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On The Failure Of A Respected Mentor

For the last two years, I have aspired to become a member of an organization which I had a lot of love for. I showed up. I did the work. I continued when concerning things gave me pause and frustration.

About a month before I was scheduled to officially join their ranks, I walked a way. The decision was hard. It hurts. I hurt. I had no other choice. 

An incident happened with one of the senior members of the organization, which caused a lot of upset with the pending new members. I requested a meeting with the new members and the head of this organization. Part of the request was that we were able to meet and have a conversation without the problematic senior leader present, because that person made many of us feel unsafe and unable to be honest. Effective conflict resolution involves giving people the space to be heard, so the actual problems can be discussed, then addressed calmly. 

My request was met with a visceral response that left me stunned. The tone implied that *I* was the problem, that my request was unreasonable, and that I needed to get with the program or leave. “We don’t talk about people behind their backs.” “This is how we do things…if you choose not to do it our way, then you choose not to be a part of us.” I was hurt. I was angry. I was disappointed beyond measure. I felt unwanted and like an ultimatum had been issued to either fundamentally compromise myself, or go. 

So, after much tears and prayer, I walked away. I found out afterward that the same leader who said “we don’t talk about people behind their backs” proceeded to then speak about me to the rest of the group. When called out about the breaking of the rule, this leader then justified that they were allowed to talk about their experiences and feelings, so the rule didn’t apply to them. 

To date, this leader had done absolutely zero to attempt to correct their harmful, hurtful, and hypocritical behavior. I am of the opinion that this person has justified their behavior, has placed the blame on me, and is not going to wait for me to come crawling back. It will never happen. I did nothing wrong. I was not unreasonable. Refusing to enable bad behavior and a broken process is something I am known for.

This hurts. I have many friends in this organization, who regularly post about how wonderful this organization is. It, frankly, makes me want to scream. The very core beliefs that this thing is supposed to be founded on were ignored at the whim of someone we all had great love, trust, and respect for. I am cast out because of it. I do not feel safe in attempting to reach out, again, to try to find resolution. I do not feel welcome. I am disappointed, disillusioned, and frustrated. 

I am at a loss. 

Until Next Time,

~Rose

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On Mental Health and Spirituality

As someone who has run the mental health treatment gauntlet for many years, the one piece that has always frustrated me is when they say “today we are going to talk about spirituality.” The resounding groans and obvious checking out of the group participants has always been tied to one thing: “spirituality” always ends up turning into talks about Jesus. 

Don’t get me wrong, if Jesus is helping you handle your shit, awesome. However, turning a conversation that is supposed to be about caring for the soul and spirit into a sermon on the importance of the Bible and church causes many people who desperately need spiritual care to check the fuck out. This is not your forum to proselytize in. We are not here to have our eternal souls saved from damnation. 

Before you get off on a Jesus/Christian bashing tangent, understand that I’m not writing this to talk about Christianity. In six years and countless rounds of therapeutic treatments, it never crossed my mind until this morning that I had let the alienation of those classes affect something that is key to my mental health. I have been a practicing-mostly-in-a-private-closet witch for fifteen years. I grew up Christian, and the conflict with the many family members and friends who still have ties to the religion I left has caused me to go to great lengths to downplay my faith. I hold great fears on the responses, on how they will affect my child, on how they might affect my employability, and on how, in this “progressive” time, there is still a substantial amount of discrimination and hostility in the United States for holding non-Christian beliefs. I have seen the harm caused in the name of Christianity and I deeply fear it. 

I am a witch. It is not a secret that I am a witch. I post pictures of my altar. I affiliate myself with incredible practitioners, covens, and events. I have relationships with deities that many would say are myths. I work magic to change the world. This is who I am and it brings me great joy and peace. 

Yet, as I sat in the classes on the importance of spiritual self-care and how it affects mental health, I could not reconcile it as a reality for me. I do not have a church to go worship in. I do not have a sacred holy book. I cannot talk about my gods and their lore, and expect most of the room to be at least passingly familiar with the stories. If I talk about how They work in my life, I get accused of insanity or consorting with evil. I found myself becoming closely allied with the atheists. Although they did not share my beliefs, they were far more content to just say “not my deal” and move on. Together we wrote off the classes as not relevant; we didn’t need big voices in the sky to fix what is wrong with our brains. 

Last night, I cleaned my altar for the first time in months. I lit candles and incense, and performed rituals I had been putting off because of lack of energy and headspace. I made offerings. I prayed. Prayer is only something I have recently been able, through the words of YesheRabbit, to start calling what it is: a petition to the god/desses. It is not just a Christian thing, contrary to the thought that had led me for years to flinch at the word. 

This morning it struck me how much clearer my head is, compared to the last couple weeks. I have been hanging on just this side of rage-quitting and hiding under my bed forever. The many contributing factors to my building mental health meltdown felt insurmountable and out of my control. I was fighting them off by trying to stay busy, and I was rapidly losing. The accomplishments in my garden and life, and the couple recent distance rituals I participated in were temporary balms to the perpetual devastation of hurt and heartache. Now, the sun peeking through the blinds as I lit the candles and hummed my morning devotion felt like hope, not the sign of another day of failure. 

Oh, this is what they mean by feeding your spiritual needs. This is how my mental health can be supported through the feeding of my soul. Why didn’t I get this before?

Feeding the soul doesn’t mean some perfect routine of devotion. It doesn’t have to include getting on your knees before any deity, though it helps to answer the ones calling you; they’ll get less subtle the longer you ignore them. (Trust me, I am an expert on the flying brick consequences.) Feeding your soul is about honoring what brings you joy and fulfillment, but more than that: feeding your soul is about connecting to the universe around you. Here is the moment where I can hear Mother Nature speaking. Now is the time I can feel the link between myself and every living creature. This is white I feel small, yet infinite. In this moment, I am whole, capable, and powerful. I see myself, and I am beautiful. 

In the battles of chronic physical and mental health issues, the loss of one’s life essence – their very spirit – is often painfully evident. Pain, in any form, has a pervasive ability to smother joy. In the quest to keep moving, it is vitally important to find the light to banish the darkness overtaking the soul. You don’t need to find God, in any specific form. You do, however, need to find what moves you on a primal level and hold it close. Take a walk in the woods, stand on a cliff by the ocean, pray, dance, make art…do what feeds the fires of your heart and makes your spirit sing; the part of your brain that isn’t an asshole will thank you for it. 

Until Next Time,

~Rose

On Self Care

Self care is not weak. Prioritizing self care is not weakness. Self care does not have to be earned or justified. Burning the candle at both ends does nothing but leave you with a burned out mess. There is no prize for damaging you body and mind, and no award for prioritizing the desires of others over your physical, mental, and emotional needs. You have the right to say “no” to any plans and invitations, without need for guilt or justifications. You have the right to choose plans that heal and reenergize you, over any others. You deserve to feel well-rested, happy, healthy, and as pain free as possible. You have the right to distance or cut yourself off from people who do not support those goals, because they do not have your best interests in mind or heart.

Self care is not weak. Self care is not selfish. Self care is not something that should be continually downplayed as a priority. The need for self care does not require anyone else’s approval or permission. Self care is not one-size-fits all.

Self care is essential. Self care is a demonstration of strength and love. Self care is healthy. Self care enables you to care for others. Self care is important because your needs are important and deserve to be met.

You already deserve it. You already earned it. Now go do it.

Until Next Time,
~Rose

On PTSD at Four A.M.

I’m tired of people being scared of me.

PTSD is a lot of things, anger probably being the most dominant that others see. Anger is safe. You don’t have to feel feelings. You don’t have to get hurt.

A lot of people avoid me, treat me like a ticking time bomb that’s about to explode. Given my history, I can’t blame them.

But I am so fucking lonely.

Outside the fact that my physical health regularly causes me to isolate, I battle a lot with feeling unwanted. My emotions aren’t normal. I’m screwed up. I’m a mess. Why would anyone want to be around this?

i don’t reach out, because vulnerability gets you hurt. There is NOTHING in the world that hurts more than the resounding silence to a cry for help. And I get it on a regular basis.

Of all things that have given me breakthroughs, I never thought an anger management class would be one. In black and white, the paper in front of me stated that a source of anger can be unmet needs.

This, of course, made me ANGRY.

Until I fled crying.

My life is helping others. I support. I care for. I fundraise. I burn myself out trying to make their worlds better.

The reason I don’t kill myself is because of the people who need me and it makes me disgusted with myself.

Some days, a lot of days, I feel like the only thing I am is what others need me to be.

I don’t want to hurt people. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t like being angry. I do it because I feel I have to. Someone has to be the badguy. And how I really feel, no one wants to handle.

The first time I was sexually assaulted, I was twelve and it was by another female. I can’t remember most of that day. Given my history since then, I’m a mess. I trust no one. I’ve been abused and manipulated and abandoned for being vulnerable. No one wants me.

I can save everyone except for me.

A few months ago, the Navy ripped my heart out. Whatever the intention, they told me that by needing mental health treatment, I was a defect and needed to be punished. They DID punish me.

Then they abandoned me. “Everyone is scared of you, because you’re angry.” Dude, I’m lying on the ground bleeding to death, because I had everything ripped away from me, then was told I deserved it, and being emotional proved them right. Fuck you. Of course I’m angry.

I lost everything.

I contemplated self-harm and suicide daily. I tried to kill myself. I avoided work and systematically shut down. I felt like they wanted me to crack.

My fiancé ended our engagement. Unwantable. Not good enough.

I’m fundamentally flawed. The anger keeps the tears away. The anger keeps anyone from hurting me more.

I feel like a wild cat, wounded and backed in a corner. Don’t touch me. Just let me nurse my wounds and die in peace.

Don’t hurt me anymore.

I need patience. I need support. I need to be held. I need to know that other people want me, even though I’m a fucked up monster.

I need people to stop looking at me with fear and pity. Goddamnit. I am not weak. But I am. I hate the weakness.

I am trying so hard to fix me, to do what the doctors say, to take the meds, follow the process, get better…but it keeps blowing up in my face. How am I supposed to get better if the system keeps failing me?

What the hell is “better” anyways? Everyone wants you to go back to who you were before, bur that person is dead. Every day is waking up, looking in the mirror and not recognition yourself. So you pretend, to make everyone happy, while you’re falling apart inside, while the nightmares eat you, while the monsters slowly win. Eventually you’ll snap and lash out and no one will catch you. They don’t want YOU, they just want what they built you to be.

I want to stop failing. This is not an invitation to tell me I’m not, because I am. I scare my son. I can’t be a good mom. I can’t work. I can’t human. I don’t want to leave my bed. I hide on the internet because it’s the only way people stay with me. Everyone is at a distance. Safer.

I don’t know what to do anymore.

It is so easy for someone on the outside to say “just let people in.” Dude, people suck. They hurt you. They only want you for what they can get out of you.

I’m fucking tired of planning, of trying, of begging.

I’m so tired.

Until Next Time,

~Rose

On Feeling Helpless

“At what point do you cave, do you say I need a cane, I need a wheelchair, I just fucking can’t because getting out of bed takes too much? But I promised to take my son to the zoo and he’s going to be so disappointed again. Only ever knowing a mom who’s sickness always wins. 

At what point do you admit that you can’t? When you’re huddled on the bathroom floor, again? When you’re too tired to move? When you’re too weak to stand? When the medicines are making you so sick, no food will stay down? Not that you’re hungry, anyways. 

At what point do you beg for help? When all you want to do is make dinner, but you can’t lift your arms or stand. The excitement of a small child who wants to help shredding your heart because you’re so tired, so angry. It’s not his fault you’re failing. 

At what point do you give up? When you can’t dissociate from the pin anymore? When you almost collapse because they expect you to stand? When you’re crying in the bathroom, because you can’t make it through the day? When you smile, because they demand it? You’re happy your relationships are long distance, because they won’t leave you for can walking dates. You avoid pictures, so no one comments on how pale and tired you look. You avoid the mirrors and the haunted eyes staring back at you. You take the meds and pray they help, but everything keeps failing. 

At what point do you get to not be strong? When will they stop assuming everything is okay? When will they stop reminding you of the people who depend on you, as if you don’t know? When do you get to catch a break?

At what point do things get better? Because it feels like a lie. Drowning in the private hell of a body that, once upon a time, could. You hate those pictures now, the reminders of someone you’ll never be again. Why is this so unfair?

At what point do you get to be real, when real means you’re not okay?”

Being 27 means a lot of things, but it should never mean “your body is quitting on you.” 

After struggling with chronic pain for almost five years, I received the staggering dual-diagnosis of fibromyalgia and arthritis. I wish that was the extent of the issues, but it isn’t. In addition to those, I also have: chronic muscle spasms, post-traumatic headaches, carpel tunnel, thyroid issues, TMJ, PTSD, MDD, ADHD, two vertebrae sitting on my spinal cord, long-term memory issues, the Bubonic plague…

Okay, I don’t actually have the plague, but that’s what it feels like.

I’m on an arsenal of medications now. Three times a day (or more) I slug down a handful of pills designed to keep me moving and functional. The reality is a roller coaster of good days and hell days. Overall, I sometimes feel like my body is doing worse, since I started getting treatment. The hard truth is that the deterioration is one of those things that’s going to get steadily worse.

I can’t stand looking at pictures of me from when I was functional. I can’t stand getting emails from the fitness activities I used to love doing. I have avoided canceling my gym membership, because I keep hoping…

I’m scared I’m never going to make it through the rest of my life without needing other people to care for me. Fuck, I don’t even have the energy to shower most days.

I’m 27. This is bullshit.

On Being Crazy And Learning To Be Normal

When it comes to mental disorders, I sometimes feel like I won the genetic lottery. My biological father is narcissistic, has borderline personality disorder, and had massive anger issues. His mother is a hoarder, the likes of which could easily star on the similarly-named television show about being buried alive. His father I don’t know much about, except he was also angry a lot. His siblings have varying degrees of borderline and other personality disorders. My mother has gone a few rounds with depression and has PTSD. Her father seems pretty normal, but her mother has control-freak tendencies. My great-grandmother was apparently a raging alcoholic and had major anger issues. Dad’s side of the family also has alcohol and drug issues.

I have been diagnosed with PTSD, a major depressive disorder, and fibromyalgia. I also inherited my paternal grandmother’s hoarding, although, thankfully, to a lesser degree. I inherited an obscene tolerance for alcohol and painkillers. I have a temper that terrifies me. I’ve battled suicide ideations since I was 12. I have my father’s ability to be beloved in public and a monster in private. I’m a monster in my own head.

But I am not my father. I am not the monsters. For whatever I’m capable of, I am an inherently good person. (Don’t tell anyone that. It will ruin my carefully cultivated reputation.) My world is better when I can do kind things for others. I’m an idiot for giving people too many second chances and always believing I can bring out the good in others, if I work hard enough. I spend way too much time crying over being crushed because I put myself out there.

A couple nights ago, my mother came the closest she ever had to admitting that she realized I’d been battling a lot of mental issues for most of my life. She told me I was more alive and together than I have ever been and that she was watching me overcome things I’d struggled with since I was a child. Her words struck me to the core. I have spent so many years trying to survive the minefield in my own head, feeling like a hypocrite because I tell others it is going to get better, but not believing it as truth for myself.

For the first time in my life, I genuinely believe that things can and are getting better.

Finding a medication that works for me has made a profound difference. Anyone who has never battled depression or another persistent mental disorder can shut the fuck up about medication, therapy, and what it takes to become fully functional in life. This shit isn’t easy to live with and it sure as hell isn’t something you can just choose to get over.

At 27 years old, I feel like I have to relearn everything in my life. I have new tolerances for foods and medicines. I have new abilities to function. I now have the ability to get out of bed and into the world without it drowning me.

Recovery is a process. Things don’t get better anywhere near as fast as we want them to. I wish I could snap my fingers and have my life and world in order, but Mary Poppins kind of hogged that ability. Bitch.

If you’re drowning, go get help. Please go get help. I had resigned myself to a personal hell, before I finally found a solution that helped me. It has taken years to get relief. I’m not perfect. It isn’t always easy. But the fact I can say that each day is a step of progress is huge for me. I’m okay with taking baby steps and no longer feel like a failure for it. LOOK GUYS! I MADE PROGRESS.

Progress is awesome. Get some.

Until Next Time,
~Rose

On Walking Your Dog Without A Leash

As a dog owner and rescuer, there is nothing that drives me up the wall as fast as inconsiderate owners who have their out of control furry children running amuck.

I’m not saying to not ever take your dog off-leash, but if you do, please observe the following rules:

1. Always, ALWAYS bring a leash with you. Because you never know what might happen. It can also earn you a substantial fine (and potentially the loss of your dog) in most places, if you don’t.

1a. If you encounter another human or dog that seems uncomfortable or is causing issues, put the damn leash on your dog and walk away. This rule also applies if your dog is distracted or you are in a dangerous or high-traffic area.

2. Do not let your dog off leash if you can’t or won’t exercise vocal command control over it. If you don’t know what that means, you shouldn’t be letting your dog off leash. If your dog gets distracted by shiny things and/or ignores you and/or runs off…do I really need to elaborate?

3. Carry poop bags and clean up after your fucking dog. I shouldn’t have to explain this.

4. Do not EVER let your dog run up to other people or dogs without asking if it is okay FIRST. Again, see rule number two. Also, make people ask before petting your dog or letting their dog run up to you/yours. Encourage good manners all around.

5. Do not let your dog-aggressive dog off leash anywhere other dogs might be.

6. Do not let your dog get farther away from you than the distance you would want to cover quickly, in case of a fight or attack. Your dog may be the best behaved dog on the planet. The neighbors or their dog…

7. Keep your dog out of other people’s yards.

8. Don’t be an asshole. Show others the respect you would like to get.

9. I shouldn’t have to say this, but if your animal isn’t up-to-date on shots or potentially has any contagious or aggression-causing issue (such as not being fixed) do not let them come into contact with other dogs or humans without verbally warning the humans/pet owners about the issue.

10. Remember that you represent all dog owners and whatever breed your dog is/resembles. Pet ordinances and the reactions of the public to your dog and all dogs depends on you and all other owners being responsible and good citizens.

I take my dog for walks around my apartment complex off leash. We continuously work on commands and etiquette. She is required to sit and wait for my permission before walking up to greet people (she loves people and getting petted). She knows the command “go home” and not to go beyond a certain distance before stopping and waiting for my verbal cue to continue. This took a lot of work and takes a lot of consistent work to maintain and we also take lots of walks with her leashed. If she is off leash, I still always carry a leash with me. If police and military working dog officers, with their extensively well-trained dogs still always carry a leash, there is no reason I shouldn’t. It’s irresponsible to assume my dog is so awesome that I will never need one.

Protect your dog. Protect yourself. Don’t be an asshole.

Until Next Time,
~Rose