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.

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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.

Can Shamans Hate? **SENSITIVE TOPIC**

Well, yes we canShould 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….

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

There Is A Crack In Everything

I hate cliche’s. I hate “kumbaya-hold hands” bull shit. And yet I find myself becoming the Queen of positive cliches lately. Simply because they are true! Which I cant believe I just admitted to.

I think it simply takes wounds–and lots of scars–to make you realize that all that touchy-feely “one day at a time,” “trust the Universe,” crap you always hear the “hippie” folk talking about–is actually true.

We are all wounded. Some of us more than others. Some physical, some mental, some emotional–there is not a single person on this planet who has not suffered some type pain. And anyone who says that they have never been broken are living in serious denial. Anyone who has ever breathed a single breath on this Earth has experienced some type of scarring. Its part of being a human–and part of being a soul.

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Going through some heavy emotional and spiritual issues myself lately, a friend recently recommended and article about healing our wounds with gold. Lots of things stood out to me, but the most was a quote from Leonard Cohen’s song “Anthem”: “There is a crack in everything. Its where light comes in.” That quote literally made me reevaluate my feelings towards super cheesy love yourself cliches. We all suffer. Every major religion (and some that are off the beaten track!) all believe that we must suffer in order to achieve spiritual bliss. Its not fair and frankly sucks at best, but its through suffering that we realize what can make or break us.

People have commented to me over the past two weeks how different I look. How happy I look. Its because I wont let wounds and scars define me. I will only use them to make me stronger, to use them to push me towards growth. Realizing that you are strong–well its an amazing thing. Even when you feel like you can only go down-the super human strength you get from scars–is pretty awesome.

In days, weeks or years–you will look back and realize that you did in fact learn something. Or, that The Universe does work in some crazy and mysterious ways. That what you believed was the end of the road was actually the path to a new journey. You will realize that every situation, every person you meet, every soul you touch, or every soul that touches you….good or bad….was meant to.

ImageThose cracks-that you thought would always be there-they will close. You may feel like a shattered piece of glass–but you glue yourself together and build character. Essentially, you are creating……well you. I think as humans, we underestimate our souls, our spiritual selves. Our souls are here experiencing life at this very moment. Its taking everything we learn–the pain and the suffering–the joy and the sadness-and creating a sacred tablet onto itself so when this life is over–you will have something to share in the next. There is only one thing in the world that can help seal up all our cracks-that can help our soul realize its strength. Love.

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Love is a word that everyone associates with mushy lovey dovey relationships, which is fantastic, but not just the definition of love. Love is about loving YOU and who you are becoming–with all those cracks–Its about being a bit selfish. Realizing what YOU need to be able to grow, which sometimes means ending relationships or starting new ones. Its also about unconditional love. That unto itself, that is the hardest of all things to learn. Loving unconditionally-including yourself-is about not only acknowledging someones pureness–but also the darkness. Its about understanding that we are not perfect-we are not meant to be perfect. We are meant to be imperfect. In order for us to let the light in, to seal up those imperfections, we have to acknowledge them and embrace them. In order to move past pain, and sorrow, and being broken-in order to glue yourself back together–you have to acknowledge all those things about yourself that you don’t like; because in the end, we all have cracks. And when you acknowledge those bits of you that you wish you could do without–its when you see the beauty in the life around you.

That is how we heal our wounds.  That is how we let the light in.

Seeing in the Dark

I am a healer. I have been drawn to healing for many years and its why when I was 19 I decided to work in health care. I eventually became a certified Medical Assistant and worked for years in Radiation Oncology-a stint at Hospice-and now I am back in internal medicine. I want to help people. Its in my nature. I am also a Shamanic Practitioner, and an Empath. Its my Empath skills that get me into trouble. I have clinical depression with biological factors. As an Empath–I feel everything….Energy shifts, changes in mood. You name it I feel it. And when you have depression–feeling what everyone else is feeling makes getting better more difficult. Especially being a healer.

ImageMy last “fall” into my depressive state really awoke in me this internal battle: “How can I help others while battling a mental illness like depression?” I felt somehow, that that would be impossible. And who would take me seriously knowing about my illness? Furthermore, is it possible to be a Shamanic Practitioner, in which I would need to undertake journeys to assist and heal other people-while dealing with an illness that is so mentally and emotional unstable. And the answer is, YES! I thought long about this. And the truth is that part of being a good healer–part of being someone who can help another person–is being able to feel their pain. Shamanism for me, has become not only an external practice-in which I assist others, but an internal practice as well. I am working with my spirit helpers, ancestral spirits, and of course, my power animals more so on a regular basis than I had in the past. Its in this darkest of times–that I see the clearest.

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During my darkest times, I feel that I become more empowered. That my spirit helpers are reminding me that they are with me, even more than before. Even when I feel the overwhelming sense of hopelessness-I feel a need to begin again. This is a test. I see my depression as a test. I am Shamanic Warrior. I need to walk through the darkness to understand the light–and vice versa. One thing has become clear-my need to surrender to the power of the Universe. I am not a person who just surrenders easily. But the more I battle with this disease, I realize the more I need to let go. Let go of anxiety, fear, and the unknowing.  I started a mantra, “Unto the Universe I surrender all things.” Its a mantra to help when I become anxious. My anxiety feeds my depression-if I can control that-I can control the uncontrollable. Being able to help others means being able to go to places that you fear-even if its inside yourself. Its part of connecting the web. You have to be able to see in the darkness to understand the light.