A not so good anniversary

Yet another February has come and gone and once again I survived those 28 days which most take for granted.  Of those 28 days, February 2nd is the date which always brings with it the heightened potential for a  melancholy day.  It was this day back in 1999 that forever changed my life.  February 2, 1999 was the first of two events which caused the amplification of my Dependent Personality Disorder. 

A month into the new year, people were still celebrating in song with the words of Prince’s hit, “1999.”  But each February that passes, a part of me still remembers sitting in the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital as my mother took her final breath.  That was the evening of February 2nd.  Fresh from that moment, my wife of 4 years informed me that she considered herself a loner and wished to divorce me so that she could fully pursue a career as a cartoonist.  Not only that, she aslso confessed to me that she had never in love with me, but instead loved me more like a brother rather than spouse.  That a part of her motivation to marry me was to leave home where she was under the rule of a controlling father.

Those two events sent me into the depths of despair.  For one, my mother who had been my confidant and even my manager when I performed as a lead guitarist in a band was gone.  Secondly, the person that I married and thought would be there for years had admitted that she was ready to move one without me.  Not one, not two, but three people were leaving my life because I’d also had a young son with my then wife.  At the time, I had no idea that a diagnosis such as Dependent Personality Disorder existed.  But as I look back on that time, the course of events had caused me to fall harder than most, casting doubt and pessimism about my being able to go on my own way.  I had numerous friends offering words of encouragement, yet I was not in a place where I could believe them.  To add to the complexities, my soon-to-be ex-wife suggested that she and I still live together while she worked on her cartooning abilities.  Because of my Dependent Personality Disorder and my fear of aloneness, I agreed to this arrangement even though it meant being in the remnants of a marriage which had been devoid of love from its inception.  I simply could not stomach the thought of being alone in an empty place.  Even though I was the only source of income in working two jobs and also managing  the bills, I still doubted that I would be able to make it on my own.   Because while I did manage the money and bill paying, I did not do a good job of it because I wound up having to file chapter 7 bankruptcy as I was drowning in debt.  This was an extremely nerve wracking time in my life because to stay in this loveless situation defied all logic whatsoever.  And I was still feeling vulnerable while dealing with the recent loss of my mother.  Later the so-called marriage did disolve for good and ended in divorce.  And consistent with my history, I went straight into another relationship.    

For years, I could even feel the physical affects of recalling that vulnerable time in my life.  I could feel my muscles grow more tense, my pulse quicken in pace in response to the memories of those two events in February 1999.  Memories which were marked by my fear of being alone and ill-prepared to not only care for myself, but for my beautiful young son as well.  

Over the years, things have gotten easier with each coming and going of the month of February.  Fortunately more times than not February 2nd would have come and gone before I realized it.  I no longer dwell on the images of my mother’s spirit leaving her body in the hospital on February 2nd.  I have moved away from the feeling that the floor had dropped from beneath my feet when my then spouse informed me that she wanted to divorce.  The moments that I do recall that awful period in my life are much more fleeting than they were in recent past.  But because they still exist at all, it reminds me that I still have so much more growing to do.  

I know that I am not out of the woods in regards to the effects of my Dependent Personality Disorder.  Aside from the annual February memories, I still occasionally fall into the trap of pessimism.  The affects rise up each time my current wife and I disagree on something, which is always regarding my special needs son.  Each time, I ask if she is unhappy and if our marriage is damaged because of disagreement.  And each time she dismisses my fear by calling me silly and that I am dramatizing a situation.  But as anyone with Dependent Personality Disorder can attest, the feelings of insecurity don’t just disappear with the drop of a few positive affirmations or long stretches of journaling sessions.  The feelings of insecurity are deeply imbedded and it takes time, patience, and diligence for them to be tamed.  

I sincerely hope that I do not experience another set of events like what I experienced in February of 1999.  Ones that would require me to put in so much extra work to silence the haunting memories.  I’m also trying to reframe the month of February.  When those scary memories arise, I will try to also remind myself that eventually everything worked out okay.  I will put in the work that I need to do in order to further reframe the month of February as well as any other stimuli which makes me relive other moments of drowing in insecurities.  The tools that I need are all around me and within me as well.  My yoga mat, my meditation cushion, my journal, and my guitar are all very powerful tools at my disposal.  

I’m grateful for the advent of blogging as an avenue for my inclination to express through writing.  Through this medium, I am coming across more wonderful people who fully understand what it’s like to live with DPD.  People like  a young woman named Samantha who runs her own amazing blog, fingerprintsontheroof.wordpress.com  HOPE~Hold On Pain Ends.  She does a superb job on her blog.  Samantha, thank you for being so courageous in sharing your story in such honest and relatable ways.  You make me feel that maybe I’m not on the wrong planet after all.  That there are indeed others out there who can relate to me and my deeply embeddedd insecurities.  

As always, whether you have come across my page either intentionally or by accident, I thank you for the time you took out of your day.    

All my very best to each and every one of you!  

Carpe Diem

Relapsing is no fun!!!

And unlike my previous entries, this is my first post where I’m actually not celebrating a victory in my personal development work in regards to living with Dependent Personality Disorder.  Like anything else, this work is difficult and will be accompanied by occasional setbacks.  Dependent Personality Disorder is deeply ingrained and the rewiring process is intricate.  Tonight is an example of that truth as I revealed a setback in my growth.

I sat down with my classical guitar in hand to practice a beautiful Bach Prelude.  It’s a piece that has exquisite phrasings and something that I’d taken some gratification in learning some time ago.  But tonight as I sat down to play this amazing piece, my timing was off, my fingers uncoordinated, my phrasing completely out of synch.  Tonight the gratifying melodies which once rang from the sound hole of my classical guitar sounded catastrophic.

On the surface it may sound like I’m being particularly hard on myself.  But I am fully aware of how and why my musicianship has taken the major hit it’s taken.  It’s because of the relapse in my DPD, plan and simple.  In my frustration at my playing, my mind kept going back to me silencing my own choices when my wife would ask if I wanted to watch a movie or stream our favorite television shows on Hulu.  When given this choice, I silenced my own voice by agreeing to cuddling on the couch and chuckling at the humor or New Girl or the interesting story lines of This is Us.  My wife never demanded that we spend our time cuddling and watching over 2 hours on what my dad used to refer to as the one-eyed monster called the television.  I could have said that I would rather spend some time nurturing my guitar playing and then watch television together later.  But my choice was always to play it safe and spend the remainder of the night under a throw blanket with the colorful glow of the television filling the room around us instead of spending some time to indulge in the passion of guitar.

Why is this a relapse?  This is a recurring theme in my life.  In the 80’s, I had the pleasure of being an active participant in the entertainment industry as a lead guitarist.  And while I can look back on many things that warm my heart about that time, I also experience some regrets on not being the best musician I could have been.  I’d lost some jobs to other guitarists who were more dedicated, and thus more talented than me.  This was due to my constant tendency to skip the discipline of practice and opt for trying to earn the attention of whatever girl that I was in a relationship with at the time.  I sometimes think about the many opportunities that slipped by me because my playing had slipped as a result of that tendency.

Tonight I realized that I still have that same disease to please that I had years ago.  I have remnants of that same fear based decision making to forego things that are life-giving to me because I do not want to chance losing the security of a relationship.  Tonight I also experienced a call to action as well.  To examine this tendency and make attempt to replace it with a sense of trust and authenticity.  Trust that my wife will respect my decision to devote some time to doing something that I love – the art of guitar playing whether it be classical or rock.  That she would not only respect that decision, but she will love me anyway.  Because of tonight’s frustrating moment when my guitar playing had shown the adverse affects of not practicing, I will remind myself that taking the time to do something that I love is not a selfish thing.  That I can nurture my guitar abilities and still be a loving and attentive spouse, father, friend, etc.  The two are not mutually exclusive.  In theory, by nurturing my musicianship, maybe, just maybe it will make me an even better spouse, father, friend, etc.  My ultimate challenge now is to move from theory to practice.  I will now choose to do so.

So for now, I will sign off, close the lid of this computer and retake my place on the chair with my classical guitar to take another run at that Bach Prelude.  Tonight it will be Bach’s Prelude, tomorrow it may be playing a Stevie Ray Vaughn lick.  Whatever genre the mood finds me in, I will try to keep tonight’s lesson in mind.

Well, I’m off to work through my stumbles and attempt to make some beautiful music!

Until next time, may you be overwhelmed with waves of awe inspiring and life giving moments!

Carpe Diem,

Jay

Immersed in redfining aloneness – literally!

I’m not a huge one to attempt fitting experiences into cliched one-liners – i.e. “whatever doesn’t kill me will make me stronger” or the one I find most offensive, “God doesn’t give us more than we can take.”  But I have found myself going to one saying to describe an event which occurred just three days ago. The term blessing in disguise seemed to leap to the forefront in response to an uncomfortable situation that I found myself in on Tuesday morning.   

As I was lifting a mattress to help my son locate his lost cell phone, I suddenly found it easier to relate to those who’ve experienced the discomfort of a back injury.  That simple act strained my lat muscle on the left side and rendered me useless for the day.  The excruciating pain inhibited me from driving, lifting, or doing much for myself in general.  I responded by attempting to stretch the muscle by lying down across the Swiss exercise ball, popping the Advil, and applying heat packs to the injured muscle.   Having acquired a good knowledge base on the mind/body/spirit connection through my yoga practice has served me well on a number of occasions, this one being one.  This awareness of enabled me to take the much needed time to engage in methods to heal my muscle tissue.  
The next day  my back felt 85% better, and yet I was intent on being gentle with my body and not put it through the rigors of a workout, particularly the daily pull ups that I enjoyed performing at the fitness center.  Instead of hopping on the spin bike or climbing up to the pullup bar, I opted for something that would send more blood flow to the injured area to increase healing – that took the form of the hot tub at the fitness club.    
I’m very fortunate to belong to a wonderful fitness center which includes a great pool for lap swimming, but also a huge hot tub.  This hot tub is located directly in front of a bank of floor-to-ceiling windows which overlooks a forest preserve.  As one sits enjoying the soothing warmth and massaging jets of the hot tub, they are also gifted with a breathtaking view of the sky, lush greenery, and an occasional wildlife sighting.  
Why is this experience worthy of a blog entry?  It is because this particular visit to the fitness center’s hot tub was one in which I could see as an opportunity to grow in the area of embracing aloneness. It wasn’t uncommon for my wife to join me at the hot tub on family nights there.  We enjoyed leaning back allowing the bubbling water to envelop us in warmth, and take in the visual feast through the large bank of windows.  Quite frankly I’d reached a point where I was unable to think of the relaxing hot tub without also thinking of my wife there with me.  On my normal workout days, I was never intrigued about the hot tub because I would feel guilty that my wife was not also there to join me.  It wasn’t that she would not have approved as she would often ask me why I had not used the hot tub on a regular basis.  My standard reply to her was that there simply wasn’t enough time.  The only other times that I did sit in this wondrous hot tub, I was typically surrounded by elderly women there to savor its warmth and therapeutic qualities.  
Last night, as I sank down into the bubbling warm water overlooking the lush greenery, I also settled into something that was foreign and a bit nerve wracking – I was completely alone. Initially I could feel the usual physical responses to finding myself in this position.  I could feel the uneasiness, the increase in my breath rate, and my vision turning toward the bright glow of the exit sign in the distance.  The fight-flight response had kicked into full gear in response to the empty space around me.    I mustered up the wherewithal to remind myself why I had ventured to the hot tub in the first place – to promote healing to my injured latissimus dorsi muscle.  Initially I  was unaware that the current situation that I found myself in would prove to be an opportunity to heal another part of my being and promote personal development.  I immersed myself chin deep in the soothing water and felt noticed that my body immediately responded by relaxing deeply.  The bubbling water encircled me taking me to a place of total peace.  I closed my eyes and savored the warmth and the subtle brook-like sounds which engulfed me.  Another feeling came over me which was equally as foreign as the aloneness that I’d found myself in – a feeling of contentment as well as an absence of guilt.  I enjoyed looking out at the pastel sky over the tall trees and their buds waiting to burst forth weeks from now during the approaching spring season.  I was completely alone and actually enjoying it.  There was a brief part of me that felt compelled to limit my hot tub time and rush to get home.  But then I countered that with sinking deeper into the soothing heat.  
To many, the scene that I just described would be written off as nothing more than a simple trip to a hot tub.  That the reflection which I just shared was simply an instance of me overthinking this otherwise simple indulgence.  My fellow DPD cojourners, however, may somehow find this response to aloneness to be a relatable experience.  For me this was a step towards reframing what it means to experience time alone.  That I should not feel guilty for taking time to engage in self-care.  To that end, to no longer equate self-care with selfishness.  
I will fully admit that I still have a long way to go in regards to my personal development and struggles with insecurities.  But stepping down on those short ceramic covered stairs into the soothing warmth of that hot tub was conversely a step up toward finding comfort, peace, and restoration in solitude.  I am holding out high hopes that I will eventually feel secure with my innate, yet dormant qualities to make life giving choices which will reveal and nurture my most authentic self.  It is indeed a journey to be continued.  I will certainly chronicle it here within the pages of this blog, and hopefully pen many books on the topic of living and growing with the reality of having Dependent Personality Disorder

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Until next time, may each and everyone who’ve taken the time to read my ramblings experience the most beautiful days imaginable.

Jay  

It’s just overkill!

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“I can’t get to sleep

I think about the implications

Of diving in too deep

And possibly the complications

Especially at night

I worry over situations

I know will be alright

Perhaps it’s just imagination”

  • Excerpt from the song Overkill, written and performed by Colin Hay of Men At Work

It’s Sunday, February 19, 2017 as I perch myself on a comfy couch chair in front of the wide windows in my living room to write this blog.  Though it’s the dead of winter in Illinois, the sun is shining brilliantly and I can even feel the warmth of its rays as it bathes me in its glow.  It’s unseasonably warm, the mercury expected to climb up to 64 degrees today.  It’s a wonderful way to wake up after a night of being enveloped in a peaceful rest.   A restful night of uneventful sleep is something which can sometimes not be an easy goal for me to reach.  This is in large part due to my tendency to perseverate on issues regarding the future.  Having DPD can often times amplify the worries which inhibit me from enjoying the restorative effects of REM sleep.  But this morning a gift came to me in the form of a melody which began to play via my Pandora app as I was making smoothies for my wife and I.

Most people who know me are fully aware that I’m a huge fan of the 80’s.  I love revisiting that time period through movies such as the classic Breakfast Club and my all-time favorite, Back to the Future.  And people also know that music has always been a huge part of my life.  In particular, the music of the 80’s continue to feel like a faithful old friend’s arms wrapping around my shoulder each time I hear it.  It’s such a mood lifter to tap into the Pandora app on my smartphone and savor the music of my favorite decade. Even at the fitness center where I frequent, it never fails to provide me with the motivation, rhythm, and fun to sweat it out on full throttle for 30 plus minutes.  The sounds of those multi-layered synthesizers, the electronic drums, melodic bass lines, and whimsical backdrops behind the cheery vocals always bring me back to the decade in which I reached young adulthood.

While savoring those familiar melodies and all of the visual images that crystallized in my mind of spike belts, sequins, and bouffant hair, one song in particular struck a rather profound chord in me.  The song Overkill, written by Colin Hay (pictured above) and recorded by he and his band, Men at Work seemed to speak to directly to me.  As I was assembling the ingredients for our smoothies, the lyrics to Overkill made me pause to take notice of my constant tendency to perseverate on issues, encounters, and variables in my life.  These issues and encounters all had a common theme.  They were typically things that made me question my self-worth, my decisions, and if I would ever be worthy of capturing and holding someone’s attention long enough to feel secure.  Because of those nagging thoughts of insecurity, I would experience many nights lying in bed praying to be able to sleep.  I desperately longed for a night of uninterrupted, restful sleep so that I could feel refreshed the next day.  But the peaceful, restorative sleep that I so desperately needed would be invaded by waves of my own insecurities.  Would I be enough to maintain a loving relationship?  Did I have the wherewithal to effectively manage finances and keep a roof over my head?  Would I be likable enough to have friends or would I be lonely, unloved, and unwanted?  What would happen to me if my parents and siblings were to precede me in death?  These oppressive thoughts and more like them would overwhelm me so much that I would head out to work with dark circles under my eyes because of sleep deprivation.  I was a total mess.

I still managed to discover moments where I truly saw life as a gift, however.  I found the beach to be a soothing place which could wash away worries if only for a short time.  I continued to explore my natural draw to the art of guitar playing.  And stepping onto the yoga mat was also a place where my body felt the refreshment of much needed love and care that I was taking the time to provide through Asana practice and breath work.  And of course, music as always was a total refuge for me.  To delve into the songs of the 80’s always took me back to the days of rushing home to plant myself in front of the television in time for Friday Night Videos at 10:30pm Central Standard Time. The cheery, upbeat tunes always have and always will weave a tapestry of joy and enfold me in that warmth of familiarity and it’s just plain fun.

I still find ways to combat those old thoughts that nag me from time to time.  Thoughts that question my abilities to make and maintain a quality life with loving, nurturing relationships.  Worries about my organizational and prioritizing skills needed to maintain my affairs and ensure that I and those that I love would be financially secure in the future.  I still counter those thoughts with daily affirmations, with exercise, yoga, and the art of guitar playing.  I’ve learned to utilize particular breath manipulation techniques to aid in sleep when negative thoughts would otherwise keep me staring up into the darkness of my bedroom in defeat and pessimism.  And yes, I continue to find absolute joy in the music of the 80’s.  Music that not only takes me back to those carefree days of religiously watching Friday Night Videos, but also songs such as Overkill, which invite me look at those nagging thoughts from a different perspective.  A perspective which inspires me to take my power back by merely observing those thoughts as they come and go like simply watching a leaf fall to the ground.  Nothing more, nothing less.  For someone like me living with Dependent Personality Disorder, the song Overkill became more than just a gorgeous song highlighting an amazingly gifted singer/songwriter in Colin Hay.  It invited me to take a step back, breathe, and to make attempts at letting the air seep out of the many worries which prevented me from enjoying life to the utmost.

I am always amazed at the power that the medium of music has on me in comparison to other forms of media.  For years, I’d recite the Serenity Prayer repeatedly in order to find some refuge from thoughts related to my bouts with self-esteem and insecurity.  I recited it so often that  it even became somewhat of a mantra.  In fact,  I’d learned actual mantras from ancient Sanskrit to obtain peace and liberation, yet it could not reach me on the same level in comparison to the lyrics of a simple pop song.  I will not minimize the transformative power that the Serenity Prayer and ancient mantras have had for countless people struggling with far worse things that I have.  But for me, that simple, but catchy pop tune spoke to me in ways that the Serenity Prayer and thousands of Om Shanti recitations could not.

If by some colossal miracle, this blog entry should somehow make its way onto Mr. Colin Hay’s computer screen, I want him to know that his song Overkill continues to make a difference in my life.  I want him to realize that his song continues to invite me to break the chains binding me to fruitless worries link by link.  Because of that, the song Overkill’s  value far supersedes the majestic place that it once held on the Billboard charts in 1983 when I was a mere 19 years old.

I know that my struggles with Dependent Personality Disorder is one that will inevitably bring with it more bouts of worries concerning my worthiness to be loved unconditionally or my abilities to govern business affairs.  I know that I will still encounter occasional moments of floundering in the crashing waves of self-doubt and insecurity.  But I will do the absolute best that I can to constantly remind myself that it’s all just overkill.   That within me lies a dormant universal substance waiting to flow forth and lift me high above any challenge that I may face.  Some days my access to that universal substance is better than others. But I always need to remind myself that it is there.

There have been many past instances in which I’ve  made decisions which did not result in successful outcomes.  Because of my insecurities, I’d remained in relationships far longer than I should have and thus drained a lot of time from my young adult years.  I admit that I sometimes grieve for that lost time wishing that I could turn back the clock and muster up the courage to make different choices.  But then I realize that if I can only weather the storm of regretful thoughts regarding my past, I will realize that just as sure as those thoughts appear, they will also fade away.  And I will do my very best to keep Colin Hay’s sentiments fresh in my mind when those thoughts come back another day.  Because at the end of the day, it’s just overkill.

So that’s my blog entry for this bright sunny morning.  And now, I’ll shut my computer down, roll out my yoga mat for an invigorating session, and then try to live today in a mindful celebration of each moment.  To each and every person who took the time to read my blog, my hope for you is that you’ll have success in allowing those ghost thoughts to appear and fade away.  And I wish for you the gift of an awe-filled day, peaceful night, and a most joyous tomorrow!

Best regards,

Jay