Empowerment

Paganism and being a Pagan makes me feel incredibly empowered- when I glanced down the list of prompts for this weeks letter this was the word that stood out a mile to me.

I want to talk about empowerment in two ways- first as an individual and second as a woman.

AN EMPOWERED INDIVIDUAL

Regular readers of this blog will know that I’ve struggled with mental health problems for a large part of my life, before this I had crippling social anxiety and very low self esteem.

Paganism made me feel important, it gave me something about myself that I liked and was proud of. I had something positive to focus on in my life- also, Paganism has a strong DIY attitude, we don’t have priests or people who channel the Gods, we speak to them directly.

This is one of the things that I love about this faith; there’s no middleman, we’re given the power and responsibility to communicate with the Gods and the Ancients ourselves.

Wicca and magick is another spectre that highlights power and being empowered, when you practise magick you have a hell of a lot of responsibility in your hands- you’re winding at the threads of the world and that’s something that no-one should take lightly.

Being trusted with power makes you empowered, the ability to be able to take charge and make things happen for yourself is a sought after quality. Paganism allows us to be in charge of our own lives. We’re Pagan because we want to be, we pray and do rituals and worship the Gods because we want to- not because anyone or anything is forcing us to.

If you want to talk to a God or do a spell then you can. And that’s what’s so wonderful and empowering about this faith.

AN EMPOWERED WOMAN

Being a woman is messy, unattractive and a complete mystery.

Throughout history women have been seen as the lesser gender, we’ve had little control and little say (I always feel awkward when I start talking about female oppression… I have this ridiculous feeling that someone’s going to burst through the door and shoot me with a crossbow) Paganism is pretty big when it comes to the ladies.

I’m a Celtic Pagan and we seem to love our feisty ladies, Paganism in general seems to recognise the fertile nature of women and that we carry the next generation- our religion hold women up as sacred due to our job of bringing new life into the world. It teaches that women are wise and strong, things that are incredibly empowering.

Paganism is also incredibly open about all the points of being a woman- the three aspects of the Goddess; maiden, mother, crone; the moon-cycle (yeah, we know what THAT’S all about) as well as showing that we’re tough things- see Macha and the horses.

Being a Pagan is empowering, my religion empowers me as an individual by giving me responsibility and trust as we as empowering me as a woman by recognising how powerful and important all the aspects of being female are.

Blessings,

Wren x

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How + Why You Should Stop Self Harming

In case you hadn’t already realised this Saturday 1st March is Self Injury Awareness Day (SIAD) if you want to know more you can click here for more information and to find ways that you can help.

WHY YOU SHOULD STOP SELF HARMING

At the end of the day it’s your body and you have the ultimate choice… I’ve sat here for a while turning things over in my mind and I’ve come to the conclusion that it would be hypocritical of me to tell you to stop- but I’m going to give it a go anyway.

You need to stop self harming because at the end of the day it will only get worse. The sooner you stop the easier it will be, I’m sure you’re all familiar with this but in case you’ve never seen it before, here it is:

“WARNING – Before you make that first cut remember: You will enjoy this. You will find the blood and pain release addictive. Even though you think you can make a few tiny cuts that aren’t deep and will heal easily, they will get deeper. They will scar. They will take sometimes months to heal. And years for the scars to fade. If you think you can limit the cutting to one area of your body, think again; it will spread when you run out of skin.

“Be prepared to withdraw from others and live in a constant state of shame. Even if you are the most honest person ever to live, you will find yourself lying to the people you love. You will jerk back from your friends when they touch you as if their hands were dipped in poison. You will be terrified that they will feel something under the cloth of your shirt or because it just plain hurts so much to be touched. Be prepared to get so out of control you fear your next cut because you don’t know how bad it will be. Just wait for 10 cuts to turn into 100.

“Be prepared for your entire life to revolve around thinking about cutting, cutting and covering up cutting. And just wait till that first time you cut “too deep.” And you freak out because the blood won’t stop, and you are gaping, and you feel yourself shaking all over. You are having a panic attack and you are terrified but you can’t tell anyone. So you sit there alone, praying it will be ok swearing you’ll never let it go this far again. But you will, and further.

“Don’t worry, you will learn how to take care of your cuts so that you can go deeper and deeper and avoid the ER. And the better you get at treating your cuts, the deeper they get. You will lie to yourself and justify it when you find yourself spending 20, 30 or 50 dollars every time you go the pharmacy. You will feel the flutter of your heartbeat every time you go to the counter to ring up your order. Butterfly strips, 3 or four different kinds of dressings, Betadine, antibiotic cream, medical tape, scar reducers. You will tap your foot impatiently, hoping the line will just move and no one will stare at you or wonder why you need all these things. And at the same time, secretly hope someone will notice; someone who is standing in line with an armful of the same supplies; someone who understands but of course that never happens.

“Medical supplies won’t be the only thing you spend all your money on. Be prepared to buy a new wardrobe; long-sleeve shirts in summer colours, bracelets, wristbands , boots, gloves, the list goes on and on. You will start looking at everyone in a different way, scanning their bodies for any signs of SI just hoping that you might meet someone like you so you don’t feel so terribly alone. You won’t even think about it as your eyes scan their wrists arms, hoping, just hoping, they will be like you. But they are not. You will see their clean arms and feel terribly ashamed and alone. You will start doing a lot of things alone.

“You will always have to wash your laundry in private so know one sees the blood stains on your clothes and towels. You will always be cleaning up the blood, scrubbing your bathroom floor, wiping the blood off your keyboard. You won’t be able to make it through a day without cutting.

“Next thing you know, you are in a public bathroom somewhere breaking open a scab with a sewing needle that you keep in your wallet for emergencies. When you get really desperate anything will be a cutting tool; scissors, a car key, a needle, a paperclip, even a pen. Doesn’t matter what it is if you need to cut badly enough, you will find something.

“Say goodbye to things you took for granted. Like wearing shorts or sandals, pedicures, sleeveless tops. A normal summer day at the beach or in a swimming pool will become a far off memory for you. Get ready to itch. Because you will itch and itch, “so much you will look like you have fleas or a skin disease.” You will become an expert on your body as you destroy it carefully. You will dream about cutting, you will dream about being exposed. It will haunt you day and night and take over your life. You will wish you never made that first cut because while you absolutely HATE cutting at the same time you love it and can not live with out it…”

– Anonymous
From here.
I know that you won’t believe that, I know that you think it won’t happen to you… but it will. It might not happen exactly like that, but the gist will be the same. Self injury becomes an obsession, it takes over your life and turns you into someone else.
You don’t deserve that.
It’s never too late to stop- it could be a day, a week… or twenty years, but it’s never too late to stop. You don’t deserve to live your life lying, because as much as you might think it’s not a problem- it is.
Our most basic instinct as living beings is to survive- you’re doing something that fights against that instinct. You need to realise how wrong what you’re doing is, because right now you’re in so deep that cutting is normal- that harming yourself and endangering your own life is normal.
This is wrong.
I’ve been cutting for about four and a half years- nothing in my body or mind has ever told me to stop, I don’t see the problem with harming myself. It feels normal to me- but about a year or so ago a tiny little voice in my head suggested trying something else. I don’t feel any urge to stop hurting myself, there’s no emotion behind that voice- it’s just a cold, quiet, intellectual little voice that says: ‘maybe don’t hurt yourself…’ and sometimes I listen.
So I’m asking you to listen too, even if you don’t really feel it- maybe just try… because each time I go longer and longer between cuts, my skin heals, the marks fade… all the worries about my scars, about people seeing just drip away.
It leaves me feeling incredibly peaceful… odd, yes, but peaceful.
HOW TO STOP SELF HARMING
Self harm is a red flag, it means that there’s something worse going on, something that you can’t deal with. It’s an unhelpful coping mechanism- but a coping mechanism all the same.
In order to stop you need to find out what’s causing the problem- I think that the first step is to go and talk to your GP, they can help you start to address the problem and probably put you on medication to ease things until you can get a mental health referral.
Don’t try and tell me that you’re not bad enough- if the only way you can deal with living is to harm yourself then things are pretty bad already.
In terms of practical solutions I suggest you follow the link here, but if you don’t want to leave this page here are some practical solutions.
  • The Later Rule: this is a simple one, you’re allowed to self harm…. but later. Set an amount of time- 15 minutes, 1 hour, but when you reach that time give yourself another amount of time, and so on until the urge has faded.
  • H.A.L.T: this is a very interesting thing that I learnt about recently- STOP what you’re doing and then assess the situation- what’s causing you to feel like self harming? Are you hungry; low blood sugar can make you feel pretty rough: angry; anger is important, but you need to release it carefully: lonely; loneliness is horrible, but there are plenty of ways to combat it- phone or text a friend, message someone, go to an online chatroom: tired; sleep is very important for your mental health, you need to assess if you’re getting enough because without it life seems unmanageable.
  • Write something; a letter, a diary- a blog post!
  • Call a friend
  • Draw
  • Do your make-up/hair (actually one of my favourites)
  • Listen to POSITIVE music
  • Exercise
  • Go for a walk- leave the house and just keep on walking.
  • Squeeze some ice-cubes.
  • Draw on yourself (sounds stupid but you know what I mean- use red pen to mimic blood)
  • Snap elastic bands against your skin- this is a very popular one and something that I used for years, it’s still technically ‘self harm’ but it’s less damaging/dangerous than cutting yourself.

So there we are- I hope this was helpful in some way, as always feel free to leave your thoughts below.

’til next time,

Wren x

Why Self Injury Awareness Day Is Important

Last Self Injury Awareness Day I had a friend who posted on Facebook that she hated it because people were just posting statuses and that they ‘didn’t understand and weren’t doing anything to help’ for the rest of the year.

She completely missed the point.

The whole point of SIAD is to raise awareness, yes, it would be lovely it everyone spent all of their time looking out for others and helping the people in their lives who self harmed… but life’s not like that. We are human and we are flawed– your best friend could be self harming and 9/10 you won’t know, especially if they don’t want you to.

Even if you do know you can’t sit by them every second of every day and stop them- what are you going to do? Pull the blade from their hands? Watch them constantly? You can’t be there and you can’t stop them.

I never had treatment for my self injury, it was talked about and came up constantly during the sessions that I had with mental health workers… but they never asked me to stop, they never even talked about stopping. My self injury was seen as a symptom of a larger problem, the plan was to treat the main problem and then let my self injury stop by itself.

I think that this was the right method to take- I believe very strongly that self injury is a reaction to other things and a symptom of deeper problems. The hard truth is that if someone is going to hurt themselves, they will hurt themselves. At the end of the day that’s their decision to make.

There are things you can do- you can offer someone a shoulder to cry on, a number to call, a sympathetic ear. People self harm because they have no other option; they don’t know how to deal with what they’re feeling.

As people on the outside we can offer them help, and we should offer them help- self injury is a red flag, warning us that something is seriously wrong with someone’s life.

From the perspective of someone who has self harmed for over four years I have to say that my self injury was a desperate attempt to save my own life and attract the attention of people who could help me. I was alone and desperate and faced with emotions that I couldn’t deal with. I didn’t know how to get help, I didn’t know who to talk to.

For me self injury was beyond anything I had ever experienced- it was so huge and so series that I didn’t know what to do, I couldn’t physically get the words out.

If someone had found out when I started then I could have stopped, I could have been weaned off it… but by the time I collapsed in the school playground it was too late. They took me to Matron’s office and peeled my shirt off me- the material was stuck to the burnt and scarred skin of my forearms.

Four or so years later and I’m still self harming… not constantly, not even regularly, months can go by between cuts but at the end of the day it’s still there. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to walk away from it completely.

I think what I’m trying to say is that SIAD is important because the only way to stop people self harming is by raising awareness– raising awareness takes the fear away, it means that everyone knows what to do and what to say when someone comes out to them, it stops self harm from being the unspeakable thing and opens doors for people to get help.

The hardest thing about self harm is that it is totally down to the individual to seek help, no-one else can stop them or do it for them. It’s got to be their choice.

Thanks for reading,

Wren x

Dreaming

I wrote this post and then accidently deleted it by hitting the wrong bloody button on the keyboard… *sigh* second time lucky?

A lot of different culture place importance on dreams and their content- even in our so-called ‘modern’ society I could walk down to the local bookshop and buy several different books offering to interpret the contents of my dreams. Whilst I don’t set much store by these Freudian publications as a former psychology student and full-time mentalist I do believe in the importance of dreams.

Ever since I was little I’ve had very vivid dreams, unfortunately when I have a depressive episode these tend to turn into nightmares. I went through a stage a few years ago when I was having three or four vivid nightmares each night. It was a pretty horrible period of my life.

Dreams are where my faith and mentalism seem to meet, my sleep is a battle ground between the Gods and the screwed up portions of my brain. For a long time I would draw an ‘A’ in biro on my palm during the day to remind myself that I was awake- this is derived from an old lucid dreaming technique, something that actually really helped to stop my nightmares in the end.

Recently I’ve started some new medication (mirtazapine) which has been giving me some pretty amazing dreams- it’s almost comforting as I haven’t dreamt like this in a while, the exhilaration of waking up and feeling like you’ve been busy is something that I love.

The reason why I think dreams are powerful and important is that I think they give us a window into our inner-most feelings. They can highlight the things that are weighing on our minds and even show us ways out of them.

I used to have nightmares about being raped, I think I’ve discussed this on here before, they would generally involve people that I trusted standing and watching whilst someone calmly raped me. This highlighted how betrayed and alone I felt and helped me to see that I had serious trust problems- taking these into account really helped me to make progress in my recovery.

I’ve gotten plots for novels from my dreams- obviously they’ve needed some tweaking but the general story structure is still there- I’m amazed at how imaginative and amazing my brain can be when left to do its own thing.

Science has little understanding of the dream world, but I don’t think we necessarily have to  listen to science on this one anyway, dreams can be our best friends or our worst enemies- all depending on whether we fight them or work with them.

On a slightly more religious note I have to say that I’m of the opinion that our souls do ‘float away’ (for want of a better term) when we dream, we’re more susceptible to the Gods and creatures from the Other World, and so it’s a time when they can give us signs and/or guidance.

So whatever cultural or religious persuasion you are don’t ignore your dreams, whatever you think about them they can be a revealing insight into your own mind.

Blessings,

Wren x

Why I Have to Stay (Semi) Anonymous

Nothing is private; reputation is everything

If you haven’t been paying attention you may not know that I’m an Actress.

So, erm… I’m an Actress. There. Now we can move on…

I’ve been having a lot of thoughts lately about losing my anonymity on this blog, I tell you a lot about myself- my age, where I live, what I do for a living (though I’m not disclosing exactly which supermarket I work for) and I also let you see enough snippets of my face that you could probably make some sort of strange, horror film-esque collage of it.

Recently I went though and made a few posts private, I basically either took down or password protected anything that I wouldn’t want my friends or people who knew me in person to read. I should also probably mention how impressed I was with what a coherent and level headed teenage mentalist I used to be… my old posts seem pretty mature

And no, that’s not an invitation for you to go and check up on that claim- just trust me.

This all lead to me thinking about how easy it would be for me to slowly stop being anonymous… which was ‘very’. I mean, if I think about it I’d have to say that I would be pretty proud to put my real name and face to this blog.

However, there’s one big problem.

The acting.

The quote at the start of this post comes from one of my tutors, it’s something she said to us during a lesson about acting and social media. I’m going to have to have a separate facebook account for my ‘career’ self and change my name on my normal account so that prospective employers can’t find it… not that there’s anything interesting on there at all.

I want to stop being anonymous, I want to make video posts (I should have said ‘vlog’, now I sound like I’m eighty or something) for you guys, I want to be able to talk about my love for vintage clothes and hair and make-up… I want to be open and honest with you but my career is quite firmly getting in the way of all that.

You know from previous posts that I’ve struggled with this before, and I still haven’t come to an honest conclusion about it- maybe in another three years I’ll be in a place to drop the (semi) anonymity, but for now some semblance of it has to stay.

Any thoughts?

’til next time,

Wren x

Wren On Medication: Moving to Mirtazapine

The last instalment of ‘Wren on Medication’ was me talking about how good it felt to be average and my experiences with citalopram, since then I’ve been to see the Doctor- whilst feeling average was great it wasn’t where we wanted me to be.

Unfortunately I was also experiencing some side-effects from the citalopram, namely an upset stomach. It had gotten to the stage that I would put off taking my dose because I didn’t like feeling sick all the time. I’d tried taking it after eating and at all different times of the day and it was only getting worse.

Because of this the Doctor decided that it would be pointless to increase the dosage and instead decided to change the medication and put me onto mirtazapine. This all happened on a Thursday, I was supposed to miss my citalopram dose on the Sunday and then start mirtazapine on the Monday… however I did the stupid thing and stopped taking my citalopram altogether.

In hindsight I’m annoyed at myself for doing something like that, but at the time I was just feeling to sick from the citalopram that I couldn’t take it any more *sigh* anyway, I was fine until the Friday evening when I started to feel very weird. I was wobbly, having trouble standing up and the world was spinning like crazy.

I was out at the time which was pretty scary but I managed to get myself back home to take a quick dose and almost immediately felt better, I then followed the Doctor’s instructions like a good girl!

She’d warned me that there might be a slight ‘dip’ during the first week and there really was- annoyingly I was very ill that week anyway and also had my monthly visit (I tried writing ‘period’ I really did, but I just couldn’t do it…) so it was impossible to tell what was a side effect and what was illness/menstruation.

To be perfectly honest I don’t feel brilliant on mirtazapine. I’m on 30mg at the moment and there aren’t really any side effects but neither are there many plusses, I feel ‘neutral’ but a less stable neutral than it was on citalopram.

The other thing is that the last couple of weeks have been pretty rough both personally and professionally, so I don’t really know where I am at the minute.

Going to be seeing the Doctor again soon so we’ll see how that goes- the one good thing about anti-depressants is that they seem to be giving me more motivation to do things like cleaning up and reading and other simple, boring things that need to be done.

‘til next time,

Wren x

My Relationship With Deities

So, I’ve started doing the Pagan Blog Project again… I’ll write about that some other time, at the minute it’s time for me to give you your weekly dose of Paganism.

Deity

deity (ˈdeɪtɪ; ˈdiːɪ-)

n, pl -ties

1. a god or goddess
2. (Theology) the state of being divine; godhead
3. (Theology) the rank, status, or position of a god
4. (Theology) the nature or character of God
To be a Pagan you don’t necessarily have to worship or believe in the Gods, I’ve talked before about how I started out as a Wiccan and eventually re-labelled myself as a ‘Celtic Pagan’ when I realised that my focus wasn’t on magick, but the Gods.
I’ve been communicating with the Gods all my life, I’ve always believed in a deity or higher power- even when I was far too young to understand what any of those things were. My primary school wasn’t Christian but taught the creation myth as a way of explaining how the world was made and taught us all about the Christian God. I was very confused as a child because the ‘higher power’ that was calling to me wasn’t a bloke… I kept this to myself for years, I can remember trying to explain to my teachers that God was a woman and them laughing at me.
Something that I don’t think I’ve really talked about on this blog is that I used to be a Christian… and a choir-girl… I chose this path because I knew there was a higher power, and the only one that I knew about was the Christian God. No-one taught me that there were other deities. Of course in school we were taught about Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism, but nothing else was ever mentioned and these other religions were seen as something that people from other countries followed.
For years and years I was a good little choir-girl, I would pray to God once a day and try to follow the teachings of the Bible… but there was a problem:
I felt nothing.
When I pray to the Gods, when I say their names of even think about them I feel incredible- it’s hard to put into words, it’s sort of like something stirring and roaring up deep inside of me, I feel like they’re right there with me.
When I used to pray to God I felt nothing, I felt small and horrible and alone. It was a really awful feeling, especially because at that age I was going through a lot of difficult times and needed a guiding force in my life to help me along.
I started out practising Wicca, doing rituals and magick. For a lot of Pagans their religion/spirituality is a practise or a way of life, they may believe in a higher power, they may believe in other creatures- they may even believe in the Gods, and they may follow them… or they may not. For me deity is at the core of everything I do, I feel safe and protected every minute of every day because I know I have the Gods on my side, but that’s just me, whatever you believe is fine, so long as it makes you happy and doesn’t harm others.
The Gods are the beginning, middle and end of my life. I trust them completely and hold them above everything- I know that they will never leave my side and I honour them in everything that I do. It’s a relationship that is totally private but very fulfilling, I don’t feel any pressure or judgement from them. The wonderful thing about the Gods is that they are not omnibenevolent- therefore meaning that I don’t need to be perfect in return, they can accept my flaws because they too are flawed.
Hope you enjoyed my little insight into my relationship with the Gods/deities, I’m off to have a few drinks with my fellow single friends in honour of the Hallmark Holiday 🙂
Blessings,
Wren x