My falling tower ~ what happened to me

Several aspects of my life had me heading for a blow-out: I was working far too hard and far too seriously at a job with which I felt increasingly at odds, at the same time as dancing attendance on a New Age 'healer' whose demands became more incessant over time.  I became not just drained but exhausted in more ways than one.  In a weakened state I succumbed to a flu-like illness after which I did not seem to regain my vitality.

As my situation worsened I re-examined not only my beliefs but also my values; I carefully re-considered what had been going on and what was expected of me.  I came to see much I didn't like and even more that seemed faulty.  By then I was not only exhausted but also increasingly troubled and depressed.

I broke off my association with the 'healer' and struggled on at work but finally became unable to continue and resigned, saying I needed a change and some rest.  I had no idea then how unwell I was.  I expected that with a bit of time to myself things would come right, maybe in three to six months after which I'd be able to move on to something new.  If only that had been the case!

My world was disintegrating: no longer able to work I lost my income and with it status; a whole social setting which I had thought entirely dependable, disintegrated piece by painful piece; and away from the structure and normalising effect of everyday work my health and general state deteriorated.  All my adult life I had carefully acquired coping mechanisms, but at that point none of them worked any more - not at all.

I needed to go home, but where was it?  I moved back to my home town which I'd been away from for twenty years, with the result that I knew hardly anyone there, still less the professionals from whom I needed help. 

The accumulated shock was unbelievably severe and as the shock waves within me repeated and deepened I came very close to losing my mind.  I felt dislocated and disoriented and had difficulty in thinking in more than the simplest terms.

I didn't understand what had happened to me or see what I could possibly believe in any more. The future seemed so completely blank I wondered if I might be going to die - perhaps I'd 'done it all'.  I had no idea whatsoever of what life could hold for me or what I could or should do, and so on and so on.  I found myself answering polite, kindly enquiries with same answer: "I don't know", "I don't know", "I don't know".

My brain didn't seem to function as it should and hurt most of the time, my whole nervous system felt tinder dry.  Not surprisingly my digestion became troublesome and could cope only with the blandest of foods.  Often when I went out I felt faint and nauseous; there were times when walking to the letterbox and back required effort and concentration.

Exhausted as I was I became afraid to fall asleep, my dreams were so fraught with terrors and catastrophes.  I'd toss and turn in bed, my skin disturbed by itching and twitching which constantly moved, and often, just as I was falling asleep, I'd find myself jerking awake.

Emotionally I discovered the depths of feelings I hadn't guessed I had: volcanic rage which congealed into a weird sort of semi-numb despair only to re-erupt unpredictably, ice cold hatred, grief which vacillated from lengthy spells in which I simply leaked tears, to stark emptiness, and the endless questions which hung unanswered: what was the matter with me, how had this happened to me, how had I let this happen to me, and perhaps most anxiously of all: was it ever going to end?

That was my falling tower.  I was on my own. 

Well, not quite: I was immensely fortunate that my family, partner and one particular friend stood by me.  I was exceedingly hard to help, but I knew that they were there.  They watched over me, and kept on loving me even when I was at my most miserable and incomprehensible, not intrusively but they were there.  A few times I phoned my friend and asked him to come right away which he did.  He talked to me quietly until I calmed down.

Isolated, ill and flinching from contact I turned to nature for solace: the big trees around the house, the stream at the bottom of the garden, and the birds.  Thus began my very gradual recovery.  At that time I had no concept of how long it would take - which was a another problem altogether.

Looking back I can see the threefold symptoms of burnout, chronic fatigue syndrome and acute stress disorder staring me full in the face.  I now also know that two instances of trauma experienced earlier in my life made me vulnerable to developing post-traumatic stress disorder.  But these insights came only gradually and not from any expected source.  If only I had stopped trying to keep things afloat earlier, as trying to push on regardless just made everything worse.  If only I had had adequate professional help.

I still can't properly understand why I was so devastated, other than in a mildly intellectual way.  In emotional terms I can't explain it - but there it was, and is!  I'm still attempting to find answers.   Sharing what I have learnt about the Wasteland experience is part of that quest - to see things more clearly.

It is also driven by a considerable amount of anger, that it was so difficult and that the people whose job it is to make these things easier, were for the most part conspicuously absent, or if present were seriously deficient in providing the sort of basic information and insight that I am setting out here.

When these sorts of crises and disasters happen in our own lives we feel sure we are alone, the only one, and that no one else could possibly understand, but in fact masses of people go through this sort of thing, and I hope that what I have learnt may be of some help to others.

To go to the next article click this link:
Wasteland companions 

2 comments:

Anna M. said...

Hello,
Thank you for this blog!
I am 25 and have not had such an extensive experience in New Age circles as you, butthe movement has had quite an influence over my life. In reality, there was not much more than my mother's involvement with some of the ideas back in my childhood (basically just New Age stuff literature in my house, and "clairvoyant", most likely self-proclaimed, friends of hers who would come over), but the inhuman, cold feel I got from those teachings and the whole concept of Englightenment (shiver...) became a huge trauma for me as I see it now.
Combined with my hunger for knowledge, innate spirituality and desire to find the right answers, I can see how this continued to influence me subconsciously. Having no father around was enough to struggle with developing a healthy ego, but, intuitive as I was, being introduced to this abstract love-and-light world at an early age made me see the real world as something meaningless, something to be overcome. Why bother living here, if our ultimate goal is to ascend?.. That cold hell that I experienced at the age of 8 stayed somewhere inside me, only to arise again at a period when I was struggling with my identity and physical weakness at 21, which coincidentally was 2012. A psychic I met told me many quite relevant things about myself, but among them was a piece of knowledge that I was meant to "bridge the 3rd and the 5th dimension", and I can see that this little distorted paradigm started undermining my life in quite astounding ways...

There were other factors and lots of struggles in my life already, but the dangerous mix of certain truths about my identity and not-so-credible New Age beliefs may have played a key role in my collapse. I should mention that involvement with "self-help" seeking to increase my productivity and have a shiny, abundant life which as you know "we all deserve" (tee-hee), Law of Attraction etc., was quite a big factor as well, as New Age ascension beliefs and self-help-abundance-manifestation often go hand in hand...

I will not go into details, but somehow I got myself into such an existential crisis that before long I was completely exhausted physically, was on the verge of split personality, had an eating disorder, OCD about having to do something to "heighten" myself all the time and use time productively, lost most ability to feel human emotions and be touched by things, self-harmed, had panic attacks and it was all accompanied by a permanent sense of dread and a grey depressive fog.

Like you, I was fortunate enough to have people who support me, and had a chance to devote my time to physical and mental recovery... it has been 1,5 years, and I am FINALLY STARTING to get back my sanity and a feeling of what being human and enjoying life means. Using Jung and other depth psychology and philosophy to reassess and analyse my life, I dug through lots and lots of inner garbage, and only two days ago discovered the role that the New Age paradigm played in my life, and the ways it continues to subconsciously influence me.
It was a relief to find out that there are other people who have had similar experiences. I will read through your blog to find my own ways to reassess this paradigm and prevent it from exerting such power over me...
It must have been really, really hard for you. Just a brief encounter with these teachings screwed my life big time in various ways, cannot begin to imagine what it would have been like to be immersed in the movement for 20 years. You are a brave and kind person for sharing this.

Sorry for the vent! I guess I needed to let out what I have been processing for these last couple of days...

Leigh Christina Russell said...

Hello Anna,
Thank you for your long letter. I am really sorry you've had such a rough time over such an extended period. I so recognise some of the mess you've been dealing with! I am glad that this article has provided a sense of companionship of sorts, and perhaps some of the others will also be useful.

As I've said elsewhere, being in touch with the natural world was and is a vital source of comfort and stability for me.

You are welcome to write again if you wish.
Very best wishes for your recovery and well-being,
Leigh.