First, before I go farther, and carelessly hurt someone’s feelings over mystical or spiritual beliefs we may not share; nothing in this post is intended to slight someone else’s personal beliefs, challenge their system of beliefs, or deny them the chosen beliefs that comfort and guide them. Not even a little bit. This is not about that.

Finding peace and balance is a very personal journey.

Finding peace and balance is a very personal journey.

If you read this blog now and then, you are probably aware that I have a certain…cynicism is a good word… about medicine, and specifically the practice of medicine relevant to women, and our experiences. Still, so many of us get to a place in life where our desperation and suffering require intervention, because we are challenged to find solutions within, and many of us choose the Rx solution recommended to us. Sometimes that’s a life saver. Sometimes it is a game changer. Sometimes it is a real and very practical solution to get us through the hard times. For me… when my turn came the solution offered by the VA, in the form of first one pill, then another, then a handful, only seemed to be helping me, and only initially (resulting in ever-increasing dosages and frequencies being prescribed).  Certainly, being stupefied chemically, pacified, and ‘managed’ by way of the careful and regular consumption of mind-altering drugs (and yes, they are) got me promoted at work, and I suppose that matters… but I couldn’t write easily (and you know I love words!) and struggled to paint. When I could paint, it was often only the most wildly fluid abstractions that were still possible. I watched a lot of television, mostly court tv shows; there is something about the interaction of seemingly real authentic people facing challenges that fascinated me, even drugged.

"Metaphor" acrylic on canvas. Painted on Zyprexa

“Metaphor” acrylic on canvas. Painted on Zyprexa

My experiences with chemical intervention in the struggles I faced with my volatility, my PTSD, my temper, and my hormones were disappointing, at best. The drugs the VA gave me slowly wrecked my health, and along the way I gained a lot of weight. The worst thing about all of it? It didn’t ‘work’. I still had to go through it all, endure it all, and get to the ‘other side’ – menopause, better therapy, practicing what worked. I still had to address the real issues of my PTSD.  There was more to know and to learn about taking care of myself, meeting my own needs where I could, and I hadn’t yet found out about my TBI (which is sort of a big deal in the whole ‘taking care of me’ realm). Many of the drugs I was given turn out to be entirely contraindicated because of the TBI; other treatments were more appropriate, safer, more effective, less likely to cause my brain further damage.

Why do I mention it today? Because each and every time I ‘chose the red pill’ hoping for a miracle, I was disappointed when no miracle came. Over and over it broke my heart, to suffer. I felt like I would never be well, and never stop crying.  We put so much faith in our healers, our medicine men, our preachers, our faiths, our pills and cures and potions – and promises. We keep at it, too, as though the issue is not how we’re going about solving the puzzle, but more that we’ve just grabbed the wrong puzzle piece.  For some reason, we don’t just want relief, improvement, progress… we want it now. Right now. No delay and no real effort.  Pills are much easier than working to improve, so much easier than practicing a skill.  Choosing a different approach was much more challenging than choosing a different pill.

Sip of coffee. A calming breath. A reminder; this is not about you. :-)

A sip of coffee. A calming breath.

Pausing for a moment to reflect on my experience; I hope you are reflecting on yours, too, and in loving kindness, and awareness that your choices are your own, chosen by you, doing the best you can. I hope whatever you choose works to improve your experience over time, too, and if that means an Rx solution to some challenge or another, I hope you get the relief you need, and find wellness and contentment. You get no criticism from me; we’re different people. 🙂

It took me the better part of 2 years to get off the various psych meds the VA had put me on. It was harder than it had to be; there’s limited information of what the experience of going off some drugs is going to be like, and in some cases it is beyond scary, in others the damage left behind was unanticipated, and required further recovery.  Throughout the process I had the emotional support of friends and loved ones to complete the undertaking; very few of them ever thought I needed those drugs in the first place, although obviously something needed to be done. (Turns out it needed to be done by me, and drugs are not required.)

I can paint again. I can write again. I can think clearly (You, there in the back, no tittering!). Let’s be fair, though, I’m not doing nothing. I am doing a lot to take care of me, and it is an active process requiring my time and attention, my will, and my effort: meditation, yoga, study, practicing, modeling new behavior, role-playing the deconstruction of bad programming and conversations that could have been healing if handled differently, developing greater emotional intelligence, learning to ‘take care of me’… I barely have time for life and work, I put so much time and effort into learning to treat myself and others well, and healing, and achieving emotional wellness.  A pill would be much easier; there isn’t one for what I need.  (A pill never got me off the hook for doing the work that needed to be done, either, but often limited my ability to see that work needed to be done.)

Where am I going with this? Into the trees. 🙂 I’m taking time for me, in the woods, camping and meditating, hiking and sketching. Practicing. Change takes work. Sometimes work requires a bit of elbow room. It’s just 3 days, a long weekend alone, and I’m eager to get started; there are a few hours of work between me and… whoever I am when I walk out of the forest. Monday does not yet exist, and there’s still one last gear check, and packing it all up, loading the car, and a bit of a drive ahead. I have no particular expectations, there is no warning label, no contraindications, no risk of overdose. It’ll be me, and some timeless time alone with my heart. I hope I make skillful use of it, take care of my needs over time, and walk a path that leads… to another path, and probably more practice. lol

Walking my own path.

Walking my own path.

Did I mention? I’ll be away a few days. 🙂

Today is a good day to take a step forward. Today is a good day to breathe. Today is a good day to love and be loved. Today is a good day to walk away with a smile. Today is a good day to change the world.