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.
I remember stating repeatedly during this time that commonly people think that hope is the opposite of despair, but I have discovered it is not – serenity is. Despair is the totally lack of hope and emotion – a completely apathetic place. You may argue that is not the Oxford definition of the word, but as someone who spent a lot of time in the state of despair, I tell you it is. Much like love and hate, despair and serenity are so very closely connected that it is impossible to know one without the other. As I reveled in my despair, I came to know the serenity of being alive in a single moment – still hopeless, but at peace. There is great peace in foregoing hope. I spent a lot of time finding serenity in despair – the joy of literally not giving a fuck about what anyone thought. Nothing in the world seemed important to me and in that came freedom. I try to remember that feeling when I begin to drift back. It’s grounding.
- Trust v. hope
I talk a lot about killing hope and this will be no different. I really hate hope. It is awful! I’ve abandoned this misleading notion we call, hope. Hope implies doubt. I have come to trust. Trust that the universe will carry me safely down the path I am to follow. Trust that what lies ahead is what I am supposed to do and that all things will happen in their time. Hope is stagnant. Trust is active and alive. Trust is present. Hope is living in the future. Worrying about what might be. I’ve come to realize that life has become much easier since giving up on hope. Instead of fretting over what decisions I should make based on some theoretical future I hope to have, I make choices based on facts that are presented to me in the present and trust that those will be right for me – and to tell you a secret, they always are. I spent so much of my life worrying how my story would end and trying to manufacture the path to get there, that I didn’t even notice the soft grassy trail under my feet. Maybe I won’t get married or have kids or a house or many of the other things I spent so much of my tweens and twenties dreaming about, but I will have the life I was meant to lead.
- Serenity w/ surrender
Part of moving from despair into serenity was to make peace with an absolute surrender to life. Accepting that I had no control over the events that shaped my world was hard to swallow, but necessary. There was no energy left in my body to fight the tide of life. I was spent. I didn’t have any “fucks” left to give, so I gave myself over to the world and said, “do as you will.” And that’s where I found true peace. It was a wonderful state of being. I try to remember that feeling often and carry it with me throughout my days to keep me grounded and present. Accepting that I don’t really have control has been the most freeing revelation I’ve had. It keeps me in the moment. All I can do is react to what it in front of me and carry on. On a side note, I may have swung a little too far to living in the moment and have started to drop the ball on things that need to be planned ahead, but I hope to find balance soon.
- Living in the darkness
Oy! This is a hard one to describe other than the absolute epitome of giving no fucks at all. This is the part I wish I could get back to the most. It was truly amazing. Every movement of my body was so heavy and took so much energy, that everything else in the world seemed trivial and irrelevant to my life. I honestly and truly just did not give a single damn about anything, but not in a “I won’t participate” sort of way, I still went about my life and worked, but any issue just rolled off like water down a duck’s back. It didn’t phase me at all. I dealt with things, but was never affected by things. We had a crisis at work during this time and funnily enough, everyone was so impressed about how cool and level-headed I was throughout it all (which in my line of work was a tremendous asset). And it’s not that I didn’t care, it was just that I knew whatever was happening only affected the present moment and it would eventually be done and gone and everyone and everything would continue. It would either go well or not and then we would deal with that. It was incredible. I am still so fascinated by those feelings at that time. As I’ll cover in the dichotomy of emotions, it was paradise and hell all at the same time.
- All the dreams – mapping the psychic dream world – lucid dreaming
I’m a person who generally remembers their dreams, but this became something else. My dreams became so alive and vivid that I often had a hard time waking up. When I did wake, the reality of my dreams seemed so much more real than waking life. It was confusing at times and I would attempt to go back to sleep to re-enter the world of the subconscious. The thing that I began to notice in my dreams was my lucidity. It was like I was building a map. Sometimes I would be in a place where I had dreamt I was previously and be able to recall the last time I was there and what happened. I could also remember other dreams that happened elsewhere, but close by to the location of the current dream. I would stand in a city square and be able to tell you directions to different places where other dreams had occurred. The directions wouldn’t necessarily be linear, either. Sometimes walking one way would take you to the bottom of one place, but if you turned around and left the same way, you would go to another place – strange, but the connections to the various areas made complete sense because I was so familiar with it. I had lived in all these places. I was also an active participant in my dreams. I could rationalize some of the events and pick out things that were not accurate even within the dreamscape. Recently, the lucidity of my dreams has faded and I wake having trouble recalling what they were about, though I know that they are still happening quite intensely, because I wake with the essence of them still lingering, yet I am immediately so present in this world, it takes a while for it to register that I should attempt to remember them and by that point they are gone.
- Dichotomy of everything in the world, life and me – two equal and opposite emotions/thoughts existing at once within
The most prominent thing that came out of this experience is the dichotomy of life. Everything has two equal and opposite parts. Much of the time in my “hell state” I oscillated between fits of extreme happiness accompanied by unstoppable tears and uncontrolled laughter in times of great sadness. I was almost manic. It took some time to adjust to. This was also hard for people to grasp, how can you be happy and sad to such extremes at the same time? There is no real way to describe it other than saying it just is. When I faced the deepest despair, the future actually looked the brightest I have ever known.
- Dancing with life – jinx & superstition, not giving honour to the universe for the gifts given to you
I had a conversation with a friend around this time. He was having great things happening in his career and I was overjoyed. “This is YOUR year”, I said to him. “Don’t jinx it!” he replied. That was when I realized how my perceptions had changed. I couldn’t fathom the idea of “jinxing” something anymore. I was dancing with my life. I could feel the flow and I either made the choice to go where it took me or resisted it. If it brought me happiness and prosperity, I gave thanks and celebrated the moment. I have no idea what may be coming in the future, so it is important to relish in the delights of today while they last. There is no such thing as “jinx”. Taking pleasure in today’s accomplishment won’t ruin my chances for future success. If the universe has given me a gift, I will celebrate it.
- This too shall pass… I am here.
For the first time ever, I was present in every moment of my life. I felt everything viscerally. I could feel my body and how it moved. I could even feel the passage of time. Each moment was just a moment. For as much darkness and despair I felt during that time, I was aware that it too would pass away for other emotions and I would feel those just as deeply. Life is just a compilation of present moments and each of those pass away just as quickly as they came.
Again, I wish I was able to journal about this time when it was happening. For the past year, I have slowly been working away on these notes while trying to accurately remember what it felt like during that time. This is the best account I have been able to give. My therapist practices HEP (Holistic Experiential Process). This basically means reliving all past trauma and reprogramming the way you deal with it. It starts with some mild talk therapy, but as we have moved through the process, it has included a lot of various body and energy work, group therapy and anything else under the sun to bring me into myself as a complete and whole person. I’m now moving towards the end of the process, but what I have described in the series “Letters from Hell” describes the rock bottom of the process – the part that is like a living death, only to be reborn later. It was by far the most difficult and intense part. I still get angry when people say “they understand” or “have been there”. It is like a soldier coming back from war and describing the horror they saw only to hear someone say “yeah, I saw a guy get mugged at gunpoint before, totally the same.” That’s the best I can come up with to express how difficult the therapeutic process can be. On the other hand, it is totally worth it. Standing on the other side, I am so grateful for the life it has given me, I fall to my knees and cry.
I did manage one post during this time, you can read it here (Rip Me Out).