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Tag Archives: self care

In a World Full of Yes

Deciding to finally live for myself couldn’t have been more timely. I knew within a matter of days that the situation I found myself in earlier this year would have done 2016-era me in completely. This is largely because I was suddenly finding myself dealing with my family on a daily basis in ways that I hadn’t had to in the past. I never had to get into it with an aunt about finances or with an uncle about caring for their elderly father.

As the weeks dragged on, I found that most of my family hadn’t changed much from my youth, and that most of them were just as shifty in their behavior as they had always been. With each new round of drama that would crop up, I found myself having to choose between keeping the peace and actually protecting myself. In my youth all I had ever done was work to keep the peace. I chose to make myself smaller so that I might not get ousted from the group, and what I didn’t realize when I decided I was going to go “all in” with life is that you can’t really take the path of least resistance when you’re actually trying to take care of yourself.

With each new experience where I felt like someone was taking advantage of me or trying to hurt me, I could suddenly see my younger self looking back at me, asking me why I was allowing this person to hurt us, to hurt them. I noticed that I was always more willing to put myself in the line of fire for others, but not for myself; a well-known trait for those of us with anxiety. Which meant that if I wanted to walk the walk and not just talk the talk, I’d have to start sticking up for myself in the same way that I would for others, and drawing boundaries in the sand as to how I would allow people to treat me.

For someone like me, this is actually quite terrifying.

Of course, when I talked with my therapist about boundaries, some part of me knew that this was going to happen eventually. She told me that I wasn’t very good at drawing boundaries to keep myself safe. She said that this was partially what caused the violent emotional responses that I was prone to. Because I couldn’t separate myself from everyone around me, I couldn’t help but feel their feelings as though they were mine. I almost felt like I wasn’t being a good person if I wasn’t flinging myself headlong into everyone else’s issues so that I’d know what it felt like to be them in that moment.

And in those moments, I seemed to imagine that drawing boundaries would be empowering. That I’d basically be learning how to cordon myself off from things that would hurt me. That I’d make sure I was safe. I think that my initial concepts of drawing boundaries banked on the notion that I’d be able to actually disengage with anything I didn’t want near me. Which, in its own way, means I was planning on drawing my boundaries by running away.

But what if running away isn’t possible? As is the case when you’re being a caretaker for someone who still has living family that they want in their life. I hadn’t thought about this until I was already in it. You see, for all of the years of being labeled as being aggressive, mean, bitchy, overbearing, etc. I actually do not get off on telling people what to do. I feel uncomfortable asking for simple, basic things, and when I have to do so regularly, it can cause me to have anxiety attacks. But in order to actually protect what I had managed to cultivate, I had to find a way to tell people — family — no.

And so I tried. At first I often would try to soften anything I said. “Could you maybe, possibly think about how that might have come across. It was kind of mean.” or “I’m not really comfortable with that, would it be possible to maybe do something else?” And you know what happened?

People got mad anyways.

[[image of quote that says “If I say no to someone and they get angry, it does NOT mean I should’ve said yes”]]

If there is anything that 2018 has taught me, it’s that you can be as accommodating as humanly possible. As nice as humanly possible. As non-intrusive as you can possibly be. And people who are committed to not meeting you halfway will still call you Too Much, Extra, and my personal favorite, Bitchy. People who are not interested in developing healthy relationships with you will never acknowledge or respect your boundaries without a fight, and that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have set those boundaries.

Above all, I’ve learned that setting boundaries feels less like taking care of yourself and more like fighting a war against people who won’t take no for an answer. The problem being that as awful as fighting a war everyday is, fighting this war is necessary, if not mandatory in order to be healthy. The more I found myself not defining what was okay in terms of how people treated me, the more I found myself not saying no, not standing up and speaking my needs, the more miserable I became.

So it begs to ask — which is worse? A slow death by suffocation via those around me because I was too scared to stand up and say no? Or a slowly-fought battle where I potentially lose people, but can ultimately breathe?

[[image of a quote “It is crucial for deeper level recovery that we learn that feelings of fear, shame and guilt are sometimes signs that we have said or done the right thing.They are emotional flashbacks to how we were traumatized for trying to claim normal human privileges.”Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving, Pete walker, pg 78”]]

In Kemeticism, we talk about how isfet has to be battled back every day. The gods have no choice but to engage in this daily battle, or be destroyed by the thing they fight. Every time I’ve talked to the NTRW about fighting back isfet, they don’t seem to be too distraught over it. It’s just a thing that they Have To Do if they want to live a certain quality of life, and there is very little baggage tied to it at this point.

As I continue to work on drawing boundaries for myself, I begin to think more about this comparison, and how if I allow other people to constantly take advantage of me, how my life will be overrun with isfet. How I can’t, in good conscience, tell myself that I’m trying to live in ma’at while not actively trying to dispel the isfet I’ve inadvertently let in my life. I remind myself that anything worth having is worth fighting for, and if I’m not worth fighting for, then what is?

And so the battle continues. May it get easier to do, and feel less like a battle in time. For all of us.

How do boundaries play a role in your life? How do you create boundaries in your life?

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Shadow Work: A Never-ending Process

It’s fairly well known that shadow work is sort of a pain. It’s difficult to work through less-than-ideal parts of yourself or your life. It’s hard to figure out how to heal damage that has been done to you, and it can be challenging to fit such heavy work into what is likely an already jam-packed life schedule. Not to mention that the gods rarely give you a game plan on how to exactly go about performing your shadow work- in so many ways, shadow work is sort of a headache in the making. It’s really no wonder that many of us stall out very quickly on trying to figure the whole shadow work thing out.

On top of everything listed above, I think one of the largest pitfalls regarding shadow work is that many of us assume that we’ll get a list of things we need to work through, and then once we’ve managed to mark everything off of that list, our shadow work is effectively “done” and we won’t have to work on it anymore. But then we usually find out later that we’re regressing and falling back into old patterns and routines. And the next thing you know, the gods show back up and tell us to fix some of the same things that we thought were already addressed and handled. Like many things in life, shadow work is something that is more effective if you incorporate it as a sort of ongoing, long-term practice or procedure within your life, but I don’t know that the gods have made that very obvious or apparent to many us.

For this post, I’d like to explore some ways to re-frame shadow work into something that is more on-going and less of a one off sort of thing. I’m going to use two examples that make sense to me as a means to help illustrate why shadow work should be a continuous thing, not a one-time process.

Example one: Shadow work is like dental work

I know, I know. “oh gods, you’re going to talk about teeth??” No one wants to hear about their oral health, especially when discussing paganism, but hear me out. As most of you probably could guess, many people come into the dentist after long periods of neglecting their oral health. It’s really not uncommon for someone to come in and say “I haven’t seen a dentist in 20 years”, and you can tell by looking at their teeth.

Typically when a mouth is in that level of disrepair (as many of us who are starting on a heaping pile of shadow work often are), you create what we call a treatment plan as a means to address all of the issues of the mouth so that the patient can be put back into optimal oral health. There is a certain procedure/method that is used by dentists to do this, and I think it is useful when considering shadow work.

The first step in any sort of treatment plan is to get rid of the big fires. That means that you address the work that is preventing your patient from eating or chewing properly. Anything that is actively painful or rotting in their head gets fixed before you work on the more superficial or cosmetic parts of their mouth. As you progress through a treatment plan, you deal with the biggest issues first and work your way down to the smaller stuff. Of course, sometimes a patient really wants their smile to all be fixed right now, but that’s not usually feasible if you’ve been slacking on your oral health for a few decades.

Shadow work is the same way. Start with putting out the biggest fires first. What is the most crucial to your daily life? What are you ignoring that has the largest impact on your living situation? What can you fix that will lessen up everything else you need to work on? Start with that first.

But here is where the ongoing comes in.

Once a patient has gotten their mouth all fixed up and beautiful again, what do you think happens if they don’t continue to upkeep their mouth? I’ll give you a hint: what got their mouth into such a state of disrepair in the first place? The answer is, as you probably guessed, a lack of upkeep. Mouths are not things you can simply stop taking care of, and expect their health to maintain all on its own. Its much like any other body part- you need to keep it clean and maintained if you want the health of said body part to last. Your mouth is no exception. If you get thousands of dollars of work done in your mouth, but then never floss or brush or go in for cleanings, you can expect that your mouth will go right back into disrepair in due time.

And shadow work is no exception.

Example two: Shadow work is like owning a house or property

Another way to frame this discussion is from the perspective of a house owner. My grandmother owns a house on property, and on the surface, everything looks relatively nice, but when you take a look at the structure of the house critically, you can tell that she hasn’t done any maintenance work for a long time. Sure, some of the stuff is superficial and not very important, but there are other things that are turning into time bombs due to a lack of maintenance. Because of the delay in getting work done, what might have originally been a $50 job is going to turn into a $500 job.

Just like with dentistry, you often maintain a house by fixing the most important stuff first, and handling the less important, more superficial stuff later on. You may want to paint your living room walls, but I’ll wager that you’ll want to fix the hole in your roof before you bother with the painting. Otherwise, all of that paint goes to waste during the next rain storm.

And just like with a house or teeth, there are regular intervals for maintaining certain things around your house. In the desert, we all know that you should get your A/C checked out before the summer months hit. Otherwise, you’re looking at spending the first super hot weekend without any air conditioning. Almost every part of a house needs to have regular check-ups and replacements. Roofs need to be re-shingled. Appliances need to have regular maintenance done. Your air filter needs to be swapped out once a month. Things need to happen all the time in order to keep a house in good shape.

Bringing it all together: Balancing action with planning

So I’ve probably driven home that regular maintenance is a good thing. But how does this apply directly to shadow work? Here are some ways that I take the above examples and use them in my personal shadow work process.

I’ve always used a system where I have high points and low points. High points would be the equivalent of spring cleaning- we (me and the gods) sit down and look at what needs to be fixed, where I want to go, what the priorities are for everyone involved. When I’m trying to figure out what you want to do in terms of shadow work, I often ask myself some of the following questions:

  • What exactly am I doing that is problematic?
  • What parts of myself do I want to improve?
  • What have I been putting off in terms of improvement?
  • Have I been slacking on maintaining anything I fixed in the past? Am I regressing at all?
  • What have others suggested I work on? Are their suggestions valid? If so, how can I implement them?
  • What am I doing that is working? How can I ensure that I keep these practices up?

Once we figure out what we want, we then plan out how to get it. Though they probably did more of the planning in the earlier stages, because they were the ones running the show initially. The further I’ve gotten into shadow work, the more I have been included in what I want to do, and how I think would be a good way to go about getting what I want (or what the gods want). I think ideally, the gods want me to be able to do this process on my own without their help.

And then the low points are resting points. As I’ve said before, you can’t work all the time, and sometimes life is too busy for me to be doing heavy shadow work. But that being said, I always have to keep my eyes open to the status of my life and person. Like I mentioned in the house analogy above, I might not be able to re-shingle my roof right now, but I can be aware that it needs to be done, and that it will need to be handled. So I might mentally prep to address that during the next meeting with the gods, even though we won’t be touching it for a while. Due to life and its cycles, there have been times when we’ve had to shelf projects and shadow work. We’ve got times where I already know I’m going to be plowing through a bunch of crap all at once (the Mysteries is a good example of this), and so kinda like running a farm, I try to plan for those kinds of personal seasons. I know when I need to plant my seeds, I know when I need to harvest, and I can rest during the recession of summer if you will.

This is the basic structure for how I maintain my shadow work “practice”. I balance out actively working on what I want to achieve with planning for how I will maintain what I have accomplished through previous shadow work. It’s an ongoing process of action and rest that doesn’t really stop (though it can be put on hold for certain life events). I start each cycle by putting out the largest fires first (if any cropped up while I wasn’t paying attention) and then progressively work on fixing everything else as resources are made available. And I think that ideally, once everything is all fixed (I still haven’t really reached this point, but I feel like I’m getting there), the goal will be to maintain myself while helping others work on their “houses”.

The more I work on shadow work, the more I believe that it’s best viewed as an ongoing process. I’ve found that by going back and reevaluating what I’ve done and where I’m at, I can make sure that I don’t slide back into bad habits, and I can ensure that I’m going in the direction that I want to go in. Practice makes perfect, and by consistently addressing my more negative traits, I am better able to fix the things that I want to fix.

How do you approach shadow work? Do you think that shadow work should be an on-going process? Or do you feel that it’s better to only perform shadow work when you need to?

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The Weight of Worth

I think it goes without saying that I have a fairly shoddy family life. My relationships with most of my family members are strained at best, and completely beyond repair in a lot cases. While they’re not the worst people in the world, they aren’t exactly the best, either. Or at least, they’re not always the best for me. Maybe if I was straight, neurotypical or lacking in mental health issues out the wazoo it wouldn’t be such a big deal. But for whatever reason, my relationship with my family is still not ideal in a lot of ways.

Because of this, I hide a lot of what I do from my family. They don’t know about my personal life or my relationship with my partner that’s been going on for almost a decade now. They don’t know about my life in the Unseen (could you really imagine how they’d react?), and they don’t know about my work with the Kemetic community. They have a passing knowledge that I’m “not Christian” and that I’m “not entirely straight”, but that’s about as far as their understanding goes, and I like to keep it that way. I worry that if they were to find these things out about me, they’d eat me alive the first chance that they got.

This can be difficult to manage, though, as there are times when I would like to share these aspects of my life with other people that I know in the flesh. There are times when I’d love to show how my work online has influenced my life offline, or utilize online or religious experiences to show my family members how they’ve got the wrong idea about me.

A good example of this is the very frequently used “you’re so angry” trope. This usually happens when I’ve managed to catch a male family member off guard by calling them out on something problematic, and they end up deflecting with a “well you’re so angry all of the time, it must really suck to be you.” Of course, calling women angry as a means to belittle them and derail the conversation into a different, more personal topic (often called an ad hominem attack) is pretty well discussed and well documented in our society. In many ways, women aren’t allowed to be angry. We’re only allowed to be nice and happy and fluffy cuddles all of the time. So when this happens, I’m not entirely surprised, just agitated that this is how a grown man chooses to handle criticism.

And as I sit there and watch this grown man throw around the whole “you’re so angry!” as if that invalidates everything I have to say, I often find myself wanting to do one of two things. The first is to tell them that I am angry, and for good reason. Who wouldn’t be angry that their family treats them fairly poorly, or that their upbringing was less than ideal and how that still effects things to this day. Who wouldn’t be angry for being a second rate citizen within our culture. Who wouldn’t be angry about getting paid less for doing more work, for being shunned by politicians, the media, and the general population. Who wouldn’t be angry for getting the short stick. I usually want to follow this up with statements about how my gods have taught me not to fear my anger, but to embrace it and use it for making change. I want to tell them about how the NTRW have pushed us all to be more accepting of ourselves and our emotions, even if those emotions are not always considered “appropriate” by our society. In this moment, I want to talk about Kemeticism and how it has influenced my ideas about anger, and to push my family member to reconsider their ideas about anger (and women being angry). But as I said above, I can’t.

The second thing I want to do is to shout back at them “no I’m not!” and to tell them that they’ve got me all wrong. I want to tell them about all of the work I’ve done online, and how I’ve worked to help others, and the joy that that brings me. I want to tell them about how my partner makes me happy and has brought balance to my life in ways no one else has. I want to tell them that despite all of my shortcomings, I’ve worked so hard to make something of myself, and that I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot despite what I was born into. In this moment, I want to talk about Kemeticism and how it’s not only enriched my life, but allowed me to enrich the lives of others and how important that is to me. But again, I can’t.

But really, both of the above paragraphs are accurate. I am angry and not angry at the same time. Like most things, it depends on the subject matter as to whether I may appear more disgruntled or less disgruntled. I’m going to have a very different emotional response to kittens as opposed to rampant sexism. And to base a person’s entire personality off of the emotions expressed over one topic is really not cool or fair, especially if you’re using it to deflect criticism of problematic behaviour.

But more importantly than all of this, is the fact that I shouldn’t have to defend myself in regards to my perceived anger. I shouldn’t have to prove my worth based off of my community work. I shouldn’t have to prove my worth because “I’m not really all that angry, I promise.” I shouldn’t have to be ashamed or perceived as less than because of the emotions that I am experiencing. I shouldn’t have to defend myself at all for expressing what I feel in a healthy manner. And I shouldn’t have people trying to debase everything I say because of the notion of anger.

The more I reflected on this, the more I realized that while I had internalized all of the lessons that Set had given me about anger back in the Pit all those years ago, I still had more work to do in regards to my anger. Yes, I can accept that I am angry. Yes, I can utilize my anger in a positive fashion. Yes, I can control my anger and channel it a lot better than I used to be able to. All of these lessons are still with me today.

But what I didn’t internalize or take with me is that I can be angry without needing to prove that I am allowed to be angry. In so many ways, I have been conditioned to believe that I can be angry and upset because I do all of these other useful things that negate that anger. There seems to be this internalized idea that I can be “less than ideal” because I do other things that live up to our society’s idea of what we should be doing with our lives (hint: it centers around being productive for someone else 24/7).

anti capitalist love notes

My worth is not based around what I do for the community. My worth is not based around how productive I am or am not. My worth as a human and as a person is inherent simply because I exist. My anger is justified and valid because it is a feeling that I have, and I don’t need to go do all of these “good deeds” in order to be justified and valid in what I already feel. I don’t need to go do good things as a means to weigh against the “bad things” that I feel.

And above all, I don’t need to pull this information out to prove to random angry manchildren that I’m really “not all that bad if you’d just give me a chance.” I don’t owe him anything, and I certainly shouldn’t have to give out personal details in order to earn his respect (as the respect should be inherent). And really, none of us should have to. Our society likes to imply that we are only valuable if we are productive, but that’s really not true. You don’t owe society a thing, and you shouldn’t have to prove to anyone that you deserve to continue to exist.

Part of my practice has been about coming to terms with who I am and how I feel, as well as learning to embrace parts of myself I have been made to deny and hate for years. And while I’ve made a lot of progress, this past year’s interactions with the manchildren in my family has shown me that I still have a lot of work left to do. As I often say, the rabbit hole has no bottom or end, and so it seems to go with shadow work as well.

 

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The Good Earth

Astral bodies are incredibly vast. They can contain worlds and universes within them. You could spend an entire lifetime inside of some bodies and never see everything within. Get lost within a body, and you may never get out again.

Astral bodies can also contain relics of previous existences within them, the same way that we sometimes stumble across old ruins in the dirt.

I’ve seen it said that human bodies are like a sort of repository or record of everything you experience. And that the records may not contain only information about yourself, but of your predecessors and ancestors, too. I find this interesting, because astral bodies can be like that as well. But instead of keeping the information for only one lifetime, the body is storing away information from multiple lifetimes that exist along a single soul line within. So the same way that my human body stores information about my own existence here on earth, as well as genetic information from my parents and their parents, etc., my astral body contains information about earth bound me, and all of the other versions of myself running around on the astral as well as predecessors and previous incarnations of myself. Because astral bodies are vast.

Stumbling across one of these relics, one of these recordings of the past is incredibly interesting. I just so happened across one in the form of dirt one evening. But this wasn’t just any dirt. This was like dirt and glitter went out for a night on the town and had a baby. It was unlike any dirt I’d ever seen here on earth.

When I asked about this dirt, I was told that I was standing on a corpse. Beneath my feet lay the remains of a previous existence, a previous life form. I’m not entirely sure what this previous life form was or what it looked like, or even how it met its end. All I know is that the corpse that this dirt represented laid the foundations for new life to grow. Like plants springing out of the ground, or crops sprouting out of Osiris’ back, this dirt has given the nutrients needed to create new life.

As it turns out, the man I was walking with was one of the many end products of this fertile soil. And as it also turns out, this man was not very fond of his soul line’s predecessor, the entity that was now embodied by this soil. He and I had been working for months now to try and figure out how to fix some of the problems he was experiencing, and the origins for most of them lie in the soil we were walking upon.

It is very difficult to heal when you carry wounds and scars from your predecessors. I have a hard time healing because I still carry scars and wounds from my parents- my mortal predecessors. And my parents carry scars that were given to them from their parents, their mortal predecessors. Based off of the many discussions I’ve had about Akhu with fellow Kemetics, it is very apparent to me that having less than ideal family lineage is par for the course anymore. So many of us don’t feel secure in giving our ancestors the time of day because they were not very good people. It is challenging to build up any sort of solace or acceptance if it hinges upon people that have hurt you- blood related or not.

This is also true, I think, if the horrible predecessor is yourself.

Ever look back at things you said or did in the past and thought “Wow I was an asshole”? Ever learn that you’ve got really bad habits that need to go away, and that those habits have hurt people really badly? Maybe you’re one of those parents in the paragraph above, and you wake up one morning and realize you wrecked your kids for life. What do you do then?

That is the situation me and my companion found ourselves in. For this dirt that he walked upon was nothing more than remnants of himself. The predecessor that he hated so much was a previous incarnation of himself. And many of the reasons the work we had been doing was not sticking was because he couldn’t get over his own past, his own previous failings.

It sucks to wake up one day and realize you’ve been a horrible person. It sucks to wake up one day and realize that you’ve hurt or possibly ruined people. It sucks to know that you’ve fed into oppressive systems or perpetuated someone else’s pain and suffering.

It sucks to wake up one day and realize you’ve been a big bag of floppy dicks. That you’ve broken the main rule of Kemeticism.

I have struggled with this over the years in many formats. There have been times when I realize that I have been horrible to other people and have hurt them and I had to figure out what to do about it. There have also been times when I have been asked to help heal someone in the Unseen who has caused me pain in the past as well. It’s hard to help someone heal when you can’t overcome the pain that they caused you. It’s hard to help someone accept their own past mistakes if you yourself can’t even accept what they have done.

Life is messy like that, and in my short time both here in the physical as well as the Unseen, I can tell you that there are more people who have screwed up and hurt others than not. If you have been a bag of dicks, I can assure you you’re not alone in it.

Something else I’ve learned during my stint here is that just because you were a bag of dicks before doesn’t mean you have to be a bag of dicks now. Just because you screwed up in the past doesn’t mean that you are condemned to be horrible forever. Sometimes your old horrible self can become useful, fertile soil to create a new you, if you know what you’re doing. I say this because who better to teach others the pitfalls of falling into certain habits than someone who has had those habits themselves?

If you look back over your past and can see how you fell into the habits, situations, and destructive patterns that you did- it’s much easier to show other people what to look out for, what things to avoid, what things to do better. Because you’ve been there and you know the ins and outs of the behaviour, it’s easier for you to draw a sort of “map” to help others get out, too.

I try to tell the man that I am walking with this. I try to reassure him that just because he was prone to bad behaviour in the past doesn’t mean that he is always doomed to repeat that behaviour. I try to tell him that he can learn from his past and better himself, that he needn’t be chained to who he was. Every moment is Zep Tepi. Every moment is a time to start over and recommit yourself anew to whatever path you choose. This fertile soil that we walk upon could very well serve as the foundations for him to become someone better than he once was.

And the truth is, we are all this way. We are all our own cache of fertile soil that we can grow from. We are all able to become more than what we were, whenever we so choose to plant the seeds of change within ourselves. Even if you’ve screwed up or done things you regret, you can always choose to do better. Never give up on yourself. Investing in yourself is the best investment that you can ever make, and it is an investment that we should all be making regularly.

Do not deny yourself your new beginning.

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Adventures in Anxiety, Pt 1

Disclaimer: this post discusses the legal usage of medical marijuana (MMJ). If you have any problems with this, please use your discretion in reading this post. All comments will be heavily moderated.

This whole adventure started with a Facebook post. It was late January and I was still bleeding my wounds from the Mysteries and I really really really needed a break. I was venting on my wall about how I really wanted to be able to find a way to zonk my brain out for a few weeks straight as a means to get my anxiety and depression under control. And out of the blue, my uncle posts on my wall that I should get some cannabis.

Yep. My 50 year old republican uncle had suggested I get myself some pot. I don’t even think he was talking about legally getting pot, either. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

But as it turns out, my state is a legal state for medical marijuana (MMJ) and after talking with a friend of mine who has an MMJ card, I figured I’d give it a shot. 18 years of having chronic pain in my shoulder was more than enough to get me a card, and I figured that it couldn’t hurt to see how it would effect not only my pain, but my mental health as well.

I decided to document some of the things I had learned about my anxiety while trying to address it through self-care and MMJ use, and post it for others to consider. It is my hope that some of my experiences may help others to better understand their own anxiety, and possibly find ways to ease the anxiety in their life. This will be an ongoing series as I move forward and learn more about my anxiety and depression.

Anxiety by Mariana Zanatta via Flickr

Lesson One: Anxiety is a Learned Pattern

The first night that I decided to try smoking I just so happened to decide to sit down and talk with Set and Osiris. It was one of my first discussions with them after having returned from the Mysteries, and I was dieing to get some answers out of them. We met in one of the larger halls at O’s place, and they sat there patiently while I tried to get my brain together. The conversation was less difficult than it had been in recent months. I was able to sit there calmly and listen to what they had to say and I wasn’t breaking down due to the words being exchanged. But part way through the conversation, a weird thing happened- someone had said something that would have normally caused an emotional response. And as soon as I heard what was said, I went to grab at my hair (a thing I do when stressed) and prepared to freak out and cry.

But then I realized nothing was happening.

My body was so used to having anxiety attacks that I instantly moved into that place without even thinking about it. It’s kinda like in cartoons when someone thinks they’re drowning, and they flail around only to find out they’re in about 3 feet of water? It’s kinda like that.

I felt incredibly stupid but I was incredibly surprised to find this out. It makes enough sense when you think about it- almost everything you do is a learned pattern- from how you get dressed to how you wash your hair. However, I never really thought about how my brain had dug these patterns into my skull in terms of anxiety- and what that might look like when the connection was interrupted.

Lesson Two: Anger is Quick to Follow

One of the first things I noticed after I began to work with MMJ (through smoking and edibles, in case you’re wondering) is that I was hella angry. Like o.m.g. angry. My MMJ friend had told me that pot makes her not care about things as much. In the sense that she doesn’t worry about things that don’t really matter. I found out, however, that addressing the anxiety meant I didn’t care…. about what anyone else thought. I noticed that my interactions became shorter online. I had phases where I literally wanted to scream at people in all caps and tell them how stupid they were/are. I wanted to tell everyone off and tell everyone where to shove it, and due to whatever I was doing to my brain chemistry- I didn’t care at all about the consequences of such an outburst.

It was not pretty.

I reached out to some people online to see what on earth could cause this. Another person who works in psychology told me that many times when you begin to work on things like depression and anxiety, one of the first emotions to come bubbling to the surface is anger. And upon re-reading Hyperbole and a Half’s depression post I realized that she, too, became angry upon working with her mental health.

So if you decide you want to work on your depression and/or anxiety, be prepared to be angry. Really angry. Be prepared to take a lot of time away from people and the internet, and be prepared to potentially stick your foot in your mouth a few times.

Lesson Three: Don’t Expect a Straight Line

The first few weeks that I was using MMJ, I felt soooooo much better mentally. I felt calmer. I felt like I wasn’t dieing all the time. I felt better.

But that didn’t last very long. Within a month I was in the anger streak I mentioned above, and I was so tired from all of the MMJ that I could barely bother to sit online and write anything. My ability to write blog posts plummeted and I plowed through my entire drafts bin during that time. I felt like I had gone from ‘on the mend’ to ‘completely fucked’. I lamented that I couldn’t function this way. I wouldn’t be able to do the Kemetic thing if I couldn’t keep up the pace with my writing. I worried that I’d become a failure and have to choose between having sanity and peace of mind or my community thing. I worried to the point that I went into another depressive state.

And it went like that off and on for quite a while. Depression still happened. Anxiety still happened. I had days that were good and I had days that were bad. However, the more I got used to the MMJ, the easier it was to function while under its influences. I found that my anger was less and less, and that I could slowly start to write more and more even while high. My pain was going down and my sleep was more restful. I found that there were some good things happening- I just couldn’t expect them to happen over night.

I would imagine this is the case for anyone who is working on, well, anything. Don’t expect a straight line. You’ll likely have ups and downs and set backs as you try to move forward. Don’t give up even if it seems pointless from time to time (which I had many of those moments over the past 6 months).

Lesson Four: Sometimes You Don’t Notice When You’re Getting Better

I have spent a lot of my time during this whole thing questioning if I was actually making any progress. There is a rather hefty financial requirement to use MMJ regularly, and I didn’t want to be wasting my money if it wasn’t actually improving anything. However, just because my brain still feels like it’s always messed up doesn’t mean that everyone else does.

One of the first indications I got that the MMJ was doing its job occurred when I was working at my company’s largest convention of the year. One of my coworkers that works out of the office asked if I was on sedatives. I was so de-stressed compared to normal (to him) that he thought I was on something that made me calm down (he was partially right).

I sometimes think it’s like losing weight. You see yourself every day, and you often times don’t think you’re actually losing the weight because the shift is so gradual that the daily looks in the mirror hide what is actually going on. However, people who don’t see you all the time certainly notice- and that seems to be how it is with this. I’m neck deep in my own thoughts and problems that I don’t even realize when I’m actually doing better day to day.

I even recently sat down with my SO to discuss whether the MMJ was posing any benefit for me, and he agreed that there were beneficial changes in me- I just don’t seem to see them yet. I’ve become calmer, easier to talk to, more open with my speech, and my meltdowns are less frequent and less potent in strength. To him, the change in attitude and demeanor has been significant, even if I don’t really see it yet.

Mind you, that is not to say that I haven’t seen at least some changes, but I guess I was hoping for night and day shifts and I think that’s probably unrealistic. So anyone out there that is looking to address their anxiety should probably find some other people they trust to help gauge their improvement. Find people who can be honest with you and tell you where you’re at. Having objective input can help you figure out if your methods are working or not. I also recommend keeping a journal of where you’re at mentally each day so that you can look back over time and notice any potential patterns. Being able to confirm that you are making progress can be the difference between sticking it out and succeeding, or giving up and failing.

Lesson Five: Recovery is a Full Package Deal

I think this has been the hardest lesson for me to learn, and I’m still struggling with it. I learned quickly that if I really wanted to work on my anxiety, I needed to be prepared to give up other things that were important to me, and to focus purely on myself. That meant giving up working on things all the time. That meant spending more time performing self-care. That mean doing Unseen work less often. That meant sometimes spending more time doing absolutely nothing in the name of healing.

I think it’s a challenge for us to let go and do nothing but rest for a while. I know that I often felt like a failure when I couldn’t bring myself to write or paint or do anything. However, it is a necessary part of the healing process. You can’t run full steam ahead all the time and expect to heal. You simply can’t. So anyone who is considering working on such things, be prepared to cut some stuff out of your life for a while until you get a better footing with your health.

I am only getting started with the healing process, and I imagine that there will still be more to learn and more to discover about what it takes to get a better handle on my mental health. Despite some of the setbacks I have experienced during this process, I think it has been well worth the effort, and look forward to seeing where it leads me in the future.

 
 

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Caring About Self-Care

selfcare

Self-care was not always a big deal to me. In fact, I’d argue that for most of my life, self-care didn’t even exist. My body and mental health were merely roadblocks and hurdles that I needed to tame and overcome in order to do what I needed to do. Growing up, I was treated as though I didn’t have anything wrong with me, and I was expected to perform at the same levels as my “normal” peers, and so I simply kept pushing myself until I completely broke.

It is breaking that caused me to care about self-care. I had reached a point in my life where my body would no longer allow me to not care anymore. It forced my hand and forced me to change my habits; anything short of that meant I was unable to get out of bed or function without a ton of pain.

But even then my approach to self-care was wrong. You see, when my body broke, it started with my stomach. My stomach was suddenly moody and never wanted to eat anything (still doesn’t) and most any food I put into it made me feel worse (still does). Combined with my chronic pain and overwhelming anxiety that plagued me at the time, I pretty much viewed self-care as a way to placate my body just long enough so that it would allow me to continue to act as I had before. “If I do this one thing, then my body will go back to normal and I can continue living like I did before everything fell apart.” However, I had reached a level where that was no longer an option. To draw a parallel, when someone experiences trauma and the consequential PTSD that comes with it, the brain is rewired. At that point, there is no going back to the same mental wiring and processes that existed before. Instead, you have to adjust and learn to live with the new wiring in your brain. That is essentially what happened to me on a full-body (and probably mental as well) scale.

My body had changed, and my life and attitude towards my body had to change to reflect it. No matter how much I wanted it, there would never be any going back to surviving off of four hours of sleep at night while I fueled my body with Coke and Doritos.

It took me many years to figure this out, and in all honestly, I feel silly that I didn’t connect the dots sooner. I spent so much time trying to figure out how I could make things go back to the way it was before, only to find out that that was not even a viable solution for me anymore. I needed to reformat my life to accommodate what had happened to me. It is at this point that self-care actually began to take a hold in my life.

Throughout the bulk of this process (this process being: moving from my stomach crapping out on me to realizing things would never be the same again) I focused heavily on what I ate. I felt that most of my woes would be solved by eating the right things. However, due to the severe anxiety and stress (and probably depression) I was feeling at the time, I ended up shooting myself in the foot at nearly every meal. My attempts to help myself only served to exacerbate the problem. My self-care was failing hard.

Step One: I give myself permission.

So one of the first things I did regarding self-care was to stop caring so much about what I ate, because I hurt no matter what I ate, and beating myself up over it wasn’t changing anything. I gave myself permission to eat what sounded okay at the time, whether inside of my house or outside of my house (I used to eat out a lot). I allowed myself to fudge the rules because fudging the rules was better than stressing even more about what I was putting into my system. And since I didn’t know what was causing my stomach so much pain- better to eat and not stress than to not eat and still stress. You dig?

Giving yourself permission to do what you need to do to get by can be a very helpful step in moving forward. Berating yourself for things you can’t control or change benefits no one and ends up holding you back from making needed changes and actually moving forward. Going easy on yourself (and others) in times of need can make a huge difference.

Step Two: Address your schedule.

The second step towards helping myself was addressing where I lived. I used to drive about 45 minutes one way to work. That equates to about 2 hours in the car every day, and those two hours could be spent sleeping or relaxing. So with the permission of my SO, we moved to the other side of town where my job is located, and he took on the driving instead. This has had one of the most profound effects on my health. I’m able to sleep an additional hour every day (which makes more of a difference than even I can comprehend) and I walk to work every day. This benefit is twofold in that it gets my exercise in, and I have time to process thoughts and calm my mind while I walk. Of course, this has its downfalls- as it’s really hot in the summer. However, I think the benefits far outweigh the heat, and I’m grateful that I’ve been allowed this luxury of walking to work.

Walking to work also allowed me more control over my food intake. I am able to walk home during lunch (though I rarely do during the summer) and I’m able to make food that is better for my stomach because I have access to a full kitchen. Walking ended up benefiting me in more ways than I would have expected. The reduced stress and increased rest was enough that I began to eat better simply because I wasn’t stressing all the time. I found myself eating in more and eating things that bettered my stomach, and I think that heavily coincides with walking every day.

Step Three: Make your rest count.

It sounds weird- making your rest count, but I’ve found that not all types of rest are equal. My body is one of the kinds where it feels like no matter how much I rest, I still feel tired. I don’t know if this is a byproduct of something like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or possibly tied to poor breathing and allergies combating my system, or even maybe tied back again to my anxiety and stress wearing me out, but either way, for many years I felt like there was no point in resting because I’d wake up feeling just as tired. I felt it was more productive to just stay up and get work done.

However, through the walking to work experiment listed above, I found that resting at certain times actually makes a big difference for me. Before I moved, I used to sleep all the time. I’d nap under my desk at work. I’d come home and nap for another half hour or so, and then I’d go to bed at 9 because I was too tired to stay awake anymore. However, being able to sleep in the extra hour or so in the morning (combined, likely, with the reduced stress of walking to work), means I no longer need to nap at work, and I rarely nap when I get home anymore. I can even stay up later, sometimes as late as ten or eleven, without any extreme taxation on my body (just don’t ask me to wake up at 6 instead of 7, apparently). Figuring out how my body ticks and what gives me the most bang for my buck has made my self-care go that much further.

Step Four: Listen to your body.

I think it’s pretty obvious at this point that me and my body have often times been at odds. I feel like our society formats us to be that way- we’re often told that our bodies are a source of shame and dislike for a variety of reasons, and having a body that is slowly dieing can make it really hard to want to do anything for your body. “You’re making my life hell, so why should I even bother to help you out” was often my mentality. However, our bodies are not things that we can escape (if we want to stay alive, at least). We are stuck with ourselves and ignoring your body will not only likely shorten your life, but will make your life less enjoyable.

Learn from my mistakes and listen to your body’s needs before it breaks on you, because once it’s broken, there is very little you can do to fix it again. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from my stomach is to urge people to try and take care of themselves and their specific needs before their body face plants them into the ground out of desperation. Bodies and minds are not things we can just will to move forward. Our quirks and illnesses and needs are not something you can steam roll out of existence, they are things that have to be worked with and cultivated if we are to make the most out of what we’ve got (or don’t got). An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and working on self-care now while it’s still viewed as optional can make all the difference between having a body and mind that functions fairly well and being stuck with both being bombed out and not operational.

Figuring out what works best for your self-care can certainly be a challenge. Each person and each person’s needs are going to vary greatly, and what works for me may not be exactly what works for you. Taking the time to experiment with your needs can be time consuming, but it’s worth it to be in good health.

What things have you tried with your self-care? What has worked and what hasn’t? If you don’t partake in self-care, why is that? Do you think self-care is an important part of maintaining your health?

Relevant Posts:

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2014 in Rambles

 

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Ma’at Shines Through My Body

I often view bodies like cars. They are vehicles that allow our non-physical bits to participate in this thing called life on earth. They carry us around and let us do things with one another, and instead of pumping gasoline as a means to fuel the body, we instead nourish ourselves with food, sleep and other such things.

And if bodies are like cars, I’ve got a bit of a lemon.

I’ve got the kind of body that mimicks the car you probably had in college. The kind that you have to do a special wiggle dance with the key in order to get the door to unlock. The kind of car whose gas gauge isn’t reliable. The kind of car that makes weird noises when you accelerate and threatens to stop working when you come to a complete stop at a light.

That’s the kind of body I have. And I’m sure that there are many others out there who have similar (or worse) bodies to mine.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the nature of having a fixer-upper body. The nature of having spoon based illnesses where you are constantly working to keep things together. Or hell, even the nature of just living in such a situation where nothing is ever stable. How do we cope with that? What is even the point if everything you build up is only to maintain some semblance of ‘breaking even’? Why bother if you’re never going to get ahead?

I remember breaking down one evening at Osiris’ place and crying the ugliest cry you ever saw as I poured my heart out about how I didn’t understand the point behind all of it. Why do you keep trying when you’re never going to get ahead?

And he reminded me that ma’at is much like that.

maat

Back in antiquity, it was believed that ma’at had to be established every day, because existence and creation always lived on the brink of annihilation. Every day the barque would travel across the sky, and the gods would look down upon the world below and watch its machinations. Every evening, the barque would slip into the underworld, the realm of the dead. And every night, Set would have to fight a/pep to keep everything safe. Every night Ra needs to rejoin with Osiris to recharge himself. Every day the gods fight against a/pep and isfet to maintain their existence and the existence of all of creation.

Every. Single. Day.

Without pause, without stop. All the time ma’at and isfet clash together, and it is only through sheer perseverance and dedication that ma’at triumphs as it currently does (generally speaking, I mean, we’re all still here at least). In many ways you might be able to argue that ma’at will never ‘get ahead’. There will always be isfet. There will always be trouble looming over the edge of the horizon. And yet the gods continue with it anyways.

I mulled on this for a couple of weeks. My initial response was that of utter desperation. If the gods could never get ahead, how the hell did I expect to find some peace of mind in this life, with this body of mine? But as I thought on it more and more, I actually felt that viewing my self-care as a means of establishing ma’at within myself made me want to do more self-care.

In a way, I am the center of my universe, which isn’t to be mistaken as being the center of the universe. But I am the center of my universe because everywhere you go, there you are. The scenery around me may change, but I am always there, at the center of my existence, because I can not escape myself. And if I were to treat my universe the way that the gods treat the Created universe, then I realized I would need to be more diligent in maintaining ma’at through my body and how I treat it.

This may involve a shift in how I perceive spending money on myself, spending money on treatment to keep myself healthy, or spending more time on helping my body keep its spoons. I don’t usually scowl when the gods ask me to get them something- I always look at it as a means to help our relationship stay stable, and as a means to help keep them in the world around me. And yet I’m ready and willing to scowl when I need to spend money on something that helps me to have a slightly better existence? It seems hypocritical (because it is). And looking through the lens of ma’at and my body being the center of my universe, I realize those mentalities need to change.

As much as I may wish to be a completely normal, healthy person with minimal health problems, I know that I will never be that. And as much as I wish I were made of money, I also know that that will not likely be the case (or at least, not for a long long while). This is the same as the gods realizing that they are stuck in a form of Creation that is what it is, and that their role within that Creation has to be what it is, lest the Creation cease to Be. It’s not ideal, but it’s what they have, and so they make it work.

As a new layer to my shadow work, I’m going to begin realizing that my body is a vehicle for ma’at. Not necessarily in the sense of writing for this blog, or doing things for others in life. But more in the sense that ma’at flows through my veins, makes up my muscles and tissues, and is bound up in the center that is my universe. And in understanding that, to start viewing the actions that I take to help support the center of my universe as a means of maintaining ma’at and keeping the balance that is the Creation that is me.

When I wrote about unconditional love, I stated that that included loving yourself. So too with ma’at. In order to bring ma’at out into the world, you have to first start with yourself. With the vehicle that is your body, the center of your universe. Your universe which, too, requires persistent dedication to uphold its own ma’at.

What role does self-care play in your practice, if at all? Do you view your body as a means of maintaining ma’at?

Relevant Posts:

 

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Worshiping Yourself

It sounds kind of funny, doesn’t it? “Worshiping yourself.” I can hear people thinking already, “what kind of actual well adjusted person worships themselves? Only narcissists and greedy jerks think of themselves as gods needing worship!”

But I am here to challenge that notion.

As you surf through the Pagan-sphere you’ll see a lot of shadow work going on, and if you stop to read some of that shadow work, you’ll see that a lot of it stems from a lack of self love and self worth. We as a society (especially women and minority groups, imo) are taught that we are not worthy of our own love. We are taught that we need to put literally every. single. person. on the planet. before ourselves. And in turn, we neglect our own needs, our own wants and desires, and that can lead to some self-destructive tendencies. When I wrote about unconditional love a few years ago, I mentioned that unconditional love also included loving yourself, and that includes making yourself a priority in your own life. In order to help facilitate loving ourselves more, I decided to explore the idea of creating a shrine for yourself.

Or as the title of this post states: creating a shrine where you can worship yourself.

How do we create a shrine to ourselves?

It may seem really confusing at first- figuring out how one makes a shrine to yourself. However, I can say at least this: there are no rules on what a proper shrine to yourself would include! Unlike trying to please a deity or religious obligations and rules in typical shrine creation, you are completely in control of what goes on your own shrine. You get to make the rules, and only put things on your shrine that help you to move closer to self acceptance and love. I know that this is really generic sounding, so to help you get your creative juices flowing, here are some ideas for you!

To start off, here is a list of things that you could start with:

  • Pictures of yourself
  • Pictures of things that you love, or things that make you happy
  • Mantras and affirming statements (for ideas on these, see here, here and here)
  • Workbooks and tools to help with your goals
  • Journals
  • Jewelry or other finery that you like to wear. Things that make you feel good and look good.
  • Nice smelling things such as perfume, candles or incense

As stated above, you could include anything on your shrine. Nothing is off limits. It can be large, or small. Something you wear on your person, an image you keep in your wallet, or be a huge shelf in your living room. It’s all about what helps you to be happy. For example, I tend to include stuff that reminds me of my astral family because they make me happy. I also like to include images of my gods because they have played a key role in a lot of my shadow work over the years.

Use whatever makes your shrine yours.

I’ve got my shrine set up, but what do I do with it?

With all of the small spaces that I have set up for myself, I spend most of my time in those spaces being happy and calm. I use my own personal shrines to reflect upon myself and where I am going. I think about where my life is heading, and if I need to adjust anything to reflect where I want to be. I also use these spaces to talk with entities, the same way you might with a deity at their shrine. However, the conversations in my own personal shrine space are either regarding my own personal self work, or are lighter in nature. I don’t go to my personal spaces to talk about other business.

I also treat my personal shrine space as a safe place. I go there to unwind or reduce stress. I have a lot of small spaces in my house where I will stop for just a few seconds as a means to remind myself to breath and calm down. If your space is large enough, you could meditate in front of your shrine, or listen to music that helps you to relax.

Essentially, it is a space that is designed to help you grown and become a better person through whatever methods help with that.

And to help bring it all together, here are some examples for you to look at!

This is my main “me” shrine. It sits by my bedside and is changed regularly as my needs and wants change. This particular version of the shrine has a focus on heart-based magix and has been set up to help my heart heal after what I had experienced during this years Mysteries.

This shrine features a lot of items that I relate to my astral family, including multiple necklaces that my menz have claimed as well as the brass candle holder that my partner has claimed. I keep keys on the shrine to help me remember that I have keys to moving forward. I keep spoons on this shrine to remind myself that I need to keep my spoons and manage my spoons better. I also keep a small icon of Set and Osiris on this shrine because they are trying to help me become more balanced.

Balancing is a primary focus of this shrine, hence the fairly even distribution of items and the symmetry that is present here.

IMG_0077

This is a very small shrine that sits in my closet. This is one of those shrines that I see daily while I get ready in the morning, and I use it as a small reminder to make time for myself and to remember that I am worth pampering. I keep very bright, expensive (ish) looking items in the glass case. I use items that remind me to dress well and focus on keeping up with my appearances (because it helps my mental health). The pin for sewing reminds me of the changes I’m making through my clothing. The pocket watch reminds me that my time is valuable. And all of the items in this case remind me of my astral family and the positive things that my family Over There has brought into my life.

Shrine001

This shrine features a star jar, which I use star jars for heka purposes and fulfillment of wishes. Each of the stars in the jar have been imbued with desire and purpose for where I want to go in life. I’ve also placed a picture on this shrine that has a pair of owls on it- which reminds me of my physical partner and helps me to remember to focus on my life here as well. I have a large quartz (I think?) sphere on this shrine that I roll around in my hands when I’m thinking and mulling.

shrine002

I wanted to show this idea as a concept for everyone because I want people to see that your shrine doesn’t necessarily need to be big or fancy. This type of shrine setup could easily blend into the rest of your house and no one would be the wiser. In this case, the aim is to make yourself a cup or pot of tea. You sit down with your cup of tea and while you drink it, you work on any shadow work or self-work that you need to get done. You could drink your tea and write down affirmations in the book. You could use the book to jot down things you got done today (see: done lists). You could use the journal for doodling or brainstorming. Again, its about whatever helps you to move forward towards a better you.

Hopefully this post has helped to give you some ideas about ways that you can help better yourself. If you guys create shrines for yourself, I’d love to hear about it!

 

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