This one is a little longer. The key points I will summarize below are going out of memory.
Key point 1 – she talks about the two wolves that battle inside everyone. The elder says the first one is malice, jealousy, violence, all those things. The second wolf is compassion, kindness and things along those lines. The youth asks the elder which wolf will win. The elder says, “the one you feed.”
My thoughts; true and we need to be reminded of it. But it’s also a very hard battle. When you are isolated, resentful. This battle may happen all through the day where your good wolf is constantly having to keep your evil wolf from getting out in the open. For my part I do think I will work on my resentments with a therapist. Because left to my own devices I will shove them down and bulldoze over them. They did this to a field of weeds near my place last summer and the weeds and all the plants popped up again like nothing. I suppose I want someone professional to help me tear out the roots. Anger at anyone else is a part of anger at myself.
Key point 2 – thoughts are just tools. We are not our thoughts. They are simply tools that lead to getting things done in our day to day lives. The mistake we make is to identify with our thoughts as though they form our identity.
So for example, I was or used to be the music lover and free spirit who enjoyed learning new things on guitar. And all those neurotic thoughts I started identifying with gained on me and made me a freaked out anxiety depression person.
I did it to myself. And once the damage is done, it’s done. And so we end up in situations where we start taking medication just so that we can be level headed enough to do therapy, so that we can work toward getting off the med and have what we learned in therapy be the bigger tool.
I poo poo’d all that for a long time, but now I see the logic. The wolf got fed so mightily that now you have to do both meds and therapy to be functional.
I am still being somewhat abusive with my language, going back to what she said in yesterday’s video. Yes, well, the two wolves are circling each other. At least I have vision now. More than I could have said in past years or months. So I will still sit here and be abusive to myself and others, but I will recognize it and attempt to correct course.
Writing does help. The resentments will swirl around and I will experience them. Writing like this releases them. And listening to her as much as I can. And crying. And choosing to be vulnerable with at least myself, if nobody else.
All this against the backdrop of being very ill. I told B this morning, and I stand by this, that I have immense compassion for all those other people out there who have depression/anxiety and who are now sick with covid or any other serious virus. If I were to die, at least I died with some grace, compassion and forgiveness in my heart even if I also was walking thru little resemtment clouds in my last days.
This post wasn’t supposed to be so much me me me, but it kinda came out that way. Anyway the vid is worth a watch.
After lamenting my difficulties in creating art in this space yesterday, the universe proved this was nothing more than a self-limiting belief. I had a lot of work to do, but I couldn’t shake the desire to draw. In the time before my journey… that other life which I am seeking a concise name for… […]
It’s been a while since I’ve done Mystery Author. In this feature, I type up a chapter (or more) from a famous book or other source for your reading pleasure. The fun part is you don’t find out who the author is until the end. This one is incredibly special. Consequently, it’s much longer than any other Mystery Author episode.
This author’s writing has an excessive amount of ellipses… (now I know where I picked up this habit from!). I was tempted to edit them out, but I’m leaving them in. The writing still flows just fine.
“To this day I still don’t know the exact reasons why my mom was committed to a mental hospital…all anyone ever said to me about it was that she had taken “too many diet pills” while trying to lose some weight and flipped out…I wasn’t around when whatever happened ‘happened’…she was held for over 2 months, until she dramatically escaped by jumping a fence and running away (no doctors ever came to get her and take her back)… no one ever told me at the time what was happening, or explained why my mother was gone.
I recently found some of my mom’s writings from when she was in the hospital…there were some diary entries, and much to my surprise, a few poems. Finding her writings on the eve of publishing my own poetry book was an funny, unexpected discovery… all this hit me kinda strange, because I had never viewed her as an artist type…my dad was the talented one, and he carried the mysterious persona that goes with someone who has a gift…my mom was straightforward to a fault, but didn’t strike me as a failed dreamer…but looking now, I think life was all too much for her, and any outward spark that she had in her died along the way and was buried deep down below…I now understand where both of those faces in me come from, the restless magician and the sad, longing soul.
My father reappears one fine afternoon out of the blue, and without explanation, takes me to live with him…I have had no clue as to where he was, what he was doing, or that he had gotten re-married, so it was all a big shock to me…after living in almost near bliss with my great-grandmother and grandfather for a year, he yanks me out without ceremony, giving me little time to pack or honorably say goodbye to them.
As we drive, he gives me a very basic ‘here’s how it’s going to be’ speech (because he is uncomfortable with any damage he might have caused me, and sees the very act of mentioning it as a sign that he is guilty)…he never really puts into context why he disappeared, made no contact with me in that time, or what had happened to my mom…it was as if someone just shows up one day and changes the channel on your life, and you are supposed to play the same character you were playing on the other show, exactly as if it was the same reality you had been living in all along.
* It is still light out when we pull up to the trailer park, and all the snow on the ground gives each motorhome the gentle appearance that they are quaint country cabins…walking in, I notice right away that everything seems much colder…I meet my father’s second wife, my step-mother, for the first time…she is small, around 5 feet tall just like my mother, but more petite…however, where my mother’s features are soft and dark, her features are angular and straight…she speaks in a clipped, overly affected tone, which on the surface one without a keen ear would easily mistake for graciousness, but secretly underneath hums the lower bell of controlled chaos…my welcome from her is neither welcoming or dismissive, but I can see straight away she is not happy I am here…I am also re-introduced to my brother, who is grown now into a cherubic, golden-locked boy of 3…last I saw him he was still a toddling babe, but now moves through the space with the confidence of an only child, for it is his…I am shown the lay of the land, and directed as to where to find my bed, which is the bunk that straddles the top of the driving cab…and that is it, life moves on.
My dad leaves almost every evening to play gigs, leaving me to sit in silence with these 2 hostile strangers…my step-mother is a totally different person when my father is not around, speaking in a cold monotone and exhibiting little patience for any questions I might have…the entire message is clear—’we don’t want you here, but we have no choice’…my brother sees me as his competition for my father’s affections, because he has grown so used to him all to himself…(this sadly sets up a self-defeating competition between us that would last for 20+ years)…but my sibling does not concern himself over my relationship to our step-mother, because he is her only son now, and she his only mother…he calls her mom, a sound I find strange…my father informs me that I must call her mom as well, even though the thought repulses me…if I try to retreat to my bunk to find solace, I am told by my step-mother that I am not allowed to be up there unless I am going to bed…naps are not allowed, so I sit uncomfortably in the booth seats that also serve as an ad-hoc breakfast table and try to keep busy…there are no toys or books of my own, so I go out and play in the snow a lot.
Day by day, I begin to detach slowly from the past, as the memory of living with my mother and my grandparents fades into the distance, and a dawning reality grows that this situation I am now in is not to be temporary like the others…I wish I could go somewhere, but I couldn’t tell you where…anywhere but here, I suppose…the entire time we are in Cicero, I do not see my mom or her relatives at all…and as is the custom, I am not allowed to speak of her.
As time has passed, my role in the family has settles in…I act essentially as an independent entity (think unwanted adopted child and you will get the picture)…my father lavishes praise on my brother, and my step-mother treats him as her own…I am tolerated, but it is made clear I must earn my position in the family, particularly by my step-mother…I must sweep the floors while my brother plays…I must clean up for the family after dinner because food is expensive…every move I make, everything I do is given an assigned value against what I am costing the family…my father is distant, unable to deal with his prior abandoning of me…unable to deal with his own guilt, he treats me more like a buddy…it breaks my heart when he sends my brother hand drawn pictures from exotic locales and doesn’t even mention me in his letters…I feel invisible, but I cannot hide enough…everything I do is to not be seen, although there is nothing I want more in the world to be seen…school will soon will start, and I look forward to going every day to relieve living in this pressure cooker…I share a room with my brother, and spend a lot of time up there reading my new favorite book, “The Jungle Book”, by Rudyard Kipling…I want to close the door, but I am not allowed to by my step-mother (no explanation is given)…but when I read, I escape into a world without step-mothers and absent fathers and fairy tale mommies.
I am often given bathroom duty, being expected to clean the toilet and the shower to a military level of cleanliness…I must get my step-mother to come in when I am done cleaning so that she may inspect the work herself, standing there awkwardly as she looks closely at the areas around the toilet, sink, and bath…if I have missed anything, she tells me I must clean for another long period of time (like another half-hour), and not to bother calling her until I am positive the area is perfect.
Because the bathroom itself has already been cleaned once, I spend a few minutes re-cleaning the area, and then just sit and wait the appropriate time in silence before calling her back…the first time that she comes into my room screaming in the middle of the night (my father isn’t home normally until 5am) involves something that has displeased her about the bathroom’s lack of cleanliness, and she drags me out of bed by my hair all the way to the bathroom down the hall…she shoves my face into the base of the toilet, so close that I can smell the odd mixture of cleaning solvents and urine, asking me if I feel that this area is clean…not knowing how to answer, she insists that the toilet is filthy, and makes me clean it all again in the middle of the night.
Her frequent night attacks, which involve being woken up suddenly with her standing over me screaming at the top of her lungs also include beatings and the occasional shove down the stairs…being thrown down the stairs usually involves something to do with cleaning up the kitchen…the terror of all of this gives me a terminal case of insomnia, and makes me a very light sleeper (I still suffer with insomnia at times, but it has gotten a bit better—it was very terrible for almost 25 years or so)…when my father comes home, I lay in bed awake listening to her prepare him food…I dread these sounds, the sounds of pots and pans and cooking, because it means I will have to do the cleaning up later.
I start wetting the bed almost every night…the first few times, my step-mother takes the wet sheets off wordlessly…after the first few incidents, she starts to get very angry…if my father is aware there is a problem, he doesn’t show it…my bed wetting seems to send her into overdrive, and she compounds the problem by telling me that something is wrong with me, that if I was normal like all the other boys and girls I wouldn’t be having this problem…I am terrified of her, so I start trying to hide the evidence as it were if I have wet the bed…I get away with this a few times, but she takes to checking the bed every morning, often before I get up…if she finds that I have wet the bed, she makes me stay in it for hours, as punishment for what I have done…I just lay underneath the wet covers and ask God to please kill her for me because I hate her so much…this is the time that the real violence of my life begins, becoming intertwined with all that I do and all that I am.
On a particular cool night, I am making my usual trek to the liquor store to buy my step-mother cigarettes…she has given me a $20 bill, which to my 7 year old mind is a tremendous amount of money…the moon is full, and as always when it is, I feel the call of the wild in my bones…the clean air fills my head, and for the first time in my life I consider running away…of course, there is nowhere to go, no one to see…I imagine I can live for a little while on the 20 bucks, but of course will have no way to get any more money once it runs out…I figure the best place to live would be under an overpass bridge, but I will have to figure out where to get some blankets…I walk particularly slow, weighing each aspect of my decision with each step I take…the situation at home is so utterly toxic to my nerves that I cannot possibly stand another night…it is a rare moment where I only think of myself, leaving my younger brother and anyone else I love completely out of the question…there is no one to be seen on my walk thru the back alley behind the stores, it’s just me and the possibility of leaving for good…I come to figure that I will probably be caught, and will only get beat worse when I do…I have come to be used to the beatings, they are fairly regular now, it is just the waiting for the beatings that drives me insane…the pregnant pause between the release of the impacted energy thru violence and the long sweep of the tide out, till all is still…then, a faint rumble as it heads back into my direction, and the numb roar that comes up thru the floor, until fists meets temple, and the cycle is complete.
I have learned the fine art now of judging what is expected of me when I am being beat…it takes a keen ear to detect if the desired result is one of the following: submission, capitulation, confession, or negation…sometimes when I am being beaten down, the desired result appears to be tears, a bleating “no more, no more”, until the monster is satisfied…in stark opposition, sometimes the desired result appears to be to stop me crying, until a numb pall falls over the scene…as she beats me, she repeats over and over again “stop crying, stop crying you piece of shit”, and the formula reads that once you do the beating will stop…I learn the fine art of giving her whatever she desires, if only to feel that I am the one ultimately in control…
On a visit to my maternal grandmothers, I am up in my aunt’s apartment, sitting on my haunches in the corner, staring at a curio case full of porcelain figures…I think calmly through the things that plague me, which at this age are that I hate cigarette smoke, and I don’t like anyone to see me cry…I make two decisions in that moment I remain faithful to till this day…one, I will never smoke cigarettes, such is my hatred of the smell (I have still never smoked a cigarette in my life)…and two, that I will never cry for any reason (I would estimate that I have cried just 6 or 7 times in my entire life since that moment, the circumstances usually so overwhelming that I cannot override the feeling.
So when I am beat now, if the desire seems to be to make me cry, I learn a sort of fake sob, dramatized to heighten the necessary effect…she doesn’t seem to notice the difference between the fake version and the real deal, so this passes muster and therefore I never need to cry at all…
My father spends most evenings getting stoned and watching TV…this becomes our time together, the most effective way to be in his presence is to learn to enjoy what he enjoys…for my father has little interest in what I am interested in…any attempt to get him to watch a baseball game perhaps results in a waving of the hand and a dismissal of the game as “boring”…fortunately for me, my dad likes to watch things like “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” and “The Midnight Special”, which was a program that featured live music from new bands…this was in many ways my first exposure to international rock music not covered by our local radio.
I am standing in the kitchen, talking to my father…about the past, about the future, about whatever is going on with us…my father is sweet person, who means well, that is until you do or say something that crosses one of his many emotional boundaries and then it’s everybody for themselves…living with my dad the way I do, in the wake of having returned home from Florida a complete and utter failure, has finally settled into a peaceful routine that feels equitable…I am not reliant on him beyond the roof over my head, and he doesn’t ask much from me beyond us getting along and me doing the dishes regularly…the place is such a dump that the concept of ‘clean’ is a kind of surreal subjective notion that involves the appearance of frugal, stark order, but everywhere you look are signs of creeping oblivion.
Having left us to live and essentially fend for ourselves with our step-mother around 8-11 years ago (it depends on who’s counting), I am finally feeling secure enough in my relationship with my dad to open up about some of the things that happened at home when he wasn’t around…I have come to rely more on my real mother to be the filter of all that has happened, for she is more consistent and doesn’t end up laying the blame at my feet…her position is one of good friend or confidant…she listens, points out who she believes was at fault (usually my father, but she hates my step-mother too), and reminds me that those things are over with now, etc.…if there is any fault in my mother’s position about the past, it is that she has never fully come to grips with the fact that she abandoned us as well…in her eyes, she has never fully ‘left’, but consistently been in our lives the whole time…which is true to a fault…my father, on the other hand, cannot deal with the damage of his own decisions, generally taking a “well if it hurt you, it hurt me even worse” position, which renders any talk or argument about the past dead on arrival…so this is something new, to try to reach out to him in this way, to find some empathy in his heart and heal some of the still raw wounds.
We are talking about whatever when it suddenly takes a sharp left and we go into talking about the very real abuses of my past…as is his custom, my father talks about how he was abused as well…I counter by offering up some abuses that he was not aware of, and he gets quiet as my emotions rise…I am not blaming him, rather I am just letting him into a space that I have never asked him to come into before…feeling overly confident, I don’t hold back, because there is no longer anything to hold back for…I am off and running now, going into detail and over the cliff as I am prone to do…he is calmly leaning in the doorway to the middle room…the front door is open, and the sun is coming through…it is a beautiful day, and this is a moment that I have waited for a very long time, because I finally have a pathway from my heart to my father’s ear…
He stops me, and repeats something that I have heard from my grandmother many times (his mother—in other contexts), a basic soliloquy about how life is tough and the only way you can survive is to forget about these things and move on…it is a fairly sophisticated nullifying argument, a means to an end that once served a whole generation though world war and nuclear terror, and he robots it back to me almost verbatim…I tell him he doesn’t realize what he is saying, which is if you essentially bury it, IT will go away…which is not true, because one only needs to look at the drug abuse in his life, the chaos surrounding him, and the trail of tears in his wake to realize that this has not been an effective strategy…I don’t want to bury it, I want to dig the bodies up and properly and honorably bury them with dignity…this is not a call for sympathy, this is a call to action, because I do not want to die, or live in the shadow of symbolic death, which for me is to live but not really be alive…
I lose my cool with my father for the first time in my life, and drop the mask that I have learned to wear, which is the one of the dutiful son, who endures and protects him from reality even if the walls are falling down around my ears…my voice rises, and I chastise him for looking the other way…I tell him in no uncertain terms that he wasn’t there, that he doesn’t know what happened, he has no clue what was asked of me…and he is only now making it worse by telling me his version of events, which gives major credence to what he went though at the time, and no credit to the sacrifices of his children…it is a moment that all children must inevitably go though, the moment when the parental edifice comes toppling down…they can no longer save you, for you are on your own, and maybe you always have been…my father is stunned, for he has never seen this kind of emotion from me…he is used to me being emotional, but I have always refused to break down in front of him…the emotions wash over me, and I cannot control my mixture of rage, anguish, betrayal, and sadness…I break down in tears and leave him standing there, cursing that I bothered to tell him anything at all.
My real name is William Patrick Corgan, and I was born at Columbus Hospital (just across from beautiful Lincoln Park which straddles Lake Michigan) in Chicago at 5:41 pm on March 17, 1967…most know me as Billy Corgan, but “he” didn’t arrive until age 18…my father was Billy, and I was known to the family as “little” Bill.
I am the architect of the “Billy Corgan” that you know and love, or hate, or don’t give 2 cares about.
I created him, and at times have loved him, feared him, and despised him more than you could possibly dream up…it is the author of this being that wants to tell you this story…depending on how you look at it, it is the brutal truth or a sad sob story…a tale of glory and failure or the fictional scrapings of a madman and has-been…the author is ok with however you take it, because it happened TO ME…the closets are thrown open, and the sweet mist of a life blown by come spilling out…there are dead bodies and old pictures and pornographic gasps and ghosts so shy they are the ghosts of ghosts…but all the voices are here, and they want to talk to you…in fact, there is a fight as to who goes first! But it’s all the same, cause in my mind all is happening at all times…backwards and forwards, we can survey what has happened and what is yet to come, and have a laugh and a cry…but in the end, it is my wish that there will be no more secrets worth keeping, and no more fear worth running from…all that should remain is the clear heart and a vibrant joy, and of course, music.
Normally I would only do two chapters at most. Because typically I type from a kindle. The length of this thing is explained by the fact that you can find the entries above right here. (And much more, it was challenging not to paste all his friggin’ posts from the 1992-1993 tags, trust me).
It’s not enough that he became the most talented and prolific songwriter of the 1990’s, he also just had to be a pretty good blogger too.
“Quiet, I am sleeping, in here we need a little hope
For years I’ve been sleeping, helpless, couldn’t tell a soul
Be ashamed of the mess you’ve made My eyes never forget, you see, behind me
Silent metal mercies castrate boys to the bone
Jesus, are you listening? Up there to anyone at all?
We are the fossils, the relics of our time We mutilate the meanings, so they’re easy to deny
Be ashamed of the mess you’ve made My eyes never forget, you see behind me
Quiet, I am sleeping Quiet, I am sleeping
Quiet, I don’t trust you Shut up, shut up, I can’t hear you now Be ashamed of the mess you’ve made My eyes never forget, you see behind me
Behind me, the grace of falling snow Cover up everything you know Come save me from the awful sound of nothing.”
I’ve been wanting to write about my past psychedelic experiences for a long time. Last night I discovered a great resource for researching psychedelics & experiences that I will plug at the bottom of this post, along with a few other links.
Before we get into my experiences, I gotta plug a few hilarious quotes I found.
My original intention was to do two separate posts.
One of them was going to be chock-full of funny quotes like those below, plus some quotes that were simply interesting or beautiful. The other post was going to be my personal experiences.
Well, as I continued to read about people’s experiences, I found that most of them just were not as funny as the ones below.
And I don’t have patience to make a big research project out of this whole thing.
But let’s get into the good stuff.
“Moments later I progressed ever deeper into the ego death and lost my sense of self momentarily. I then started to feel that I was the universe searching for itself within itself but had entirely forgotten that it was itself. At this point a brief moment of realization hit me, I realized that I had found myself and that it had been right in front of me all along.”
“I was asking questions aloud to my friends/guardian spirits, like “When did you get here?” (by which I meant, ‘When did you beings come into existence?’), and my friend replied, “We’ve been here the whole time, dude” (this proved to me that they were divine).”
And later, in the same entry:
“One friend stayed behind to keep me company through all this while the other two went exploring, and I asked stuff from time to time (still thinking he was divine); “Where did you come from?” I asked, and he replied by touching my heart and whispering, “We came from inside.” Looking back on it he was simply trolling me, but my mind was blown, again.”
Haha, lmao! =) That entry above is my absolute favorite.
(The quote below is for Rob in particular)
“I decided it was finally time for me to try to play Mario cart, and as I tried to navigate through the menu with my friend I realized that I could actually still play really well. I chose a map called “rainbow road” for obvious reasons, and the neon rainbow of colors engulfed the entire room as we played. I had never felt this before, but a great peace of everything being connected to me overcame me and I started bawling my eyes out! I kept telling my friends that I was experiencing “pure love” and that the universe loved me!”
(He then goes on to explain that his friends were shitty trip sitters, and it seems like they were just ignoring him while he was having this majestic insight about the universe – how sad).
Before we get into my experiences, I should tack a disclaimer on here.
I have never had a bad trip on any psychedelic drug. However. This was during a very social time of my life. I was young and I was surrounded by friends I trusted who I spent time hanging out with nearly every day.
The “set and setting” was continually good because this friend group had such a profoundly positive effect on my life. Thus, even when I tripped alone I never had a bad trip.
I had not yet developed anxiety or a stressful career. I had zero self-awareness. In other words, I was not yet an adult. I was an adult in age (early 20’s) but not mentally. If I took any of these substances now (besides MDMA), there’s a good chance I’d have a nightmare trip unless something in my life changed to where I could establish general emotional safety, plus a very good set and setting.
I remember the beginning of my first LSD trip like it was yesterday. It makes me smile.
Being incredibly dumb as a young person, I took that first dose alone. My girlfriend must have been at work. I have no memory of her being there. I was alone in my first apartment.
I took a low dose and waited for the effects to kick in.
It must have been one sugar cube, because I can’t remember any geometric wave patterns from this first trip. But then, I only remember the first part of the trip. I do remember a pufferfish on the ceiling. But we’ll get to that later.
The first thing I remember is a gentle and heady shift in my consciousness. I remember having a little feeling of excitement. “Wow, it’s happening!”
Some time passed, and I looked down at the carpet. The carpet was one of those low carpets like you’d find in a doctor’s waiting room office. It was normally dark blue with green specks in it.
As the effects of the acid kicked in, the floor started turning green. A neon-colored green. I was ecstatic.
I grabbed the cordless phone and dialed my friend Nick. He answered.
“Nick!” I shouted, “Nick, the floor is turning GREEN!”
“It sounds like you took that acid.”
I don’t remember what he said after that. I’m sure that I continued talking about how amazing everything was and he continued chuckling for some time.
I was a big marijuana stoner during this time, and I had recently discovered The 13th Floor Elevators. I grabbed a 13th Floor Elevators album, placed it in the CD deck of my stereo and cranked the music up.
The song “(I’ve Got) Levitation” came on and I was overtaken with musical ecstasy.
The lyrics talked about the ocean rolling below you. I jumped up on my couch and looked down at the floor. I wasn’t hallucinating at this point, but I had a general feeling like the room was more expansive and I imagined my floor as the ocean. A blue-green ocean of neon.
I jumped from the couch cushions up to the very top of the couch, and then back down to the couch cushions again. I just remember being ecstatic over the music.
At one point, I looked up at the ceiling. I couldn’t believe my eyes!
I saw a flashing pufferfish on my ceiling. There wasn’t any color or anything, it was just the outline of the pufferfish. It was in the ceiling texture – those paint bumps you see in apartments.
But it was clearly a pufferfish. Spikes and everything. And it was flashing and moving around.
I sat for a while looking up and admiring the pufferfish.
This is an amazing thing about LSD. Where did this come from? I didn’t have any particular interest in pufferfish. But one just appeared randomly. Created by my fucking brain. Just… out of nowhere.
Apparently, Nick decided that I shouldn’t be alone. Because at some point there was a knock on the door. I wasn’t scared because I somehow knew that it was my friends.
I opened the door, and they all piled in. About 7 or 8 of them.
I didn’t have much furniture so most of them sat cross legged on the floor.
They suddenly looked like cabbage patch kids to me. You know, the doll from the 80’s. They didn’t literally look like the dolls, but I had a general feeling that they were cabbage patch kids because of the particular way they sat cross legged on the floor. Their crossed legs were like cabbages and they were cabbage patch kids.
Most of them were a few years younger than me. I was totally the immature 21-year-old befriending and buying beer for the 17- and 18-year-olds. And yet… I was the most childlike among the whole crowd. It was a thing they liked about me and they were special.
There’s a whole Jack Kerouac-style backstory about how I met these kids that I should tell some other time. We all remained friends for several years until a primary member of the group committed suicide and shattered each of our lives.
But, at this very moment on LSD they looked like cabbage patch kids to me, and I remember telling them so. They were always amused by “crazy Melissa” and my weird-ass antics while drunk or stoned. And they all came over to my apartment because they couldn’t miss the chance to see me on LSD. Heh.
One of the girls sat next to me on the couch and I handed her my journal with sketches and writings. She sat there reading it and looked amazed by what she was reading. I continued tripping but I don’t remember anything else.
I did quite a bit of LSD tripping after that. There was a great deal of listening to music and staring at the geometric swirls in the fireplace.
During the most intense experience, I remember I ate a little too much acid. Probably like 3 or 4 sugar cubes. Too much for me. I tried listening to some wild song by Jimi Hendrix.
The whole room smiled at me in mockery. The edges of everything in the room, and indeed the room itself – it was all bent sharply upward in a mocking smile. The stereo smiled at me. It wasn’t a bad trip; it was just a little too intense. I shut the radio off and waited it out. This intense moment passed pretty quickly.
One time me and the boys went to Kincaid Park and it was the most amazing trip of my life. People should trip outdoors under the moonlight. We climbed this huge hill and looked out over Anchorage’s Cook Inlet. I can’t remember much of that one, beyond the sheer beauty of Kincaid Park under the moon in early spring. Which, honestly – I’m sure is amazing while perfectly sober.
Generally speaking – low to moderate doses of LSD bring a vast amount of geometric form pattern hallucinations.
You don’t actually have the kind of hallucinations where you see things that are not really there – you just hallucinate moving geometric patterns – at times often quite intricate – in the forms of reality. Walls, carpets, desktops. And maybe – as in my case – the occasional form of some kind of animal in the wall or ceiling.
Most of the experience is spiritual in nature. It changes how you feel. There’s a spiritual transcendence.
I cannot speak for high doses. I was never brave enough to take a high dose, except the aforementioned “mocking smile” experience. That was a bit uncomfortable for a while. My male friends would take much higher doses than I did.
One time Nick told me that he had a trip after 9 sugar cubes where he thought he swallowed his tongue. I laughed my ass off and told him that’s why I stuck to lower doses.
One time I drove to Kincaid Park and ate a couple of sugar cubes in the bathroom. Alone. I hung out for a while and went and sat in the grass. Then I went to the bathroom to pee.
At some point, the walls began turning orange and the geometric hallucinations began. The walls started breathing. I had a moment of clarity where I decided it was probably not smart to hang out in the woods alone on LSD.
I drove home. High on acid. So – it was not safe enough to be alone in the woods, but driving was apparently fine. I wrote in more detail about this experience in my post about Soundgarden.
Because I listened to Soundgarden on the drive home, see. On full blast. It was the greatest driving experience of my life.
But… it was incredibly, incredibly dumb. I cannot believe I was ever that stupid. I don’t understand how I made it out of my early 20’s alive.
I paid close attention to red and green lights. I drove as carefully as I could and stayed between the highway lines while everything swirled around me. This was my Hunter S. Thompson moment.
I could have called my girlfriend to come get me. I realized this half-way through the drive. But it was too late.
But when I got home, my girlfriend was zoned out on LSD herself. She was laying on the couch watching Pink Panther cartoons.
Heh. So much for that idea.
Then came magic mushrooms. Ooooh, I was arrogant about mushrooms at first. I thought I could handle a whole bag of mushrooms because I had done so much LSD.
Newsflash: They’re two different drugs. You don’t eat a whole fucking bag of mushrooms the first time you try them. It doesn’t matter how often you’ve been taking LSD.
I was laying on the couch while tripping. At some point, I completely lost my sense of self. I had no form. I had no body.
I could not perceive where the couch ended, and I began. All of this happened with my eyes closed.
I closed my eyes and the most incredible visuals with great huge beams of blue light in a shape I can only describe as hourglass-like – they moved in constant patterns like a modern screensaver.
I was too fucked up to be scared. I do not remember any fear. Whatsoever. I remember being fascinated. To the extent possible, given that I was no longer a human and I had no human form.
After a while, I came down some and opened my eyes. I took a drink of my water and it tasted like strawberries. I was astonished. I kept drinking more. How can this be? I took more sips, it kept tasting like strawberries.
The best mushroom trip happened with my friend Nick.
We ate the mushrooms (a reasonable dose this time!) and walked the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. As we entered the trail, some type of machine that cleans paved paths was driving toward us. I was starting to come up. I was absolutely fascinated.
“Nick, look at this crazy shit!”
There were a few of these machines and they were like crazy giant bugs – some kind of ant that sprayed water. He laughed because he saw the same thing. “Yeah, that’s some weird shit, I know…”
We walked the trail all night long. Gorgeous. I had to stop several times to puke. Mushrooms always had this effect on me.
Until my friend Crystal informed me that you can cut the nausea by squeezing the good shit out of the mushrooms with a strainer into a cup of double-bagged chamomile tea and steep it for 15 minutes.
It works. That’s how powerful chamomile tea is. I never puked or had nausea after making “mushroom tea”.
Here comes the best part:
We entered a park area with picnic tables. I saw a statue sitting at a picnic table. I was absolutely fascinated. I began walking quickly toward the statue. I heard Nick yell behind me, “Melissa, what you are you doing!?” He sounded alarmed, but I thought he was just being dramatic.
“I’m going to look at this statue!”
I slowed my pace as I neared the statue. The statue had its chin resting on its hand – like that whole “To be, or not to be” statue of classical whatever.
Suddenly, the statue moved! I gasped and started running away as fast as I could.
At some point, I stopped and looked back, still alarmed. I’m not sure why I did this, but I kicked dirt up into the air with my foot. Like a dog. And then continued running back toward Nick.
Nick was laughing his ass off. He was laughing so hard he was in tears.
“I thought it was a statue!” I explained.
So, let’s consider the perspective of this poor dude. He’s sitting around thinking about something. Suddenly, a young woman runs up to him at full speed, slows down, and peers closely at him with wildly dilated eyes. Ha. It’s too great.
Welcome to Anchorage, Alaska. Stranger things happen in this town.
As we walked, seagulls dived at Nick and it scared the shit out of him. We had walked beneath a nest. He was trying to punch them in the air. I laughed at him and he was annoyed at my laughing. And I laughed even more at his annoyance.
I wish I had a better description of walking on the Knowles Trail in summertime on mushrooms. Especially with a trusted friend. Let me just say this: This trail in Anchorage is amazing enough on its own. The lush plants, the summer light.
Nick was planning on leaving for California for winter, and toward the end of the trip we sat in a field with flowers. Suddenly Nick became Mr. Planning. Which I thought was hilarious.
He talked a great deal about things he needed to do for his cats. Nick always had cats around. He was very serious about taking care of his pet cats. Which was sweet because he was a young stoner boy. He named one of his cats “Spliff”.
He talked about his plane leaving at “Nine o’clock in the afternoon”.
We were still fairly high. I lost it. I started laughing my ass off.
“Nine o’clock is nighttime, Nick, not afternoon!” He was like, “Oh yeah, I guess you’re right.”
Heh. Shit like that. You had to be there.
Ah, then there was MDMA. Colloquially known as “Ecstasy”. This was a few years after the LSD and mushrooms.
Far and away – the CRAZIEST hallucinations I have ever seen happened on MDMA. This is due to one of two things – either the massive doses I took, or there was something else in those pills. We’ll get into the hallucinations later.
This was during a very irresponsible time of my life. I was out of my mind, and I was reckless.
My good friend had killed himself.
Only a few months after that incident, I walked in on my best friend and my girlfriend having sex.
I remember my MDMA trips, but I do not remember much else from this period. It was the darkest period of my life.
Looking back, I used the MDMA as self-therapy. I had no one. My friend group had splintered apart after our mutual friend’s suicide. The whole group isolated and stopped seeing each other for a while.
I lived with this best friend of mine. The Betrayer. So, I had to continue living with this wench for a while until I decided to move back in with my parents. You can imagine how that went.
Well, unless I was high on MDMA, which I often was. Then I was okay with the two of them. But when I came down? Not so much. I should have moved out sooner, but you see – I couldn’t sit around doing MDMA all night long at my parent’s house.
I did ecstasy alone and it was my therapy. I forgave them both. I saw their perspective. I had intense empathy for myself, for both of them, and for everyone in the whole world. My friend would walk by and I was like, “Okay, I understand, and I forgive you” and she would be confused because hours earlier I was screaming at her and throwing shit.
I took massive doses. 5 pills at once, and then I took more once the high wore off. Nick told me I was out of my mind. He was concerned, but there was nothing he could do about it.
The craziest hallucination was The Parrot. I worked for a guitar store at the time. We were allowed to take home awesome promotional posters sent to the store for gear.
I had this poster of Jimi Hendrix with a huge Marshall stack behind him. It was a Marshall advertisement. I was high and staring at this poster intensely.
Suddenly, something started GROWING on this poster. On Jimi’s shoulder. It was a bright green color, almost a neon green. The green thing started as just a little round ball, but the ball kept growing.
The ball continued to slowly grow into a branch! From the branch, talons formed, and from the talons, legs grew up, and from the legs a torso, wings, and a head!
I sat up and squinted. I couldn’t believe this was happening. I knew that I was experiencing a hallucination, I didn’t believe it was real. But – I had never seen ANYTHING like this on LSD or mushrooms. The detail was amazing.
Best yet, this was all 3D. The branch grew out halfway into my living room and the parrot WALKED out onto the branch and stared at me. It turned its head this way and that, checking me out.
I got up and grabbed the air. People are funny like that when high – you know full and well that it’s a hallucination from your mind, but you’re going to try and grab it anyway. You know. It just seems so real that you have to make sure.
I also remember seeing a lot of spiders coming down from the ceiling on webs during this time. That was unsettling because spiders are a thing that actually exist. I was always swatting at them just to make sure. But these hallucinations were so frequent that soon enough I learned to ignore them and listen to my music.
I was constantly listening to The Meat Puppets. That music is made for MDMA. There’s no way I can explain this. The only way you could understand how The Meat Puppets are the perfect MDMA band is to take the drug and listen to the band.
It was so good that I rarely listened to anything else.
One morning I had a hallucination that a rat was giving birth in my bathroom heater vent. I thought it might be a hallucination, but it seemed so real that I couldn’t stop watching and trying to figure it out. It was disgusting. These little hairless rodents swirmed around like maggots and the mom rat just kept popping them out. She had like 10 babies and finally it disappeared.
Then I went to work while still high. I told one of my co-workers about how a rat may have given birth in my heater vent. I relayed this information while still obviously very high, I’m sure.
I was fired that day, of course.
Heh. And then four years later I became an HR worker. I never judged people with drug charges on those background checks, let me tell you.
And so ends the history of my psychedelic drug use. I had many fun times. I did many stupid things.
I have no interest in MDMA but would happily do LSD and mushrooms again under the right circumstances. But first I would need either a group of close and trusted friends, or a licensed therapist who enjoys supervising these adventures. I can’t see ever doing any of that shit again on a willy-nilly basis like I did back in the day. And I would certainly never trip alone. In general, I’m more of an actual adult now and would be very cautious about the whole affair.
Republish from April 2019. Long ago, I sat in my living room listening to Amnesiac by Radiohead with a head full of LSD.
I stared at the fireplace, slack-jawed and wide-eyed, watching the giant stones swirl in geometric patterns. Listening intently, I tried to understand the pops, clicks, and clanks of “Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box”. I was awestruck; everything made complete sense, yet it made no sense at all.
“Pyramid Song” started playing and I sat up. The flood gates of my mind opened; a river of emotion flowed into my ears and out of my eyes, a gleaming mirror formed in my field of vision as music notes danced on the surface.
Fog rolled into my living room. As the orchestra kicked up and Thom Yorke moaned wistfully, a lighthouse beacon appeared. I was on a ship in the ocean. I looked over the edge and saw those black-eyed angels Thom was singing about. I looked up to a dark blue sky laced with pink clouds above the twilight. The songs became stranger and infinitely more beautiful as the album unfurled.
Amnesiac isn’t an album on LSD — it’s an odyssey.
I can never fully describe the experiences I had listening to Amnesiac on acid. The description above is a rough, crude sketch that doesn’t begin to convey the level of beauty and strangeness I witnessed in that living room.
Amnesiac had a calming quality, but it was also brittle, vast and perplexing. I could drink in the cold passion while I wrapped my brain around the puzzles within the sound. I could never solve those puzzles, but I never tired of the effort.
Radiohead’s music has been the soundtrack to moments of intense connection and grief in my life. Looking back, it was the calming and therapeutic quality of Amnesiac that hooked me above everything else.
Now I’m returning to Radiohead for the same reason, exploring late period music I overlooked in the last decade and discovering songs that serve my journey now the way Amnesiac served my acid trips in 2003.
I’ve recently experienced severe anxiety. It’s subsiding now, but this Nightmare Land lasted nearly a month. When anxiety strikes, it’s like a series of waves crashing. When the tide goes out, you’re left with an ethereal, ghost-like feeling. That’s disassociation. This is your brain’s way of dealing with adrenaline overload. It’s almost like being high. It’s a welcome relief from the feeling that you will collapse from fear.
For that reason — the “high” thing — I’ve been purposely feeding it with Radiohead. Because nobody does disassociation like Radiohead. They’ve been doing it well for a while.
The album A Moon Shaped Pool is arguably Radiohead’s crowning achievement in otherworldly disconnection. Today I walked 4 miles in the sun listening to A Moon Shaped Pool, just floating along on my ghost trip. Normally while the sun is out, I won’t touch Radiohead. On a sunny day I usually prefer bombastic guitar-based music.
But not today… because it doesn’t matter what the weather is. I’m up here in my head. People pass by and they’re in another realm. I can almost pretend I’m invisible. They ruin it sometimes by looking directly at me, but not often because I don’t look at them.
But I have Radiohead.
I have the gothic choral strains of “Decks Dark” in my ear, and I could float up to the damn sky on the refrain if I wanted to. I could climb the arpeggios of “Present Tense” up to a rainbow. I don’t need to eat lunch or dinner to walk 4 miles, and I don’t need much sleep. I’m never tired and I’m never fully awake.
But I have Radiohead.
And I have Radiohead backward…. Backward, way back through the smoke rings of my mind…way back through the haze of all that weed I used to smoke. I see Wyatt when he was still alive, playing a Radiohead song on his acoustic guitar.
I see Wyatt before he killed himself and shattered the lives of everyone who loved him. Before the memory of 20-year old boys howling in pain at his wake, some of them quiet with tear-stained faces, before the memory of his stoic mom barely holding it together, greeting kids so bravely, hugging me and asking where I’ve been lately.
Before all this, I see Wyatt in his room.
I see Wyatt who idolized Thom Yorke before he became obsessed with Tom Waits, who he probably learned about from Thom Yorke. We’re in his room, just me and him. We’re smoking weed and he’s playing the riff to “Street Spirit” over and over again, getting it down.
Fast forward to a different night under the full moon shining down on Cook Inlet in Kincaid Park. There’s me, Wyatt, and two other boys trekking through the woods at night, climbing up an endless hill to gaze at the jeweled moon. Three of us took acid that night, and I wasn’t the sober one. Neither was Wyatt.
There’s Wyatt pulling out a spoon to show me the reflection of the moon on its silver rounded surface, as if he’d brought a spoon just for this occasion. We’re on top of a grassy hill overlooking the vast inlet below. We all have headphones on. I’m listening to OK Computer by Radiohead. I take my headphones off and I hear the faint, tinny scratches from Wyatt’s headphones. I ask him what he’s listening to. He tells me he’s listening to Ok Computer.
I smile wide and tell him that’s what I’m listening to. We didn’t discuss what we’d listen to beforehand. It’s not an album I listen to much anymore since I discovered Radiohead’s Kid A, but it seems right for the moment. Apparently, Wyatt thinks so too. I marvel at the synchronicity for a moment before getting lost in something else within that long magic night under the Alaskan moon.
Fast forward a couple of years later and there I am in my bedroom, still stunned in disbelief that Wyatt is gone. Listening to “How to Disappear Completely”. Listening to other Radiohead songs. Listening to other music I like that Wyatt also liked, laying there like a stone unable to move for days. Going over every memory I have of him in my mind from the past 4 years.
Last week I thought I was losing my mind; staying drunk to get food down on account of anxiety, hiking the woods during the day, and finding relief near the ocean. Then I returned, and I had Radiohead.
For a few days I couldn’t listen to anything but “Codex”. This song is a perfect example of Thom Yorke’s brilliance as a singer. You’ll first listen the song focusing on the sound, not paying attention to the lyrics. You’ll hear a word here and there. “Dragonflies… the water is clear…”, that’s all you can make out.
But it doesn’t matter because his voice is like a bell from heaven combined with a raw nerve. The whole meaning of the song is stretched out in every yearning moan elicited between his quieter moments of despondency. He soars up and bellows out that great beautiful bell-tone ache, then slides down quietly as if to say, “this is so sad, I can’t even”.
One day I looked up the lyrics. When you read the lyrics without listening to the music, they sit flat on the page. The words are so devoid by themselves that it’s almost comical. However, once you know the lyrics and then listen to the song again, the beatific emerges. Now this song is about getting lost in the serenity of the woods. You’ve done nothing wrong and you don’t deserve this. Here’s the clear water now. Take a break.
I love songmeanings.com. Looking up songs on this website is sometimes an exercise in comedy, but it always provides revealing insight into people’s lives. I looked up “Codex” on this site (found here), and as usual I’m entertained.
Many people think it’s about suicide. Someone thinks it’s about political conspiracy. Another guy thinks it’s about flying a military plane and carpet-bombing civilians. Someone else thinks it’s about Radiohead breaking up. Another person thinks it’s about Christianity and the clear lake is holy water.
The interpretations people come up with are a reflection of their own lives and beliefs, and that’s the genius of songmeanings.com.
The highest rated comment is my favorite, and I have co-opted it for my own purposes. The commenter posits that it’s about “the Buddhist spiritual cycle of life, death, and rebirth” — that it’s about “exploring the unfamiliar within ourselves and abandoning our previous shells”. He then provides evidence that one of the songs is titled “Lotus Flower” and other songs on the album follow a similar pattern thematically.
This is a beautiful interpretation, and I can no longer hear the song any other way. After reading this, “Codex” changed from being just a sad song about being isolated and needing a break to a song about experiencing sadness, but finding hope through a spiritual path.
The 13th Floor Elevators are the best kept secret in the history of 1960’s rock music.
My first encounter with The Elevators happened on a primitive version of streaming radio. This station also introduced me to The Who, Eric Burdon, The Stooges, Black Sabbath, King Crimson, and many other acts that I soon became obsessed with. It wasn’t “classic rock” to me back then. It was just this new, incredible music.
As with many other bands that I fell in love with around this time, I heard one good song and proceeded to immediately order a couple ofalbums from their catalog. When I heard the Elevators, I ordered their two legendary albums, The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators, and Easter Everywhere.
I sat in my living room completely enthralled by both albums. The first album mixed 50’s style rock n’ roll with blues. Roky Erickson’s voice arrested my attention right away; he moaned and screamed like a zombie possessed by electric current.
The lead guitar cut through the mix with alarming precision, and the overall effect was masterful. A kind of magnetic force or energy drove the entire sound which can’t be explained in standard music terms – there was a conviction, an absolute now or never attitude. It sounded like a group of fire and brimstone preachers decided to form a rock band.
The first time I listened, I sat cross-legged on the floor directly in front of my stereo. I put on Psychedelic Sounds and started reading the liner notes. The liner notes had this weird philosophical content. I was immediately puzzled. The writing was academic, but strangely esoteric. The text seemed a little heavy for the album opener; a country-fried punk stomper called “You’re Gonna Miss Me”.
As “Roller Coaster” began playing, I listened to the lyrics closely. At this point, I began to slowly piece everything together.
Here we arrive at the mystique of innocence – that moment of discovery when you absorb information for the first time, but you have no idea who the author is. You have no precedent for the information you are receiving – no historical context for whatever theory, song, or piece of knowledge imparted to you. It was just new, strange, and exciting.
I was blown away. Roky Erickson’s haunting, reverb-saturated voice blasted through the speakers and created a resounding echo in my living room. A very strange whooping sound flew back and forth across the speakers. I turned the dial up. The music shifted suddenly and dropped into a swirling whirlpool of menacing blues guitar and raga.
Easter Everywhere was different, but equally good. “Slip Inside This House” combined lyrics inspired by classical poetry with music that somehow matched the lyrical content. It’s still amazing to me that they pulled this off. It was a feat of genius. The Elevators completely outshined other underground bands from that era.
Their story is a sad one. The general narrative contains two key circumstances that contributed to their plight – an incompetent Texas record label, and their insistence on consuming LSD on a regular basis. Excessive drug use ultimately lead to mental health issues among several band members, most notably Roky Erickson.
Their live shows are the stuff of legend. People who saw them live in their heyday have said that the albums are nothing compared to their early live shows. They played live on LSD, and it apparently didn’t slow them down at all.
In interviews, people who went to their live shows in 1966 say they were the kings of the San Francisco scene. All of the Bay Area bands from this period went to see The Elevators, and they were all floored.
The consensus among people who knew them and saw their performances is that if they would have backed off the drug use and aligned themselves with a good record label, they could have been as big as the Rolling Stones.
The reality is that their situation was a catch-22. The Elevators whole philosophy (and all the strange power behind their music) was driven by consciousness expansion. They wouldn’t have remained the same band if they had cleaned up and started behaving. Instead, they became the very definition of a cult band.
Years later, I can still feel the chills rush over me when I play these albums. My heartbeat kicks up, the speakers magnetize my blood and I want to be inside of that strange musical canvas. I want to just walk right into that room.
These albums are best listened to by candlelight and without any distraction. This is music you cannot listen to passively. As with Jefferson Airplane, Jeff Buckley, Tori Amos, and The Smashing Pumpkins, you live inside of this music.
It is an alternate universe; a sonic island that redefines the concept of what music is. It’s a philosophy, an experience, and a dream – alive and pulsating in time. It shapes your mood and your perception of the environment around you. When you connect to music this good, you transcend your life. You transcend into a power connected to everything.
“Every day is another dawning Give the morning winds a chance Always catch your thunder yawning Lift your mind into the dance Sweep the shadows from your awning Shrink the four fold circumstance That lies outside this house Don’t pass it by”
I experienced a severe anxiety attack recently, which reminded me how bad anxiety really is. How could I forget? I am a person who will stuff unpleasant things away and forget them soon after the stress is gone. This is probably typical for other people too – a panic attack is something we’d all like to forget.
Okay. So, what is this post all about?
I’m going to type up several passages from a landmark anxiety book – “Hope and Help for Your Nerves” by Dr. Claire Weekes. In doing so, I’m hoping to help anyone who runs across this post by introducing them to this amazing panic & anxiety resource.
At the end I will include a link, so that you can go buy the book from Amazon if you wish (and you really should!)
This book is a pioneering text in the field of anxiety self-help. When I first began suffering from severe anxiety, reading this book provided me immense comfort and was my first step in getting better at that point in time. Claire Weekes was a fantastic writer. Additionally, based on her own descriptions of conversations she had with patients in this book, I believe that she was a superior doctor.
Before we begin, I have an important point of caution – this book is old. It’s from the early 1960’s. Despite the publication date, the coping strategies in this book are effective. Panic and anxiety have always existed, no matter which name was given to this condition in past eras.
The goals that Dr. Weekes has set for panic disorder sufferers are extremely challenging. This is serious work. She asks that we learn to do things like “Float past” fear at the “peak of experience”.
In other words, when you’re experiencing your worst moment of panic, she’s asking you to recall and use the tools she prescribes in this book.
Naturally, this seems like an impossibly difficult task. I just had severe anxiety two days ago. It’s fresh on my mind. It felt impossible during my anxiety attack to “float” past the issue. The only solution is to reread this text and practice the concepts so that we can slowly master these skills over time.
SELECTIONS FROM “HOPE AND HELP FOR YOUR NERVES”
Dr. Claire Weekes, 1963
The Three Main Pitfalls Leading into Nervous illness
“Three main pitfalls can lead into nervous illness (anxiety attacks). They are sensitization, bewilderment, and fear.
Sensitization is a state in which our nerves react in an exaggerated way to stress; that is, they bring very intense feelings when under stress and they may react this way with alarming swiftness, almost in a flash.
There is no mystery about sensitization. We have all surely felt it in a mild way at the end of a day’s tense work, when our nerves feel on edge and little things upset us too much.
Constant tension alerts nerves to react in a mildly exaggerated way. It’s not pleasant and we don’t like it. If it is more severe, we may be alarmed and think that our nerves are in a very bad way indeed.
So much nervous illness is no more than severe sensitization kept alive by bewilderment and fear.
When a person is constantly sensitized and afraid of the state he is in, we say he is nervously ill. Fear must come into the picture to bring this kind of illness. Sensitization alone is not enough, because without fear a body will quickly repair its sensitized state.
Many people are precipitated into nervous illness by the fear induced by some sudden, alarming, yet harmless bodily sensation such as their first unexpected attack of palpitations. Such an attack can be frightening to a highly strung temperament, especially if it comes at night and there is no one to turn to for comfort and reassurance. The heart races wildly and the sufferer is sure it will burst. He usually lies still, afraid to move for fear of further damaging himself. So, fear arises.
It is only natural to be alarmed by sudden, unexpected, uncomfortable happenings in our body, particularly in the region of our heart.
Fear causes an additional outpouring of adrenalin, so that a heart already stirred to palpitations becomes further excited, beats even more quickly, and the attack lasts longer. The sufferer may panic, thinking he is about to die. His hands sweat, his face burns, his fingers tingle with “pins and needles” while he waits for he knows not what.
The attack eventually stops – it always does – and all may be well for a while. However, having had one frightening experience, he dreads another and for days remains tense and anxious, from time to time feeling his pulse. If the palpitations do not return, he settles down, loses himself in his work and forgets the incident.
If, however, he has a second attack, he really is concerned. Apparently, the wretched thing has come to stay! Not only is he afraid of palpitating, but he is also in a state of tension, wondering what further alarming experience may yet be in store for him. It is not long before tension, releasing more and more adrenaline, makes his stomach churn, his hands sweat, and his heart constantly beat quickly. He becomes even more afraid, and still more adrenalin is released. In other words, he becomes caught in the fear-adrenaline-fear cycle.
Chapter 5 Selections:
If you have the kind of nervous illness just described, you will notice that, as already mentioned, you have certain symptoms as a fairly constant background to your day, while others come from time to time.
For example, the churning stomach, sweating hands, and rapidly beating heart may be more or less always with you; while fear spasms, palpitations, “missed” heartbeats, pains around the heart, trembling spells, breathlessness, giddiness, nausea come in attacks at intervals.
The constant symptoms are those of sustained tension and fear, hence their chronicity; while the different recurring attacks are the result of varying intensity in sustained fear, hence their periodicity.
‘This is Too Simple for Me’
The treatment of all symptoms depends on a few simple rules. When you first read them you may think, ‘This is too simple for me. It will take something more drastic to cure me.’ In spite of this, you will need to be shown how to apply this simple treatment and may often have to reread instructions.
The principle of treatment can be summarized as:
Letting time pass
There is nothing mysterious or surprising about this treatment, and yet it is enlightening to see how many people sink deeper into their illness by doing the exact opposite.
Let us look again briefly at the person described in the last chapter, the person afraid of the physical feelings aroused by fear and see if we can pinpoint his own reaction to these symptoms.
First, he became unduly alarmed by his symptoms, examining each as it appeared, “listening in” in apprehension. He tried to free himself of the unwelcome feelings by tensing himself to meet them or pushing them away, agitatedly seeking occupation to force forgetfulness – in other words, by fighting or running away.
Also, he was bewildered because he could not find cure overnight. He kept looking back and worrying because so much time was passing and he was not yet cured, as if this were an evil spirit that could be exorcised if only he, or the doctor, knew the trick. He was impatient with time.
Briefly, he spent his time:
Running away, not facing;
Fighting, not accepting;
Arresting and “listening in,” not floating past;
Being impatient with time, not letting time pass
Need we be impressed if he thinks it will take something more drastic than facing, accepting, floating, and letting time pass to cure him? I don’t think we need.
Now, let us consider how you can cure yourself by facing, accepting, floating, and letting time pass.
Chapter 6 Selections:
First, look at yourself and notice how you are sitting in your chair. I have no doubt that you are tensely shrinking from the feelings within you and yet, at the same time, you are ready to ‘listen in’ in apprehension. I want you to do the exact opposite.
I want you to sit as comfortably as you can, relax to the best of your ability by letting your arms and legs sag into the chair as if charged with lead. In other words, let your body flop in the chair. Now examine and do not shrink from the sensations that have been upsetting you. I want you to examine each carefully, to analyze and describe it aloud to yourself.
For example, you may say, ‘My hands sweat and tremble. They feel sore…’. This may sound a little silly and you may smile. So much the better.
Begin with the nervous feeling in your stomach, the so-called churning. This may feel like an uneasy fluttering or may bore steadily like a hot poker passing from your stomach to your back. Do not tensely flinch from it. Go with it. Relax and analyze it.
Now that you have faced and examined it, is it so terrible? If you had arthritis in your wrist, you would be prepared to work with the arthritic pain without becoming too upset. Why regard this churning as something so different from ordinary pain that it can frighten you?
Stop regarding it as some monster trying to possess you. Understand that it is but the working of oversensitized adrenalin-releasing nerves and that by constantly shrinking from it you have stimulated an excessive outflow of adrenalin that has further excited your nerves to produce continual churning. By your anxiety you are producing the very feelings you dislike so much.
While you examine and analyze this churning, a strange thing may happen: you may find your attention wandering from yourself. This “thing” which seemed so terrible while you stayed tense and flinched from it, may fail to hold your attention for long when you see it for what it is – no more than a strange physical feeling of no great medical significance, and causing no real harm.
Just as A Broken Leg Takes Time to Heal
So, be prepared to accept and live with it for the time being. Accept it as something that will be with you for some time yet – in fact while you recover – but something that will eventually leave you if you are prepared to let time pass and not anxiously watch the churning during it’s passing.
But do not make the mistake of thinking it will go as soon as you cease to fear it.
Your nerves are still sensitized and will take time to heal, just as a broken leg takes time. However, as you improve and are no longer afraid, and do not try to cure it by controlling it, and are prepared to accept it and work with it presently, you will gradually become more interested in other things and will gradually forget to notice whether it is there or not. This is the way to recover.
By true acceptance you break the fear-adrenaline-fear cycle.
True Acceptance: The Keystone to Recovery
From this discussion you will appreciate that true acceptance is the keystone to recovery, and before you continue with the examination of your other symptoms, you should make sure that you understand its exact meaning.
I find that some patients complain, ‘I have accepted that churning in my stomach, but it is still there. So, what am I to do now?’ How could they have accepted it while they still complain about it?
Or, as one old man said, ‘After breakfast the churning starts. I can’t just sit there and churn. If I do, I’m exhausted after an hour, so I have to get up and walk around. But I’m too tired to walk around, so what am I to do?’
I said to him, ‘You haven’t really accepted that churning, have you?’
‘Oh yes I have,’ he answered indignantly, ‘I’m not frightened of it anymore.’
But he obviously was. He was afraid that after an hour’s churning he would be exhausted, so he sat tensely dreading its arrival, shrinking from it when it came and worrying about the exhaustion to follow.
Of course the churning, itself a symptom of tension, must inevitably come while so tensely awaited.
I tried to make him understand that he must be prepared to let his stomach churn and to continue reading his paper while it churned. He must try to loosen that tight hold on himself, literally let his body sag into the chair and go toward, not shrink from, any feeling his body brings him.
Only by doing so would he be truly accepting. In this way, and only in this way, would he eventually reach the stage when it would no longer matter whether his stomach churned or not. Then, freed from the stimulus of tension and anxiety, his adrenalin-releasing nerves would gradually calm and the churning would automatically lessen and finally cease.
The Symptoms are Always a Reflection of Your Mood
The symptoms of this type of illness are always a reflection of your mood. However, it is well to remember that it may be some time before your body reacts to the new mood of acceptance and that it may continue for a while to reflect the tense, frightened mood of the preceding weeks, months, or years.
This is one reason why nervous illness can be so bewildering and why this old man was bewildered. He had begun to accept, but when the symptoms did not disappear immediately, he quickly lost heart and became apprehensive again, although trying to convince himself that he was accepting.
It takes time for a body to establish acceptance as a mood and for this to eventually bring peace, just as it took time for fear to become established as continuous tension and anxiety. That is why “letting time pass” is such an important part of your treatment and why I emphasize it again and again. Time is the answer, but there must be that background of true acceptance while waiting for time to pass.
True acceptance means letting your stomach churn, letting your hands sweat and tremble, letting your heart thump without being too disconcerted by them. It does not matter if at first you cannot do this calmly – who could? It may be impossible to be calm at this stage. And you may find that one minute you can accept, the next minute you can’t. Don’t be upset by this – it is normal in the circumstances.
All I ask for at this stage is that you are prepared to try to live and work with your symptoms while they are present.
To float is just as important as to accept, and it works similar magic. I could say let ‘float’ and not ‘fight’ be your slogan, because it amounts to that.
Just as a person, floating on smooth water, lets himself be carried this way, that way by the gentle movement of the water, so should the nervously ill let his body “go with” the feelings his nervous reactions bring instead of trying to withdraw from them or force his way through them.
Let me illustrate more clearly the practical application of ‘float.’
A patient had become so afraid of meeting people that she had not entered a shop for months. When asked to make a small purchase she said, ‘I couldn’t go into a shop. I’ve tried but I can’t. The harder I try, the worse I get. If I force myself, I feel I’m paralyzed and can’t put one foot in front of the other. So please don’t ask me to go into a shop.’
In Deep, Cool Water
I told her that she had little hope of succeeding while she tried to force herself in this way. This was the fighting of which I had previously warned her. Then I showed her a trick I show many patients.
I placed my hand on her chest and asked her to move forward against my pressure. When she strained to do this, I pointed out that this was exactly how she had been trying to conquer her illness.
I then asked her to stretch her arms before her, level with her shoulders, and to move them as if swimming breaststroke. I also asked her to imagine at the same time that she was swimming forward in deep, cool water. I could feel her relax immediately.
If [you fear water], don’t upset yourself by trying to cope with the thought of deep, cool water. Choose some other way to ‘float’ that may appeal to you. For instance, the woman I have just been talking about later admitted she did not like the thought of water, so she imagined she was on a cloud floating through the door.
Masterly inactivity, a well-known phrase, is another way to describe floating. It means to give up the struggle to stop holding tensely onto yourself, trying to control your fear, trying to ‘do something about it’ while subjecting yourself to constant self-analysis.
The average person, tense with battle, has an innate aversion to practicing masterly activity and letting go. He vaguely thinks that were he to do this, he would lose control over the last vestige of his willpower and his house of cards would tumble.
As one young man said, ‘I feel I must stand on guard. If I were to let go, I’m sure something would snap. It is absolutely necessary for me to keep control and hold myself together’
When he was obliged to talk to strangers, he would dig his nails into his palms while he tried to control his trembling body and conceal his state of nervous tension. He would watch the clock anxiously, wondering how much longer he could keep up this masquerade without cracking.
Loosen Your Attitude
It is to such tense, controlled, nail-digging people that I say, ‘practice masterly inactivity and let go’ Loosen your attitude. Don’t be too concerned because you are tense and cannot relax. The very act of being prepared to accept your tenseness relaxes your mind, and relaxation of body gradually follows. You don’t have to strive for relaxation. You have to wait for it.
When a patient says, ‘I have tried so hard all day to be relaxed,’ surely he has had a day of striving, not of relaxation. Let your body find its own level without controlling it, directing it. Believe me, if you do this you will not crack. You will not lose control of yourself.
In your tense effort to control yourself you have been releasing more and more adrenalin and so further exciting your organs to produce the very sensations from which you have been trying to escape.
Float past tension and fear
Float past unwelcome suggestions
Float, don’t fight
Go through the Peak of Experience with utter acceptance
Let more time pass
Analyzing Fear. Two Separate Fears
Cure lies in desensitization, and there is no doubt that the key to desensitization lies in learning how to cope with panic.
Recurring panic, more than any other nervous symptom, helps to keep nervous illness alive. To cope with panic, it is important for the nervously ill person to understand that when he panics, he feels not one fear, as he supposes, but two separate fears.
Because his nerves are sensitized, one fear follows the other so swiftly it is as if the two fears are one.
With each wave of panic there are always two separate fears involved. I will call these the first and second fear.
The importance of recognizing these two separate fears cannot be overestimated, because although the nervously ill person, as a result of sensitization, may have no direct control over the first fear, with understanding and practice he can learn how to control second fear, and it is this second fear that is keeping the first fear alive, keeping him sensitized, keeping him nervously ill.
Everyone experiences first fear from time to time. It is the fear that comes reflexively, almost automatically, in response to some threatened danger. It is normal in intensity – we understand it, we accept it. We cope with the danger and the fear passes.
However, the flash of first fear that comes to a sensitized person in response to danger is not normal in intensity.
It can be so overwhelmingly intense, so electric in its swiftness, so out of proportion to the danger causing it that a sensitized person cannot readily dismiss it. Indeed, he usually recoils from it, and as he does this he adds a second flash of fear to the first flash.
He adds fear of the first flash.
Indeed, he may be much more concerned with the physical feeling of panic than with the original danger. And because that old bogy, sensitization, prolongs the first flash, the second flash may actually seem to join it. This is why the two fears so often feel as one.
A flash of first fear may follow no more than the sudden impact of a cold blast of wind. It may follow merely some mildly unpleasant memory; it may come in response to a thought only vaguely understood, or, as I mentioned earlier, it may seem to come ‘out of the blue’.
‘Oh my goodness! Here it is again!’
A nervously ill person has only to think of being trapped for first fear to flash instantly. To this he immediately adds plenty of second fear as he thinks, ‘Oh, my goodness! Here it is again! I can’t stand it. I’ll make a fool of myself in front of all these people. Let me out of here. Quickly! Quickly!’.
With each ‘Quickly!’ he adds more and more panic, more and more tension, and as the tension mounts, naturally the panic mounts in intensity, until he is never quite sure just how intense the panic can become or what crisis it may bring.
No mounting panic
If he were prepared to sit in his seat, relax his body to the best of his ability – let it sag, flop into his seat – and let the panic flash, let it do its very worst, let it flash right through him without withdrawing tensely from it, there would be no mounting tension, no mounting panic.
His sensitized body may continue to flash panic for a while, but the panic would not mount, and he would be able to sit there and see the function through.
It is bombardment by second fear, day after day, week after week, for one excuse or another that keeps nerves alerted, always triggered to fire that first fear so sensitively, flashing electrically when under stress.
Unmask that second fear
How important it is to learn how to spot second fear and send it packing. Recognizing second fear and coping with it is the way to desensitization, the way to recovery.
Recognizing second fear is made easier when we realize that it can usually be prefixed by ‘Oh my goodness!’ and ‘What if…?’.
‘Oh my goodness, it took four capsules to get me to sleep last night. What if four don’t work tonight?’
‘Oh my goodness, what if I get worse, not better?’
So many Oh my Goodnesses and so many What Ifs make up that second fear.
All the symptoms that come with stress, the pounding heart, churning stomach, weak feelings, etc. can be called first fears because they, too, come unbidden like the flash of fear that comes in answer to danger; and to these symptoms the nervously ill person certainly adds plenty of second fear, certainly adds many Oh, my goodnesses, many What ifs, more than enough to keep his fires well burning.
By analyzing fear and its symptoms in this way and seeing them as physical feelings that conform to a set pattern and are of no great medical significance, you unmask fear and with it your own illness, and only a bogy remains.
And when you decide to accept this bogy and add no more second fear (or as little as you can manage) the road to recovery lies open before you. Now, even with great success at learning how to cope with second fear, it takes time for desensitization.
The nervously ill person must understand and accept that his sensitized body will flash first fear from time to time for some time to come.
To face and accept one’s nervous symptoms without adding second fear and to let time pass for recovery – it works miracles if you are prepared to do just this.
But it is not easy to face, accept, and let time pass. It is especially difficult to let time pass because you may already have let so much time pass in suffering and despair that asking you to let more time pass may seem an impossible demand. It is difficult but necessary.
Also, don’t think I underestimate the severity of your panic. I know how severe it can be and I also know that even with the help of daily sedation and the best of intentions and determination to accept it, you may think yourself too exhausted to do so.
[At this point, Weekes goes on to describe that in certain extreme situations hospitalization and “sedatives” may be required until the patient can recover enough to begin following these guidelines].
[Many passages follow detailing various well-known panic symptoms and she comments on each symptom. She outlines how to squash second fear when you experience palpitations, slow heartbeat, “missed” heartbeats, “trembling turns”, inability to take a deep breath, throat lump, dizziness, etc. I am skipping to the section on eating / difficulty swallowing. I chose to include this section because it’s my biggest problem. Reading her text in this section helped me two years ago when I stopped eating for several weeks]
Eating may be a problem. You have probably lost weight and feel nauseated at the sight of food.
Do not make the mistake of thinking that because you feel nauseated and are under stress, your food is doing you little good and that therefore you need not eat much.
Even when eaten in these conditions food will nourish you, although it may take longer than normal to digest. Malnutrition and anemia can bring symptoms like yours, so you must eat enough.
If you have eaten poorly for weeks, your stomach may be unable at first to hold a normal-sized meal. If so, take small meals frequently. Eat egg flips and drink plenty of milk. Also, take a daily dose of vitamins.
Difficulty in Swallowing
The lump in the throat described earlier may be most troublesome at mealtime. The sufferer is sure he cannot swallow solid food, or at least finds this difficult.
‘I’ll never get it down!’
I keep biscuits [crackers or dry cookies] in my office especially for such a patient. Biscuits are dry, and at the sight of one the patient usually recoils. When I ask him to chew one, he says, ‘I couldn’t swallow a biscuit! I’d never get it down!’
I remind him that I asked him to chew, not swallow. Reluctantly he bites and chews. After a while I say, “Now remember, I want you only to chew. Don’t swallow.”
But already he has swallowed some of it. As soon as the moistened, softened biscuit reaches the back of his tongue, his swallowing reflexes take over and at least some of the biscuit is on its way.
You need not worry about trying to swallow, simply keep chewing. The swallowing will look after itself as the food is carried backward. And it will eventually find its way backward in spite of your nervous resistance. If you keep chewing, the food will all eventually disappear.
Losing Weight: Keep off those scales
Provided you are practicing accepting and letting time pass and are eating your meals, especially that last extra bit you don’t want, your weight is not important.
People with nervous illness place unnecessary significance on losing weight. They view their protruding bones with growing alarm, wondering just how far the fading-away process can go before they fall to pieces completely. [Second Fear].
They haunt the bathroom scales, eyes glued to the dial, while they try to jiggle out a few extra ounces. Cover your scales and resist all temptation to stand on them until you are so fat that you think its time to diet.
It is interesting to note the direct and yet temporary effect of emotional stress on appetite. I have seen a distressed person gag at the sight of food, only to devour it ravenously an hour later after hearing good news.
The body made thin by fear is not diseased and is waiting to recover lost weight as soon as you will pass the food down to it.
So place no importance on your wasted looks, your “poor thin body”. Eat up and forget those scales. Even when some cheerful friend says, “good heavens, you are thinner than ever!” still resist the temptation to step onto the scales.
Why not think, ‘I may look awful today, but nervous illness is not a disease. As soon as I am a little better, I will put on more weight. In the meantime, I’ll eat up, even if I have to chew the food for hours. And I’ll float past my neighbors comments.’
It is essential that you be occupied while awaiting cure. However, I must warn you against feverishly seeking occupation in order to forget yourself.
This is running away from fear, and you can’t run far from fear. I want you to be occupied while facing your symptoms and to accept the possibility of their return from time to time during recovery. There is a world of difference between these two approaches.
Every short respite from fear helps to calm your nerves so that they become less and less responsive to stimulation and your sensations less and less intense, until they are only a memory.”
This is a good place to stop. The other night after I had a severe attack, I re-read some of these passages and found myself laughing at how I did everything completely wrong.
She says not to worry about how much time is passing. I remember saying, “This has been going on again since November!”.
But again, it’s very hard to avoid feeling that way while in the heat of the moment. Personally, since my anxiety is apparently here to stay, I think I might actually write this in a notebook and tape it to my fridge: