To the girl in the altered state
Every once in a while, about six to ten times a month, I enter an altered state in which I cannot recognize or reason with myself. Mostly this happens during the week before my menstrual cycle, but also occurs sporadically throughout the span of a moon-cycle. I am not separate or without consciousness of experience during this altered time, but I am definitely separated from a healthy self-image and from a sense of hope. Partially, this state of being can be explained through the symptoms of PMDD and/or severe PMS. Partially, this altered mood state can be explained through environmental influences, such as exposure to people, foods, weather fluctuations, and events. Causes of the root of these states can also be found through the intake of others’ words, actions, body language, moods and emotions. These altered states are intensified, if not jump-started, by the complexities of my thoughts, including my innate ability to scaffold one thought upon the other, and then root my ideas through advance complexities of processing equivalent in design to a skyscraper building upward and outward with exploding and expanding firework-like threads.
Inside my mind is a jumble of ideas edging their way through to exactness and refinement, entering a filter of dissection and biopsy, spit out into a conveyer belt which feeds each piece with microscopic filaments of possibility. As my mind functions much like a separate entity of its own, I get carried away in the potential outcomes, swept into immensely thick images and awakening, I can both feel, create, and to some degree control.
Here is the only place I find a semblance of control, and because I can find this peace, this place of no unexpected upset, but instead a returning again and again to the matter at hand–this machine of causation digesting and reproducing with each throb of my heart—I can remain here unaware of the happenings around me, the things occurring outside of my own thinking.
This serves me well, my thinking-machine, in times of deadlines, needed production, problem solving and sorting. I have the capacity to debate both sides of an argument with ease, essentially seeing with expansive foresight the end-trail of either avenue taken. Whether I be supporting myself or another’s endeavors, I am more likely than not to typically find beneficial solutions and make beneficial progress with any given task. I am able to mass-produce with focused concentration and powerful self-drive. Nothing is forced, induced or made to happen; the output of self happens instinctually and naturally, the process akin to the effortlessness in which a flower unfolds. I am neither under pressure or in a state of panic. More so I find myself in a blissful alleyway of escape with my troubles blocked out on one side and my worries blocked out on the other. I have managed, through simply being, to slip past both the mundaneness and challenges of life, and bask in an inner-state of creation. Here, in this creation state I am blissfully working. Pouring out information in graphic and written form, both in hardcopy and in my mind. What I see is transmitted and then drafted. Draft upon draft is reassembled and reconstructed, both internally and externally. I am me, yet I am not, producing with an extremeness I am familiar with, a rush of production that seems to resemble an urgency and need, though, to the creator resembles a necessity of action—something one was born to do and must do to survive.
Given a subject, I can learn mass amounts of information in a short amount of time, not because I am told to or want to, but because I am internally driven to completely fill the vacant spaces in my mind with input. I am taking in what I crave, as if the newness was the exact food I needed. I have nothing to prove to anyone. And thoughts of improvement of self spurs feelings of the potentiality for pride. This pride feels like poison to me, indigestible and damaging to the whole of self. I create with passion and fever, but not for the reasons others might suspect. And the suspicion, the judgment, the expectations of onlookers, is the first part that disturbs what I take in. The latter part which causes disruption being the layers of guilt I wade through for being what I am in the way I delve into the alley of reprieve. Together, the meanderings of thoughts, including the knowingness of what I am and who I am (in the way I deviate from the world-proclaimed norm), the indigestible thoughts of feasibly self-filling through prideful ways, the known ways in which I appear to others through my behavior, and the guilt which soaks through, leaves me in a split state—one in which I am in the alley of reprieve but pushing back a self-punishing voice that regurgitates what I have been shown and told through experience and exposure of normalcy.
It is the processing and creation that occurs within me that both feeds me and causes the worst agony. Yet I can discard of the self-defeating thoughts most of the time, except the handful of times in which I am in an altered state and feeling low self-worth, as previously mentioned above.
During these moments, which I have called altered states, when I am emotionally at my end, sad and what could be labeled ‘depressed,’ I am tested by my own thoughts and circumstances, inventing ways to end my agony, and undoubtedly coming up empty with possible recourse and explanation. My mind takes off again, as if bound to creation with engines revved. Only this time I am digesting bits and pieces that don’t make sense and leave me suffering. I am stuck on the loop, a conveyor belt that keeps recirculating with the same information over and over. I keep misfiring inside, keep trying to solve the unsolvable, and inevitably end up disappointed and forlorn.
I can step back while in this state and feel myself adrift, unable to help or pull myself outside of a surrounding feeling of doom. Not one to dismiss possibilities or explanation, not setting aside feasible reasons, I keep forming hypothesis and testing theories through personal trial and error, digging myself deeper into confusion and darkness. The only way out is to sleep, to process verbally with another, to create through writing or art, or to cry. When I am on overload, having reinvented the same scenes again and again, dizzy and upset by my own making, I might have a panic attack.
During these times of reconstructing the same thoughts over and over, I cling to my greatest fear of the moment. For me this is usually attached to abandonment, sickness and death. I see these fears in full picture, too. And having died a thousand ways through various ailments or found myself worthless in forever isolation by all I love, I become exhausted. In theory, I suppose, I climb into a storybook of sorts, living out alternate lives again and again, wherein I am not the heroine but the doomed sufferer. If not a storybook than a vivid horror film in which the characters all dissolve and I am left alone in a sucking suffocating darkness that breathes me into a state of hopelessness. Because my mind is the way it is, for whatever cause or reason, the very tool that creates masterpieces is the same tool that creates my demise. In this way, the same control I lack in being swept into the alley of reprieve is the same tool I lack that keeps me from being sucked into crushing isolation.
Having tried various measures to offset these altered-states, I have found that some things can make a difference. But usually these measures are unexpected, unpredictable, and cannot be created through planning or intervention. The only thing that stops my altered-states is the unexpected. A few ways I am pulled out might include circumstances such as a joyful surprise, a state of urgency in which I need to help another or solve a pending challenge or expected occurrences such as a good friend visiting from out of town or a celebrated accomplishment.
Time and time again I have wished I had a letter to read to myself during this altered state. Ideally, I would benefit from videotaping myself reminding myself I will be okay because during the dark hours it seems nothing will ever stop the physical, emotional, and spiritual pain.
Dear Girl in the Altered-State,
You are here again, and you knew you would be; even though you think this is a new thing, it’s not! I know this time you think this is it, the end, the worst, the real test you will fail, the trial that will end you. Again, it’s not. You are fine. You are momentarily lost in a loop like a time traveler who has lost her way. The key word to remember is ‘momentarily.’
‘This too will pass. This too will pass.’ You aren’t going anywhere. You aren’t checking out. You aren’t crazy, and you are certainly not dying. No more than anyone else on earth, anyhow. You are a mortal and a human being and you are affected by so much in this world. You take in mass amounts of information, much of what you can’t even recognize until it is spewed out the other side through you, like some salmon flying upstream and landing on shore.
You are enough. I know you think you are not. But you are. You are pretty and smart and lovely. You are sweet and kind and caring. I know you think you aren’t good enough, no matter how hard you try and that you aren’t worthy. But you are.
In a few days you will be smiling again and loving life. Here are some important things to remember. The rest let go. All of it. I mean it. Let go of the worry, fret, regret, upset, and all that makes you mourn. Cry if you need to but don’t hold it in, and follow this list like a trail of breadcrumbs that will bring you home.
I love you. I love you so very much. You are brave and my princess, and you are never alone. You will lose your faith during this time, but the angels are still here. You will lose yourself, but you are still here. You will question everything and everyone, and not believe a positive word out of anyone’s mouth, including mine, but that is okay.
Still with all of this said, you will think this is it, the very last straw, the end of it all and the beginning of everlasting suffering. That’s bull. It really is. It’s a dark voice invented in some alley way in your mind. We don’t know why it happens, but it does. Probably a side effect of all your processing, like the sludge overspill form a well-greased engine. That’s all this is: an end result of your mind at work.
Don’t trust the negative messages and don’t make any decisions. And believe in us, in you, and finding your way back. You don’t have to do anything. You don’t have to fix yourself. You are perfect. And you don’t have to search for a way out. It will just come. The custodian is in there right now cleaning up the gunk with a mop. Just wait. That’s all. It’s okay if you are impatient and you don’t believe me. All is okay. I know that anything on this list will take all of your energy, but doing just one will help you. Remember I am here waiting, and you will come out of this altered state soon. For now pamper yourself and know you are loved.
1. Shower or take a salt bath. You will instantly feel better
2. Walk and if you can’t walk then dance to music. Move. Just move.
3. Accomplish one small task, like emptying the dishwasher, one little thing will show you that you are okay and capable of productive activity.
4. Create through your sorrow: dance, paint, draw, write, or do something that spills the emotions out of you into reality.
5. Process aloud with loved ones how you feel.
6. Treat yourself to food, you will be starved during this time, and that is okay. In a few days, once rebalanced, your healthy eating habits return.
7. Avoid the mirror and taking photos of yourself. How you view you is not reality. You are creating flaws and negative messages when you see yourself.
8. Go outdoors. Even if for a moment. Let your feet touch the earth.
9. Get in contact with nature, feed the wild crow or pet your crow, stare at the water, breathe in the air, soak in the green of your surroundings. Don’t hide out in your house, you will suffocate.
10. Allow yourself times of no production. Just be. And don’t analyze. If you need to listen to the same song over and over do it. If you need to watch a movie over and over, do it. Don’t judge yourself, your actions, or what you are doing. You are enough, and it is okay to rejuvenate.
11. Avoid triggers that increase anxiety including gluten products, coffee, and exposing yourself to people that drain your energy.
12. It’s okay to say no.
13. It’s okay to let go of your responsibilities, slow down, and take care of yourself.
14. It’s okay to cry and to be afraid.
15. Don’t try to solve, fix, or understand what is happening. It is out of your control and that is okay.
I love you, my precious one.
You are enough.