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    Monday
    May222017

    Body Addiction (part 2)

    It wasn't that I couldn't identify my positive qualities; it was that I had trouble owning them. I struggled with internalizing, and sometimes even believing, that I had an awful lot to offer. I didn't know it in my heart. How could I, when my core belief was that I was a defective model of humankind? There were plenty of times that I felt good, or even great, about myself; but, like clouds of smoke, such self love was fleeting and ethereal. I was operating on a wispy foundation instead of a solid one. I had to become my own rock. 

    Residential treatment felt like a warm, loving soup with many ingredients, some of which I could taste, and some of which, although I knew they were there, could not. Whenever I was asked by the staff what was working for me, I would reply "All of it". I wasn't being smug. Truth is, I wasn't exactly sure what was happening, but I sure as shit knew something was. The mix of group therapy, individual therapy, Integrative Therapies (EMDR, Somatic Experiencing, Acupuncture), learning about my Central Nervous System's maladaptive stress response, Depression/Anxiety Education, Trauma Education, Meditation, and the the loving support of an amazing community, (to name just some of what I got) all worked synergistically to start moving mountains inside of me.

    Most important was my absolute commitment and dedication to the work. I put everything I had into everything that was offered.  At lectures - there were lots, and I never missed one - I took lots of notes, asked lots of questions, and often shared about my own experience. It felt like I was back in school, which I was. This time, I was going for a PhD in Me. 

    My approach from the get go was that of a rabid student, starving for knowledge. I always did well in school, especially in higher education, and I ate the whole experience up like a ravenous wolverine that hadn't eaten all winter (which kinda describes how I looked, and felt). I applied myself as if my life depended on it. Because it did. 

    I said "Yes" to everything, even stuff I didn't understand, thought was useless, or didn't particularly want to do. I let go of resistance and jumped in the deep end, even if the water was freakin' frigid. I got something out of everything. I surrendered to the process, figuring the people running the place knew more about this shit than I did. I trusted. And then I worked my ass off; although when I entered treatment, down to 159 pounds, I didn't have much of an ass left.

    I didn't like how I looked; my other coping strategies had been removed from my environment; and I was absolutely determined to leave treatment in a better place than I had ever been. Because of all that, things started shifting in me right away.

    The one thing I didn't have was hope. Well, my heart had hope, because the heart's hope is eternal. The heart can be so much smarter than the mind. My mind had grown very cynical of ever being able to let go of the negative self talk that was railroading my life. But my heart remained as optimistic as ever. My biggest problem was my mind; and for years I had been going to my mind for the solution. I mean, Duh. That's like pouring gasoline on a fire to put it out. 

    That said, my mind does play a big part in my healing. I found the lectures fascinating. The information provided a solid mental and intellectual container for all the work I was doing. Learning about all this stuff helped my mind let go. Everything I was hearing about trauma, depression, anxiety, the central nervous system, stress response, and mindfulness, made so much sense to me, and was so very representative of my own life long experience, that my mind bought it, completely. Once that happened, my head only played ball when it had to; the rest of the time, it stayed on the sidelines. It stopped working overtime to protect me.

    That's an absolutely critical point. I'm what's known, clinically, as "Hyper-Vigilant". That means I'm subconsciously always diligently scanning the environment for potential threats, for danger, even when I'm in safe environments. We all do this to some degree, as part of our natural survival instinct. But for some of us, that activity has become maladaptive; it's literally in constant overdrive. Brain wave activity is a tell tale indicator, and they can see that in Bio-Neurofeedback (another modality I received in treatment). It's like this: all kids are active. But some kids are literally, hyper-active. And that causes problems.

    Growing up, I was surrounded by bullshit. I was surrounded by lies. And my environments often didn't feel emotionally stable. At home. In school. Unstable environments and bullshit often ended up hurting me. Being a very intuitive and very sensitive kid, I picked up 'lots of channels", and I could smell bullshit. And it always felt like the proverbial other shoe could always drop at any second, and often did. But when that bullshit isn't validated as bullshit; when I'm told I'm safe when I don't feel safe; when I'm told that the lies are the truth, I start questioning my own experience. I stopped believing myself. And I stopped trusting that I'm ever emotionally safe (not to mention I stopped trusting anybody, period). Then, when I constantly got burned by lies, half truths, bullshit, and emotionally unstable environments, I became overly concerned with protecting myself from all of that. I experienced life as dangerous. So I adapted, or maladapted, to feel safer. I learned to always be on guard. That creates an over active mind and an over active central nervous system. And that creates chronic stress, anxiety, and some other dysfunctional behaviors.

    As I write this, I realize that there's a "Part 3" here, so I'm gonna stop now and ask you to join me for it. 

     

    ©2017 Clint Piatelli, MuscleHeart LLC, and Red F Publishing. All rights reserved.

    Friday
    May192017

    The Naked Warrior

    ©2017 Clint Piatelli, MusdleHeart LLC, and Red F Publishing. All rights reserved.

    Wednesday
    May172017

    Inner Music

    All I need to do

    is lose myself in music

    and experience the world through her magic

     

    when I make music the audio of my life's broadcast

    life feels different

     

    maybe it's an illusion

    maybe it's bullshit

    maybe its' not real

    maybe it's all nothing but an

    epic auditory delusion

     

    I don't really care

    because when I make life my own music video

    nothing feels impossible 

    everything feels doable

     

    I experience all of my wrongs as just broken pieces of glass in a life size mosaic

    my mistakes don't weigh me down

    or hold me back

    or daunt me as unforgivable

     

    my music

    insulates me

    not from the world at large

    but from the screech of the grindings of my own mind

     

    for those few hours 

    when I get to choose the soundtrack of my life

    the shift I feel

    is worth

    whatever the delusions

     

     - Clint Piatelli

     

     

    ©2017 Clint Piatelli, MuscleHeart LLC, and Red F Publishing. All rights reserved.

     

    Tuesday
    May162017

    Hitting It Hard

    To say that I hit the ground running when I entered treatment would be a gross understatement; it's more like I hit the ground with warp engines on my heels. The very first day, somebody asked me, "Where do you get all your energy? You're here for depression, right?". My answer came out almost before she was through talking; "I'm so ready for this shit."

    Getting myself to fully commit to something can be a painstaking internal process. I have the ability to see a lot of the angles; hence I naturally see the alternatives, the myriad of possibilities. It makes me a fantastic mediator, because not only can I see both sides of the issue, I see sides that may or may not even be there. I don't see a box. I see a whole little universe. 

    Once I do fully commit, however, I run hard, and I run deep. I run with a passion, an intensity, and a fury that can inspire, or move, or even alienate some. I'm not for everybody. Jump on board, watch from the sidelines, or get out of the way. That's just how I roll. 

    Most of my troubles around commitment center around going into something half-assed, which I can also be guilty of. What I've learned is, if I am going into something half-assed, I need to slow the process down; to re-asses whether I want to be in it at all. That wasn't the case when I decided to get help for my life long battle with depression, anxiety, and negative self-talk. Like cliff diving, I jumped off, head first, trusting the divine, with an open heart and an open mind.

    Being so ready, so open, and having nothing to hang my hat on but myself literally forced me to do it different; It was indeed The Gift of Desperation, and so much more than that. Let's use the analogy of an intimate relationship, from a heterosexual male perspective (the only one I have any authority on, although I feel this works across any and all sexual preference contexts); She may be the right woman; but is it the right time? Well, treatment was the right option. And, Fuckin' A, this was the right time. 

    My formidable defenses weren't just down, they weren't even functioning. How much more ready could I be? For the first time in my life.....In My Life.....I was miserable living in a place, my place mind you, but a place I didn't want to live. The holidays, usually a very festive time for me, had only heightened my loneliness. My work on my book, the only purpose I had found in a long time, had ground to a halt. I had lost the only woman I had ever felt a truly magical connection with. A big chunk of my future felt scuttled. I had been abusing substances, daily, for four months to stave off depression. If not now, then when? I mean, really. What the fuck more was it gonna take? I had completely lost my sense of self. This was my bottom: My Nuclear Emotional and Spiritual Holocaust. 

    And, despite my extreme vulnerability and burgeoning rawness, I retained some of my horse sense. My well developed intelligence and analytical acumen was alive and well in certain areas, and it was actually communicating with my heart. I sensed my intuition and trusted it. So I experienced The Holy Trinity of Decision Convergence: Heart. Mind. Gut. All telling me the same thing. All telling me exactly what to do and exactly where to go.

    This was not a path that I would have willingly chosen. But, life is smarter than I am. It always gives me what I need, not always what I want. I would never have chosen this path of pain. And yet, I know, it is what's best for me. Not because I know the answers. But because I know the fuckin' questions. To quote Bono; "We thought we had the answers, It was the questions we had wrong". 

    Not anymore. I was finally asking the right questions. And I was finally looking in the right places, both inside myself and inside the right environment, to find the answers.

     

    ©2107 Clint Piatelli, MuscleHeart LLC, and Red F Publishing. All rights reserved.

     

     

     

    Monday
    May152017

    Body Addiction (part 1)

    Over-Identification with anything in our life, be it our job, our looks, our mind, our status, our.........pick your poison.....is a prescription for suffering. For years, I over-identified with my body and my looks as a big source of my self-esteem, my masculinity, my confidence, and my MoJo. I was aware I was doing it, but I couldn't stop. It was, in every sense of the word, an addiction.

    Hanging my hat on how I looked grew from being a fat kid, being teased for it, and having to buy special pants ("Huskies", a great marketing name for kids with expanding waistlines). At an early age, I developed a poor body image. I wasn't a fat kid for very long, between about the ages of eight and twelve. Unfortunately, those are probably the absolute worst years to pack on pounds, for a number of reasons. 

    First of all, it's around then that the opposite sex stops becoming the enemy. Actually, I developed crushes on girls from as early as I can remember. I had the hots for my second grade teacher, Ms. Lindsey, Big Time. One of my babysitters, when I was about seven or eight, had the pleasure of having her long ponytail stroked by me whenever she would let me. She even let me tie her up in her bikini on the beach, and I wouldn't let her go until she promised my twin brother and I ice cream (I was a naughty, kinky outlaw from jump street).

    Biologically, it's also at around that age that we gain more access to our pre-frontal cortex (the "upstairs brain") which is the part of the brain that does the thinking, is logical, and sees the world more for how it is. Although we have more access to it, the pre-frontal cortex is still very immature, and it starts making connections between itself and the lymbic system (the "downstairs brain", or the emotional center) that are't real. Like "I'm fat, it doesn't feel good, I must be defective". These neural pathways are very strong, and it takes a lot of work redirecting them when we get older. But if you put the time and effort in, it gets done. Meditation, Somatic Experiencing, EMDR, and a host of other techniques are making it possible to get to the root of the trauma and create new neural pathways; to basically re-wire our brain.

    The bad timing double whammy regarding biological brain developmental and the shifting sands of social engagement meant that for me to get fat at that age had the potential to cause the most damage to my fragile ten year old ego. And it did. The scars of being a fat kid have stayed with me all through adulthood.

    There are gifts in that wound, however. It motivated me to change my body once I learned how. It gave me the discipline and the motivation to work hard and persistently to get and stay in great shape; to have a physique that looks better than most men half my age. I doubt this would be the case if it wasn't for the pain I felt being a fat kid and never wanting to feel that pain again.

    When I entered into treatment, I didn't look very good. I was thin, twenty pounds lighter than where I looked and felt best. I looked drawn, having lost a lot of muscle and too much weight in my face. For a man who could be guilty of hanging his hat on how he looked to define his sense of self, my coatrack had completely disappeared. I wasn't fat, but I certainly didn't like how I looked.

    This was a blessing. No, I didn't like how I looked. I saw that fact in the mirror every morning. But I was so ready for something new; I knew that way of over-defining myself just did not work anymore. Before I even entered treatment, something in me knew I could not keep doing it that way. Something in me knew that I was slowly killing myself, and this fixation, this addiction, to how I looked had something to do with that.

    The universe had severely limited my options. I couldn't go to my body or my looks to bolster my self esteem. I couldn't use substances to run away from the pain. I couldn't turn to an intimate relationship to get a sense that I'm indeed worthy of love. All I had was relatively emaciated me. 

    But, as I soon found out, that was more than enough.

    Join me for part two.

     

    ©2107 Clint Piatelli, MuscleHeart LLC, and Red F Publishing. All rights reserved.