We all have something: a person place or thing that lies just out of our reach. So close that you can touch it with your fingertips and yet it’s so far away. And it not that you couldn’t have it- but just that you can’t. You can’t because after all the wishing, work and desire- it is just not meant to be yours. You relish in your mind, the moment that you have it. Even for a little while. You relish the way it makes you feel. The way you imagine yourself in that place where you always wanted to go. Mending a relationship that was shattered. Holding something/someone in your arms that you can almost feel and smell. Hearing words you wanted to hear. All the magic in the world couldn’t change the fact that what you want you may never get. The proverbial “follow your dreams,” just doesn’t happen. It may to some, but not everyone. We all have an unattainable. And there needs to a moment where you take a breath and accept that the journey has gone as far as it can, and its time to let go.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As most of you know, I consider all people with mental illness part of my Tribe. Suffering from a major depressive disorder and anxiety–I know the pain of the darkness. With love, support, therapy and psychiatric assistance–I have been able to move past those dark days. But some in my Tribe cant. And while its not always the case, most people in our Tribe have suicidal ideations….We think about the “S” word—often–but doesn’t mean we would do it….Some people have no idea what that’s like. During my last bout in the dark, when my meds stopped working, I was thinking about what it would feel like to just not wake up. I am open about my illness. I don’t pretend and I refuse to hide it. I am open to everyone about my battle. I am not ashamed. Now I am new meds and starting that fun roller coaster ride again……..
Sadly, while the majority *think* about suicide in our veil of darkness–some in our Tribe find it the only way out of the shadows. When a member of our Tribe dies—whether it be by their own hand, natural causes or whatever else–it hurts us all. When a member of our Tribe, whether we knew them personally, whether they were famous or our neighbor, departs this realm, all of us in the Tribe feel it differently than those who don’t suffer. We get it. We really get it. We have been there.
I will say this though, I do not believe suicide is a selfish act. I believe its an act of desperation. When you cant see beyond the veil. Nothing forward. Nothing back. Just a wall. I never blame the person who commits suicide.
In 2011 a coworker, who seemed so happy, left work early, went home, and shot himself. I remember the grief counselor coming in to talk to us. My coworkers all sat around the conference table and everyone had to talk about how his suicide made them feel. I was the only person who said I was angry. While everyone said how selfish he was, how he did not matter anymore. I was angry–I said it was because it did not need to happen if people were not so afraid to talk about mental illness to begin with. If my coworker didn’t feel ashamed–if when you asked him, “how are you” — and he gave a real answer–not just one to end the conversation–he may never have made that choice. My other coworkers didn’t quite get that. When I said that I had tried to kill myself when I was 14, they all gave me that judgmental “she’s a crazy” look.
I am going to state these statements–and they are based purely on my own feelings and thoughts towards suicide and mental illness:
1. Suicide is not selfish: Nor can it be ignored. People who take their own lives do so because they see no other option. Suicide is part of a much larger picture. Suicide isn’t something somebody does because “so and so” needed attention. Actually suicide doesn’t need to even occur. If the stigma about talking about your feelings wasn’t so blatantly destroyed in this society, less people would feel the only way out was taking their own life.
2. Suicidal talk is not just talk: If someone says, “I am thinking about ending my life,” the WRONG response is “well don’t talk about it, just do it.” When I told friends when I was in high school that I wanted to end it all–that was the response I got. Looking back-they were not my friends. The CORRECT response would be, “lets go and talk.”
3. Don’t blame the person: Blame the society we live in. Back in the 1800’s, people in my tribe were locked up in asylums and never spoken about. Why? Simple. Self preservation. How horrible would it be if Mrs. Smith divulged that her daughter was locked away in a “looney bin”? What a shame it would bring about on the family! So in the act of self preservation, our Tribe has to be made to feel like outcasts. Keep our feelings in less be judged. If a person decides to take their own life—its because they felt there was no one or no place to turn to. Imagine what that loneliness feels like.
4. No one dies in vain: I truly and honestly believe that death–any death–happens for a reason. Whether a still born baby–an elderly person from natural causes–a murder victim–and a suicide victim. The Universe does not take away without giving back--even if that giving back is hard lesson. And with suicide, most times, the lesson is about the stigma surrounding mental illness.
5. Don’t scurry around the issue: Nothing pisses me off more than when I hear: “X was going through a divorce so X was feeling really depressed,” “X had a severe drinking problem and went to rehab because X was depressed,” “X’s friend is in therapy so X just wants attention,” “X just moved to a new school so X didn’t feel like they fit in.” Lets not skip around the issue. All of those “things” X was going through—-the key word is X was DEPRESSED. It has nothing to do with mommy and daddy issues, the wife bailing and taking the dog, the asshole boss. Depression, believe it or not, typically has NOTHING to do with what is outside the person. Being put in a new situation, life stress, drinking, divorce–those can exacerbate the depression–but major depression, just like most mental illnesses are biological. People in my tribe cant help what they feel. Its like your happy as hell–your life is amazing–but your brain is telling you the opposite. Imagine a constant tug of war between your brain and your heart. Rationalism and non-rationalism. All the time. Non-stop. We cant rationalize what our brain is telling us otherwise because somewhere–our brain chemistry is on overdrive.
6. (I am going to take heat for this) There is no cure for mental illness: We can have studies up the wall. We can make members of our tribe human lab rats. But the truth is, Big Pharma knows it racking in the dollars–hell I am participating in their gas guzzling pill creating industry every time I pick up my Celexa, Valium, Ativan and Wellbutrin. Just like AIDS and cancer–if there is a cure—we will never know. Big Pharma likes the money they can make from our tribe. Whether we want to admit it or not. And Big Pharma’s know, that every drug they make–if it works–at some point people will be desperate enough to drop thousands of dollars on a medicine their insurance will not cover because its “experimental” ~ so what is the CURE. TALK. OPENNESS. When someone asks “how are you feeling”—REALLY give them an answer. Not just “I am fine.” No. Say, “I am depressed and I need to talk.” And if they really care, and if they really want to help break the stigma…….then they will listen.
No one needs to be the next Freud or Jung. All they need to do is LISTEN. Break the stigma by learning how to ACTIVELY LISTEN to how someone is feeling–don’t jump in and tell them “get over it, its ok,” or “your life is perfect.” No.
I am writing this post obviously, because of the passing of Robin Williams…a member of my Tribe. May he open the roads for the spirits to pass over……
Time for change is NOW.
Well, yes we can. Should we? No.
I wrote a similar post to this after the Boston Marathon Bombings. I am writing this because today a beautiful woman who was murdered got justice. Her family (who I am friends with) have some peace of mind knowing her killer is behind bars for the rest of his life.
I write this because, well, it needs to be said. I had a friend die young 9 years ago from “unknown causes” but was in a heavily abusive relationship prior to her passing. When she died–I felt so many emotions. She was young. Had her whole life ahead of her..and then she was gone. I went through the stages of grief, but I remember feeling so angry. It didn’t need to happen. Why would The Universe do that?
Hate is an emotion. Anger is an emotion. They are not necessarily attached to one another. You can be angry-and not hate. When you hate something it means you have an emotional attachment to it—and if you have an emotional attachment to it-it means you care about it. It matters to you. And it could be a person, place or thing. The spiritual question then is,”if you are on a spiritual path to love all–how can you prevent anger and hatred?” You cant. You are human. It’s natural to be angry with things-so angry you hate them. But….
It’s not healthy. Sending out negative energy and emotions will fall on you.You are only keeping that emotional poison within-in yourself. And when you do that, whomever, or whatever it is, that you are having those negative emotions towards–they have power over you. Whether you like it or not, when you hate, you surrender your power to another. The more negative energy you send out–the more it will come back to you. Even justified anger. Even “justified hate.” The Universe doesn’t want you to feel those emotions. And it sure doesn’t want you to lose your spiritual and personal power to someone who hurt you or your loved ones. To make something/someone matter so much that they own your emotions–its only damaging yourself.
Now…..onto something else.
The Universe is all about balance. Good and bad. Light and dark. It’s all about making sure everything is held in harmony. Everything–every person–we are linked. We are all destined to meet certain people, go certain places and do certain things.
**Please note that what I am about to say does not mean that I think murderers, rapists, etc. are “justified.” They will have to live with their consequences of their actions, the karma that follows and The Universe will ensure that balance is restored.**
When we are born, we are born with a specific karma–and specific bits of webs that we spend our entire life sending out to attach–even if temporarily–to another person. People have asked me, “why do bad things happen to good people,” ~ and my answer is “you can’t control someone else’s destiny.” When someone is murdered–it obviously doesn’t make sense to those left behind. But, the destiny of those two people were already entwined before they came to this Earth. Why?
Perhaps that person had to leave this planet that specific way, to ensure that the person who did the crime doesn’t hurt anyone else. Or that they had to break a cycle of karma. Or someone-friend or family left behind from the tragedy–will create something so powerful to give to others.
Yes, I know, it doesn’t make sense. But I don’t believe The Universe takes without giving.
I know a lot of people will disagree with me, and that is fine. Through my experiences with death–planned or unplanned–young and old.
I truly believe that everyone who passes suddenly–violently or not– crosses into the Other World with known reason that they have created some higher purpose for those they left behind. The persons spirit was here to assist and teach others a lesson–whether about the power of love, and healing–the power of community–the power of resiliency. When they pass, the leave this Earth, and those who touched them, with a deeper purpose. Those left behind are now set back onto their journey with a reason to continue–for they know now truly–that life is short and has meaning. Those spirits they left us, have finished their task–and now they guide us from the other side.
And with that–I light a candle-say a prayer and send out love, healing and positive energy to all those who have lost someone suddenly. Know that the person is guiding your journey–holding your hand–and giving you wisdom from the after life.
My partner and I were sitting outside drinking coffee one morning, watching people in the neighborhood walking by. Mindless and in their own space. When we go for a walk and see neighbors, we realize that no one says “hi” to each other anymore. Then we both realized that we live in a cultural society where no one talks to each other. The days of asking a neighbor for cup of milk or knowing how their family are doing is well over. No one bothers to get to know the people who live right next door.
We recently had an incident where we were outside drumming in the middle of the day. Something we do often. When suddenly a neighbor who we hardly see or speak to, stormed up our steps and very rudely told us to “cut the shit” because he was tired of listening to us. And….if he had to come over to our property again to tell us to stop then there wold be trouble. We are drummers and musicians. I am a performer. Drumming and dancing outside is what we do. We were not loud. We were not playing drums in the middle of the night. We were doing what we do every weekend. Enjoying the weather and the earth beneath our feet. The fact that this man felt it necessary to become so hostile to us when we don’t even know each-other just frankly pissed me off. Mind you, he has no issue with landscapers mowing his lawn at 6 a.m. on a Saturday morning. Had he actually opened a dialogue with us (for instance, your drumming maybe to loud, rather than threatening us) he would have learned who were are and what we do. It would have opened up a bridge for communication. Naturally, my partner decided later to kill with kindness and go over and talk to the guy, who ended up, eventually, apologizing and opening up a conversation. We had to have a forced dialogue because of hostility and lack of knowing one another and respecting one another. In other words, my turf is my turf – and even if you live on your own turf – you are affecting my turf and well—fuck you.
We are all individual cells. We all do our own thing. Introverts, extroverts–we go about our business on a daily basis doing what we as individuals need to do. The thing we all forget is that despite the fact that we are individual cells, we are also part of a larger organism. The organism of humanity.
There no longer exists in modern society–a sense of community. The individual cells stay separate-only connecting when its necessary-and for no other reason. Not to celebrate. Not to communicate. Not to reach out. Unlike tribal societies that celebrate the ups and downs of their communities; who function as a whole unite while maintaining individuality; and who have assigned roles that contribute to the whole–we would rather just turn our face away and ignore each other.
There is no community. The word community in modern society should be termed “community turf.”
The “communities” that do exist in modern society are often broken and covered in a falsifying fog. There is always “leader” in the community, and that leader, whether consciously or not, generates the energy that will flow into the specific populace they have created. The issue then becomes one of control and isolation. If you don’t fit in to their idea of “community” then you are not a part of it.Often times the “head” of the community is someone who thinks they are doing something great, but in essence, they are trying to work out their own issues, dragging others into their mire. The sheep will follow. Like attracts like. Even in the “best” communities there are those who think they can do it better.
The problem then becomes, what about these individual cells? The ones who don’t fit into a community because they see the whole organism rather than separate pieces? We gravitate to those individuals cells but never root ourselves into a community. We are the floaters. We wander but never ground ourselves in. Is it a bad thing? Maybe. But sometimes being a floater means realizing that there are things wrong in society. And lack of communication, friendship, reaching out and knowing one another only separates the cells further and further away.
But until we are able to be like tribal communities in other parts of the world, the sense the human organism becoming whole will never happen.
Resiliency is often a word that people don’t fully understand. Often people associate the word with the ability to bounce right back up when you are kicked down. To be able to crawl your way back up to the light when you have fallen down a dark hole. People admire those who are resilient. The resilient folk seem to have some insurmountable strength that often leaves people asking themselves, “why cant I be that strong?” ~ and it leaves the resilient people saying, “if you only knew.”
I am a resilient person. I have been knocked down so many times in my life and have always found the ability to move forward-against all odds-against whatever the tides of the Universe pushed towards me. I held my head up high and walked against the winds and made it through. Always learning something about myself along the way. I have never allowed myself to be vulnerable. I most often allowed myself to cry behind closed doors….or not cry at all. Even when I have felt that my heart was being torn out of my chest-I would never cry. Crying is not something most resilient people allow others to see. Chin up and no tears, that’s what they let the world see. And that, unto itself, is painful. Resilient people feel that they need to move forward–no matter what they are feeling. And that is the main problem. Resilient people more often than not, dont allow themselves to feel. Feeling would be weak-and you cant move quickly enough to bounce back if you feel everything or anything. Resilient people are the ones who usually, are in the most pain-we keep everything locked up-its easier that way. Putting on a brave face and showing that indeed, I am the Warrior Queen.
But then again….we need to show our hearts. Put it on the table. Allow ourselves to be vulnerable. There is a strange power in vulnerability–we cant be strong all the time. And its through our most vulnerable moments-that we learn more about who we are, and what we can handle and what, after all, makes us so resilient. We have our emotions played with, our hearts broken, our dreams shattered. We learn who is there for us through thick and thin and who is only there for the moment. We learn what trust is and what the real value is in friendship. Who will be there for you when the ship is sinking….and who will tear your heart out. All of this so you can crash and realize that you are more stronger than you ever imagined.
Sometimes the pain in your heart makes you feel like you are choking. That you cant breathe. That you have been locked in a box and cant find your way out-because for whatever reason-you keep being pulled in one direction. And then sometimes, you wake up and realize who you are, and what you want to become. You realize that despite the heart splitting pain you feel-you will learn a lesson and become stronger. You will gain a new battle scar, a new wound, and look back on its cause and realize that there is nothing more powerful than allowing yourself to be open–even if it hurts like hell.
When it feels like torture-to be able to open yourself up-and feel-and allow others in. To knock down a few walls so others can see what is behind them. Even when someone chooses another over you, or tells you they are in love with someone else. When someone walks away from you-or they push you out of their lives. Or even, when you need to spread your wings and realize that you are letting others float away from you–because you have to let them go in order to grow. To find some solace in the pain of vulnerability is what gives the strength that is found in resiliency. You are able to push forward because you know the pain of looking back, and the lessons you learned to get you where you are now. You can’t bounce back if you haven’t already fallen.
Resiliency isn’t always about being strong. Its about knowing when to let yourself be open to the power that lies in being vulnerable.