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Radical self-care: Put your damn oxygen mask on

Radical self-care: Put your damn oxygen mask on

It’s been a rough week and a half for us Stateside, so I want to implore you all to make sure you’re taking care of yourselves while fighting injustice. Do you need to keep off the news as soon as you wake up to get yourself grounded and feeling more ready to take on the world? Do it. Do you need to take a break one evening and watch a silly movie with a friend? Do it. Do you need to go to an animal shelter to pet cats and dogs and let go of some stress? Do it. Do the things that fill you with strength.

It’s a radical act to care for ourselves and our whole well-being, but it’s worth it. It’ll keep us strong enough for the long haul, and that’s what this will be. Stop and assess yourself now, and continue fighting and watching news only if you know you have the strength for it.

Two Tarot cards next to one another: XIX The Sun and 5 of Pentacles from the Fey Tarot.
Basking in the things that give you strength now will keep you able to continue fighting injustice.

If you need healing, consider getting healing tea blends from Asali Earthwork. Or a supportive Tarot reading from Siobhan’s Mirror. Maybe smoking herbs and crystals are more your style. For a Tarot reading that connects with your ancestors, High Moon Femme Tarot will be your conduit.

We’re in it for the long haul. Let’s make sure we take care of ourselves so that we have the strength to keep fighting.

State of the SJ: taking a break

State of the SJ: taking a break

Sadly, my breaks tend to include a lot of self-flagellation, with a day of breaking down crying for hours instead of being content with going at my pace instead of everyone else’s for a few days.

I’m not good at giving myself a break.

Blackberry bush toppling into a pond
A blackberry bush falling into the pond

I’m at my parents’ for a while, which is a rare opportunity to feel completely comfortable in my skin and in the house. I can take baths. I can take advantage of their membership to a salt-water pool and go swimming. I can spread out my Tarot cards and the books I’m reading in the living room, in the dining room, in the family room, and I’m not afraid that I’ll be judged poorly for my reading choices — my parents know me, they love me unconditionally, I’m not sure if they understand my Tarot and Pagan inclinations, but they certainly encouraged me to pursue it when I was young, with buying books and letting me research into it. My housemates might get it, but they don’t really get ME, so I don’t want to open up the conversation to begin with.

And there’s space here.

Here I can curl up on one couch, or go downstairs and curl up on the other, or go outside to visit my dad’s wonderful and, dare I say it, witchy garden, where bees are pollinating the blackberries.

Two blackberry flowers with a bee pollinating one
Bees eating, getting ready to give us blackberries

(There’s a huge rosemary bush, and a huge sage bush, which I like to think of as protection and cleansing agents for their home, and there’s mint, and oregano and thyme, and all kinds of non-edible plants, and citrus trees, and just so many things in the backyard!)

Rosemary bush with a log to the side
So much rosemary for the kitchen witch!

While I’m here, I’m supposed to be meditating, and taking baths, and going swimming, and contemplating what I want in life. So of course that triggered a panic attack and so much fear because I am just so tired of reaching and reaching and reaching for the path I was supposed to follow, and failing. I graduated from college five years ago (five! five! where has the time gone), and haven’t had an interview for a career-path job, let alone held one. The career center at school tells me it’s all about networking; well, I’m an introvert who despises networking, but loves volunteering and building connections. Has that helped? Nope, not even the jobs I’ve applied to where I knew people who told the hiring managers to consider me got me an interview. No wonder I don’t have much confidence in myself — when I try to do the things I’m “supposed” to do, doors slam in my face.

I’m lucky enough that my parents have been able to help support me during this really challenging time to be young and alive, and that they want me to have what I want to be happy in life. After the break down, I got myself back up, patted myself on the back for turning in my law school application, and wondered what the Gods would have me do next.

Turns out, once I ask, They were happy to answer: Tell Our stories.

A stick of incense burning to facilitate communication with the Gods.
Asking the Gods what to do next

Work with the Tarot, break into writing stories again, and do what you need to do. What you need, SJ, is different from what others need, and you’re forging your own path. It’s hard, and scary, and insecure, but your path is the one that’s best for you. Keep at it. You are loved.

Climbing out of the hole

Climbing out of the hole

What a difficult month it’s been so far. There’s only one way I can describe it: intense. On Sunday, I spent some time reading about Mercury Retrograde and what it affects, then later told my mom over the phone that she needs to wait this period out. I don’t think MR affects me as strongly as other people in my life, but now I want to paint warning signs all over the people I love. For my mom: avoid travel and communication outside of your comfort zone. For a few friends: please stop having difficult conversations and ride out this period. Those conversations will go better in a few weeks.

For my part, intensity is playing out in not being able to go outside for days to protect my lungs, getting ready for surgery in two weeks, and planning to take the LSAT a few days later. I’ll be quoting one of my favorite movies, Legally Blonde, extensively for the next two weeks. (“You don’t want to go to law school. Law school is for boring and serious people, and you, sweetheart, are neither of those things.”) Also, my birthday is next week, and it’s the first time I really can remember that I haven’t had someone else pushing me to make plans—instead, I’ve made plans well in advance.

A fancy humidifier on a table.
And this fancy new guy is keeping the air in my room at a good level of humidity to help my lungs work

But I still have my fair share of psychological gunk that I’ve been avoiding, and I’m not sure how to approach it. I definitely have been avoiding my Tarot practice. Do you just… start despite the fact that it’ll end in tears? I don’t cry easily, I don’t cry well, I am not sure how to deal with feelings, really. I have an inkling if I keep these in any longer, though, something bad will happen. And I don’t want that.

How do you get past periods of intense feelings? Do you stay in, ignore it, and ride it out? That’s what I’ve done for a long time, to avoid triggering depression on top of it, but that doesn’t feel right anymore. It feels like if I ignore the feelings, they’ll explode. And I definitely don’t want that on top of everything.

Macro shot of four oranges in a bowl
Oranges brought home from California to remind me that I’m loved

So I’m a bit lost right now. I wish I could tell you that I’m on my way to finding my way, but I just don’t know if that would be right. Everything right now is too intense.

January is a hard time

January is a hard time

The weasels have slipped out. The brain weasels have gotten loose of their cage, and I’ve been too busy making myself busy to catch them again and lock them up. Over Christmas and New Year’s, I spent ten days with my family, my parents and sibling, because it’s been so long since we’ve all seen each other and we needed that. One of my mom’s goals was to have me go through some boxes of old things and ruthlessly decide to get rid of math notes (and chemistry notes, and biology notes, and some English notes, and definitely language notes I no longer need). That part was fine, but some of the things I found rattled my core. I found evidence of a creative, driven, artistic little girl… and I don’t recognize myself as that anymore. I didn’t get a good chance to cry about that, though, because I was trying so hard to be strong for other reasons. It was hard.

Now I’m back home, and it’s still hard. I am keeping myself busy with knitting (which my wrists would like me to stop doing today, thanks), cool television, and volunteer commitments. I haven’t pushed myself to take a time out and figure out what’s going on with myself, because I’m so afraid of what I will find.

This time of year is always rather fraught for me, so I’ve been telling people about how much better it is this year, but that doesn’t mean it’s all that. I’m so focused on being able to breathe enough to survive right now (hi asthma flare!), and to get through every day, that I’m not working toward the things that are important to me. Part of the reason is that I’m so scared. So scared that someone will tell me how stupid I am to try to take the LSAT, and confirm my doubts. Scared that someone will point out that I will never get good with my beloved Tarot cards, because, duh, you’re nothing special, SJ. Stop pretending you ever had anything to offer.

And I looked at the pile of things that little girl I once was created, and I grieve that she’s lost forever. I fear I can’t ever get her back. I know that most of this is my depression and anxiety telling me lies, but how do I get through that? I have so many hopes and dreams that seem unreachable—especially since I’m spending all my time lately worrying about the simple act of breathing, which turns out to be not so simple when you’re me.

I’m sorry. I wish I could say I’ll do better, and update this blog, and make the design happen, and ace the LSAT, and breeze through my upcoming surgery, but I fear that’s an empty promise. I’m too far gone into the desolate wasteland of my mental illness right now. I hope someday you’ll forgive me.

Made it through the longest night

Made it through the longest night

This morning, I flipped off the last few weeks as the cloud cover brightened with the sun coming up after the longest night. I tried to stay up all night, but between having a million things to do and my health being volatile, I took a 3-hour nap in the wee hours.

But I still got up before sunrise to make sure to see the night through.

Two candles lit atop a desk.

As I wrote in my last post, this is the time of year that’s hardest for me. And I doubt I’m out of the woods yet, but it feels like a burden has been lifted. From here on out, I’m hoping to have more energy to do the things that matter to me. Be with the people who are important to me. Figure out my Pagan path. Decide what my next steps are in life. Come end of February, it’s time for me to have concrete next steps about how I’m going to survive and thrive. I haven’t touched my Tarot cards in too long, but I’m definitely about to pick them up again. It’s time to wake up from my hibernation and start my life again.

Winter made it.

Winter made it.

Last week, I finally managed to grab my couple of good sweaters from the basement just in time for snow to fall. We’ve had a decent autumn for once, and on Thursday winter made itself known.

A street of houses with snow visible.

I went for a walk today, while it started snowing again, and came back alive! Breathing fine, just COLD. I am finally getting myself out of the dark that was last week. It was such an awful week. Now it seems like even if I don’t have a virus, my body will find ways to knock me out and not let me do the things I want to do. It’s incredibly frustrating.

So I’m working on not letting it get to me, on catching up on my emails and projects, on taking care of myself while doing things for other people. All very important things. And the end of this week is going to be a bit stressful, so I have to store up the energy for it now if I can. Wish me luck! I’m hoping I’ll feel well enough to catch up on blogs and all of the other things soon, too.

Time out

Time out

Yesterday, my wrists screamed at me, “Enough! We refuse to do anything more.” This on top of a building migraine of three days, on top of the heartache of the last week, on top of everything going on has been just too much. I took the time out. I didn’t get better. I guess I have to keep staying away from the computer and the knitting and keep trying to survive through the pain. Wish me luck, and hopefully I’ll be back in the Tarot swing of things soon.

This is what disability looks like

This is what disability looks like

On Sunday, I woke up with a catch in my throat. “But that’s no problem,” I thought. “I’ll just take some extra albuterol [inhaler] this morning and I’ll be fine.” I did that. Felt better. Then decided that I was sick of the garbage accumulating in the kitchen. Rather than thinking, “It’s kind of cold out, that’s an asthma trigger, and I am already weak this morning, so maybe instead of multiple trips carrying things up and down stairs, I’ll ask a housemate to take care of it later,” I went ahead and took out all the recycling and compost.

As I finished my last round, panting, a housemate came home and found me noticeably shaking and breathing heavily. Sitting and trying to catch my breath back.

Two hours later, I went in to work my part-time job. Finding I was stationed somewhere with a lot of standing and talking to people, I went to find a supervisor to move somewhere less active. The supervisors took a look at me and told me it would be fine for me to just go home, and are you sure you don’t want the EMT to make sure you’re okay? Let’s find someone to walk you to your car to make sure you don’t collapse on the way there.

On Monday I got a second letter about a doctor’s appointment my insurance failed to cover. Last week I got my monthly premium bill saying I didn’t owe anything, so I assumed it had taken into account that I am not working and would be covered for insurance. Now I am going to have to spend a lot of time on a phone tree trying to understand what happened. Phones make me anxious at the best of times, and this certainly is not that.

Looking out of a rain-splattered window to a tree and garage
The dull, dreary view out of my kitchen window this week

SAD is rearing its ugly head, with the time change and the ugly drab grey days filled with rain. Time to take extra vitamin D and use a sun lamp after waking up. Try to conserve energy as best as I can.

Even just a few months ago, I called this “dealing with health issues”. Or “I have invisible illnesses”. But if I have days where I go in to work and have someone look at me and tell me it’s okay to go back home, then I am more than justified in taking back the word disabled. Disabled in our minds looks like using a walker, or wheelchair, or blind, or something we can see when we look at them. It doesn’t look like days that are fine and then days that suddenly I just can’t breathe. It doesn’t look like a pretty, vibrant young adult (woman) with strong energy and a sharp mind. It doesn’t look like me.

A black cat snuggled into the bed covers
This one wants all the love in this weather.

But these are the realities I deal with. I don’t know what it’s like to wake up with a healthy body. That’s never been a part of my reality. And as I’m getting older, my disabilities are wearing down my body. I’m in my 20s. No one expects someone my age to not be able to trust their body and mind. I’ve internalised this mind set so thoroughly that I have barely let myself be comfortable with disabled, and that means I haven’t let my body be what it is.

It’s time for me to take back disabled. To forgive myself for spending most of my day taking care of my body and mind. To not expect myself to do too much, and to understand that things like navigating phones are going to take a lot of energy, and it’s okay to treat myself gently. It’s okay to not be perfect. That’s a hard thing to get used to. After all, we have a social narrative that demands we fit in to how our lives are supposed to look like. Disrupting that is a challenge.

I hope to live up to that challenge.

When each step is a hurdle

When each step is a hurdle

I can tell winter is looming from my desire to never empty my pot of tea. I have candles burning in the room I’m working in almost daily, and my cat requires serious pushing to get her to stop snuggling up against my wrists. It’s been grey out. Getting myself out of bed to face another day has been a challenge I’m not sure I’ve overcome. I have so many things I want to be on top of, but really all I’ve been able to wrap my brain around is my knitting.

Happily, it’s been so long since I last was able to knit regularly that this is a wonderful source of delight. But it doesn’t keep me on track with my few real-world commitments. I spent seven hours last week trying to figure out the design for this site, and then got frustrated, or scared, or some feeling that’s stopping me from setting it all up again and trying again. I need to try again, because I have some better ideas of how to go about coding the things, but it’s so hard to just start. I’m afraid I’m putting something else out. I have a lot of emails I need to catch up on, because I have had such a hard time working on that lately. I have some kitchen reorganization that would be helpful to have. And I have the demons in my head telling me that what I’m doing right now is not good enough, and will never be good enough, and that’s not fair to me, either.

So I’m taking baby steps to getting back in the game. I should have gotten up and grabbed some paper to write down the List of things I should take care of, but I started a list in my head. Today so far I’ve figured out how to get to the Overcoming Racism conference I’m going to on Friday and Saturday. I’ve done some reading and responding for a workshop I’m attending next week. I’ve started boiling some tins to sanitize them. I’ll use the tins once they’re dry to store tea and to make some lotions (though those things don’t have to happen today, although getting started would be great). I’ve snuggled my cat and written a list of the people I need to email to follow up with.

Baby steps. I can do this. You can do this. We can do this.

That said, how about a draw from the Fey Tarot about what to focus on right now?

Three cards from the Fey Tarot arranged in a triangle
4 Pentacles, 6 Chalices, I – The Magician

It seems like you’re juggling everything right now, but with a focused will you won’t lose your balance. Good luck.

Using the cards in the right state of mind

Using the cards in the right state of mind

One thing I want to combat with Witchling in Flight and my writing is the tone of articles on the Internet about how you should do this or that, but don’t give you the author’s experience with it. So much of what I read these days is about how this person did something, and you can do it too, or BuzzFeed lists of “how to” that have no personal voice. I grew up with blogs and LiveJournal and teenagers on the outside trying to find a place to fit in on the Internet because we couldn’t find our place outside of it, and that’s the ideal I hold in my head for what we all could be when we share our stories here. I want to talk about things from my experience, not from scientific trials and research conducted by big companies. I want to tell you what I have found to be true to my soul, and I want to hear your stories too.

So I can’t lie to you about why I’m not able to pull any cards today.

I keep reading all these articles about how to care for your friend with depression, or how it really feels, or “there are more people with depression than we think, we should be talking about this!”, and it never makes me feel like I’m being spoken to as a person. Depression is one of my chronic illnesses, and it’s been flaring this week. I don’t understand why, and I do all of the things I have learned over the years to take care of myself, and sometimes it’s just not enough. The flood of voices in my head eager to tell me I’m worthless, have no value, that no one wants me around sometimes gets too loud and crashes all of my barriers.

Yesterday was one of those days.

I am better today, I think, because I am at the point of being able to recognize that those feelings have nothing to do with me or how my community sees me. But those feelings and thoughts still take over, and it takes all the energy I have just to be awake and survive until I can fall asleep again and hold out hope that in the morning I’ll be stronger. That sleep will reinforce the barriers between the real me and the voices telling me I don’t belong to this world.

Now it’s morning, and they’re reinforced, but still not blocking all of the evil thoughts in my head.

Part of the reason I have had such a hard time staying connected to Tarot when I first got interested in it is because I was in such a deep depression at the time, and I refuse to read the cards when I know my judgment is clouded by my mental illness. It’s now years later and I spend more days happy with myself than not, but I still believe that I shouldn’t take out the cards to read for others when I’m feeling this low and this stuck behind a dark cloud. So this week, I’m going to focus on other things, on trying to distract myself to a better place. It might show up as some extra blog posts about other journeys of self discovery. It might just become knitting and watching Star Trek: The Next Generation for many hours this week. (I’m so happy to be knitting!) I might just set up a few blanket forts in the living room. It’s all okay. I’ll get through this, and come out on the other side again, and then I’ll pick up the cards and be delighted to find my way back.