Posts Tagged ‘healing’


Confirmation bias is taking in only the information that fulfills that which you want to believe. Spiritual, deals with the intangibles of life. But what does this have to do with today? It is easy to exist within confirmation bias within religious settings. For anyone that has read the book or seen the movie, Running with Scissors, this is partly the concept of a “Bible Dip” cracking open a sacred text, reading what is there, and pulling out what you want to see. It is not done with extended context, or discussion with others, just simply your own literal reading of the words on the page.

This challenge was raised in our exploration of the Gospel of Luke. See, usually you start with the context of a passage, what came before or after to unpack, that didn’t create a deeper or better understanding. It was just one of those moments in a text that is like a wha huh?

24 “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it wanders through waterless regions looking for a resting place, but not finding any, it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ 25 When it comes, it finds it swept and put in order. 26 Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and live there; and the last state of that person is worse than the first.”

-Luke 11:24-26 (New Revised Standard Version)

It is unpacking that what is the point of healing? For this example it is challenging Jesus’ exorcism that basically yeah the demon was cast out, but then returns with 7 friends and life becomes more hellicious. One reading is for those with mental health concerns, or other chronic health conditions, what is the point of healing or seeking help for it is all for naught. The better cliche, is what is seen where one accepts treatment to a certain point and is feeling better so stops, and guess what happens before healing is complete?

But this passage pulls out another praxis. See, one may not know the original languages, but we live in a time of multiple translations especially in the English language, and I want to challenge you not to simply read the text in your bible. If you can, discuss it in a group (over snacks is always good), but also have diversity in the translations in the group, and so we started to wrestle with this and unpack with a few other readings of it:

24 “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ 25 And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. 26 Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.”

-Luke 11:24-26 (English Standard Version)

24-26 “When a corrupting spirit is expelled from someone, it drifts along through the desert looking for an oasis, some unsuspecting soul it can bedevil. When it doesn’t find anyone, it says, ‘I’ll go back to my old haunt.’ On return, it finds the person swept and dusted, but vacant. It then runs out and rounds up seven other spirits dirtier than itself and they all move in, whooping it up. That person ends up far worse than if he’d never gotten cleaned up in the first place.”

-Luke 11:24-26 (The Message)

Different readings and conversation brought us to the bridge of the key word in the Message– Vacant. The other two spoke of in order, but the concept wasn’t extrapolated. For what happens when you spring clean your house? You not only get the dirt and gunk out, but you remove the clutter, make donations, create more space for the new you emerging. This is what is missed in the conversation of healing from any health concern. Your internal spiritual house has been put in order, in some cases completely rebuilt. The toxic is removed.

Now the challenge has been laid at your heart, do you continue the work? Do you continue the care, and ensuring that your house remains toxin free? Or do you just accept it as a one and done moment. It is in that one and done, my house is in order- vacant, that is the allegory of the demon getting friends, for there is now more room to play. The more room is not only from the removal of a certain level or all toxins and clutter, rather it is also the ego that comes from going through the healing that you have a blind spot.

But is that only all? Well, within the chapter it is a challenge by the religious oppressors of Jesus’ healing. A healing ministry designed and implemented to remove the farcical barriers that labelled any divine image as wrong, and less than any other. It was their attempt to say, yes you may have done this and come and been welcome back— BUT, it is for nought for you will always be what you were. That caste system ideal of not seeking to be healthier or better. In the modern world it is the churches that preach only prayer for healing not to trust medical doctors or psychologists, because this is who you are and only by being holier will you see the glory of God.

See how the religious oppressors still exist? The importance of belonging and community in spiritual growth and discipleship? The importance of belonging in healing and recovery?

These 3 little verses can be devastating, until you read them and realize it is stated to discourage growth and transfiguration into who you are meant to be in the Holy. Once you realize that, it is a case of stepping over it and going, NO. I trust the call on my soul to be whole.

 

Flash-Trauma

Posted: November 28, 2019 by Ty in Spirituality
Tags: , , , , ,

The last few days I have received my daily meditations from the Henri Nouwen Society, and they have been centered on community. It is a unique time of reflection as my life opens up for the new vocational call (I have pasted the 2 meditations at the end of the post for your own contemplation), as my family prepares for the Advent practice of reading the Gospel of Luke. I have read in my own contemplation the other two synoptic gospels (Matthew & Mark), which compliment into Luke’s take– all three focused on building the Kingdom here. That is stepping through the thin space, and making it a reality in the here and now. That is the summation of the Laws & Prophets that Brother Jesus lived, see… he created Holy Community by removing the falsely imposed barriers of society dictated by labels.

Yet, it was only possible in the realm of choice. It is complimented by two other experiences this week. One is David Mack’s (2017) Star Trek Titan  Fortune of War that touched on how the Dominion War had affected Federation officers and citizens. The obviousness of the struggle of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder still existing in the 24th Century makes sense. See, trauma is our body’s systems response to what happens in the flight-fight-freeze and where our resilience takes us. Are we stuck in any one frame when stress arises? It can be caused by one event, or a series of events, can be suppressed from early years, or triggered by another health emergency that resets or breaks our self-care resilience regime up to that point and cause the entirety of the past to come back.

“it was like being in…prison, only locked up in your own mind with all the terrors”

-Barry Allen, The Flash (The Last Temptation of the Flash Part 1 now streaming on NetFlix).

Which was brought home by this week’s Flash episode, heading towards the Crisis cross over (google it, it’s a live action take on an epic 80’s maxi-series). This is the moment when Flash, knowing he is doomed to die in the Crisis (sorry dudes not a spoiler, ending is like established 35 years ago). The story leading up is what is going to happen, how he is handling it. The villain Bloodwork, is infesting him and tempting him turn to evil to save everyone. The Speed Force, that which gives him his power encouraging him to stay the course, and his family/community holding him to be who he is meant to be and supporting them.

What a powerful metaphor for the struggle of PTSD. Whether you have taken it in through anxiety-depression and it can be debilitating, or through a conversion disorder, that is debilitating. You have become like Barry, trapped in his own mind, fever rising, on the med bed needing to make a choice. Where do you go? What do you choose?

See, faith and God play a role in it. It is a bedrock of existence on what makes you you (and yes there can be bedrocks of values and faith that can carry one through that aren’t in this vein, but for me it is). The faith is represented by the Speed Force (who has taken the form of Barry’s departed Mum–quite a Marian theology reference if there ever was one).

This is the thing, there are many things that are placebo out there. That one can choose not to deal with their trauma by doing. Addiction. Hiding. Manipulation of trauma informed care, so that how we are becomes normal and acceptable, but we don’t have to follow the healing path laid out. Anger. Violence. Crying. Debilitation. Accepting suffering as normal for some deep spiritual rebirth experience. Using pseudo-science and other spiritual practices to absolve us of doing the actual work. Accepting that we will not have deep relationships, or that people simply leave. There is a bajillion reasons to not stare the trauma in the face.

Trust me.

I have stood in the darkness unable to see the light.

It is the crossroads of choice.

Our last temptation.

See speaking openly and boldly about the struggle of mental health carries huge stigma still.

Do we let the gremlin voice of stigma freeze us?

Do we let the loss of toxic community cause us to take flight?

Or do we decide we are worth it, because we are created very good and blessed, and it is time to fight through the suffocating darkness?

It is time to enter the cocoon. That point in time where we are dissolved to our primordial selves, and rebuilt into something completely new. Healing is not about becoming who you were, because who you were was shaped by the trauma and toxic. Healing is about new creation. New you.

Like the gospel story of Transfiguration.

It is done by the hard work. Work with PhD. psychologists equipped to walk with us through things like ART & EMDR to rewrite our minds, so our souls and hearts can be unburdened.

So in the Holy Waiting. The Sacred Journey. The Pilgrimage to the new centre of you.

“It was what made him deserving of the name, “Hero”.”

-Iris West-Allen (The Last Temptation of the Flash Part 1)

Standing in the heart of who you are, and knowing you deserve the calling of wholeness. Of Love.

And answering it.

For are we not, the hero, of our own sacred story?

Appendix: The Community Reflections:

DAILY MEDITATION | NOVEMBER 26, 2019
Community Makes God Visible
Nothing is sweet or easy about community. Community is a fellowship of people who do not hide their joys and sorrows but make them visible to each other as a gesture of hope.
In community we say: “Life is full of gains and losses, joys and sorrows, ups and downs—but we do not have to live it alone. We want to drink our cup together and thus celebrate the truth that the wounds of our individual lives, which seem intolerable when lived alone, become sources of healing when we live them as part of a fellowship of mutual care.”
Community is like a large mosaic. Each little piece seems so insignificant. One piece is bright red, another cold blue or dull green, another warm purple, another sharp yellow, another shining gold. Some look precious, others ordinary. Some look valuable, others worthless. Some look gaudy, others delicate. We can do little with them as individual stones except compare them and judge their beauty and value. When, however, all these little stones are brought together in one big mosaic, portraying the face of Christ, who would ever question the importance of any one of them? If one of them, even the least spectacular one, is missing, the face is incomplete. Together in the one mosaic, each little stone is indispensable and makes a unique contribution to the glory of God. That’s community, a fellowship of little people who together make God visible in the world.
Henri J. M. Nouwen
DAILY MEDITATION | NOVEMBER 27, 2019
Waiting in Community
Christian community is the place where we keep the flame of hope alive among us and take it seriously so that it can grow and become stronger in us. In this way we can live with courage, trusting that there is a spiritual power in us when we are together that allows us to live in this world without surrendering to the powerful forces constantly seducing us toward despair. That is how we dare to say that God is a God of love even when we see hatred all around us. That is why we can claim that God is a God of life even when we see death and destruction and agony all around us. We say it together. We affirm it in each other. Waiting together, nurturing what has already begun, expecting its fulfillment—that is the meaning of marriage, friendship, community, and the Christian life.
Henri J. M. Nouwen

It is a story told over two volumes:

A stone skipping across a pond leaves ripples with each impact.

The joys and life of traumas are the like the skipping stone through the generations.

Soul Ripples

What happens when the helper needs help?

For over 20 years Ty Ragan served his neighbour from the rough camps to the shelters to home and every where’s in-between. The simple life lesson of Jesus of Nazareth to love your neighbour as yourself was the centre question to be answered in his life. In May 2016 his life would begin to change drastically through unknown seizures and strokes.

Enter into the ripples that brought him to 2016, the transformational power of love of family and friends as he seeks new ripples in hope for his soul.

cover

Buy Soul Ripples here.

Then enter the healing with Soul Ripples Two by clicking link in the caption of the picture:

centennial coffee

Soul Ripples 2

Enjoy the journey, and please share with those you think need to see that healing is possible…and Hope abounds.


Many will say

There is no place or

Time left to let blame rest

Yet many need to understand the ripples

Their actions,

Words,

Have upon those they are inflicted upon.

In-Laws

Should be outlaws,

Not seeing the harm

They inflict

For they believe their crap

Don’t stink

Holier than thou

Of the non or believer holy rollers

Shattered souls

And lives

Finding respite

Relief,

Leave me

Under pressure

Confronted

Conflicted

Being stared through

With glassed over eyes

That has pain nulled,

Yet not healed or released

The seizures release falsely

Yet the cracks are there

As the pressures of life

And career mount

One glassy eyed stare

And the house of cards

The interior castle

The mind palace

Collapses

The colloquial straw upon the camel’s back

Or the angelic breaking of the back from the verse upon my Mummy’s urn,

A sad sack turn of phrase to appease another’s guilt.

Yet…

In the end…

Treatment awaits…

To heal

Rebirth

Reboot

The soul,

That had been broken,

And the sources,

Will never know

Or more aptly

Give a damn.


Burn that Bunker Down

 

The third ART Treatment burnt down the solid concrete bunker that was holding the horrors at bay. It was an image I had used through my therapy to describe the dribs and drabs my body would allow out for healing. Solid concrete, with small cracks and crackling green flame behind it that could peek out as my body prepared to deal with the next wave of pain.

The challenge is that after the second treatment, the mind webbing down before brought me to an almost shooting death by the police after saving a suicidal individual. But the spider-webs out had dealt with connecting points of other moments of being threatened, assaulted, shot at, entering into the world of hoarders, vicarious trauma and bed bug infestations[1]. This had alleviated flashback, anxiety, and depression pressures and fears upon my system for the two weeks between treatments. It was a freedom I had not enjoyed for many years.

The freedom though allowed me, like a soul archaeologist, to continue the fine work of getting to core memories. The true horrific traumas that my body was attempting to protect me from upon this journey.  Entering into my third treatment that I had innocuously stated to explore the deaths (613, but again dear reader, pick up the first volume) who collage and crushing grieving emotions began taking hold after the last treatment on my being.

The homework (prep work? soul work?) before this session I began mapping out the deaths. Trust me not a fun time. It left me weepy, my emotions raw. Basically struggling to ensure I was present, and still the me on the healing journey for my family for I was not going to be collapsing back into Psychogenic Non-Epileptic Seizures despite the rawness of what was emerging.

As was written previously, the molestation memories came back at this point. BUT it was not first. See, my soul mapping started at first with the deaths- professional, friends, connected to family, my family, brought me down to when my Granddad died when I was 16 years old. The last words he spoke to me the night he passed was, “it’ll be alright” which triggered the shattering flashbacks of the summer of 8 years old, noted before.

The Vacation Bible School ones came back first, but then came down to Grandpa Joe. Thankfully the attempt stayed on top of the clothes when I had gone to get ice cream during a BBQ, and my Grandma and Mum saved me, and then built in safety precautions until he died when I was 12 years old which was a huge relief to me. I did not understand then, this was buried deep.

It came up in dreams from then until he was dead. These dreams were of adults in my life, at meal times, BBQs with everything feeling like a normal family time. Then the adults would pull off their faces, which were like Scooby Doo monster masks, to reveal a reptilian head beneath, much like the Gorn from the Original Star Trek episode, the Arena.

Note the symbolism?

Our subconscious protects and buries. It also attempts to work through. The crashing down of my neuro and physical systems unearthed this core memory which became the memory to be treated during my Accelerated Resolution Therapy and would produce a new emotion for me during this journey.

See it was through this process that the fear, anger, and hurt was replaced. There was healing. The image of the concrete bunker exploded and was consumed by the green flames. I literally felt electricity leave my body (as I had with two previous sessions, but this wasn’t just extremities, it felt as from my heart).

The negative emotions moved slowly through processing to neutral. I walked through where each of my family was, but there was still reconciling this ass-hat who some still looked to fondly, and what he had tried to do—Joe. He was dead. One could say with my religious connotations I could take solace that he was in Hell. Except, that does not work with how I had come to believe, readers of volume one will note my short treatise on Purgatory. The final purging of all that keeps you from Heaven that meant Joe was with Jesus.

But not the monster on earth, a new creation.

It was this thought from my heart that tipped the balance of neutrality to positive ever so slightly. As the treatment continued, and I focused more on how the matriarchs of my family worked within the system to protect me, hope began to emerge.

From hope we moved to…joy.

Now the monster was dead. The ashes were consumed away. I drank deeply of joy.

The journey continued…as it was time to confront the other ripples in my life, but today joy was felt again. It is how faith, psychology and community work together to craft a new me.

[1] For more on infestations and such, I direct you to Soul Ripples.


Previous Soul Ripples

 

My family’s story in Soul Ripples (Bookstand Publishing, 2019) was the story seeking to understand my family. The stories of faith, healing, mental and physical health challenges, community, love, belonging and making choices of one path over another. One does not need to have read the previous book to enjoy this one, but it will flesh out the journey to this point.

The broad strokes are simple. It started in 2013 with a hand tremor that a walk in clinic doctor suggested I drink more water. By May 2016 and October 2016 a series of mysterious strokes, and seizures led me to visit the Peter Lougheed Centre of the Calgary General Hospital’s Emergency Room. After fighting with on-site staff that I was not a Fentanyl addict overdosing, testing showed that everything was normal. A few days of convalescence at home and I was back at work.

There was a progression of physical and emotional fatigue following the October 2016 visit, but always another person to help, another home to begin building with those in life recovery exiting homelessness. On July 1, 2017 I would suffer several events that would take my family out of our usual Canada Day Celebrations in the Village of Rosemary, Alberta.

By my 39th Birthday of that year, August 15, I would begin daily visits to the Emergency Room for unexplained seizure activity, white frothy vomit, tremoring left arm, pain in my skull, fatigue, and horrific flashbacks to name but a few. My wife, Shawna, would capture a video of an episode the first night there that would cause a panic, but again nothing was found.

Within a week of visits, a nurse who was a former student of mine would advocate that I was not a frequent flyer who needed Naloxone, but there was something seriously wrong. I would be placed on Keppra and booked in for a referral to Neurology. I kept tracking the events, the symptoms, and my flashbacks…rush of emotions and mosaics of the events I had been a participant in over 20 years of trying to discover how to love my neighbour, and responding not to the code or commodity before me, but the person.

Early EEG’s would show wildfire like Epileptic sparking activity, and I would be raised to the highest dose of Keppra possible, one that should have left me not very functional. Yet I kept trucking along.

By October 4, 2017 I had finally crashed and burned at work. My last contact before the call in being an instance of workplace bullying, my boss the next morning we spoke as I had left a simple cracking voice mail message simply, “I can’t” as I cried after an overnight of multiple seizures and night terrors. I would first go on short term disability through Employment Insurance, before accessing the Long Term Disability as I was not improving.

The neurology unit at the Peter Lougheed did the best they could, but my case was complex. I was referred to the Epilepsy Centre at the Foothills Medical Centre. Where looking at my reports, and the question was raised what was happening. I was put in the queue to have an in-patient observation done which would finally happen in the first week of September 2018 at the South Health Campus.

A week of observation captured many types of my seizure events from full body, to eye rolling, to arm tremor, to head shaking while I was wired in to the EEG the whole time. I left the unit without any medications and began the journey of detoxing from the Keppra in my system. Still having around 1-9 seizures a day (down from my time working when it was between 40-60 seizures a day).

In November I would get my results, after hearing that it was a huge discussion within Epileptologists about what was happening with my brain. To simply take the EEG’s or to factor in my history to come to a firm diagnosis about what the next steps would be.

The next steps?

A diagnosis of Psychogenic Non-Epileptic Seizures (PNES), probably caused by Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder which led to a referral to the psychotherapy portion of the Epilepsy Centre, that is two PhD psychologists trained to work with PNES and Epilepsy whether occurring separately or co-occurring.

Psychogenic Non-Epileptic Seizures (PNES):

Seizures that are not related to Epilepsy. All the same challenges and fears from fall to sudden death, yet not treatable by any anti-epileptic or anti-convulsion medications. Mine were triggered by PTSD. Treatment is psychotherapy.

 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)[1]:

What used to be called Shell Shock.

•Moved into a mental health diagnosis.

•Questions still remained about why some treatments worked and others did not.

•Recently, studies have shown there is 3 main types:

1.       Traumatic Brain Injury (formerly shell shock)-the physical damage to the brain

2.       Mental health

3.       Both combined

For a diagnosis these must be present for at least a month, 1 from each category:

•At least one re-experiencing symptom: flashbacks, frightening thoughts, bad dreams

•At least one avoidance symptom: staying away from places, objects or events that are reminders of traumatic events; avoiding thoughts or feelings related to events.

•At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms: angry outbursts, feeling tense or on edge, difficulty sleeping, easily startled.

•At least two cognition and mood symptoms: trouble remembering key features of event, negative thoughts about oneself or the world, distorted feelings of loss or guilt, loss of interest in enjoyable activities

Some factors that increase risk for PTSD include:

•Living through dangerous events and traumas

•Getting hurt

•Seeing another person hurt, or seeing a dead body

•Childhood trauma

•Feeling horror, helplessness, or extreme fear

•Having little or no social support after the event

•Dealing with extra stress after the event, such as loss of a loved one, pain and injury, or loss

 

[1] All generalities of mental health diagnosis are derived from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual V (DSM-V).

 

 

On February 14, 2019 I began the journey of rewiring my brain. This is the story of discovery and healing. It is as the Hear O’ Israel prayer states the Shema as phrased by Brother Jesus. My whole life had been centered on loving my neighbour, now it was time to authentically discover how to love myself.

 


When Phil Jackson coached the LA Lakers he would say if there was a negative player they would be housed on away games in another hotel from the team altogether. Why? That negativity would be infested. It was a corrective action, much like in our own bodies if we break a limb and it is casted, or get a cut and use a band aid (or depending on the severity stitches).

This analogy of body healing came to me as I contemplated these words of St. Paul today and the state of churches in pain:

12 There is one body, but it has many parts. But all its many parts make up one body. It is the same with Christ. 13 We were all baptized by one Holy Spirit. And so we are formed into one body. It didn’t matter whether we were Jews or Gentiles, slaves or free people. We were all given the same Spirit to drink. 14 So the body is not made up of just one part. It has many parts.

15 Suppose the foot says, “I am not a hand. So I don’t belong to the body.” By saying this, it cannot stop being part of the body. 16 And suppose the ear says, “I am not an eye. So I don’t belong to the body.” By saying this, it cannot stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, how could it hear? If the whole body were an ear, how could it smell? 18 God has placed each part in the body just as he wanted it to be. 19 If all the parts were the same, how could there be a body? 20 As it is, there are many parts. But there is only one body.

21 The eye can’t say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 In fact, it is just the opposite. The parts of the body that seem to be weaker are the ones we can’t do without. 23 The parts that we think are less important we treat with special honor. The private parts aren’t shown. But they are treated with special care. 24 The parts that can be shown don’t need special care. But God has put together all the parts of the body. And he has given more honor to the parts that didn’t have any. 25 In that way, the parts of the body will not take sides. All of them will take care of one another. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it. If one part is honored, every part shares in its joy.

27 You are the body of Christ. Each one of you is a part of it.

-1 Corinthians 12: 12-27 (New International Readers Version)

The analogy that Paul uses to explain a church is of a body. In more modern times we use the idea of corporation or family. But let’s reflect on these words in times of conflict. In times when deep holy conversations need to happen. There are points when healing needs to happen– ala truth and reconciliation. Think of this as stitches or a caste.  The scarring of the wound is still there, but we have healed and moved forward as one body.

But then there is deeper pains, these are the hates, the prejudices, the bigotries that emerge as a result of fear of change, formation, or simply, deeply held beliefs. The Anglican Church of Canada bishops recently showed these signs with their vote against belonging for the LGBTTQ2+ community within their own church. On a smaller scale, faith healing congregations show this towards persons with disabilities tying their different Image of God to a lack of faith on the part of the person or their family. It can also be an unwelcome, acting passively aggressively or overtly bullying of a person within pews during worship so your lips say welcome, but your actions clearly say you do not belong here and we will remove the safety of the sanctuary until you get the message.

It is a chronic disease. Most notably a fast acting cancer, like negativity on a basketball team (I mean, Phil Jackson should know what he speaks of he did manage to get Shaq better at free throws).

The response in churches I am most used to, is it is ignored, and the leadership refocuses on what is going well for the damage is only beholden to one small segment, usually those that do not give huge amounts of money or is new, so that loss does not matter.

YET, here are the words’ of Paul speaking of the need for every part of the body, and what role they play. What if this person that creates discomfort for better belonging is the agent breaking the artery clog to stave off a stroke or a heart attack? Is the EMDR-ART to heal the PTSD? The CBT that corrects disassociation?

The radiation or chemotherapy or operation that removes the cancer for longer life.

See the toxicity is usually pacified, because good people are also a small portion of the congregation that do a lot of work and are tired. They are also fearful of conflict in this time of shrinking attendance, and fear the time the congregation’s life cycle is at an end. Though by ignoring the cancer, it goes from something small and quickly treatable to, well, cancer left unchecked becomes terminal.

The question for a church, that is a Body of Christ, are what choice are you making when confronted with what could be a terminal illness? Ignore and let it consume you? Take your own life? OR Treatment and healing.

The question is as personal for each Body of Christ, as it is for each patient.