Cold Weather, Wicca, and Triggers

Colder weather has long been a favourite temperature of mine. It brings meditative calm, peace of mind, and the stilling sound of snow falling has a precious quality to it. Ice, to me, makes sense as an element on the pentacle, for ice has so many qualities to it that none other has. To me, ice represents the cold very well. But what does cold do? It turns visible that which is unseen. Breath becomes mist. Water, which slips so easily through our grasp and ever moves on in evaporation or descent into the earth, is suddenly turned still and hard. I could go on and on about all the beautiful things that cold represents to me, but suffice to say that I am slightly infatuated with it.

And yet, cold is a massive C-PTSD trigger for me. Due to my past, a lovely taste of cold weather can suddenly turn into sharp mood swings, dissociation, and a vast amount of other complications. Usualy I can balance this. I’ve been forced to learn the strict amount of times I can spend immersed in this element, the very little amount of cold I can actually stand, and have to bundle up to the point that I almost do not feel that sharp bite upon my skin.

Unfortunately, curveballs happen in life and recently the heating broke in my apartment. Ah, global warming. If this wasn’t unusally cold weather locally for the time of year, it would have been no problem. We hardly would have noticed. Yet, there is still several feet of snow here, and I was forced once more to acknowledge my weakness to cold. How tiring a constant trigger can be. How exhausting it is to fight not just the draining sap of cold, but psychologically to battle against constant reminders of the past. To distance myself again and again from what feels like overlapping realities.

So what does this have to with spirituality? Balance, I would say.

For those of us suffering from triggers, we would love to live our life in a total absence of any reminders of our past. Of ‘those’ or ‘that’ event. But unfortunately, this blissful erasure is not always possible. So we live in a balance. We want to experience life in all its fullest, yet not be inundated by our past rising up from behind like an engulfing monster. And this is not a still thing. It reminds me of the pentacle, ever circling and rolling and flowing in the cycles of nature. Some days we fail, and the destructive forces of nature feel incarnate in us. Other days, we may feel successful, proud, and striving forward with the strength of fire. Yet other days we merely exist or cope, like a chunk of ice that neither melts or condenses. Life, we, are a cycle. Destructive and creative forces are a part of nature, and triggers, repercussions of destruction, are just as much a part of this cycle as anything else.

Medication’s Effects on the Soul

One of the reasons I was hesitant to take medication over the course of many years were the warnings I’d heard from “spiritual” people: that medication would change “who I was” and that I wouldn’t be “myself” if I took it.

Well, as a Wiccan now on medication I find that concept silly. In the months I have now taken medication I’ve never felt that they changed “who I was” and now that I contemplate it, I don’t think they can.

I believe the soul is fairly unchangeable. I believe that there is a nugget of our soul that is “us”, and that the rest can be changed by our conscious and unconscious choices. Does medication affect any part of this? No.

Medication, for me, changes my experiences. It changes the chemistry in my brain and affects what I feel: rage, sadness, anxiety, confusion. But these are experiences. Experiences color the lens in which we view the world. Experiences affect us but they are not us.

Through all the side effects of my medication I was still ‘me’. I was still present, still conscious (though sometimes quite addled). I did not suddenly lose myself or become a brainless zombie. I was present just as much as I’d ever been through my symptoms.

Perhaps it is the distinction I made between my symptoms and my own, true, self that allowed me to be so disaffected by the effects of my medication. Certainly, if I thought every mood swing was a mirror into my own heart I would have been concerned by these changes.

Yet, over the years, I’ve come to see this seperation as quite distinct. Having a service dog that alerts to the onset of my symptoms really helped me learn this difference. Relying upon Buddhist techniques where one acknowledges that one’s emotions are just fleeting things helped cement it in my mind. This does not mean these experiences have been easy to bear. It just meant that now, as I adjust medications that affect these symptoms (lessening some, worsening others in a fine-tuning effort) I see it as just that. They, like a taste or blow, are merely sensations that I am experiencing through the physical nature of the body. Symptoms that are a part of my body but not of me, my soul.

Sprouts & Healing (Wiccan thoughts on psychiatric medication)

This year, which started with a new, medicated and balanced me, I have once again decided to give gardening a shot. And, as so many other things are going better now that I am medicated, so is gardening.

Thanks to me watering them consistently with coffee (water mixed in with coffee grounds), my herbs have sprouted within a week! A week! Last year they’d sprouted so late I thought they were dead, and the few that managed to sprout had only a few inches of height by the end of summer!

Alright, moving on from gushing about my sprouts, what does this have to do with Wicca? Or even, mental illness?

Well, from a Wiccan perspective sprouting is a very important and symbolic act. It can be tied to the turning of the year, the onset of spring (though there’s still snow and its very cold in my region), and rebirth. But as a Wiccan, I think of all the elements in the ritual as symbolic. This includes the coffee water.

What of the coffee? A foreign element, not usually given to plants, not necessarily appearing in a ‘natural’ form. Yet with the proper care, it gives them the strength to burst free from the natural bonds (that are meant to be overcome) and be what they were meant to be. The seeds become plants, thanks to the aid of this foreign and un-natural product. And that’s ok, it works great.

I like to think of this as a metaphor for what psychiatric medication does. I like to think of it as a gift from the gods, a strange element taken from the world around us and derived so far from their natural habitat- yet it works. Like ashes, wood chips, or any kind of fertilizer, coffee needs to be balanced and tailored to the plant’s individual needs and environment.

The same can be said for psychiatric medication. It is a delicate balance to find the right medication, the right amount, and like so much in nture it can change and need adapting. Once this balance is struck, I feel like the person recovering can be like the plant, breaking free from the natural bonds of the shell and growing freely.

So for me, I find this year’s sprouting to be a lovely, divine, metaphor of life – for all of us, even the non-neuronormative ones. Because we too, are a part of nature’s beautiful cycles.

Self Care & Hot Chocolate

Good morning!

As I woke up this morning, I immediately thought 2 things. One, that I was feeling good, two, that I still needed some good self-care this morning before doing anything.

Living with a mental illness, in my experience, has done that to me. Self-care has become a vital part of existence. Not just to feel good, but in order to remain functional. In order to keep away the guilt of ‘being a burden’ I need to keep floating above water in order to feel confident about myself. And really, the time for self-care is not always when I am deep in my pit of despair, or confused and needing help. I have found myself, especially now on medication, to be a precarious balancing act of chemical cocktails, and if one element (stress, anxiety, etc) becomes too present then everything goes out of whack. The self-care comes the minute anything may be off. The minute too much anxiety kicks in, the minute I just feel that something is ‘off’. And around and between all that- I want to do my day as well and intensely as I can.

So for me, this morning, it was a lovely cup of hot chocolate and some pages out of my favourite book.

It is Friday!!!

It is Friday and there is so much editing to do! One of the most difficult things I’ve encountered so far through this blog (aside from the all-important colour choices LOL) is how to narrate an experience of mental illness ‘properly’. But is there even such a thing? In my mind, I want this to be perfect. I want it to ‘correct’ and ‘nice’ and not ‘mean’. But mental illness is messy. Our experiences are messy, and what strikes one person as authentic may not be the same for another. Myself, I have decided to write what I’ve experienced, but in a positive and personal lens. I do want to bring in academic and critical thinking and analysis. But at the same time, my experiences are only my own and they are so personal… to admit otherwise would feel false. To try too hard to make it ‘perfect’ and sanitize it would take away from what makes it valid and authentic- to me. Which is really the only perspective I can offer anyone.

Anyways, that’s my blurb/thought bubble of today as I keep on writing!