October 29, 2013

Remembrance Day: Samhain Two Weeks Late

I always feel sombre this time of year. The timing of Samhain sort of works, as it's only 11 days from the observance of Remembrance Day. Remembrance Day is the day during which some Commonwealth countries pay respect to our veterans. It's on November 11th as a result of the signing of the Armistice.

People flip-flop a bit about this fact, but World War I, and especially battles such as Passchendale, Vimy Ridge, and the Somme, were instrumental in forming Canada's national identity. Only having been a country since 1867, Canada and Canadians still very much identified as British. World War I gave us notoriety as a separate entity from the British Empire.

I lost an uncle as a result of his injuries in World War II. I've heard so much about him, that I wish I had have had the chance. He saved his friends on at least two occasions: one, when he shot an oncoming German soldier while his compatriot was digging a fox hole, and the other, when he threw himself on a grenade to save his troops. He didn't die of his injuries, but returned to his farm to eschew his prosthetic legs (apparently they were a pain in the ass), and still manage to run the place anyways. Apparently his arms were as big as most people's thighs. He died in the 70s as a result of his injuries; blood clots tend to happen to people who have had double amputations.

As a result of their heroism in both World Wars, there are places in Europe where a Canadian flag on your backpack will still mean you'll get dragged into a pub somewhere where someone you've never met will insist on buying you a beer. As a Canadian, it means a lot to me to be part of our "peacekeeper" identity. We can safely travel in just about any part of the world, and most of that ability comes from the way we helped people an ocean away during the bleakest points in history. This is a great source of pride for me, and I can't help but get a little misty eyed for the people who sacrificed so much in order for me to live in this great country.

So, I suppose Samhain feels right for a Canadian around this time of year. It's the day after that the poppies start to come out, and eleven days before all of Canada stops for one minute at 11 AM. I have nothing connecting me in the 21st century with the people who have bled and died before me; the 1940s seem like forever ago. Nonetheless, I feel the loss of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice so that I can live my life now in a free and great country.

May they rest in peace, and have the most honourable of places in the halls of their ancestors.

October 16, 2013

Ritual Experiment #Buddhism: Group Meditation

Tonight, I attended a lovely seminar at a local yoga studio with Lama Samten about Buddhist Philosophy and meditation. He chanted some (awesome), we meditated some (awesome), and he did the greatest part of it in Tibetan, and had his assistant translate. His assistant is Francophone, and so it was an interesting amalgamation of Tibetan to Franglais... I loved it.

He gave us pointers about when and how to meditate. For example, his suggestion was that we meditate in the lotus position, what mudra to use, for how long, etc. The most important thing he said, though, is that there's no "right" way to meditate. Using the suggested positions might make meditating easier, but it's truthfully about finding a way of doing that enables you to cultivate the best inner peace. Obviously, it's hard to concentrate on meditating if you're in pain or your foot's falling asleep. When asked what the "best" way to meditate was, it was almost like it didn't compute. Does it work for you? Then it's okay!

So apparently the solution to all life's problems is this:

There is a solution to the problem, so don't worry about it. We are given a good mind, and we can find a solution to anything with it.

This is a great reminder.

Keep in mind, just because something is simple, doesn't mean it is easy.

October 13, 2013

Ritual Experiment #I've-Lost-Track: Smudging, and The Morrigan?

I took a smudging course at a local Native arts shop, and found it pretty excellent. More than excellent really... it was quite healing.

So after a day of sobbing for an hour or two and dealing with the aftermath of that, I got out my candle I have devoted to The Morrigan, and smudged the SHIT out of my house. I smudged the corners, I smudged the windows, I even smudged the yard in the rain. I called to The Morrigan and Kali and any warrior goddess that would like to help me out of this dark, deep hole I find myself in.

I understand that overcoming 30+ years of bad thinking habits is not going to happen overnight, but with this last bout with Major Depressive Disorder, I am entering the fourth year since I last worked. Entering the 6th since I felt somewhat human.

I apologize for my giant Twitter rant earlier. I have a dark side of me. A very dark side. Sometimes that darkness wins out. And you know what? It should. A dear friend posted an article about feeling what you feel, despite whether it's "negative" or not, and that was an important reminder. It's basically how I've got where I am now... by constantly trying to be everything to everyone. With the best of intentions, I assure you. But I'm working out what that is going to look like in the future. I don't want to be like my father, approaching 60, and still in the throes of a panic disorder, because he always has to be kind to others first, instead of to himself... ever.

A lot of people have been good to me with this whole... okay... here's the fucking entire diagnosis, just so I can say it out loud and stop tiptoeing around the thing...

Dysthymia complicated by Major Depressive Disorder, with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder and Acute Agoraphobia.

Okay. Now that we have that out of the way, and you have some inkling (or maybe not, if you're as aware of these things as approximately half of the population seems to be... sorry 'bout it) of how heavy of a diagnosis that is, maybe you have some understanding of why every so often I go offside about the unfairness of people, the world, the Gods, et cetera, ad infinitum.

So yes. A lot of people have been good to me, despite the stigma that persists with a mental health diagnosis of any kind. I even hate calling it mental health... no other disease has the potential subtext that I might actually secretly be CrAzY. I prefer to call it a Brain Disorder. A lot of people have been understanding, and some have shared similar experiences. Some people couldn't give two shits, or just plain don't have any life experience on which to form any empathy for my situation. All I want is a little love, really. I don't expect people to understand, but I would love a little understanding.

It's really hard (and totally my fault, my problem, and I don't expect anyone to fix this for me... but truth is truth) to see my family and friends going on and having perfectly happy lives while I mindlessly pass my days feeling too drugged up or too anxious or too exhausted to do anything. I'm jealous. I'll admit it. I'm happy that other people aren't similarly plagued with an affliction such as mine (and I do mean plagued... ironically enough sometimes I will randomly break into stress related hives... #leper). But it really, really sucks watching life pass me by from the sidelines. You're talking to a girl who was at the top of her professional and private game, without going into specifics that would identify me further. And I went from being everything, to being "that girl that had a complete nervous breakdown in the office and sobbed for two hours straight before anyone came to help her". It's frustrating when people complain about being nervous about going to someone's party, when I can't even get out of bed because I'm so anxious. I'll have to talk to people... I might not be able to stand near the door should I have a panic attack (I still have those on the daily... the drugs no longer work for me)... I can't drink anything before or during, because I can't use other people's or public restrooms... I am deathly afraid of eating in front of other people.... you get the picture. It's hard to keep my mouth shut when people complain about butterflies, regardless of how legitimate their complaint really is. Oh honey... I am so on an exponentially higher level than that....

No one wants this to be their life's story. I'm scared that I'll never get better, and yes, that is an option as to what might happen. I might never get any better than I am right now. I might kill myself. I am passively suicidal most of the time, A.K.A, in a state of disbelieving hopelessness, and am actively suicidal sometimes too. Those times are getting fewer and further between, but every so often, like it did today, it'll rear its ugly head and scare the crap out of everyone I know. I seem composed and completely not-depressed in person to most people. I know. I am far too good at wearing that hat, and it usually surprises people to hear this about me. "I had no idea!" etc. It isn't a bad thing... but it gives people a false impression of what's going on with me about 99% of the time. I'm getting better at asking for help, but it's still extremely hard for me.

So anyways. Back to this being religion-related. So I had a nice smudge, and I called to The Morrigan and Kali, and any other beings that would like to help me cleanse myself and this place of the negativity. It has its place, but I'm long overdue to have some progress. I've dealt with so much shit lately there should be flowers springing up everywhere. Believe me, it's RIPE in here. I find a lot of peace in actively pursuing bettering my situation... whether it's journalling, blogging, screaming on Twitter (lol) or doing some sort of spiritual practice. It feels better if I feel like I can grab even an inch of control of this thing, illusory or not.

I really hope Morrighan doesn't have a problem with me mixing cultural practices.

October 8, 2013

Drawing On the Gods (and Friends)

I haven't been myself lately. I've been tweaking some of my prescriptions, so I've been feeling extraordinarily drugged up and forgetful and spaced out and all of those good things. Here's a thought for today, though, that I find extremely poignant. I'm no longer Christian, but I still find the Bible beautiful, if taken in a non-dogmatic context.

I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 
2 Corinthians 12:7-10

I've been trying to do this. I've been trying to be open about my difficulties with mental health, and health in general, actually, and for the most part, I've been received with support. Turns out I am not a rock nor an island, regardless of what Simon and Garfunkel might idealize, and sharing my weaknesses and my struggles has brought me closer to people than I ever thought possible. It was inauthentic for me to put up that strong front. And although I'm told I'm incredibly good at it (unfortunately), ultimately I think it's hard for people to identify with someone who is constantly wearing a mask.

There's wisdom in them thar hills, and I intend to continue building my strength by admitting my weaknesses. Because that's the thing that's essentially human, and permeates all of human experience. It's the tie that binds.