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.

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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.

There is NO Truth

I have been having to filter out a lot of my news feeds on social network sites due  the continued intolerance and bigotry of the “Islamaphobes.” The idea of not allowing a group a people into a country based on their religion is disgusting and against everything that our founding fathers believed in.

Truth is — there is no truth.

For centuries ALL religions have had radicals. ALL religions have murdered, persecuted and executed those who were not followers of their own.

From 1478-1834 The Spanish Inquisition- who were Catholics, burned, boiled and drowned anyone who was a “heretic”–including Jews, Muslims and Protestants. You weren’t Catholic, spoke up about your beliefs or were a woman who used herbs to heal the sick–well, sucked to be you!

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The Holy Crusades (a.k.a. “the holy war”–sound familiar? Sound jihadist at all??) was a Christian war that started from 1096 and continued until 1270. Many Christians decided that they should join the crusades, as it was “god’s will to free and liberate the Holy Land from the clutches of Islam and Muslims.”  Thousands were killed in the name of God. And the crusades were so bad that “where the slaughter was so great that our men waded in blood up to their ankles.”

Christian >>gulp<< jihadists????

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Religious bigotry hurts. I was a victim of a hate crime in 2002. I am very much a Pagan who practices Wicca and Shamanism. And I am proud of that. My religious and spiritual beliefs have brought me peace, understanding and knowledge. I wear my pentacle proudly. In 2002 I had my Ford Taurus covered in pagan bumper stickers: “Something Wiccan This Way Comes,” “Pagan and Proud,”-a few Goddess symbols and pentacles. To me it was no different than a Christian putting “Jesus Saves” on their car.

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My car was parked in the lot next to the train station. I got out of my car, got on the train and went to work. Little did I know while I was taking care of cancer patients, that someone was destroying my  car. As I walked towards my car, I saw that someone had keyed the entire driver and passenger sides. a gouge that went from the front of the car to the back. Nice and deep. My windshield wipers were broken off and to add to that, a lovely letter was left on my wind sheild.

“Pagan you will burn in Hell. Your soul can not be saved.”

For the first time I learned what it felt like to be a victim of a hate crime. And it sucked. My religion promotes love and peace, just like all the major religions. It teaches tolerance and acceptance and love for ourselves and our neighbors. I did not deserve this.

I ended up taking my bumper stickers off, and hiding my pentagram under my shirts. To this day I will not tell someone my religion until I know they are opened minded.

To assume that all Muslims are terrorists is ignorant. The Quran teaches the same ideas as the bible. And, in fact, when Islam became predominant, they allowed any religion in that believed in the “Holy Book”…imagine that?

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Here are some quotes from the Quran–please let me now which of these sound like a jihadist?

“When you find peace within yourself, you become the kind of person who can live at peace with others.”

“The simplification of life is one of the steps to inner peace. A persistent simplification will create an inner and outer well-being that places harmony in one’s life.”

“The way of peace is the way of love. Love is the greatest power on earth. It conquers all things.”

Naturally, its easy for those who want to create a religious fervor, to take those words and twist them into something darker to suit their own needs. The same has been done to passages in the Bible–to bend words around to support the cause of a holy war. It happens everyday. Words get twisted to support Pro-Lifers and those against Gay Marriage–despite the fact that Jesus was the one who promoted love and acceptance of EVERYONE.

To believe that those who believe in the Quran are all murderers and killers–is like saying all Christians are part of the KKK. Is it OK to blame an entire religious belief on a few idiots who use that religion to justify their cause? And haven’t other religious, historically, done the exact same thing? Killed innocents in the name of their God?

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Additionally, are there not groups of fundamentalists in this country who are doing that now? The Ku Klux Klan has called for the purification of America and are considered extremists. They use their religion as an excuse to kill and torture — and this is in the same country that is considering not allowing Muslims in???

What will be next? Will we start camps like we did in WWII for the Japanese after Pearl Harbor? Will we start reverting back to lynch mobs attacking mosques? And in the end, regardless of religion–do you really believe a God that is supposed to be all loving–really consider this hatred being spewed?

NO religion is the true religion. And NO religion should be used as an excuse to hurt and maim.

And NO country that believes in “liberty and justice for all” say someone can not enter because their religion. Lets stop being hypocrites!

We are moving backwards in time–not forward.

And that alone is scary.

 

Unplug, Unwind & Be Grateful

After the November 13th terrorist attack on Paris, I was on empathic overload. I woke up the next morning feeling nervous, nauseous and out of sorts. I knew that it was my empathic ability tapping into the collective consciousness of the tragedy. I was feeling everything. I was obviously bombarded with Facebook postings, news feeds,etc. from social media. It became overwhelming. I made the decision to stay off the internet for a few days. I unplugged and went to Wukoki, an ancient Anasazi ruin. I sat there on top of this ancient site, the warm sun beating on me, the wind blowing—and I meditated. And after that, my energy was at a high vibration that I can only explain as deeply spiritual. I felt surrounded by the ancients; their wisdom and knowledge flooding me. I decided then, that I would make it a habit of NOT going on the internet. I knew, inevitably, there would be posts and images of the tragedy in Paris and ultimately the Muslim bashing that would occur afterward. It was time I completely unplugged.
And there is a very good reason why it’s not best to overwhelm yourself with news, especially if you are an empath. It WILL affect your energy in a negative manner. Constantly absorbing “bad news” which is what most news is, will subconsciously create a negative vibration. And as an empath, having yourself constantly “open” is a very bad thing. You will find yourself exhausted, drained and depressed.
Being unplugged has been one of the greatest choices I have made. It’s not that I don’t go online at all; I just limit my “intake” to 15 minutes a day. The heartbreak that occurred in Paris made me realize how stupid social media is. When Facebook began to add the “share memories” posts—and I realized all the insignificant things I had been posting: what I was drinking, where I was going, what I was doing—that really, in the bigger picture, it’s all trivial. And when I started reading other peoples posts, it was the same trivial things.
I decided at that moment that I needed to spend more time doing good things: meditation, journaling and most of all, learning gratitude. As a Reiki practitioner, one of the 5 codes is “just for today be grateful.” Living the reiki principals is easier said than done, but I incorporate them as best as possible into my daily life—and I have been neglecting the gratitude principal. So I started to keep track of my thoughts—and whenever I started to have a negative thought – I would remind myself what I was grateful for. If I felt like I had no money, then I would remind myself that I was grateful that I had a job. If I was feeling sick, I would remind myself that I am grateful that I am healthy. I started living with an “attitude of gratitude.”

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In the grand scheme of things, the stuff that we *think* is important is trivial and the things we worry about are inconsequential. Life is about living fully-and encompassing and appreciating all we have; not seeping in the mundane world of the internet and social media.

Year of the Dog

Another year has gone by. For those who do not know, I always consider my birthday my new year; I had my new year on Sunday. Every year I make list of “resolutions” to accomplish in the next year.

This year, I decided to use my dog as a source of inspiration. As humans, we forget so much of our natural essence. We worry about trivial things, forget to breathe. We work tirelessly. And that leads to blockages within our energy fields. It causes us to be exhausted-drained of our energy and life force.

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My chihuahua Fox Mulder

I am guilty of that. Very much so.  So this year, I am going to live more like my dog and follow these simple, yet difficult, resolutions:

  1. Live in the moment: I will try my best to be in the moment—even if the moment is uncomfortable or new to me. I am going to learn that whatever moment I happen to be in, is a moment that I am meant to learn from.
  2. Love unconditionally: Probably the hardest lesson of them all. Learning to love unconditionally: even if the person has low vibrations, hurt you, etc. Learning to love and accept that person for who they are….regardless. My dog loves me even when I am in a fierce mood. He loves me even when I am sad. He loves me even if I scold him for doing something he wasn’t supposed to. He loves unconditionally.
  3. Don’t worry. Be happy: My dog is ALWAYS happy. Always. I need to stop worrying over things that I cant control. I will stop worrying over things that I can change. I will just be happy.
  4. Let go: When my dog does something bad, I scold him. He is upset for a few moments and then he is back to being happy. Lesson to be learned: let go. Bad stuff happens. You cant make everyone happy all the time. You will disappoint yourself and others periodically. But……it happens….Let it go and go back to being happy!

Will I be able to do all of these successfully–no, but I can try! I know I will have my “human” moments—but if I keep my dog and his virtues in check, then I think these lessons will be another stepping stone in my growth to be the best person humanly possible. And if I mess up….well….my dog will be there to love me!

Toxic Traditions

I am far from a traditionalist. In fact, I am the first person to walk away from “traditions.”

Besides my eclectic personality which makes it almost impossible to fit into any traditions, one thing that makes me avoid traditions is the toxicity of many.

When I was 19, after 6 years of studying Wicca and Paganism alone, I decided I wanted to find a coven or group to study with or at the very least, celebrate holidays with. It was my first experience with toxic traditionalists. I met with a woman in a local pub in Brookline, MA. At first she seemed very open-minded–then came the point where she asked me what “tradition” I follow. I am eclectic. No tradition. That was when she went on a 15 minute “rant” about how her tradition which was Alexandrian based with “Celtic” roots (traditional Alexanderian??? I think not!), and that any other Wiccan tradition was wrong and/or copying the foundations of her traditional practice. Needless to say, I didn’t join her group.

Then came Belly Dance–where tradition police are everywhere! Again, I defined myself as fusion dancer–incorporating “traditional” belly dance movements with different types of music. I will never forget my first forray, when I was told that what I was doing was not belly dance–and the only “true” belly dance is “Egyptian.” It took a lot of personal work and years to not care what the tradition police thought nor what defined my style in the world of belly dance.

And now…..Reiki. I am Reiki 1 and 2 certified. Naturally, because I am a teacher by nature, I wanted to elevate to the next level and get my Reiki Master. When we moved to Flagstaff, I was no longer able to study with my Reiki Master in Boston, so I began looking into Reiki masters here. And it didnt take long to start running into the tradition police.

“XYZ’s reiki is not the traditional reiki,” or “I studied and got certified by someone who actually studied in Japan,” or my favorite, “incorporating Shamanic practices into your reiki is not traditional.”

It bugged the shit out of me! How could something as pure and special as Reiki, which is 1. non religious 2. non dogmatic and 3. pure energy—-be assaulted the same way????

I am not against traditions–so long as those following remain open-minded to the fact that there are others out there–that may or may not incorporate their beliefs. Or, that in order for things to survive in the modern world–sometimes traditions need to be woven into new ones. It’s not a bad thing.

And there is nothing wrong with going against the grain either! I learned that no matter how bad I may want to learn something, or be a part of something, if someone has to toss around that their tradition is the only true one–then, well, I would rather look elsewhere.