My Harrowing/Hero-ing

Walking Away: A Self Portrait in Red, photo by Valentina Kaquatosh, 2015

“Walking Away: A Self Portrait in Red” photo by Valentina Kaquatosh, 2015

When I take action to control my life, I’m told I’m being manipulative. When they say I do not inform them of my life plans, it means they wanted me to ask their permission. When I decide what I want to do, it’s not done against anyone else’s will. When I ask for help, I am not asking for everything. When I ask for assistance, I am grateful, because there are things I cannot do for myself due to abilities I lack. I ask to be useful in return.

…and here’s where it gets personal.

It is not my fault when my help is refused. I am not your burden when you took me on as a “project”. I am not a project. I am a person, and I grow, I learn, and despite disabilities, in order to be happy, I have to help myself, do for myself, and not subsist on the crumbs public assistance assumes will leave me healthy.

I never ask anyone to break their back for me. I never lifted a hand to swipe away your bread for mine. I never got this depressed and sick in order to live lazy. When I volunteered at places I loved to work at, with people I loved to work with, it’s not my fault they turned me away because they thought the work was too hard on me, or maybe they thought I became a burden, too? If I cannot even volunteer, what use am I?

When I lost friends, those so-called pals told me they dumped me because they wanted to remember me as I was before I lost my health. But I am beyond pleasing them showing how crazy that made me feel. And when I could not fulfill deadlines for projects of my own, my passions were dying, I felt my fire flickering, my heart burning… What does it matter if I fail or not when I am considered this burden?

I cannot be a burden. It’s too heavy. I have to lose this weight. Not in the physical sense, but as in this weight of expectation. No more will I let my father tie me to the ground and shape my body into nothing but fat. No more will I let anyone sink me into mud whenever they give me looks of disgust like that. I am not this weight. My body is more than fat and meat. I’m not this heavy thing, yet…

I can be an anchor.

I intend to take action to control my life, and, yes, that is being manipulative because I am cutting off these strings to be master-less. I intend to live my life as I’ve always lived, really: as I choose, by my own power, whether or not you feel it’s what you think is proper or not. I do not need approval or acceptance. I never did. I don’t exist to take advantage of anyone. If I can, and I do, I support others in return with the abilities that I have that you do not. What I can do no one else can, and in that I have great value. Let me shine. Let me be my best. Let me produce.

I am a creatrix.

I should not subsist on crumbs, or favors, or public assistance alone. The shame of disability is a shroud created for me once diagnosis rears its ugly head and all the medical expenses pile up, keeping me a slave to an insane little budget, but how else to live when I have to maintain this balance? I no longer fit the mold. Since I cannot do as all the rest, what use is there for me? Do I forfeit all my learning and talent and remain in my closet drawing pretty pictures no one will see? So what shall I do? Wait to die? For years this body has rested underneath the burden of being a burden, practically the word alone “disabled” is enough to shame me into permanent instability. I am not disability itself. I am my own person. I am myself. Don’t mock me or tell me I’m this burden on society, or that my illness means you’re obligated to nurse maid me to Hell. I am not a crippled child who needs to lean on you in that fashion. Who said you had to work for me? Or fix me? It’s not your job.

While on disability, I’m not unemployed, I am working for myself.

When I choose to stand up for myself, I am not putting anyone down. When I decide to try something new, I am not abandoning help. When I ask someone to let me go, I am not asking them to dump me. Stop beating me up for being me. Quit hurting yourself taking responsibility for me. I never asked you to take my job. That’s always been up to me. Someday you won’t ever have to worry. It’s okay to think like you do because you really think it’s because you care. But it’s not helpful.

I am strong. I survive. I work my way through many tough things. But even when I am alone, I realize my survival has been the sum of many peoples’ assistance through many years. Even in my solitude, I am not an island.

I want you to know, I am not this so-called burden. Each time I’m called that, I think I die, and sometimes I thought I did, but each time I bounce back, I know it’s a lie. I grew up angry. How many women like me are told the same thing? How many lose their lives trying to work their way out of being a burden? How? Why?! I suppose I’m to feel guilty for everything they did for me when I couldn’t do anything in return, and they knew I didn’t have the means, so why did they decide to make me a burden? Does it feel good to stab themselves for picking me up when they knew I was too heavy? Because I’m not stabbing them. Just like they accuse me. I don’t do anything! All day, oh, yes, I sit here and project nothing. Especially not that.

Once you realize I am not a burden, you’ll be on to calling someone else the same thing. By then, I hope, I will have forgotten the sorrow of it, yet for now it is not a nothing, it is something I choose to toughen me up. I do not like getting like that. I like being soft, but like so many of you have told me,

  • “it builds character”

.

(not addressed to any one person, or organization, but written for all the women like me who are striving for independence while living with a disability)

I’m Not Laughing, But I Will Smile for Robin

When I heard about his death, I knew it wasn’t a joke. Yet, like the song, it seemed like he “started a joke that sent the whole world crying…” Oh, Robin, sweet Mr. Williams, I wish that one smile of my own could have kept you alive. But no matter now that I’m not laughing, I will smile for you.

There is always hope. Eighty percent of us who seek treatment for our depression don’t kill ourselves, yet the strongest risk factor of depression is suicide. Yet we can’t ignore that fifteen percent of the clinically depressed end their lives. Many of those also suffer from substance abuse problems. I’m not writing this as if this were some book report. Feel I need to provide some bright facts. *grumbles*

I know too many people who have died at their own hands. The first death I ever witnessed was a suicide. He promised me and other friends that he’d be everyone’s worst nightmare.

And promptly aimed a gun to his head and pulled the trigger.

In
front
of
me
.

He was only 17 years old, and since the age of 14 he battled addiction. He wouldn’t be the first person I knew who committed suicide, but he was the first and most violent.

Robin Williams disappeared just as violently as that boy I used to know. Those blue eyes of his sparkled with tears as much as laughter. Robin always reminded me of the kind of guy that’s the life of the party, but parties end, and he, like so many who suffer from depression, I can see turned to drink to keep that feeling of euphoria flowing… self medication they call it. I think all addicts are mentally ill.

I’m no addict, yet I can understand the despair that drags someone to the bottom of existence. I suffer from manic depression. In fact it is something that keeps me from writing, but sometimes it really gets me obsessively writing! I have not updated my blog since I was critiqued harshly for writing too many posts that were my purest expressions of grief. I felt obligated to be of great cheer to write, yet as William S. Burroughs wrote, “A writer lives the sad truth like anyone else. The only difference is, he files a report on it” and that is very much like me. Like many, many other people.

We’re all lonely and sad together on this one planet, aren’t we?

Oh, I’m not unhappy all the time. At other times I’m a pure joy jumping with glee and I can barely contain it! Over the last few years I’ve written a lot about my emotional pain, the scars of my personal grieving process over the loss of my mother and friends I boldly display whether or not anyone is reading, and not all poetry I produce is about one person or that thing that made me sad. However…

What I’ve learned all my life dealing with mental illness (in my family and my own experience): people judge you for everything you do and say once you’re under that label, you will lose friends constantly due to behavior you can curb and can’t control, and there are times when the pain is so intense no one else can possibly gauge how you feel or help you with just words.

All one can do is keep going, which makes things all the more difficult because even though everyone likes to say “help is available” or even we like to tell someone glum the bland statement “You need help” and the ever so useless “things will get better”, they don’t have a clue how to go about helping anyone, or themselves. Not unless you open up. AND even then not unless someone is there to listen. To just be there to listen! I’ve often been asked, “How can I help you?” whenever I’ve felt so down I might as well be crawling.

The answer is fairly simple: “Don’t do anything but be there.”

Playing a supportive role takes doing nothing and comes with a lot of “don’t do this” rules. Like don’t judge. As well as one very important “be” and that is: be gentle.

You thought I was about to say “be understanding” didn’t you?

Being gentle to someone in pain takes a special kindness, far better even than attempting to understand. When someone is in physical pain, or suffering from a bleeding wound, would you be tough with them? Soothing the illness helps ease. We want to transform “disease” to “ease” — the depression can’t go away, no one can make it disappear, but we can make the ways we endure it easier by simply helping each other reach peace.

But.

What happens when “being there” is not enough? I don’t think I can answer that for anyone else, yet even I find myself trying to come up with answers for and why and because.

So I write like I do when I think out loud to myself.

The path to emotional wellness is also a physical health issue fraught with so many ups and downs, I’m surprised anyone survives it. Few folks truly feel inclined to believe a person who eventually turns to suicide to end their constant suffering (not that I’m condoning it, mind you!) justifiably did it to truly end their true suffering.  What many don’t realize is that depression is long term suffering, especially since any kind of depression isn’t just simply explained away as a case of the blues.

I believe when suicides happen, individuals are in deep pain as serious as with any disease. Robin Williams was an actor whose struggles to keep sober and to combat his constant manic ups and downs wore him out. Even though he loved his family and friends, I am thinking that most likely he just wanted that constant pain to end. I’m sad that he died and lost the fight, just like I am broken-hearted over anyone who finally succumbs to any other fatal disease.

Because, believe it or not, depression kills. Depression, more so than experimenting with recreational drugs or what-not, leads people to numb their pain with alcohol and other substances. Whether or not you stay alive, it kills you, eats you up. You can have every luxury in the world and still have that unreasonable, unexplained black emptiness erasing you inside.

I don’t need to list suicide statistics to tell you how much of a problem this violent way to end life is in this country, especially among men, impacts so many families and friends. It’s a kind of death that continues to cause far more pain than any other passing, mainly because it is unnatural for a living being to turn against one’s own need for self-preservation. A person may decide to act on their need to end their pain, but the body itself will still fight on instinct to survive everything you put it through.

I’m no stranger to suicide attempts myself, but it’s never the longing to die, only to end pain that was at the heart of every attempt I ever made. Just so we’re clear, I am not telling you I’m suicidal now! But Robin’s death brings up all those dark memories, and makes me think of people who are suffering as I write these words, and I weep many nights just thinking how helpless I am to fight against my own depression, let alone help anyone else with theirs. Yet it is because I’ve suffered, I know there is a need to lend a shoulder to cry on for someone else, even if they may not actually be crying out loud.

It’s not an easy thing to witness someone in pain as you stand by, but if you knew how good it does to help that other person stand on their own, you’d do it time and time again.

I think it’s the basis of strength.

There are times I wish I could turn back time… or be there for just one more person before they shut off the clock.

So what keeps me ‘ticking’?

Most times I am outside of myself, aware that there are lives all around me not in pain who are simply alive, and it is that life I am grateful for being there. Animals especially surround me everywhere I go. This summer’s filled with life in my neck of the woods.

And I have many, many beautiful pictures to show you… coming soon.

I’m coming in out of the darkness.

In Case You Forgot

If ever any friend of mine has ever felt I talked over them, ignored them, told too many stories that weren’t true about them, grabbed at them too much for their attention, made them feel second best, or that I shoved them aside because I had something else going on that was more “me-centered” and it hurt their feelings, please know that it was never my intention to make you feel disregarded, or disrespected.

I’m too excited when you’re near me, I don’t know when next you’ll go, so I’m anxious to tell you everything I’m thinking because I so easily forget it, sometimes way before you leave.  I can’t let you leave before I get the chance to share with you all the wonderful things I’ve been saving up while you were gone.

I forget that you are just as excited to share as well.  I don’t know how to listen to you.  My thoughts are racing.  I’m sorry.

I’m alone too much.  I know no other life.  The world all around me is too wonderful and too much.  Everything spins me around.  I’m turned on all the time.  Even my own voice is on volume 10.  I can look at your face and not hear a word you’re saying because I’m distracted by the scent of your skin, the bands of light in your eyes, and, look over there!  A squirrel just darted up the tree behind you, but I can’t say anything about it because the scent of peonies is riding the wind, and when I blink I can’t understand anything for that moment you were talking.

I don’t dare ask you to repeat what you said.  It’s embarrassing to admit I blanked you out. You’re going to hate me for doing that.  You don’t deserve to be blanked out.

I can’t tell just any tale about you.  When I talk about you, I will make you fantastic.  I will worship you a hero.  I will breathe into you the poison of a monster if I’m angry with you.  You’ll always be poetry to me.  I won’t name you.  You’ll always have many different names.  I’ll dress you up in costumes.  I do this to avoid reality.  I suppose it’s unhealthy at times, yet it’s too fun to quit.  Try to guess who you are.  You’re all my friends.

You are fantastic.  Let me like you.  I know who you really are off the page.  But let me dress you up some more.  Because I don’t get to play as often  anymore.

I don’t know how to get your attention.  I don’t know how other people do it.  I always think I need a gimmick.  I have to perform.  That’s what I do whenever I’m in public.  Me alone is not enough.  And I can’t let the space between us be silent.  If you’re too quiet, I panic.  I don’t have your attention.  You’re not responding.  I have always had to fight for attention.  I go over looked if I’m not dramatic.  I gotta stand out and shine.  I must entertain you.

I don’t know how to show or return affection.  I really don’t!  I have never understood it.  Giving hugs and shaking hands is uncomfortable.  I never know when someone is sincere when they are touching me.  People touch each other for all kinds of insincere reasons, but when I touch, I am for real, and I pick up all sorts of unsavory feelings from strangers.  No one gets that.  They don’t operate like I do.  Do you know me?  Or do I have to touch you in some special way, and if I do, will I find out if you really like me, or not?

When I reach out, it’s an awkward dance — was that a real hug of comfort or when you were saying hello, you were really telling me good-bye, right?  Like when some people say ‘Let’s do lunch sometime!’ and ‘We ought to meet up…’ and not really mean it, yet I always take it literally and believe it, especially the ones I really want to like me.

I’m alone.  It’s the only way I know to be.  Only way I’m confident to be.  But even I can reject myself…  I should not do that.  We all only have ourselves in the end.  No one else gonna take care of you, who else will love you most?

Do you know I always have to give myself something to look forward to in order to keep going?  I’m so busy pushing myself and patting my own back that I forget to see you giving me support.  I get caught up in my sorrows, hurts, and past complaints, I can get lost within my own shadow.

And I am always somewhere supporting my wounds,  not doing enough to support my healers.

Healers need healing the most.  Because they do the most work.

I take a lot out of my healers.

I’m difficult without wanting to be.  I wish I wasn’t.

I don’t know how to listen.  I can’t listen to you.  I’m in a cloud.

Every night I torture myself with thoughts of what I could have said, or should have done, and talk to myself like I would talk to you if I could talk to you one more time before I sleep, as if you are there in the room with me, so I can make things right with you. And every night I cry because I pray so hard that somehow my wishful words could reach you and bring my love to you so that you never again feel like I don’t like you.

Don’t get caught in your own shadow.  Remember, somehow, remember, despite what you think you swear you may know about me, I’m in my dark corner of the night unable to sleep, saying out loud my “if only you were here’s” and “what I would do different’s” but knowing that when you break away…

When you say it’s “for now”, it really means “forever”, and I lose track of everything with you not in it.  So continue to be in my everything, because you mean so very much.

Without you I would not have been able to crawl out of the pain hole I fell into when my baby boy died, when my mother died, when my aunt died, when my roommate died, when my boyfriend died, when so many others died, and, when I died you revived me, took me to the hospital, held my hand until I woke.  Thank you for being there when no one could be and refused to be.  You were there when my heart got broke a hundred times.  You stayed up with me all night to talk about all the boys who used me.  You were the God who carried me home.  You were the Goddess who tucked me into bed.  Yours were the lips that kissed me on my forehead and bade me many wishes well.

Thank you, a million times, thank you.

Don’t forget!

— For Mindy

Will This Pain Ever Cease? If I can Help it

I need to confess something, no matter how ridiculous, why I do not update my blog often this year, something I am reporting to you tonight because it causes me too much distress, and I can’t take hiding it anymore.  Maybe you can understand.  Maybe this will make me out to sound crazy.  Or maybe, in the course of writing this, I’ll find the strength to do away with this so I can move on and just write whatever I want to again!

I am too overly concerned over the stupidest details that flash by my way while I am trying to concentrate on other things I am enjoying working on. One tiny detail associated with a person(s) I have emotional hardship over, and it can throw my focus off course, ruining an entire day.  I’m not being dramatic in saying that it’s been such a problem that I’ve spent entire weeks offline in order to avoid even the slightest chance of seeing a photo, or even catching names and news, but nothing I do blocks out their existence.  And their existence by proxy reminds me that they have blocked me out of theirs. It’s an unavoidable shunning-kind-of-thing, because unlike being offline, despite all our apps and settings to keep people we want to avoid out of our notice, we’ll still know they exist, especially if they are friends with our friends and their friends are friends your friends, and there’s just no getting around it.  Offline, if someone lives thousands of miles away, they’re gone, no way we gonna bump into them at the grocery store unless they want to spend thousands of dollars for that plane ticket to come surprise us at home, in which case, highly doubtful.  Besides…  if one of us wanted to stalk the other we’d have to be rich in order to do it if we lived such long distance anyway.  So a cyber-block is cool.  I’m okay with that.  People have their reasons.  Even if they’re wrong.

There is not much I can do to curb the comings and goings of other people who will criss-cross my path.  I have many friends, and those friends are mutual friends with former friends, including those few individuals who have deliberately made the choice to block me for every reason from the tame to the so-very-unnecessarily-not-right.  I am only counting at present three (not counting anyone from the past), and one of those is my own brother, whom I still talk to, we just don’t talk online to respect our privacy (a good thing because we drive each other crazy).  As for the other two, I do not know their reasons, truly, why, nor can I speak for them.

I, unfortunately, have blocked people, too, but only under great stress, giving some friends way too many chances.  I’m like that.  I shouldn’t be so nice, and yet I like being nice.  I don’t throw away friends.  I even unblocked folks as well.  I let people back into my life even others warn me it isn’t wise.

My heart doesn’t “no”.

Tonight’s upset happened when I read the briefest broken English comments from a reply to a reply I made at an old website where someone claims to be someone I don’t hear from anymore, but isn’t, and the said comments (even though already deleted at said site) still get filtered into my email.  I end up reading what I’m thinking is directed to me, but it’s just someone being stupid, however indirectly they describe me as a “complication” that deterred the website designer from using the site as a form of amusement, telling the reader that they are “okay” to be in contact with them.  Ugh.

So I feel the bitterest, littlest inkling of paranoia creep up my backside, as if I’m to blame for the most terrible of atrocities known to old friend — because why else would they have stopped talking to me?  The old feelings of being singled out again because I’m different and because I can’t be included because that person does not want to be friends with me even though they seemed over joyed to be so, and I thought that they wanted to be closer because they once planned to make a personal visit to my home just made me seem like I was romantically chasing them…  Blah, blah, blah…  My thoughts race back & forth like a ping-pong match in hell.  I drop everything, my tears don’t burst, I just start to silently crumble into disgust with myself in such a poetic way, it’s beyond pathetic, it’s self hate at its most putrid.

But this isn’t just tonight.  I hate to, yet I have to admit it, finally, to you, that this is every night for the past nine months!  I’ve been slowly killing myself, stressing over what this former friend may or may not think about me.  It’s not if they are truly the one behind those comments I read tonight, it’s the comments I imagine they would say inside my mind that torture me.  I can’t blame anyone.  Only the pain of grief — the same grief I still feel over the kind of relationship I had with my mother — we always debated and critiqued religion, philosophy, life, everything, anything, nothing I did pleased her and she always had to put a damper on my enthusiasm.

It was only until she was on her deathbed that she winked “Yes” to me when I asked her if she was proud of me.

I don’t blame her for everything or anything anymore either.  The origins of our problems may start with our parents and background, but it is how we live the rest of our lives that we choose to make a difference in how we turn out.  Never forget I just said that.  Remember I’m doing that.  It’s not easy. But you should try it.

I sometimes make myself feel better by imagining I can talk to her, or that friend of mine, late at night when I cannot sleep, and tell them everything I want to say.  I wish I could do that, right now, right here, on this blog, but such a thing cannot be done.  I am already taking a risk writing about my feelings now.  I feel like I’m leaving myself out in the sun.  I might bake.

My mother is dead.  That’s one thing.  But the living are young, and they get online, and they have vast networks of friends, friends who read what I have to say, or happen upon what I write, and people talk, because people always talk.  I also tell myself people don’t care as much as they can care, too.  Some friends have told me that they will not talk to me anymore if I talk about the friend I miss.

Oh, did I forget to mention the other — the second friend who blocked me nine months ago?  That’s a different matter, the one I don’t want to talk about. That one followed the other in quitting me, as if one kicking me down wasn’t enough, the other had to get their kick in to keep me down, at least that is how it felt.  Again, I cannot speak for them, I can only speak for how I feel, and it is unhealthy for me to keep on suppressing my feelings like this.  I also could do without the threat of losing any more friends.  I’ve been “good” — I’m not addicted to anyone or any substance, I’m not found longing for an imaginary lover or obsessing over anyone, and yet — ta da!  here I am proving I am obsessing! — it’s just a different matter, being stuck in a loop of relationship communication difficulty preventing me from being able to really be friends with anyone.  Will this pain ever cease?  If I can help it — !

I pay professionals to talk to, I get therapy, I do all the things I’m supposed to in order to stay healthy and keep a steady mind, and I journal privately, yet I do not have anyone to really, really talk to like I used to.  I don’t want pity.  I have enough sorrow to go around the world.  Just bits of me are dying each night while I fight this battle to stay sane and pursue my happiness, part of that happiness is claiming peace of mind, and you know what?  There are times I cry out, “Please stop this pain already, [name of person], please, if I ever meant anything to you, stop hating me now.”  It may not do anything to actually make me feel better, but that’s something they would say, so then I tell myself to stop policing me with that and just feel like myself without imagining their criticism already!

One thing I haven’t done is Witchcraft to help me with my problem.  I have been dealing with it on a strictly meditation basis, guarding my thoughts in order to not spread the will to harm.  It’s a practice I always put into motion whenever I am out of sorts and it has served me well.  Even when someone wishes me ill will, I don’t return the favor, I have to let it drop off me like water off a duck’s back (or I try awfully hard to).  I had my breaking points in my youth, however, but I decided to no longer wish harm, let alone cause it.

The only magic I’ve used is my favorite practice: Divination — why?

Because sometimes the only thing I have is to give myself is something to look forward to.  A future, besides doing something you love, is a very important key to keeping happiness, and we all must do what we can to pursue it well, especially when people fail us, because we can always count on them to do just that (that’s why we learn to trust ourselves more).

Mourning Friendship

How can anyone who claims to love me and wish me well break my heart? I’m not the kind of friend who rejects. I believe in the good in people, I do what I can to support my friends, forgive them their faults, believe in them when they don’t even believe in their self, stand with them while they face their obstacles, and listen to them on the phone during their states of distress. I’ve been there from the beginning, been there when at their worst and best, endured their temper, hugged them even when they stank, kissed their dirty cheeks, even cleaned their faces and bodies when they’ve been sick. I have lied next to them while they couldn’t sleep, wept with them when they were hurt, and wished I could be there where ever they are when they have suffered all lone far away from me, leaving me feeling helpless and distressed over them. I’ve sacrificed my own health and comfort to make sure my friends are well, and I do not ask for anything in return, only that we remain friends, stay in touch, somehow…

But then there are times when I am the one who is in distress. I have my terrible moments of overwhelming emotion, and it is during these times when I ask for support I find out who are my true friends, or at least those who are truly the strong and helpful. As a rule, I do not turn to my friends for psychiatric support. I’ve dealt with my fair share of mental illness long enough to know not to lean too much on the shoulders of those who are not emotionally equipped to handle someone struggling with a traumatic episode they barely have a grip on, but what about moral support? What about sending soothing messages of hope? When I am in need of hope, I’m not asking my friends to fix my situation, and I’m certainly not begging them for their complete, immediate attention. Yet if they were in my shoes, I would drop everything, get on the phone, or the internet and start communicating to make sure they know I’m on their side.

I know what it is like to rough it alone. What it’s like to be attacked, have my life almost taken from me, and lie alone in the hospital without a visit from friend or family, and be treated better by strangers than any friend or family during the worst times of my life. Surviving traumas like that made me strong, and made me passionate about never letting it happen to my friends. Screw that. To anyone I come across. I have a huge heart. I see someone, human or animal, suffering anywhere and I get involved. It may not always be wise, and a few times I have been taken advantage of, but I care very much and I never let anyone play with my heart.

I like to think that my friends are just as strong. Some of them very much are and I am proud to have made such very powerful, heroic friends, yet no matter how much some of them aspire to, they don’t live up to the virtues of friendship that we all should put into practice. It makes me wonder if some people really know what it is to be a friend.

It confuses me whenever a friend decides to no longer be friends with me, does not matter what the reason, and they always end the relationship with a situational inappropriate oxymoronic statement like “best wishes” and “I really love you” and “I’m doing this because I worry over you” or “I have to do this not because you’re a loyal friend, but because you need help”, all of which are excuses sugar-coated to make the friend doing the rejecting feel better.  No one who really wants you to get help will abandon you in your moments of need.  I’m not stupid. I know what they are really saying. It makes the heart-break feel all the more cruel.  It should tempt me into hating the people who foolishly say these things, who may even truly believe they are being sincere, but I surprise myself at how not angry I am at them.

I believe sometimes people like to believe in the worse possible state of health when it comes to viewing me, especially when I have a diagnosis of an emotional disorder, one that flares up during a stressful circumstance, but not just any stressful one. The danger of being open about my condition is people tend to panic over it, they worry about triggering you into a bad emotional state, but it’s not you that they are afraid of, it’s the illness, they really don’t know what it is like to live with it, they’ve only read about it, or maybe they remember something they have gone through with you and that memory has built up over the years. I don’t know how these things start, yet I’ve dealt with them before, and some people don’t see me for me, they just start seeing the illness and paint any emotional reaction from me as part of my being unhealthy.

One of the friends who just broke away from me knew ahead of time that a friend of mine was going to suddenly dump me.  Anticipating my resulting breakdown, she was quick to write her “I have to cut you off because I need only healthy relationships in my life” and “I’m doing this for your own good” letter.  I was not surprised.  It has happened to me before and I was prepared for such a reaction.  Some friends only want to be around when you are feeling well.  They can’t take the stress of watching you go through something bad.  Shame on them?  Perhaps.  I just think it’s unnecessary.

Unlike other kinds of illness, a mental illness you never heal from, it’s a condition you have to regulate. People fear the loss of control of their mind, just as much as they fear something like demonic possession, and they have no idea if your possible loss of control will lead to harm. People have rejected me out of fearing I will do things I have no history of, they don’t trust me when I tell them the extent of my crazy and think I’m hiding something scary, and when I do share I’m accused of using my disability as a crutch, especially whenever I really do have an episode and someone swears I have ignored them intentionally.

My heartache is that, no matter what good I try to do, and no matter how hard I love, when I get overwhelmed it seems to threaten any good I’ve done for my friends. A great relationship can be ruined in seconds after my friend witnesses me go through a meltdown. Or it can cement our relationship forever, as long as they realize I’m not asking them to be my nurse!

Yet I’m torn as to what to do. I have a lot of love and there is much I have wanted to do with my life.  I have held myself back from doing things I love for fear of being discredited due to my illness and being ridiculed, especially when my insight and lifestyle is controversal.  Living as a Solitary Witch has not always been satisfying for me. I have the passion of a priestess. I want to extend my friendship to the entire human community.  I want to write about what I know and experience.

Yet how can I help anyone when people view me as an unhealthy over emotional monster?

And why am I singled out? Am I that horrible? Have I really been the kind of person who is worthy of such rejection? Do I need to be institutionalized? (I found out I don’t have to be, thank the Gods) I tried to find out, reached out to my doctors, got the help I needed, and the friends who gave me the moral support I needed assured me I’m the same good ol Valentina I’ve always been for them, so what gives? Are, then, some people I love just defective at receiving the love I give? Why do they want to believe I’m not worth their time?

When something does not make sense, I obsess over why it happened. When I cannot find the reason, I weep over the senselessness of it. The senselessness of it is an ignoble violence as real as a bullet hitting the body of an innocent bystander.

And for some people to say, right after you’ve been hit with a broken heart, “your pain will pass” is like them patting your bleeding heart with a restaurant napkin as if it were merely a paper cut. For you, it’s a dire emergency, for someone else, it’s all about “you’ll get over it soon” and the saying of it is their way to encourage it to happen faster so we can all get back to fair weather talk and sharing cute kitteh photos again.

I’m not saying I have an over abundance of fair weather friends, I just have some friends who want fair weather between us all the time, and they would rather I keep my darker emotions to myself. However, even though it takes a lot of trust, and trust takes more involvement, I would rather my friends open up to me and share with me what is going on, dark or not, so when the time comes they can know to come to me if they need support. So I am an open book. I expose myself. You can always tell what page my picture is on. You can read my Facebook or Twitter and look-see and go, “Okay. So that is how Val looks and feels like today” as if it’s my own weather channel.

But… I’m now realizing that it’s not wise to do that anymore. My friends are getting scared off. I’m sharing too much emotional crap. My policy of being so open is influencing them to think I’m all kinds of unhealthy. I suppose writing down my every intimate, twisted, bizarre thought is alarming, albeit I don’t have an exterior monologue like that!

It is time for me to edit and update what I write to truly reflect only who I am on the outside.

How superficial.

Do you want me to be like that? To breeze through your lives like I’m made of  perfume and smoke and smiles and small talk lounging at some neon-lit bar… Because that’s what I liken a lot of social media to, like sitting at those seedy meeting places that can sometimes bore me to death, where people never have anything intelligent to say, only sometimes, but it’s all about meeting people to hook up with in the end anyway. Not interested here.

I only came here to dance.

But it’s impossible sometimes to dance alone. Especially when someone has suddenly stolen the music out from under you. “I’m doing this for your own good,” a voice over pipes in, “I’m taking your favorite song away. I know you loved it a lot, yet I’m pulling the plug. I don’t care how much you loved it. Was it the song or the dance that made you smile everyday anyway? Well, it doesn’t matter to me, I don’t care, you can always find another song, and I only wish you well…”

People destroy things they do not understand have so much value to someone else. They do not even understand what is really being valued. Assumption is the mother of all mistakes.

A friend of mine, someone I consider my personal hero, assumed I am obsessed with him, so he broke his friendship with me thinking that it was the best thing to do for my mental health. He blamed it on his lack of time to give and that he only wished me well. But he failed to really ask me what it was I wanted or even what it was I valued about him. His information about me is askew, much of it likely based on a past when I had a crush on him, and he has yet to give himself the real opportunity to know me as I am now. I’ve been a loyal, supportive friend, been there through many of his ups and downs, and he has hurt me more than he has done good for me by breaking away.

But I live for love. My policy is to pour love over anyone and anything that hurts me unnecessarily. It’ll only hurt me more to feed it with anger.  However, I am sad. I have a right to grieve over a senseless loss of a friendship.  Yet I am not sad that he’s hurt me.  I’m sad for him.  He has chosen to reject one of his most faithful friends.  And I’m sad that he thinks that I care for him in an unhealthy way.

His sudden break from me was a sword shard to my heart, and I screamed and screamed, and my screaming face and shaking body must have been one frightening sight. Imagine if I was in the middle of the street with a real stab wound, freaking everyone out who saw me, my blood squirting out all over the place, me creating a huge mess, people running away screaming at the sight, my neighbors helplessly looking on and frantically calling 911.  If that were the case, I would have immediate help.  A wound like that gives no doubt for help, but since it’s emotional, it can be seen as a cry for attention, or some would see it as an emotional manipulation on my part to get my friend to come back.  But what good would that do?

I would not want to cast a love spell to bring back any of my ex-lovers.  Why?  Because to do so would be forcing someone against their will to be with me.  Do you know what happens when you force someone to be with you?  You do not convince them to love you.  They will resent you for manipulating them to act against what they desired.  When someone gives up their desires to please you, it’s an emotional imprisonment, and not something I would want to do to someone I care about.  I want someone to be my friend or lover out of joy, not out of obligation and resentment.

So, if somehow I did or said something to make it seem like I was holding emotional power over a friend, and they break away from me thinking I am manipulating them, there is something going on I do not know about, something I really do need to fix.  How can I help?  What can I do?  But when I’m not given the tools to smooth the way between friends, I cannot do anything but wait for it all to be over, suffer the pain, and treat myself with love, praying all the while that somehow time will be on my side.

I do not like living knowing that anyone does not want to be my friend because they think I have mistreated them.  I am not a creature of malice.

The kind of attention I give my friends is the kind of attention I think is awesome, yet some people may think it’s weird. I have read about friendships in literature, especially heroic epics where friends really go to the deep ends for each other, and the friendships that took place in literary history where writers shared beautiful correspondences… I had hoped to encourage that kind of relationship with the friend who lost me because our rapport was always spot on when it came to discussions on magic and heroism.

My hurt is a hollow kind of hurt, a hole in my heart. I can walk, eat, breathe, do what I can to live, but for a long while I anticipate doing things all half-assed.  I was separated from him for seven years before.  I once thought that I had to break away from him because he had moved away to another city, had a wife, a temple, and therefore didn’t have any room in his life for me anymore.  I thought saying good-bye would make my mental health better, yet I made my life worse.

Missing that friendship felt like, at least to me, always missing a part of myself, like blurring out a big chunk of my memory that I really could not successfully shut out, yet the constant practice of attempting to shut it out kept my body tense and produced migraines.  He was never someone that I had wanted to strap onto me with some force to make it fit against me against his will, but even now, with him pulled away, he was this nice, warm blanket of a friendship that made me feel confident, like no matter where he is in the world, knowing he’s out there and still my buddy, we’re friends taking on the world together.

And that when we meet again, we’d share the worlds we’ve ruled, have a party, and clink goblets with the Gods. *sigh*

Instead of that vision, I’m left in mourning, mourning-knowing that I won’t have that friendship. And that I’ve waited, looked forward to meeting him again, supported and cheered him on from a distance for so long for nothing. The thought of him not wanting my friendship tries to kill me, but I won’t let it. It wants me to get bitter, but I resist that with all my might.

I only love, and love, and love some more, and stubbornly call everyone who rejects me the same way all a bunch of fools. Oh, and if people do not like how I am choosing to get over this by writing about it here, in this way, they can eat it!

This is my story. My heart. Me.

Some Thoughts Before I Write Forward

I have to admit it, there are times when I do not know if I am the right person to write as an expert on this subject, but this is only because I am not a master, I do not have all the answers, I only have experiences.  Yet then, as I think about it, there is one subject I am a master of, and that is myself.

As I have been writing on Therapeutic Magic for Mental Illness, I faced an emotional block that has delayed me reaching the next parts of that series.  Not writing about this block, telling myself that it’s too personal of a subject, and that pointing out my woes will only draw more attention to the problem and not a solution, well, that just made it worse.  I have to acknowledge that what I feel is happening to me, like extracting a poison dart out of my heart, and then examine what components created the poison CSI-style, recording my findings in detail, all while I recover from the wound.

These things replay in my mind.  No matter how often I distract myself, I accept what happened and how it made me feel.  I have a father who does not support my efforts to heal myself.  My brother is estranged from me.  I have too many painful memories to remind me of the many times I have lost friends, too.  Some of those ex-friends aren’t bad people, they just didn’t understand, and they remain friends with my closest friends.  I am occasionally reminded people don’t like me, even my closest blood relatives have a hatred for me that is beyond my understanding, especially when all I do is love them.  My father considers me pathetic; the last time he browbeat me over this in public, I told him I would not tolerate him calling me that anymore.  He hasn’t talked to me since I told him to back off.  Frankly, despite my concerns for his health and well-being, dealing with him is too much stress.  He has never told me he loves me.  He’s been a constant critic of my body, behavior, everything.  The same goes for my brother.  Nothing pleases those men!  I don’t believe I’m to blame for their problems.  I still feel paranoid that other friends will reject me and false judgments could be made against me unfairly.  There are nuggets of “loser-li-ness” pasted on me from the way I’ve been treated by my father — a weakness that is sniffed out by other people when I deal with them socially — I must exhibit this self-esteem deficiency even in my words online, as if I am apologizing for my own existence.  There are times when I sense an apprehension in the air about people around me, so I am compelled to do all I can to please them, all the while worrying if I am going to end up spending the rest of my life under scrutiny.  At times I am stuck in the mucky-muck of wondering if maybe my father is right, or if those ex-friends were right about me…

They should know better.  Because I know myself better.  Why won’t they believe in me?  Especially because I believe in myself.

Yet am I backing up my belief with action?  Am I doing enough?  There are times when I am very inspired by the examples of others I read about, my creative passions hurt me into motion when I view a delicious painting, and I’m excited to tears whenever a friend shares with me a good story.  Then I consider: why am I not doing anything?  The only answer is: I’ve been too busy battling depression, but this is not what I’m all about… butbut I can’t stop talking about it because I’ve found out so much about it, so much I want to share.

I forget that most people find the subject disturbing, that it makes them nervous around me.  If I had not shared with them what I go through, they’d see me normal and never give a doubt about my character.  Yet if they knew and understood more, they’d find the key I found; a better way of relating and overcoming, a way that can be made even better if only more masses of people cooperated with it!

The worst part of having a problem is the way other people handle it — I’m already doing my part to take care of myself, what’s their excuse?  They will often take the stance to not understand, or not want to understand, preferring to believe that I am making excuses or producing lies and justifications during the times when I am out of balance.  In my practice of silence and contemplation, I asked myself how I have contributed to the opinions against me.  My attempts to make things better by explaining what’s wrong with me were made worse by me explaining and describing myself as being a problem.

Ever experience a time when someone points out that you “have a problem” and need to “get help” and yet they do nothing but point it out?  It’s easy to point at the problem, like pointing out that there is a dirty diaper in the middle of the living room, yet no one is picking it up or putting it in the trash because the only person in the room who was told about the problem has no arms to do anything about it.  Sure, they definitely DO need help, yet pointing out the dirty diaper in front of them when they can’t pick it up to throw it away doesn’t help at all.

There are things we can do for ourselves, but then there are things we do need help with, and the best help you can give to someone who is suffering from a mental illness as common as depression is to JUST BE SUPPORTIVE and being supportive DOES NOT MEAN FIXING THE PROBLEM it just means REMAINING A FRIEND!

Just being a friend makes a major difference in the life of someone coping with mental illness, in fact it plays an important role in the efforts to help suffering end.  Instead of pointing at someone’s problems, why not stop and try to understand them?  There is always more to the story.  If you want to continue to make the lives of the mentally ill a living hell, then keep pointing at them and pushing them aside, tell them how awful they are… But isn’t it better to stop the cycles of misunderstanding and abuse?

For help on how you can be a better help to your friends check out the following:
Mental Illness: What a Difference a Friend Makes an initiative started by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is a wonderful program that provides answers for friends who want to help.

Helpful information from the Mental Health Foundation

The NAMI blog‘s coverage about the award-winning Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s series titled “Imminent Danger” featuring the VERY moving article Can adult siblings connect when mental illness is part of mix? MJS reporter Meg Kissinger, like me, has mental illness in the family. This article especially touches my heart because it reminds me of some experiences with my relations.
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I’m glad I got these thoughts off my chest because now I am free to move forward, write on, and get back on track. I hope the above links provide some helpful information. As it comes to me, I’ll provide more as I continue to piece together this series.

Therapeutic Magic & Mental Illness, an Introduction

**UPDATE 10/12/2014: When I first wrote this introduction I thought I had all my ducks in a row on this subject, but the research and concentration needed to completely cover what I intended to finish could not be done in a matter of weeks, let alone years. Now I do not know if I ever will. However, this was a great start!**

“To be bewitched is not to be saved, though all the magicians and aesthetes in the world should pronounce it to be so”  — George Santayana The Life of Reason: Reason in Art

In the early days of my magical practice, I was taught that in order to perform magic well, one should be of sound mind and body.  Beyond this, in order to perform magic safely, one should be calm and clear of mindgive generous offerings to all spirits and always have complete confidence.  In fact, you can have low self-esteem about your looks, but can never have a bad opinion about yourself when working magic.  When you set out to cast a spell, you must put all of your confidence into it. Not everyone can draw upon that kind of inner power because they are unaware they have it to begin with.  It takes time, discipline, and practice to get to a level where one can achieve reserves of iron will power.  Yet even the best of us aren’t like that all the time, just only when we are working magic.  There are those of us who are flawed, we need more work and time to accomplish raising power.  Then there are those of us who perform beautifully because our minds are wired differently to work best in that dream state in between states of consciousness where confidence and belief in endless possibility flourishes!

Some of us don’t know how to use our weaknesses as assets, we only think our best abilities are going to be our forte.  We struggle because we can’t believe anything is possible in the face of what we can’t do.  We get stuck in the how and why, not the “do” of it.  Even some teachers think they are supposed to fix us once they know we have problems.  Yet we are not the sum of our problems.  Problems are the doors to our power.  Didn’t you know that?

The stigma of mental illness is a powerful one, enough to convince even the most intelligent and kind magus that the insane are a spiritual threat more dangerous than a malignant spirit.  But magic has always been about changing and creating things to better humankind, to gain power over problems and make solutions, and why not heal and train a tortured mind to overcome disorder?

The Unacceptable Ones

The most undesirable candidates to learn magic, from what I remember, were  the mentally ill.  People with these problems are not so readily recognized at first meeting.  Many folks with mental and emotional problems are often rejected from their own subculture before they even get the chance to identify with said subculture.  Some understandably so, others perhaps unfairly.

The most common undesirable are the ones who immediately make outrageous claims like talking to unicorns and turning into werewolves, to less outrageous delusions like claims of speaking with berries and trees and angels, etc…  Whether or not their condition is real, or if they’re just simply being visually creative, the stigma of mental illness alone is disturbing enough to separate them from any circle.  Witches and magicians are not psychologists, and therefore are not qualified to diagnose mental illness, yet they all have the right to choose whom they will teach and accept into their private circles.  This is acceptable, but we should endeavor to understand how common some disorders are, how they are treated, and in what ways magic can assist people coping with their disabilities. Beyond that, we must no longer see people as the sum of their problems, we need to look beyond ‘the crazy’ and treat them with respect and understanding.

Just as mental illness is not a result of evil spirits possessing the body (as once believed in primitive times), but caused by dysfunctions of the brain and body, magic is not a miracle cure, nor is the medicine one takes to relieve it.  A cauldron’s brew of therapy, a medicinal regimen, physical exercise, proper diet, good sleep habits, a regular daily routine, assistance and counsel of doctors (not just from a psychologist, but psychiatrist and primary care doctor) is even more required to handle an illness.  Adding magical practice to the treatment one is already receiving is just another way to get healthy, but with the kick of getting into the heart of the patterns and cycles of one’s thoughts and consciousness.

It’s Medicine, not Poison

I have seen and faced more prejudice over using prescription drugs to treat disorder than over having a mental disorder itself.  You would think that taking medicine to take care of yourself should be indication to others that you are taking responsibility for your problems, especially so when along with medication you are actively participating in therapy and practicing meditation.  It’s one thing to have a problem, but when some ignorant few see you taking your medication, they’ll want to know why.  First of all, your medical history and your medication should not be public knowledge, that is confidential.  Even when involved in a spiritual group, it’s rude for it to become an issue.  However, I have experiences where instead of asking me what it is I’m taking, some people have made assumptions, and soon gossip built up enough drama to dissolve our connections with each other.

The use of drugs is no stranger in the practice of magic, in fact the mind-expanding, experimental drugs of generations before ours used them to achieve spiritual experiences and to produce visions.  But that all came with a cost.  Many caused damage to their minds that they could not reverse.  The idea of using drugs to heal now comes with the fear of chemicals inducing more disease.  There is also fear that mind-altering drugs open up the consciousness too dangerously wide, leaving the student vulnerable to hostile, lower spirits who can cause all kinds of mischief and chaos.  The New Age belief in natural cures over standard western medicinal ones only makes things worse for those of us who, out of real necessity, must rely on chemicals to support our very natural bodily functions to help us cope with our problems.  The drugs we use are helpful, not like the recreational drugs, home-grown or not, people without mental illness use at a risk to their mental health in the name of expanding their consciousness.

There is no magical drug to help anyone project the spirit into the astral over night, however my experience with peyote was intense and did work for me right away.  Yet I was not disciplined for that challenge and I believe I have spirits to thank for keeping me safe.  My first out-of-body trip was forced upon me, without guidance it was like being tossed into the void without any hope of return.  Peyote, like any drug, should never be taken without the guidance of a professional healer, not distributed on a whim without spiritual purpose.  In fact, I don’t recommend any spiritual use of drugs either.  The best ways to alter consciousness are the natural, harder, more meaningful ways to get it done: go into trance the old-fashioned way, dance into a trance, get your ecstatic joy on!  No drug can provide that reality.

When I take medicine to cope with my illness, I’m not using it as a crutch, nor am I depending upon it to cure all my ills.  Drugs that help the mentally ill aren’t able to do that.  It would be nice if they could, but if wishes were fishes…

From Problems to Powers

I am a Witch with several functional mental disorders that are often exhibited in annoying, irritating, and confusing ways that make it difficult for me to relate to other people.  Over years of treatment, I took ownership of my problems, gained valuable coping techniques, formed healthy habits, and know when to turn to professionals and check myself into the hospital when I’m at my worst.  My condition is not as scary as it seems and it does not interfere with my ability to practice Witchcraft, in reality, if anything, it has enhanced my abilities.  Once I learned to regulate some emotions, I can also draw upon them and use them to direct a lot of power into my work.  The overwhelming passions that have so often hurt me are ones I don’t have to let torture me when I can direct and project them into something useful.  I have come to the conclusion that Witchcraft remains a magico-religion incredibly beneficial to its practitioners and clients who suffer from even much worse problems, yet I am just one case.  I can only estimate what other mages and Witches have done to help heal people with disorders much worse than my own.

I write from my own personal experience and I do not claim to be any kind of  expert or professional in the mental health field.  I can only share with you what I have found works for me.  More extensive research should be cared out by professionals who are sympathetic to and/or are magicians themselves applying the art and science of magic to use as therapy.

Magic transcends and transforms, what a powerful way to supplement medicine!  And even better, it reinforces self-confidence, too.  That is much-needed in a struggle for order over one’s thoughts and emotions.

Is Magic the Way to Sanity?

I asked a friend what his thoughts were on the mentally ill practicing magic. Eight years ago, after my diagnosis and subsequent hospitalization, I went through a brief period where I worried if it was wise for me to continue to practice magic and provide magical assistance and spiritual counsel to others. I thought that my condition would make me less credible as a Witch in the court of public opinion. It is common knowledge in my town I am a Witch, so would having a disorder soon make it seem that, just based on my story, all Witches are crazy? As time went on, the thought of no longer doing what I loved made me more depressed. Practicing magic isn’t just some hobby that makes me happy, it keeps me sane, and I believe it can help others, too. My friend also agrees, yet one should never thrive on magic alone…

Whether someone who is mentally ill should practice magic is a highly personal choice. In my limited experience of working with schizophrenics, the mental illness makes it harder for the practitioner to tell what is objectively real and what is in their head. However other practices like meditation can actually be very helpful. I was able to work with one schizophrenic and develop his meditation practice to the point where he could control whether he was hallucinating.Drew Jacob, altmagic.com

There is more than one way to create peace of mind, sometimes one has to apply many different ways to get at least some semblance of peace. As I look into the many ways of magic, I turn to Witchcraft’s The Eight Paths of Power, with number one being MEDITATION. Meditation is often confused for mere intent or concentration, but really it is all about disciplining the mind and conditioning it to better regulate one’s thoughts and emotions. I’ve always thought it a tad incomplete to just term meditation as forming the will to power. Meditation is needed to become not just a good magician, but a healthy person, because it is the method to reach into one’s center of being to create calm, practice silence, become more mindful of one’s behavior and speech, and condition the self to act more out of this center of calm. The calm that is created aids the Witch (or patient, or anyone!) to have more control over the mind and body, to recognize unhealthy behavior and change it to more constructive modes of behavior — it is not just some superficial form of “asking the universe for something until you get what you want because you wished really hard for it”, it requires deeper understanding and years of commitment.

There are no immediate results with meditation. It’s not really even mind control in the cult sense of that term either, because you can still react with emotion, you are not programming yourself to become a robot, meditation just helps to better filter the overwhelming aspects of emotions that can keep us in prolonged states of suffering. Emotions and thoughts are slowed down so you can better deal with them and experience a better quality of life. In magic, meditation helps us to develop a process where we can better direct the power of our previously out-of-control emotional and thinking patterns towards a goal we don’t just want to achieve, but one we can achieve no matter the obstacles. The steps we take to make a spell work, supported by symbols and physical cues (like scented oils and incense for instance), helps to kick-start and maintain this process.  Chanting and ritual further increase the power that meditation starts.  It is the basis for all magic, and healing the mentally ill who need extra help coping with dysfunctional mood and thought regulation.

I will address, in future, each Path of Power as defined by Witchcraft, using it as a guide to suggest and share ways I have used to help me cope with my own struggles. I might add a few more ways I’ve discovered and improvised, too.  Please share with me any ideas and suggestions of your own. Consider this a work in progress. I hope it will help inspire you to write about ways you have utilized magic to heal your own heart and mind.

Magic just might be the right therapy to support sanity, but you don’t have to be crazy to reap its benefits!