Saturday, March 28, 2015

Burn Out, Everyone Gets it

As of late, well, actually for the last nine or so months, things have felt. . . Off.  They have gotten progressively worse for me internally and that has manifested in various way injecting a great deal of chaos into my life.  The weekend of Ostara, I realized that I was experiencing burnout.  Now, I'm not talking about 'run-of-the-mill-x-y-and-z-have-to-change-in-my-life' burnout.  I'm talking 'screw-responsibility-quit-everything-and-be-a-gypsy' burnout.  I was literally so tired of being sick and tired that I was ready to sell what I could, give away what I couldn't sell, and hit the road to wherever.

However, there was this little niggling voice seated somewhere around my heart.  It said, "Yes, you could sell everything you own and see where life takes you, but what then?  Haven't you been searching for stability and a place to put down your roots? Haven't you been looking for a family and a community?  Instead of throwing a tantrum, what do you really want to do?"

Of course, my response to that little voice was, "Shut up Little Voice!  I want to see things I haven't seen before.  I want spend the next year of my life not doing what is expected of me!"

With a laugh, it responded, "Of course you do, but instead of taking the road you already know is going to be fraught with obstacles and pain, why don't you really sit down and think about what you want and what you need.  So, what is it that you want?"

"Okay," I respond, honestly a bit sullenly, but there might be a bit of hope growing as I speak this truth to the Universe. "I want a good, safe place.  I want to not have other people so dependent upon me.  I want to not worry too much about other people.  I want a lovely place to be able to take my computer to write.  I want to finally have something of my own published this year, not just put essays into anthologies and watch other people make money off of my time and effort."

This conversation with myself hasn't stopped the burnout.  It hasn't stopped me from getting up every morning dreading the day because 'I have to do it'.  What it has done, though, is given me something else to think about, contemplate, and focus on.  I recognize that I give too much.  I recognize that I rarely turn people down when they need me.  I recognize that I need 'me' time that doesn't involve other people and four walls just as much as I recognize that I need 'me' time that does involve other people and some much needed shenanigans.

Another thing I recognize is that I allow others to tell me one thing and do another.  As my burnout has increased, that has become a source of great irritation.  Why do I go out of my way to do for others and not expect to be treated the same way?  Isn't that what friends do for each other?  Don't they go out of the way to be there for each other because they care?  So, does it mean that you only care when other things don't get in the way?  Do you only care when I am saying and doing things that you find emotionally and spiritually palatable? What about those other times?  What about the times I'm spinning out of control and don't realize it yet?  When I'm 'not myself' is it too much for you to handle so you back away slowly?  Or, are you just self-absorbed and you are so glad to see me so you can tell me how your life has been?  I'm pretty sure that's some form of narcissism.

Then again, I've been told repeatedly, "Expectations lead to disappointment."  Really?  No shit.  It's really fucking disappointing to hear how much I am loved by someone, but only to be acknowledged when they need me, but when I need them, nothing.  It's really fucking disappointing to be told that I should keep giving to someone who constantly takes from me because I'm going to get my return from someone else.  No.  I treat people how I expect and deserve to be treated.  If you are such an arrogant dick that you think you can treat me however you feel like, then you don't deserve to have me in your life. Maybe this makes me an arrogant bitch, to think that I deserve to be treated with respect, but you know what?  I am worth just that.

The last several months have shown me just who my friends are.  I have been surprised again and again by the fact that those I expect to be able to count on are too busy, so there are others who are standing in their place, genuinely ready help me when I need it.  At first, I was mad that the people I wanted to be there weren't.  Then, I realized that the people who were there were worth their weight in gold for their love and loyalty.  Every time I reach out to any of them, there they are, taking my hand and holding it, if need be.

So, I'm still burned the fuck out.  As of a week ago, I consider myself to be on a sabbatical.  I am going to focus on myself and on my wants and needs for a while.  That said, I do have some obligations this year, including some workshops and rituals, that I will still be doing.  It is less a case of my doing a disappearing trick and more a case of my being very selective about what activities I do participate in or facilitate.  I may shift gears from facilitation to simply writing the material and handing it off to another to facilitate.  I may choose to be a participant instead of a planner.

I am not sure what this year is going to hold for me, but I do know that it is going to put me back at equilibrium.  There will be solitude and shenanigans.  There will be happiness and sadness.  There will be joy.  I will come back to center and be all the better for it.

Brightest blessings, Friends!!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Die and Be Reborn Again: Suicide in the Longest Winter

I'd like to preface this blog by giving you all this message:

Today, my soul is laid bare.  I am in a comfortable place writing this, but the exquisite discomfort I feel putting it out here can not be articulated.  I expect hate mail as well as words of comfort.  As a warning for those who might decide to send hate mail, I have no problem whatsoever exposing you as the bully you are for all in internet land. 

That said, I'm not writing this looking for attention.  I'm not writing it looking for sympathy.  I'm writing this for those who may also need it.  I'm writing it because it needs to be said.  I'm writing it because I so rarely open up and share the tattered and mended remains of my heart.  I am writing it because I can.  I am writing it because.

Trigger warning for talk of suicide and other scary, self-inflicted, and abusive things.


I sit here on this beautifully snowy day in the Mid-West.  It's just after 7am and nothing is moving.  No one is out.  There is a white blanket of silence covering everything, muting even the scarce birdsong. As for me, well, I have all of the blinds open and I am taking it all in.  The cat sits in front of the space heater, waiting to pounce as soon as it clicks off.  It's just us, as my partner is at work.  However, I think about the winter past and all of the changes that have happened.  Some of them good, many of them not-so-much, but a lesson learned anyway.

More times than I like to count over the past few months, I found myself cooped up in my house and unwilling to go anywhere aside from my normal weekend errands.  I could not bear the thought of interacting with people.  I could not bear the thought of actually going out in public.  Being forced to go out five days a week to work was just about all of the energy I could muster.  So, I would invite people over.  My thinking was, "If I can't go and be around people, then maybe I can have someone over."  As is my usual luck, that didn't work out, usually.  Ah, well, shit happens, right?


Instead of thinking of it like that, this began a downward spiral for me.  The days grew darker and so did my internal dialogue.  My relationship had been on the rocks.  I didn't seem to have any friends.  I was a days drive from my family.  I was in a strange city with absolutely zero support... aside from myself.  So, for a time, I pulled myself up by my bootstraps and marched on determined to will my way through this.

I don't know at what point it was that my will broke, but it did.  It broke and the facade began to crumble.  I looked around, grasped for some kind of hand hold, something solid and found nothing.  So, I did what my pride told me was a stupid thing to do and I started reaching out to people.  (If you are reading this and I didn't reach out to you, don't take it personally.  Few people get to see me vulnerable and broken.)  When that didn't work, I withdrew.  I pretended as best I could that things were okay.  I pretended at work.  I pretended at home.

The darkness crept in.  It enfolded me.  Caressed me with its velvety nothingness.  That's what I began to feel.  Nothing.  Then, those dark and dangerous tendrils made their way to my heart.  That nothingness within me became something.  It became anger.  Rage, really.  Every day became a clench-your-teeth-and-bite-your-tongue kind of day.  It wasn't their fault. (They being anyone who wasn't me at the time.)  They had their own issues.  They had their own problems, triumphs, dramas, whatever that they were dealing with and it was pretty obvious to me that there was no room for my self pity at their table.

Ultimately, I gave in to the darkness, at least a small measure.  I started thinking about how death was preferable to my partner going out of his way to be passive-aggressive toward me.  I started thinking about how death was preferable to having to go to work and pretend to be some vapid consumeristic doormat.  I started thinking about how pushing the reset button would give me five or ten years of ignorant bliss before having to do this all over again.  (Don't you like how I call contemplating suicide 'pushing the reset button'?  I mean, we do believe in reincarnation.)  However, I didn't make a plan, at least not one worthy of writing down.

Instead, I tried reaching out again.  I found someone to talk to, someone who understood the rage.  I found someone who knew, intimately, the path I was walking and, without a question,  helped me limp along, in this darkness.  This person helped me shoulder this burden, the rage, and helped me see the obstacles in front of me for what they were.  This person wasn't afraid to piss me off, but also didn't think twice about handing me a heaping helping of the brutal truth.  Of course, I laughing accepted this truth.  I laughed because it is something I would say to someone else.  It assuaged my rage.  It soothed me because I knew it to be the truth universal and I paused long enough to ask questions.  The tempest with my soul calmed.  I didn't want to kill myself as much any more.  I didn't hate myself as much any more.

At this juncture, I want to stop and assure you all, dear readers, that there won't be any reset button pushing.  I'm not, necessarily, out of the proverbial woods just yet, but the mere act of writing this out, putting my private thoughts into those words is prevention enough.  Those closest to me will be looking for signs now, ready to swoop in and rescue me from myself.  I'm okay.

So, instead of letting the pressure build up again, I resolved to find one thing of beauty a day.  If I could find one beautiful thing, then life had to be worth living.  I only needed one thing.  If I couldn't find it, well, it was lights out for me.  If I laughed, I'd found that beautiful thing.  If I talked to that person who saved me from myself, then I found some hope in the world.  It got easier, by the day, to not succumb to the rage and, instead, look at the lessons within these dark times.  It got easier to draw boundaries and not feel guilty.  It got easier to allow myself to be myself without compromise.

The things I have learned from this whole personal Hellish ordeal are pretty astounding.  One thing I have discovered is that I know just who my friends are.  They were there for me when I really needed them.  Not just that, but as I raged angrily at my gods for this enduring despair, they were the ones who reminded me to open my fucking eyes.  They were the ones who showed me just who I needed and why and I was astounded.  I tend to need the people around me just because.  I don't want them to be anything they aren't, but I also expect them to be truthful with me and to be authentically who they are, warts and all.  I tend to need the people around me because they are people, not because they can give me something.  Well, occasionally I need their compassion and their ear, like I have recently needed, but it has never been something I have demanded from others.

Another thing I have learned is that many people just simply don't know how to take me.  That is part of what is uniquely me, I suppose.  People don't know what to do with me when I am at my worst.  They don't know what to do with me when I am drowning in my own insecurities and self hate.  They also don't know how to speak to me when I am like this.  They don't know how to ask, "Are you okay?" or "Have you really spiraled that far down?" That, though, goes back to being honest with me.  If you are too scared to look at me and say, "I'm not sure what to say right now with you being so *fill in the blank with some behavior or emotion*," then why do you consider yourself to be my friend?  Why do you think that honesty is going to push me away?  If your honesty pushes me away, then I wasn't your friend to begin with.  If my rawness triggers your own insecurities, what aren't you telling me?  If I trust you enough to be a sobbing raw nerve, the only thing I ask in return is for your concern.  If you can't give me that, can you call me your friend?

A third thing I have learned is that sometimes, just sometimes, boundaries need to be set and it needs to be said that there are no more chances to be given for the boundaries to be adhered to.  Basically, don't fuck up again or I will walk.  If you want me to walk, I'm out, but you better think real fucking hard before you say it because you don't get to take it back when it isn't what you want.  Sometimes, giving up is okay.  Sometimes, dropping all of the balls and refusing to play any more is okay.  Sometimes, it's okay to be unconventional.  Sometimes, stepping outside of convention is what is necessary.

The fourth lesson I learned in this is that using the 'positive/down line, negative/up line' system doesn't always work.  There were people I wanted so much to reach out to, but couldn't because they were 'down line' and I didn't want to give them ore than they could handle, or damage them in any way.  Even more than that, there were people up line from me who I didn't feel I could take these things to, either.

As one who is trying to find her leadership niche in the pagan community, I find the up line/down line system to be important, but I'm not so sure what to think after having this experience.  Who the fuck do our clergy go to when they are having troubles?  As one who isn't clergy, who the fuck am I to ask my clergy to put aside their woes because I need them?  Then again, our clergy understand that part of the job description is putting others above self, in service to gods and community.  I think this is pretty fucked up.  Even if I do want to kill myself, it does not trump and it is not more important than something happening in the family of my clergy.  Sorry, I'm not going to reach out to clergy who are divorcing, dealing with the death of a family member, coping with loss of some kind, or in general, having a shitty week or month.  I think that's pretty fucking selfish.

So, my dear readers, if you know someone who seems to be struggling, talk to them.  Even if they tell you they are okay, they may not be.  Even if they tell you they don't want to talk about it, just hang out in silence.  Sometimes, that warm body sitting across the room is what saves a life.  Sometimes, that phone call at daylight saves a life.  Sometimes, just sometimes, that compassionate meme on Facebook prompts a cascade of emotion that breaks up whatever has been dammed up for months or years.  If you are lonely and depressed, reach out to someone you trust.  If you are contemplating suicide, take a moment to look at things from a different perspective and then decide.

In the US, the number to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is: 1-800-273-8255.  You can find their web site here. If you suspect you have a friend or family member who is suicidal, don't ignore that suspicion, but don't be accusatory with them, either.  Be kind and compassionate with them, even if it frustrates you that they won't open up.  Just let them know someone cares.  Let them know by listening if they want to talk.  Let them know by just hanging out.  Be present.

Brightest of blessings, friends.