Monday, April 1, 2013

Diagnose This

(This post is by Mary of Terralectualism, you will find my "introduction" to it at the end of this powerful piece of writing.  If you read nothing else this week, read this post- Milla)
The colors of today are pale blue grey, white, off white, grey brown, bright green. it is cold and nippy and just perfect for solstice. i am inana. i am inana and i have passed through the seventh gate. to the rest of the world i am still dead, i am mourned. but to myself i am alive. pure, raw, corely alive. i walk my path, isceral and unknown except to the silent trees, the small brown birds, the witnessing evergreens. the grasses are full dried, beginning to mulch, the stones are grey. i too am quiet, bowing my life to death. inside me is snowfall, deer tracks, the only imprint on my soul landscape. a bare tree stands off to itself, silver, silhoutted. crow, dead crow, clasped on a high branch, does not caw, does not break the intense cacauphony of snowflakes pushing down. she just simply stares, one eye on me, ne eye in the other world, witnessing. she will wait until i too, split my focus and crosseyed, allow part to crossover. only then will her wings stir the stillness. Journal entry, Winter Solstice 1996. Age 24.
One of the recurring experiences I've been having, as I feel my age (and the limitations of personal freedom inherent in motherhood) is regret.

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25 yr. old me. Back then it was the quarter life crisis.

 I know. I can hear you now, how pointless regret is. I would have told you that just a year ago. It's embarrassing to look at your current life's process and to feel like a cliche. Yet, at 40, I find myself saying those things that many do in mid life. Things like, "I'm just trying to reconcile the plans I had and how I thought it would all be. How did it all go so fast?". These simple sentences sound so trite, but the living reality of them is a three dimensional experience, textured, penetrating, and completely pesky. It can be an oh shit experience to REALLY get that your youth is over and to consider that maybe it was squandered with emotional instability. How much of life did I duck from, hiding under my bed, feeling too fragile to engage with the world? site measurements 1
 Sometimes stepping out the door felt like I had no skin and the air was made of lemon juice. I was so tied up inside myself, choosing bad relationships with the wrong guys, ones who constantly mirrored my biggest fears...that I was too much, too intense, too crazy. Similarly with friends, I tucked in my eccentric bits like loose shirt tails, desperately trying to appear...well...however they wanted me to. Vulnerability, self doubt, need for validation and that kicker, anger, were off limits within relationships. I so desperately wanted to be known and loved, and yet if anyone saw my toxic shame and lack of self worth, I felt like I was being annihilated.
my world now is too human. i am too human. i have been compromising my wild nature. i want a pond in the middle of my house. i want grass in my hair, a garden sanctuary, feathered breast, my eyes smeared with clay. my life has lost too many raw elements...linear lines, roads, commitments, squares, boxes, schedules, please pay this amount, sign here. every essential wild childlike part of myself is about to die. i have compromised too far. i am hardening into cement, becoming one of the million minds which sleep and move. i should be doing art, running barefoot wild through woods, birds coming out of my ears, vines between my legs, a million eyes like a fly, i give up my arms for wings. i have stopped believing in dreams...if i am going to survive in this city i need to stay awake. Oct. 13, 1997. Second month of life in San Francisco
So I kept journals. Enough journals to fill up a giant plastic bin. It lives at the top of my closet, next to boxes of photographs. My pen was my best friend, my most honest relationship on the page, and it was the only way I could really see myself and believe that I existed. Terrified of the grief and sorrow that lived in my body, instead I lived in my head. And I wrote about it. The act of journaling helped me to feel unified, my heart at ease for saying its truth, my mind satisfied by foraging for words. site measurements 3
 One of the effects of having gone to graduate school for counseling psychology is that I now have a very highly educated inner critic. This fucker, in his grey suit and red tie, sits behind a desk and in front of him is the DSM...The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The bible used for pathologizing the difficulties of having a human heart. Floating above me, he rains his pronouncements down as we comb through my life. It's a good thing, he says, that I wasn't seen by a psychiatrist in my twenties, for I surely would have been labeled with Borderline Personality Disorder. Although, he continues, it is another one of my failings that I didn't get the proper help I needed. I should have been on medication. All that time I spent on a spiritual path, on self awareness, on figuring things out...what a waste, he says. It was all an illusion, self deception, denial. Sure, he nods, you're a bit better now, but that's the progression of Borderlines...they even out by the time they are 40 or 50. He shuts the book and gives me a stare. You're still not really healthy should get your hormones checked. You feel entirely too much. It's not normal.
i crack my window open at night, despite the cold and mo (pet rat) scrambling into bed to keep warm. i want to, have to, hear the frogs at the creek, singing down the rain, as full as impatience as i, singing and croaking and calling the spring, now, come now. they sing and in each other they awaken the creative impulse, the impulse to create, procreate, produce, pulsing, rhythm, waiting. in their burrows the ground squirrels stir, their dreams lighten, they are dreaming of plums and walnuts. once recently i heard the geese, making an early return. but still it is cold, the blackbirds' caucaphony are the only flowers in the tender green, grey, brown landscape. winter is still here, can still smile in its strength. it's not too late to snow. Journal entry from February 3rd, 1997. Age 24.
I work under The Board of Behavioral Sciences, also known as Big Daddy. Which means that I have to know (and at least pretend to kowtow to) the diagnoses in the manual. There is so much in the western model of psychology that pathologizes the feminine experience. From Premenstrual Dysphoria to Borderline PD (%75 of BPD cases are women), it is made abundantly can deviate from the white male norm, but only within a certain range. Above all, you may not be wild, you may not be dark and you may not feel deeply. This means that I spend a good deal of time in slight fear of being witch hunted.

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 I heal others because I know the wounds personally. I guide because I've been down this road before. I counsel because I had to do it for myself, and the realizations that came to me, that surfaced from somewhere deep within were echoed in my schooling. It's not an intellectual knowing, how to heal. It's in my bones and guts. Working from this place in a linear, western model, feels messy and revolutionary and dangerous. What if they find out? site measurements

As I read through my old words and looked at photos of past selves, I was surprised not to find the blameable mess I had expected. Instead I found wild beauty. Changeable, maleable, sparky, lovely, soft, hard, gentle and fierce and bitchy. She was wrong. She was right. And always, always she was trying. A seedling in the dark, twisting her way towards the sunlight however she could. She was funny and inventive, adventurous and homey, never taking herself too seriously and always taking herself too seriously. She had blond hair, she had crayon red hair, she had purple and pink hair, she had no hair. There are people in the pictures with her, and however it may have gone down in the end, there was love there, there was laughter. Far enough away from her particular suffering now, I was able to even feel a little wistful. Like Wow, I wish I was her. I don't know when I stopped advocating for myself. when I bowed my tail between my legs and gave myself up. As I dug through these old journals, my young self flooded around me, asking how it was I could forget? How could I forget to fight for the rightness of the inner wild, and not just the pretty wilderness, but embodied nature in all her terrible, rageful beauty... especially for the way it raged through me?

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That core part of me, so unrecognizable to me at the time, shown through far brighter than I ever realized. Instead of seeing something buried and half hidden with distortion, the brightness of my spirit was obvious and familiar. All these years I have polished and honed it and I laugh now to think how invisible I felt, how unknown and misunderstood. What I couldn't see at the time is overtly apparent to me now. Me, here all along.
i stand where i have before, surveying the landscape. everything is grey, there are thin strands of mist blowing through. off in the distance i see a figure walking towards me. it is myself, returned from a long dissapearance. she has long strides, no hair, attitude, and purpose. she holds her hand out in greeting. her eyes glow. i grasp her fingers and we melt together. now i stand in the center and survey again. little has changed but we know how we want to landscape, we have plans. nothing stands in our way. January 1997
The regret is gone now. When I toss out the shame, like the clothes I put out on the front stoop to recycle, I marvel at all the spaciousness it creates. It had acted like a dam to my own private, wild river, and the waters come pouring over the rocks and dry stream beds. I can call this inner environmental restoration. I have weeded out the noxious invasives and am inviting back native species. Underneath my skin, mycorrhizal webs of authenticity knit me back together. Flora and fauna return...memories, joy, will power and well being. site measurements 13

 I offer this to you, wild one. To all women in your twenties. You are perfect in your tangled, frightening, untamed beauty. May you know this someday. May you know it now.

I don't know if I can ever thank you enough for your wise-woman words dear Mary. I've been holding on to this post for what I thought were time and space constraints, because I wanted to write a really good, honest introduction to it, because I didn't want to minimize it's impact with lighter posts about Icelandic beer and Finnish Fashion. But in trying to write this now I realize that I've been holding onto it also, because until I release it out into the world, it is still a secret, our secret and (deep breath) my secret. 

When she first sent these words to me, the air went out of my lungs completely, with every line my heart bounded like I was suddenly running very very fast away from or towards something, and I cried, of course I did, the way I used to, every day in my twenties, uncontrollably and loudly like someone hit by real sorrow, not just having to wake up to the world. By the time I got to the part about not having skin, I simply had to stop for a moment, because she was, it seemed, not writing about her old self anymore, she was writing about my old self.  Something I had thought about writing about a thousand times and pushed away another thousand. The journals, with their colorful covers, the thickly joined words, the world rushing at you faster and harder than you could handle. 

Ever since I "met" Mary, I have felt this strange, strenuous connection, not much like words, but like something fragile hanging in the air, unspoken.  Here it is now, out in the world, our little secret. Maybe it's your secret too, maybe something else is and I don't know if you feel like talking about it, but if you do, we're here. 


  1. Dear Mary (and Milla),

    I felt goosebumps too, and tears, when reading this post, as it described so much of my own twenties - even teenage years. I was so scared to be rejected that had almost no friends, and no boyfriend at all until I was 23. I drifted into a ghost of myself until, after 3 weeks in California without my family at 18, I felt strangely at home and welcomed, for the first time in my conscious years.

    So after coming back to France, I started loosing ground, and a few months later I went to see a therapist; he was just right for me. No medication, just talking, weeping, and loosing ground some more, for two years - until one morning, I woke up and the thick glass wall between me and the world had disappeared. Just like that. And I knew it would not come back. For the first time since I was 10, I was able to actually feel the wind on my face when riding my bike, and I wept with gratitude.

    But I was like a chick just out of its egg - what everybody else (it seemed) had learned during teenage years on how to interact with others (or even how to discover who I actually was) I still had to learn, all the while feeling that I was exposing my soul... But that it was ok.

    Then at 28 (that was 14 years ago), I came here, in Montréal, and everything started to fall into place. I felt home as soon as I set my foot in the city, the very first day. This is a good place for people to be themselves - to be overly sensitive, to love deeply, to suffer from too much empathy: all this is fine. You are loved just as you are, for who you are. And I grew up at last. And I bloomed.

    So I have no regrets - I feel so lucky! All the time.

    Thank you Mary - I am sending you many warm thoughts, wishing I could have met you in Frisco that year, a long time ago :o)


    1. PS - And of course I kept journals, so many of them... Whenever I had free time, I would be reading or writing. Living in my head instead of living in the world... Talking to myself instead of talking to others.

      There was no blogging at the time (and I had no Internet connection anyway), and I do believe that sharing your experiences on the Web can help, too. At least you know you are not alone. And the true, vibrant inner self of so many girls and women strikes me so often (online or in person) - just like you, I want to say to each of them: don't be afraid, don't hide. You are unique and beautiful.

  2. Mary Mary....I've been waiting to read this, it's wonderful that you shared it here through Ms Milla. You sound more courageous than you ever knew in those past entries girl, and your mind was still so beautiful with all of those perfect words and pictures making sense and light. The SF entry after a couple of just so raw and terrified. I want to hold that girl.

    "There is so much in the western model of psychology that pathologizes the feminine experience." This really worries me, and I see how truthful that it is.

    My twenties feel like they were characterized by anger and alcohol, and slacking.
    Anger was my friend for such a long time that it protected me from my own wretched feelings and how I assumed others were going to treat my worthless self. I wish i had allowed myself to experience my own hurt and worry instead of squashing it with anger and fury. i believed that being angry and prickly made me stronger, a force to be reckoned with. And it does if you're okay with scaring the crap out of anyone that wants to be close to you. I guess i just wanted to frighten them away on my own terms rather than have them walk away due to something they found essentially wrong with me; PAUSE. Well, I wasn't expecting to have a mini-epiphany here, but looks like I did. Chewing my lip now considering that. As you know, I still use anger now to deal with hurt......working on it.

    love you ladies

  3. Oh my oh my...I have never commented on your blog before, simply watched and read through the keyhole you provide. As is usually the case with life, it seems the forces of nature (and Mary's profound writing) are propelling me toward a larger understanding of myself, with the help of your blog. It seems that this blog post has been written for me, to pinch every nerve, curl the corners of my mouth and water my weary eyes. You see, tomorrow I turn 36 and have been struggling with the coming of years and the passing of time, focusing my inner critic on what is missing in this complicated and wonderful life. I can relate on every level and somehow that helps to set me free. Thank you for sharing Mary's words and your reaction to them and offering me a renewed sense of clarity.

  4. so beautiful. mary....and milla moon have captured the womanness of being woman, the wildness of being free and the beauty and terror of being a poet and an artist and a writer and an animal. thank you for this reading today, for reminding me of my own journals, those 50+ that burned in my housefire and those 25 or 30 that i've written since, (one of which has the same postcard of the twilit woman in the curving tree. for reminding me of my long years of discovering that i was not a mormon, that i was a sexual being, that i wanted adventure and encounter with wild life at my truest heart, that i wanted babies and magic and fairies and trees and desert and ocean, big and little dreams, that i wanted whole books, libraries full of dreamers. i have encountered magic in my life, in the spells of sisters, in the jasmine that blooms at night in summer, in the long walks and the naked swims and the tricksters and the coyotes and the moon. i am glad glad glad to share this earth and this magic with you my friends.

  5. this post went like an arrow of truth to my heart. thank you, thank i wish i could have read this in my mid-twenties, when my soul and mind were newly lit and on fire...after college the world seemed to erupt in my face - and there was so much change and upheaval, the wars, etc...i spun in place searching for where i belonged and who i was, while welling up inside of me was so much energy and wonder and confusion, every feeling under the sun, vibrant as a flower. i was diagnosed with everything in the book, when in truth i was simply a Young Woman living in this time. but it took me many years to trust myself, to not see myself through the lens of male psychiatric vision. i was so badly hurt in the process of being crammed in box after box, i can admit that now. i feel so happy, so free these days, but looking back i often wonder what i lost during those questioning years. i am grateful to know myself now, to have come to this place i'm in at 30, to have spent years shedding labels and judgement like snakeskin and to really love who i am and how i live.

    thank you, milla and mary, from the bottom of this wild heart!

  6. this is just beautiful mary. while you felt deeply, i forced myself not to feel at all. i was always "fine" and never effected by anyone or anything, or so i thought. there was lots of anger but looking back i think i looked down on emotion like it was a sign of weakness. i started my first year of my twenties out as a mother and two years later a mother of two and married. i often wish i had had more years to myself but ultimately i believe having children so young saved me. it was very hard. i spent many years ignoring myself and focusing on family. thankfully those years are past. i've been loving my 30's and who i am now.

    thank you milla and mary so much for sharing a piece of your past. i feel honored to call you both friends!

    sending lots of love to you both :D

  7. What a gift our young lost selves give us when we're finally ready to look back on them with true love and compassion, eh? Mary, as always, your ability to express yourself through your writing transcends. It seems the deeper we go and the more honest we are with our own very specific personal experience, the more we hit upon the universal, the more we are able to tap into the humanness of others. I love Milla's description of the sense of connection she felt with you and how that connection was illuminated here through your beautiful words.

    "I can call this inner environmental restoration. I have weeded out the noxious invasives and am inviting back native species. Underneath my skin, mycorrhizal webs of authenticity knit me back together."

    YES YES YES, I am so right there with you mid-life mama. Three cheers for inner environmental restoration! That is such a wonderful way of viewing the process and it speaks to me as I find myself compulsively going out into the garden these days to pull up oxalis by the handfuls, not because I have anything particularly against sour grass but it's that act of creating space between the more established plants being choked by it all. It definitely feels like I'm mirroring an inner process.

    Speaking of the DSM, a friend just posted a link to this powerful article on fb:

    While you wrote here about the wildness of the feminine experience, the article speaks to the wildness of the childhood experience and the increasing pathologizing of that as well as how, along with the latest incarnation of the DSM, grief itself is now beginning to be considered a condition rather than a natural and necessary process. It's all so... depressing... ;)

    Lastly, the moonlit woman in the tree! That's funny that Heather had the same postcard because I had a framed poster of it that hung over my bed throughout much of my twenties. I remember completely falling in love with that image.

    Mary, Milla, thank you both for being such inspiring wild beauties <3

  8. I want so badly to contribute to the lovely comments here, but I'm too... overwhelmed. Overcome. My heart is full to bursting and it aches. This was raw and beautiful and I will be processing these ideas for some time. I just need to say that, at 42, I'm totally in the same frame of mind about time passing... how in the world did I get here so FAST?

  9. "every one of them words rang true and glowed like burning coals, pouring off of every page like it was written in my soul from me to you" while it is so reassuring, affirming, grounding to know that there is a whole posse of us, i too have to say that the most amazing affirmation for myself is to go back and read my own rubbermaid tote full of journals-from-my-twenties. your entry from january 1997 mary, of you and yourself (the other one coming back after a long disappearance) is what brought the dylan quote to mind. one of my own very poignant images from my twenties is both a photo and a conversation with my mom and then subsequent journal entries pondering it, an image of me coming back, in the photo it was me having turned around to come back from the water's edge at the beach. in my mom's words, it was the moment she knew i was turning around and coming back and going to be okay (because for a while none of us were sure and i still wasn't sure). somewhere along the way, and yes i do think there is something to the pathologizing of the feminine experience that causes it, we were separated from ourselves along the way, and it takes a flipping decade or more of our lives to meet back up with ourselves, remember who we are, begin to value who we are and appreciate and love ourselves, approve of ourselves, start to figure out how to thrive and not just survive. obviously, from reading milla's words (lovely to meet you, milla! and thank you for this space) and the rest of the comments, there is an echo in here. so glad to have taken this little turn in the path today.

  10. Thank you for sharing so openly and honestly. It is such a pleasure to read your thoughts and process, about this getting older. About this looking back and wanting to tell her, so wrapped up in doubt upon herself and yet reaching so fiercely for the world, that it would all work out and that she would be more than ok, she'd turn into the butterfly, in this life. <3

  11. I wish I had something worthwhile to say here, but I just wanted to say thank you. Still in my twenties, a lot of this feels very close to home. It's wonderful to read your words Mary, and thank you Milla for sharing this too.

  12. Being in my last year of my 20's, I can also relate to a lot of this post. And being in a counselling program myself, I'm also a little biased in my reactions to this. I'm in a Master in Counselling & Spirituality program, and I wanted to give voice to the large amount of people in the counselling profession that are not all about the DSM and handing out diagnosis, but rather, about the human process of connection, exploration and growth. Maybe it's because of the specific program I'm in, or because I don't live in the US, but Mary's approach being subversive is seen as very normal in my environment. I guess I just don't want people to be afraid that all they will get by going to a professional is a cold and sterile diagnosis (although that is always possible). You have to shop around until you come up with a good match, just as you would with a doctor or hair stylist. Thank you for this great post!