Sunday, 31 January 2010

The Full Shabbang

Or rather, Kabbalah Rookie's first full Shabbat.

Overheard in a Starbucks on Saturday morning.
Woman 1: " then I only found out after six weeks of eating sushi three times a day that it really isn't a good idea to have raw fish more than 3 times a week due to the mercury levels"
Woman 2: "Yeah, but I bet you knew what the temperature was just by stepping out of the house..."

It was funny at the time.

Okay, so after getting a bashing from my teacher about being religious in my practice of Shabbat because I hadn't read the book on Shabbat, I bought the book. And saw what I had been missing out on. The energy available to everyone from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday is quite phenomenal and awareness of how to connect to that energy is key.

So I don't quite get it. I can't remember the significance of every prayer and meal and song. But with a better understanding from reading the book and a desire for more energy to get me through the week, I booked both the Friday dinner and Saturday lunch and arranged to sleep on a friend's sofa for the night.

My friend - W - was taking other 'non-Kabbalah' friends to the Friday night Shabbat dinner, and she prepared them as best she could. "Okay, so the men will be on one side of the room, and most of them will be wearing white. You will hear a lot of people greeting you with Shabbat Shalom, which basically means 'peaceful shabbat'. And if you can't follow the songs, mouth the word 'bubblegum' over and over and just try and enjoy yourselves"

It is so long since I have been to a Friday night shabbat - or any shabbat service for that matter. Or indeed any large gathering of people at the centre. Or, actually, any large gathering of people full stop. And so I was feeling a little bit of trepidation - a little bit of fear at being overwhelmed. A teensy concern that the question most on people's lips would be "so what happened to you? Where have you been?" As though my absence from the centre indicated a lack of devotion and would somehow create a zone of exclusion.

We arrived late - the first song had already started - and I found myself sitting with strangers at the back of the room, without a song book to hand. I started to feel a little disjointed. A little bit "I don't really feel as though I am meant to be here. I don't really want to be around lots of people."

I set my focus on raising my energy. And a wonderful thing happened. Not only did many of my 'friends' find me after the connection and before the meal, but I was also approached by people I had seen at shabbat services for over a year who I had never really spoken to and they greeted me with a surprising warmth. I spent the rest of the evening talking to and hugging people. And not just perfunctory 'mwah-mwah' pecks on the cheek, but hugs filled with such warmth and love that they brought tears to my eyes. I did indeed feel overwhelmed - but how nice to feel overwhelmed with joy for a change. Where did all of this love come from?

I questioned W as we left the centre.
"What you don't realise" she explained "is that we have a really strong community here in London and your energy is really important to the centre. And even though these people have never spoken to you before, they've missed your energy without even realising it. And now that you're back, they've gravitated towards something that they have been missing"

Wow. Okay.

W's friend gave his feedback on the evening as we travelled home in the cab.
"The songs after the meal all sounded the same to me. That was the funniest part of the evening - it was like
"Song Number 12!" "La laaa la-la-la la laaaa la-la-la-laaa laaa..."
"Song Number 32!" (deep inhalation) "La laaa la-la-la la laaaa la-la-la-laaa laaa..."
"Song Number 21!" (inhale and pause) "La laaa la-la-la la laaaa la-la-la-laaa laaa..."
"Song Number 9!" (even longer pause to build the suspense) "La laaa la-la-la la laaaa la-la-la-laaa laaa..."

Each rendition of song he la'd to the tune of 'Hava Nagila', the song played at Jewish weddings - nothing like what was actually sung - but this made the story even funnier as he told it. We laughed all of the way back to W's house.

I slept the best I could, on a short sofa. Saturday morning arrived and everyone could have used a little more sleep.

Other people were stopping at W's, hence why I was on the sofa. One couple I had seen around a lot but never spoken to, and this gave us the opportunity to finally talk to them. It's surprising what an impression I've made. Both of them said individually:
"The one thing I really remember about you is from the one shabbat where Marcus wanted to know the names of the two old men who sit on the balcony in The Muppet Show, and you were the only person who knew. What were their names again? And how did you know that?"
Hey, what can I say - Statler and Waldorf. A small gem of useless information gained through repeated playing of the Muppet Show 2 album.... I really know how to make an impression...

At the service on Saturday, I reconnected with a couple of women who I had lost touch with during my two month visit from Leonardo. More hugs were exchanged. In fact, I couldn't stop hugging. They say that you need four hugs a day for survival - I think in this one weekend I have stocked up for the entire month. It was hug-tastic.

The prayers after the second meal are long and hard to follow. The parts that held a tune I sang along with. And the rest of the time I mouthed 'bubblegum'. Hey, this really works. Good tip.

Lunch ended at half past three, at which point I remembered that the trains were not running. In a daze from the energy of a full shabbat and barely able to keep my eyes open, I made my way to Liverpool Street and caught a bus to Stansted, carrying the warmth of the weekend home to my little, cold house.

And then curled up on my even-shorter sofa, I slept like a baby.

Friday, 29 January 2010

The Jeggings

From the title you may wonder what spiritual insight I am going to weave in to a blog post on jeggings. Stop wondering. I'm not. I just wanted a light-hearted whinge for a change.

Since the dragon re-appeared in my life shortly before Christmas (oh, and I've decided to stick with the Titanic theme and nickname him Leonardo - he is 'hot' after all) one of the things I decided to further punish myself with was to stop eating.

I find that depressives tend to fall in to one of two categories - those who get low and stuff their faces with chocolate and ice-cream, and those who get low and turn pale at the thought of the merest of morsels passing through their lips. I fall in to the second category. I drink lots of cups of tea, smoke copious numbers of cigarettes and lounge around looking wan and pale. And after a few weeks I realise that I am fitting in to clothes that I was close to throwing away.

So I've lost a bit of weight. The interesting thing about this is a phenomenon called Body Dysmorphia - people start pestering me to eat, telling me that I have clearly lost weight, my clothes start to hang off me, but in the mirror I cannot see the difference - I look exactly the same. Sometimes the 5 senses defy all logic.

Well, you know what they say: "Anorexics, when your knees are bigger than your thighs, start eating cake." And believe me, I'm not quite there yet. Not with my thighs.

Anyhow, I digress. With the January sales in full swing, I decided a few weeks ago that it was the right time to buy some new clothes, given that the clothes that were hanging off me were also falling apart. Call it one small step to boosting my Ego, if you will. The only thing worse than being depressed is being depressed and looking like a tramp.

So I went shopping. I found some cheap trousers in Uniqlo and took my usual waist size to the changing rooms. Oh. Big gaps around the waist. I delighted in the fact that I needed a smaller size, but after buying them felt rather sad that I was only going to fit in to them for a limited amount of time. But after making one purchase, I got the bug, and soon I had a few new outfits all fitting the new teeny-tiny me (surely someone marked the sizes up wrong?) All at bargain prices. Marvellous.

Only one item of clothing was missing to go with the tight, bright sweater dresses which looked awful over trousers: Jeggings.

I decided to shop online and ran a search on eBay. There were jeggings and leggings of various colours and prices. And me? Rather foolishly I went for the cheap option.

"Great Quality!" They promised.
"Fantastic value!" They boasted.
"These items have a lot of stretch, so choose a size smaller" They advised.

I looked at the sizing - no problem with the width, but the length was designed for someone no taller than 5'5". And I am a shade over 5'6". Hmmm. With trepidation and visions of waltzing down the street half-mast, I clicked "Buy Now", deciding that they were cheap enough to take the risk.

When they arrived I realised that I needn't have worried about the length. Each pair are long enough to completely cover my feet, and probably someone else's feet as well (if you're in to that kind of sharing).

But what they make up for in length, they lose in quality. Oh, they have stretch alright. Quite frankly I've seen more resistance in candy floss. I've worn thicker tights. My net curtains are less transparent.

I can get away with wearing them. Just. Unfortunately I have the feeling that these will probably be the last things I grow out of...

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

The Lost Art of Back-Combing

Life is starting to get busy, which is a good thing, though my mind is not used to being quite so occupied and is begging for its own time again. Yeah, yeah, I hear ya.

Once again, I missed Shabbat, but this time rather than being wasted on drugs, it was in pursuit of pure blast-from-the-past fun. On Saturday morning I caught the train back up to Newcastle, looking forward to celebrating my Longest-Best-Friend's (LBF) 40th Birthday, in pure 80's style.

Although, isn't the phrase 'pure 80's style' a contradiction of terms?

I don't care. I was ready. I bought the super-skinny fit jeans, the "Choose Life" t-shirt with day-glo pink letters, the vibrant pink leg-warmers and sweatbands. I was almost set. Except for the hair.

I pondered the options. My fringe was too long for a purdy cut (circa 1981, with a fringe that with enough hairspray could be lifted free from my forehead like a bird's wing) and it was entirely the wrong shape for a mullet (circa 1983, all photographic evidence recently destroyed). The fringe was too short for a New Romantics "I can't see where I am going" flop and I ran out of time to find a wig.

I was still none the wiser when the train pulled in to Newcastle station. And then my LBF arrived in the car fresh from the hairdressers and the answer was clear - a can of hairspray and a comb.

It's amazing what you can do with a can of hairspray and a comb. I didn't realise my hair could ever get so big - I hadn't back-combed for years. It was a moment to remember as my usually lifeless hair grew in to a style of Banarama proportions.

My LBF had hired a DJ for the night and he played nothing but songs from the 80's. Every time I tried to leave the dance floor, another song would begin, to the cries of "Oh My God! This is a Classic! I'd forgotten all about this!" I danced for 5 hours. The hair survived, losing maybe an inch in height by the time this photo was taken: (that's me in the middle, LBF on the right, LBF's husband on the left dressed as Vivian from the Young Ones)

I wish I had taken more photos, but what's a party girl to do, but dance? Siouxsie Sioux made an appearance, Adam Ant showed up, Limahl from Kajagoogoo, Whitney Houston, Madonna, Kevin Keegan, Del Boy and Morrisey... even the Green Cross Code Man (although I was sure that he was from the seventies - but who cares - the outfit was hysterical). There were shell suits and shoulder pads, plastic beads and legwarmers as far as the eye could see. And most importantly, LBF had a fantastic evening.

Back in the "real world" I had the strangest meeting with my teacher yesterday. After 2 months of depression, facing fears, major realisations, trips in to space, energy pouring out of my spine, I went in to yesterday's meeting not knowing quite what to expect.

He asked me for an update on moving. I told him. He asked me for an update on work. I told him. Then he said: "So, anything else you want to talk about? Anything else on your mind?"
Me: "Errrrmmmm (surely there must be something bugging me?) .... No, I don't think so?"
Teacher: "You sure? Because if not we can study something. Nothing? Nothing that you want to ask?"
Me: "Errrmmm, noooo, not really. I can make something up if it helps?"
Teacher: "No, I don't think we need to go there". He laughed, and went to fetch the Days of Power.

So there is a part of me that is a little bewildered - a little shell-shocked, perhaps, at not really knowing where I am. The past few months came out of the blue and took my legs away, took me to a place that I couldn't control. And now I feel like moving forwards again, ready to start making progress, but I feel as though I am tiptoeing away from a Dragon's Lair, wondering if I have killed the beast or whether it is just sleeping. As if at some point soon I might once again feel its breath on the back of my neck and feel the horror of going under once more.

Well, I can't hang around this cave all day, waiting for him to stir. Dragons are far more likely to wake up if you stare at them. Out in to the wilderness I go, comb and spray at the ready...

Friday, 22 January 2010

Filling the Vessel

The past couple of days have tested my boundaries. It is only when things start to come in that we understand the size of our vessel - what we are able to receive.

On Monday night I was surprised at how low my energy reserves had become - how long it was taking for the drugs to move out of my system. Unable to properly take care of myself and having no-one around to take control of the situation for me, I was in a downwards spiral. I needed energy to prepare food to give me more energy, and very little energy to prepare it. Instead of bouncing back from my trip in to space, I was getting weaker by the hour.

At the eleventh hour (or rather, the ninth hour), I summoned the energy to sling two chicken quarters in to the oven. By ten-fifteen, I had enough protein in my system to turn things around.

On Tuesday I travelled in to London to stay at W's house. It took almost the entire day to prepare and pack, and the evening was spent with salad and steak and good conversation. I felt better - more alive to be around people - although Tuesday night was restless and I had a couple of vivid hallucinations in amongst a few hours of hot and cold sweats. Nice.

On Wednesday, W was out for the day. I started to work through some issues that needed to be resolved on our website, first from her house, and later from the centre itself. It was strange to be around people again, to answer 'How are you?' and 'I haven't seen you for ages, where have you been?' with 'Yes, I'm good, thanks. I feel as though I've been away for ages - I've been busy and plus the weather didn't help with the trains...' More lies. More cover up. More feeling this grinding sense that I had been living in a parallel universe that I could not reveal to other people.

By the end of the day, my head was pounding from overload. I need to rest. I'm not ready for this. I need to back off, back to my solitude. I went to bed early, certain that I was ready to pass out as soon as my head hit the pillow, but found that the opposite was true - an even worse night of hot and cold sweats and a feeling of no sleep at all.

Thursday morning arrived early - 5:45 to be precise - enough time to make myself presentable for registering attendees for the Business Gym. I caught sight of my reflection in the bathroom mirror - triple bags under the eyes which were virtually closed from puffiness, and a dark bruise along the inside of one eye. I looked as though I had gone at least one round with Mike Tyson, but it felt like ten. Thank heavens for make-up. By the time I had finished getting ready, my presentation was passable.

The Business Gym was regretfully low on attendance - a shame for those who missed it because the seminar (I heard) was incredible - but it did make the registration process a little easier to handle. Usually I am impatient to sit in on as much of the seminars as possible, but this time I held back from being around people, easing myself back in to life gently, avoiding burnout.

I stuck to one-on-one conversations with the people around me, and little by little, the Light started to come in. I had a conversation with a friend who listened to my recent experiences and then shared that she too had moments of being around people when she felt detached and unsure of whether she was in control of her next reaction. And I thought that was just me. We invented a code-word - "fairies" (as in "away with the..") to support each other at future events.

I was then approached by another volunteer who wants to move in to London and asked if I was interested in sharing a flat. He wasn't planning to move until April, but when I mentioned that I needed to move in the next month or so, he said that this would be fine. It's an option to consider over the next few days.

After the seminar I then caught up with another good friend over coffee and started to feel a little more at ease with what I had been through. She asked whether she could pay me to teach her how to sell on eBay, sometime soon. We discussed each other's businesses and self esteem. I felt less and less alone in my thoughts, less stranded in my other world and less as though I was repeating old patterns. There are people to share with, to help me to grow stronger, and I have ways of helping them too.

Following this, I bought some new perfume, and a pair of jeans. Eventually I made my way back to W's, where I was introduced to her new business partner and we discussed how I could help out with setting up their business. I committed to two days a week - they were thrilled. And after looking at their new website and talking with them for a while, I started to feel more valuable in what I could contribute. I started to see my CV coming together by the end of next week. I started to see things coming in. I started to feel excited again.

And last night, home and full of new challenges, I slept like a log.

Today the weather is miserable - steady rain and dark skies. And all I can see is the Light behind it.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Down but not Out

Last night was a little unexpected. Perhaps it was the 30 hours of being a space cadet that threw my clock out of balance, perhaps it is because I am not too good at taking care of myself when I am sick and haven't eaten properly for weeks or perhaps the drugs are having one last laugh as they leave my system.

Whatever the reason, I didn't sleep. Not what I would consider sleep.

As my head hit the pillow last night, my mind started to whirr in to overdrive, excited to be back once more, creatively planning. I spent at least four hours building and delivering a one-hour talk on overcoming fear, adding new comments as I went over and over the scenario, injecting a little humour here and there, watching the audience respond, receiving compliments after. Man, I was good. I was lit up. It's a shame that I felt too exhausted to write any of it down, although it is still there somewhere, waiting to be revealed.

For these four hours I felt hot. My feet were burning. I didn't have the wherewithal to poke them out from under the duvet.

Then at 3am as my inner voice finally started to shut-the-fuck-up, the heat turned in to a cold sweat - ripples of ice darting out from my spine, the slightest influx of air triggering a wave of shivers.

So this morning I feel physically vague. Transparent. Limp.

I spoke to my friend and she sounded disappointed once more, as though I was giving up. And I'm not giving up, I just don't have the energy to take action today, which is frustrating. She started to give me a lecture, full of good intention, about how I needed to start planning my day, dressing as though I was going to work, putting on my make-up, getting back in the swing of things. And for a second I started to resent her advice.

But then she said "What always helps me is to get outside for a bit - get some fresh air. Why don't you go for a walk, then come home and have some lunch, then plan a 2 hour nap, then maybe at 4pm go for a little walk again? At least it gives you a plan" And I instantly forgave her. A walk and a nap and a bit of lunch I can manage.

Although it won't be so much of a walk, as a float, I think. Looking at my reflection in the mirror as I dried my hair reminded me of the wax-fleshed outpatients in Philip Larkin's poem "Toads Revisited". My skin is somewhat pallid, the bags under my eyes hard to conceal.

I stood in the kitchen, feeling light as a feather, swaying gently from side to side as my tea brewed just so I could feel the floor beneath my feet, just to confirm that I was still here. I feel as though the slightest breeze through the window might carry me away, like a husk.

So my body is having one last protest, wanting to stay sick, waiting for the Pity Party.

But my mind... my mind is still in the future, tasting the possibilities, waiting for my body to catch up.

We've got work to do.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Rising from the Ashes...

Okay, so I'm back. Back to reality, albeit that reality is a clever illusion in itself.

The last few weeks have been painful. On a couple of occasions I hit a place so low that I was no longer in control, a depression so deep that I could no longer think, that I no longer recognised myself. I was confused - not knowing how to get to where I wanted to be, or become who I am here to be. Not even knowing whether I understood why I was here.

Confusion is an excellent place from which to transform. When you think that you know the answers - guess what? Most of the time, you're wrong. If you think that you are in control of your life and hold on to the outcome with both hands, you are often closed to other possibilities.

There are lessons to be learned from every situation - no matter how painful. Every experience is valuable. I once heard a saying "It doesn't matter how many plans you make for your life, God has a bigger plan". It helps to explain all of the times where we experience something that we didn't expect (which we can only see the reason for when joining the dots backwards) and it helps me to trust that every diversion that comes in to my life is giving me something that I need - something that I can use in the future.

Sometimes we are given challenges or pain so that we can be better prepared for future events.
And sometimes we are taken to new depths of pain because we simply aren't listening to the messages.

I was hearing the messages, but not taking them seriously. So the Light has taken me to a level of pain that I could not ignore - from which I could not not change. I was dragging my heels and it gave me a damn good kicking.

I have learned so much about myself over the past 3 weeks that the pain has been worthwhile - a great wake-up call - a baptism of fire.

I've learned that 10mg of Citalopram is enough to send me crazy for 30 hours.
I've learned that trying to apply make-up 5 hours after taking 10mg of Citalopram is only recommended when applying for a job in the circus.
I've learned to keep a carton of UHT milk in the cupboard at all times for emergencies.
Oh, and to keep the chocolate supplies high.

Okay, so I jest. But seriously, what have I learned?
I've identified that my pain is guilt, and that I have carried that guilt with me through to the present in so many ways. I feel guilty about my current situation - about not working for nearly 3 years, accepting benefits, watching my savings disappear, getting myself in to 'this mess', feeling so ashamed over what I am currently not doing that I don't want to allow anyone else to see it. This has prevented me from writing my CV this week - because how, exactly, do I justify how I am currently spending my time? I have distanced myself from other people, and was too afraid of failure to step up to the plate, or accept help. I've been looking for a rescuer all my life - someone else who will look after me and protect my feelings - someone who would step in and solve all of my problems for me, to take me out of this mess without me having to face any challenges.

And many more other things besides. But the amazing thing is, that as soon as I was put into a situation where these messages could no longer be ignored and I accepted them and allowed them to be, wondrous things have started to happen.

A good friend of mine has asked me for my help. She has just created a new business and needs someone to start promoting it. Unpaid at first, until the business starts making money. There is also so much that needs to be done with the Business Gym website. All of these things can be done from the comfort of my own living room, but she insists that I need to get out of my house and be around other people. I need structure, to start with, and less of my own company.

At first glance you might wonder if this is a wise move - to be spending so much time in unpaid work when I should be looking for a job - and I shied away from her offer last week. Now I have realised what a perfect opportunity this is. This is the interim. Not only is it going to get me back in the flow of having commitments and structure, it will also give me something to put on my CV. What am I working on at the moment? Well, I'm managing this website... administering this business...

My friend also has the gift of being able to see the potential in people, and previous experience of working with me, which she said was a pleasure. It's nice to be reminded of this from time to time.

I sense that I have learned enough to move on - and that everything is starting to fall in to place. The next dot is clearly illuminated and I can almost see the dots beyond it starting to spark in anticipation.

I've no idea what the Picture is yet, but I know that it is going to be Big.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

... and Kansas went bye-bye

Ten years ago I was depressed. I was on student placement for a major pharma as part of my IT degree, my dog had just died, I had split up with a long term partner and felt that, as a mature student, I didn't quite fit in with the younger flat mates who shared my apartment block.

I went to the doctor. She prescribed anti-depressants. Finally, I thought, someone who has listened. I picked up a pack of 20mg Paroxetine tablets and took the first one that day, Friday lunchtime.

Night-time was a little bit strange. I felt strangely uncomfortably in my own skin, unable to lie still, kind of.. wriggly. I couldn't sleep. Saturday came. I took the second pill. And started to feel a little bit spaced out, but given that I didn't have anything particular to focus on, I relaxed for the day.

By the time I went to bed Saturday night, I suspected that something wasn't quite right, but couldn't work it out. I felt confused. My legs were in continual movement, as though trying to walk me out of the bed. My hands flexed and clenched constantly. My spine arched. My head buzzed. And every time I tried to close my eyelids, they snapped open again after a few seconds. I writhed and contorted, and eventually fell asleep.

On Sunday I was meant to drive to my Mum's, 35 minutes away. I felt a bit woozy, as though I couldn't focus, but matched it to the same kind of feeling that you get after a drunken night out and aren't sure whether you are fit to drive. Putting it down to tiredness, I took a third pill, left the house, started the car, and started driving. 30 seconds down the road and I realised that things were wrong - I couldn't read any of the road signs and didn't know where I was. My spatial awareness was gone. I couldn't remember what side of the road I was meant to be on, how to change gear, what way to go round the roundabout.

In short, I was completely off my face. I don't know how I got the car home in one piece, but somehow I did, and the nightmare began to unfold.

My pupils were blown so wide that it was barely possible to see that my irises were blue. On one occasion I looked in a mirror and thought I saw someone else looking back from behind my eyes, which led to the delusion that I must be possessed. I avoided the mirror from then on. My short term memory disappeared completely - so much so, that I couldn't read. By the end of each sentence, I had forgotten the beginning. I had a continual script running in my head, trying to calm myself down, trying to focus on something - anything - that kept the panic away.
"Neighbours is on in a minute. Neighbours is on in a minute. Neighbours is on in a minute. Oh... I'm watching Neighbours. This is Neighbours. Neighbours is on. I'm watching Neighbours. Neighbours is on in a minute. No, I'm watching it. This is Neighbours".

Making a cup of tea was virtually impossible - by the time I had remembered that I was making a cup of tea, the water was back off the boil, or the tea bag stewed. When I did succeed I forgot I had made it and the tea went cold.

I sat for hours, hands wringing, rocking back and forth on the couch like a mental patient, pupils blown, face drawn. My flat-mate was totally freaked and apart from checking that I was still alive, spent most of her time giving me a wide berth. And I can't blame her - I had completely lost it: I was a barn-pot, a fruit-loop, two sandwiches short of a picnic. Totally and utterly barmy.

The most frightening thing about this entire episode wasn't that I had lost my mind, but that I thought I would never get it back.

It was another 5 days before I was capable of crossing the road to reach the doctor's surgery, where I tried to explain the sheer horror of my experience. She laughed and said "Oh dear, I think you could say that these didn't agree with you then! Do you want me to try you on another brand? Or see how you go?" I opted for the latter, deciding that no matter how depressed I felt, it was nothing compared to the last eight days. Anything was better than that.

But this Friday I decided to give the pills another go. Just not the same pills. If I could find something that would keep me from hitting a low whilst I sorted myself out, all would be well. It was sensible, surely, to accept medical help to sort out a medical condition?

I talked to the doctor and explained my previous experience. She suggested I research my findings and come back in two weeks, but I didn't want to wait two weeks. She printed out some generic information on SSRI's and Tricyclic anti-depressants, written for total morons (and virtually identical) and then at the last minute prescribed Citalopram, 20mg.

When I got home, I started to search the Internet and was instantly alarmed - according to Wikipedia (and this document did look very scientific), both Paroxetine (Px) and Citalopram (Cp) are Pgp Substrates and if one does not work, the other is not an option. I expanded my research and found a White Paper on treatment of patients with Cp who had previously reacted to Px - and the results were positive. I looked at message boards to read other's experiences, and all looked well.

Feeling slightly more assured, I took half a tablet - 10mg - as prescribed, and carried on with my day. Everything was going to be fine. There will be no side effects.

Within ten minutes, I had a strong metallic taste in my mouth. No problem. My heart was pounding a little, but not enough to cause concern. I made myself something to eat, and couldn't finish it. I started to get icy cold shivers down my spine and the back of my arms, despite just having had a hot meal, having the heating on and wearing several layers. The shivers turned in to sharp goosebumps. Even so, it wasn't getting in the way of my day. Then I started to feel a little bit drowsy - a little bit spaced - again, nothing to panic about. But I decided to contact NHS Direct and ask them a few questions.

They were very good. The initial health adviser had no training whatsoever and could only tell me that Px and Cp were SSRI's, but she referred me to the (mental health) website and ask if I wanted a pharmacist to contact me. I said yes.

I visited the Mind website and downloaded the Patient Information Leaflets for both Px and Cp, and it was here that I made an alarming discovery with reference to side effects:
Likely to affect up to 1 in every 10,000 people:
If you have some or all of the following symptoms you may have something called serotonin syndrome. The symptoms include: feeling confused, feeling restless, sweating, shaking, shivering, hallucinations (strange visions or sounds), sudden jerks of the muscles or a fast heartbeat. If you feel like this contact your doctor.

I started to research Serotonin Syndrome and for the first time realised that this is what I'd had ten years ago. Thank goodness that I'd stopped at 3 pills - I'd had every symptom except the high fever, coma and death. What angers me is that the first doctor took this so lightly and made no note on my medical records - or reported this back to the clinical teams.

When the pharmacist rang, I gave her this information, and she informed me that Cp and Px were very different drugs and that there was no reason why I should react in the same way. But given that I had some odd symptoms, perhaps I should call my doctor. It was already too late as the surgery was closed, so I decided to call on Monday. And anyway, I felt a little spaced, but conversant. Although it did feel as though somebody else was actually having the conversation while I sat by and listened in.

Ten minutes later I started to get ready for my evening out - it was the New Moon of Aquarius and Friday Night Shabbat all rolled in to one. I was really looking forward to it. But when I tried to decide what to wear, I couldn't make a decision for toffee. I couldn't even remember what I had chosen, kept forgetting what I had and several times forgot what I was doing altogether. I would pick up a pair of trousers and then think "what am I mean to be doing with these?"

With time running short, I threw an outfit together, then impatiently tried to apply some make up. I'm going to miss this train. What is wrong with me? I applied foundation, powder and mascara and stood back to review my progress. It looked as though it had been applied by a chimp. An untrained chimp. I felt as though I had just downed ten glasses of wine - and if you knew my tolerance for wine, you would realise that this was ten too many.

Once again I was completely gone. I had a high pitched tone ringing round my ears and felt dizzy and disassociated from everything around me. I stumbled downstairs and rang my friend and explained that I wouldn't be able to make it. I laughed about it, said that I couldn't believe how I was feeling - that this had happened again. There was a voice inside saying "Why are you laughing? This isn't funny - you're going to miss a fabulous night out" but I couldn't help it. I felt as though I was halfway through a really good night out already, and it was even funnier because someone kept moving the floor.

Somehow I managed to make some pasta, checking, double-checking and triple-checking that I switched the hobs off afterwards.

And today... well, today I just let go of any attempt to gain control, because it wasn't in my hands. Dorothy was caught in the hurricane. Kansas went bye-bye. So I lay in bed, sometimes catching a song from the radio, most of the time floating around another dimension altogether. A few times I shuffled down to the kitchen and made a cup of tea. I even read a few pages of a book, although along with all of the conversations I have had over the past day, I can't remember anything - what I read, who I've spoken to, what I said to whom.

Slowly as the evening has worn on, the tablet has started to wear off.

At least this time I knew that at some point, I would be able to click my red heels together, and come back to Kansas. Although to be honest, given that I have run out of both milk AND chocolate, I wonder why I bothered....

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Finding the next dot

I had a conversation with a very good friend about a week ago, just before I had my meltdown. He gave me a metaphor for life that I have heard in various forms before and like all good things had forgotten.

Life is like one big Dot-to-Dot puzzle. Except that there are no numbers on the dots.
We are not meant to second guess what the finished puzzle should look like. We have an idea, maybe, of what it might look like, but the only way to complete the puzzle is to wait for the next dot to light up. You cannot join the dots forwards to get understanding, only backwards.

For every perceived failure in life, know that this is where you are meant to be. Sometimes the nasty surprises in life prepare us emotionally and mentally for bigger challenges which, without previous experience, would have wiped us off our feet.

My over-active Gemini brain not only tries to work out every combination of what the picture is, but also logically how to get there - logic which always ends in 'I don't see how this is possible' and so I give up before I even start. Sod waiting for the next dot, I want to know now that everything is going to be okay. I think I know better than the Creator - an illusion of control that none of us have, and a total lack of trust that everything in the Universe is unfolding as it should. As my teacher says, I think too much. Oh yes, 25 hours a day, 8 days a week.

Whilst I have been overwhelmed with confusion for the past couple of weeks (actually, I have been sinking for a while without realising it, heading to this place) I have learned to trust that my teacher will point me in the direction of the next dot. My meeting with him yesterday brought a bit of a surprise on what I thought the next dot would be. Because it wasn't where I thought it was.

I decided this week not to talk about myself, my decisions, my experiences - for a change - and allow him to reveal the structure of the personal transformation plan instead. This is the way forwards, after all. And I did listen. And he revealed. And it was good.

It basically involves looking at 5 different areas: Study, Ego Transformation, Spiritual Connections, Personal Goals and Sharing. Over the next couple of weeks I am to capture what I am already doing, and what I want to start expanding on. Then we are to discuss and formulate a plan that will help to start introducing the Light back in to my life.

My teacher then asked if I had any questions. I said no - it was all clear. Good, something to focus on. I like structure.

And then he said "So, what are you doing about work at the moment?"

Whaaaaaat?? my Ego screamed. Where did that one come from? Don't you know that I am in the middle of a really hard depression here?? Can you not see that I am not in any position to even speak to people, let alone work? Don't you get it?

I told him a brief recount of what I was trying to do - building my own material for my business, but now I was confused because what I wanted to do (helping other people through coaching and training) wasn't going to work whilst I was still trying to deal with my own problems. I told him that at the moment it was an effort just to function.

"In Kabbalah", he replied, "You do not fix the pain by dealing directly with the pain. You work around it. I am not going to say that I can truly appreciate the pain that you must be feeling because I have never been there, but in order to remove it, we need to work around it and allow the Light to resolve it. And your spiritual work at the moment is to get a job. That is what the Light is telling you to do"

What, you mean like, live in the Real World?

I started to listen, whilst the Ego was jumping around in my head finding every excuse in the book not to take him seriously.
Teacher: A student of mine was out of work for a year and she took her CV to an agency
Ego: Oh, I have already been down the agency route and failed miserably
Teacher: Within two weeks she was offered a job...
Ego: Yes, but probably she was working in an entirely different field
Teacher: .... with a company similar to [MD's]...
Ego: Oh yeah, working on the phones or something...
Teacher: ....travelling to run training courses up and down the country...
Ego: But that's great for someone who already has the experience.. I don't have any concrete experience on my CV..
Teacher: ...and she had no previous experience of this at all.
Ego: *oh*
Teacher: But she went to speak to them and there was something about her that they liked and so they took her on. And two weeks after that she was offered another great job that she then turned down. You have already done some spiritual work. Write a letter to the Creator asking for what you want, down to the number of people in the office and the colour of the furniture. Start scanning the Zohar and get your CV out there. See what starts coming back. And maybe taking any job is the right path for you - because it might be the step that will take you to something better.
Ego: ....Yeah.....But how am I going to know if this is the right thing or not, or whether I am just taking the first thing that comes along because it's the easy way out?
Teacher: ..and if you want to contact me at any time with the offers you receive then I can take a look at them.
Ego: ...errrrmmm.... shall I just shut up now?
KR: Yes. I think you should.

My teacher even arranged our next meeting for the evening ".. because I think you will have a job by then, or maybe one or two people will want to meet with you on that day and you can come here after..."

Part of my Astrology reading predicted that as soon as I started to take action, big things would start to come in to my life. I started to feel enthused once again by this prediction. The pain that I have carried around with me so long cannot stay close to the surface forever - but at least this time when I pull myself together I know that it exists, and I know that I am doing the work to remove it permanently from my life.

And now, as I consider all of my strengths and weaknesses, re-writing my CV, visualising what I want, the next dot is starting to light up....

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Time to Deal

It is strange to be in the grip of depression - this one is quite a doozy. Not surprising really, given all of the years that I have been holding this in. But for the time being, I am sitting with it and listening to what it has to say.

And I can hear two voices. The first is that of the child - hurt, bewildered, confused. The second is of the parent - telling me to get a grip. Usually I listen to the parent. This time I am not.

It is said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. So I might be on the sidelines at the moment, but phew! Thank goodness I'm not insane!

When I lived with my Mum and Step-father, it wasn't just the sexual abuse I had to deal with. If everything else in the garden had been rosy, save a couple of inappropriate nocturnal visits, I may be living a different life by now. But instead my sister and I had to deal with years of mental abuse. No wonder I am a little confused.

My Step-father was a misogynist and a control freak. Six months after moving to live with him, the whole family moved to a 3 storey council house. Under the pretence of 'not wanting your Mum to shout up the stairs', he installed an intercom system on all floors and used it to surreptitiously listen in to our conversations. Shortly after this he received a pair of field binoculars for Christmas, and used them to spy on the neighbourhood, make lewd comments on the state of the women walking past the end of the street and watch to see whether any boys were turning up at my friend's house (they were side on to us - we could see in to their windows, they couldn't see in to ours). He also had the uncanny knack of appearing out of nowhere if ever I was anywhere I wasn't meant to be. As the years rolled on it was evident that he was going through our rooms, looking for evidence of things that he could get upset about, and soon enough Mum was one step ahead of him trying to protect herself from another battering. Nothing was sacred.

I could have a normal, sane conversation with him about boys or friends which two weeks later would be twisted around and used to prove to my Mum that her girls 'were taking the piss' out of them both and that she needed to take action to correct it.

And of course, every morning after a monumental fight - whether we had to step in or not - my Mum would be frantically trying to control the situation by telling us that our Step-father just dealt with things differently, that this was something that she would deal with - this was for adults - and not to go making any trouble or make mountains out of molehills.

So every day I would go to school and put on a mask of 'nothing to see here' and pretend to be normal. And do everything I could to prevent friends (and enemies) from getting my phone number, inviting me out, calling round to the house. Every invite was met with an automatic 'No' and an excuse. I was so well practised. And anyway, if they really found out what was going on and what I was letting him do to me - then what would they think? And where would that get me, given that as a cover-up team, my Mum and Step-father were virtually professional. "Oh you know what teenagers are like - always wanting attention. She's just being silly because..."

So all of those years, I told myself that my feelings did not count, that the pain I felt wasn't real, that I was just making mountains out of molehills, that I had nothing to make a fuss about and that people wouldn't understand anyway. I became a master of the art of disconnecting from my feelings - switching off, shutting down, locking everything away.

Since I've left home, the feelings haven't diminished - the pain is still there, untapped. It feels as though it has grown so huge that I am too afraid to touch it - as though I might spontaneously combust with the sheer size of the rage. And now that I am further away from the events that caused all of the pain in the first place, it seems even more surreal for it still to be there and so disassociated with my current life for it to be even less understood than it was before.

Another thing that I have noticed about depression is that people don't really want to know. And I can understand why. People are afraid of it - they don't know how to help or what to say. All they want is for you to be better, for you to be back to normal, sooner rather than later. And this isn't a criticism of my friends, because unless you have been there it is hard to understand and I can't say I have felt any differently when faced with a depressed friend myself. (Note: this is what I love about blogging, because, actually, I don't need anyone to provide a solution, just to listen and 'be there'. And you, my blogging friends, have been outstanding in your support. Seriously.)

All of my life, there is one question that has helped me to keep pushing people away, no matter what my current circumstances: "How are you?" because I have always had to lie.
People ask 'How are you?' and what they want to hear is 'Great, thanks! How are you?' But the question for me has always taken me back to the time when I was so desperate for someone to spot that things were not normal, the times when my forced 'nothing to see here' smile hid a great pain, masked a silent plea of can't anyone see what is going on here? which was begging for someone to step in and help. And nobody ever did. How fabulous have I been in concealing this pain?

The truth is that the pain has never diminished in size or vanished. It has always been there, waiting for me - even during my happiest moments when I thought that my past was in my past, it has been lurking, waiting for a challenge. I have made excuses to leave parties early and not understood why I couldn't connect with people, why I felt a sinking feeling in my heart of separation from all of the people there. Why, even when I am happy, I still feel a downward lurch when anyone asks 'How are you?'

Well, now I finally know. All of the years when I thought I was 'coping', all of the things I have achieved, all of the times I pulled myself together, all of the times I thought that my past was behind me, that I felt I had finally moved on - all illusion. The pain was still there, patiently waiting for the wake-up call.

Oh, can I hear alarm bells ringing? Message finally received and understood.

Time to plummet the depths to retrieve the gold.

Time to deal.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Burn and Crash

Usually it's Crash and Burn, right? Well, apparently not for me.

New Year's Eve brought a new sense of peace and Certainty that I was moving on. A vision of the future. On New Year's Day I continued with removing my past - I had a pile of less emotive documents which I proceeded to shred, I tidied up the spare room to place it in to some kind of working order, I started to see the wood for the trees.

And then I picked up the only two photographs of my step-father and decided that they had to go, so I burned them. Quite vindictively. As you do.

And I felt on top of the world. Goodbye past. Hello New Me. I felt exultant. I was going to walk in to Shabbat on Saturday morning, see my teacher and say "You know what, maybe I didn't miss Chanukah after all" with a broad beam on my face.

Oh how pride comes before a fall.

I woke on Saturday morning feeling a little offset, and took the train in to London. With delays from the weather, I arrived late, halfway through the lecture that my teacher was delivering. And from there everything just started to fold. I felt a sudden rising panic and didn't want to be in the room, didn't want to talk to anyone, couldn't look my teacher in the eye. My hands started to shake when the Torah was being read. I started to lose focus. Where did this come from? Get. A. Grip.

I clawed my way through the rest of Saturday wondering where all of the peace had gone and hanging on to thought that Sunday was a new day. And it was a new day, but my peace had not returned. I had a strange force of energy bubbling up through my spine, out in to my hands. I can't explain it, but it wasn't pleasant. And I couldn't seem to hold on to a rational thought for love nor money.

Midnight on Sunday found me pacing round the kitchen, hands violently shaking, mind racing, with a panic of certain insanity. This isn't normal - what's going on? What is happening to me? By 2am the rush was over and I felt calmer - tomorrow I can get a grip.

Except that I couldn't, because the energy was still there - my whole body was shaking. I had emailed my teacher earlier in the week to ask for a meeting, but instead he sent a text asking "So, what's up this week?"

What's up? What's up? I think I'm losing my mind - that's what's up! Not knowing what else to do, I replied with "Have some really strange energy going on. Starting to lose control and maybe losing my mind. Sounds dramatic but no other way to put it". I pressed send and then cringed at the thought of being seen to be either barking mad, or possessed. We arranged a meeting for Wednesday and eventually with a constant distraction of music and TV, the shaking started to calm down. By Tuesday I felt as though I had just woken from a very bad dream, but things had started to settle.

All of the way through Chanukah, I meditated on the symbols for Letting Go, to the point where I was wishing "However this happens, at whatever cost, I don't care how, just help me let go". What I was looking for was the ability to have a good cry to get everything out of my system, and then move on. That's what I thought would happen - that no matter what the situation or surroundings that my buttons would be pushed, I would have a good sob and feel much better for it.

Yeah, well, I do like to feel that I have all of the answers. It seemed logical to me at the time. I guess I need to be careful what I wish for, because I couldn't have predicted what I think was actually a nervous breakdown.

The meetings with my teacher never go as I expect, but the meeting on Wednesday was a landmark event in my life. I finally identified my pain, and that pain is Guilt. Guilt that I somehow encouraged my step-father to abuse me, guilt that I could have done more to prevent things from happening, guilt that prevented me from asking for help, guilt that isolated me from other people.

I have carried this guilt in to the present day. I lost contact with people because I hadn't found work and didn't know how I was going to find work. I've got myself in a to stupid financial mess which I don't like to admit to anyone. I've isolated myself to the point that even all of the trivial problems that I have appear overwhelming.

As the days since the meeting have passed, I have been caught between good days and bad - still unable to take this information and spring in to action, feeling yet more guilt that I cannot just 'pull myself together' despite my financial situation being no better than it was and shutting down as the only means of switching off my head.

At the same time there is another story unfolding. Maybe this is all a part of my path. Maybe in order to support other people through this level of fear, I had to really feel it myself first. Maybe my transformation needs to be this dramatic for my business to be a success, in that I will be able to show people that every situation is reversible, no matter how dire it feels at the time.

The process of burning my history backfired because I wasn't ready to let go - but as a result of two days of violent shaking I have an awe of the energy I am trying to tap in to - a new found Certainty of the power of the Universe, the existence of the Light.

This has all led to a greater understanding of myself - finally I am in a place from where I can move forwards, painful though it may be. Hope springs eternal.

I have a feeling that Chanukah worked after all.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Well Helloooo 2010!

It's the start of a new decade. The end of the Noughties. The start of a New Year. The time when everyone promises to be different - makes resolutions to turn in to someone completely new, as though the transformation can somehow take place overnight.

I have always been disappointed with New Year's Day because for so long, nothing has changed. I was waiting for my life to change, for my burden to be lifted and for Good Things to start happening. And they never did, because I didn't let them. It was all a major anti-climax - the same issues, the same pain, the same life.

But this year is going to be different. I decided to celebrate New Year's Eve my own way - by letting go of the past. Well, kind of.

The last few days have brought the realisation on how I need to change. I have been more than a little introspective, more than a little detached and self-absorbed. So how to spend the Eve of the New Year by my rules? Burning stuff. Yes, you read that right, burning stuff.

When I started to clear out my possessions a couple of months ago, I came across pile after pile of old letters, diaries and memories. Reading them threw me in to a spin, took me in to a downward spiral - but all the same my first reaction was "I can't let go of this stuff because it's part of my history. This is me". Then I had my Astrology reading and was told to stop hanging on to my past, and I realised that looking at photos and reading letters and diaries that make you feel sad is probably not such a good thing after all. Why would I want to hold on to things that made me feel low time and time again? My (old) teacher told me to follow the spiritual process of burning - focus on the pain and the sadness that arises, set alight to the item and burn it from within - so I started to collect everything that made me sad, and discovered that I had been lugging around an entire box of pain from one location to another, dragging my unhappy past with me wherever I went.

If I'd owned a wood-burner or if it had been less windy in my back garden, the process might not have taken me so long. But given that all I had was a large tin foil roasting tray to sit over the sink in my kitchen and burn each item one by one, I procrastinated and the box of pain has sat in my living room looking at me. If it's possible for a box to look at you.

But last night was the perfect opportunity to start anew - At 7:30 pm I set up the tray over the sink, ripped the pages out of my diaries, muttered the Ana Bekoach prayer from memory, and put my iPod on shuffle. And started burning. And burning. And burning. Taking each page, one at a time, lighting it from the page about to burn out in the tray, catching the words from my past as they succumbed to the flames.

At 8pm I realised that the kitchen was full of acrid white smoke coming off the paper, and although it was freezing outside, I wedged the back door open with a shoe.
At 8:30 I wrapped a tea towel around my nose and mouth, realising that I was going to be there for quite some time and that my smoke-hardened throat was no match for the volumes of toxic past.
At 9pm my ears started to hurt from wearing headphones.
At 9:30 pm my back started to ache from standing at the sink.
At 10 pm I caved in to my urge to pee, and discovered that the entire house stank of burning paper.
By 10:30 pm I had learned which paper burns easily, which paper gave off the most smoke, which paper curled round suddenly and caught my fingers before I dropped it in to the tray and which paper sent shards of ash up to my kitchen ceiling, threatening to set the house on fire.

I kept going. To be honest, it didn't feel much like a spiritual process at times, standing at the sink with a tea towel over my face - the Kabbalah Bandit strikes again - hopping from one foot to the other and trying to stretch out the pain in my spine without setting alight to my hair.

But a few of the pages pulled me back to what I was letting go:
Sentences from my diary that began "I am so depressed today". Far too many of them.
Letters from my Dad sent to my sister and I when we first left him which started "I'm sorry that I got so upset again on Tuesday..."
And a page written by my Step-father in the front of a Pilot's Log Book (a flying lesson gift for my seventeenth birthday which enables me to claim that I flew a plane before I drove a car) which was probably written when he was drunk: "Fly high and achieve. Fly high with your ambition..Fly high and keep your feet on the ground" Oh, fuck off. Burn.

The last thing that I burned was a copy of my birth certificate, kept with a pile of documents from the compensation I received after my farce of a court case. The old Kabbalah Rookie is dead. Time for rebirth. I watched as it went up in flames, at ten to midnight. Mission accomplished. And then I sat on the couch until 3:30 am wondering if I felt any different.

And somehow I do feel different. Not much to see on the outside, but slightly more at peace with myself, I guess. And a little bit achy from standing at the sink for over 4 hours.

My situation is no different to how it was yesterday - same house, same crap waiting to be posted on eBay or taken to a car boot sale, same bank account (less probably a few more direct debits) - but my gratitude has grown. Gratitude for what I do have. Gratitude that there are people out there who will love me no matter what. Gratitude that I am living in a world of opportunity and can choose to make my life whatever I want it to be. Enormous gratitude for the soulmate connection with my sister, without whom I doubt that I would still be here. Seriously.

And having said that, immense gratitude for the support I have received since I started to open up on my blog. Your comments and emails have made a world of difference - with your kindness and encouragement, you have scooped me up off the floor when I needed it the most.

Thank you for being such an important part of my journey, and for allowing me to follow yours.

I wish you all a blessed 2010, because in my book (the one I didn't burn) you all deserve it.