Finding Purpose and Vitality After Enduring Systemic Insult
▶ David Crosby – Dangerous Night (Special) – YouTube
“Getting Beyond” consists of a hopefully-well-integrated series that totals over 200 pages but which is broken up for better digestion in the following manner: This is the main body of 45 pages with small inserts in pdf format. It is dominantly my experience, thus deeply personal. It is followed by two sections of quoted excerpts from two books: “Deep Survival” and “Surviving Survival”, with two intervening and following sections on Tavistock, and on Porges’ polyvagal theory, the first short, the second one long. Links and videos are embedded throughout. These will be posted at
The final section is called “Alignment of Purpose”, which will follow in six hours here:
source of image: http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/12/getting-beyond-the-narcissismadvertising-complex/
Preface and Acknowledgement Laurence Gonzalez is a journalist recognized for his insights into the mind under duress that are “accurate, accessible, up-to-date and insightful”. The very first story in his book I’ve credited online with helping save my life is about the mental and emotional glidepath markers of landing a Navy combat airplane on the pitching decks of an aircraft carrier at night. I trust that this distinguished author will understand why I have excerpted more than is usual and customary for a review in an attempt to get you the reader to go out and buy the books, read them, and apply them to your own life. The second book, the impetus for this piece, has been called a “realistic,and accessible self-help book on the potential of growth from suffering” and “an education for those wishing to be of use in a stressful, often frightening world”.
I’ve been suggesting that people buy and read books to learn more about how their mind/body/spirit unit works for two decades now. Gonzalez will then hopefully appreciate the line from that graceful old powerhouse of an intellect I met at the very end of her career — retired Admiral Grace Hopper — who said, clutching her handful of nanoseconds, “It’s easier to apologize than it is to ask permission”. I’ve taken great liberties with his work without expressed permission, but it is laden with such insight and understanding that I make no apologies.
I must acknowledge “my funny valentine”. We’d been through some difficult back country, and we’re still hiking. There are bears on the trail, and wildcats, but she’s a trauma nurse and knows something about survival herself. I met her almost 40 years ago a few days before Valentine’s Day; she forgave me, and love still abounds. ▶ Pat Metheny Trio & Nils Landgren “My funny Valentine” – YouTube
I acknowledge as well the small army of medical professionals with whom I have worked through the spectrum of discovery, testing, coordination, action, trial, error, support, rehabilitation, release, and follow-up. There are too many of them to be named, but they include cardiologists, experts in electrophysiology at three tiers, physical and occupational therapists, dozens of nurses, and Gene the equipment man, a pastor and jazz afficianado.
I acknowledge “Gabriel”, without whose care, attention and love I would probably be dead, or broken. I offered to re-pay the $15K she coughed up to cover my expenses at a time when I had nothing.
She told me to “pay it forward”.
This is one of the payments.
The calligraphic art used as textual separators are the Chinese symbols for resilience.
I received an e-mail a few months ago from an author; it arrived out of the blue. But it was properly titled so I’d open it and it came from a name I recognized immediately: Laurence Gonzalez. I’d written to him a long time ago. I’d read his book Deep Survival years back and, after some reflection and recovery, credited him, in a review at Amazon [ Permalink ] and in direct correspondence to him, with having assisted me in my own survival. In the e-mail, he thanked me again and told me about his new book “Surviving Survival: The Art and Science of Resilience”. I bought it immediately. There ought to be a copy of these two books -– dog-eared, highlighted -–with accompanying materials -– in every high school guidance counselor’s office, three or four copies in the executive suites of every insurance company, one each in every hospital medical library and medical staff break room, and certainly one in every mental health, social and other counselor’s offices. I’’ll be buying a copy of the new book he’s sending to press now for publication in July :
I’d already given copies of “Deep Survival” to both my adult children and to my wife. I had to search around for my own copy… I’d already “let it go”, having mined it, having added it to my Bibliography pdf of performance psychology titles. But I knew instantly there was still something to be learned from this fellow (I’ve already invited him to dinner if he ever comes my way).
And I suspected strongly and correctly that what he had to teach me was also applicable to those of us who still harbor the occasional moments of melancholy, depression, despair, etc., having suffered through the purposeful repeated traumatization of 9/11 and its related sequelae.
“The collapse of a Tower in a dream can represent a severe psychological break.”
Aangirfan: CONTROLLING YOU THROUGH SYMBOLS
Frank Culbertson was aboard the International Space Station that morning and shot footage of the attack. The next day, he wrote a letter and said “Other than the emotional impact of our country being attacked and thousands of our citizens and maybe some friends being killed, the most overwhelming feeling being where I am is one of isolation.” “But as the September 11 attacks turned into the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, a number of researchers at universities across the US have warned that media consumers who repeatedly expose themselves to such gruesome images could be putting themselves at risk of psychological damage.
Roxanne Cohen Silver, a professor of psychology and social behavior at UC Irvine, said that people who spent four hours or more soaking up 9/11 or Iraq War coverage were more likely to experience acute stress.
“The results suggest that exposure to graphic media images may be an important mechanism through which the impact of collective trauma is dispersed widely,” Silver said, as quoted by the university’s website. “Our findings are both relevant and timely as vivid images reach larger audiences than ever before through YouTube, social media and smartphones.”
“Don’t feed your amygdala any scary raw data.”
[Page 241, Surviving Survival]
Some of the people I know of or read on the Internet are more closely attuned or connected to the degradations of the neo-conservative-Zionist-US war of terror against the peoples in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Syria, the Balkans, and perhaps elsewhere. Some are the victims of those warsszs, and some are the warriors. Surviving Survival has a great story of one warrior, the one who crossed a bridge. I’ll use the great big lump of 9/11 as a metaphor, since that event was used as the precursor and progenitor of so much about which we despair, including the degradation of the political processes and the Constitution. Equally, the civilian victims and the soldiers whose boots were on the ground have had to re-build their lives and their bodies, and in some cases their minds and their souls. And at least a few people have recognized the short-term and long-term genesis of the war of terror: the political and psychological leanings of Freud, Bernays and others that have emanated out of the Tavistock Institute. “Ah, conspiracy theories” comes the echo, but more than a few people have spent the time and done the research and the reading. Personally, I became a full-fledged information warrior sometime back in 2004, after the discussion board that grew out of John Kerry’s campaign morphed into a free, open and not-so-disconnected discussion board that had thousands of active members, dozens of sayanim and trolls, and a few moderators with subtly-hidden agendas. By the time the discussion board was closed because most people had left behind the nasty battles, I was ranked among the top 20 contributors and had become one of the leading people to openly question “the official story.” This naturally made me a target, and I re-traumatized myself again and again watching videos, reading articles, etc. And I did some “post-graduate research” in which I was — all at the same time — a goat, a hero, a victim. [Steven Pressfield speaks of the triad of interacting selves as
“victim, perpetrator, rescuer”: http://www.stevenpressfield.com/2014/04/the-victim-the-perpetrator-and-the-rescuer/;
I’ve been oriented to “rescue” for most of my adult life and was given the derogatory appellation of “Mr. Band-Aid” by someone I tried to help. I affixed a Band-Aid to my refrigerator as a daily reminder to understand and connect more deeply.]
As someone with a degree in media and political science and an orientation to news, I’ve long been at least tangentially involved and aware, but I’ll have to confess to having fallen back asleep after the Gulf of Tonkin affair. I had turned away from any further involvement with the military after one year in the all-volunteer Bay State Special Forces. I’d learned where to place the explosives underneath a bridge, how to kill someone with my bare hands, and how not to survive when thrown in the water with my hands tied behind my back and to my feet. [They had to jump in and fish me out.] (I heard distant echoes of this when I was force-fed oxygen in an attempt to rehabilitate my lungs after having been on a heart-lung machine.) I got out of a weak college major in English and jumped with both feet into the world of news and communications studies. Career and marriage soon took over. I took a sharp turn at the end of college and started specializing in saving lives. I did re-awaken when my kids were just getting into their teens; a fresh new investigation into the assassination of JFK took me deep into four or five books. But marriage, kids and the hunt for legal tender keep us all occupied enough to prevent us from getting beyond the smokescreen of diversion and propaganda until we finally set aside the time or are forced to look more deeply. By 2004, I was chronically unemployed, pissed off enough about the Bush administration, and able to spend the time and some money pursuing some deeper interests. And my kids had finished college, moved out of the house, and my wife and I were beginning to become estranged.
It was, at first, a case of transition, of empty nest syndrome, of unemployment, of depression. And I was isolated as an individual who spent time online reading non-mainstream sources. [Today, they call people like me mentally ill, or a terrorist. ] On the famous scale that measures stressors due to life changes, I had a number of serious markers and operated regularly with a score at around 200 or more. I lived with and thus was at times a caregiver for an individual who required a lot of energy; in Julia Cameron’s terminology, she was a “crazymaker”. I was alternately unemployed or under-employed or ecstatically employed. My spouse’s nose and the grindstone were on intimate terms. My kids were out of college and on their own, and my involvement in their lives as a “sports parent” had chunked down several gears. I got involved with umpiring fast-pitch softball in order to give something back to a game that had given much, and I took up aikido. I was still learning and reading performance psychology, but frankly no one else was interested in what I had unearthed: the key to the mind and its effective application by its owner. I wasn’t really aware of the depression; I regarded it as minor and essentially a normal part of life’s ups and downs. I could and did “pick myself up” without much difficulty. I never needed any pills; other than a rare exception dealing with marital matters, I’d never saw any psychologists or counselors. I’d been a graduate of three tiers of “Actualizations” with Stewart Emery. ▶ Human potential – Steward Emery – YouTube (22:00).
Mastering the Moment
You can achieve a state of being by what you are doing. Yet getting to a place of being by way of something you are doing is a very long way around and, more importantly, it is rarely more than temporary. Most people do not put on a piece of soft music and remain calm the rest of their lives. Most people do not pray and continue to be at peace every succeeding moment. You can completely shift the axis of your experience by your decision to come from a state of being, rather than to try to get to one. It turns everything around. This decision of yours places the source of what you desire within you, rather than outside of you. That makes it accessible to you at all times and in all places. At present, most of your states of being are “reactions”. They do not have to be this. You can make them “creations”. When you move into any moment, you rarely do so with your ‘state of being’ determined ahead of time. You wait until you see what the moment contains and provides, and then you respond by being something. Perhaps you wind up being sad, or happy, or disappointed, or elated. But… Suppose you decided beforehand how you were going to be when you moved into that moment, no matter how that moment showed up. Do you think it would make any difference in the way that you experienced the moment itself? This is genuine power, the kind of power that changes lives…. This level of being can be reached in a single moment. It can also take a lifetime. Everything depends on you, on how deeply you desire it. You may achieve any inner state of being you wish by simply choosing it and calling it forth. When you decide how you are going to show up before the moment itself shows up, you have begun to move toward mastery. You have learned to master the moment. When you decide ahead of time what your inner state of being is going to be, then no matter what any outer moment brings, the outer world loses its power over you. In fact, the wonderful irony of this is that what the outer world is doing will very often be affected by what you are being.
My wife was wrapped up heavily in her work, and she had the primary responsibility of dealing with her mother, with whom we lived. Her mother was chronically ill with cardiac and spinal problems, as well as having been plagued by continuing mental health issues. She’d had several hospitalizations, was diagnosed as a narcissistic schizophrenic (R. D. Laing’s “Sanity, Madness and the Family” just arrived several days ago). She’d had a couple of nervous breakdowns over the years; my wife had began “nursing” her through her migraines when she was a 12-year old girl. The child grew up to become a twice-specialty-certified nurse with a stellar career; ‘mother’ had had three ECT treatments, multiple heart procedures and back surgeries. During one critical period, she was hospitalized, often with 911 emergency response to our living room, forty times in five years. And her presence and style was abusive. This I recognized because I grew up in a dysfunctional household with two abusive parents (one through absenteeism and the other physically and psychologically). My ears can still remember their being grasped and twisted; forced labor in a rural environment was a norm; and there’s more. Hidden rage is an ugly thing. So in 2001, in a household centered on a very ill woman who choked off dialogue with a glance, my own stress meter was bouncing off the far-right red zone. I was professionally oriented towards emergency management and was able to follow the “blinking red” run-up to that “severe clear” day in September quite closely, and I was screaming and teeming enough that I sent an e-mail of warning and hope to my daughter, then in grad school in Queens, the night before. It was her e-mail the next morning that alerted me to events in Manhattan. I’d been involved in early efforts in the development of online discussion and dialogue. I dabbled in a few progenitors of the online learning movement. I volunteered for a task force at learningtimes.net where I met the fellow who developed the interactive “Game of Games” and became one of his beta testers. By 2004 I was in full florid online discussion with a bunch of people who were actively denying that there was anything amiss. I’d devised a “game engine” for a desktop simulation system that forced discovery through dialogue. And slowly and subtly I started to fall into a trap. It was a cosmic turbulence, a wilderness of rapid change. During this same period of time, I’d become interested and involved with the binaural beats audio meditation system known as Holosync, developed by the Centrepointe Institute and described in great detail, with scientific explanation and the supporting research, in the book Thresholds of the Mind. [A Google search will turn up lots of information, including reviews, scribd and pdf files, and more.] Holosync was, at first, simply an escape, a proven way to relax. As I progressed more deeply into the program, especially when I got to “The Dive” and “Immersion”, I could feel the waves of stress flowing off my body. I felt more rested and my experience was wholly consistent with expected results. And I began to notice changes I couldn’t explain, but only experience and explore. It played an integral role in my experience, in my health. I began to have increasingly one-on-one and private discussions with one of the women in this discussion group of 2,000. She had an interest in the noetic sciences, and I had a flourishing interest in sports and performance psychology. I wanted to find a way to make that interest come to life in a job of some sort; my wife suggested I find a psychologist or psychiatrist under whose umbrella I could continue to learn and work. The online dialogue continued to the point where we decided to actually talk on the phone. My wife would come home from work and a long commute and, very tired, do psychological battle at the dinner table with her mother (who was quite adept at dividing the two of us– see Pressfield above), and I couldn’t bear to see what she was doing to her daughter. [It was a living seminar in the triangular nature of family dynamics.] But her daughter refused to counter the abuse, and took her bottle of fortified wine upstairs to the bedroom, closed the door, and fell asleep in front of repeated episodes of “Law and Order”. I did the dinner dishes and went down cellar into my office to my laptop and online connection where, soon enough, I had installed Skype. I was three floors away from the other two who were asleep. Did I fall into a honey trap? It may have been one, but only in the sense that Little League is like AA ball. At one point, I likened it to the experience when two comets cross paths, coming in to orbit from another distant place, a gravitational pull that allowed each to affect the other, and then to shoot back off into space, “spinning unheard in the dark of the sky”. I struck up the conversation. The lady “down South” was troubled, and lacking in confidence. She informed me she had to open up her own practice in a couple of weeks. “Practice?” said the man who had a library of understanding about sports practice, motivation, belief, and performance psychology. “What kind of practice?” “I finish my residency program in two weeks and will be going into practice.” “Residency program?” “Yes.” “You’re a doctor?” “Yes.” (Light bulb goes on. No wonder she’s so intelligent. I need intelligent people in my life around me.) “What kind of doctor?” “A psychiatrist.” “Oh…. Well, I might have something that could be of help to you. You’ve been preparing to go into practice now for years.” ‘ What can you offer?’ was the unspoken response. So I told her about all the reading I’d done, my e-book called Summon The Magic, and the fact that my two children had been practicing too…where the material had come from, their accomplishments with it, and the fact that the material had been made available to top-flight elite athletes with similar effect. (I once did a successful intervention with a pitcher who owned a gold medal from the Olympics and the NCAA strike-out record.) (I posted “If You Want to Achieve Excellence” on the chain-link fence next to the dugout at UHartford and the ‘adept’ went three-for-three with three home runs, one to each field.) Same thing… Walk up to the plate (the door of her practice) and hit a home run. So she asked for more, and I offered up the table of contents, and she said “Send me the 5th, 9th, 12th and 14th chapters.” “Well,” I proffered, “usually people read them in order, but if you’ve gotten yourself through medical school and a psychiatric residency, you can read them in any order you want.” She read them by the side of the pool at the country club. And we talked about the issues and problems. We talked about her five-year old daughter, the product of a failed relationship with a Turkish diplomat assigned at the time to a well-known Mediterranean country and with whom she visited Istanbul. She refused his offer of marriage and was frightened for her child and herself in the middle of a well-armed cadre of protective guards. She returned home to finish medical school and he married a pediatrician he’d met when he was assigned to Moldova. [Check the map and the current news.] And, at the end of the summer, Katrina happened, and we talked some more, and I talked her out of rushing off willy-nilly to New Orleans to offer her services by explaining the term dysfunctional mass convergence, and she motivated me to spell out and publish my understanding of the dynamics of emergency response. I wrote a draft (“This is crap”, she said), and then took three months to research and write a 57-page paper. “How will people learn about and read this?”, she prompted me to get it published… internationally [http://www.iaem.com/documents/SimsandVCOPs1.pdf ]. And she’d started her practice. As we talked, it became obvious that she had some kind of sleep disorder, and it occurred to me that she was exhibiting some signs of dissociative personality disorder. I’d done some reading about MK-Ultra and the long-term effects of sexual abuse and, at one point in a conversation during which we had become particularly close, I asked her if she’d been sexually abused. “How did you know? I never told you that.” Well, she owned up to the fact that her father, a physician himself who was a sub-contractor for the CIA as a reserve officer in the USAF, did in fact sexually abuse her when she was 9, and it continued until she was 15. Or so she said… But she did have the symptoms. Or was she play-acting? Well, she acted suicidal on more than one occasion, and asked me to continue to talk to her through the wee hours of the night until either she or her daughter fell asleep. She fed the child Benadryl and herself Ambien, and waited for what my broadcasting professor called my “bedroom voice” to put her to sleep. And, to make a long story shorter, I fell in love with her. She kept coming around singing me up. And I became addicted. On one occasion, we agreed to meet in person and when she sent me her picture, I fell off the chair. She was stunningly beautiful. And smart. And, I thought, needed someone. And I felt unneeded. And she called or e-mailed every day, more often than not two or three times a day. Every night’s telephone conversation was something we both looked forward to. I had, it seemed, something she needed or wanted. Months went by. And then she “diagnosed” my medical problem. Well, “diagnosis” is perhaps too strong a word, but unquestionably her trained ear heard something in my voice and she insisted, forcefully, that I seek medical attention ASAP. She wanted me to hang up the phone and go wake up my wife and tell her to call the ambulance. “No”, I said, “that’s not going to happen.” I wasn’t going to march upstairs and wake up my wife and tell her the woman I’d irrationally fallen in love said I was having a stroke. But I did promise her I’d make an appointment with a doctor. Three days later, the 6’4” Czechoslovakian cardiologist leaned back from having auscultated my chest and asked “Has anyone ever told you you have a heart murmur?” No one had, and no one had previously told me I needed to have an echocardiogram and a catheterization and a stress test. But I did. Findings: Moderate-to-severe aortic stenosis due to a damaged aortic valve. Now, I had been in touch with my brother… my long-lost brother … [that’s a whole ‘nuther story]… and he called out of concern and asked my wife, whom I had not told about the medical tests, how I’d made out at the hospital.
Music video: Chris Botti, Someone To Watch Over Me
And so the situation unraveled and, as had been hastily planned after the psychiatrist had been informed of the cardiologist’s findings, the old ’99 black Pontiac Trans-Am was packed with clothing, books and music… a great car on the open road across the top of Western Maryland and down the backside of the Appalachian ridge.
The cardiologist had said “No, I won’t refer you to a surgeon to have the valve replaced because your heart isn’t strong enough to undergo the surgery”, and I was now under the care of a psychiatrist who lived 800 miles away. There may be a book written about the 15-month-long experience. I’ve at least written a prose poem [Eros and Psyche] in which each word and each phrase is a cryptogram of memory. I met the psychiatrist’s mother (once), who threw me out of her house before I was two steps into her kitchen. [Her daughter then ‘keyed’ her car when we left.] Even over the phone, I’d watched a horrible relationship between her and her daughter that also affected a five-year-old grand-daughter. I thought I could offer some sanctuary. [I had jumped from the frying pan into the fire. Laurence Gonzalez can explain why I was not aware of the fact that I was doing so.] I sat in the passenger seat with the child in the back seat as the shrink followed her mother bumper-to-bumper in their matching Toyota Camrys over three laps of a winding circuit across the urban center and the suburban hills while they talked on the cell phone, child screaming in the back seat. I accompanied doctor and daughter to the movies one night in a moment that will forever live in my memory; doctor sat entranced through great parts of Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty”. I’d already heard about the extreme fiscal situation the doctor was in, and her binge online shopping. Previously, she’d told me on the phone that when she got home from rounds there was nothing to eat in the house; she said she couldn’t afford to use her credit card and order up a pizza delivery. When I worked in her office, I watched the doctor’s accountant manage her practice finances and, perhaps, her mind. [He was a Disciple of Christ too.] I watched her male medical partner (formerly with the Secret Service) have (and end) a relationship with his male office clerk, the same fellow who circulated nude pictures of patients among other patients in the waiting room of the medical practice, the same fellow whose job I took for eight weeks when I convinced my friend the lady psychiatrist to insist that he be fired immediately. (Among other things, I did the patient intake, took the vital signs, kept the charts in order, and helped set up the Suboxone program.) The lady psychiatrist passed her boards with flying colors on the first try without any help from me and was a specialist in psychopharmacology. She had taken me in the same way she took in the puppy dog one of her patients had left in her office. A pet store found a new home for the dog. I eventually found a new home in a rehab hospital.
Given to me by the psychiatrist from “down South”: My Voice Will Go With You: The Teaching Tales of Milton G. Erickson (edited and with commentary bny Sidney Rosen), W.W. Norton & Co., 1982. Patterns of the Hypnotic Techniques of Milton Erickson, M.D. (Volume One), Richard Bandler and John Grinder, Grinder & Associates 1975. Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder, Marsha M. Linehan, Guilford Press 1993. Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder, Marsha Linehan, Guilford Press 1993. Conversational Hypnosis: A Manual of Indirect Suggestion (Examples, Induction Scripts, Pre-Session Talks), Carol Sommer, 1992. The Art of Political Warfare, John J. Pitney Jr., University of Oklahoma Press, 2000. Given to me to read but retained in her possession:
An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness
by Kay Redfield Jamison
Touched With Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament
by Kay Redfield Jamison
Eight weeks into the period in which I had ‘gone south’, she invited me — knowing it was expressly against the wishes of her mother — to visit her at her own little bungalow on the family compound. Everything there is all up and down,; literally your neighbor can be 500 feet above you or below you. (Good exercise to make my heart stronger, at least.) I lived in a condo that was about 500 feet higher than and about a three quarters-of-a-mile away from her, high up in the clouds and fog over the river. Mother was all ready to have me arrested for trespassing the moment I arrived. I had previously stifled her assumptions about my being a pedophile by offering to present myself to the local WV State police barracks and have them deliver their full report on my legal and moral transgressions directly to her. I had already explained to the daughter that, as a tenant, she had a right to invite whomever she pleased.) So the tableau was set. Previously, on Thanksgiving, I’d made myself familiar with the area by strolling around the rim of the “holler” in which this family resided. It was a special section of the land they had owned on the maternal side of things for generations as a giant pig farm, but they leased the land to a series of shopping centers built around a new four-lane road for 10% of the proceeds (or so I was told). During that walk, I was surprised to see a man perched with a high-powered hunting rifle high up in a pine tree that towered over the holler from the edge of its rim in the back of a church parking lot. Deer abounded in the neighborhood and a 10-point buck had once sauntered onto the deck around my condo as I sat in the kitchen with my coffee. Perhaps that image of the man with a .30-06 flashed through my subconsciousness as I walked out the door and started down the hill. Perhaps I went into florid pleural edema as a physical reaction to that part of my Stream, as Gonzalez calls it. Perhaps I had the subconscious sense I was being set up. [See Candace Pert on the molecules of emotion.: Pert Molecules.]
Now it’s a moot point; I turned around and struggled against the advancing tide of water in my lungs to get back to my condo. The Stream had turned into a flood. I walked in and hunched over the kitchen sink where I spit up some pink blood, a sign I immediately recognized and interpreted correctly; I’m a former EMT. And then, as I noted to Gonzalez years later, I grabbed my car keys, hung up the phone without comment when the doctor’s mother called to ask where I was, as the cops were on the way, and — disdaining 9/11 — I got in my car and drove down the hill to the nearest emergency room where the shrink was on staff. I arrived in time to be able to throw my car keys to an EMT in the parking lot, asking him to ask hospital security to secure the car, and I went into the emergency room and puked all over the floor, and then blacked out. When I awoke moments later, I called the lady psychiatrist, and told her I now had some “skin in the game”.
[See a slice of the prose poem I wrote as an outline for the book here: http://boydownthelane.com/2013/11/27/reverse-911-a-remembrance-of-thanks/ ]
The emergency room staff got me stabilized, took the medical history, and put me in the ICU for the weekend. The cardiologist got the complete history and gave me a chemical stress test on Monday morning; as he advanced the plunger of the needle, I began to black out and told him to stop, and fell on the floor in cardiac arrest.
He revived me, rushed me back to the ICU, asked me if I had “seen the light” of an NDE [I hadn’t], and made arrangements for emergency open heart surgery and valve replacement downtown in the morning. I called my wife and son, and they made arrangements to fly in. [My wife hates flying; have you ever hopped that old Saab bucket of bolts out of Detroit and landed on top of a mountain?] The next morning, after being asked if I were afraid (I wasn’t), I was wheeled through the doors of the OR and given a Versed and propafol IV cocktail that knocked me out in two seconds and made me unaware of having my sternum split, my heart stopped, an artery patched after they put in a new bovine valve — and then, hours later, being mooved back to the special ICU in the special heart surgery unit. My family arrived while I was in surgery.
There was one small problem… They left a “bleeder”.
I’m unconscious, my wife is in the waiting room with the heart surgeon and my friend the psychiatrist (whom she’d never met face-to-face or even talked to) to whom I had signed away power of attorney.
I’m glad I’d been unconscious.
I was unconsciously having an “Isn’t It Ironic?” moment, as I was fully aware of the fellow at the University of Virginia Medical School who was a performance psychologist (Doug Newburg) working with cardio-thoracic surgical teams to promote excellence under pressure.
Gonzales talks about surrender. I gave it over to people who cared about me, an ICU nurse named Pascha, and God. [Everyone of them came through for me.]
Four units of transfused blood later, someone finally figured out what the problem was and they wheeled me back to the OR, where the surgical team repaired the bleeding artery, but some arterial plaque “jumped” free and floated off to my brain, giving me a multiplex hemiplegic stroke that left my left leg totally immobilized, my left arm mostly immobilized, and my heart wafting in and out of atrial fibrillation. [No physicians have been sued in the telling of this story. I knew about the risk going in and had no choice but to go in, without fear.]
Whenever it was that I finally awoke, days later, I was told I had a stroke. Totally numbed out by the depth of the experience, having hallucinated several times, still under the influence of whatever meds they were pushing along with the feeding tube in my right arm, I was fixed to the mattress. I needed help for the slightest of movements and mostly wafted in and out of various mental states of quasi-psycho-spiritual hypnogogic and hypnagoggic and hallucinatory restorative grace.
Well, the story trends with me getting superior cardiological care, 8 weeks of in-patient rehabilitation, moving my residence again [nine times in eleven months], having the lady doctor support me financially throughout the entire process, having her actively working to nurse me back on my feet (at one point when I had an infection at the site of my feeding IV, she was on her hands and knees scrubbing the floor with disinfectant). She visited regularly, marshaled support and human resources, and provided a good deal of spirit, the sunshine of her presence, and oversight of the medical care.
On a snowy day, she borrowed an old battered pick-up truck and personally hauled what little belongings and furniture I had out of the four-story condo atop the hill to the new place, stopping by the hospital long enough to throw me into the front right seat. She negotiated with the building supervisor and we got me installed into a cold apartment in mid-February. The next morning, I grabbed a cab and went back and retrieved my car from the deep parking zone by the hospital where my son had left it when he grabbed his launch out of Yeager. It was an adventure to drive after I’d been immobilized in a bed for ten weeks, a lesson in how automaticity works and doesn’t work. I took it nice and s-l-o-w. The building super got the heat fixed and the lady shrink would come by to check on me and spend some time sharing the tales of her day, and I’d read sections of a book out loud I’d found on medical diagnosis and problem-solving (it was like playing “House”). I don’t think I’ll ever forget the day she talked about tradecraft as she got ready to do “rounds”.
She played a supportive and perhaps major role (but I suspect not the final critical one, that having perhaps been given over to political influence called in by the psychiatrist’s mother) in getting my Social Security Disability application approved five months later. I’d moved into an extended outpatient recovery with leg brace, walker and wheelchair in a hastily-rented small apartment in a building with an elevator, and gotten a pacemaker put in to keep my heart on the straight-and-narrow.
I never did find the key to the doorway she’d built and locked in front of her own heart/mind/spirit unit, though she clearly was having more and more problems. At one point, I remember asking that building super if he knew of a book that would help me understand women, and he replied “Ain’t been written yet.” She had what I can only, in my limited knowledge, call a psychotic break due to her mother’s harping or perhaps induced in other ways by others, and the several visits during which she somewhat vividly worked on getting me to end any thoughts of a continued relationship or an extended stay in her neighborhood by relapsing into a vicious alcoholism, asking me if I didn’t want to beat her up, and offering to join hands and fly off the 9th floor balcony (both of us kept our heads and our feet on the ground, and I kept my fists open and soft). I urged her to get formal help; how do you ask a psychiatrist who is an expert in psychopharmacology that she needs to see a psychiatrist? She told me she hoped to go to a hospital near Blacksburg, VA and get some ECT treatments. She did end up working with a psychiatrist and a psychologist on a personal basis. I am told she’s married, went through some serious abdominal surgery herself, and is back at work.
▶ Mark Knopfler & Emmylou Harris – If this is goodbye [Bingolotto -06] – YouTube
She did make a trip to see a Russian psychiatrist in Niagara Falls, Ontario, and I held my breath for about ten days. She returned and took a weekend to travel out to Nag’s Head [have you read JFK and the Unspeakable?] and sit on the dunes; she came back with a bumper sticker that said “Life is good”, but her resolve to be rid of me was now more stabilized and certain.
I’d seen both poles of her disorder; when she was at the right end of the dipole, she was one of the more powerful, super-intelligent and focused people I’d ever met. When she was at the wrong end, she was a mess. But it was clear that there was little I could do because I wasn’t going to be given the chance, the right, the role, to be of any assistance.
Eros and Psyche
Notting Hillbillies Feel Like Going Home – YouTube
I negotiated, with the help of my son, a return back to Massachusetts and entrance into a successful re-establishment of a relationship with my wife. I drove back on Thanksgiving, arriving on a wing and a prayer at the front end of a very tired caravan of driver/Pontiac/U-Haul negotiating the snowstorm, and the curves and hills of about 800 miles of Interstate highway, in time to surprise wife and daughter and to get a piece of pie. [Delicious baked humble pie.]
Relationships were tentative at first, for obvious reasons; I made apologies, and was forgiven. I lived in a spartan, drafty four-room flat in between the rail line and the airport in a decaying industrial town near my daughter so I could perhaps be of some value to some one. Many months later, I walked my daughter down the aisle and handed her off to an environmental engineer who’s a D-I-Y kind of fellow; they have two delightful kids. My son gave me another grandkid in between those two, and the pictures of the three populate the wall space at home. My son and my daughter were the witnesses in the private ceremony in which my wife and I exchanged new vows we’d written in the middle of a garden labyrinth we found. I had been given a Clew. Music video:
I registered with all the right doctors and eventually got my old pacemaker installed correctly [yes, that same surgeon screwed that up too] and I’m on a small list of chronic meds with attendant side-effects. I got myself onto a regular system of treadmills and exercise bikes [http://www2.keiser.com/en/ ] and a Keiser weight system and exacerbated an old lacrosse injury to my hips and spine, went to the chiropractor for a year, had to stop the exercise regime, fired her, put on a lot of weight, but have been managing otherwise pretty well despite chronic leg numbness, an ever-present threat of another stroke, and the need to manage myself and ten medications along the thin ledge of homeostasis. Things are much much better now that wife has seen some things differently, as have I, and due in great part to the fact that her mother has been placed permanently in a nursing home, no longer able to care for herself in any meaningful way. And my wife recently retired so we have the place to ourselves (except when the grandkids visit). I did continue with my regime of Holosync-driven binaural beat meditation and then discovered, in the appendix of Izthak Bentov’s Stalking the Wild Pendulum, his theory that kundalini meditation dumped stress out through the aortic valve. When I asked my electrophysiologist about this, he answered “What do you care? You survived, didn’t you?” He tells me I may no longer go to the gym; I am limited to walking. We recently added the diagnosis of paroxysmal atrial flutter. And the aging progress continues….
“This is a very unusual area of medicine,” said Ann Webster, Ph.D., director of the Program for Successful Aging at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Benson-Henry Institute for Mind-Body Medicine. “These are things people can do for themselves.” [ http://annwebsterphd.com/home.html ]
It was at the Benson-Henry Institute that the term “relaxation response” was first coined. It’s an actual physiologic state of deep rest that’s the opposite of the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response.
“This is a time when you restore energy to every cell in your body, and this is also a time when healing can take place,” said Webster.
It may sound far-fetched, but they say it’s grounded in real, cutting-edge science and proven to help people avoid high blood pressure, pain syndromes and even rheumatoid arthritis.
“Take in a deep breath. Hold it … a few seconds, and then let it go,” said Webster. “By the end of the third breath, they’ve already quieted down.”
To turn on the relaxation response, Webster suggests meditation coupled with deep breathing every day for at least 20 minutes, along with:
- Staying fit and eating right
- Keeping a gratitude journal
- Social support
- Staying engaged in life even after retirement
- Getting quality sleep
According to Webster, the number No. 1 barrier to successful aging is obesity.
My story isn’t as exciting or as vibrant a recovery as that of people who have battled mountain lions, sharks, bears, improvised explosive devices or breast cancer. But my wife went through chemotherapy, radiation and an elective bilateral radical mastectomy when she developed breast cancer for the second time one year after I returned. I was there to play a supporting role.
My own recovery from survival has been helped by Gonzalez’ second book, if only by recognition of the process. It was there, in his discussion about The Stream, through which I realized the true reason I was able to save my own life as I approached the threats in the holler. That realization precipitated the heart problems and the heart attack in an already-weakened heart and lead to the surgery in which I also almost lost my life twice, and then I had to look forward to the recovery of the rehabilitation and the long trail afterwords, which continues today, as I battle small and minor residua and wonder what to do with my survival. I have annoying loss of strength and dexterity in my left hand, gait problems exacerbated by an old minor hip-back injury in college, and a generalized clumsiness that belies a different self, but these pale and are inconsequential when compared to the problems of others with brain injury, overwhelming disfigurement on the surface and the interior, or other sets of circumstances that are far worse.
I consider myself immensely lucky, and I am glad that I went through the trouble.
One of the promises I made myself as I stared at the ceiling hour after hour and listened to the assembled music CD’s and summoned up bits of energy with which to try to tackle the strenuous physical and occupational therapy sessions thrown at me two and three times a day — the hardest work I’ve ever had to do, and I loved every minute of it, and I loved the professionals who cared for me, including the psychiatrist — was to survive long enough to be able to get back to the computer and online in order to post and share the assembled tome of excerpts from my performance psychology research. I had managed to save most of it across those many residential transitions despite several technological breakdowns and losses of computer capability but finally I started up a blog at Google in which the bulk of it was laid down for others to read. No one seemed much interested, to be frank, a disappointing reality due in great part to how I presented it, perhaps, but the events of the day and my returning anger about what was happening in the world — and the failure of many people (including my own family) to understand them, their causes, their consequences, and the meaning of all of that to their lives — gradually brought me back to an old orientation to the news and a blogging focus that was more dissident.
Most Americans seem unaware and unaffected by what is happening in America and the world, while the rest of the world waits for us to begin our recovery.
But I did save most of those performance psychology excerpts.
As I noted at the top, there are some who are in despair, or who find their way back to that state of despondency or depression or anomie, and it is them to whom Gonzalez’ book “Surviving Survival” should speak.
Music video: Let Down (Christopher O’Reilly)
See Excerpts from “Deep Survival” and “Surviving Survival” here:
The 10 Big Ideas
from the book “Deep Survival”
[This is a podcast interview with the author and is an outstanding (and portable) introduction to him, his books and how they apply to you.
Here, if it is more suitable to you, is a PowerPoint presentation done for a conference of social workers.
Surviving Survival: The Art and Science of Resilience (1 …
Surviving Survival: the Art and Science of Resilience by Laurence Gonzales; Personal characteristics; Successful vs. ineffective strategies for surviving the …
This is the hour-long keynote address by Laurence Gonzalez at the Wilderness Risk Management Conference (WRMC) in 2013.
Are we at risk and existing in a wilderness?
Episode 39 – Laurence Gonzales