysteries.

Joy: Yes, I feel the joy as well. I am excited about where I am at in my life now. Even though it is not where I would prefer to be at this chronological point I do feel I am finally moving in a good direction. Where it takes me I do not ultimately know either...but I am thrilled with what is beginning to unfold.

I am feeling a lot now...excited, happy, sad, grief, joy, playful...and all the rest. What an odyssey it has been to reach this point.

I'll share one final detail. It strikes me as a bit "funny" that the burdens I experienced as a kid began to finally turn me a bit sour around the time that the AIDS epidemic started...namely the early 1980s. Many men I will meet this weekend have been affected by the epidemic in some way. And here is the interesting twist...whereas there is still no "cure" for HIV the medical science of PTSD and recovery from it seems to be a bit further along in comparison. It seems to me...and this is just my observation...that recovery from PTSD can be (not necessarily always is) easier than living with HIV. This does NOT mean I am stigmatizing the experience of living with HIV. Instead I am trying to say I feel a certain kinship with those who have been deeply affected by the epidemic...I started carrying a deep burden of my own in the early 1980s as well. I feel grateful I am emerging from the burdens I was carrying.

I feel it also safe to say that decisively separating the two experiences of trauma and HIV would be a bit of a misnomer. Many who were infected could easily have felt so traumatized by being infected (and then losing so many others) that they concurrently developed PTSD as well. And first developing PTSD can affect a person's judgment in such a way that they might engage in unsafe behaviors that put them at higher risk of infection with HIV...or something else.

May 22, 2014

Afternoon Reflections

How Does One Heal From a Thirty Year Long Anxiety Disorder?

I think today was the first day I really noticed how the ‘natural’ world is no longer an uninspiring monochromatic palette of browns, grays and whites.  The world is alive!  Most of the trees have bloomed out so thoroughly now that it’s becoming difficult to see the branches from which the leaves have burst forth.  Greens, pinks, purples, yellows and reds are all now visible.  Winter has died.  Spring will not be forced out of its place by the cold winds of winter.  And I am alive now in a way I have never been before.  And it only took me until the age of forty to reach this point.

There was a funny little ad I can recall seeing when I was a kid.  A little boy would walk around asking ‘How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie roll tootsie pop?’  An owl gave him the answer of ‘three’.  The ad ends with the question reiterated and another answer given: ‘The world may never know’.  In a similar way I may never know how long it takes (exactly!) to heal from a thirty year long anxiety disorder until I have done so and can look back in hindsight.  This is a question I live with on a daily basis.

Joy and grief continue to intermingle within me each and every day as I live with this question.  I feel so happy and alive that the world outside my windows has awoken from its long winter slumber.  Recovering from trauma is challenging enough.  Doing so during one of the worst winters in three decades is all the more intensive.  But I am on my way.  And yet the grief weighs heavily on me.  Even in the intense sunlight of late May I can feel the grief due to the dross of my early life history still within me.  I engage in a variety of exercise now: strength training, seated rowing, swimming, boxing, yoga and my life without a car.  All these forms of exercise help.  Being outside in the sunlight helps.  Laughing helps.  Spending time with my friends helps.  Avoiding people and situations who are not supportive of me helps.  Writing every day helps enormously.  Perhaps most important of all…having fun helps.

This coming weekend, as I meet leather folks from all over the nation and even other countries, I feel certain my joy and grief will continue to intermingle.  But I am also certain of this: as time passes the joy is remaining and the grief is waning…one tiny piece at a time.

Coming into the fullness of my being at the age of forty isn’t exactly what I would prefer to be experiencing…but I am happy to have made it through the difficult experiences I was forced to go through…as well as those difficulties I inadvertently put myself through as an adult due to my own decision making skills which were certainly less than optimal.  Overcoming an early history of extensive trauma can make for a grueling process of establishing a solid foundation in the world.  But I am doing it one day at a time.  I have essentially pruned my life of much of what no longer serves me. That in itself was quite a process!

Enjoy the beautiful sun!

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I invite you to accompany me as I document my own journey of healing. My blog is designed to offer inspiration and solace to others. If you find it of value I welcome you to share it with others. Aloha!