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Thursday 31 December 2015


Continuing the piecing together of my trip to the Underworld (aka the deepest, darkest places of the psyche), I will go through the notes I made while in that state and try to elaborate on their meaning and the feelings I was experiencing at the time.

***If you are confused, please read the first part of the series Letters from Hell – Part I (Waking Darkness) and the second part Letters from Hell – Part II (Manifesting Oblivion)***

I’ve kept the original bullet notes and then expanded on the idea below.


Continuing the piecing together of my trip to the Underworld (aka the deepest, darkest places of the psyche), I will go through the notes I made while in that state and try to elaborate on their meaning and the feelings I was experiencing at the time. This post deals mostly with the physical manifestations of hell.

***If you are confused, please read the first part of the series Letters from Hell – Part I (Waking Darkness)***

I’ve kept the original bullet notes and then expanded on the idea below.

Tuesday 29 December 2015


It’s odd now to talk about it.  Even through my therapy process, we rarely discussed it.  I hid it from everyone.  Not intentionally, it just never really came up.  No one ever asked, “AJ, are you an alcoholic?”  Everyone knew I could drink most people under the table.  It was just who I was.  No one looked twice.

For many years, I was what I call a “functioning alcoholic”.  I tried not to drink before going to work, but at any other point in time, you could be assured, I was drinking.  I used to tell myself, “as long as it doesn’t affect your job, you’re safe.”  The truth was, I wasn’t.  I was drowning my emotions in a sea of booze.  I always dreaded the forms at a doctor’s office.  They looked like this:

Alcohol consumption per week:  0-1drink ____ 1-2 drinks____ 3-4 drinks____ 5+drinks____

Well, I would laugh.  The answer was always 5+, but that was more accurately per day than per week (though technically still not a lie).  I would think, ‘are there really people who have less than 5 drinks per week??’ I tried once to calculate the amount of drinks I had in a given day and reached 10, but then I remembered that I had 2 glasses of wine for lunch and half a bottle of champagne for breakfast (it was a day off), plus the two shots I took before leaving the house.  It was staggering that I couldn’t even recall the amount I had consumed in a given day, let alone a week.  Weekly consumption needed to be counted in bottles and cases.  This also does not include the pot I smoked daily.

Looking back, I didn’t feel anything for years.  Every part of me was numbed by drugs or alcohol whenever I could.  I was a harmless drunk, if anything, I was a very loving drunk.  When I was really on the sauce, you could be sure there were more than few drunk dials of love.  Fortunately, they were mostly to my sister.  No one worries about the happy drunk – everything seems fine.

Recently, I mean very recently, maybe two months or so, I have nearly stopped drinking.  Not intentionally.  There was no specific event that spurred me to quit or even cut back.  I think I have been the person most shocked by it.  I just don’t really drink anymore.  I will have the occasional beverage, but now, I fit into a box on the doctor’s forms.  I may have a drink every 3-4 days in a social setting, but that’s all.  I go WHOLE DAYS without drinking.  For someone who consumed 7-15 drinks per day on average and thought nothing of consuming 20+ drinks on a day off, that’s HUGE!!!  I told my therapist that I couldn’t remember the last time I had a drink, I was so proud.  Granted, it was within the last week, but it was days before, not hours.

Sunday 22 November 2015


So, I’m going to be graduating my group therapy in a couple weeks, which basically means that I have reached a point where I have worked through enough of my process that I can function in the world without the containment of the therapy group (aka I’m healed… mostly…).  This weekend was my final therapy intensive and, boy, was it intense!!  It feels like in order to graduate, the universe needs to administer a final exam to see if I pass. 

Over the nearly two years I have been in group therapy (and nearly four years in individual therapy), I have tackled some pretty heavy topics: abuse, neglect, bullying, conditional parental love, death of the absent father, and sexuality, just to name a few.  One major issue that has plagued me is seeking affection from the unavailable man.  That stuck around the longest.  Seeking love where it was unavailable has pretty much been my M.O. for my entire life.  I’m still working it out, but in the past year (minus a few months), I’ve been pretty good at putting myself first (or at least stopping myself early in the chase stages).  I have never felt more powerful or in control of my own life.  Every day is brimming with excitement and opportunity.  I have said “fuck it” to “chasing” after a mate.  My theme song of the weekend was “Holding Out for a Hero” by Bonnie Tyler.  Either a man meets me or I’m not interested.  I’ve had this conversation with many people and the common opinion is that I’m searching for a unicorn, and guess what, I am. 

Then comes my final exam…

Monday 14 September 2015


There are times I wish I had pictures of our last good day.  It’s nothing particularly special.  It was nothing worthy of capturing on document for eternity, but in my mind, it is imprinted – forever.  When I think about him, these are the moments I go to.  The countless pictures on file tell a shell of a story, but all the moments I wish I could replay live only in my memory. 

Our last good day, we locked the door to our house only to open it late at night for the sushi delivery man.  We smoked weed and drank beer and played some Wario game that reminded me of Mario Party, but I had never played Mario Party, so maybe Mario Party reminded me of whatever this Wario game was.  Maybe that’s the reason I ended up loving Mario Party so much; it always reminded me of our last really good day.  We did nothing.  We didn’t exist in the world.  Our world was the walls of our apartment and nothing could come in and we had no desire to go out.  We laughed.  It was just us.  Nothing could touch us.  We laughed and were weird and silly. 

This memory came flooding back to me tonight.  It hurts more than words can express.  Sometimes you think all the pain you can feel has flowed out of your veins, only to be caught off guard by a sudden flash of happiness you can barely remember.

I tried many times to recreate moments like this, but it doesn’t work.  They come out of the blue. So fast that you can barely recognize them until they are done.  The only way to preserve them is to live them.  That’s why they are usually the nothing moments.  Those moments that don’t really mean anything until they do.  Our last really great day was a nothing day.  It was a lazy day.  It was a day that neither of us really felt like doing anything much at all.  It was a day when I was met.

It’s all a little bit foggy, but I’m pretty sure this day fell during my great depression.  It was near the end and okay days were hard to find, good days were far between.  I did not want to face the world on my best days.  This was a day I felt understood.  I didn’t want to acknowledge the world existed.  I just wanted my shelter.  A refuge from life… and for one day I was granted it.  It was a really terrific day. 

Sometimes it catches me off guard that the tears still flow so strong.  Mourning is a tricky process.  With the dissolution of any relationship, there is loss.  The tragedy of love without a flame.  Some losses are easier to bear, but some haunt you long after you think you have left them behind.  Tonight it is the memory of our last good day.  It was really a simple, simply lacklustre, good ol’ boring, magical, wonderful day.  I wish I had a picture.

Tuesday 28 July 2015


Wow!  Today marks one year post-My Year Without Sex.  I have to say, it hasn’t been too much different. *wink* Well, that’s not entirely true, it has been incredibly different in many ways and the growth that has occurred is astounding. 

After my year ended, I was eager to get back in the saddle and see if I still remembered how. *wink* I was rushing again.  I wanted to break the sabbatical.  Alas, I still had far to go.  It has only been recently (within the past couple weeks) that I have come to realize that I have spent my entire life chasing love.  Looking for someone to love me.  Looking for validation from a partner.  Even after my year, even a year after my year, I wanted a partner to protect me and tell me everything was going to be alright.  I didn’t fully realize the extent to which the search for a soulmate penetrated my life until I started attempting to answer the questions that have been stalking me for the past year: what do you want? What are you looking for?

The truth is I have been looking for a guardian.  A person to shelter me from the big bad world. Someone who would pick me up when I fall, brush me off and encourage me to keep going.  Well, it turns out, I need to be that for myself. Gah! This became most apparent when I tried to figure out why I don’t write even though I have been saying I want to be a writer for over a decade now.  I start and then stop.  It dawned on me that I usually stop the moment it starts to go well – weird, I know.  But that’s also not fully the truth.  I stop when I get rejected, as well.  I really stop whenever anyone takes any notice at all.  I write, but I’m afraid to show it to anyone.  That’s the real truth of the matter.  I’m afraid to be exposed.

It wasn’t until January of this year that I shared the link to this blog with the majority of people I know – crazy, huh?!  Six months AFTER my year is over, I share the link to the blog.  Why?  Because, what if it sucked and people laughed at me?!  Yup.  I was scared of being vulnerable.  Scared to show my scars to the world.  Scared that people would think I was silly.  Scared that maybe they wouldn’t.  Scared that maybe they would expect some sort of greatness that I couldn’t provide. Scared that they wouldn’t like the honest me. But, who cares?!  I spent my life worrying about pleasing other people and still I am alone, but the more I open, the more people open themselves to me.  Connections are made. 

So, now my challenge is to be open.  Be vulnerable.  Ironically, that was also my greatest challenge in theatre school.  Well, 10 years later, I’m finally figuring out how to address it. Yeesh! Yet up to now, I didn’t know how to start.  So, I’m writing.  And I’m sharing.  And I’m vomiting.  But mostly writing and sharing.  I guess it is just like anything in life, you need to practice to become good at it.

Finally, I would like to state that even though I set out to write an update about boys, it quickly turned into a post about my personal development.  This continues to be a nice change from two years ago, where my entire focus was on getting the man, analyzing the man and obsessing over the man.  Now, even typing those words, I could feel the tension collecting in my shoulders, my breathing getting tighter and the stress level rising.  Our bodies are such good registers of what is right and wrong in our lives.  I am so thankful that I have taken the time to train myself to listen to it.  I am still a novice, but I am becoming better and better at grounding myself when I feel I’m starting to get caught up in nervous energy that is not my own.  Life is so much more peaceful these days.

Sunday 26 July 2015


As I walked home this evening, I passed row upon row of houses.  I peered in the windows wondering about the lives of the people who live in each.  The large bench-coathook-armoire in the mud room where guests and family put on and off their shoes, umbrellas tucked neatly to one side.  The cat staring out a window.  The lights that flicked off just as they drew my attention.  Gardens, meticulously cared for.  A basketball net pulled off the drive.  Flat panel TV screens flashing sports highlights, spilling the only light in a tidy well-decorated living room.  The corner shelves in the kitchen, collecting dust from lack of use… or not.  What are these stories?  Who are these families?  How long have they lived there?

Living pretty close to a nomadic life, I pondered what it would be like to have roots in a house like any of these.  What are the choices that brought those people to them?  Were they inherited? Did their parents help them out?  Did they find amazing well-paying jobs when they were young?  Have they lived there for 40 years and are now retired?

It dawned on me as I passed that I was a voyeur into a life I won’t have.  As I got back to my new/not-so-new apartment, I pet the cat, then striped down to my underwear because it was so humid and considered if/when to get a small air conditioner unit (at least for the cat’s sake) and how to get the air to flow to my bedroom at the other side of the not so small unit.  I have barely lived here since I moved in at the start of May and won’t until the winter, but it might be worth the cost for the two weeks I’m “home”.  I bet all those houses I passed have central air.  Though, for an apartment I live in only half the year, how much do I really want to invest?  Also, what do I really need in my home? 

Tuesday 23 June 2015


So, it has been a while since checking in.  Lots has happened, but right now I would like to address the issues currently floating through my head and that is “bikini season”.

It has been about 9 months since I last weighed myself and for the most part I have let go of a lot of my body image issues.  The winter helped because sweaters are great hiders of folds that never used to exist.  I have been super proud of myself.  It has also been well over a year since I’ve thought about slipping back into my old ways of eating disorders to lose weight (even though I am the heaviest I have ever been – which I know is still not that heavy, but eating disorders are about self-perception not reality).

But now, it is bikini season.  It is bikini season and I am working with a lot of very fit people out in the country where I live on a beach.  It’s the first year that I’ve been so acutely aware of some of the extra flab I’ve put on.  (As a side note, my journey through hell this winter did not aid my weight maintenance.  I let the weight come as it may.)  I’ve finally reached a point in my process where I’m able to stay largely grounded and begin to feel inclined to move my body (I’m loathe to say “exercise”) and eat healthy.  My body is no longer my enemy, but summer is.

Sunday 1 March 2015


I was in the bath tonight and saw a white flake floating in the water.  When I examined it, it was a piece of skin.  I released it back into the water and it settled on my thigh as if it was trying to rejoin my body.  I felt sorry for the little piece of skin.  It used to be part of this bigger being and has been released into the unknown, to be spewed down the drain into the ether beyond to live as long as it will before completely decomposing.  I related strongly to the skin because that sums up how I feel now.  I too used to be part of the great cosmic energy of the universe before floating in my mother’s womb to be spewed out into this world, left to live as long as I can before decomposing in the dirt.  I wished I could take the skin back and reaffix it to my body so that it could be part of that which it was, but much like the universe, I was helpless to do anything but let it continue on its journey, wherever it may go.

So… as you probably guessed, this whole “coming into my body” thing is still going really well (*sarcasm implied*). 

I wish I had enough energy to finish this post when I was actually still in this state, but I made some notes and I’ll do my best to fill in the blanks, but at the time, things were the darkest of black and I couldn’t – for the most part there aren’t even really words to describe the experience of travelling through the underworld of the psyche (I’ve tried).  So far, only my therapist (who has traveled there herself) has really been able to understand – the one note I would like you to keep in mind while reading is that despite all of this, I am the happiest I have been in my entire life (which is truth – a future post will deal with the dichotomy of the soul).  Anyway, it has been an extremely transformative part of the process.

I’ve kept the original bullet notes and then expanded on the idea below.

Tuesday 6 January 2015


I once described my menstrual cramps as an angry squirrel attempting to claw its way out of my uterus… well, that’s similar to how I’m feeling this week, but worse.

I have reached a point in therapy that is nearly unbearable.  In previous posts, I have referred to HEP (Holistic Experiential Process) as a journey through the levels of hell, but I had no idea then what still lay in store.  My therapist says that I’ve come to the point in the process where I am “coming into my body”.  After a lifetime of disassociation, I’m finally becoming grounded in my body.  Well, after 32 years of disuse, it hurts!

Whatever pain, trauma, tension, hurt, anger, rage, sadness or any other type of emotion that has been stored in my body is now making its way to the surface.  I had a full on panic attack (which I have NEVER had before!!!).  Nervous breakdown? Sure. But, panic attack?  NEVER!!!  This was especially strange because I have been extraordinarily happy.  Painfully happy, actually.  So happy it literally hurts.  This is where the panic stems from.  I’m afraid of being so happy.  I started becoming irrationally delusional about my apartment being infested with bed bugs (even though I didn’t see a single bug in my place).  It would wake me up at night and I would spend at least an hour searching my apartment and then another researching how to find the bugs which were clearly hiding from me before I could go back to sleep.  I would feel bugs crawling on me throughout the day.  It was crazy – literally.

My therapist was able to talk me down when this paranoia culminated in a total meltdown in her office this week.  She said it likely stems from the fear of my mother’s energy infiltrating my life.  The idea that because I’m happy, it will all be tainted or taken away by an external force, much like it was when I was a child.  The panic lie in the terror of waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I want to know what is going to come take away my joy.  It’s so terrifying that I began creating issues in my own mind in order to balance out the joy.  I couldn’t be that happy.  There had to be something wrong.  I need tragedy to survive.  Being happy is unbearable.

Over the past couple days, I have been able to get the panic under control.  Alyssa (my therapist) pointed out that the feeling of bugs crawling on me was likely my psycho-somatic way of dealing with the feeling of awakening in my body.  I have been unaware of external stimulus and now I feel the dirtiness of the world I’m in.  She said she went through something similar.  I still feel the itching all over my body pretty much all day, though now that I know the rationale behind it, I am able to live with it and begrudgingly embrace it.  I still check the mirror frequently to see if anything is actually on my skin… nothing ever is.

The rest of the time, whenever I feel happy, I also feel like I’m being eviscerated from the inside out.  We all put up walls in our life to protect ourselves.  After a while, we become comfortably numb.  Through therapy, I’m tearing down these walls.  This allows happiness to get in, but these walls also kept all the pain in check.  Now that happiness is entering, it is pushing all the pain out, which means it hurts like a bitch!  I am constantly flowing between flashes of extreme joy that break into deep gut-wrenching sobbing.  It’s quite the rollercoaster.  I just want to tear my insides out, it aches so bad.  Getting through each day is a slog.  I want to quit.  I want to go back to that comfortably numb state.  Unbearable.  That’s what it feels like.  I would rip my own skin off and pull out my innards just to get these feelings out quicker.   I feel claustrophobic in my body; that I have been sent to some strange prison that I am compelled to break free from.

It is like every pain, sorrow and hurt I have ever experienced is lying in wait, ready to pop out at any moment and the only way to get through is to let the feeling wash over me, envelope me completely and surge through every fiber of my being.  Therapy only keeps getting harder.  I am at a point that I just want to lay down and quit.  I know I won’t, but it is the first time that I have ever thought about throwing in the towel and saying I’m done.  The blackness of black keeps getting deeper.  I never knew the depths of the darkness within.  I’m afraid of what lies ahead, yet the only way out is to keep moving forward.  In this place, it is hard to trust that there is light on the other side.

(Continue this journey through the underworld in the three part series Letters from Hell)