The Wheel Turned

We made it a year. A whole year in Flagstaff. A year ago today, I left behind the only life I ever knew. My home for 33 years. My friends, my job, my troupe, my dance career. We packed up everything in 2 weeks and were on the road to our new home in Arizona. We had no furniture and whatever belongings fit into our small U-Haul. We had no idea what are our apartment looked like or our neighborhood. Everything happened so fast.

And it was no an easy road. People always say, “I just want to move somewhere and start over.” Its nice to say but harder than people think. The first 6 months were hell. I was depressed beyond reason. I already have clinical depression, but adding the move on top of everything — it was like a dark fog enveloping me. At one point it was so bad I ended up in the E.R. I felt lost.

I recently read in a book that you can visit places-stay in a hotel-move to a new home-and it will feel empty. It feels empty until your energy is mingled with the new place. It took a year for my  energy to mingle.

And here I am. A year later. And I love my new life. We both have great jobs, friends, and an amazing life.

 

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Wounded Warriors & False Prophets

**WARNING** contains explicit language!

I have been holding off writing this post for sometime because I know it will probably piss some people off.

I am writing this after I read an article of a man who wanted to do yoga on plane. He was trying to meditate and do yoga in the back of the plane, instead of sitting in his seat.  When his wife and flight attendants told him to go back to his seat, he went ape shit and eventually got arrested and escorted off the plane. So meditation and yoga which are supposed to keep you calm and centered, somehow brings the FBI on the plane to arrest your ass? Which brings me to the point of this blog post.

I have met and witnessed WAY to many “wannabe” crunchy granola folk–you know the kind I am talking about…..The kind that always talks about connecting to the earth, touching souls, realizing their genuine nature and spreading love to everyone around…..But some of these folks are pretty fucking angry people! On more than one occasion I have met these types….yoga teachers, spiritual advisers, healers…who while preaching peace and love, have a double sided personality that does not fit into the mold of their practice.

I have met people who think they are “gurus” and “prophets”–spreading some false sense of love and peace to their community while harboring some pretty nasty anger issues that periodically come out when they don’t get their way. The people who pretend they are community based spiritual people trying to make the world a better place, but getting pissed off at everything and everybody when they are not in their faux-environment. And I have mentioned money? Yeah. The “I am so gifted that I will give you advise on how to be like me if you pay me; even though I am supposed to be your friend and should help you out for free.”……..What the fuck????

I consider myself a very spiritual person. I am very dedicated to my spiritual path and have been so since I was 13 years old.  And while I am spiritual I keep my feet grounded to the earth. This in turn makes me sometimes I little blunt in my words, a little tough, and a little bit like a spiritual Amazonian woman. There is something that I have learned along the way and its not always something that people on a spiritual path want to discuss.

You cant be spiritual if you cant handle your own shit.

What does that mean? It means you cant talk about loving yourself, others, your community if you are not able to handle your anger, your sadness, your fears, your loss. A false pretense is not genuine. Pretending to be a earthbound spiritual light for the world to envy while on the flip side being a dick, is not good in the practice of spirituality. Building and hiding behind fake walls of peace, love, purity and community because its easier to be that person. Rather than actually being in both your own personal world (being grounded) and the world you have created is not genuine. It is indeed fake.

The most genuine oleo I meet in this crunchy happy peace loving community are the wounded warriors. The spiritual people who have been through some pretty hard shit – stay grounded in reality– but realize that there is so much more beauty in life. The ones that can walk through the darkness blindfolded and naked-and enter the light with pure grace. They are usually the ones who are outspoken, fearless and don’t feel the need to hide behind pretty sounding words to give the air that they are enlightened beings. Spiritual people keeping it real.

Now that’s genuine.

Breaking The Silent Darkness

As most of you know, I am very open about my anxiety and depression. I don’t feel a need to hide the fact that I am on medication nor that I have days when the darkness is so thick I feel like I am going to suffocate. Yet, with all that said, I still struggle to tell certain people. Especially employers and co-workers.

I have major anxiety. Sometimes its so crippling I cant even leave the house. Yes, its much better controlled now. I have been in regular therapy since 2009 to teach myself new ways to think and break recycled thoughts; and medication have made it much easier to deal…but it doesn’t completely take it away. The thing that is hard for people to understand is that I do not always have a trigger. Sometimes, I just wake up feeling anxious—like the floor is going to fall out from underneath me. But I do have triggers.

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And one of those triggers is driving. I hate driving. I didn’t get my license until I was 21 because I hate the idea of getting in a car and driving. To this day I still struggle to drive on highways. I avoid it as much as I can. That coupled with social anxiety makes it worse. My dog helps with that…he is a good icebreaker. But I cant take my dog everywhere. So the idea of driving to a place I do not know AND seeing people I do not know…causes a panic attacks like an erupting volcano!

Hearing myself think these thoughts I often think I must sound like the most pathetic creature on the face of the earth. I am 34 and afraid to drive? I am 34 and cant even leave the town I live in? I had to, tell my boss this after she asked me to drive two and half hours to a town in a state that I just moved in. I was panicked. I told her I couldn’t because, truthfully, we have one car and I pick up my partner from work…..so a 5 hour drive plus time at the other office would make it impossible to circumnavigate schedules. But, I really wanted to  tell her the immediate truth….I have anxiety—and driving alone for 5 hours to a place I don’t even know—that triggered anxiety which triggered panic attacks. That weekend I tried really hard to tell myself how irrational I was being…But my brain didn’t care what I thought–it was on a loop of fight or flight. I even tried to get up enough courage to drive 45 minutes to a neighboring town that I have been before—and I started to go but then I got a wave of panic and had to turn around. Its paralyzing. Anxiety is paralyzing. Naturally this triggered even more “oh my Gods what if’s….” and my brain got my body so worked up I couldn’t leave the house the rest of the day.

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Finally I decided I needed to be truthful with my boss. She knew about my depression…and some of my anxiety…but not all of it. So I wrote her an email and explained what I feel, what my anxiety is like…and how I feel stupid I felt even having to admit these things. I was horrified of what the response maybe. I thought for sure, I was going to get in trouble–that she would think it was just an excuse or a cop out.

But no. It was the complete opposite. She completely understood. And even admitted that she has anxiety issues! I felt a huge weight come off me! It felt good! And I wasn’t judged….(so take that brain!). I had a new found respect for my boss after that to. She understood what I was going through….and that made a huge difference!

Sometimes, with depression, anxiety, or anything other mental illness…..you are so afraid that you will be judged by others–or that they will think you are just making up excuses. But in truth, despite how scary or nerve wracking–its best to lay out the cards. Tell it like it is and regardless, always hold your head up. Sometimes when you think you are alone—you really are not!

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.

 

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.