Let’s Get P.C. on MENTAL ILLNESS!

When is society going to start getting politically correct when it comes to mental illness? When are words like “crazy,” “nutter,” “looney ” going to become just as offensive and disgusting to use as the words nigger and fag? When someone utters those words everyone stops and stares–it defines that persons way of thinking. But when someone refers to a person with a mental illness as a “looney” no one even bats and eye. As a friend said, “its much more acceptable to be an alcoholic than mentally ill.”

We have a friend who is a paranoid schizophrenic. He refuses to get real help, even though several people have talked to him about it. And yes, sometimes he is a bit much. He has rants and conspiracies–talks to otherworldly beings etc. (and as a Shamanic practitioner–I do not doubt that he does!). His reality–what he sees — is not our definition of reality. His reality is defined by his illness. The schizophrenic mind does not agree with reality. It is a psychosis. And, he cant help that. He is a good person with a good heart who is very intelligent. He cant help having a mental illness. No one knows what deck of cards they are going to be handed when they are born into this life.

Yes his behavior can be erratic and yes you do have to constantly redirect him during conversation. But he is not a bad person. He recently has been kicked out of a cafe for his rants, and has had altercations with other folks. In the past, he has had the shit kicked out him from police and people in society who don’t understand the simple fact he is sick. I am not saying that he should get away with every little thing–and that his behavior is always justified. But he is ill. His angry outbursts are not out of malicious intent; he can not help what is brain does. Outbursts and angry rants are par for the course. Its part of the illness which is schizophrenia. And like cancer or any other physical illness, schizophrenia varies from person to person.

What upsets me, is the reaction people have about him. Not compassion. Not empathy. But utter disgusting hypocrisy and hateful words. For example  (and these are direct quotes):

” I can read a loon as soon as they open their mouth to speak.”

Ask the alien race hes hangin with…they might be able to shed some light on the dysfunction.”

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“Loon”—“dysfunction.” Would you say this about a person with cancer? Parkinsons? Would you tell them they are full of shit? Would you call them names? Absolutely not–because its WRONG.

And yet, when it comes to mental illness…people say whatever they want about the person because they think, “well,  they are just crazy.” And that is why society can be a disgusting hypocritical beast. Its not OK to use racist or bigoted words, but it is OK to use hateful mean words to someone with a mental diagnosis? How is this acceptable? And people who find it funny, should be ashamed of themselves. No matter how a person is reacting with mental illness–no aspect of it is funny. No one makes fun of mentally disabled people–Asbergers, Mental Retardation, Down Syndrome….because they can SEE the disability. Well guess what–mental illness is no different!

I cant tell you how many times I have been called “crazy,” “emotional,” “full of shit,” “faking it.”—And you know..that used to really hurt me. It hurt because no one understood the battle I deal with every single day of my life. When I am a happy person and and yet my brain is full of despair and anxiety. Now, I get pissed off. And I get pissed off when people in my tribe are called these things because society thinks its okay.

Its about time that society start getting PC about mental illness. People should think about their words before they open their mouth about someone who is mumbling to themselves on the bus, or crying all the time, or fearful of going out to go shopping because their brain is on constant fight or flight–or any of the other mental illnesses out there that appear to be “crazy” to society.

 

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The Dark Side of the Light Keepers

Living with depression is not easy. I mean, no chronic illness is easy to live with; but depression doesn’t always show “physical” symptoms. So when you tell someone you have an illness, they are looking for obvious symptoms. It’s not always easy for me to tell people when I am feeling depressed. I have been masking it most of my life, its what I have become used to. I mean, sure, I will tell someone “hey if I seem quite or off its because I am going through a bad bout of depression,” and they either get or they don’t. I have gotten so good at crying in the bathroom at work, or pretending my contacts are bothering me when people ask me if I am ok because my eyes are puffy and red from secretly crying. I have become so good at telling people I am not feeling good when I get asked to hang out because telling people that my brain has decided to crap out on me is easier.

I have been fortunate enough that my last two employers understood what was going on and allowed me time off when I just…well…when I just couldn’t. When I felt that getting out of bed wasn’t worth it. When all I wanted to do was sit in my pj’s on the couch and cry my eyes out for no goddamned reason.

But it still doesn’t make having depression easier. I have become really good at hiding the darkness within my light on a daily basis. I have depression all the time, but some days…or weeks…its worse than others. But I try, damned hard, to push the light through. Its hard for people to understand….that there is a dark side to the light keepers.

I have one of the most bubbly, cheerful, happiest personalities. I LOVE my life. I LOVE myself. I worked hard to get to where I am…and now that I am finally here…I could not be happier. A great partner, awesome family, great job, beautiful home, a great wellness practice, my dancing, my coven…everything I have dreamed of is now a reality. But that reality includes the fact that I live with a mental illness. An illness that sometimes, despite KNOWING I am happy, makes me feel like some dark storm is enveloping me and will not  GO AWAY.

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I AM A LIGHT KEEPER. I hold the love and bliss that the Universe has given me deep within my soul and heart. But sometimes its hard to keep the darkness at bay. People have a hard time understanding—depression makes you sad FOR NO REASON. Despite being a light keeper…..my brain likes to let the darkness in. Its like fighting a battle of good and evil on a daily basis…and sometimes the good will come and last for weeks. Other times, the darkness wins and eats the light until the light can finally get enough courage to battle again.

And its EXHAUSTING. I am constantly exhausted. In addition to the depression–the anxiety that goes along with it!? Imagine being in a grocery store and having to leave a full cart of food in the middle of the aisle because you are having a panic attack so bad you feel like your heart is going to come out of your throat! I have!!!

But through it all…I still manage to hold onto the light and push forward. This was the deck of cards I was handed and its the deck of cards I am going to play with for the rest of my life. And if I have learned anything, its that Light Keepers have a pretty good poker face when it comes to playing with depression.

Beating Back the Demon

I used to say I was tired, when I was actually really sad. Or I would say I was busy, because I couldn’t bring myself to tell someone hanging out or going somewhere didn’t make me feel comfortable. And after 20 + years………I still do these things. The only difference is I know why. Anxiety and depression.

If ever given the option of the two, I would choose depression. At least when I am depressed, I don’t feel anything. I just am. Some walking illusion of a human.  But anxiety…..ugh. Its like waking up every day walking on eggshells. Feeding your mind with thoughts of “what if’s” and “what could be”–irrational thoughts. And sometimes, it gets so bad that the idea of walking out the front door and greeting the world is filled with dread.

I have always had social anxiety–but I am good at “faking it ’till I make it.” Like depression, where I am good at hiding behind a false smile and joy, I am good at hiding anxiety. For many years I created an alter ego–when I was my other self, I was social bee–buzzing around and meeting everyone—but over time, I just couldn’t do it anymore.

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When we moved to Flagstaff from Boston, I had a really hard. I knew NO ONE. I had left behind any close friends I had. I went no where without my significant other. I only trusted him and no one else. The *thought* of going out on my own to meet new people and make new friends was out of the question. It was like my social anxiety swelled up into a tsunami and engulfed every part of me. As the months went by, and I began to settle into my new environment, and familiarity and routines started to embrace me again, my anxiety still did not go away. In fact, it got worse. My demon, my anxiety demon, had its claws in my back.

But this time……right now…I am finally fighting back. I am tired of allowing anxiety to dictate my life. Where I go. Who I go with. What I do. I cant live like this anymore. I used to just give in. Anxiety demon came up, I gave in. I wouldn’t go ANYWHERE alone. I wouldn’t venture out and meet people. I was horrified. No more.

My significant other had a change of shifts at work. Our days off no longer coincide. I had two options: Either stay in our apartment and let the anxiety trigger my OCD so I cleaned every inch of the place or fight through the senseless fear and irrational thoughts—-and live.

So I did and I am.

And its not easy. When I decide to venture out on my own, go to a cafe or yoga class, where I know no one…..I still feel my palms getting sweaty and my heart race. I feel that fight or flight response…and every inch of my being wants to run. Run into the safety of my home and stay there….I force myself to trudge forward. Every time I want to just pop and Ativan and slip into the fog of false rationality-I have to remind myself its temporary. Yes, Ativan is helpful, but its not a crutch. Its not my friend. Its just a mask.

Little by little, day by day, I am pushing forward. Shoving that demon farther and farther away.

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Will it ever disappear? Probably not. Its part of the illness. Part of what comes with having something mental you cant always control. But I cant keep living the way I have been. Will there be days I do just give in? Yes, I am sure of that. Will there be moments when I just want to flee and hide? Yes. Will there be more than a few times when it engulfs me and I have to take some Ativan to stop myself from spinning out of control into a panic attack? Absolutely.

Its time the demon meets its match…even if we are one and the same.

Conceptual Failure

I recently read an article online that stated marriages in the 21st century have been set up for failure. This is mostly because of the cost of living, distractions from technology and the lack of communication. While I agreed with most of the article, the one thing that kept coming up was the word “failure.”

I don’t believe in the word. No one fails at anything. Its better to try something and realize its not for you rather than wondering “what if”–and furthermore, just because something doesn’t work out, it doeskin mean  a)  it failed or b) you are a failure.

Back in the Medieval times people were hand fasted–bound together for a year and a day. If after a year a day, they felt things wouldn’timages work-they went their separate ways. If they felt that their idea or creation of happiness worked for both–they stayed together.

My marriage ended because we both had different concepts of marriage. Yes. Marriage is an idea after all. Marriage, husband, wife–they are terms-titles we use to classify an idea we have. Our concept of marriage failed–we ourselves were not failures. My ex wanted the title of husband but not  the responsibility. I wanted the concept of white picket fence and I believe marriage would solve all my problems. In essence, I created an  illusion of what I believed or thought marriage was. For us, our marriage ended because we both had different ideas of what it meant….and that doesn’t keep it together.

Did it fail? No. We just realized it was not the best thing for us to be together if what are concepts of marriage were different. For me, I learned the idea of a white picket fence and husband to save me was not really who I was. I am not “wife” type. I wouldn’t have learned that had I not gotten married.

I think its great that couples can be together for 10, 20, 30 or even 50 years. For them, the concept of marriage works. But that concept is not for everyone–and some of us don’t realize that until we get married and it ends.

Furthermore, when something ends, it doesn’t necessarily mean the people involved were failures. It just means that where they were together at that particular point in time was not where they were supposed to be. Things end. Even things were believe—we conceptualize–to last forever.

Into 2016

2015 was a year of MANY major changes in my life. For starters-moving across the country! We were planning on moving- but not as quickly as we did. But, everything fell into place at the right time and it was definitely meant to be. It was by far one of the biggest steps I have made in my life. I struggled A LOT but now that my spirit and mind are settled, I can reflect on what was a great decision. I am surrounded by nature. Forests, mountains, streams…everything a pagan hedge witch could ask for!

Another decision I made was to adopt out my snakes. That was very hard for me because my snakes had been with me for over 10 years. They were my identity. My being. My guides. But I decided  that since I was no longer performing and working as much with them as I had in the past, I could not give them everything I had. It hurt like hell. I still cry. But in the end it was the best decision for both myself and their well being.

I ultimately decided to give up performing at private events. After 10 years in the business, I could no longer deal with the stress of private events. And after leaving my hip belt in the closet for a while, I eventually decided I wanted to spend more time focusing on teaching. I love teaching dance, if only for the simple fact that nothing brings me greater joy than empowering women, making them love themselves and watching them grow in confidence.

2016 will be a continued year of growth for me. I have started a coven, which I hope will blossom into a great and beautiful group that will have open circles so we can educate the public on what Wicca and witchcraft is. Its small, but its a start.

I want to start a dance troupe here in Flagstaff with my signature Primal style. And I definitely want to teach– a lot.

The only “resolution” I have for 2016 is to stop comparing myself to others. This is something that I have been wanting to focus on for awhile! So its my goal for 2016.