Deep Share, part 2 (aka getting off of anti-depressants)

This summer,

I did a deep share about one of the Gate Passages I was going through in getting off of anti-depressants. In my 15+ years as a psychotherapist helping kind souls through trauma, I’ve seen firsthand the silencing effect that the stigma of struggling with mental illness can cause. With the new Moon in Scorpio happening November 18th, the time is right to share rather than be silent. It's time to continue telling this story.

It’s been more than 6 months since I took the last dose — a minuscule cluster of tiny white balls stuck to the end of my moistened right pointer finger. I took a super longtime coming off — more than 2 years. By western medicine standards, this is unusually long. Typically, docs recommend 2-3 months, which I say isn't nearly long enough.

It’s been a wild ride. 

The first few months were a dark time of recurrent and prolonged panic attacks that triggered my survival fight/flight/freeze response, with a heavy heaping dose of sobbing spells. I felt as if I could feel all of the agony on the planet without a filter. It was all of the feels, all the time. Even though I had so little of the medication in my system by the time I took that last dose, I still felt the withdrawal effect big-time, which is not uncommon for sensitive people.

Between you and me, I’m relieved that I survived this part. I did it with lots of support and the determined use all of the healing tools I’ve learned ... every single one of them and especially when I felt like I couldn’t.

Since then, I’ve noticed some interesting things about being off of anti-depressants.

All of them have to do with my heart. 

First, I cry all the time. I cry when I’m happy. I cry when I’m sad. I cry when I read about homeless dogs. I cry when I read about people doing kind things for others. I'm blowing through tissues like they're going out of style.

Next, my sensitivity is off the charts. Anti-depressants by design take away the extremes of feeling — the dark lows and the happy highs. Most people wind up humming along in the middle. That’s where I hung out. Along with erasing the extremes, the meds dulled this sensitivity. It didn’t erase it by any means, but I'm surprised how the meds covered it up. I feel this sensitivity most in my heart center. 

And I deeply long to feel connected to people. This too was something that I couldn’t feel so much on meds. I knew it was there intellectually, but now it’s a persistent ache in my heart. It's what neuroscientist Stephen Porges talked about at the trauma conference I went to a few weeks ago when he said that we human beings are wired for connection.

Lastly, I notice a lot grief for stuff I never dealt with. Although it should not surprise me given the work I do, I was indeed surprised how much grief I've stored in my heart saying not now, maybe later. This grief has been demanding that I face it now, and I am. 

No matter how ...

you look on the outside or what you do for a living, Gate Passages are hard for each of us, but they bring gifts, as well. All of these things going on in my heart since that last dose is a gift. My heart is telling me what to do and what it needs. It's not always easy, but I'm doing it.

Polyvagal Theory (aka you're wired for it).

A few weeks ago,

I attended a trauma conference in NYC. I got the bug in grad school for helping people heal from trauma. Even though I call it Gate Passages these days, I’ve been madely in love with it ever since. 

One of the reasons I signed up for this conference was to learn more about Polyvagal Theory from the person who created it — Stephen Porges, PhD., a neuroscientist in the department of psychiatry at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Polyvagal Theory is a fascinating body of work about the vagus nerve and its role in how the body responds during a traumatic experience (fight, flight, freeze), as well as how we safe and social we feel with each other and in the world. It’s been called the science of safety, and it has very interesting implications for the trauma and attachment work that I do. If you want to learn more about it, click here (note: the audio isn't 100% sparkling clear).

I may write more about Polyvagal Theory in the future. For now, there are a few things want to share about Steve’s talk.

He started out by saying this: 

“Our nervous system evolved to co-regulate with another creature. We did not evolve to be by ourselves. Don’t believe the news. We need to love, nurture and care for each other.” 

I could hardly believe my ears. This coming from a neuroscientist!  Then he started talking about connectedness. Be still my heart. Connectedness is one of my most cherished values. 

He defined it as “the ability to mutually, synchronously and reciprocally regulate physiological and behavioral states.”

Let's zero in on one of the terms: synchronous. I define it is occurring at the same time. Right now, the connectedness we're  having as you read my words is not synchronous. Texting is (mostly) not synchronous. Facebook and Instagram? Not synchronous. These activities are not opportunities to co-regulate. They do something else, which is sometimes enjoyable and sometimes not. 

I love what technology can do in terms of being able to get to know each other and the worlds beyond the reach of our geographic locations, to organize us around common causes, and to find information lickety-split.

With that said, we are wired for the kind of synchronous connectedness that Dr. Porges describes. Face-to-face and voice-to-voice.

Experiencing trauma can disrupt this wiring. Pull up a chair, love, because I could talk for days and days about this. For now, however, I’m glad that science may be catching up to what many of us have already noticed for some time. 

Communicating with Power

I've been talking about power this  year. Your personal power. 

With today's partial lunar eclipse blowing through with some big-ass changes, there's no better time to up your personal power skills. In this post, I'm sharing one of the things I love -- communicating with power.

Take Kristen, my youngest stepdaughter. She’s an amazing young woman in her 20s living on her own.

Recently, we were talking about the roommate she took on for the summer. I asked her how it was going. 

She said, “It’s OK, but he’s so messy. He leaves his stuff everywhere, and it’s driving me crazy.” 

“Wow,” I said. “That would drive me crazy, too. Have you talked to him about it?” 

“No. I keep dropping hints. I thought his mom would tell him to be neater, especially after she came for a visit," she said. "Apparently she didn’t.” 

“Sounds like it’s time to tell him how you feel,” I said.  “Shoot from the hip and tell him exactly what you want.” 

Kristen looked at me with fear in her eyes. “I can’t do that. I can’t tell him that. I’m scared of telling people that kind of stuff.” 

Let's talk about the 2 ways of communicating. 

1. Indirect

This way is about communicating without communicating. Like Kristen mentioned, this way relies on things like: 

  • Dropping hints.
  • Beating around the bush.
  • Using sarcasm to veil your true feelings.
  • Asking other people to do it for you. 

2. Direct

Direct communication is saying what you mean and meaning what you say. No hints, bush-beating, or pawning it off on someone else.

Here's the thing about indirect vs. direct communication: 

Indirect is something that most of us try many times. I certainly did in the first half of my life. It seems easier somehow. 

Most of the time, however, indirect communicate fails miserably, because it requires that the other person read your mind. Dropping hints is like expecting the other person to be the Amazing Kreskin. This pretty much guarantees that you’re going to be frustrated. What's more, indirect communication is also a way of denying your personal power. 

Direct communication connects your personal power (3rd chakra) to your voice (5th chakra) and has them singing together in harmony. It also puts you and the other human on track for harmony, because you've told them exactly how you feel and what you want.