I originally wrote this piece for Mother’s Day, but I don’t want to limit this thought and action to one day. This is for everyone, and for every day.
This is a time of emergency on many fronts, and I have found myself returning again and again to the spiritual and mental/emotional aspects in order to remain well, so that effective activism is still possible. Consider the following:
Mother’s Day (just a couple days ago) is a painful day for many people. The reasons why are numerous: a mentally ill and/or abusive mother, a mother who died too soon, wanting to be a mother but not being able to, a cold and distant mother, and many other complications and tragedies related to “mother”. And many have wonderful experiences with mother, the woman. Yet, the mother energy may also have taken the form of a sister, grandmother, aunt, friend, or single parent father.
I want to make something clear: it is necessary for us to reclaim healthy mother energy for ourselves — no matter what the actual mom and motherhood has been. We need to realize how we may have found healing and understanding of the healthy and loving mother energy from others — regardless of their age, gender, or relation to us. There are many ways that we can now welcome and honor the positive, life-giving love of healthy mother energy and being, which this world needs so badly.
Giving birth is sacred. And, there is no real need to literally give birth to a living being in order to be a mother to someone. This is also sacred. And it crosses imaginary lines of gender and species. Everyone is capable of mothering, being a mother, and providing mother blessings to others. We need this energy now. We all have the capacity to provide fierce and healthy mother energy to ourselves and others — and the Earth as a whole.
This is sacred, mighty energy that is the foundation for everything that is real and good in this life and world! This is a way of being and sharing that teaches, nourishes, protects, guides, sustains, and risks all to protect and promote health, growth, right action. This is the energy of both unconditional love and transformative love. Together they provide wise and fair discipline, while weaving inspiration and practical goodness throughout — in the midst of both hardships and ease.
At this time in history, women and girls require a special acknowledgement, protection, and respect. Women and girls are under attack at this time. Honoring and wielding this healthy mother energy for all who need it, is more important than ever.
This is the mother energy that refuses to cling, smother, or treat her children as something to live through or own. This is mother energy that refuses to rule by rejection, manipulation, or cruelty. This mother energy is a truly radiant energy that promotes and sustains: health, sustenance, and a consistent presence. The true mother energy can be terrifying in its knowing and seeing, and an absolute life-line in its ability to comfort, teach, persevere and instill goodness in her children — while respecting their unique expressions, needs, privacy, space, and paths.
Mother energy is also the planet, Mother Earth — Terra Mater, and all of her ecosystems, biodiversity, diversity, and balance of beings. This energy is also under attack and in great danger at this time. We are called now to hold in our minds, hearts, and actions ways in which to honor, act with, and preserve healthy mother energy.
It is essential that we stand up for and take concrete and practical actions to protect female rights, so that they always have say over their own bodies, and to honor females as equal — with equal rights and equal birthrights. In truth, mother Earth gives the birthrights to all beings born here: free, clean, accessible, and healthy air, water, and soil; shelter, quality of life, well-being, abundance, balance, space and freedom to be, live and grow; and health. Corruption and greed is what pollutes, destroys, monopolizes, and monetizes it. Just like females, the Earth requires our concrete and practical actions to ensure protection and preservation of her biodiversity, biosphere, balance, and health.
Mother’s Day and healthy, loving, strong mother energy is for everyone. The potential for this mother energy is in everyone. We all carry the capacity for true loving mother energy that has the power to sustain and nourish life, and encourage it further: with love, wisdom, and natural magic. Men and boys just as desperately require this energy and the preservation, respect, and protection of it. Men and boys also have the capacity to respectfully and positively wield the healthy mother energy.
I have posted two pages on my website that support the mental/emotional and spiritual aspects required in order to face these challenges, and to wield the healing and healthy energy of mother for self and others.
Speaking personally, I need to practice mentally, emotionally, and spiritually in order to be more effective in my activism. It helps me, and stands for what I believe and seek. This is why I share, in hopes that it will welcome, help and support others. Here are the links to these pages: Heart Mantra and Loving-Kindness Mantras.
May my mother be free from bondage and suffering. May my mother be well. May your mother be free from bondage and suffering. May your mother be well. May the mother within be free from bondage and suffering. May the mother within be well. May our Earth mother be free from bondage and suffering. May our Earth mother be well. May all that is be well.
Adaptation of the Metta Meditation (Loving-Kindness mantras)
It reminds me of what happens when we let go of illusion, yet maintain the magic in life, while also taking responsibility for ourselves. It can be beautiful…in the midst of everything, a rising up, and a rooted stance is taken. And the glow from the resulting blossom inspires, simply by existing.
The blossom opens each day to the world, and closes each night to dream.
Looking out my home office window today, the sun is shining, despite a thin blanket of clouds. Little buds have started on the old lilac bush, and in the distance, above a neighbor’s roof, there are distinct blossoms forming on tall upward tree branches. I peer down at the ground, slightly astonished, despite knowing better, to see the ground again. We had a severe stretch of winter weather that bogged us down well into March. There were, not only mounds of snow, but inches-thick layers of the most unruly, bumpy ice underneath it. It had been impossible to have a decent walk for weeks because of the treacherous ice being everywhere, unmanageable to snow plows even. The melting process from that extended period has resulted in flooding in some areas, and loads of dangerous potholes — more than can be remembered from recent years.
With the slow progression of Spring beginning now, the most heartening days are the ones filled with sunshine, bird song, and enough warmth to facilitate a lengthy walk — either at the lunch-hour, in the evening, or both. Yet, not all is sunshine and warmth…oh well.
Astrologically, the influence of the Pisces season and the Neptunian Mercury retrograde are at a close. How was your mystic, mythic journey this March? Having gone through it now, I would say there have been opportunities for confusion, misunderstanding, illusion, and the possibility of becoming stuck down a proverbial rabbit hole. There were also plenty of possibilities for snags, delays, and untended wounds that want to heal — interrupting and disturbing the already emotionally flooded scene. The trick to the Neptunian-type journey may be to apply the medicine of other perspectives, creativity, and a spirituality that centers — along with the healing detachment of meditating — and critical thinking, as balance. Equally important: to seek and ask for support, help, and wise counsel .
Best case scenario, during the course of March, we took the rose-colored glasses off — or they were taken off for us — and a somewhat painful realization came to light…maybe about how we’ve been fooling and short-changing ourselves in some way. And, how others have been fooling us as well….but not anymore. This opportunity may be coated in emotional pain, and an ebb and flow of confusion. This is partly due to ignoring our own emotional and spiritual needs, perhaps in an attempt to preserve or “save” something that is no longer working. This cycle has been calling for us to move on, and adjust with new wisdom.
It is important that we face our own part in glossing over serious issues (related to loss, self-respect, health, boundaries, responsibility, and inappropriate choices) in a desperate attempt to abate natural, needed change. It is important that we face the painful realization(s), like we may have been betraying or kidding ourselves on some level, and/or allowing others to do so. Once we do, then we can begin to address things more honestly. That will make room for us to process some of the more difficult feelings that accompany new understanding, which we may have been hiding from.
When darker, painful, and less popular emotions emerge, it can be overwhelming. Hopefully we can find expression for them consciously, carefully, and responsibly. It may be good to treat it like an infection that must be cared for daily. Also, it will help to mindfully, gingerly channel the visceral, raw energy of adrenaline, which may be released when facing and feeling the harder emotions.
Constructive, cathartic, and practical activities work best. For me, this often means: cleaning, editing, organizing, writing, drawing, dancing, and/or a bit of exercise. Notice, those are all concrete actions — this is important. A physical aspect needs to be incorporated when channeling formerly exiled and recently emerged emotions.
A Piscean lesson within March’s Mercury retrograde is to remember our boundaries and our lessons learned. Whether this is when we are in service to others, via creative expression and exploration, or with ritual and spirituality — knowing what is us, and what is someone or something else — is super essential to operating day-to-day, and remaining healthy and honest. This awareness of boundaries for health, benefits others, and gives us important information about the nature of the various wounds we may experience and encounter each day, and how to respond to or refrain from responding.
Truly knowing our limits is part of what defines healthy boundaries and allows us to discern at an essential level of reality and experience. This helps us to answer more quickly and accurately: Who does this feeling, thought belong to? What do I need right now? Where is my voice in this? Is this my real need or my wound speaking? Is this fear mine or someone else’s? Is this thought distorted, or accurate? Is this expectation mine or someone else’s? Is this real or an assumption?
I release needless fear and replace it with trust and knowing — with my breath, words, and actions.
I release other people’s needs and judgements and replace it with my true self, honoring my needs, and trusting who I am.
~ CS Sherin, WildClover.org
Lastly, we overrule hasty impulses and stubborn delays by trusting our own inner timing and intuition. That is the compass of trust we need to implement now. Then, we can begin to re-harmonize, uplift, re-balance, spring clean, and re-direct our own path forward — more effectively and truer to self — now that the rose-colored glasses are off, and responsibility for our selves is in motion. Dreaming, creating, and diving into a mythical and/or mystic journey (like March potentially was) can result in concrete, realistic new conclusions that can propel positive actions aimed in a more accurate direction, for each of us.
Since yesterday and through April 4th, the Neptunian thought and emotion waves of lessons decrease. We will arrive, then, in a cycle of concrete action and wiser seeds to be planted. We will need to tend them accordingly, so that they can grow into honest, consistent, and inspired forms of self-expression, action, and being.
By April Fool’s Day, Mercury will be moving forward again. On April 5th, the New Moon is in Aries. This is where the concrete actions, wiser lessons-learned, and the inner wound’s ongoing healing are all seeds planted and to tend come into play.
The energy of Aries on a New Moon translates into the following key words: independence, self-expression, action, childlike enthusiasm, unique way of being, physical activity and exercise, creation, novelty, willpower, fire, and new beginnings.
Two people whom I like to think of, when envisioning Aries energy, are: Jonathan Van Ness and Conan O’Brien. They are both Sun in Aries, and express the Aries energy in dynamic, unique, and entrancing ways. Their individuality and Aries-type expression is far from the possible war-like, aggressive side of Aries and its ruler, Mars.
Of course, most people are not totally representative of their Sun sign, because many other signs collaborate to form a layered and complex personality. I can never recommend limiting anyone to their Sun sign. However, it is helpful to look for certain Sun sign characteristics, in self and others, in order to understand the influence and the dynamics within it for all of us. We all have Aries somewhere in our chart. For me, I have Mars in Aries, so that Aries energy is strong in my life and being, despite it not being via my Sun, Moon or Rising sign. This is something important to keep in mind.
So, with that all in context, both Jonathan and Conan could be considered aggressive in a certain way via enthusiasm and raw willpower, yet it is really a harmless, creative aggression, which is a part of their charm. Both can be blunt, but again, the pure joy of witnessing each of them being so transparently honest in who they are — it comes off as real, funny, and a part of the true-to-life, yet larger-than-life package of who they are as individuals.
Sure, if you don’t have your humor, or if you are feeling a need for rigid control, this type of energy will burn you up, with its free-wheeling wildness, irreverence, dominating interjections, and innocent child-like truth-telling.Both Jonathan and Conan seem to have deep self-awareness and self-knowing. They both appear to be fearless when it comes to being who they are, and acting on it. That can be pure magic, for sure!
This is because they have done the hard work, or it seems they have. This means, they know their weaknesses like: being impulsive, hasty, impatient, pushy, and blunt. And they know how those weaknesses can be wielded as their strengths as well. In order to do that, it has to be faced and made conscious. That is the inner work done. It is ongoing work.
So, JVN and Conan are two great muses for you to ponder and observe this New Moon, and for Aries season. For more Aries Sun-type energy inspiration, you may also want to look to: Emma Watson, Diana Ross, Jackie Chan, Eddie Murphy, and Maya Angelou.
Yet, we are present and in relationship with all that is. This is amazing and good to orient ourselves in this way, beyond the mundane, while remaining rooted in facts of reality, as we know them so far!
This is what we call perspective on the grand scale…thanks to astronomy.
Perspective is personal and subjective. And it can change suddenly, with a new experience, new thought, and by getting distance from things we have become too mired in.
As an artist, I find that when I work on a piece, sometimes I become too close to it, and lose perspective — much like a teenager focusing too much on one feature — losing all perspective on actual proportion and objectivity.
Often, I need to walk away from a piece of art I am working on, stand at a distance, look at it upside down, and even put it away for a while in order to see it with fresh eyes, and as it really is. When I do that, then I can appreciate it, and know what it needs, or that it is done.
Differing perspectives can grant us new glimpses of reality that we hadn’t considered. This can actually shift our mindset and cycle of thoughts and habits for good. Perspective can give us space to breathe, imagine, and create anew.
Perspective can release undue pressures, and refocus our attention on facts of core, maybe overlooked, importance. If you did the breathing and smiling exercise at the beginning, and then read the astronomy “you are here” facts, did that change your mood and perspective in any way?
Our minds too often fixate and replay old thoughts and stories without taking in enough of what is happening, what is real now, and the scale of our experience across the dimensions of time and space. Breaking out of those confines means opening ourselves to new thoughts and points of view, literally, figuratively, and through movement, like travel.
Myth, Mysticism, and Symbolism
While astronomy is able to give us that amazing perspective on the grand scale, as demonstrated at the beginning of this article, astrology accomplishes this as well, only in different ways.
Symbolism and mythology are, and have always been, a basic foundation in all schools, cultures, eras, and approaches of astrology worldwide. It has also always been a way to frame the spiritual and mystical with symbolic interpretations of our life experience on Earth from our viewpoint “below” that reflects some of the “above”.
The deeper meaning found in astrology asserts that we matter, and have a right — a place (birthright) in the scheme of things in this galaxy — whether we have power, wealth, recognition, privilege, or anything else or not. This is fertile ground for symbolic and archetypal self-exploration (the microcosm reflecting a macrocosm) and mysticism.
The 12 Zodiac Signs
The twelve zodiac signs, used in western astrology charts, are largely rooted in names and stories that come from Greek, Roman, and even Babylonian and Egyptian mythology and symbols.
The western zodiac signs are symbols based on the zodiac constellations, yet they are not the same thing. The zodiac was documented by ancient astronomers, many of whom were also astrologers at the time. Astronomy has since moved well beyond the twelve signs used in astrology.
It is important to understand this: astrological signs aren’t astronomy’s constellations. The constellations are numerous, vast, and literal. The astrological zodiac signs are symbolic, limited to twelve, and are related to our point of view from Earth. Astrology’s signs aren’t real in the astronomical sense. They are symbols created by math and the Sun’s relationship to the Earth throughout a year’s time — something called the ecliptic. The astrological zodiac is an area in the sky that is seen from our, on the ground, point of view. Astrology is personal and symbolic. Yet, that doesn’t limit the depth and relevance of this esoteric tool.
The Astrological Birth Chart
The birth (natal) chart is the foundation for most every kind of personal report in astrology. The astrological birth chart is an imprint of us, our total life here, from the vantage point of our geographical placement (latitude and longitude) and time of birth entry on this planet, and again, in relationship to some of the main heavenly bodies in our little solar system neighborhood.
The birth chart contains personal potentials in the many areas of life — from the deep and shallow, daily and routine, to the mystical and esoteric. The planets, stars, and other heavenly bodies used in astrology are utilized as symbols that enrich our point of view, and help us to gain new perspective about ourselves and our possible life trajectories.
In addition to the 12 zodiac signs, western astrology uses:
Mythology and mythological archetypes
Symbols: elements (earth, air, fire, water), modes of dealing with change and collaboration (fixed, mutable, cardinal), and yin or yang energy
Aspects, which are dynamics of energy, based on degrees of relationship between heavenly bodies and our time and place of birth
Ancient to modern methods/calculations based on the heavenly bodies’ relation to when and where an individual (or other event) is born on Earth, down to minutes, latitude and longitude
The birth chart itself:
The chart is a mandala (circle) that is divided into 12 sections, called houses, which represent different areas of life, from the personal and private to the public and transpersonal
The calculation of the astrological birth chart is the basis for all other calculations and reports made in astrology
The birth chart is relevant for the individual’s lifetime, and covers nearly every important area of life with some surprising detail
The birth chart encompasses a lifetime, therefore time is represented (past, present, potential future), yet it is also timeless — filled with spectrums of layered potentials, strengths, and challenges
Astrology is an incredible timely, yet timeless tool, which can illuminate many things, including: influences, patterns, cycles, inheritances, and dynamics in our now, in our past, and even our potential future. The main heavenly bodies in our solar system, in western astrology, represent qualities of personality, lessons, patterns, cycles of energy, phases, and time, as well as dynamics and tendencies related to myth-inspired archetypes.
For the astrologer, the planets and other heavenly bodies of focus (asteroids and mystical points, for example) amazingly mirror our inner and outer realities in perplexing, yet accurate ways. The tool is complex and layered.
In looking at only one or two aspects of a birth chart, like the Sun sign, Rising (ascendant) sign or Moon, the big picture is missed, and key facts may be missed or misinterpreted. This is most often due to other areas of the chart that are more dominant. This can significantly change an interpretation and understanding. For example, I had a client that was an earth Sun sign, but never felt it was accurate or applied to her. It wasn’t obvious in the Sun, Moon, or Ascendant, but she was actually predominantly a water person, with all of her other planets in water signs. When I explained her natal chart to her in a consultation, she found relief and happiness in hearing, finally, aspects of her own experience mirrored accurately for her in the astrological interpretation.
Experiencing the in-depth interpretation of a birth chart is an esoteric and mystifying perspective, and so interesting to experience and share.
No belief required.
Astrology is an esoteric spiritual tool that can provide pivotal and helpful insights, which come from interpretations of symbols in relationship to each other that are based on astronomy, mythology, and earth-based symbols, patterns, and cycles.
We do not need to believe in astrology in order for it to be useful and real. It is just like how we have no need to believe in a paint brush, a wrench, or in clay in order to use and benefit from any of them…just like we do not need to believe in meditation in order to practice it and benefit from it.
Astronomy VS Astrology? How About A Holistic Vision Of Both/And
Instead of lumping astronomy and astrology together, and instead of comparing them as competing practices, I find that it is much more reasonable and fulfilling to abandon the either/or approach in favor of a more holistic both/and approach to different disciplines, and ways of seeing and interpreting things.
Astronomy is a scientific discipline that gathers and develops information, research, evidence, discoveries, theories, and facts about our physical existence on Earth, in this solar system, galaxy, and universe. All of the information and exploration, as well as the images, and growing knowledge about the true nature of our universe is the result of a legacy from ancient astronomers that evolved into what modern astronomers and scientists now provide. It is captivating and inspiring to learn about and explore. Astronomy is fascinating and inspiring. It certainly has the power to lift us up into breathtaking and mind-boggling new perspectives. We need that!
And, despite the adversarial and dismissive tone taken by some scientists and astronomers about astrology, astrology also remains strong and relevant. They may call astrology a pseudoscience or placebo all they want, if that is what they need to do in order to distance themselves from astrology and assert their specialized authority. However, this doesn’t change the fact that astronomy can and does enrich the ancient and vast traditions of astrology, yet…it can never replace it.
As someone who has overcome great odds with the help of creative and spiritual tools and techniques, I understand the importance of spiritual practices — meaning, ritual, and the rich sacred value of symbolism, intuition, and imagination.
There is also great value found in ethical science, logic, and critical thinking. I refuse to abandon either one. We don’t have to.
A holistic approach and vision means that science and spirituality don’t have to agree, speak the same, or see the same…AND neither one can, or needs to, replace the other. They are individual, loosely related, and part of a whole — which is much bigger than either one.
Most of us need some sort of deeper meaning and context in order to enrich our lives, and experience fulfillment — we often don’t limit that deeper meaning and context to one discipline, genre, or perspective.
Our intelligence (emotional and intellectual), and our spirit (energy and consciousness) thrive when we are able to place meaning, and a deeper sense of purpose into the fabric of our lives — while also addressing, in real ways, what is broken, what needs to be faced, and what needs to be encouraged — in order to begin or continue healing. Partly, this often involves weaving many different aspects, disciplines, and points of view together. We are well within our rights to synthesize and adapt what we see, learn, and know. Our ability to work with symbols, mystical aspects of life, and apply deeper meaning within scientific claims and discoveries is a part of our unique perspective and being as humans.
Free Will, Fate, And Improvisation
As human beings, we have free will, choice, action, instinct, common sense, intuition and presence. This is despite qualities and energies that seem to be or are, in some sense, fated or fixed. We are not bound by fate entirely, in life or in astrology — even though there are some fixed dynamics in life and personality in some ways.
For the most part, l i f e is an improvisational dance…unpredictable and changeable.
Maybe what is really needed, is to discipline our thoughts and emotions; practice awareness, and exercise our sacred imagination for collective and personal benefit and enrichment. If this is true, it is good news, as long as we are willing to face and take responsibility for our shortcomings, continue learning, growing, and respond and act on the information we are given in the best ways possible — unique to each of us. That means looking at our blind-spots, wounds, and shadow qualities as much as our gifts, talents, and amazing potential.
This also means doing the work we are meant to do seriously and earnestly. Still, it is important to not take ourselves or each other too seriously! Good humor is essential.
Good humor helps us to endure challenges and hardships, maintaining sanity and balance. The best comedians illuminate what is wrong in a way that awakens and frees us, via real heart, mind, and belly laughter. The best comedians touch on truths that jolt us into really and joyfully seeing how weird we and life are, and the dysfunctions that we deal with in our culture. Good humor relieves some of the pressure points of pain, and gives us space to breathe and clarity to see, process, and address it anew. Any discipline, from the scientific to the mystical, can benefit from maintaining humor.
An Ancient, Diverse Legacy
The history and use of astrology in conjunction with astronomy has been going on since ancient times. Astronomy and Astrology were one in ancient times — identical twins, in a way — who later parted ways (circa 1400–1700). Astrological tradition has continued in different ways throughout history and around the world: Egyptian, Hellenistic, Indian, Chinese, Greek, Roman, Indigenous, and Renaissance Europe. Each had and has their approach and system/rules for calculations, perspective, and symbolism. Many are complex and layered.
There are esoteric, evolutionary, humanist, classic, modern, ancient, many Indigenious systems and schools of thought. There is the Heliocentric (Sun-centered, using Sidereal zodiac) or Geocentric (Earth-centered, using Tropical zodiac) differing ways to calculate houses, varying degrees for orbs, and more . There are countless origins, approaches, technical details, and facets to astrology.
For example, one school of astrology is Jyotisha, also known as Hindu (Indian) astrology. In more recent history, the Western world calls it Vedic astrology. Hindu beliefs about karma influence Hindu astrology. Also, Hindu astrology uses the Sidereal zodiac. In contrast, Western astrology usually uses the Tropical zodiac.
In ancient times, astronomy and astrology were most often united, rather than separate. Religion and mythology were integrated with the mathematical calculations and observations related to the night sky.
Hellenistic (525 BC) Egypt: conquered by Persians, Mesopotamian influence
(332 BC) Greek/Roman: Alexander the Great, Greek influence mixed with Babylonian (“Chaldean wisdom”), Horoscopic, and Egyptian
Ptolemy (140 AD)
Aztec (1300 AD)
*Western history has no firm dates for Indigenous star knowledge and teachings, yet there is an established legacy among Nations and tribes around the world, that belong in ancient BC, before or like — the estimated Sumerian, African, and Irish astronomy origin dates.
The countless approaches in astrology differ greatly, even within one system. There are different calculations within and between systems, different orientation (earth-centric or sun-centric), different symbols, and different philosophies.
Astrology has ancient roots globally, and it endures. The global longevity, with room for different viewpoints, methods, new discoveries, adaptations, and approaches, is evidence of its ongoing usefulness as a tool for personal development that seeks to be aware of being present in the universe, connected to universal qualities, cycles, patterns, and potentials.
However each of us gains new and expansive perspective, it is a gift that aids in our enrichment, well-being, and development. The sky is the most expansive physical reality we experience in this life. Becoming curious and interested in the many ways we can nourish our lives in relationship to it, the better!
NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness) designates this week as “Mental Illness Awareness Week,” with a goal to promote “CureStigma”, which illuminates the needless stigma people with mental health issues face in our culture.
Mental health and mental illness are important, huge issues in our world. There are so many aspects we need to address, I cannot begin to elaborate on it all here and now. All in all, we need to create systems that are healing and healthy for people, communities, and nature — and dismantle the corrupt, abusive systems, which contribute to trauma and mental health disruptions.
From a personal perspective, mental illness shaped my early life, as my father was mentally ill. In fact, he was a sociopath and/or narcissist. You can be sure there is a stigma to those words. And this is the first time I have said it in public. The repercussions of his mental illness, and the actions he took while mentally ill, are still felt in my life to this day. It has always been hard to deal with, whether he was present and alive, absent and alive, or now absent and deceased. In short, he was a product of an institutionalized infancy (state orphanage till the age of three) and institutionalized systems, like the military. Many institutionalized systems that care for children can create narcissists and sociopaths.
Beyond that, I faced my own mental health issues as an adult. I had a traumatic childhood, and faced unfriendly peers and teachers in elementary and middle school. As a young mother , I experienced a trauma that caused me to have PTSD, which I saw a therapist to treat. That was the trauma that was the tipping point of traumas, a culmination that started in childhood. A couple years after that, I became severely ill from Lyme’s disease. It was not diagnosed right away, and I ended up not being able to work for three months.
This caused what the doctors diagnosed as mild depression that was joined with IBS, anxiety, and panic attacks. After slowing recovering, and having taken the medications and therapy that I could from western medicine, I sought deeper and more empowering methods to heal my inner wounds and traumas.
That started me on the path of spiritual work like reiki, and holistic wellness in general, which I applied to myself before sharing it to help others. Looking back at all that I went through related to the spectrum of mental health to mental illness, I can tell you some of the key things that really helped and made a difference for me. We are each unique, and we each find our way to health and wellness in our own ways, but perhaps some of the following things we have in common. Here are four things that helped me the most as I climbed out of the dark abyss, known as a mental health crisis, back in the early 2000s:
I asked for help. I knew my brain chemistry had literally changed from the trauma and illness, and that I couldn’t help myself this time, no matter how independent and private I love to be. I asked for help, and I needed it. I went to my doctor. I went to a therapist. I took an antidepressant for a period of time, and it helped. I was dedicated with a strong desire to find myself and climb out of the dark abyss I had fallen into of panic attacks. The most important and helpful thing that the therapist told me is that: my reactions and mental health crisis had to do with things happening to and around me that weren’t normal or healthy. Therefore, my reaction was healthy and normal, and my mental health crisis was a part of that health. That was a big relief, and goes a long way to removing the stigma.
I read a book that helped me to see that the terrifying panic attacks that made me feel like I was dying a horrific death were actually an opportunity to connect with a deeper and truer part of myself. The panic attacks were an opportunity, it said, to face fear in order to rise up stronger. That book is called, Riding The Dragon by Robert J. Wicks. Books, dancing, and music have always been lifelines for me. That was one of them.
I found life-giving support from people who know, love, and support me — people I trust and feel safe with. For me, that was my husband, sister, mother, and a close friend. The faces of the people in our lives may change at different stages in life, yet the important thing is to find at least one or two people, who are safe, healthy, loving, supportive, kind, and honest. When there is no one that comes to mind, that is when finding help and community through support groups and counseling can be the best alternative.
I used the free tools that I had been taught as a teen and young adult. I had an unusual childhood, and not all of it was bad. I had some unusual, stellar, rebellious-in-a-good-way mentors, friends and family who taught me skills and tools that serve anyone well: breath work exercises, exercise/walking daily, singing, dancing, meditation, yoga, art/creativity, retreat, positive visualizations, prayer, healthy diet, avoiding toxins and chemicals, and spending quality time with loved ones, animal companions, and in nature.
The truth is, mental health issues affect everyone.
We are all on a spectrum of mental health to mental illness, and it fluctuates according to our experiences, environment, and many other factors.
There are few if any people I know who don’t experience some kind of mental health issue in some way, at some points in life. Grief, genetics, disasters, violence, war, abuse, corrupt and broken systems, institutions all play a part in how our brain chemistry balance fluctuates, and our in our ability to manage in insane conditions.
What helps me to speak up now is knowing that I was lucky to have the help and the tools. I was lucky to find a way through it. I was lucky to know I needed to ask for help.
Now, like too many other Americans, I don’t have and can’t afford health care on a regular basis. I may not need it now, but that doesn’t mean I can count on that always being true. I am proactive, and use the holistic tools that have served me well. But that isn’t always enough.
We cannot remain silent. Not only do we need to dispel the stigma of mental illness, we need healthcare and insurance to serves a higher purpose of wellness with ethics, inclusivity, accessibility, and transparency.
If you struggle with mental health issues, the stigma of it, and in needing help but not being able to afford it, you are not alone.