Theater, Medication & Beauty and the Beast

Coffee and thoughts of the day!

I went to the theater this week, and it really was quite fun. Despite my medication not yet having stabilized, I strapped on my “I’m doing this” boots and went out with my wife to celebrate our anniversary at the movies. Not just for any movie either- Beauty and the Beast is a very special movie for us.

It really was quite an experience to go while being unstable. Due to my sensitivity to music while being altered, it brought up some old thoughts for me. Mainly an old saying that was repeated to me over and over in the days where I was trying to heal without medication.

It would often go in a series of questions. I would say that I was trying to heal. They, the sage elder or wannabe healer, would look ‘wisely’ over me and ask if there was any part of my symptoms that I enjoyed. Slightly naive, I would answer that yes, I did enjoy the way music would sometimes become a portal to ecstacy. Or that sometimes I felt like I was flying. Instantly they would latch onto whatever I said and say that it was that! I had to “Let Go” of it! I had to be prepared to leave it behind! Ohhh, pop psychology at work.

I would often leave these meetings confused and bitter, wondering if it actually was all my fault, but mainly blaming myself for miscommunicating pleasure instead of pain. For really, I would gladly trade these few moments of bliss against the days of horror and struggle that they plunged me into.

And yes, the medication has taken away the music’s ecstacy. It took away the wings that made it difficult to walk. And you know what?

I don’t miss them. When my service dog signals, sometimes it does feel like music is on the brink of sending me an ecstatic message. But now I don’t jump that bridge. It never goes beyond that. And that’s great. I was able to sit back and watch a movie, and though the soundtrack was very moving it was not overwhelmingly so. I didn’t feel like I was falling into a trance or receiving mind-blowing revelations through a fiddle. I was just watching a movie. And that was really nice.

Cold Weather, Wicca, and Triggers

Colder weather has long been a favourite temperature of mine. It brings meditative calm, peace of mind, and the stilling sound of snow falling has a precious quality to it. Ice, to me, makes sense as an element on the pentacle, for ice has so many qualities to it that none other has. To me, ice represents the cold very well. But what does cold do? It turns visible that which is unseen. Breath becomes mist. Water, which slips so easily through our grasp and ever moves on in evaporation or descent into the earth, is suddenly turned still and hard. I could go on and on about all the beautiful things that cold represents to me, but suffice to say that I am slightly infatuated with it.

And yet, cold is a massive C-PTSD trigger for me. Due to my past, a lovely taste of cold weather can suddenly turn into sharp mood swings, dissociation, and a vast amount of other complications. Usualy I can balance this. I’ve been forced to learn the strict amount of times I can spend immersed in this element, the very little amount of cold I can actually stand, and have to bundle up to the point that I almost do not feel that sharp bite upon my skin.

Unfortunately, curveballs happen in life and recently the heating broke in my apartment. Ah, global warming. If this wasn’t unusally cold weather locally for the time of year, it would have been no problem. We hardly would have noticed. Yet, there is still several feet of snow here, and I was forced once more to acknowledge my weakness to cold. How tiring a constant trigger can be. How exhausting it is to fight not just the draining sap of cold, but psychologically to battle against constant reminders of the past. To distance myself again and again from what feels like overlapping realities.

So what does this have to with spirituality? Balance, I would say.

For those of us suffering from triggers, we would love to live our life in a total absence of any reminders of our past. Of ‘those’ or ‘that’ event. But unfortunately, this blissful erasure is not always possible. So we live in a balance. We want to experience life in all its fullest, yet not be inundated by our past rising up from behind like an engulfing monster. And this is not a still thing. It reminds me of the pentacle, ever circling and rolling and flowing in the cycles of nature. Some days we fail, and the destructive forces of nature feel incarnate in us. Other days, we may feel successful, proud, and striving forward with the strength of fire. Yet other days we merely exist or cope, like a chunk of ice that neither melts or condenses. Life, we, are a cycle. Destructive and creative forces are a part of nature, and triggers, repercussions of destruction, are just as much a part of this cycle as anything else.

Medication’s Effects on the Soul

One of the reasons I was hesitant to take medication over the course of many years were the warnings I’d heard from “spiritual” people: that medication would change “who I was” and that I wouldn’t be “myself” if I took it.

Well, as a Wiccan now on medication I find that concept silly. In the months I have now taken medication I’ve never felt that they changed “who I was” and now that I contemplate it, I don’t think they can.

I believe the soul is fairly unchangeable. I believe that there is a nugget of our soul that is “us”, and that the rest can be changed by our conscious and unconscious choices. Does medication affect any part of this? No.

Medication, for me, changes my experiences. It changes the chemistry in my brain and affects what I feel: rage, sadness, anxiety, confusion. But these are experiences. Experiences color the lens in which we view the world. Experiences affect us but they are not us.

Through all the side effects of my medication I was still ‘me’. I was still present, still conscious (though sometimes quite addled). I did not suddenly lose myself or become a brainless zombie. I was present just as much as I’d ever been through my symptoms.

Perhaps it is the distinction I made between my symptoms and my own, true, self that allowed me to be so disaffected by the effects of my medication. Certainly, if I thought every mood swing was a mirror into my own heart I would have been concerned by these changes.

Yet, over the years, I’ve come to see this seperation as quite distinct. Having a service dog that alerts to the onset of my symptoms really helped me learn this difference. Relying upon Buddhist techniques where one acknowledges that one’s emotions are just fleeting things helped cement it in my mind. This does not mean these experiences have been easy to bear. It just meant that now, as I adjust medications that affect these symptoms (lessening some, worsening others in a fine-tuning effort) I see it as just that. They, like a taste or blow, are merely sensations that I am experiencing through the physical nature of the body. Symptoms that are a part of my body but not of me, my soul.