In my last post spoke about ordeals, and the fact that I was going through one. So I thought it only fair to write a post about what has happened and what I learned from the said ordeal.
What’s an Ordeal Again?
In any spiritual or religious tradition, there are times when you are tested. My belief is because we are having a human experience in a physical world, there will always be tests of some sort. I think that each struggle we have in this human existence is here to help us learn and to become stronger both physically in this world, but also emotionally and spiritually.
Many ordeals won’t have a clear-cut beginning, nor ending. My recent ordeal was a mixture of my own doing (going to graduate school, choosing to work with Odin in more of a fashion he likes), the environment (the hubby losing his job) and various other micro decisions that I have made over the course of my life. A lot of times a physical ordeal feels like it just sort of happens. You can’t point to an exact issue or decision, but all of a sudden, you think you are in one, and sure enough, you get a sign that says exactly that.
Spiritual ordeals can also be initiations, as I mentioned in my previous post. And yes, I’ve had several of these over the course of my spiritual progression. But what is interesting and what I tried to explain in my previous post is that most ordeals are actually physical; in 25 years of being an active pagan (‘active’ being defined as in one who was tied to some sort of community and came out as ‘pagan’ to friends and family) I can think of less than 10 instances that were actual all-out initiations that could be considered ordeals. But those are a lot of what we hear about in the pagan community. They are the ones that sound awesome and dramatic. It’s neat to talk about the weekend retreat where you became an initiate of something or was accepted into a specific group or underwent a rite. It’s not as fun to talk about the day-in / day-out grind of doing additional disciplines because you promised you would do them in exchange for certain knowledge (or because you are required to do so as a priest/ess or devotee…).
Darkest Before the Dawn
I also want to note something here about the worst part of an ordeal – just before it is over. There were days in November where I was screaming at Odin. Literally. Here I was, doing all this work in his name, and he couldn’t even make sure I had a stable financial base so that I could focus all my energy on what he wanted me to do in the first place. I felt left behind, alone and scared, and wanted to make sure he knew all of it was his fault.
At that point, I was angry, tired, frustrated and damn near broken. Down in every possible way but not quite out. Incrementally, in very slow, deliberate moves that made baby steps looked like a freaking sprint, I was moving. And that is another thing about ordeals; you think you are going to break, but inevitably, you don’t. You break just enough to release that which you needed to release. In the darkness, you find a faith in yourself that you never had before. It’s a faith that tells you that you CAN make it another day, and somehow you keep going.
It was after the worst of this that I reached out to another of Odin’s claimed to see if his experiences with the old man were anything like I was experiencing. It turns out they were, and he chastised me for not asking for help sooner. And that is a very good point. I didn’t ask for help. I probably should have, even though I knew there were lots of points about my ordeals that I had to get through myself. But even having an ear to bend about the frustrations thrust upon those who work for someone that is at times called “You Bastard…” would have helped. A lot. So I encourage those who think they are going through ordeals to reach out – even if it’s online – to fellow devotees. It will help you understand what exactly you are going through as well as make you feel better about the tasks at hand.
After the Ordeal Is Over
There are many times when I have undergone spiritual ordeals that I was literally exhausted both mentally and physically, but at the same time, I was emotionally pumped. Sometimes when this happens the only thing you want to do is sleep, yet that is the last thing that crosses your mind. It’s a very weird state to be in. (A fun state sometimes but a very weird state nonetheless.)
The physical ordeals are much different, especially because of the autoimmune crap that is fibromyalgia and other maladies I deal with on a daily basis. Most of the ordeals were over in mid-December (at least the largest portion of it). But even now we are almost to mid-January and in many ways, I am still exhausted as I piece together the outputs of my struggles.
My personal ordeal also has me in a bit of a state of ‘weirdness’. Although a large portion of things in this ordeal are done, I still have more classwork to do. The hubby’s new job has meant finances have been a large question mark for three months, only to be (hopefully!) settled in February when he starts getting regular paychecks. And now I need to contend with creating new boundaries for those that have changed their reactions toward me because of the changes I have made in myself.
But even though that weirdness is there, I recognize I’ve made some huge advances. My trust in myself and my skill levels have expanded. I also know a granthi has been undone. A granthi is a Sanskrit term for a knotted area of energy in the body that blocks the flow of potential. Now that this phase of my ordeal is over, I know where this particular granthi came from, why it was there, and what happened to make it go away. I now also recognize that this area needs special care in word and deed to ensure that the granthi does not come back.
And because of that change in my potential, there are now more requests being made of me. Recently I was asked (repeatedly, because I said no first) to do what I call a ‘deity reading’ for another pagan that scared the hell out of me. A deity reading is when a client is asking specifically about what a deity requests of them. I don’t like doing them because it means I’m speaking FOR that particular God and didn’t trust my gifts enough to be able to clearly relay the message. Yet a couple days ago I found myself in that position. And now I know I was meant to be there; I was meant to give the advice I did because once I started the message flowed very well. There are other advancements as well, but I expect to be writing more about those in time when I finally have words to express them.
So again, I put this all out here again for others to see for the specific reason of letting others know what an ordeal actually looks like, what the intentions are, what can be understood about them and to help people recognize that they are not alone in going through them. It is also for me; to document where I’ve been. Perhaps I’ll come back to this post in a year and recognize so much more that happened during this ordeal. Because that is part of their nature as well; the ripples in the psyche made during one of these experiences also go through every aspect of your life.
If someone reads this and thinks they are going through one, I hope they will reach out if they feel they need to so they recognize that they are not alone. Paganism may be a very personal religious path, but it’s not one in a vacuum, and many times the ordeals are shared. But you won’t know unless you reach out.
This is one of those posts that I don’t want to write, but I need to write (and have been asked to write). And so, I’m going to write it. But note that this is under duress.
You see, I am going through an ordeal right now. I have been for months. And the fact of the matter is, it’s of my own choosing.
Well, kind of.
I am choosing to write this for a couple of reasons. I think the biggest reason is that I need to finally come out and say what the heck is going on in my life, and why I haven’t blogged in two months. But it’s also because I don’t know if many understand what a spiritual ordeal actually is, and what it means to go through one. I’ve seen many people focus on the spiritual aspects of a goal and not recognize the ordeal that needs to be gone through in order to achieve that goal. Or, people only focus on the spiritual aspects of the ordeal only to deny the practical disciplines that need to go along to achieve the spiritual goal. That is one of the reasons why I’m being asked to share this right now. To use the well-worn phrase, be careful what you wish for people.
Let’s get some clarifications out of the way before I go further.
The Background of an Ordeal First, what exactly is an ordeal? The definition of an ordeal, through a very quick Google search, is, “a painful or horrific experience, especially a protracted one.” Now, with that definition, why the hell would anyone want to go through one?
The quickest answer I can come up with is to become stronger. Or, to become wiser. And, well, to live. We actually are going through ordeals almost daily in this world. Sickness, trauma, arguments with others and many other things can be considered ordeals. For a while, there was a meme going around that said: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” Those battles spoken about in that meme are other people’s ordeals.
So my belief about these ordeals is that since we have to go through them anyway, why not learn from them? Why not try to approach the ordeal in a manner that will help you further your understanding about a specific topic or issue? Or even better, how can the ordeal help you work on uncovering and dealing with issues that you carry? For me, that is a very specific point of my spirituality; to use ordeals to better understand the world around me and for my own self-improvement.
So as someone who gravitates toward a self-centered concept of paganism, who only 6ish years ago found deities that she agreed to work with directly after a multi-year hiatus, and is starting to find her voice again in the community, it makes perfect sense that my mundane ordeals would have a spiritual aspect to them. It also makes sense because I am doing intimate work with specific Gods. And those specific Gods expect that you clean up after yourself and work towards a common goal.
These ordeals are a blessing in that when you are done you will be absolutely shocked at the mountains you have climbed, the struggles you have gotten through, and that you did all of the things that you thought you couldn’t do.
Ordeals are also a curse because you are about to go climb those mountains, work through multiple struggles, and do all of the things you think you can’t do right now.
It seems like many pagans today seem to equate ordeals with spirituality only; as in, they only focus on spiritual struggles (initiations, rites, and other journeys) and assume they are the only path for spiritual growth. Some even focus so hard on the spiritual aspects that they literally are hiding from the physical issues of their life (which in fact, are their actual ordeals). Still, others may focus on the physical as not an ordeal, but something else. They may, in fact, give the physical issue a spiritual cause (e.g., someone is out to get me). That is where discernment is absolutely necessary to understand what is really going on. In my case, yes, there are other reasons why things are happening in my life right now, and I recognize the cause and effect of those reasons. But at the same time, I know my issues are part of an ordeal and that this ordeal is physical and spiritual in nature. I say that because I see the results of the struggle that I am in. There are both physical and spiritual benefits to this to this struggle. That in my mind classifies this as an ordeal.
The Path to My Own Ordeal Looking at things as ordeals comes naturally to me. Long story short, I’ve set myself on a path of reinventing myself once before, and although it took some time, I’ve come through those struggles beautifully. I’m proud of what I have accomplished, and because of those accomplishments, I’ve caught the eye of a certain one-eyed deity.
Odin is very much a deity that appreciates people dealing with their own crap. And I’ve done several cycles of dealing with my own crap already – once doing a full reinvention of myself, and multiple times in overcoming significant obstacles and fears. Looking at that resume that I am so proud of, it makes sense that he’d want me to be working for him (to put it bluntly).
Other than following through with the self-improvement, I wonder if Odin also works with me because I have developed skills to handle new ordeals. I’m disciplined (for the most part), and I have the drive to push myself forward, even sometimes at the expense of overdoing it and hurting myself. I’m also stubborn as all hell and if it meant proving a point, I will take on detrimental actions that in the end will cause more trauma than it will likely be worth (but I proved my point, dammit). So there are lots of pluses and minuses here.
Anyway, Odin comes along, and I agree to work with him. And in the span of a year and a half, I start a new spiritual training program, decide to go to graduate school, find a degree program that matches my interests, start it, take on a larger role in my work life, and find my intuitive readings becoming more and more accurate and specific as well as going into deeper spiritual issues. And I often find myself being drawn to do specific readings at specific times, giving the client “exactly what they needed to hear” (their words, not mine).
And if that wasn’t enough, the energy of my household raised to the point where my husband started feeling it and started his own road of improvement. And just as he started his own training, he was laid off of his work (which I think was all part of his spiritual development as well). Overall, being laid off will be a good thing – he was being underutilized and there was no room for growth at his former employer – but the finding of a job has added a level of deep stress for him and I to both be dealing with.
Again, you can see spiritual ordeals are not just spiritual tasks. You face things that you are holding onto that are detrimental to your growth. You go out of your comfort zone, taking risks you wouldn’t normally take, and most importantly, changing your habits and mindset to allow for more understanding and compassion for yourself and others. After all, ordeals are meant to open yourself up for a clearer link to the spirits and to the Gods, and sometimes it’s shadow work that is keeping you from them. Shadow work cannot be cleared up by spirituality alone.
Now Onto My Confession To put it bluntly, this ordeal is kicking my ass.
It’s taking me places in my psyche that I haven’t talked about, haven’t dealt with before, and couldn’t even define with words until a month or so ago.
I now realize that I have a very, very deep animosity for myself, my intelligence, my skills, and my abilities. I believe this animosity to be a learned behavior, but also a congenital one. And that animosity has influenced my life in ways I’m still realizing. It’s one of the reasons why I (still) cope with overeating. It’s the reason why I haven’t followed through in some of my past self-improvement endeavors, and it’s the reason why I sometimes push myself so hard I break my own body. There are other things I’ve realized too; other things that I haven’t really articulated before (and if I tried to explain, I’d take up two or three more blog posts just to describe), but the animosity is the one I’ll confess now as it is front and center in my head.
But now that I know it is there, the ‘mental tape’ that was buried for so long just reinforcing self-defeating behavior is now something I hear loudly being played over and over again as I continue to step out of my comfort zone. While I’m doing homework in my class (that I have to pass with a B or better just to stay in the program – no pressure) I am constantly fighting it beat me up and telling me I will fail. I get tapes at work telling me I’m not good at my job and will be laid off soon, making me lose my house and my security because we have no other cash flow. At home, I’m not doing enough, I’m ugly, I’m fat, and I’ll never be any healthier.
Why are there multiple tapes going on? Because this animosity was buried so deep it has become a habit, so just acknowledging that it is there isn’t going to stop it. I need to figure out and establish new tapes to replace the ones that keep flooding my brain, and ultimately, create new habits that will replace the bad ones.
So while I’m dealing with all of the uncomfortable feelings of this animosity, and with the insecurity of my current financial status, I have other questions about the success of this endeavor in my head. What if I do succeed in getting rid of this animosity? What then? Who will I be? What will replace it? What will my comfort zone look like? Will it be a place I want to be, or am I asking for something I really don’t want and don’t know it?
And from a spiritual perspective, the question about why Odin is pushing me to do this is also at the forefront of my mind. Don’t forget, Odin is a God of manipulation as well. He does things for reasons we won’t always understand. And that manipulation may not have any right or wrong to it; in his mind, it is all for the greater goal.
To say all of this has brought up insecurities, anxiety and other uncomfortable feelings is an understatement. I’ve had panic attacks, bouts of anger, bouts of depression, frustration, tears, and so many other emotions I’ve lost track. But while all of these emotions are being sorted out, I’m still working 45ish hours a week (in a job I like, so that is good), putting in about 35 hours a week on my graduate studies, trying to get in some sort of healthy exercise, keeping up spiritual disciplines and trying to be support to my job seeking husband as well as helping to keep up the house and try not to let my emotions get the best of me so that a fibromyalgia pain flare-up doesn’t sideline me.
This shit is hard. But it’s meant to be. And I keep getting reassured that each and every piece of this ordeal has meaning. Every struggle day in and day out is part of the ordeal. And I do know this won’t last. My husband has had 11 interviews in two months. The only reason he isn’t working is that the firms he’s interviewed with are taking their time due to the holiday working schedules (it happens at this time of year). He’s putting in the time so the financial security will come…sooner or later. I’ll be finished with my class in mid-December (after I finish a final examination, which has its own negative mental tapes playing in the background).
I keep reassuring myself (and getting reassured) that I’m doing everything I can, and I’m doing it all right. I’m making the mindful choices, I’m sticking with things and putting in the time I’m supposed to be doing. I just need to keep moving on.
I’ve been focused on self-improvement work for the past 16 years. I’ve done a lot, and I’m still always surprised at the requirements that are laid out before me to achieve another personal goal. I know I do more than many others do when it comes to spiritual discipline, but I also recognize that there is give and take here. If I want to do more, or am asked to do more, I have to be ready to accept the burden of the ordeal to prepare me for that endeavor. I also have to accept the responsibility that comes along with the tasks I’m asking to take on.
Not everyone is fit to be a teacher, a mentor or a spiritual leader. Not everyone is meant to be a Priest or Priestess. But yet we all have something to contribute to the pagan community as a whole. Our task, if we want to be a part of a pagan community, is to find that thing we are meant to do and serve our community as we can. This means that we will have to go through at least one spiritual ordeal in our lifetimes. And while my personal ordeal is tough, I am recognizing that it is also very much about finding that place in the pagan community as a whole. So I will continue with it to the best of my ability. There is still a chance I may fail, and I accept that. Either way, I will be continuing to learn, and that is the most valuable thing I can do.
I’m getting very tired of hearing other opinions, especially when those opinions are openly against another person’s belief, the color of their skin, the way they dress, what they choose for themselves, or those against an entire religion. Yet, that feels like it’s all I’m surrounded by. And not only am I surrounded by those opinions I know now I have family members with those types of beliefs. And what is worst of all, it is now confirmed that people I chose to be a part of my chosen family and those I looked up to have opinions that demean and belittle others.
Each time I have heard about someone else close to me who has a believe that excludes others, it makes my heart ache. Don’t get me wrong, when it’s a story on the news about things that people are doing against each other, it hurts too. You pray for those affected and do what you can if there are monetary needs or petitions to sign. But when it gets close to home, things get really bad for me. Heartache turns to outright anger, bitterness and a whole hell of a lot of pain. But yet, when the talk from family or friends turns to those sore topics, I have still tried to be civil. I agree to disagree, or bring up reasons why things are not the way the person who is biased claims them to be. Even when my own uncle comes out against others for the color of their skin, I still try to ‘play nice’ for the sake of the family. I still try to listen, to understand, and to get them to understand where I am coming from.
There is a reason I was doing this. The thing is, one of the biggest problems this nation faces today is that we aren’t listening to each other. We aren’t recognizing there is an allowance for differences of opinions. There was a time when being ‘democrat’ or ‘republican’ meant that ideals were different, yet everyone believed in being civil, and both sides strongly felt they were doing the right thing for the nation. There was a time not too far in the past when civil debates could be held without fear and even political candidates stopped their constituents from throwing angry slurs at their opponents during rallies.
But unfortunately, those times are long over.
Today, it’s not just an opinion about whether or not to tax something anymore. Today, the differences of opinion are about large swaths of people and whether or not they have a right to education, a right to live and worship as they choose, or even just a right to exist. And I can understand why those beliefs are held. Some people that hold opinions against others do it out of fear, or they do it out of experiences they have, or they do it because that is what they were taught. And almost always those with the opinions of exclusion don’t think they are doing anything wrong. For example, I was recently told by someone that equality currently exists between a gay couple and a straight couple if the gay couple had at least a couple doctors to go and see. Sure, not all the doctors would be willing to see them because of their ‘christian’ faith, but because they still had a choice of some doctors who would take them as patients it didn’t matter if others wouldn’t see them. I couldn’t help but think if the situation was reversed that they wouldn’t think it was equal, no matter how many times they said they would feel the same way during that conversation.
No matter what it was justified it with, this person was talking about the exclusion of a human being. They were excluding another life, another spirit, another soul. They are excluding another in which, in many different religions, is believed to be that which has been made in a likeness of God – the very God they claim to worship. If that wasn’t bad enough, by excluding that person, many break a second tenant that is said in many different ways based on the specific religion, but basically boils down to ‘do not judge others’.
So here is where, in any conversation with someone whose opinion is being sliced to shreds, the cherry picking begins. Either I’m looking at something the wrong way, or I don’t fully understand the verses being spoken about, or another verse overrides what verses or holy books I’m quoting from. It doesn’t matter. In my personal belief system a human is still a human, and until they do something that clearly shows they don’t deserve it, respect for who and what they are matters deeply to me.
Automatic respect of others is radical. Automatic respect is the hard road. Recognizing the difference of opinion and accepting it (not approving mind you, but accepting) is ridiculously hard, especially in this polarized nation. But it’s what I’ve tried to do, time and time again. I’ve recently been in conversations with others that my husband has outright told me he would have immediately quit the conversation and stormed out of the room. Not because he nor I were being disrespected, but because the person was so passionate about their belief that they were right. This person wasn’t an outright hater or excluder, but they certainly were on the slippery slope to allow exclusion to happen and not find it to be wrong.
But I have to admit, even though I do my best, I still get shaken to my core. Recently in the Society for Creative Achronism (SCA), the ruler of a kingdom who has made racist statements on social media elevated a known racist to the highest honor of the kingdom, even while the other members who had a say vetoed the elevation. In another kingdom, months earlier, royalty decided to wear clothing with swastikas clearly sown into the embroidery. And today, I’m forced to recognize yet again that someone in my own household shares radical opinions about Muslims. This is someone who swore an oath to be kind to all, generous with their time, who is known as a caring individual, and yet, it seems to me now that these traits are just part of the ‘game’ that is the SCA, and not what they strive to be in real life. This is truly disheartening and sad.
Unfortunately, because I’m getting hit by this over and over, it makes me wonder about my own personal guidelines on dealing with these people. Do I give more benefit of the doubt than I should? Do I need to follow the example and turn away from anyone who even speaks about exclusion being right, even though it may not be outwardly racist or bigoted? And if I do, doesn’t that just mean that I’m becoming a part of the polarization, and not part of the solution? It breaks my heart that I have to consider these things. I have watched my own parents become bitter as they got older because of the beliefs and actions of others, and swore to myself that I would never become that way; that I would always seek the good in others no matter how hard it was to find, and only quitting if the actions of that person became threatening to me, my friends or loved ones.
Now I don’t know if I have the strength left in me to not be bitter.
But for now, trying to be open is the requirement I have set upon myself, not only as a personal ethical code, but for me, a religious one as well. So I keep trying. I keep listening. I keep trying to get both sides of the story, and try to change others minds when I can. Many are perhaps a lost cause. Probably many more than I’m willing to admit to myself right now. And perhaps there may be need of more distancing myself from those who don’t want to see another side. Perhaps those whose beliefs include exclusion of any kind should be distanced, their businesses not be patronized as much as I had before. And perhaps I withdrawal from the SCA even further than I have previously. And perhaps these things aren’t being done on my part out of malice or anger. Perhaps I simply need to do them for my own sanity. Perhaps then I might have more mental energy to engage someone who might actually listen and come to understand.
Anthony Fucking Bourdain. Gone before his time from a disease that doesn’t give a shit if you are rich, are poor, physically healthy or have the best supportive care network on this earth.
I’ll admit, I thought Bourdain was a big time jerk and arrogant ass until he took his show to Detroit for the first time. And I realized when I watched that, he ‘got’ it. He ‘got’ Detroit. Bourdain loved Detroit. It didn’t all come out on that show that night, but I could see it. He understood the grim reality of those who live there. He understood their loss, he understood their resilience, and he understood how they just continue to move forward when everything feels so very much stacked against them.
“Detroit looks like motherfucking Detroit. As it should.” he said in the show. “Those who watch this show, smugly thinking, “That could never happen to my city” are dreaming. Detroit’s problems are America’s problems.”
I’ve been a “Metro Detroiter” on and off for about 17 years. I wasn’t born in the city, but still I have a fondness for it and it’s hardships. I’ve been angry about the ‘ruin porn’ and I was pissed as hell about the fact that Detroit entered bankruptcy and screwed the pensioners that still called the city home. I’ve driven 8 Mile, Telegraph, Gratiot and 696 back and forth to work, worked in the RenCen retail areas and when I was really lucky, took in the occasional Wings game at the Joe. I even scored a pair of tickets to the Auto Show at Cobo center for my boyfriend and I once when I barely had enough money to scrape by. That was back when the auto industry was still doing somewhat well. But that changed soon enough.
And now, after hearing the news today, I now understand a little better why Bourdain got Detroit. And perhaps I understand it a little more than the average person does. Because depression fucks with you just as much as the people of Detroit have been fucked over by the auto industry, politicians, the state of Michigan and by billionaires like Matty Moroun making riches even now off the city’s blight. Depression sucks your will to live ever so slowly, making mincemeat out of the joys you once held dear, making you think that you aren’t worth the air going into your lungs. It hurts, and it hurts bad.
Perhaps one reason Bourdain had a love of the resilience of Detroit is because he willed that resilience within himself. If he had anything like the depression I’ve battled with, I’m sure thoughts like that crossed his mind. I bet he had days where he was proud of himself and his resilience, beating those demons for another chance at another day. I bet he’s thought of the Detroiters he met while he filmed Parts Unknown on those days where the battle came to a draw and thought, “if they can go one more day, so can I.” And he’s probably thought of those Detroiters on the days where he couldn’t bear to go on, wondering how the hell they actually did it; how they survived and made it bearable day in and day out in an a place that he compared to Chernobyl.
Maybe he was trying to get some of that resilience to rub off onto him. After all he was working on a documentary about Detroit before he died. And he consistently spoke fondly of the town in almost every interview, even going so far to say he wished he could say he was from Detroit, because that would be the coolest thing he could ever say. In one interview he described Detroit as:
“Beautiful. Magnificent. The boundless hope and dreams and optimism of its builders is reflected in the architecture. I feel anger seeing the extent to which it has been allowed to crumble. I feel hopeful. And I feel a tremendous appreciation that people have stuck it out and are proud of their city. They’re loyal to it. It’s truly a great city and the font of so many important American economic and cultural improvisations and movements. That it could have been allowed to come close to failing is a national disgrace.”
And the fact that he, like many other people in this nation couldn’t openly talk about the depression they faced is also a national disgrace.
Now, in the aftermath, perhaps knowing that this larger than life person who said he had the best job in the world lost his battle means that I shouldn’t be so hard on myself when I fight my own battles. Perhaps I can recognize a little better that my own struggle is real, and it’s hard enough to take anyone down. Perhaps I can start being a little bit easier on myself on days when it’s the worst, and push off those harder tasks until tomorrow, when I might have a bit more mental strength. Maybe I can try to find even more healthy coping mechanisms to keep fighting.
Maybe this Metro Detroiter can find that resilience Bourdain was looking for.
Even though I have fibromyalgia, IBS and Chronic fatigue, I do my best to keep up the one thing that I’ve been passionate about for years, which is running. I don’t run very fast anymore, nor very far, but I do my best to get in at least a 5k run once a week. And to celebrate, I frequently post about those runs on facebook.
These runs are not easy by any stretch of the imagination. I get the normal challenges when running and on top of that I have pain that runs up and down my body while I’m running for no reason at all. That makes it really tough at times to keep moving. And on top of that, overdo it by just one quarter mile and a fibromyalgia flare up could stop you from doing anything for days afterword; including the the all-important getting to work.
So I run, and I celebrate my accomplishments when I can (like pictures on the aforementioned facebook) and I also talk about my lows too. After all, you can’t know how good your high points are without some low points thrown in occasionally. But I didn’t think that posting about those type of things made me an inspiration.
However a couple weeks ago, a friend of mine messaged me to tell me that I was an inspiration for her. She said that she follows my up and down running posts, and that I inspired her to do a virtual run herself. This very wonderful lady has her own issues to deal with. She recently had knee surgery, and on top of that she is an abuse survivor. Her abuse was so bad that she’s spent years trying to get herself back on track. So for her to say I am an inspiration was something that was very moving for me.
I felt so honored to be an inspiration for her that I chose to also sign up for this virtual run and run it on the same day as her in solidarity. I want to celebrate her strength and endurance. Then she told me what virtual run she decided to choose, and that made me realize there was more to this than simply inspiration.
This fine lady is doing a virtual run that supports an organization called “To Write Love On Her Arms” (TWLOHA). TWLOHA is an organization that works to prevent and heal people from addiction and help prevent suicide. I’ve read about this organization and it’s founding years ago, and was very impressed. It is a Christian organization, but the founders are the Christian-type that have good intentions. They don’t judge, nor do they try to recruit. They are simply trying to help their fellow human being. These are the types of Christians whose messages out to the public are downright whispers compared to the Evangelical Christians that scream from every street corner how bad people are. And because the Evangelicals are so loud, the Christians who run TWLOHA end up getting grouped in with them, which is unfortunate.
So I signed up for this run, even though the subject matter made me uncomfortable. I’m uncomfortable about it because by choosing to sign up for this run, I’ve brought up pieces of my own life that I haven’t thought about in almost 20 years. And now that it’s come up again, I’m realizing I have to get some things out in the open.
You see, the only reason that I’m still around is because about 20 years ago, I didn’t swallow enough pills to actually do the job.
Back then, when I felt like there really was nothing any good in this life for me anymore, I downed a bottle of muscle relaxers, a bottle of prescription pain meds and a couple of other prescriptions my roommate at the time had. I didn’t have my stomach pumped, never went to the emergency room, and of course I got no hospitalization nor care with a counselor or a doctor. But even though I had taken several bottles of pills, somehow I woke up the next morning. My stomach had felt like it had been ripped apart and it did for weeks afterward, but I was still alive. To this day I don’t understand how.
I know now that back then I was suffering from major depression, PTSD from a rape that happened a couple months prior and had been dealing with a bunch of other things going on. I also realize now that the major depression was something that I’ve had for a very long time, most likely since I was a child.
There is a reason this is coming out now. There is a reason why I’m reminded of this organization. The fact is for the first time in many years I am struggling again, and have been for almost a month. This run, it’s uncomfortable topic and the organization being helped by it made me realize that this time my struggle is a bit more serious than it has been in the recent past. Maybe not as serious as it was 20 years ago, but serious nonetheless. And I need to treat this for what it is; a struggle against a deep depression that could turn into another major depressive episode should I not start implementing self care and figure out how the hell to get out of it properly.
I need to also remember – It’s not my fault that I can dive into a deep depression – I’m prone to it. It’s also not my fault I have fibromyalgia. And I have to acknowledge that fibromyalgia sufferers have higher rates of suicide and adjust my own self care accordingly. I also have to recognize that fibromyalgia sufferers have many facets of the disease that only a small number of other disorders have to deal with. Not only do we deal with the pain, we also have to deal with the lack of understanding by doctors, (some don’t even acknowledge it’s a disease in the first place) so-called friends (everyone has pain, yours is no different than mine, in fact mine is probably worse than yours is) and even family (if you just lost weight, or exercised more I’m sure you would have less pain).
On top of all that, the past month has been a very trying time for me. I realized that I had more so-called friends in some circles than I did true friends, so for the sake of my self worth and self esteem, I’ve cut those people out of my life. But doing so also cut out activities that gave me what I thought was a sense of purpose and enjoyment. Now I realize that much of that purpose and enjoyment was my perception alone. Much of the circle of friends in actuality did nothing for my well being nor the creation of any lasting friendships. On top of that, very little of the activity associated with the circle did anything to benefit my self esteem or self worth. Instead, there were many times it was lowered. So overall it was good that I did the cut, but I still grieve for the things that I thought I had. And the fallout of this decision isn’t completely over yet either.
So why now? Why put this all out in the open? Because I need to. I need to recognize the seriousness of the situation now as well as acknowledge what happened in the past. Because hopefully someone else might read this and also realize that there are sicknesses out there that don’t have anything to do with a diagnosis by a blood test, or are not sicknesses that are specific and measurable in any way. Perhaps they will realize that mental health diseases ARE in fact actual sicknesses, and that they perhaps are prone to them as well. Perhaps they may just realize they need help. Or, maybe they had never heard of TWLOHA and might stop over to their page to see what it’s all about and toss them a contribution or two for the good work that they do.
This is also another reminder to me of how we are in the care of the Gods, Goddesses and other spirits. While some may call it coincidence that this friend contacted me with this particular run for this particular group, it means more than that to me. Because while I do believe we have free will, we also have those that look out for us. And those that look out for us and our wellbeing could either be on this planet with us or in other planes of existence and visit us from time to time.
No matter whether it is coincidence or fate, these are the reasons I needed to come out with this post. I needed to acknowledge my past. I need to acknowledge where I am at now, and I need to recognize that I can easily fall into a situation that I need help to get out of. Now perhaps I can move forward a little easier.
And come April 14, I will be able to run for an organization that helps people who are so sick that they don’t even recognize how sick they are until they get better.
For more information on TWHOLA, you can go to their website.