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!

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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.

The Dark Side of the Moon: When the Light Fades

There is always a light and dark side to everything in life. And for those of us with depression, the dark side tends to be the most prominent. I have battled depression most of my life, with an attempted suicide at age 14 followed by panic attacks later in life and then several shrinks. I finally found a therapist I liked and from 2009-2013 I saw her and a psychiatric Nurse Practitioner during the darkest hours. I am very open about having clinical depression because I have to be the voice for the thousands out there afraid to talk about because they are afraid of being judged. In 2014 I was doing great—so great my social worker decided that she only needed to see me on as needed basis and my NP tapered my meds. I was feeling on top of the world.

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Then, I recently, and abruptly had a life change. Within two weeks, my boyfriend and I were packed up and heading to Arizona. There we were on a Saturday night enjoying some wine and sake listening to some old school tunes in an apartment I lived in for 15 years to suddenly packing boxes on Sunday, renting a U-Haul and driving 2300 miles away from the only place I had called home. It happened so fast I had no time to comprehend what the hell just happened. The whole cliché of having the carpet pulled out from under you—is serious shit.

Here we are in Arizona and the adjustment has been difficult. We went from a major city to a new town. We know no one. Have np physical support system here and are basically fending for ourselves. I have to find a job pronto to make sure we can pay rent which means finding meaningless work to pay the bills.

And what happens but that the dark side appears. I woke up one day in tears. I was crying to the point where I couldn’t stop. My depression had returned. YES—the move was the TRIGGER—but not the reason.

People who don’t have depression don’t understand what it’s like. Imagine that you are just moving along a bright sunny day when suddenly someone throws a pitch black can’t see shit bag over your face and never ever takes it off. It’s like that. A dark cloud that just doesn’t go away. And thoughts-bad thoughts come in your mind. And YOU CAN’T HELP IT. It’s just there.

I have had so many people tell me it’s the move. To give it time. To find joy in the things around me. Believe me…I am trying. We have gone to canyons, creeks, walked, enjoyed the beauty of the place—but my lack of happiness isn’t with where I live…it’s chemically going on in my brain.

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I think that’s hardest thing about depression–people think it’s an external thing that can be “fixed”–when it’s a chemical thing that can’t be fixed just “adjusted”….and I appreciate everyone’s helping…. but depression can’t be fixed with a walk or giving my move time…if it were…I would be walking all day every day and loving every bit of Flagstaff. It’s hard for people who don’t have a clinical diagnosis to understand that depression is not always due to outside circumstances. I appreciate everyone’s kindness and offerings of advice during times like this, but want I everyone to understand that it’s not going to “fix” what’s happening inside my head. I can’t just flip a switch and “be happy”—nor can I flip a switch and decide that all the chemical mishaps in my brain will fix themselves.

Being supportive is awesome. Being able to just be there—and listen—is even more awesome.

The Dark Side of the Shaman

Shamanism is not for the weak. Nor is it something one dabbles in. Shamanism is a spiritual path that one takes because they are called. And once called, and you accept, it’s not always a bright shining path. People see me now and they think “wow you have such great energy” ~ but it took awhile for me to get there. And a LOT of darkness and loss along the way.

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For a very long part of my life, I suffered from severe anxiety and deep depression.  I struggled to “fit in” ~ and not on a social level. On an every day I live level. I always liken it to feeling like I was a visitor on Earth, someone on the outside looking in. An observer. It wasnt until I was in my twenties and started meeting people of like mind that I started to feel “normal.”  In any case, meeting like-minded people, continuing my spiritual studies and finally finding Shamanism….I started to…..unravel.

From December 2011 to March 2014, my depression and anxiety got worse. In fact, I was having frequent panic attacks and my depression was so bad that I would spend days on end sleeping, crying and not eating. Sometimes not going to work for days. I found little joy in things, though I was able to put on a smile when I had to. I eventually ended up seeing a therapist and going on medication. IT was the ONLY way I could function. I am not, against medication when needed to HELP you see clearer. While digging my shoes deeper into the path of the Shaman, I began to loosen the strings and ties that had held me down for so long. It was a dark and scary. I had to acknowledge deep pain — emotional, spiritual, mental and physical. Barriers I set up a long time ago to protect myself. Pain I didn’t want to acknowledge. Past hurts. Present hurts. Things about myself that made me not a good person. It was like standing in front of a bunch of fun house mirrors and seeing myself warp into different people–yet remaining the same. So many layers of skin shed away. Things I thought I wanted and needed—I realized were a lie.

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As the weights slowly came off, the depression lifted. And while there was still a fog around me, I was able to see a bit clearer…..I was finding out WHO I was and WHAT I wanted….Because of that, I started losing people close to me….Phone calls stopped. Emails stopped. Chats stopped. People I considered family simply vanished from my life. I  was okay with that. They were there for whatever time they were meant to be there. I know that now, though at the time, it felt like my world was shattering. I got divorced and realized the things I needed in a relationship were not just things based purely on the idea of love. My perceptions of relationships, love and friendship changed.

I quite literally, became a whole new person.

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Shamanism is not an easy path. It’s a path that forces you to accommodate the LIGHT and THE DARK. I always explain to those interested in the Shamanic path…that you are like an ocean: you have your deep dark parts and your clear sparkling parts–the catch is being able to allow the two parts to flow together not apart–they are not separate. These two worlds, the dark and light, must be constantly fluid. Moving together.

As I began my career as a Shamanic Reiki Practitioner, more things came to “light” — more gifts opened up that once again forced me to look at myself. I had to learn how to deal with my new abilities and deepening intuition. I had to again, deal with the light and darkness that resides not only in the world around me, but in myself. Friends came and went, relationships changed…..But I went with the flow.

Being a Shaman is about becoming a master of the balance of light and dark.

Wherever You Go—-ITS OK!

I am not a big fan of the motto, “wherever you go, there you are.”

It infers that a person is “running away” from something rather than dealing with the issues that they need to at the moment and place where they currently are.

Nonetheless, why does it have to mean “running away” from something? Most often, people need to run towards something—start over with a clean slate. Sometimes that is the only way they can deal with any issues they have.

EVERYTHING is energy. Low or High vibrational energy—it exists in everything. Often people get stuck in a low vibrational area-whether personally, publicly, spiritual, mentally or physically. When this happens it’s hard to move forward. Despite whatever is necessary to help cleanse the energy, sometimes a person needs a change in environment to clear their head.

I always recommend to clients who have this issue, to take a few days away from home- no internet, no phone. Occasionally this is enough for the client to move stagnant low vibrational energy to be able to move onward. However, sometimes people need a whole new change in atmosphere to be able to progress, heal and let go of whatever it is they need. It doesn’t mean that they are not handling their problems—it means that in order to deal with the issues at hand, they need a fresh start.

And we are all entitled to that.

It doesn’t mean you are running away – it doesn’t mean you are weak- it means that you need a fresh start in order to get things in perspective to make healthy changes you need.

Instantaneous Spiritual Awakenings…..

~*Out of respect for those who have positive experiences or believe in the power of ayahuasca, I am omitting names of both people, groups and shamans from this post. Everyone has their opinion and this is solely mine. I know many people who have had life changing experiences and I respect and honor that.*~

Last year, while I was deep in depression and anxiety issues, I started hearing more and more about the magical plant “ayahuasca.” For those unfamiliar with it, I will sum it up this way: It’s a plant from the nightshade family and contains DMT. Done in small doses by a genuine Shaman, ayahuasca is meant to bring a profound and cathartic spiritual awakening. To quote someone who had taken the trip to Peru to try magical plant “its like psychotherapy on steroids.”

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I really needed something to shake me out of the funk that I was in. Drowning in depression, I began to learn more and more about this magical herb, which, if taken correctly is non-addictive (though illegal in the US). I am a deeply spiritual person, and felt that part of my depression was caused by a lack of spiritual communion. I went from daily routine to nothing. At the time, it felt though someone had taken my soul and left a void. I began to meet more and more people who had taken the ayahuasca journey with great success. I thought about it, sought out retreats (most of which are in the middle of Peru) and started making plans to go on a journey and take this magical plant.

After a few months, I began to notice more and more stories and retreats popping up. I know the idea that when you are aware of something you see it more, so initially I thought that was it. But the more people I met in the spirituality community the more I learned that ayahuasca was and is, becoming a new fad for the Westerners. Primarily because most Westerners think by traveling into the jungles of Peru and drinking a concoction of magical herbs and plants, they will receive instantaneous spiritual awakenings.

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When things become a “fad” its more than likely going to start turning into something that is not what its original intentions were. And that is what I began to see happening. More and more people taking ayahuasca…more and more “shamans” available. When I initially looked into retreats, there were maybe 2 or 3–now there are a dozen. Who is to say that the people you are working with are “genuine” ~ Additionally, there are very small groups who perform ayahuasca rituals in the U.S. – and to become part of the group you need to know someone who knows someone. A completely underground world.

The other thing I had begun to notice were those who were painting or drawing the ayahuasca visions–were all drawing nearly the same exact imagery. If there is supposed to be a personal spiritual experience during the hallucinations-why were all these people creating the same imagery. Additionally, some of the people were already using recreational drugs, so ayahuasca was just another “spirit journey” for them. And some of these people still had pent-up residual psycho-social issues. So their contrary words of the power of ayahuasca had really not changed them, aside from taking them on a trip.

Now, I am not saying that this occurs all the time. I know many people who are in a good state of mind and have had magical and transformative experiences with the drug. And I am also not saying that specific drugs, like peyote, under the guidance of a genuine shaman (one who has spent years studying plants) can not bring about a spiritual experience. I do believe in the proper hands, specific hallucinogens and ritual can create a deeply moving experience.

However, my thoughts are this. I believe most Westerners are looking for instantaneous spiritual awakenings. We live in a world where it is a get in now mentality. You can download music rather than go to store, order items on-line and have them the next day. There is no waiting or working. So rather than spend the years that are involved in spiritual atunement, they turn to a “quick” method of spiritual awakening. I have been working on my spiritual path for 20 years. And I am still learning. Spending thousands of dollars to spend time in a jungle to drink something – or finding an underground group who participates in ayahuasca circles, is not going to bring a lasting spiritual experience.

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A spiritual awakening is something you continually have to work on and maintain. And it doesn’t happen overnight. It doesn’t happen by smoking or drinking a hallucinogenic. Sure these may “open your mind,” but you get the same effect from deep meditation and relaxation techniques. Or via ecstatic dance and drumming. I believe the people who do have the instant spiritual awakenings are those who have had near death experiences. Only because they have been to the other side and back. They have a new perspective on life.

If you want to become more spiritual you have to spend years working on it. You have to find your ebb and flow. You have to awaken your souls journey and take the long and arduous steps to get there.

There is no such thing as an instantaneous spiritual awakening,