Tag Archives: zen

Free Pass


Free PassI went to see my psychiatrist yesterday, and it turns out that the 20mg of Prozac I had been taking for the last month or so was nowhere near enough. Back then she had given me a second prescription for 40mg, and I was supposed to start taking that after a week of being on the 20mg dosage, but I forgot about that, and just continued taking the 20mg capsules. Oops.

I went home, and immediately took a second 20mg capsule, and I have to say I am feeling so much better today. It could be entirely unrelated, and perhaps it’s just the placebo effect of having the hope that an increased dosage will make me feel better. But who the fuck cares what it is. All I know is that when I woke up this morning, I didn’t have a horrible sinking feeling. I actually wanted to  get out of bed and do things. I actually feel hopeful! All the household chores that I have to do today don’t feel insurmountable. Unpleasant, yes, but not insurmountable.

When I first started meditating again, and going to the Zen center, I had been on Zoloft for a couple of months, and I didn’t think it was working because I was still struggling with a lot of perfectionism-related issues (which may or may not be a symptom of OCD or OCPD). However, I did notice that I was much better disposed towards my fellow human beings. I wasn’t thinking so much in terms of “us” and “them”, or judging other people in a black and white way. I felt more connected to other people, and less inclined to distance myself. At the time, I put this down to my newfound interest in Buddhism and meditation, but, in retrospect, I think the tiny buds of my “spiritual awakening” were only able to grow because I was on the Zoloft.

Now, I’m absolutely not saying that Zoloft (or any other antidepressant) can actually cause somebody to embark on a spiritual path completely out of the blue. What I am saying is that antidepressants can allow depressed people who are already spiritually inclined to find the motivation and energy to explore their spiritual side. Before taking Zoloft I was still interested in spiritual matters, but I would often lose interest after being unable to find a satisfying intellectual answer to certain issues that I would ruminate over obsessively e.g. “How can I put my trust in a God/Higher Power/whatever the fuck you want to call and believe that He/She/It has my best interest at heart when such terrible things happen to other people?!” These questions still interest me, but, right now, I don’t have an obsessive need to analyze them to death in the vain attempt to find an answer. I’m more comfortable with grey areas.

What the fuck has this got to do with the title of this blog post – “Free Pass” – you might ask? Well, yesterday I wrote about how people should stop hating on poor Amy Bouzaglo because she clearly has some serious mental health issues. Xul, who actually managed to drag herself away from watching Game of Thrones, posted this response in the comments section:

As someone who also has parent issues, it’s sometimes hard for me to sympathize with the negative behaviors. I find myself vacillating between the notion that they can’t help the behaviors because they are disordered and the fact that they are willful and deliberate in their actions and can damn well choose to behave the way they do.

I think that there comes a time when you have to make a conscious decision about your life. Yes, I had a screwed up childhood. Yes, I had my own disordered behavior. Yes, I reached the point in my life where I no longer wanted to be that person and I’ve done the introspection and self-work that it took to be better. It’s still a work in progress. It’s hard for me to give a pass to someone else when I’m proof positive that change is possible.

I’ve struggled with such thoughts myself because, like Xul, I grew up with a mother who was a controlling, critical bitch. My mother had an awful childhood, and so, intellectually, I understand why she is the way she is. She’s a victim of child abuse. She’s also a working-class woman who grew up in a time and place where mental health issues were never discussed, and where it would have been taboo for her to acknowledge she had an issue and to seek help, and take medication. Unlike me, she did not have access to the internet and the ability to google non-stop to try to find answers. Unlike me, she is also a mother, and it must be so hard for a mother to admit that her mental health issues made her, at times, that most unsocially-acceptable of all things – A Bad Mother. Because then it’s not just about admitting you have a mental health issue, it’s about having to re-construct your own identity and sense of self. Can you really blame her – or any mother like her – for just burying her head in the sand?

It’s easy for me to have compassion for my mother, though. When you haven’t seen or spoken to somebody for eight years, the jagged edges get worn down, and it’s easier for compassion to grow. I don’t think I would be so understanding if I had to deal with her criticisms and put-downs again . I’m pretty sure I would just react like a hurt child, who doesn’t understand how a person who’s supposed to offer unconditional love can be so fucking cruel.

As I said above, I’m not a mother, so I’ve never been a Bad Mother. But, oh, I have been a Bad Wife, and this is something I also struggle to understand in terms of the “free pass” I’ve been discussing. I don’t think that I’m a “bad” person, but I did a lot of bad things to my ex-husband: hit him; kicked him; spat on him; smashed his things and told him he was a worthless piece of shit. How much of this was “me”, and how much of this was mental illness – and does it even matter at the end of the day when then cause of the harm doesn’t lesson its effects?

Am I trying to let myself off the hook when I mention that I do feel more capable of being calm, rational and loving when taking an antidepressant? Is this just me saying: “It weren’t me, guv. Honest! It was my brain chemistry!”

I do feel terribly sorry for the things I did to MM but, sometimes, honestly it’s really hard to feel remorse when he sends me mean texts telling me that I am “barely human”, “a demon”, ” a fucking monster” and “I’m sad, because you’ll drown in that”. He told me all the time during the relationship that I was a “bad person”, and, even though I don’t blame him for having that reaction, how on earth did this make it possible for me to change? And, you know what, I didn’t want to change then because I was sick of being the crazy one, the “identified patient” who was to blame for everything. Why didn’t he have to change his drinking? Why was it apparently my fault that he’d started drinking more? When he started being violent towards me, and I pointed out that it was only a matter of time before he broke one of my bones, why didn’t he care and why was it me who had “provoked” him? When I told him that he scared me when he got drunk, why did he say that I was such a bully that being drunk was the only time he had the courage to say what he really thought? People have told me that MM was abusive to me, too, and I have a hard time wrapping my head around this because I am deathly afraid of giving myself one of those “free passes”.

When the relationship was over, I felt horrific pain, but there was also this little tiny voice deep inside me that said excitedly “You can change now!”. If I was still married, I would still be stuck in the role of the “bad person” and I don’t think I would now be meditating and interested in finding out more about Buddhism. It’s like there was a terrible hurricane, which stripped all the trees of their leaves, but there’s one tiny bud sprouting hopefully on a branch.

I’m sad, though. Whatever happened to “Until Death Do Us Part”? Maybe the pain I caused was just too much, I get that, but I don’t feel that MM ever wanted to help me change or support me through it. It was me who bought him the book Stop Walking on Eggshells: Taking Your Life Back When Someone You Love Has Borderline Personality Disorder. He read it, and his attitude appeared to be “OK, cool. Now off you go and – change!”. He never did any internet research about how to cope with having a partner who was mentally ill. In fact, the only research he ever did appeared to be after the break-up when he “diagnosed” me with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Oh, how things could have been different. We loved each other, and it didn’t need to turn to shit. I could spend a lifetime regretting this, and obsessing over what went wrong. But I’m not going to. I just need to accept that neither one of us was ready or right for the other. He wasn’t “the one” and I wasn’t “the one” for him. It’s that simple.

All I can do is remember that, and work hard to be a better, kinder person in the future. And I don’t think that’s giving myself a free pass.

Is it?

Advertisements

This Time I Know It’s For Real


Today I have gone to a very dark place. Yesterday I was so tired from only getting a few hours sleep before my flight that I didn’t really have the ability to process what had happened.

I’m trying not to get caught in an infinite loop of self-destructive and self-hating thoughts, but it’s really hard. You would think that, as a sex worker, I would have some understanding and actually expect my clients to lie to me, wouldn’t you? I am, after all, selling a fantasy, not the truth. I must be the world’s most fucking gullible sex worker. I broke Rule Number One in the sex worker handbook:

Don’t Get Romantically Involved With A Client

And even though I knew it was fucked-up from the get-go to be interested in this guy because he’s a fucking client and because it was so unhealthily intense, I told myself that this time it would be different. This time it would be for real. This was it. This guy would love and understand me. We’d walk off into the sunset together. Even though I knew some things didn’t add up, even though I even found myself wondering “Is he just telling me what I want to hear?”, I refused to listen.

In a way, I feel violated, and exposed. I opened up to this guy because he read me so well, and told me exactly what I needed to hear to open up. I told him far too much about myself. He knew I was really vulnerable, and exploited that. I don’t know why it should still surprise me that there are people out there like this, but it does. I can’t imagine actively exploiting somebody’s else’s obvious weaknesses for my own selfish gain. This is just completely unbelievable, unimaginable behaviour.

I’ve been trying to make myself feel better by telling myself that he is, at the end of the day, the real loser in this situation. He’s a sociopath, and sociopaths have no conscience, and no ability to empathize with anybody. What an impoverished existence he must lead. How must it be to never be able to truly connect with people, or love? But thinking this doesn’t really help me because he can’t miss what he has never known, or never will know. I want him to suffer for what he did to me, and what he’s no doubt done to countless other women.

I hate myself for being so stupid, and it’s this gullibility which has left me feeling the most desperate today. I fucking know I’m a sex and love addict, and that I have horrible boundaries, but I still make the same mistakes over and over again. What good is it to attend Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous meetings, and the local zen centre, if I fall at the first hurdle? I feel that I will never get better because I can’t trust myself to fucking remember (just fucking remember!) that I have a serious problem, and that I need help.

I am so alone, and I can’t stand being this way anymore. How can I stop myself from feeling this gut-wrenching void and emptiness inside? I’m scared I’ll never be able to.

This episode has also shown me that I need to get the hell out of the sex industry. The friend I’m visiting is scared for my physical safety, but, honestly, it’s my emotional safety that’s more in danger. Most of the men who use my services are broken in some way, and I just don’t want to be around that. I don’t want to be anywhere near their sickness. I want to meet happy, healthy people or at least people who are working on themselves so they can be that way.

I have painted myself into a corner, though. With so many pets, it would be impossible for me to find a cheaper place to stay, so most of my money goes on rent. My landlady is also cool with my having so many pets, and I would never find somebody like that again. I literally have to do erotic massage to survive and to find a way to save money so I have a little more financial stability. The only solution here would be to get rid of some of my pets, but I can’t do that. They’re like family. But I can’t keep on living the way I’m doing.

I took a train today for the first time in ages since there is not really a rail service where I live currently. I had the passing thought that I could throw myself on the tracks when the train arrived Anna Karenina-style. I don’t want to die, but I don’t want to live like this this either.

Can A Sex Worker Be A Buddhist?


sacred prostituteSince the age of nineteen, I have been in and out of the sex industry in one capacity or another in four different countries – escort; prostitute (for lack of a better word) in two German brothels; erotic masseuse and “hostess” in a French “bar américain”. This last one translates as “American bar” but I’m not sure why the French called it that, as there were never any Americans to be seen. It’s basically a place where men have to buy ridiculously overpriced bottles of champagne to have the honour of your company. In other words, it’s just a front for prostitution, except nobody ever mentions that word.

I could no doubt write countless blog posts analyzing why I decided to take such a path in life at such a tender age, but this is not the time and the place. And, quite frankly, I’m not all that interested in delving into my past. It is what it is. And I honestly don’t regret any of it. I have experienced human nature in a way that only very few other people have. True, I might not always have experienced human nature at its best, but experience is experience, and I relish it all.

I have been attending mediation classes at the local Zen center, and, although I would not be presumptuous enough to call myself a Buddhist at this early stage, I cannot help but wonder whether there is a place for a sex worker – currently I’m a part-time erotic masseuse – in Buddhism. After all, the Noble Eightfold Path clearly stipulates that Buddhists should have “Right Livelihood” i.e. that they should not engage in trades or occupations that harm other people.

I tried googling “Buddhist Sex Worker” and “Buddhist Prostitute” but didn’t find anything particularly interesting. Brad Warner apparently knows one Buddhist sex worker, but he didn’t mention whether she has an online presence.

Does sex work harm other people? Does it harm sex workers themselves? There is no simple to answer way to this. I’m no Andrea Dworkin but I’m also very far from being a gushy sex-positive feminist who believes that every consensual sexual experience a woman has is empowering. All I know is that, at this point in my life, I have very little interest in sleeping with men for money. There was a time as a really young woman when that turned me on, but it no longer does. I would be miserable if I tried that again.

On the other hand, I don’t have any issues whatsoever with being an erotic masseuse. True, there is usually a handjob involved, but, meh, so what? The dude is lying flat on his back at that point, and I’m 100% in control. Sometimes they try to sit back up, but I won’t stand for it. I gently push them back down. The massage and the handjob always go the way I want it to. I can assert with 100% confidence that I do not feel exploited or belittled in any way. I have been doing this for so long that I know exactly what I’m doing. I also screen potential clients very carefully, and this helps weed out any undesirables.

So, I’m not being emotionally or physically hurt by my involvement in the sex industry, but is it hurting me in other ways? I don’t have an extravagant lifestyle by any stretch of the imagination, but being a sex worker has encouraged me to be more materialistic perhaps. I don’t make that much money as an erotic masseuse since it’s a part-time gig for me these days, but nonetheless, it’s the kind of industry where you always can make more money, or at least fantasize that you can.  I find it very hard to make a budget and stick to it because, well, why do I have to? For example, if I have $100 left in my bank account that really needs to be spent on food, but I see a dress I want, I can tell myself “Oh, I’ll just get that dress now, and do two handjobs later to afford food”. A “normal” woman could not do this. She would just have to go without the dress. This is not a very sensible way of living, and I don’t like having such a materialistic mentality.

What about the men who are my clients? Am I harming them in some way? The men who come to see me are not sleazebags – not at all, in fact. They are just normal, hard-working, middle-class, middle-aged, (usually) white men. The vast majority of them are married, and – if I can believe what they tell me – they are just not getting very much sex at home. One could argue that I am providing a valuable service for these men; that I am helping couples stay married. I wouldn’t go that far, but, well, yes, I clearly have something to offer these men. But wouldn’t it be better for my clients to find out why their wives don’t want to fuck them, and to work on their marriage instead of coming to see me? Aren’t I stopping them from working on their relationships, and growing in them? Aren’t I helping men lie to their wives and partners?

Sometimes I wonder, too, if I am stopping men from finding love altogether. Last week I had a visit from a surprisingly charming guy who works in the game industry. He wasn’t my type physically although he had a great body (nerdy white guys don’t do it for me usually) but I was bowled over by his intelligence and wit, and so I found him very attractive. But I couldn’t work out why somebody like him was single. He’s forty-seven, and had been married in his late twenties/early thirties, but has been single ever since. He blamed his crazy work schedule (fifteen-hour days apparently) but I can smell someone with a severe case of commitment phobia a mile away. Couldn’t it be argued that women like me allow men like him to continue living an emotionally, physically and spiritually impoverished existence? If I didn’t provide an easy sexual release, and the illusion of intimacy, they would have to get over their fear of commitment sooner rather than later.

It works both ways, too. Aren’t I stopping myself from having any kind of meaningful, loving relationship by being a sex worker? I’m not ready to date anybody right now, but what happens when I am? What man is going to want to get involved with a woman who has her hands on hundreds of other men’s penises every year?

It doesn’t really matter what the answer to any of the above questions is because, for the time being, I have no intention of giving up sex work. That might mean that I’ve “failed” at Buddhism before I even started, but, well, there you go. That’s just the way it has to be for now. Sex work allows me a degree of financial stability I could only dream of otherwise. I can save for the future; afford college courses; travel somewhere occasionally and, hell, sometimes buy myself things that make me feel beautiful and special. I will give it up at some point, but just not yet.

SLAA versus Buddhism


I just finished thirty minutes of zazen, and what better way to treat myself than to drink a nice “Lucky Buddha” beer (according to the bottle, it’s an “enlightened beer”)? Of course, drinking beer means that I’ve violated the fifth of the “Ten Grave Precepts“….but, oh well.

photo

Next Thursday will be the last day of my “Introduction to Zen Buddhism” class. I’m so glad that I’ve taken this class, as it gives me a lot of comfort to know that I’m attempting to have a more spiritual life. I love the teacher. She’s a young, probably thirty-something, American woman who has such a kind and gentle energy. It’s pretty clear that she was like this before she ever got into Buddhism, so I often find myself thinking that somebody like her doesn’t really need Buddhism to teach her to be a better person. I’m glad that the class is being taught by a young American laywoman instead of a Japanese monk. I’m not racist, but I think it would have been hard for a newbie like me to relate to somebody who is so culturally and spiritually different. Before I took the class, zen seemed so esoteric and mysterious, and this woman has made it appear so warm and inviting. I love her honesty and humility, and her willingness to share her weaknesses with her students.

This wasn’t my first experience with meditation. When I was twenty-one, I went on a ten-day silent Vipassana retreat when I was living in France. I got a lot out of this experience but the meditation teachers seemed so aloof and somewhat hierarchical. To continue our meditation practice at home, they also said that it was very important to meditate for an hour every morning, and an hour every night. In an ideal world, yes, this would be the best thing to do, but how many people can really afford to mediate for two whole hours each day?! I certainly couldn’t keep this up for long, and when I failed, their rigid “two-hours per day” rule made me give up completely in despair. It would have been far more encouraging if they’d just told us to mediate each day for as long as we could manage, even if only five minutes. For someone like me, who is already so hard on herself and rigid, I needed a more gentle approach.

Besides the teacher, I also like the people in my meditation class. I haven’t gotten to know any of them really well, but a quick, intuitive scan of the room always reveals that everybody meditating with me is thoughtful, smart and questioning. I feel safe around these people.

I’m now so interested in Buddhism that I’m thinking about starting the “Secular Buddhist Studies Program” with the Interdependence Project up in New York City. I want to learn as much about Buddhism as I can now, and the good schoolgirl in me very much likes the idea of being involved in a Buddhist “program”. I’m sure it’s very un-Buddhist of me to like the idea of getting some kind of certificate for having completed the program, but, well, that’s just the way I am, I’m afraid.

Unfortunately, I can’t say that I am quite so enthusiastic about the people who attend my Saturday SLAA meeting. I wouldn’t say that I feel “unsafe” or that I actively dislike anybody, but, well, I just don’t particularly like sitting in a room filled with fellow addicts. Maybe this is just because I don’t like seeing my own worst qualities reflected in other people.

I probably shouldn’t feel this way because, according to Josh Korda, there isn’t much of a difference between people who end up at a twelve-step meeting and people who start going to a Buddhist centre:

With the exception of a few students who are just interested in it philosophically, the vast majority of people who come to Buddhist centers, it’s similar to why people wash up on the shores of AA: It is because they have really hit bottom. The difference is, people in AA have hit bottom with drinking or drugs, and with Buddhism it’s because they’ve hit bottom with excessive thinking of some sort, or fear, or some form of behavior. The problem may include drinking or drugs, but often they just feel their mind is a really uncomfortable place to be. They suffer from what the Buddha calls papanca—thinking too much, proliferation of thought, worry, fear, anxiety. So the arc of recovery is, “How do I get to a place where I can be in my own mind, my own body—which carries so much stress—comfortably?” (http://www.thefix.com/content/josh-korda-buddhism-alcoholics-anonymous00330?page=all)

The main difference between twelve-steppers and people who attend Buddhist centres is that addicts are probably a lot more self-absorbed and self-obsessed. I would also say that this applies to me since nearly every single one of my waking thoughts is concerned with my own unhappiness and what I can do to make myself feel better. Nonetheless, I do like to think that I think about other people at least some of the time.

I hung out with my sponsor and two other women recently, and that experience clearly revealed some of the issues I have with addicts. These women all knew each other, and they spent most of the time talking amongst themselves and ignoring me. Of course, they didn’t mean to ignore me, or hurt my feelings, but, well, they did. It was that addict self-absorption again. I wasn’t expecting to be the centre of attention or anything; it would just have been nice to have been included in their conversations. I know that I would have made sure to include somebody who was an “outsider” in a group.

I do feel bad complaining about these women, however, as they are all perfectly nice, and my sponsor has helped me a lot, and supported me whenever I needed her to. I guess it would just nice to be around people who were a little bit more “healthy”, and I feel that the people at the Zen centre are that for me.

On the other hand, my issues with the women from SLAA could very well be denial on my part – my desire to tell myself “Oh, I’m not like them. I’m not a real addict”. My sponsor is always trying to get me more involved in SLAA activities (e.g. going out for lunch after the meeting; attending the group consciousness meetings; going to SLAA conferences and fellowships)  and I’m somewhat reluctant. I do admit that I’m an addict, but I don’t want all my weekly social interactions and engagements to revolve around SLAA. Addiction is just a part of me; it doesn’t define me.

It would be interesting to hear the perspective of other people who have attended twelve-step meetings. Do my complaints above just sound like somebody who is still a bit a in denial about her addiction, or do I have a point?

All I know is that, right now, I’m getting more out of going to the Zen centre and meditation than I am from going to SLAA meetings. But perhaps that will change when I start working the steps?

Powerless


Well, hello, little blog. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I didn’t mean to stay away for so long, but it’s so hard for me to untangle the twisted knots of perfectionism and procrastination in my life to get anything done. And when I don’t do what I set out to do, I beat myself up, which, naturally, just makes my perfectionism and procrastination worse…and this leads to more self-hatred and self-judgement. It’s a vicious cycle I can’t seem to break.

The only reason I’m here this morning is sheer guilt. Yesterday I complained again to my therapist about how I desperately want to write and be more creative, but that I’m paralyzed with fear. She made me agree to go home and write, and then text her that I’d done so. I had every intention of doing so, but, instead, I went home, lay down for a “few moments” and fell asleep for hours. The writing never got done. I felt so guilty that I sent my therapist a text in which I lied that I’d written for an hour. This morning she sent me a text which asked perkily, “Yay! How did it go?”.  Blogging this morning makes me feel less guilty for lying.

Part of the reason I blog so infrequently is because I feel that so very little ever changes in my life, and writing makes that painfully clear. All I’ve ever done is write and complain about being depressed, anxious and paralyzed by perfectionism and procrastination. I’ve started to bore myself. This time, however, you might be pleased to learn that I have made some changes to my life. First of all, I’ve started to attend a Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous meeting every Saturday morning. In fact, I will have to log off here in the next fifteen minutes to get ready. I haven’t started to work the steps yet, but I do have a sponsor, and it is helpful to be able to reach out to somebody who has very similar issues to my own.

I’ve also started to attend beginner Zen meditation classes because I know that I need to meditate to silence all the negative, anxious, obsessive thoughts that run through my head 24/7. Sadly, it’s been hard for me to actually sit down and meditate because my perfectionism comes into play. If I can’t meditate for at least thirty minutes, I say “Ach, fuck it!” and I don’t do anything at all. Story of my life right there. Let me make myself accountable to you all right now, then. When I get home from the meeting, I will mediate immediately for as long or as short a period as I want to.

The above steps I’ve taken to get better aren’t really anything new for me really. Hell, I’ve been trying to heal myself since my late teens,  but I’ve never gotten anywhere. I always fall back into the same old patterns. But this time, I feel something is different. I feel like I’ve reached my rock bottom. I am so incredibly fucking miserable that I just can’t take it anymore. I can’t continue to live a life which has had every last ounce of joy sucked out of it because I am constantly trying to attain perfection and hating myself when I naturally fail. I can’t continue to feel so desperately lonely and to crave connection and yet to attach myself to unavailable men because I am terrified of intimacy.

I am so fucking tired of it all.

I have realized that I cannot fix myself. I can’t believe how fucking “twelve-steppy” I am about to sound, but I have finally realized that I am completely powerless to change on my own. I have been praying to a Higher Power* to help me and, hell, sometimes I actually feel hopeful. In the past, the fact that I only “sometimes” felt connected to a Higher Power was my excuse to just give up. I think I expected the hand of God to come down and touch me on the shoulder or something and to hear a loud, booming voice say “Child, you are healed. Go forth!” Of course, that never happened, so I would just tell myself “See, this doesn’t work!”. It never occurred to me that if you want to be on a spiritual path, you, um, have to work at it. You can’t just sit back on your laurels and expect faith to come to you.

Like my sponsor said yesterday, your relationship with your Higher Power is just like any other relationship. You need to work at it!

* I’m not sure how I define my Higher Power. I certainly don’t believe in an old dude with a long, white beard sitting up on a cloud somewhere. I suppose I think of being in touch with a Higher Power as being “at one” with the universe and everything and everybody in it.