Who I am Vs My Mental Illness Vs Spiritual Crisis

Ah, our favourite topic returns. Mental illness! I saw this post topic floating around some time ago on the bipolar collective writing blog, and thought it was a fabulous idea. How do we understand ourselves vis a vis our illness, an illness that so often influences our mind and thoughts?

Well, to me it is simple. I am how I choose to react to my symptoms. It is not ‘me’ to have racing thoughts. It is ‘me’ to try and find a solution, panicking slightly along the way. It is not ‘me’ to have terrible mood swings. It is ‘me’ to isolate myself during them to try and minimize the pain I might cause those around me.

You see, people are still the same people they were before a mental illness struck. A mental illness is nothing but a list of symptoms affecting one’s brain chemistry, in turn affecting our mood, thoughts, etc.

Interestingly, though people LO-OVE to compare and conflate a mental illness with a spiritual experience, you don’t see people wondering who they are vs their spiritual experiences.

And yet, I found my spiritual crisis of late to have been quite distressing, out of the ordinary for me, and indeed, to be something that made me wonder about myself MORE than my normal symptoms do.

Maybe it’s because I’ve become used to my symptoms. Maybe it’s because spiritual crisises are made to be acute. But still, there is this all-pervasive notion that one is intrinsically ‘you’ and the other is a force acting upon you, and one is negative and the other positive.

Here’s a hint: they’re both forces acting upon you. Screwy brain chemistry vs spirit messing with you with neon signs, both are forces acting upon you.

My point? Surprisingly, they have something in common. It is our reactions that define us, not the actions hoisted upon us. And so I encourage people to think not only of their symptoms, but also of their spiritual experiences. After all, I am a hard polytheist and I believe the spirits to be exterior and independent to us. Because of this, I do not believe that having spirits contact you makes you special. Rather, it is how you choose to respond to them that makes you a shining star.

 

 

Mental Illness and Creative Writing – The Later Days

As I explained in my previous post, I remained largely alive due to my beliefs in my writing and its reality. I believed that somewhere, in some dimension or other, my characters existed. I believed I was chosen by them to retell their stories, a sort of missionary to the world.

How did this change as my psychosis burst over me? How did this change as I fell in love with my wife, and sought out treatment?

Simply, it didn’t. My writing remained there, and I was determined as ever to convey their message to this world.

It was only when I became medicated and more balanced in my brain that I realized that maybe it wasn’t true that these stories existed. That maybe it was all part of a delusion.

It was a terrifying realization, that maybe these novels I’d dedicated my life to were just that – novels. It was hard, and still is hard. Part of me deep inside still believes firmly that they are real in some dimension, but the logical part of me is wary to believe it like I used to.

Presently, I float between the two beliefs, my heart in one and my brain in the other. But my dedication remains the same. Writing is my path, my vocation. I may have become less militant in it, but I still consider it a large part of who I am.

 

The Freak Leads! ~ Thoughts on Leading as a Disabled Queer Person

Well hello. As some of you know, I”m mentally disabled. I’m also a survivor of domestic abuse and am very lucky to be where I am right now, mentally and physically.  I am also queer in the sense that even though I am trans, I manifest as a more femme man. Basically, as my wife and sister say, I’m a gay man who loves doing drag.

And here I am, trying to build community. Dreaming up a monastery for pagans. Leading rituals. Having my ideas stolen (yep) by greedy w(b)itches who want to make money out of copying my fund-raising charity events.  And generally, I plod along. My dream is my vocation, and I will do it.

But the other day, I hosted a BOS write-in (which became more of a chat-in) and noticed what strong personalities I had as my administration (because yes, I have a dedicated team of admins who support me). I fleetingly thought that wow, I am surrounded by the type of people that I would normally look up to so much. And then – WHAM! – I realized that I was the leader of these amazing people. That these strong, confident, and competent people must see something in me to be willing to follow me.

Well, aside from being an ego-boost, this moment taught me that there must be something in me that I’m not seeing. Some strength, some quality that others find worth following. And right now, as I write this, I’m thinking that maybe it’s not in spite of me being the freak, it’s because I’m the freak.

Maybe the reason transgender people are so often seen as leaders and sacred whatnots and ultimately special is because we dare. We’ve crossed such large and taboo barriers that we grow confidence in just not giving a fuck. Maybe the reason the disabled are leaders too is because we learn strength and resilience in overcoming our own selves. And maybe it’s the same for survivors of domestic abuse – who can read the invisible language of abuse far easier than others.

Maybe it’s all these qualities, shunned by society and shamed, that make me a leader are wiling to follow. My point is not that I bear a crystal gem within myself that irradiates my followers with enlightenment. It’s quite the opposite, it’s not so much about me as what has shaped me, and given me the strength and tools to inspire, dream, and lead. I’m probably just as special as the next person, but I’ve learnt from these adverse experiences and used them to become unique qualities and strengths.

I think, if I was to summarize, paganism needs  us freaks to step forward and dare to dream. We freaks are the leaders, not despite of our freakiness, but because of it, smashing down borders and getting all up in people’s business.

So dare people. Be Freaky!

Psychosis and Meditation

So I’m not sure how to write this. Part of me wants to retell you my story, about how I used to meditate so much. Part of me wants to just dive in with my revelation of the morning.

Let’s start with my history then. I used to meditate a LOT. In my teens, I used to do (unsupervised) meditations where I could push myself into ecstasy, could feel the chemistry changing in my brain, could push myself into euphoria, and generally felt enlightened. Then, around age 18, I had what I refer to as my first psychotic break. While lying in bed and doing nothing particular, I was suddenly euphoric, on pink and blue fluffy clouds. In the following few days I became convinced my best friend was possessed by a demon, and got lost in familiar places.

Well, in the ensuing shit-storm that was my life for the next few years, I kept trying to meditate. It often inexplicably made things worse. Like just a few months ago, I tried meditating five times a day and inexplicably started having what I believe are psychotic symptoms again (feeling oneness with the divine, seeing ‘patterns’ everywhere, illogical thoughts, etc).

Now here’s the thing -> Meditation can cause brief psychotic episodes.

WHAT?!

I know, right? But after speaking with my psychiatrist who told me that meditation seemed to be a trigger for my derealization and recently wanting to meditate again, I did a little bit of googling this morning.

“Meditation can act as a stressor in vulnerable patients who may develop a transient psychosis with polymorphic symptomatology.”

“In fact, unguided meditation practices can be harmful for people with a diagnosis of a psychotic disorder and have indeed been documented as worsening the psychotic symptoms of some individuals.”

And here I was, trying to ‘meditate my way’ out of it, believing that meditation could only help. Well no!

I’ve linked the articles in my quotes above, but the jist is that unsupervised meditation can cause temporay psychotic symptoms in people who’ve had the symptoms before.

The key things here seem to be ‘unguided’ meditation, wherein the person goes into deep trances unsupervised. I’m guessing that these states can be triggers for the derealization and other symptoms. At least that’s how I experienced it.

Furthermore, the good news is that these symptoms are temporary. My psychotic symptoms after intense meditation went away on their own. They were short term. So the good news is that if you get fresh symptoms after meditating, chances are they will go away.

The bad news is that my long-term symptoms never went away in my periods of low meditation. They still need medication, but are very well controlled.

Anyways, I’m not a doctor nor am I trying to frighten anyone. But please, please, be cautious about meditating if you already have experienced psychotic symptoms. It may bring them back, and even if you don’t have psychotic symptoms, I still urge caution!

Am I a “Real Priest”?

I’m going to get this question one day or another from a student. So I like to think that I’m one step ahead of the game by preparing my argument before hand.

Let me take a minute to explain a little bit of the bitterness that may seep into this post. I’ve already been told that others in my entourage are a ‘real’ priestess, insinuating that I was not. I’ve already had said ‘real’ priestess declare to her students that not all who claim to be priests are, and that some just take on the title. Was it a jab at me? Probably. I’m a real threatening person, you know, what with giving hugs and leaving smudges of glitter on people. Seriously?

I’m very threatening, I know. Had I been there I would have told her students not to buy those pricey athames, and  would have argued with her that a silver pentacle will not automatically protect a person/solve all energetic problems and NO, one does not haphazardly include blood and angel names into a Wiccan ritual (WHAT THE FUCK BUT I’M NOT EVEN JOKING PEOPLES). Oh, but I don’t know anything, I’m not initiated.

Really? From a crazy person’s perspective, let me argue you this. Who initiated the first crazy person? Huh? No one did. That’s right, insanity is a gods-given gift/burden. What about priesthood? It’s a gods-given gift/burden. What’s similar in these two situations?

Let’s take a diagnostic test. A mentally ill person is not mentally ill because they get a certificate or were born into a certain lineage. We know they’re ill because they exhibit and experience symptoms of mental illness, often to the point of it crippling their life.

What about a priest/ess? Do they get it from an initiation? Well I guess they could certainly get a fancy piece of paper saying that they are, just like one can get a paper saying they’re ill even if they’re not. Will they necessarily exhibit the symptoms of being a leader, an organizer, and a ritual facilitator because of this paper? I don’t think so.

I am going to argue that a priest/ess will be demarcated by exhibiting the symptoms of being chosen by the gods. Just like a mental illness, it can be developed, or it can just happen in a wham-bam. And just like a mental illness, if people get to know you-they know if you got it or not, no matter what the little papers say.

What are the symptoms? I’m going to argue that it will be summed up in integrity, passion for the cause, and good character. This of course will vary from place to place and what-have-you’s, as every situation will need a different kind of voice. But certainly, an initiation doesnot a priest/ess make. A training does not a priest/ess make. Being chosen by the gods is what makes you, in my humble opinion, and that certainly doesn’t mean that one is better or holier. It simply means they’re the priest/ess. It’s a calling, and that’s that in my opinion.

A Disabled Leader? Gasp!

Today,   I was doing great. I worked on a course I plan on giving, compiling materials and sources. Then, unexpectedly, I felt “a little bit down”. Okay, I decided to be an adult about it. I sat down and rested. When that wasn’t working and I kept getting worse, I watched TV. Halfway through my second episode of ‘Grace & Frankie’ I paused the episode and declared to my wife that “this isn’t working”.

So what? Now I’m feeling better, having shaken off the dregs of depression and anxiety to a point. But what’s my point?

Life isn’t all roses. I still struggle. I like to think that I’m all better.Sometimes it feels like I’m normal. Lately I’ve begun to think I won’t need a second service dog. But then… I break down. I face the reality that I still am not able to go grocery shopping alone. I … I face the fact that just showering daily is still a struggle. I mean, I’m not ‘as bad’ as I once was. Instead I’m in this hazy background shade of grey, pastel-ified with reborn happiness and covered in glitter through my sheer desire to survive and bloom.

I’m reading a book on pagan leadership. In there, the authors decry the leaders who go on food stamps. A person should be able to self-sustain, they argue. What, I think, would they think of me? More importantly, what do I think?

I’m one of those people who’s incredibly hard on themselves. I want to think I’m good. I want to think that I won’t need a second service dog. And today, reading that it’s not just me, that there’s others that would probably look down on me as a leader, who would say I should focus on ‘getting a job’ first before doing the small amount of service that I do as a ‘leader’…it was crushing.

It’s also incredibly insensitive (and oh so typically American) to think that we must first self-sustain before leading or even thinking of contributing to society. Let’s take me as an example, because I feel the need to defend myself.

I can’t self-sustain yet. I can’t. But what I can do is spend a few hours a month leading a ritual. I can happily chat with friends and students, offering support (and even doing too much of that can send me into a downward spiral). Can I easily leave the house on a regular basis? No. Am I functional after the exhaustion of leading a small holy-day ritual? No.

But you know what? Disabled people can lead. We so can, because being a leader is not the same as holding a job. A leader is a way of life. It’s offering moral and emotional support, connecting people, coming up with ideas, and sharing the weight. It’s not about doing it all by yourself.

I want to finish by saying that I think I am doing a damn good job at leading (despite my obvious insecurities on the topic). Better yet-my pagans think so. They love the energy of my rituals, and so far those who  study under me love me as a teacher. So don’t take it from me, but take it from them. This disabled person can lead. And if I can, then so damned well can another disabled person. What does that mean? It means we need leaders who can do the job and walk the talk. And sometimes the ones who can do that the best are those who have gone down the rabbit hole and who are fragile. Sometimes it’s not the able-bodied loud mouth who should be leading. Maybe it’s the quiet person.

I Might Need Some Help…

This is not a call for help… at least not a desperate one. I mean, I’m fine. Crazy, seeing funny things here and there, but fine. You see, as if being unhinged wasn’t enough, I’ve added another thing for myself to take care of.

A book.

No, not my fiction books. I’m going to write a non-fiction one. And for that, I need help. I have NO CLUE how to approach writing a non-fiction book. Like, I know how to do a research paper. But a book? How many sources do I need? How many people should I poll before making a statement? How just – how?

So that’s it. I’m looking for a publisher. I’m looking for people willing to be interviewed. I’m looking for help, largely, in this massive undertaking. Any advice, really, would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks y’all!

The Discrimination Behind Yoga Hatred

I was doing yoga this morning. Yep, just putting it out there. I was doing yoga, not only once, but twice!

I’m doing this yoga not for my body, but for my C-PTSD. It just helps. I pick a video sequence that suits my energy level, and I follow along. Yesterday, due to some devastating news that I will maybe discuss another day, I was in a stunned haze. My stress and anxiety and hypervigilance were over the top and so I did yoga three times in the day. Three.

And so, this morning, I thought of something. I thought back to my years in university when the teacher (a woman) scorned yoga for its cultural appropriation, for its shallowness, and for its lululemon pants. And I thought of how much good this video, a calm video discussing awareness and energy and breath more than any physical aims, was helping my mindfulness and ease my anxiety. And I had an enlightened thought. Just one.

Fuck you if you hate yoga.

Because you know what? Yoga in the west is largely a woman’s thing. It is a safe, gentle space for women to come together and embrace their bodies. It is largely practiced by victims of violence as a means of overcoming trauma. It’s recommended by doctors and touted by energy healers and survivors of violence as well as war veterans. And you know what? Yoga clothing embraces a female body without pinching or fat shaming.

So all this hatred towards yoga is largely misogynistic victim hating. Making fun of mindfulness and the loving self-help incorporated into yoga is ridiculously harmful when it’s exactly the sort of thing that doctors prescribe for us survivors.

Is there yoga that’s cultural appropriation? Sure, but I’ve also seen yoga that is very respectfully done, thank you very much. Is there yoga that is performed solely for physical gains? Of course. But I think it says something that one of the highest ranked videos on youtube when I simply typed in ‘yoga’, talked entirely about spirituality, self love, and mindfulness.

And you know what else? I’m sick of female culture being pushed down on. I’m sick of things women like and do being touted as ‘silly’ or ‘shallow’ when it’s the farthest thing from it.

So yes, I’m practicing yoga – a lot of yoga – to try and get better. It’s my form of self care. And I do it in leggings and its comfy as can be.

Rest and Happiness — Druid Life

Continuing on my rant about the discrimination welfare recipients receive – here is a great piece on the need for rest and how it affects our mental health!

 

There is nothing like being exhausted to bring on the depression and anxiety. There is also nothing like pushing yourself to work when exhausted to lower self esteem and make you feel awful. Rest is a basic human need, and if for some reason you can’t have it over long time frames, your mental health […]

via Rest and Happiness — Druid Life

Happy New Year, Fuckers

I’m in a good mood. A seriously good one. I’m listening to Heilung , I just did some yoga flows from the minimeditatingdragon (who’s a friend of mine – go check out her stuff!) and I even have a new idea for a blog post. So, inspired from all this good juju, what do I have to talk about today?

My life. Of course. But how has my life been, in this past year? And what, oh what, will I do in the coming year?

This year has sucked and been marvellous all at the same time. What blows? My writing sales. Dammit, I’m a self-published author. I wrote erotica with my wife for a while, and I made a few sales, and thought that was bad. Then, this year, I’ve tried out my beloved novels.

Now that was bad.

Hint: don’t self-publish right before Christmas.

I even copied other authors and made a reading group where I was hoping to share goodies like bookmarks I designed. I couldn’t even get a like on the posts within it, except from my friend.

Ugh.

And then what? I LOST A BOOK. I FREAKING DID. I’ve been working on a non-fiction book about mental illness, and LOST IT. Figuring the gods didn’t want it to ever see the light of day, I gave up on that project.

But aside from the sucks, what went well? Well, I moved to a lovely little hole in the ground with trees outside my apartment. I’ve built up an instagram following and started a youtube channel where I do book reviews in an attempt at gaining some traction for my novels (also, free books and free rants? My cup of tea).

Also, after being denied hormones, I finally got the OK for vitamin T – and now just have to wait for my appointment.

Despite my terrible publishing sales, my writing has streaked up to a better position. I’ve got literally dozens of novels I’m working on, and my mental clarity is pretty good so I think my writing is good as a result of that. I’m satisfied with the freaky result at least.

So now what? What’s coming in the following year? Well, I’ve got an idea to reboot that non-fiction book and hack at it – maybe with the help of a professor or something. I also am thinking of shifting this blog to be my main blog and just working from here as my base. Because no matter what, this feels like my honest home base, the place where I get all my freaky and weird out.

On that note- rant over. Tell me your thoughts, plans, and failures of this past year – and let me know how you want the coming one to go!

Blessings,

Michael