Dreaming Beyond Poe
A Path of Reconciliation with Life
For the last couple of years, I have been undergoing a significant personal mental health transformation. It wasn’t pretty. Still isn’t but a my current state has a lot of the fog lifted. Trauma built on previous years of unresolved depression and a huge amount of social anxiety and voila, you have melting pot of non-digestible soup.
Ilost faith in hope and I had no hope in faith. Even my natural inclination to work hard as though it would solve everything had lost it’s power. There was one final blow which threw me into the quicksand.
After that, I had nothing left (or at least that is what it felt like). I cloistered myself into a hermetically sealed home-zone. The only others, both allowed and willing to be in my company, were my doctors, dentist and therapists.Even my mechanic didn’t get to see my car. If it wouldn’t operate properly, it remained parked in the driveway and I walked.
My days were filled with writing, art, running, writing, art, running, into a pattern of existence that matched my repressed self-image and general existential angst. I can honestly say, that despite my natural orientation towards creativity in the form of painting, it was writing that saved my life.
Writing and art allowed me the space to explore my extraordinary amount of cognitive dissonance I was trying to reconcile. I learned to actually see my soul — a realm beyond my mind that I had never really acknowledged. My rational mind superseded everything. I could and would reduce all scenarios into superficially neat little packages of logic.
But, this really complicated my recovery. My degrees in psychology, science and education meant that I felt I should be able to just snap out of it. There was no self-compassion in this scenario. Why couldn’t I just think my way out of depression and make mental well-being happen?
The point here (hindsight it twenty-twenty) is that I couldn’t get better until I accepted and integrated all parts of who I am — body, mind, heart, soul and spirit. In depression, as with any mental state, my art, writing, relationships, work ethic, reading choices, etc. are all tinted by the same brush. That is how depression works. It infiltrates like a really bad virus.But, then again, so does joy and compassion, when you reach that point.
And, most telling, are my dreams. My dreams, for a very long time, were equally filled with angst — more along the lines of Poe than Rumi, that is for sure.
A Dream within a Dream, by Edgar Allen Poe,brings the essence of how existential angst and depression can feel. The following is a version of that poem, with some of my personalized poetic adaptation.
I [stood] amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I [held my life] within my hand
Grains of the golden sand —
How few! yet how [it crept]
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I [wept] — while I [wept]
O God! [I asked why I could] not grasp
[it] with a tighter clasp
O God! [I asked] can I not [save]
[what is], from the pitiless waves
I asked: Is all that we see or seem— E. Poe, adapted by Leah J.
But a dream within a dream?
holding tight, that dream within the dream
Not hope but intention to stay the course, in baby steps, nurtured me back to ‘life’. As in recovery, I imagine, for an alcoholic, my depression wasn’t going to be fixed by someone else. It is a slow recovery.
There is no magic cure. I needed to choose to stay the course with an intentional attitude that did definitely wax and wane, but always remained. I would beat this thing that, both held me in its grips, and, was letting my life slip away, like grains of sand.
The right intentions have to be there for the power to build from within.The dream is within the dream. It is the soul reaching out to talk to you. To embrace the intangible with the tangible.
For this rational thinker, it also meant letting go. The quicksand pulls you down faster and deeper, the more you struggle. I felt this pull with a conundrum of having to be strong, and yet, not struggling — accepting, with patience, what is, but with eyes wide open.
Then, finally, last night, the dreaming was different — more Rumi than Poe. Instead of the angsty flight from some evil of one sort or another, this narrative from my unconscious, suggested an inner strength.
an evolving course
through this migration of intelligences
and though we seem to be sleeping,
there is an inner wakefulness— Rumi
that directs the dream, and that will eventually startle us back
to the truth of who we are.
I sail with you…
on the ocean of my dreams— Rumi
to a far away distant
place of great beauty and tranquility
where suffering and pain do not exist
where we give praise for our joy and happiness, where our love intertwines
with our love for all things…
In my dreams of late, the archetype of a unified, cohesive self seemed more prominent. I feel comfort, definitely, that I have turned a more definitive corner. It is a distinctive series of watershed moments, building, exponentially upon the one before. This is a story of redemption on the path of learning to love (and like) my genuine self and share that love and light with others in a very open, compassionate way.
And, in that dream and subsequent ones, there is joy — a shared joy, mutual, positive, that you can only harness from within. In retrospect, now, with a clearer mindset, I can see the progression out of the dark and into the light.
Dreams are telling. In this case: No fear. No flight. We smiled. I stayed.
© 2019 Leah J, M.Ed. Psychology writer/artist/teacher
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