Elephant in the Therapy Room

Back in undergrad when I last had insurance and access to the on-campus mental health services, I just never brought up religion or anything that might sound a little too ~woo~ to say to someone evaluating your state of mind. There was some online back and forth that ‘xyz clearly means you’re delusional’ around that time, and I just didn’t have the energy to deal with that while trying to go in for help with depression. It also didn’t exactly help that any attempts on my own to look into the interplay between psychology and religion that didn’t deal with delusions were Christian focused therapy services. (I’m sure that can help someone, just not me.)

I mentioned in “Ghosts of Hypomania” that I have a particular brainweird event from back in high school that initially didn’t seem noteworthy, but in the years since, it’s gotten harder to say it wasn’t awfully similar to hypomania. There may have been other instances that seem to meet hypomania’s requirements a little more closely since, which is why that 3 day window is still relevant. I’m still trawling my memory while preparing for the intake to see if it’s For Sure hypomania (probably bipolar II) or Almost hypomania (probably cyclothymia), but I don’t want to cover everything about hypomania in this post.

{For those who haven’t been trying to figure out if they too have experienced this: Hypomania hits most mania symptoms, so I’m not being particularly careful about someone using mania or a linked source focusing on manic episodes instead of specifying hypomania.}

I stumbled onto ~sadiepickles’ post about creating a Mania Manual, had the free time, and clicked on her example. There’s several bullet points under Sample Signs of Mania that I should return to, but what instantly stood out under Grandiose Beliefs was the first bullet point, “Increased religious beliefs or spirituality”. Rather than spend a lot of time creating a personalized meme reaction, I just wrote it out in a post:

Was anyone going to tell me – “increased focus on religion or religious activities” is included in (hypo)mania* symptom lists

Or was I just supposed to read that – as an offhand comment in someone’s post – on my own?

* Even outside of delusions with religious themes, in terms of more religious participation. Might have something to do with mixed episodes for some (possibly coping).

Link 1: Religious Factors in Bipolar Disorder. Pretty good overview in terms of different presentation, touching on delusions, and noting that cultural norms are important to keep in mind. Some may like their sources for more info.

Link 2: The relationship between religious involvement and clinical status of patients with bipolar disorder. (Full public access to the study at the link.) Part of the conclusion, “Compared to patients with bipolar disorder in depressed, manic, or euthymic states, patients in mixed states have more active private religious lives.”

Link 3: Why spirituality may be important to your quality of life. Pretty much what it says on the tin (basically, has the potential as a coping mechanism), and it does note that hyperreligiosity may impact the usefulness of spirituality as a tool in bipolar management.

So, religion has the potential to be useful for some people when it comes to coping, but it also may feature into how symptoms present. How do you tell these apart? Well, I’d suggest ignoring the people cracking jokes about ‘believing an old man in the sky’ because ‘all religion is delusional, period’. (Despite trying to talk about all religions, the references were pretty clearly Christian. Do people recovering from Christianity need a place to vent? Sure, but maybe not where other people are trying to figure out if they’re experiencing delusions.)

Advice that’s more likely to be helpful came from ~relatable-psychosis: “With delusions and the like, cultural and religious background are to be taken into account and one is to go over whether or not what they’re experiencing and how they’re responding to it is culturally sanctioned, IE whether or not what you’re experiencing is considered abnormal to your community. […] Factors like conviction, functional impairment, and uniqueness would be taken into consideration” (source; also mentioned in this post and this post).

I’m aware that some religious Christians (and cultural Christians in different religions) are already a little lost when I bring up something that, for lack of a better term in informal conversation, gets lumped under the Pagan umbrella. (Not to mention those who lose any tact about religions other than Christianity when they get some anonymity online.) But that’s not really the comparison point I should be making. Are my beliefs considered ‘abnormal’ within Pagan spaces? Not really. It’s not a guarantee that everyone that gets sorted under Pagan will share every single belief, but ruling out delusions with religious themes goes a significant way towards ruling out psychosis, which points to mania instead of hypomania in what I can find so far.

In terms of a potential diagnosis, that seems neat and tidy, but I wasn’t prepared to feel so rattled by trying to take stock of my beliefs in relation to community acceptability and outliers. Sneeze in the wrong online space, and someone can start throwing around ‘delusional’ and ‘crazy’, especially when whether incorporeal entities can communicate with humans (and how) comes up. What about discussions about Unverified Personal Gnosis (UPG) and interpreting communication accurately where there’s no tradition specific priest and/or diviner to verify (probably a solitary)? From what I remember when those were fresh topics of discussion, most Pagan bloggers were taking the default position that they were obviously sane and it was a matter of tradition differences about the acceptable divination and confirmation processes (or ignoring people who disagreed about other topics looking for an easy insult).

It’s not to say that resources out there about checking your interpretation and when to use/share UPG aren’t valuable or helpful. It’s just that when Step 1 assumes you trust that your perception lines up with reality, things get a bit shaken up when you’re trying to gauge whether you’ve had delusions or hallucinations (Bipolar Psychosis overview). It’s one thing to mostly rule out delusions (unless someone outside the Pagan community really goes for delusions of reference when it comes to communication), but it’s another thing to wonder about hallucinations. In order of most common to least:

  • Auditory – I’ve heard my name while in an empty room on a handful of occasions, but afaik, it’s a rather common fluke that brains can do. It hasn’t been related to an attempt at communicating with Anyone (or involved commands/directions to do anything).
  • Visual – I’m confident the one instance was a byproduct of being tired or an illusion while getting ready for bed (instead of an outright hallucination).
  • Tactile – I don’t know how to explain away the physical feeling that’s fairly consistent in range of location and perception that’s a “Someone wants my attention” ping. It only occurs in relation to incorporeal communication, and it’s only happened ‘in my room’ (across two dorms, my assigned room at two hotels, and my bedroom at this current home, which translates to happening on and off for about seven years).
  • Olfactory – None.
  • Taste – None.

I suppose I just wasn’t prepared for the vulnerable feeling of not being sure if I can trust myself. The strong draw to structured prayer and holiday schedules back in undergrad. I had that incident where I thought I just got a batch of miscommunication (Jotnar holy days, Tribes, and all that). The peculiar Faces (aspects of deities, not literal faces) and UPG.  All the different waves of Leaving, and Who’s circled back around on and off. Reigniting feelings over ‘I got something out of it, but it was wrong’ mentioned in “Echoes of Faith” (with the added worry that I wasn’t just operating with wrong info, it may not have even been real).

What if a solitary practice that includes UPG has too much room for personal error? (Let alone touching on PC Paganism and Modern Paganism….) What if a majority self-created path is too open to grandiose thinking? Where’s the line between ‘it’s alright to have a unique personal path’ and #actuallydelusional? Is it alright as long as I’m not claiming to be a leader (encouraging anyone to act similarly) or offering divination (claiming to have a clear line of communication with the divine)? Is it alright because deities have encouraged seeking professional help, self care, and haven’t hindered mental health management?

Honestly, I’m pretty sure some anxious part of my brain is just picking this apart and reading too much into events that haven’t involved me harming myself or anyone else, being a threat, personal distress, or throwing up a functional obstacle to life. Maybe I’m making a mountain out of a molehill. Maybe it’s a smidge odd, but not altogether abnormal (Is it Normal to ‘Hear Voices’?). Maybe it’s weird, but it’s at least non-threatening, neutral, and doesn’t occur with more serious symptoms (Hallucination Types, Causes, and Examples). Maybe the connection between bipolar symptoms during episodes and one’s interpretations of religious experiences aren’t cut and dry, and it’s okay to still apply personal religious meaning to what’s happened over the years (“The Awful Rowing toward God”: Interpretation of Religious Experiences by Individuals with Bipolar Disorder).

Echoes of Faith

I read Sat’s post Loss of Faith: Polytheism Edition [link] in the cross-post on tumblr, thought ‘Mood’, and reblogged it over there under #shadow work. And then, it wormed its way into the mental category of ‘do not ignore’.

Because, well, some of what I wrote about The Burning and all of the [multiple, overlapping] Leaving(s) sound like it didn’t really have much of an effect on me. Some of it started somewhere in 2015, some of it didn’t kick into high gear until 2016 (Senior year/Graduation), and it wasn’t until the past few years that some components of the Leaving actually sunk in emotionally.

I suspect it might’ve been easier to talk about if I had gotten angry – a proper swearing and venting entry in a Gdoc that I could pour out of my system, even if no one else saw it – but I didn’t. I went numb, I shuffled the updates into a mental queue and left them there, and I was hit with a nostalgic sadness sometimes, way after midnight. I was incredibly embarrassed, and it was an anger-tinged shame more so than a good anger to clean out the emotional system. (Who exactly wants to admit to feeling gullible once the trick is revealed in the end?)

It was the diversity of intensity of interaction and different types of devotional relationships that kept me from feeling like I “qualified” to talk about feeling abandoned. Person 1 had been around casually for years, while Person 2 had just barely dropped by and been put into lockdown so I never built a relationship, f’ex. Neither really felt like They were ‘here’ enough to have actually abandoned me, but the sheer collective weight of all these less intense examples were a noticeable loss.

What did I do? Threw some content into some of Their tags over on tumblr, transferred sideblog content before officially deleting them, completely abandoned some tags, scheduled out final posts for Some, felt awkwardly alone struggling to interact with the devotees of Others (who appeared far happier and much closer with Them), felt stifled by a few of Their gag orders (until a recent anonymous spectrosexuality survey allowed a brief loosening, which led to sadness, regret, shame, and crying). I mostly just ignored certain feelings until enough time passed that I probably wasn’t going to ‘act irrationally’ while interacting with anyone else.

This isn’t exactly new news, but there’s a bit of a bias towards introductions and 101 material on some parts of pagan/polytheist tumblr. New people come in with – to borrow from polyam phrasing – NRE, or new relationship energy. Some people (as they’re allowed to do on their own blogs) focus on the happy parts: I think So-and-so helped me with this, here’s a picture of my altar and/or shrine for when I did my Oathing to Whoever, a heartfelt prayer overflowing with gratitude, and so much love whether spirit consorts, godspouses, etc or not. (It’s just so overwhelmingly positive.)

It felt like I was somehow doing something wrong because I needed to say goodbye to People instead of hello. It felt uncomfortable (like I was a killjoy) to interact with devotees who expressed a deep sense of loving-care with some of the People Who had hurt me. It felt like I had somehow fucked up the basics of interacting with a Deity when so many were Leaving. It felt a bit lonely when I was being given instructions to dismantle shrines, rehome objects, get rid of prayers, etc. when other people were trying to set them up.

I had heard vague rumors about some people experiencing abusive behavior from a Deity, but I was honestly blindsided by the boundary-crossing I experienced. (It didn’t look like an Earth-to-Astral crossover that was easily recognizable, and it manifested in ways that I wasn’t prepared for due to my lack of a ‘godradio’). If I hadn’t had other People Who were willing to step in, enforce changed wards, and do the heavy lifting of keeping the People involved away initially, I might’ve been SOL entirely on my own.

That this was in the midst of The Burning and Leaving didn’t exactly help because I lost some of the more intensive, closer devotional relationships I had been hoping would survive all the Leaving. But, once you feel like you can’t trust Someone or the divination They’re using to communicate with, it’s also surprisingly easy to let go. (And yet, we circle back around to Their other [current] devotees, and there’s not an easy way to handle the weird post-relationship feelings. Because Deities aren’t like human exes and ending a devotional relationship isn’t quite like a breakup.)

While importing sideblogs to WP before the 2018 Tumblr Purge went into effect, I made a note in one of my ‘personal venting docs’ in Dec 2018 while going through old sideblogs and old WP content:

In trying to find a silver lining: Rather than rushing to post about something, I did learn to wait and make sure it was still applicable, even if it does mean there were gaps in activity [on WP] and information that I don’t know what to do with after Someone had Left. I feel foolish for letting outside influence bleed into what I was doing, but I’ve learned how to double check that something actually applies to me with better accuracy.

Condensed venting: The thing that almost hurts is that I got a lot out of what now looks murky in hindsight – either Someone struggled with correcting my perception of Their Face, or for Reasons, They wanted to encourage me along a certain path for a while but had no intentions of delivering on that path in this lifetime.

It’s one thing for a pantheon to not be interested, or for me to not have the devotional clearance to interact with Someone, but it’s another thing to feel like I uselessly poured my time, attention, and devotion (some may say, love) into interaction and a relationship.

Honestly, I don’t have a nice and tidy conclusion for this. Instead of ‘once bitten, twice shy’, I feel like I’m several times bitten and now commitment avoidant. At one point in time, I very much wanted to feel like there was something coming from my People (affection, love, something more than bare tolerance???), but I’m a bit afraid I’ve lost the ability to recognize that.

Like, They wanted a Tool with few emotional connections, and now They’ve made one. What a coincidence that this aligns with some of Them wanting me to not rely on ‘the fickleness of love’ for being the initiation for offerings, service, devotion, what have you. Duty, honor, and a sense of wanting to keep your word have all made appearances while trying to interpret divination about this. (Since there are multiple People still around, it’s not an across the board thing. Some aren’t quite in the ‘love is fickle, let’s nix that’ camp.)

I don’t particularly have a grand solution for the community and ‘I can’t avoid interacting with fellow human devotees’ aspect either. I was always much more of an observer, who occasionally liked posts, than an active member of any online space. The main thing was that I just felt more of a drive to share original content and actually talk about myself, I guess. I suppose I can ease back into that, as a starting point.

Broceanic Honoring

Alright, so Poseidon has a particular Face that comes and goes (Brocean) and wants to be acknowledged about once a month (Monthly Brocean). What exactly can I do for Him when He’s in such a particular upg, not quite traditional guise? I try to keep the following in mind (Brocean & Night-Blooming Cereus):

I am the ocean and the gentle lap of the waves against the sand. I am the give and take of the tide, knowing when to compromise and when to hold firm. I move around rather than trying to force my way through. I don’t have to be immovable, stoic, and emotionless. I feel, express emotions, am gentle. The ocean isn’t always calm, but that doesn’t mean I can only feel anger or a particular slice of the actual emotional spectrum. I can be the cool water and the warm sun.

A bit ironically, my Sleipnir tag also applies to this post because there’s an element of shadow work to acknowledging emotions and working on emotional expression. The fact that an emotion is there doesn’t automatically mean it’s bad or you’re a bad person. It’s like having a ‘check ___’ light come on in a car, which can be helpful to make sure you’re still in driving condition, and it’s trying to continue to drive while ignoring that light (and the possible outcome of running out of whatever) that backfires. (Source for the analogy.)

Ignoring an emotion, bottling it all away,  or trying to only limit yourself to certain emotions isn’t healthy. It’s not healthy to try to swallow down all of your anger, sadness, and emotions that don’t fit the “light, love, positivity” group, but it’s also not healthy to only let yourself feel anger, sadness, etc. I say this as someone who’s had apathy and depression smother my emotional range into numbness, who’s had certain emotions break through the apathy a little too intensely, who may or may not be battling compassion fatigue, and who has had to prod at how socialization affects emotional expression. (Just quick examples: Don’t get angry, cry, or talk back, or it’ll just be “that time of the month”. Don’t cry; “man up”.)

I’m certainly not a poster child for healthy and safe emotional expression, and I still have to work on coping mechanisms that aren’t self-injurious, but that’s not the end of the world. There are certainly other humans in very similar boats. My freeform writing about water and emotions (above) focuses on gentleness because that’s the direction I currently need. I’d also guess that I don’t currently need this lesson from a Goddess because water and emotions are not inherently feminine, but it may just be that I already had an existing connection to Njord (hence this Face of Poseidon).

In the Norse pantheon, there’s Ran and Her nine daughters with Aegir in terms of Oceanic Goddesses, but I’ve never been cleared for interaction with any of Them because They come across as “remember I am Wild and can kill you” and I already learned the lesson of how dangerous water can be when I almost drowned as a kid. This doesn’t mean someone else might not get a tough love approach from one of Them, but this is an area where I don’t see myself doing well with that. Some people get thrown into the deep end of the pool and figure out how to swim, and other people go through the same experience and drown.

I don’t need the wild and stormy tempest to learn how to feel my anger. I don’t need rough handling and sharp edges because I can accomplish that on my own. I’ve punished myself in order to feel and tried to hurt myself into not-feeling what I was feeling, and the idea of gentleness towards my body and emotions (self-care) is the scarier option. The only way some of this emotional expression works is that I let myself do something that will not be seen by anyone else to reduce self-censorship (not even here), but I can share a tactic that works for me (no guarantee it’ll work for anyone else).

Because I’m a bottler and I have a history of not letting myself cry (stys suck), I sometimes need to go out of my way to get the tears flowing because it’s literally unhealthy on a physical level to never cry, not to mention the emotional regulation from hormones, neurochemicals, and all that. I’m not sure if it’s generational, a by-product of growing up with Fandom and self-identifying with certain characters, or simply a ‘safe’ fictional space, but I think through Angst plots for fanfiction or original fiction in order to help myself cry. I know, #emo. I don’t really write these AUs or outright new plots down compared to other plots because it’s not about being in Writer Mode, it’s just about relaxing into the emotional waves and not fighting the tears.

Lent (iv)

On the one hand, a part of me is quite alright with not thinking about why some Christians make their claims about homosexuality. On the other hand, my QT dead are doing the ancestral equivalent of a side eye because my WIP Judas Kiss clearly shows that some demons are still being exorcised about this. However, ironically, it was when a queer Jewish blogger I follow on tumblr reblogged something that I was hit upside the head with a clue-by-four. (And some Lenten blogging for my Christian QT dead means I am sharing what probably isn’t revolutionary with you guys.)

Even as someone who doesn’t go looking for Christian spaces, I still hear about some anti-gay shit, but it’s always Old Testament verses. This isn’t to say that anyone going off on those tangents is actually right, and it was more through Jewish bloggers that I realized there’s been a lot chewed over when it comes to cultural changes, translations, and all that, which typically clarifies that those verses are not about modern same-sex relationships as we think of them. The clue-by-four: The really sensational anti verses are from books that Christians classify as Old Testament and the whole bloody point of the Jesus-Cross-Shindig was that Christians took the Old Testament out of their spiritual contract with God.

Now, this doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing to provide more of the context for those Old Testament verses, but I honestly don’t remember some of the Christian Protestants doing a very good job of that. Like, what are they even doing looking at Leviticus in the first place? It’s one thing for the Jewish people to talk about the Torah because it relates to their religion, community, and – you know – them. Yeah, I know, I’m 15 minutes late, and I didn’t even bring Starbucks.

Just. The amount of emotional pain all over theologically unsound shit. *frustrated sighing*

An unexpected shadow appears

Me, trying to follow tumblr blogs because their posts will only show up on my dash (a byproduct of the purge): Ah, this is why I stopped following some of these blogs.

I can’t really stop what people fantasize over or how they phrase their advice, but even if I instantly stopped having a personal interest tomorrow, I would probably still have to face this flavor of shadow work in response to Dominant men (from what I’ve seen so far, cis men). It’s not even that I can pinpoint one particular man I’ve ever interacted with online or irl, but I just can’t stop reactions that have developed from trying to survive my country’s culture.

Choosing clothes. Orgasm control and denial. Needing permission to do something. The Dominant ordering food, making financial decisions, saying no in public. Calling the submissive slut, whore, bitch, cunt, etc. Withdrawing from touch is topping from the bottom. A lot of facial, blowjob, facefucking, and related gifs. An erotic fantasy caption about ‘using a toy’.

First reaction: I really wish bloggers tagged their gifs and photosets (blacklisting a phrase can catch a text post that’s untagged, but a gif often doesn’t have text). Second: I’m not sure if there’s a faster way to engage Wolf mode and bring out my inner Wolf. Third: I don’t know what to do with all this anger and pain, but I am aware that lashing out at individual men is not the answer. (Well, it might lessen the pain for a little bit in the short-term, but long-term, it isn’t productive.)

It’s more that I’m angry at the historical precedent and social messages from Cishet Men™. The majority of clothing marketing and design has been by men and has the root of making me (supposedly) more attractive to men. My sexuality and sexual expression should be in service to het men or include being willing to be queer on display (and possibly make an exception for him). Men already have a habit of talking for and over women and other people, and if I were conventionally attractive, I could experience plenty of men calling me those names just existing in public spaces. I already have to deal with reclaiming my body from being constantly available to men, and that’s not even diving into being on the ace spectrum. There’s also a retro 1950s housewife feel to some of the content, especially regarding household chores, and there are plenty of vanilla men who want a stay-at-home homemaker type and/or “”split”” chores along gendered expectations.

Intellectually, I can understand that this gets into personal choice, reclaiming (ex. slut), and individual dynamics where there’s trust (often taking place behind-the-scenes compared to whatever post is being shared). On a less cerebral level, I just don’t know if I can personally set down all of my armor, walls, baggage, etc. This isn’t to say that every individual cis man out there will explicitly act out all of the above, but sometimes I feel like a buzzkill when, for example, it feels like I can’t escape the dominant men assigning household chores to their subs, who are overwhelmingly women, and the irritation that it seems to reinforce women as caretaker assumptions. You do you, your kink is not my kink, and all kinds of variables about how it works for that specific dynamic – but it also feels like it’s everywhere.

  1. [X] Acknowledge that there is a reaction.
  2. [_] ???
  3. [_] Stop feeling like a killjoy, borderline jerk, and/or like I’m tapping into the Pack’s Anger somehow.

Admittedly, I don’t think it’ll be possible to get rid of all of these reactionary instincts because they’ve built up because there’s a clear cause. It’s a bit more like I need to channel survival reactions towards survival situations aka pick battles. How? Stop reading the post, take a deep breath, and consider:

  1. Is this post written with me as the intended audience (queer, trans, all that jazz)? Honestly, the answer is more often than not ‘no’, so I need to pour on the salt and consider if it’s actually helpful for the intended audience. If it is, and especially if it’s not a general, 101 type of post, my blood pressure would benefit from erring on the side of ignoring it.
  2. Is this post written with a 101, educational angle or topic where I might be included in the audience? Has the writer included a disclaimer or authorial note acknowledging dynamics outside of what they’re using as examples? Some of these posts do make a point of doing so, and even if it’s  c o n v e n i e n t  that they still default to he/Dom and she/sub, it can ease some of my internal kneejerk reactions.
  3. If this post could include me in the audience but is written in a way that explicitly focuses on cishet dynamics, does adding my two cents where I am included outweigh the emotional and mental cost of facing backlash and Educating? Honestly, probably not. Would it be easier to look for an already inclusive post or blog? More than likely.

And so, despite thinking I could weather the tumblr purge in whatever remnants of the bdsm / kink community might remain, I have been forced to realize that I actually need to try to look for queer and trans kink bloggers and/or resources, which may mean poking around off tumblr. I’m not saying there’s something weird that keeps us from extrapolating from cishet sources, but having at least a place where I don’t have to do all that All Of The Time might help.

Fanfic as Coping

[Cross posted from my main tumblr blog, and originally posted on 7 Oct 2018. I don’t plan on this WP blog turning into an exclusively fandom related blog, but certain fanfics have either been instrumental to coping / grieving or Someone has decided to hijack an element, so I’m going to have some fanfic content.]

I know I’ve mentioned my grandfather’s cancer diagnosis but not really gone into it here, but I wanted to explain why it suddenly seemed like the only content I was reblogging had to do with fanfiction or inspiration for WIPs (part of my #writing prompt tag). Honestly, it may not make sense to some people, but I was drawn to reading fics with certain themes or elements when he was first diagnosed, and part of coping throughout the summer and fall included writing.

I was in not necessarily nice, proper, or polite tags on ao3. Rape / Non-con, dubious consent, consensual non-con, Master/slave, sexual slavery and Ownership, and elements where there was a loss of control. Because there’s nothing like a loved one facing a terminal illness and mortality to make you feel like you have no control over anything. There’s nothing like trying to ignore the initial anger and blame [1] and the fear to make you feel like you need to have control over something.

I came across a Master/slave fic back in April that I liked some ideas from, but obviously, I had some ideas of where I would try to take things in a different direction. The premise is that Harry is emotionally manipulated into a training school for slaves and the trainer he’s involved with will supposedly win his contract at auction, but given that it’s a Drarry fic, it’s not a surprise that the recruiter isn’t his Owner / Master. In my opinion, “Playing with Fire” seemed to gloss over the problems with this dubious training and the fallout for Harry afterwards, and I’m not even sure I can adequately explain why I wanted (needed?) to make it darker.

Some people talk about how writers like to play God, and they tend to go for a motivation by hubris. This wasn’t about pride that I could fuck Harry up more or write some part of the fic “better”. Writing the dissociation, having Harry struggle with stepping away from his body, digging into the anger at the trainer mixed in with the guilt for missing him (or at least expecting his reactions), and interspersing the memories, triggers, and flashbacks comes down to control. Figuring out if I wanted to flashback to a rape scene, only hint at it, and how it might affect Harry now is about controlling the loss of control. I, as the writer, can fuck around with this character’s body and head, and I can choose to leave us in angst or turn the arc a little upwards, and I can get us to a less fucked up place by the end. (Hopefully.)

As I’ve written about recently, my grandfather died at the end of September (a bit over a week ago). I uploaded the first chapter to ao3 last night, and I’m honestly not going to be surprised if this doesn’t get a huge amount of attention. But I’m not abandoning this fic because it’s cathartic, a bit self-indulgent in places, and it’s the closest I’ve been to something that’s not original fiction in a while. Because even as I’ve got Dark shit in the past (that’s not directly or explicitly in the current chapters), I’ve got non-sexual submission / kink, Mind Healing, kintsugi as therapy, and less fucked up shit in the future chapters. (Assuming someone sticks it out until then.)

. . .

[1] In a post from the time of the initial diagnosis, I talked about the types of cancer (lung cancer + lymphoma) and how it was partially do with an activity my grandfather chose to take part in (smoking). A part of me understands that there were other variables and doesn’t blame him solely, but initially, I did struggle a bit with that.

Human Hunger

[Cross posted and backdated from a sideblog. Originally posted on 28 Nov 2013 and tagged #encouragement, #Lady of Untying (emotional vulnerability, human fragility, feeling, etc.).]

Your needs don’t make you too much. They don’t make you selfish or weak or greedy. They make you human. We all have needs. And those hungers aren’t something we should feel ashamed of. They’re normal, we didn’t get enough of them as children hungers. Affections we’ve been deprived of by the people who are supposed to care for us. Connections we needed to feel whole and spaces we needed to feel safe. Cravings we’ve been taught we didn’t deserve. Appetites we’ve learned to suppress and fill with guilt. Again and again we’ve neglected our needs because we’ve been taught that they were too much— that we were too much. But we don’t have to any longer. You don’t have to. Whether you need support, alone time, affection, connection, validation, or reassurance that you are loved — it is more than okay to ask for what you need. Making your needs known isn’t about being demanding or selfish. It’s about self-care. It’s about creating a safer space for yourself. It’s about using your voice and speaking your truth. It’s about giving yourself permission to take up space. It’s about listening to your hungers and honoring them. It’s about honoring yourself.

Daniell Koepke  (via internal-acceptance-movement) (via littlerestlessone)

Self-Care (cross post)

[Cross posted and backdated from a sideblog. Originally posted on 31 May 2014 and tagged #Lady of the Bowl (for self-care).]

I don’t particularly want to lose one perspective on self-care, but I also don’t want to deal with not being able to backdate a WP reblog. For those who want to read the original WP post from Satsekhem: https(:)//satsekhem(.)wordpress(.)com/2014/05/31/self-care/

Art and words by Michael Leunig. X

Smouldering

Yesterday was our first dark day since Dancing at Lughnasa opened and, fittingly, Lughnasa itself. Nine-for-a-kiss opened up readings on her tumblr blog, and I was nudged to take advantage of the opportunity.

Metaphorically speaking, I’ve been burned away and scorched clean by recent shadow work. People have stepped out, kinda returned, Left. There’s supposed to be a new path, but all I can see are the ashes and charred remains of what was. I keep getting contradictory answers and silence. Did /A\ really leave after I burned into preparation to follow Their path? Was it all a lie?

First things first: the fire may be out, but there are still some embers smouldering. You need to tend to yourself before you can see about any path, and that means care, because shadow work is so much about destruction. Make sure you’re tended, fed, sheltered, rested.

After that: I don’t know that what you’re experiencing now is the truth, or the whole of the truth. There seems to be at least a little bit of…misdirection, maybe, or maybe just reshuffling. I’m not saying that it was all a lie, more that – there are degrees of truth; there are degrees of reality, too. There’s been a certain amount of culling what was unnecessary, and that takes different shapes. Does that make any sense? The important thing for you right now is yourself, whole. The path-that-is may not look like a path, it may look more like jumping off a building, but it’s there, or it will be. Have patience. Wait and recuperate. Treat yourself well. Treat yourself. The time will come when you have to jump, but that time is not now.

((Polite ending.))

I decided to give myself a day of self care before I did anything else, and it did help. I wound up opening the document I’ve set aside for ‘chatting’ with my dead and did some processing at one point. The self care routine wasn’t really exciting in terms of sharing here, but it was enough of a first step that I could get clear answers this morning.

/A\ and I had different expectations of the Burning and what was going to come of it. I thought that the majority of People were leaving, and I would focus my path mostly on /A\. They thought that everyone else was going to leave, and I was solely going to focus on Them. When the Burning came to an official end and I still had my core People (Family, Who are very unlikely to leave), /A\ backpedaled.

To me, it seemed like lying, but looking back, it was more like truth-stretching and finding loopholes. I can’t say that I’m angry, but perhaps disappointed? I’ve been Burning since this past autumnal equinox, and I started the first steps of transitioning to Their path in January. Yeah, I’ve had unnecessary stuff removed, but if I’d have known that by August that They were going to change Their mind, some of the past year’s changes could’ve been implemented differently.

Oh, the time to jump is definitely not now. At least the silence has been broken. At least I didn’t get too far along Their path (because I don’t know how I’d try to explain to other people that I couldn’t continue because They rejected me).

A half chapter

I made it through my last week of Finals in the last week of April (it seems like we graduated really early this year compared to other years (and schools)). I knocked out a 10 page paper for Theatre History: The Real and The Absurd [due Thurs], and I survived that 12 page paper for Art & Morality [due Sat 11:59 pm after moving out of the dorm].

I interviewed for a position with the Tantrum Theater, which is starting off for its first year as a collaboration between OU and the Abbey Theater in Dublin. I was offered a contract and accepted, and then I – and other Seniors – found out that it’s technically a summer class (Off Campus Practicum), so we have to delay graduation in order to still be full time students.

This means that I walked but technically am considered a Super-Senior because my graduation paperwork hasn’t gone through and everything. Yeah, that weekend starting May off was – fun. Walk Sat AM, move out of dorm by 6 pm, finish and turn in paper online by 11:59 pm, do laundry, get anything I wouldn’t want for Tantrum out of the car, repack some boxes, and move into (the first of several) Tantrum housing on Sunday.

Like, I finished a chapter of my life, but I actually haven’t. So many friends are returning in the fall – at the very least for their Senior year – and some actually need the class credit that this will provide, and I feel like I’ve almost been pushed out the door but the door actually shut on me. I’m here to help this get started, get to help on some of the improvements for next year in the Shop, and so many of us keep forgetting that I’m not coming back.

I’ve been so busy trying to do all of the class shit for the semester that it hasn’t really processed that I’m leaving. I finished two BFAs in four years, and now it’s time to get non-academic experience. I wasn’t prepared for all these conflicting feelings, I guess. Accomplishment – it’s been a while since someone has completed these two BFAs within four years. Not feeling prepared. Fear of failure, of leaving and fucking everything up.

A restlessness that I usually associate with summers because I don’t have academics consuming everything. An antsy feeling that my brainweasels aren’t going to play nice as the last of this medication works it way out of my system, and a vague sense of concern about handling these brainweasels in the future (I think they evolved away from being just seasonal depression to being something that includes that and ____???).

I wasn’t expecting to feel this lonely. The crew is composed of four people (including me) who have all spent at least the last year working together, and damn, have there already been bonding moments. But I can already tell that something’s not quite right; I feel less than – less knowledgeable, less prepared, less worthy of being here.

A part of me can parrot back the whole “I don’t have to apologize for existing, I’m not a burden” spiel, but I don’t know to what extent I believe this. I feel like I can’t quite trust what my brain is telling me because I could just want some alone time, but I could also be starting off the whole self-isolating thing, but I could also be making shit up for attention.

There’s still been a fair bit of Burning™ as well, and I’ve kind of had that “young kid being talked over by adults who are making all the decisions” sensation. I can understand that there’s a lot that goes into Leaving, and People don’t seem to Leave quickly, but it kinda feels like that two ships passing in the wind saying.

Responding positivedoodle from m’Lady:

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And another from Sleipnir:

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