Unburdening

2 Aug

You may have noticed that I have a new heading and name on my blog… gypsy woman!  And yes a wandering flower at that.  How does one become a gypsy woman you may ask?  I suppose it all starts when you begin to go with the flow, listen to within… and finally take a leap. That and losing all of your personal belongings… twice… doesn’t hurt…  I got a clue of my impending wandering ways while staying at someone’s home in New Orleans.  She gave me the book called “Tales of a Female Nomad“…  Was she trying to tell me something?…

I have always had a little bit of a nomad in me, from living in London for a semester in college, summers in California and Wisconsin while studying in college, and then, later taking a 6 week drive around the United States in my early 30s…friends wondering and asking… what are you doing?… and even, what are you running from?

All wandering aside, I must say this transition into and passage of adulthood has been quite… unexpected.  Beginning with my launch out of college it became clear that I had to put MY plans aside, because something else was happening… something else was going on.  Just months before graduation from the University of Tulsa I found myself… paralyzed… I was unable to concentrate, couldn’t stop obsessive thoughts.  I was locked in fear and feeling like I needed to try to hide it from everyone around me.  I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, was highly anxious and sheepishly found my way to the college counseling center.  They sent me home to my family for a long weekend break… then I returned to school and white knuckled my way through the rest of the semester.  After graduation rather than big jobs and opportunity, I found great humility as I was barely able to function let alone just be.  I began seeing a therapist.  As I sat in her office sobbing for reasons I did not understand, she eventually put me on antidepressants and that was the beginning of my relationship with Paxil.  30mg a day… Years later I spoke with the woman who was my therapist and she encouraged me to see that time in my life as a beginning.  And a beginning it was… of unpacking… unleashing.. and God, eventually just learning, some days, to let it be…

The antidepressants did not light up my life, but quieted my mind enough so I could function in the world.  Despite my general melancholy, I was able to work a few years in St. Louis and then I chose to go to graduate school at the University of Missouri, Columbia to prepare for a career in Student Affairs at Colleges and Universities. This led me to my job at Newcomb College at Tulane University and… beautiful New Orleans!

New Orleans was and has been… a trip.  After three years in the University environment I left for new adventures.  I moved from the University neighborhood to an area known as Mid-City near Bayou St. John.  I found myself surrounded by a pedestrian community, coffee shops and artists.  It was the sort of neighborhood I had always dreamed of living in.  But in this experience, there was one thing I needed to attend to… the next order of business in my life… it was…getting off of antidepressants.

I had been on Paxil at this point for about ten years.  I had no experience of myself as an adult without them, could only imagine what sex might be like without being on them and also thought, gosh if I got pregnant what would these things do to a baby?…  Previously, whenever I would try to get off of them my body, mind and emotions would react so severely I just decided that I was not “ready” yet.  But this time was different.  My conviction was clean and determined and I was clear that this was the end of me and antidepressants.  I was working a seasonal job for the local Jazz Festival, a chaotic yet creative place to work.  The doctor I saw who wrote my prescriptions for Paxil asked… are you sure this is the best time to do this… and I thought… it is as good a time as any…

Getting off of antidepressants was a major transition time in my life. It may have been worse than the experience that had them prescribed to me in the first place…  I gave up everything I didn’t need in my life so I could keep it as simple as possible as my mind and my emotions were erratic and in a very brittle state.  I even gave up my car so I would not have a need to work more to earn the money to pay for it… …  I joined an on-line support group of other people getting off Paxil that I found through an on-line search.  It was a nice anonymous way to be supported and to see and hear that there were other people having the challenges that I was.  Many people on the site were very angry and felt misled by the medication as its side effects and withdrawal symptoms at the time were not disclosed.  For me and other people, Paxil is one of those antidepressants that is difficult to stop taking.  I used tools like a pill cutter to cut my pill in half, then in half and half of half so that I could oh so easily and gently wean myself off of this…  finding comfort in my on-line support group that the symptoms I was experiencing were not unique to me and in fact a reaction to getting off the drug.  I experienced strange flashes of pain in my brain like synapses, nausea and my level of anxiety was off the charts.  And I cried.  And cried.  And cried.  When I initially got on the drug no one mentioned that it would be difficult to discontinue use.  I began to buy things like herbal tea to help me to relax a little to try to get to sleep at night…

One day I met a man named Mahdi Fard at the local coffee shop.  He was writing a book and was part of a healing team exploring methods for life and spiritual growth.  I soon met his wife Stephanie Jupiter and other members of the team and found myself working and learning with them.   One of their messages was a commitment to excellence and that first we have to make a commitment to excellence for ourselves.  That inspired me to be my champion in my effort to heal and be whole without antidepressants and I began with attending a yoga class once a week.  Yoga, a new practice for me and something I found quite foreign at the time, became a place where for an hour and a half  I could begin to lay my burdens down.  I took classes with a soft and caring instructor,  Sean Johnson, the owner of a studio called Wild Lotus Yoga in New Orleans.  The studio was about 5 miles away from my apartment and I made a commitment to ride my bicycle there every week.  It was a challenge at first, but soon it became my bliss.  My refuge. That weekly class was a pillar for me and I looked forward to it to get me from week to week.  The class was so gentle and kind and loving as my body slowly started to soften, relax and open up.

It turned out that one of my neighbors in my apartment building, Scott Attias, was a Licensed Massage Therapist.  We got to talking one day and agreed that we would do a trade with each other… I would design some promotional materials for his massage therapy practice in exchange for therapeutic massage for me.  I had never had professional massage before and was not all that comfortable with the idea of being touched, but my body and my being were aching so much I knew I had to take this direction.  I could not have asked for a more gentle and kind person to assist me in healing at that time.  I was in such a fragile state and he was able and willing to be with me in that space and treated me very gently without judgement.  He also turned me on to an author named Catherine Ponder and specifically her book called the Prospering Power of Love.  I used this book like a lifeline to get me through the day.  So simple but beautiful and elegant in its focusing on love and affirmations.  I found my mind was prone to erratic distractions and I used this book to keep me focused on something beautiful and lovely.  I would read it on the bus.  I even used the ideas and affirmations to get me through the end of my seasonal job at Jazzfest.  When others were getting stressed and freaking out… I would go into my own little world and meditate on love and the messages of the book.  I didn’t let myself drift into the stress of the event and meetings etc.  And for the most part I looked and felt peaceful. I remember one day at Jazzfest a colleague, worn and ragged, looked at me and said,  “why is it that you look like that and we look like this?”  I looked peaceful because I was working very attentively to keep myself focused on love.

A few years later I moved to a new apartment in the same general Mid-City neighborhood.  Still feeling very hidden from the world and learning to function, I found my way to Reiki… or should I say Reiki found its way to me.  One day while walking down Carrollton Avenue I saw my Massage Therapist, Scott.  I shared with him the spiritual growth I was experiencing working with Mahdi and his group and that I felt an instinct that I could heal with my hands.  His response was, you should try Reiki.  Ding!  A light bulb went off within in me.  I knew it was for me.  I found out years later that Scott knew about Reiki because my Reiki teacher, Elizabeth Ohmer Pellegrin, had contacted him.  And she contacted him because she was struck by his attractive promotional materials that were… designed by me as she was looking for someone to design a brochure for her Reiki practice.  So it all came full circle.  The next day I found a flier for Reiki at my yoga studio and soon after  I attended my first degree Reiki Class taught by Elizabeth.  It was my first time spending an extended period of time with people… perhaps since I had gone off my meds.  The class was all weekend…. Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday.  I felt a little nervous and awkward…but was clear that I wanted to be in the class!

In first degree Reiki you receive four initiations connecting you to the Reiki energy.  After just the first initiation the energy is flowing through your hands and you can give yourself a self-treatment.  During the Reiki class for the first time I felt something let go… something in me that  I was holding onto so tightly and so deeply I hadn’t even known how to let go.  It was my first true deep experience of some relief since I had gone off the meds and it gave me … hope.  Hope that I could possibly relax and be at ease with myself, others and my body.

I explored other ways to increase my sense of well-being.  I looked at my diet and began eating healthy and eliminated sugar and caffeine from my diet.  I began attending regular Reiki groups and connecting with and meeting new people through Reiki.  I met older wiser women who felt safe and comfortable like warm milk.  And even some young, fresh exciting energy…  One bolt of energy came in the form of a new friend, Christian Callen, then known as Herb… tall, handsome and sweet with lots of enthusiasm.  He had been doing personal work with an organization called Landmark Education and was encouraging me to attend the Landmark Forum.  I attended an introduction to the forum and was excited and delighted to feel some possibility in my life after so many years of so much challenge.  I was hesitant to participate in the weekend as it cost about $400.  As it turns out my Reiki teacher, Elizabeth had also done work with Landmark Education and had met her husband through that work.  She also knew my landlord through Landmark Education and they were old friends.  I learned that my landlord was a former Seminar Leader in Landmark Education and Elizabeth encouraged me to ask her for advice.  You see, I didn’t have ANY money to attend the Forum and once I did have the money, I still didn’t know how I would pay rent for the upcoming month.  So I asked my landlord what to do.  She said it was my decision… my risk to take and her recommendation was for me to make a list of people I could borrow money from and start with the last person I would ask for money and ask them.  Just then my sister beeped in on the other line.  There she was, the last person I would ask for money.  So I took a risk and asked her and she and her generous husband said yes and I took a leap and went to the Landmark Forum in Houston, Texas.  And that weekend, while I was at the forum in Houston, Hurricane Katrina hit… The good news was that I didn’t need to worry about coming up for next month’s rent anymore…

But the truth of it was, being in the Landmark Forum and then participating in Landmark Seminars in Austin, Texas where I relocated for a bit pushed me back out into the world.   It wasn’t easy.  I didn’t always like it, but I was doing it and that was what I needed at the time.

And now here I am in Germany, sometimes stumbling, still unfolding.  And I have been off of Paxil now for about 8 years.  Still learning to relax and play.  Practicing being present and allowing things to be. And exploring being at ease with myself and others… but now in a whole new context!  Sometimes daily I still want or need to retreat or feel unease for reasons I don’t totally understand.. but I am moving and shaking in my own little way.

It’s so great look back and see all the faces and powerful, lovely people who were so critical to me in my healing during that crucial time of change.  And today I feel lighter and easier… but still shifting and growing.

SUPPORT
And for those of you reading, friends and dare I to think… strangers, I am so glad you are there.  My cheerleaders back in New Orleans who will never give up.  New friends and relations in Europe, inspiring me to have courage and helping me to open my heart. Friends and family throughout the States.  Thanks for supporting me!

And, yeah additional support at this time would be… well, extraordinary.  Support to enable me to make the next move.  Support to take a risk and say yes to an invitation or opportunity!  This can be prayers, words of inspiration, connections and direction…and it can be money.  If you like, you can contribute to my journey and my blog through the contribute section.  Any contribution is really honored and appreciated. And thank you to those of you who already have contributed.

And, if you like you can contribute to and be a part of the exciting…
GYPSY WOMAN SCHOOL OF LIFE SCHOLARSHIP FUND!

What is this you ask?  A simple, easy and affordable way to support this Gypsy as she continues down the road of growth and lessons in life, learning to be herself (myself), learning to trust, let her guard down, explore and expand.  And learning to trust spirit, a higher power, God as my true caretaker and guide on this journey.  Interested?  Here is how you can contribute.

Make a commitment to donate a small amount monthly for the remainder of my journey…(through May 2012). Choose a contribution level and donate your initial gift via the link below. In future months you will receive a friendly monthly email reminder with a link to make an easy on-line payment.  As a “thank you” for donating to the scholarship fund you will receive a complimentary distant Reiki treatment… plus, good karma, as well as my appreciation and gratitude…

SCHOLARSHIP FUND CONTRIBUTION LEVELS:

The Wandering Flower.  For $5/a month help this wandering flower soothe her soul.  You will also receive a complimentary 15 minute Reiki Treatment.

The Blossoming Rose.  For $8/a month help this blossoming rose satisfy her spirit.  You will also receive a complimentary 20 minute Reiki Treatment.

The Playful Posy.  For $10/a month help this playful posy regain her strength.  You will also receive a complimentary 25 minute Reiki Treatment.

The Soulful Sunflower.  For $20/a month help this soulful sunflower begin again.  You will also receive a complimentary 30 minute Reiki Treatment.

The Flowering Lotus.  For $50/a month help this flowering lotus know and trust.  You will also receive a complimentary 60 minute Reiki Treatment.

To participate and contribute, simply use the donate link below.  Enter the monthly amount of the level at which you are contributing.  And that’s it!  In future months you will receive an email with a simple link for your next offering.

A few things I feel inspired to do at this point include:  working more with the organization Art of Living and attending their Art of Silence Course , I’d like to spend a month in Berlin for opportunities to learn, live and grow, I want to purchase a bicycle or repair an old one to give me a little freedom to move around while living in Wettensbostel and even traveling.  And I want to say yes to invitations to go visit and be with people in other areas of Europe.

Currently I am making my way in Europe through the generous opportunity to do an exchange with my current hosts… cleaning rooms at the seminar haus, some light cooking and meal preparation, some gardening and weeding…  I have given a few Reiki treatments here in Europe and also some distant treatments for friends back in the States.  And I even have the inkling of a graphic design client. And as always I am open and available for work.

Whew, well, it is Tuesday evening here and today has been beautiful, warm and sunny…  Thanks for taking the time to read this blog entry!…The day is coming to a close and I am ready to relax and let go.  So, until the next time…

Yours in spirit and adventure,

Gypsy Woman (also known as Nancie, I mean Teresa… or… well..you know…)

5 Responses to “Unburdening”

  1. Hamilton 08/03/2011 at 08:50 #

    Wow! Beautiful, Nancie Teresa. Beautiful.

  2. nancieteresa 08/03/2011 at 08:54 #

    Thanks Hamilton! Your simple response brought tears to my eyes. 😉

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