It’s been awhile. I honestly hate how inconsistent I look (well, AM) right now, but I also realized early on that I needed to be gentle with myself. Things were simply not right with me, and even now, getting on track, things are hard. I hate feeling like I am a mess, disorganized, and flaky. The past few years have been rough, but I would swear that the last few months have absolutely been the hardest.
They say life comes in cycles, with good times and bad times- and I agree. I also think we have some degree of control, at least in terms of how we face good times and bad. It’s really easy, at least for me, to get disheartened, struggle to face each day, be productive and find the light in the dark. My PTSD brain freezes when things are too chaotic, too out of my control. I am, at heart, pessimistic (or realistic, I sometimes jokingly say) by experience and nature.
Thing is, I know better. I know if I let my pessimism, my realism, my expectation that things will get worse- they will- not because they did get worse, but because my own dark thoughts will fail to find the good, the light or the lesson. I can dig myself a huge pit of despair, and make it harder for myself to get out. It’s not that these feelings are wrong, but that if you dwell in them too long, it’s a torment that is unneeded. Sometimes you gotta feel these things, but eventually, you gotta take control. Sometimes you feel these things as you ascend the mountain of obstacles and walk the journey before you.
And sometimes, you walk a really long time, feeling alone, feeling the burden, feeling the pain and despair in order that you might find that sunrise again.
Thing is, you aren’t really ever alone. You can find companionship in both this world, and in the spiritual realms. You walk with the Gods, or the Spirits. Your ancestors are there. And there are many folks trained to walk with you as well. That’s just a reminder, of course. I think of my own spiritual companion and what she has said to me during these darker times of mine. And I think of what the Gods have spoken to me.
Look at what you can do, and not what you can’t. Look to the joy of today, not tomorrow and not the pain of yesterday. You don’t need to look at that pain, you feel it. Distract yourself, be gentle with yourself, let yourself. Easy sounding, I know, but also truthful.
What got me to this point? I asked myself today. I have been feeling better the last week. More energy, my brain feels clearer, I was able to focus and work. I got stuff accomplished, more than I had done in the last month combined. But today, I could feel some winter darkness creeping in. My brain was less focused, I was struggling to wake up and face the day. A part of me cursed the fact that I couldn’t just hibernate. But I got out of bed, as expected, I made breakfast, I made coffee. I lit my candles on my 3 altars, said my prayers, and then moved to my working altar and started my daily opening ritual there. My brain warmed, and I felt better.
Routine, I realized, was important to me. I bet, in a way, it’s important to everyone. Maybe it’s not as structured, but I think most of us thrive on some sort of habitualness. Even if it’s waking up, stretching, taking a shower, it’s something. I know my depression is at peak when I can’t bring myself to shower. Which is why I always shower. No matter how bad, or lazy I’m feeling. I shower. It’s my way of saying to myself that I have to love myself at least that much. To clean myself. But then I find joy in my shower. The smell of my favorite soap, the hot water turning my skin red (yes, I like it that hot!), the moisture in the air moistening my nose. Stopping to just stand there, and feel it all wash away. Visualizing the water also washing away the negative feelings.
Maintaining my daily devotional rituals was also important. If I gave up on them, that meant I was descending too deep into the negative, into the darkness. If I turned my back to something so important to me, what if the important stuff turned its back on me? The Gods, the Ancestors and spirits, can’t do things for us the way we think. They don’t grant miracles and wishes, but they can walk beside us, helping us find our strength, pointing us in the right direction. Someone once told me that despair was the only “sin” that their God couldn’t forgive, and not because “God” didn’t want to- but because we wouldn’t let God. Despair can become an armor, an impregnable fortress if we let it, because sometimes despair feels safe. If we despair, we don’t hope, and if we don’t hope, we can’t be let down. But despair also doesn’t allow anything else to get through either. That’s why it’s ok to feel despair, but we can’t let ourselves be so wrapped up in it that we can’t find love.
Little joys were also important. A steaming cup of chai, a slice of delicious cake, warm hugs from our children and the kisses of our partners. Stopping to see the beautiful sky. Creating art, talking and laughing with friends. Shaping our world with the things that make us feel better. For me, that meant stepping back from social media, and the news. I won’t say disconnecting or “putting the screen down”, because honestly, the internet helps me to connect to friends and others who help lift me, and reduce the isolation I feel. But I removed myself from negative spaces, and people that brought me down.
This is all self-care. We tend to think of self-care as physical acts- taking a hot bath with herbs, a massage, treating our bodies- and yes, those things are- but self-care is also emotional care, social care, and mental care. It’s finding joy, it’s picking and deciding the line we won’t cross when we’re low. It’s changing the goal line to something achievable, like taking a shower and lighting a candle to our Gods. It’s finding joy in darkness, warmth in the cold. It’s laughing with our friends, dancing alone to our favorite song, crying and releasing our pain in the shower. It’s one step at a time. It’s healing.
The truth is that bad times are bound to happen. I’m not going to resist the urge to be cliche, and say “It can’t rain all the time” because it’s true. And how we face bad times says more about us than how we face the good times. This isn’t to say we can’t be sad, or angry, or frustrate. This isn’t about denying our feelings- we have to feel those too. It’s more about whether or not we’ll pick ourselves us, brush ourselves off and keep going, or if we’ll sit in a corner and cry. And the real secret is that it’s ok to sit in the corner and cry for a little while too. We just can’t stay there. Sometimes, the only power and control we have is our response.
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