Thursday, June 20, 2013

Stand up and speak your truth: Coming out of the cult closet Part 1


{photo credit: www.bigcatphotography.org}
I have always had a hard time standing up for myself. I chalk it up to the way I grew up. I grew up in a cult where women and children weren't allowed to speak up for themselves, especially when we were abused. We weren't allowed to ask "Why?" even in a quiet voice. We were to take abuse quietly, submissively, like Godly females would. Otherwise, all hell would break loose. So, my sisters and I grew up with blank, obedient minds. We were trained to obey male authority without question, and we had a healthy fear of the chain of command above us. We were Godly, submissive sheep who obeyed at the blink of an eye. We grew up with no defenses around us, like innocent blind kittens, just taking whatever Godly abuse was shunted our way, scared, but too blind and afraid to make a sound. God, it was horrible.

When I was in my mid 20's and left my parents' house, I knew I wanted no more of that. That kind of submission felt like choking.

The way that I left my family and the cult back when I was in my early 20's was a physical separation, in that I physically left my parent's house, and physically moved several cities away so that I no longer had any connection with the cult or anyone in it. But even though I left in person, I hadn't cut the ties mentally or emotionally. My subconscious mind was still being powered by the toxic beliefs I was programmed and brainwashed in. I wasn't convinced that I was free even when I left.

I have an older sister named Thalia. She is made of steel with the heart of a bull. In many ways she is my hero and she is the one my siblings owe their liberation to. When she was 24, she physically took ahold of herself and my trembling, peace loving 25 year old sister Louisa, and they escaped from the house.  Thalia rented them an apartment, and together they went to college. Any kind of education above high school was considered evil and punishable, but they did it. By the time I was 19, my younger sister had already applied to college, so I figured I may as well do the same, even though I felt very guilty.

My younger sister Christy has always been bold and brazen. One day she informed me that she and my younger brother were escaping the house and cult, were leaving the next day and did I want to join them. I was paralyzed in fear, but the next day when I saw them loading their furniture into the U-Haul, I decided I may as well ride the wave with them. So we moved. We were all three in college, and suddenly, we were free.

I won't go into detail how weird it was being suddenly free, out in the real world after being overprotected and isolated from life outside the cult. My sisters and I were raised to be unable to function in the real world, so that we would be pliable and innocent and ready to be shipped into the hands of our future patriarchal husbands. Who were waiting there with open arms, ready for their submissive, uneducated wives.

Trust me, our father was not silent about my older sisters' escape, or about the second wave escape I was in. My father was livid and kept warning us that God was angry and was going to send punishment down on us in the form or our cars breaking down, our health failing, us getting bad grades, going insane, and never getting ahead in life. My brothers and sisters laughed it off, but being sensitive and not wanting to cause trouble, I was more than a little worried.

In the cult I grew up in, there's this concept called the chain of command. It's illustrated by an umbrella. The father is the umbrella, and his wife and children are under it. The wife and children are to be in blind submission, and are taught to give up their rights. The father has ultimate control. His umbrella is two fold in that it represents his authority and his protection of those under him.

The catch here is that if you try to leave the umbrella of "protection" and authority, God will send judgment on you in the form of destroying your career, health, happiness, sanity. Demons supposedly will come up and plague you as well.

This threat kept me in a state of subconscious fear for decades, but I decided that if I didn't think about it and lived an oblivious state, I would be fine.

And I was apparently fine for some time, out in the world.

I decided though that in order to be completely safe, I needed to steer clear of Christian men because they might go fundamental and cultish on me.

So I dated mostly nonbelievers. I was so scared by what my dad did, though, that I was too afraid to get close to guys, and lived on the fringe, skittish, and always ready to leave a man if he started showing scary signs.

I remained detached, unfeeling, never letting myself get too close to a guy, always ready with one foot half out the door.

Even though I dated mostly nonbelievers, I knew that I could never marry one. For two big reasons.

First, because I would never be able to bring him through my parent's front door. He would be rejected, as he was not of the faith. He and I wouldn't be welcomed for holidays. We would be completely cut off from the family.

And second, my family and church would call down God's judgment on us for me being "unequally yoked." My life would fall in tatters around me. God's judgment would affect my health, marriage, career, success and happiness in life. My life would suck, and I would live in guilt.

It is this second reason that made me decide I absolutely would never marry someone who wasn't a Christian. I was not going to jeopardize myself. God is a god of wrath, and he hates sin. If I were to blatantly marry outside my faith, I would be punished severely, on a perpetual basis for the rest of my life. I was not going to let that happen.

And yet, if I married a Christian, I could very easily end up with a one who went fundamentalist on me and started choking me with the old submission tactics. I was dreadfully afraid of this possibility.

I quickly decided that not marrying at all might be the safest course of action in my life. I didn't rule out marriage, but I decided that I should remain alert and highly adverse to it.

So I leaned happily into my life as a single girl, having relationships and boyfriends, but never progressing towards marriage. As time went by, men my age starting talking about marriage, so I had to think of a new strategy.

Every now and again, I would date guys younger than me, and this gave me a much welcome breather. Most of the younger guys hadn't been bitten by the marriage bug.

Things went along OK until I got sick and moved back home.
 
Even though I had physically left the cult some ten years earlier, suddenly I was back again. It was so odd. I had forgotten about it and had somehow blocked most of it out of my memory. That is the only way I was able to return.  
 
Unfortunately, even though I returned home, my parents refused to take me in. I was too worldly and tainted. Supposedly, I blew it by leaving home in a state of disgrace with my siblings instead of being transferred as property under the chain of command to a husband who would be my authoritative master. So I blew my chances back then, and it was my tough luck now.  
 
So Thalia took me in. We all lived within minutes of the rest of my family, and my parents. A huge hub. There I was, suddenly back in the cult, with all the judgment and threats in the name of God whirling around.
 
I thought I would recover my health quickly, and I looked forward to my stay being only temporary. I had forgotten how toxic the cult was and didn't think it would affect me much because I was a grown woman. Little did I know that my age wouldn't matter, and that as a single woman out from under the chain of command and a man's umbrella, I was a prime target for Satan and my family.
 
About two years into the illness while living near my family, I met a man who was so kind and understanding. He was there for me when I was contemplating a move and didn't know what my next option should be. My parents still refused to have anything to do with me. So my boyfriend at the time asked me to move in with him.

I knew that God would judge me for shacking up with a guy, and I already assumed that the fibromyalgia, CFS and adrenal burnout  I had was a punishment from God. I figured it was because  I had left the church, stopped praying for many years, sinned too much, had too many boyfriends, etc.

I knew I couldn't afford to do any more sinning, because I sure didn't want to make the illness get worse.

So I definitely was not about to sin more and move in with this guy without being married to him.

He seemed like a good guy, and he really liked me. He seemed safe enough.  He wasn't devout, and he was a new Christian.

Why, I had been the one who 'converted' him! On date number three, I encouraged him to say the "sinner's prayer," I wrote the date down in my calendar as proof, and then I dusted my hands of the whole thing. Did the basics, and that's all we're doing.

He was now allowed to enter my parents' home without judgment, and I wasn't going to be judged either. We were 'safe.'

I figured that he would be a safe man to spend my life with. He was too new in the faith to have gotten any weird ideas, and I was there to guide him away from patriarchy. And he was thoughtful, kind, supportive. He loved me even though I was very ill. He told me he would always be there for me. He knew I might not ever get better. He didn't mind. He loved me above and beyond what the illness had done or could do to me. Sigh.

Did I dream this guy up? He was a keeper. So we got married. Me in my riding boots, a skirt and top from Gap, and a pony tail. We got hitched at our local mayor's house a 5 minute car ride away.

And after that? Did his Christian tendencies stay good and harmless?

Well, long story short, he fell prey to my family's cult beliefs and he became overnight the reincarnation of my father. I was a child again, falling, falling, choking, gasping, trying to scream but gagging the screams out of fear of punishment from God.

I went through two of the worst years of my life. The stress of the religious, emotional and physical abuse, the yelling, screaming, judgment, things being thrown at me, storming around... it helped my already fragile health spiral downwards and I became broken. I was already raw and sensitive because living in my family's hometown at that time had triggered flashbacks from childhood, but being with Karl was like reliving some parts of my childhood abuse all over, except this time I was the wife instead of the child.

And Karl had found a friend. He found a friend in Louisa's husband Clark. My sister's husband has been beating her and abusing her and her children for more than the last decade. He is a devout Christian and is in Christian ministry. He is a Biblical scholar, and fine upstanding member of his local church.

Even though he beat my sister and she finally left, after a year she went back. He said he was a changed man.

She believed him, and so did I. Neither my sister nor I had any boundaries whatsoever at that point, so if a Christian man says he is changed, who are we to question? Neither she nor I took even a second to think anything was amiss.

So when my sister's husband asks me if I minded him becoming Karl's new Christian mentor, the first words out of my mouth were, "Of course!"

With lots of smiles and nods.

The mentorship went along quite swimmingly. At least, I thought so. Up until about six months in, when I started to realize that the whole thing was unravelling in front of my eyes, and I was the fool who let it even begin.

It turned out that my brother in law had been talking about his wife (Louisa), me, and about my other two sisters behind our backs, judging us, but swearing my husband to secrecy. But my husband, after many months of keeping it all hush hush, started telling me what Clark had been saying about us.

When I found out what Clark was doing, I told my husband I was going to tell my sisters. Karl flipped out and threatened me. He became violent and I had to go hide in the bedroom. Karl was throwing curses at me telling me how dare I threaten his Christian friendship with Clark.

I stewed about it for a day, trying to tune into my inner voice for direction.

In the past I would have swept something like this under the carpet. I would have automatically assumed a passive and submissive role.

But not now. Suddenly, I was so mad. I couldn't take it anymore. This was my life, I was an adult, and I was not about to endure a complete replay of my abusive childhood here in my own home. I was so mad. I didn't care about God judging me anymore for not being an obedient sheep. I was done with being afraid of punishment from God.

I decided that I would directly confront my brother in law. I would send an email to Clark expressing my anger over the way he's been slamming me and my sisters behind my back secretly to Karl. I would also tell him that I didn't agree with his "Christian" beliefs at all.

So I sent the email.

He responded back and said that as a Christian, he wasn't able to take back anything he said. That he was justified under Christ to say what he did. He tried to explain himself, but went further into judging all of us and saying that me and my sisters would have to answer on judgment day for things we had done in the past.

He also said that he was afraid my sister would leave him if I told her what he said about her. So I promised not to tell her. For now it is enough to confront him.
 
It might seem like a small thing, but I was literally shaking in fear for the several weeks it took me to decide to write the letter. Also, I knew Karl would be very angry at me for sending it. He threatened me not to send it. I didn't care. For the first time in my life, I was going to stand up for myself.

Writing that letter was the very first time that I stood up for myself to any of the patriarchs in my family. I'm serious. The first and only time I ever did that.

After I sent that letter, it felt like a hundred pounds had suddenly slid off my shoulders.

I mentioned before that I felt like a caged bird in my family, beating her wings against the bars. The bars are made of fear. Some of those bars aren't there now because I wasn't afraid to confront my brother in law and his religious dogma.

It's almost funny the way things work. I didn't have the courage to face my dad and his religious, emotional, psychological, and emotional abuse when I was young.

I swept it under the rug for my whole life and lived oblivious of it. But I guess you can't sweep things under the rug forever, because they will be bumps there under the carpet and even if you place furniture on top of them, they are still there. I put so much furniture on my life carpet that I thought I had those buggers properly hidden forever.

Until recently when who comes into my life but two more situational reincarnations of my dad: my husband and my brother-in-law.
 
I've stood up and spoken my truth to my brother-in-law, and I feel really good about that. At the time I'm writing this post, Karl has started to change. He is doubting the cult, and doing a lot of questioning. We've had so many tumultuous interactions with me trying to stand my ground. Some days it wears me down so much. I feel ragged, but I can't give up. I can't stifle my voice. Tumult and arguments and stress bothers me so much. I thrive on peace. But I can't let myself be stepped on, even if it means forcing myself to strain my energy reserves enough to get loud and defend myself.

At the last family party I went to, the patriarchs were sequestered in my brother's kitchen while the rest of the family was out on the deck celebrating my niece's birthday. My dad latched onto Karl and began his old routine again, trying to get Karl to learn Greek so he could expound the Scriptures and get the purest interpretation. That's all they do, study the Scriptures ad nauseum. Apparently, Greek is the original languages the Scriptures were written in, and if you can't read them, then you really can't understand the Bible properly and basically are the most ignorant of Christians. Apparently, only a Biblical scholar can really understand Christianity.

The patriarchs in my family see no life or love in their faith, they only dissect Scripture and use it to judge themselves and others in a Pharisaical way.

So when my dad told Karl he had a Greek program Karl could try out, I spoke into the air loudly, without looking at anyone in particular, "Why does Karl need to learn Greek?"

I didn't want to address the father figure directly because I am still a little afraid to be in his presence (I still feel like he's going to hit or attack me), but the question was to him. He didn't answer, but my brother-in-law Clark said, "Because Greek is easier than Hebrew!"

So I say, "So why does Karl need to learn Hebrew? Why not German or Spanish or Italian?"

And the question falls on deaf ears. They are suddenly speaking of something else and are too wrapped up in themselves to respond to a lowly female pawn. What does a female have of importance to contribute to the religious discussion? And so the party went on. They sat sequestered together the rest of the evening.

So I ambled out to the patio and hung out with the rest of the women and children in the family. Who responded quite easily when I chatted with them. The world is still right side up, even when some parts seem upside down.

I allow

 
My piano, my favorite piece of furniture in the house.

 
 
So I was messing around on the piano
 
the other day...
 
 
playing an old favorite, "Hey Jude"...
 
 
 
 
 
when I was struck with
 
some impressions...
 
and decided to write 'em down.
 
 
 
'let'
 
by AJ

 
let the notes take you
where they want to take you
 
let the timing take you
where it wants to take you
 
let your hands fumble
where they want to fumble
 
flaws are refreshing
room to breath.
 
let your spirit move you
where it wants to go
 
let your hands go
where they want to go
 
let your finger slip
where it wants to slip
 
perfection has mistakes
life needs cracks.
 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Adrenaline rushes

 
Sometimes I get these adrenaline rushes that are so strong and fierce. I have supplements I take that blunt them for a half hour or so, then I have to take more. Sometimes even supplements can't muffle it, and so I am forced out the door by the energy pulsing in me. It's not fun energy though. It's a toxic, angry energy that says, "I'm going to scream and hurt somebody if I don't get out the door and walk the adrenaline off."
 
Usually when this hits, I have to resort to angry iTunes. Yesterday it was Lenny Kravitz, and today Lady Gaga. I am carried by the urgency and anger, and it propels me forward. Today was a windy, hot day and I was sweating, but the wind was so ferocious it felt like it could lift me off the pavement. I imagined leaning into the wind so it could take me up. I wanted to just leap up and fly and shake the toxins and anger off of me, leaving it behind. But the right moment didn't come for that to happen, so instead I imagined my anger and rage leaving me each time my feet hit the pavement. The walk ended up being cathartic, just as it usually does.
 
I think I'm detoxing some heavy metals. So be it. I will live in the moment and love myself through it.
 
While I was walking, I was craving chocolate chip cookies. I could even taste them in my mouth. I could smell the vanilla smell that is in really good choc. chip cookies. Which is odd because I stopped having junk food cravings about three years ago. And I know that if I tasted a cookie these days, especially a store bought one, it would taste like sand, crisco and sugar, and I would spit it out.
 
I was talking with a coach the other day, and she mentioned that adrenaline rushes and anxiety can stem from unresolved issues and unidentified emotions. For example, when you are not in tune with your feelings, your emotional needs or your body's needs, it can come across as anxiety. I wonder if this could be part of my restlessness, and my need to just go out there and run a marathon basically. If I don't, my body can't take the internal shaking, and I just crash. It is better to walk/run it off. Getting out there in nature, walking fast and getting the circulation going is one of my favorite parts of the day this summer. I think I want to reflect on the correlation between unexpressed emotion and excess adrenaline. Maybe my coach is on to something. I will post an update later if anything unfolds.

Getting out of the mind

my windowsill on a sunny morning
It's time to focus on what activities I do that make me totally forget where I am and who I am. Activities that make me loose all track of time. Activities that make me feel totally healthy and amazing. That make me forget I was ever sick.  I'm going to list and grade my activities below on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the best.

- Walking. I know that not everyone with Chronic Fatigue or Adrenal Fatigue is able to do this, and I myself did go through a year and a half that I wasn't able to go out and walk at all. So I am overjoyed that I can go out and walk again. Not every walk turns out well, and a few times I get leaden feet and have to turn around.  Sometimes I get very tired 20 minutes after sitting down from returning from a walk. But I usually do feel great during a walk and I usually continue to feel fine the rest of the day afterwards. Walks more often than not energize me and make the rest of the day better. Usually about 10 minutes into the walk, I am overcome with a sense of deep well being, and a zest for life. It is identical to the high I used to feel when I was healthy and would walk at a local track or rail trail. It amazes me every time when I walk that I am able to duplicate spot on the feelings of vibrant health that I enjoyed pre-AF. Grade of 10!

-Visiting with people and laughing with them. I get almost as much rejuvination from being social as I do from walking. Again, this isn't a fool proof method because if I'm already not feeling great, being around people just pulls me down even further. But if I am on a level where I feel mediocre (just at the line between feeling bad and good), then this can pull me upwards. Maybe laughing is good medicine because it helps me take in air and breath more deeply, more relaxed. Being around people and conversations is definitely a distraction, and most things that distract me from the busyness of my mind is good. Grade of 8.

-Watching movies. They have to be funny, though. The more light hearted, the better. Grade of 3.

-Drawing. This isn't always a good choice though because if my mind is busy, it doesn't serve me well. Grade of 3.

-Gardening. The same is true for gardening. I would enjoy it more if I could turn my mind off more easily, though. Grade of 3. Also, if I moved around a lot more, I would give it a higher grade.

-Bio-Tuning. So far this is my tried and true method of meditation. All I do is turn it on and clip it to my ears, and it's automatic. My mind eventually turns off. Grade of 8.

-Helping someone else by being of service to them and feeling useful. I want to explore this more. Anything from unloading the dishwasher, making something Karl really likes for dinner, babysitting my niece or nephew for my sister. Grade of 7.

-Allowing myself to recieve things from other people. Like my mom gave me a bike the other day, and it really gave me a lot of joy. I know she feels bad about some things and wants to make it up to me, and this is one way she is trying to go about it. Getting a back rub from Karl. It's always been easy for me to give, and difficult to recieve. But I'm coming to realize that openly recieving is like giving a gift to the giver. You are giving acceptance. I didn't know that I could get so much joy out of letting myself recieve good things from other people. I think I get more joy out of recieving than actually giving? When Karl gives me a back scratch, I say, "I recieve. I recieve." Otherwise, I would cut him off and say, "Ok, your turn." I'm practicing allowing good to come to me. I used to think I wasn't worth it, and that translated to me not allowing good in. I'm working on this, and so far it's pretty fun. Grade of 7 or 8.
 

Friday, June 7, 2013

The answers are inside of me


Visiting with family


Recently, I've been feeling so grateful and excited each morning when I wake up. Right now I'm in a pretty unique situation. My typical day is spent alone at my house. When the weather is nice, I go for a half hour walk or spend time outside on the patio or in the garden. I thrive being outside, so I like to be out as much as possible. I see Karl in the evenings, and that's about it. I don't yet have friends in real life other than family members. And family members come by very infrequently. 
 
The thought occurred to me the other day, "I like my set up. I really do! I'm so blessed!" I've been feeling quite healthy and just magnificent the last week or so. I've been focusing on doing the things that bring me enjoyment. I do enjoy being alone, and it suits me quite well. I wake up to a sunny day, and I talk to my cat. I go out on the patio and check on some sprouts in the garden. I get my breakfast and eat it slowly. Then I do some meditation, either out on the patio in the sun or relaxing on the couch. I go on a walk and soak up energy from the breeze, the trees, plant, and life in the neighborhood. I fill up my lungs and breath and feel so alive walking. I listen to audio sessions where I learn about topics like allowing spirit into your life, opening up to your own divinity, and honoring and valuing yourself. Every day I feel like I learn something new about life and myself, and it is quite refreshing. I'm always walking around with a stack of paper and a pencil jotting notes down. Then I just sit and meditate out in the sun, usually doing my Bio Tuner to help me relax. I feel like I am expanding on the inside, and becoming aware of so much after being in a spiritual coma for some time. It really makes waking up each day such an exciting event. Especially now that it's June, and the weather is warm. I don't know why the sun and warmth have such an invigorating effect on me. To wake up and feel the sun warming my skin, with a warm breeze blowing in and the smell of warm earth and plants in the air...as I switch from sleep to realization that I'm awake. It's really such a gift!
 
I've been focusing on accepting where I am in my health without analyzing it, and that's been giving me joy. Thalia was explaining to me a month or so ago how freeing it is to live in the present moment. Because in the present moment, you are always OK and always safe. So I ask myself, in this present moment, how am I doing? Well, right now I am fine. I am safe, I have enough food and water, I'm comfortable, I'm surviving. Because my present moment is fine, I can live in it, not yesterday or how I expect the afternoon to be. Truth be told, with the Nutritional Balancing Hair Analysis program I'm on, my health has resembled a marble zipping around in a ping pong game. It bounces around so much, that it is never the same from one day to the next, from morning to afternoon, sometimes from one hour to the next. It would be exhausting to study it and try to manage or control it, so I just let go and let it be. Before I started the NB program, my health was definitely a roller coaster and quite unpredictable from one day to the next, from one hour to the next. So that is no big change. What is different now is that the highs and lows change more often and are more of a contrast. The lows are just as low as they were pre-NB, but the highs are higher and last longer. And symptoms shift around a lot more now than before. Musical chairs, anyone? To put it mildly, practicing flexibility is making my life much easier right now.
 
When I was in fourth grade in elementary school, I went through this phase where I wanted to switch places with my mom. She was a stay at home mom and we lived in this old farm house sort of out in the country. My mom would basically just cook, clean, do laundry and work in her garden. I didn't like school because that year my teacher had resigned and we had a string of substitute teachers. I didn't like the unpredictability that year and longed for safety and routine. I would beg my mom to switch bodies with me so that she could go to fourth grade for me, and I could do her chores at home. I lived in some kind of fantasy in my childhood (and beyond) and believed that if my mom gave her verbal consent, the switch would easily occur. She laughed and said her work would be too hard for me, and that what I would end of doing was spending my day in the garden instead of cooking dinner. There was some truth in her words, but I smile now at how intensely I wanted to just stay at home in a safe, quiet setting.
 
And now I have my wish. I just realized this the other week. I have the life my mom had that I coveted. I don't have to be anywhere, ever. I don't have to worry about paper work, running errands, deadlines, cars, insurance, meetings. Every day stretches into the next infinitely with no one demanding anything from me. I have less responsibility right now than my mother did then, actually. She had to go get groceries each week, and she had six kids to cook and care for. I don't have a car and don't have to drive anywhere. I can wake up and spend my day soaking up the sun, meditating, zoning out, recharging my batteries, getting more centered and grounded, caring for myself taking long baths or showers, luxuriating in any way, eating breakfast as slowly as I want to, cleaning or not cleaning the house whenever I want or don't want to. I am really grateful for my set up. It wasn't this good a year or more ago. 
 
I have shifted into quite a slow mode, compared to how I was four years ago. I used to be a whirlwind of perpetual thought and motion, with a to-do list that branched out into infinity. I thrived on that adrenaline, and I lived in constant fight or flight.  I was completely unable just to sit and be. I never sat down with nothing to do, I always had to be incredibly busy doing many things at once. Eventually, I got stuck in overactive mode, but it took a very long time for it to finally set in. And, even though I started "resting" myself three years ago, it hasn't been until the last year or so that I've been able to get to the point that I am feeling rested in the mind and spirit.
 
So, wow. I got my wish! I am free to entertain myself exactly as I want. I'm finally getting in touch with myself and listening to my intuition. I'm finally honoring what my inner self has been trying to tell me my whole life, but I never listened. I can paint fairies, think up magical stories, daydream on the patio, hold extensive conversations with my cat, and be as odd as I want to be. Karl thinks I'm completely sane, which is music to my ears. I ask him if he thinks I'm whimsical, odd, strange, off beat, or special in a not so positive way? He looks right at me and says I am very normal, and why do I ask? Ha ha! That is really healing to me, as I used to be looked at as a weirdo, so that is why I hid my personality and tried to be normal.
 
Nothing is expected of me, and I expect nothing of myself, except to just simply be and to enjoy the present moment. If I just spent the rest of my life achieving no greater accomplishment than simply growing and pruning plants, that really is OK. There is no rush for me to make this major transformation in health so that I can get a job and function like "normal" people do. I used to feel a strong push to get better in a certain framework of time, when I first took off work and was on a year long leave of absence, then a two year leave. I've left that deadline behind some time ago, and am not in a rush to go anywhere or do anything now. As long as I am happy in the moment, that is what is important.
 
 I've been feeling quite content, and grateful beyond words the last few weeks. Everything I need is inside of me now. Any answer I will ever need is inside of me. I have everything right now that I need to be happy. I am one with my body and spirit. I didn't know I was actually doing this, but my whole life I cut myself off from who I was. I grew up in a family of artists. The relatives on my father's side are visually artistic, very musically talented, poetic, and quirky. But to the degree that my father's family is artistic, they are also just as tortured. As many generations as I can go back, most of my relatives have sunk in huge quagmires of depression, anxiety, mental illness and isolation. Alcoholism, drug abuse, living in half way homes, in and out of jail, suicide, you name it. My dad tried to purge these tendencies out of himself, my mom, and my siblings and I through very strict religious legalism, and separating himself completely from anything not of God. God was in the Bible and church, but he wasn't in every day life, in art, in intuition, in joy, laughter, freedom, flexibility, in yourself, in music, in your spirit, in other people, in the world itself. Basically, you had to cut yourself off from yourself to be truly Godly. My family did it's best to purge themselves. Other than my dad, I tried the most, since I was trying to win my dad's approval the most. He disliked me the most, so I made it my life mission to get him to approve of me. I grew up trying to control myself and suppress my intuition, my inner voice, and my artistic side. I felt like not suppressing these areas would lead down the devil's road and would open up a door to irresponsibility and mental illness. I was so afraid of trusting myself, that I cut myself off from my inner self completely. And I wonder now why my body has cut itself off from me. Clearly, I would have done the same if I was one of my own body parts.
 
When I would get sick as a child, I would refuse to listen to the voice telling me I was sick, and I would cover it up because being sick was an inconvenience in my father's work day, and his paycheck was more important than picking me up from school. My inconvenience was highly desired over the rage and disgust he would explode into when I made a small need of mine known to him. When he said or did things that made me uncomfortable, I refused to listen to my inner voice that screamed it didn't like those things, and I listened to a voice of fear that he instilled in me, that told me he wouldn't love me if I didn't do those things. Not that he ever did love me, but I sure did keep hoping. I suppressed my body's needs, and I didn't honor my body since I was about 6 years old and onwards till about last year. I believed my body was a worldly inconvenience that I was saddled with in this world, and that it was a thorn in my flesh. It was full of sin and wild desires that I could only manage through much suppression and control. I separated myself from my body at a very early age. I didn't listen to it at all. I have had a fear of vomiting, for example, that really confuses me. I don't know why I'm so afraid of it. I think it has something to do with being deathly afraid of letting my body do what it wants, about letting go and trusting my body.
 
I haven't had clear boundaries pretty much... ever. I've been an empath who has covered up her true identity, and that's led to a lot of pain on my side. I've attracted emotional vampires, narcissists, people who can smell people like me from miles away. They feed on females who have scant emotional boundaries.  I've tended to attract people who are draining. My compassion draws them in, and when they go overboard and suck the life energy from me, I've let them. They end up stealing my energy and going along in life without thinking about it, swimming happily in their pools of stollen energy while I'm left drained.
 
The other day, I had a quite pleasant interaction with someone who was recently expressing that they were trapped, and that life sucked. I had been encouraging and uplifting this person in this area quite regularly, as I believe no one is ever trapped. No one is really a victim unless they want to be. We all create our own reality whether we know it or not. This person had gone into a rapid negative spiral, and I was quick and ready with one of my tailored pep talks, even though I had given an identical version of this talk multiple times. But this time, this person went on and on like they didn't hear me at all and wanted to stay in a depressed mode. I felt a sudden departure of energy, like I was being drained. So I sat up and said calmly, "I am more than happy to talk with you if you are open to positive suggestions. But until you are open to encouragement, I can not interact in this conversation." And I got up and went into another room for a glass of water. Then I went upstairs and listened to an audio book by myself. I felt unruffled, calm. I sensed that I was responding in ways I had never done before, and my body thanked me for it. My energy had immediately come back, and I felt serene, quite healthy. Although I know that this adrenal burnout illness I've been experiencing is hereditary, I know also that it is highly excacerbated or eased by the way I honor or don't honor myself.
 
In a way, I think that this health condition is a result of my own body's inner longings for a long time. I tuned my body out even when it got to the point it was screaming at me. So when screaming didn't work, different parts of me just simply stopped working when I wanted them to. This forced me into this life of isolation I now live. This forced existance where I have no one to talk to for years on end but myself. A forced situation where I must listen to myself or go completely bored. So finally I started listening. I'm still quite new at listening. But at least I know it's something I'm able to do, and I can work at it so that it becomes more and more natural.
 
I plan to sometime soon get into a meditative state so I can ask my body why I got sick. I'll set a timer for a set time and just talk nonstop until the timer beeps. Or I'll lift my pencil and write. Maybe I'll use another method. I want to know more about who my guides are, because I could ask them also. There could be some karmic reason also why I chose this particular life with this illness. I'd like to get a reading done, or go into regression.
 
When my body is ready and I am ready, the answers will come to me. The answers are coming to me even in this moment. I'm not in any rush to head out and be in the real world again. I'm content where I am, and I'm actually enjoying my current set up, out of contact with most of the world and society. It's pretty neat to know that I don't have to strive for the answers anymore. I don't have to lay awake at night worrying what my next step will be. I don't have to research desperately all day long on the computer trying to figure out answers to relief from this condition. I don't have to worry about anything. What I need comes to me easily, it's already in me, it's already mine.
 
I remember being frustrated two years ago when I first moved from NYC to my small town. I was taking a walk with Thalia, and we were talking about ways to prevent adrenal burnout. At this point in time, Thalia hadn't yet gotten AF, and we didn't know my mom had it. We assumed there was no genetic component in our family, and that nutritional, emotional, physical and psychological stressers were the reasons I got sick. I remember fuming and venting to Thalia. I kept wondering out loud WHY somebody or some organization didn't warn me about the dangers of life and how to avoid AF. Why didn't my parents know to tell me, and why wasn't this taught in schools and churches. Why didn't every bookstore have a set of books on this topic hanging from a string over the main entry into the shop, so that everybody could be warned? Why are people allowed to be born without this warning? How fair is it that  we are not born with a chip in our wrists, full of vital information on how to live life without getting AF? Why weren't we born with a downloadable user manual somewhere in our bodies? In other words, why weren't the answers inside of us.
 
Back then I was so clueless. I was still under the assumption that the answers to life were outside of us, in a book, a school, an organization. Now that I know that the answers are inside of me, I feel so incredibly relieved. I feel less driven. I don't feel like a victim anymore. I feel more complete and relaxed.
 
I know why many of my family members are miserable. Most of them are depressed, mentally ill, abusive, on the verge of suicide, frustrated and quite difficult to be around. They still believe the answers are outside of them. They think that God is outside of them. They are continually under pressure to find the answers in church, in their Bible, in seminary classes. They feel pushed and hounded, never able to rest, because if they rest a little, they might miss a sermon point or a lesson on Christian radio that could push them higher on the ladder of spirituality. They can never rest. They will never be complete, ever. They are fighting a loosing battle, and somewhat realize this, but they cover it up because it's too scary a thought to ponder. Why look at something you can't fix? Religion is the ultimate authority, not their inner self. Plus, the inner self is not to be trusted.  "The heart is deceitfully wicked, above all things." So they are afraid to even look at how miserable they are. So they close the doors to their inner world and purge themselves of sin with religious zeal. Love is their true inner nature, but they don't know this. Because they are not in touch with who they really are. Because they think they are really horrible and sinful at the core. So they see others through eyes of hate and judgement, thinking this is God's way. And yet they are just hating and judging themselves, since we are all one. They go about hurting themselves and wondering why they are so miserable.
 
I have sensed the disconnect between religion and myself ever since I was little. But I never had the courage to look inside myself and honor my questions. Being a highly sensitive person, I was slightly aware that something in my family's religious cult and way of life was out of tune. But I could never put my thumb on exactly where the disconnect was. I was way too scared and repressed to look inside myself to find out. So I buried this disconnect my whole life. Although I didn't realize it, this was probably pretty stressful. I was subconsciously maintaining this delicate balancing act since I was 6 years old. I was slightly aware of and very unhappy with the disconnect, while working very hard to hide it away so I didn't know it existed.  Thinking and feeling were too painful. So I tried to become very busy in life so that I didn't have time to think or feel. I was drawn towards people who lived on the surface of life and never went below the surface. People who were out of touch with themselves. I wanted to be very out of touch with myself. I figured that's what normal, healthy people did in order to stay afloat in this world.

Since most of my family members are not as highly sensitive as I am, I have a feeling that they have not been as bothered by the toxicity in my family as I have been. What was highly painful for me possibly doesn't even register in their day to day thoughts, ever. So this explains why I have struggled with this more than my siblings. I'm the only one who got majorly sick, I'm the only one super sensitive to things like this.
 
I see my intuitive perception now as a strength, not a weakness. I have been given the gift of sight, and it isn't a curse to be the one not able to stand up under toxicity. It is a sign of strength. It is not a gift for a person to be able to thrive under toxic, harmful circumstances and be OK with it their entire lives.

Grateful. I'm so grateful. I am exactly where I need to be right now. On my kitchen table I stuck a post it note to remind me of a doctor's appointment I have this coming Monday. Usually, the sight of a note like that would put me into a tailspin for a week prior to the event. In the past, I wasn't well enough to leave the house even for a dr. appointment. And yet, I would occasionally make appointments or agree ahead of time to go to family events when I wasn't able to.  I would try to force my body out the door, despite near passing out and myriads of other body parts screaming at me to lie down.  Now things aren't so dramatic. I stopped forcing myself to go out, and I stood up to people who were trying to force me to go out. For the last few months, I've had several weeks on end of better health. When I look at my post it note, I know that this appointment is do-able. Just that simple knowledge is like gold to me. I walk past my post it note, and move it around so that it is within my line of vision easily any time I'm in the kitchen. I'm so grateful because I know now that things around me are in my favor. The universe, my body and life itself is on my side, not against me. Even I am on my side, now. It's OK to stand up for myself and my body's needs. It's definitely OK to listen to my inner voice. It's OK to tell people 'no' when they want to force me to do things that aren't right for me. My body is honoring me back when I stand up for it and myself.