The Gift of a Wound

In some way, we have all been wounded. Previously, I used the analogy of a snake bite to illustrate the experience of being wounded as well as the healing process. Today, I want to talk about the “original wound”. We all have one. There are no exceptions. It is typically marked by the first salient experience we have of grief, sorrow, pain, suffering, neglect, or abuse. The original wound sparks our initial understanding that the world is filled with more than just the magic, wonder and innocence of childhood. It whispers to us that there is also suffering and, while we may come to understand this in a painfully sharp instant or aching slowly over time, it changes us and we are never the same. There is no way to avoid this, it is simply a part of life.

For most of us, the original wound sculpts the course of the rest of our lives. Inside that wound is a painful truth, one that we often avoid facing at all costs. Many people are so subconsciously preoccupied with avoiding this truth that they will find ways to create secondary and tertiary wounds to serve as a distraction from the root of their suffering and fear. Living life this way, things external to us change, we run the rat race, but we are never quite the people we want to be or living the lives we desire. The secret that we don’t learn until some paradigm-shifting crisis rocks our world is that the original wound contains a lesson that we need to learn in order to grow into ourselves as individuals. Once we learn this lesson, we find that hidden in our wound all along was a gift.

In The Night That I Died, I spoke about the culmination of a most difficult period in my life. I had struggled with mental illness since I was 14 years of age (I am now 28), was an addict who had been using heavily for 2 years, and had thoroughly sabotaged all the good relationships and opportunities that life had previously presented to me. I’d hit rock bottom. In the darkness and distress of that experience, I was faced with my original wound. With nothing left to lose, I entered that wound, finding inside the contents of my worst fears and insecurities. After spending some time sitting in my internal night the lesson that had been hidden there began to glimmer. What followed was a series of revelations and epiphanies and within a 24 hour period I felt like a new person. I walked away from drugs completely, no longer qualify for the diagnoses that had plagued me, and brick by brick, I began to reconstruct my life. But, that was not the end of what my wound had to offer.

Shortly after this “by the grace of God” event of spontaneous recovery, I noticed something strange. At seemingly random moments, my hands would start to feel an odd sort of activation. First, there came intense heat, as if there was an internal heat source that radiated an unnatural warmth. Eventually, the heat progressed into vibrations, like my hands were shaking at an incredibly high speed. Together, these two sensations made them feel like they had become less solid than and had expanded into space. Understandably, I thought that these bizarre sensory disturbances were a result of my long-term drug use and that they might disappear over time. Nope!

Over time, I discovered that I could alter the quality of the sensations using breath control. What followed was a series of experiments in which I used my breath to make it increase, decrease, and flow to different areas of my body. One day, I decided to tell a friend of mine who I knew wouldn’t write me off as “crazy” or immediately attribute it to my past drug use. I explained what was happening, asked if I could try something, placed my hands on the crown of his head, and began to focus my breath. What I suspected would happen did; he felt the heat coming from my hands! Feeling a bit more confident, my experiments graduated to human trials. One by one, I sought out other friends to serve as volunteers, trying different areas of the body, doing full body sessions, and in each case I got increasingly positive feedback. People were reporting heat, vibrations, vivid mental imagery, visions, colors, one person even had an out of body experience. It was one person who finally brought the answer I had been searching for to my attention: Reiki. I was doing Reiki and this realization culminated in my formal training.

Having found the desperate courage to go into my wound and find the lesson buried there, I finally began to heal. When I integrated the understanding and wisdom from that lesson into my life, my unique gift began to emerge. As I said in the beginning, we each have a wound but that also means that we each have a gift. It could be anything: singing, dancing, academics, writing, crunching numbers, building or fixing things, being an exceptional homemaker, everything and anything under the sun. In my case, it was Reiki and a newfound connection to Spirit. Instead of perceiving our gift as some sort of “special ability” and thus running the risk of comparing them against one another, I prefer to look at it a different way. All gifts are created equal because they all serve the same purpose. After going through the trials of confronting our wound and the terrifying contents inside, the things we have avoided our whole lives, we are rewarded with the shocking discovery of our own personal power in the form of some sort of talent. Beneath the sleeping dragon lies the gold. Once we slay the dragon and take back the treasure that was always rightfully ours, we begin to grow into the power to shape ourselves, our lives, and the world around us instead of just letting the world shape us. Then, anything becomes possible.

The Night That I Died

I remember that it was snowing and nighttime. I had gone several days without sleep or food, had a black eye, and was strung out on crystal meth. I had lost my job, had no money, lived with a drug dealer, couldn’t pay rent, and was about to lose my vehicle to repossession. As I got into my car I had the intention of somehow convincing the man I loved that he should still be with me despite the fact that we had broken. We were meeting at a coffee shop under the premise that I needed closure. I was hoping for reconciliation.

When I met him there, I don’t really remember what I said. I don’t recall much of what he said back. The only thing about that conversation that remains perfectly clear in my mind was looking deep into his eyes as he told me there was no longer a single drop of love for me left in him. To this very day, the image of his face as he said that is one of my most vivid memories. I tried to look deeper to see if it was true; I found only disgust. Then, the doorbell went off as a man walked in and ordered a coffee. I knew it was the guy he was newly seeing, who had driven him there. I left.

I got into my car and began the 15 minute drive home. As I turned onto the highway, I felt something inside of me break. Then came the howling. Rage. Anguish. Sorrow. Hopelessness. It all came pouring out of me until I could feel the shattered pieces of my soul splintering themselves and turning into nothing more than dust. Tears streamed down my face and I could barely see. I couldn’t stop screaming. I don’t remember anything about the drive home besides the sound and the pain. At some point, I was back home sitting in the parking lot and there were no more tears to cry. My body was probably so dehydrated that it could no longer spare the moisture. Then, silence. Still gripping my steering wheel hard enough to choke the life out of something, I listened to the snow layering softly onto the outside of my car and floated in the vast chasm that had just opened up inside of me. There was nothing. I had nothing. I knew nothing. I felt nothing. I was nothing.

I was dead, metaphorically speaking. Despite the fact that I am now writing about it, there are no words that can describe what this experience was like. I had gone through pain, suffering, and loss before but this was something totally different. I had died. The person I had been was no more. I remained an empty shell full of the deepest and most profound darkness I have ever known. There were no more feelings. There were few coherent thoughts. I later learned that philosophers refer to such an event as “the dark night of the soul”. This was my darkest night.

The redeeming thing about moments like that, when you have hit rock bottom and the very last threads that secured you to the sorry life you were living have violently snapped, is that you have a rare opportunity for resurrection. Experiencing this was almost like being locked in a shadowy room with nothing but myself and a mirror. In the following days and weeks, there was no one for me to project blame for my state of affairs onto except the image that I saw in the mirror…but…that was me. It was my fault. I was living the life I had created for myself. Every decision that I made, for better or worse (and most of them were for the worse), led me to that soul-shattering moment.

I came to understand that the only way out of that dark room was to accept that no one was coming to save me and then to take full responsibility for the life I had lived. As soon as I did that it’s as if an illuminated opening the shape of a person appeared. The problem was that the shape of that person was not the shape of the person that I had been. I had two choices: I could either stay in that room in stubborn denial and face lasting madness and eventual death or I could change myself to fit through that opening. In order to fit through, I had to think differently, see differently, hear, walk, talk, live differently. There could be no half measures. There were no corners that could be cut and no more short cuts to be taken. There was nothing left for me to lose but my life and I wanted to live. At that point, I had finally discovered something that was more powerful than the hold my wounds had over me: love. It was real, I had felt it, and I had to live for it. So, I changed. I made it through the exit that appeared and…here I am.

 

The Spider

One night, I came home after working a closing shift, walked into my bathroom, and when I turned on the light I noticed that something wasn’t quite right. Rather, there was a new addition to my little bathroom. Sitting on the wall, at about eye level, was a GIANT wolf spider. For those of you who are unfamiliar, wolf spiders are a common sight across North America and some of them can grow quite large and hairy (hence the name wolf). This was one such spider…here…for your viewing pleasure!

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I stared at my new roommate and thought, Well…good evening. It’s nice to meet you but you simply cannot stay. My sincerest apologies. Now, most people probably would have grabbed a magazine, shoe, or some other close at hand object to promptly (and messily) deal with the intruder but, truthfully, I don’t like killing things. So, I grabbed a glass, sheet of paper, and carefully captured the eight-legged trespasser. I released her outside of my window and then called it a night. Mission accomplished! I fell asleep peacefully with the knowledge that my apartment was pest free!

The next night I came home again after closing, walked into my bathroom, turned on the light and…SON OF A BITCH! There she is again, right on my wall! YES, IT WAS THE SAME SPIDER! Rather annoyed, yet, somewhat impressed by the spider’s tenacity and affinity to my bathroom, I recaptured her but this time, instead of putting her out the window I decided to be more of a gentleman and walk her out the front door and small distance down the sidewalk. I then went through my nightly routine and climbed into bed. As I fell asleep, the sneaking suspicion fell upon me that I had not seen the last of the Itsy Bitsy Spider.

On the third night, I came home and guess who was waiting for me!? You got it! There was Shelob again, only this time she was sitting in the most inaccessible corner of the bathroom, perhaps in an effort to maintain residence in her newfound real estate and evade capture. I stared blankly at her. She stared right back. A few minutes went by. Finally, I had to concede that I had met my match and some sort of negotiation was in order.

Ok, Spider…I shall provide you with lodging and hunting ground and not interfere with your business as long as you do not crawl on me, bite me, or lay eggs in my ear. Agreed?

She did’t stir.

Wonderful, I shall take your silence as agreement. Goodnight. 

I went to bed, uncertain of whether or not the new resident would respect our treaty but knowing that, next to turning her into a pancake, I had done all I could. I never saw the spider again.

 

An Ode to a Shattered Pyrex

As much as I like to see myself as an intelligent, wise, and common-sense-filled individual, there sometimes occurs a moment that reminds me that I am, in fact, NOT the brightest crayon in the box. One night, after having arrived home from work, I decided that I wanted a few cups of a lovely Chinese green tea I have squirreled away in my cupboard. I quickly realized that my electric kettle was out of commission and any pots that I might have heated water in were in the sink dirty. Remembering that I had a nice pyrex measuring cup, I swiftly determined that tea needed to be made faster than dishes could be done so I set about heating water in the measuring cup on a stove burner.

Up until this point, nothing seemed off; I had come up with, what I thought was, a perfectly sound idea. After all, I had plenty of experience demonstrating that pyrex holds up very well under heat changes. After a few minutes, my water was just right, and I pulled the measuring cup off of the burner and set it on the stove surface. I then walked out of the kitchen and was no more than a few feet into my bedroom when I heard a tremendous shatter. Turning around, to my utter astonishment and incredulity, I could see that my measuring cup had shattered into more pieces than I could count and there was steaming water all over the stove and much of my kitchen. I only then realized that it was cold in my apartment, the heat hadn’t kicked in yet, and I set a VERY hot piece of glass down onto a VERY cold metal surface. TA-DA! I’m out a measuring cup.

Defeated, embarrassed, and sore over the loss of my beautiful pyrex cup, I proceeded to clean up the mess. After, I finally washed my pots and was able to heat water for my tea sans exploding glass. As my tea was brewing, I couldn’t get the incident out of my head not because of my idiocy (though on that eve it was indeed remarkable) but, instead, for another reason: the shattering glass made me think of trauma. We have all been through some form of trauma; some of us have experienced it far worse than others. Like glass shatters, trauma, be it physical, emotional, or psychological, shatters the human mind and soul. If you have ever been in a relationship with someone who has survived trauma, you know how difficult it can be; sometimes, it may seem downright impossible. The challenges in such relationships often arise from the long-standing behavioral patters, self-defense mechanisms, and habits that arose as coping mechanisms in those who have suffered abuse. Getting the message across that “the danger is over, you are safe now” is no easy task.

Dismay aside, the loss of my measuring cup served a greater purpose. A simple refresher in thermodynamics and basic physics shed some light on a situation I had been struggling with for some time. As I was turning these thoughts over in my head, I remembered something someone very dear to me once said: “You’d be surprised what you can get used to”. Suddenly, it occurred to me that the bottom line was: the glass shattered because it went through a shock i.e. rapid temperature change. I can’t imagine that the human mind is much different; trauma is a shock to the system and, when intense and prolonged, the mind becomes damaged. Now, suppose that, after years of consist abuse in one form or another, the trauma has passed and suddenly the survivor is placed in an intensely positive and loving environment. Why should the reaction be any less violent and destructive? When you “get used to” abuse as a part of daily living, it becomes the norm and I would imagine it affects you less and less on a functionally conscious level. Attempting to place myself in the shoes of a trauma survivor, if my environment suddenly changes to the opposite of abusive it seems to me that I might finally see just how bad things truly were and even though the danger has passed that all too swift realization might be trauma in and of itself.

The take home lesson is that rapidly changing anything one from extreme to the other is ill advised and can cause destruction that is completely independent of our projections of “good vs. bad” or “desirable vs. undesirable”. Had I left my measuring cup on the burner to cool a while before changing its environment, something tells me it would still be in one piece. I am glad it is not though. It turns out, I needed to have an idiotic moment in order to gain insight into something I had myself been struggling with. In closing, I am once again reminded to be kind, patient, compassionate, forgiving…and that its time to give in and buy a damned kettle.

The Choice to Heal

Most of my teenage and adult life has been spent struggling with mental illness and substance abuse and, without it ever being my intention to hurt those around me, I significantly damaged or destroyed virtually every relationship I tried to engage in. Needless to say, genuine intimacy was not one of my strong suits, though, it was something I sincerely longed for. After years of ineffective therapy and medication regimens, I was finally diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) at the age of 22.

BPD is a mental illness that affects a person’s sense of self, interpersonal skills, emotional regulation, and most importantly, their ability to have meaningful and healthy relationships. Being with someone with BPD is often described as psychologically, emotionally, physically, and spiritually draining. After destroying multiple attempts at long-term relationships, I developed an addiction to crystal methamphetamine. The meth addiction only added fuel to the fire of my already problematic sex addiction. Most of my relationships were characterized by constant lying to cover up my rampant infidelity. I didn’t value myself, my partners and, though I desired to be in a healthy relationship, I had lost all hope of ever achieving real intimacy. I was caught in a swift downward spiral. Then, I met someone very special. I now know that this encounter was the catalyst that saved my life.

I knew something was markedly different about him but it took me time before I could put words to it. I eventually came to understand that this individual represented the first miracle I had ever witnessed. Over time, I learned and realized that he had been through more suffering throughout his life than anyone I had ever met. He had endured and survived truly horrible things, many of which can only be described as torture. Despite all the pain that was dealt to him, against all odds, he preserved the ability to love and, for some reason unknown to me at the time, he began to give that love to me. I was not good to him at first. I lied; I cheated; and I was selfish just as I had been in every other relationship. But through his willingness to try to understand me and see the underlying good despite all he had been through himself, I fell deeply in love with him. I knew that if I did not change, I would lose him completely. I had to heal.

I now believe that healing is a choice, a choice that has to be made repeatedly, whenever needed, with purpose, energy, and conviction. It was witnessing the raw power of the human heart to endure and to love, embodied in my partner, that finally gave me the courage to make that choice. Along the way, I have come to my own understanding of the term ‘soulmate’. Many people see a soulmate as someone who you connect with on a deep level, who understands you, and loves you unconditionally. I can’t argue with any of that but I’d like to offer an expansion to the typical definition. To me, a soulmate is someone who comes into your life and lovingly rips you to pieces. It is a painful process and after it is over the real work begins. You can either refuse to take a hard look at the person you have allowed yourself to be or you can realize that you could become so much more than what you were. Then begins the slow, deliberate process of resurrection.

To this day, I often wonder if it was yet another miracle that he staid by my side. It was a long and frustrating struggle before I began to remotely resemble the person I wanted to be or the partner he deserved. I like to think that he saw something in me that he believed in. Today, I no longer qualify for the diagnosis that plagued me for so long and I have been drug free for nearly a year. I have my own apartment, a job I love, great friends, and have reconnected with my family. Best of all, I still have him. Our relationship may never be easy but I am so very grateful for the small yet profound intimacies he and I share that many people take for granted. I feel incredibly fortunate to be loved by someone who has all the reason in the world to not love and yet found it in himself to love me. In the end, it wasn’t worried friends, a loving family, or a dedicated therapist that taught me the value of intimacy; it was an extraordinary individual whose life has been largely devoid of genuine unconditional love and affection. I thank the universe every single day that I met him and I now know that the human heart has no bottom. Let our story be a message to others: light can be found in even the darkest of places. As long as you follow a path of love, healing is always possible.