Thursday, February 15, 2018

I'm so tired, you guys.

And, for the first time in awhile, I don't just mean the mental exhaustion of existing in the U.S. right now.

I mean, there's that, too, but also other stuff.

The weather has warmed up in D.C. -- granted, it never really got all that cold to begin with. It snowed two or three times, maybe (which, ever since living in draught-stricken California for a bit, makes me nervous) and we had at least two days of over 60°F temperatures.

This means two things:

  1. It is more humid than Satan's foggy taint.
  2. It is rainy.
I've mentioned that intracranial hypertension responds weirdly to weather patterns before, so it's probably unsurprising that I've been hovering between "My brain is malfunctioning, let's sleep all day!" hypersomnia and "I would drill a hole in my own skull if it would actually let me sleep" painsomnia. The odd little tricks I use to control my pain still work for me, and some days I'm convinced that they're the only things that're keeping me from an emergency lumbar puncture or risky pain management. 

Pye and Kiko seem to get that I'm not feeling well, too -- they sort of hover around me, with Kittybear flopping himself down next to me, grumbling, and changing positions until I acknowledge him and let him wear my hand as a hat, and Sweetbean giving me half-lidded stares and purring directly into my nasal passages. 

The only problem is, she seems to have very definite Opinions about when and how I am allowed to sleep. Every night, at about 3-4 in the morning, I get the same thing: little pink beans patting me on the cheeks and forehead. If I open my eyes, the same sight greets me: a little, squinchy, loudly-purring cat face. If I close my eyes and try to go back to sleep, the patting starts again. In a studio, keeping her out of the bedroom isn't an option. So, unfortunately, she always gets rewarded by waking me up and slowly driving me (more) insane.

So, to recap: I want to sleep all of the time. I can't, because my spine often feels like a squished tube of toothpaste. When I can, Kiko decides that this situation is not optimal, and it would be much better if I were petting a cat instead. (Specifically, her.)

It has made it hard to write, or do much of anything else. I've managed to eke out some paid writing, but, by the time I'm done with that, all I want to do is take a nap. (I also wrote a really, really weirdly hot scene of someone having knives thrown at them, but that is something for another day.) I've also done some painting, which I'm grateful for -- I always feel like I'm not accomplishing anything when I can't. 

I have another project in the works that I'm pretty excited about, which I've mentioned before. It's about a month out still, so I don't want to provide too many details... I'm just very frustrated that I haven't been able to put much work toward it lately. 

I hate complaining about rain because we need it, but it's really cramping my style. Hopefully the weather lets up soon, or I'm able to acclimate to it! 

Monday, February 5, 2018

The Heirophant

I have a complicated relationship with The Heirophant tarot card.

According to most guides I've consulted on the meaning of The Heirophant card, it's a pretty positive card. It can stand for the rigidity of tradition and conformity, but this isn't often in a negative context -- he may be a sort of mentor, evincing the benefit of following an established way of doing things. It isn't always necessary to rock the boat!

Where The High Priestess indicates innate knowing and intuition, The Heirophant indicates the sort of knowledge that can be passed down.

I don't usually see it quite so positively, though.

An interesting subject came up in a Facebook group I'm part of. Without delving into too much detail, the subject involved recuperating from religious trauma. How do you move on after having toxic attitudes firmly implanted in you from your religious upbringing? Personally, though I only had one parent who was staunchly religious, I still came away from my childhood with a deep, crippling sense of thanatophobia born from a fear of going to hell. Getting involved with the death positivity movement helped undo a lot of that, but I still have a very deep-seated suspicion of patriarchal religious institutions in general.

This is part of what I find helpful in decks like the Animalis Os Fortuna. The image is a horse, backed by a vague triangular form. It conveys the pomp of The Heirophant, as well as the sense of tradition and conformity and a visual pun about not bucking tradition, without relying on the symbolism of a Pope-like figure.

Right now, I'm caught up in a deep need to innovate and adjust my situation through means that don't really involve following a tradition and doing things the way they've always been done -- much the opposite, really. The thing is, The Heirophant can also stand for the need to belong to a group or forge a new tradition, which is giving me a lot of feelings right now. The idea of forming a group identity as opposed to following one is really relevant to my life at the moment, and I'm excited to see what this leads!

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Run over by the Wheel of Fortune

Remember when I pulled a card earlier this week?

It was, shall we say, accurate.

The nature of the Wheel of Fortune has encouraged me to re-frame some of the things I experience. There's that old wives' tale about the Chinese word for "crisis" comprising the words for "danger" and "opportunity" (it doesn't, but follow me for a minute) which has actually been somewhat useful in keeping me from tearing out what little hair I left myself. The Wheel represents a turning point and a chance to do the right thing, but I'll be damned if I don't want to burn some things down in the process.

I think I'm making good decisions, though. Ones that will help put my life even closer in alignment with my values, which is saying a lot considering I lack many of the conventional ways most people have to do so. In the process, I'm making a lot of discoveries -- for one, I have more flexibility than I used to, or thought I did. I'm still physically limited and don't have a lot of material wealth, but that's mattering less and less as I grow into the things I am able to do and the spaces I can occupy.

It's a really good feeling. As frustrating as it is to feel stunted in some ways (lol, hello dishwasher-I-can't-unload-without-losing-my-balance-and-breaking-everything!) I'm feeling more and more as though this is necessary to help me grow in others, the same way pinching off the top leaves of a plant encourages it to become lush instead of tall.

Here is a soothing picture of some trees and water, because it's about to get weird.

But there's a darker side to some of the things I've learned this week, too. I'm part of a really good witch group, one that has a tarot live chat every week. We talk about decks, techniques, you name it -- the person who runs the group is even generous enough to do free, two card readings for some of the people who attend and express interest. Last night, my name was picked. I held my question in my mind...

"How can I level up in my life? What do I need to do to achieve the next level of my spiritual and creative development?"

And, oh boy, did I get an answer.

Now, when you're reading tarot, it's wise to take the circumstances around the draw into account. If you're using incense and the ember flares or the pattern of the smoke changes in an odd way, if you're burning a candle and it suddenly flares, if a card leaps out while you're shuffling... All of these things can color the reading itself.

I received a Clarity affirmations card, the Queen of Cups, and the Ten of Pentacles reversed.

Without going extensively into the background and interpretation of each card separately, the thrust of the reading was this: while I am usually perceptive and intuitive in my relationships, and can quickly and easily differentiate between people who are worth my time and those who are not, mental chatter and anxiety may be causing me to place more distance between myself and a relative than is strictly warranted.

Here's where it gets weird. The Queen of Cups, which ended up making up a large part of the reading, leapt out of the deck. In the midst of the reading, there was a small flare of light and a drift of smoke, which was interpreted as a sign of sorts.

Here's where it gets weirder. If you've read here for awhile, you know that I've made no secret that I am estranged from some family members, particularly one parent who shows the signs of having narcissistic personality disorder. Unfortunately, these are often not relationships that can be repaired. You can't win with a narcissist, ever -- your needs, desires, and ambitions will always be trivialized, unless there is a way for the narcissist to directly benefit from them. They will feel entitled to every success you have, and become belligerent when you want to separate from them or express your will in any way. They also have pretty much no concept of boundaries. These things contribute to a feeling that is sadly not uncommon among people who have escaped the clutches of a narcissist -- the feeling that you won't be able to live a full, happy life until the narcissist is no longer capable of interacting with you at all.

It's an expression of the very real fear that, no matter how far you go or how well you hide, the narcissist will still find you somehow (or, if not them, their flying monkeys). That if you're successful in any capacity, it's only a matter of time before the narcissist shows up to either claim some of it for themselves ("Now that you have this, you can do something for me!"), attempt to take credit for it ("You're only successful because I taught/raised/helped you."), or belittle it ("That's so stupid, it doesn't count!"). It can become part of a very complicated relationship with praise and achievement, especially if the narcissist is also violent. It becomes about survival.

Basically, it's like having the zombie from [Rec] for a parent, and achieving anything in life is the equivalent of jumping up and down and waving a flashlight. It's like when people win the lottery and get friends and relatives crawling out of the woodwork with their hands out, but, instead of money, a narcissist wants to suck our your soul.

Sometimes literally.

I just finished reading Sandra Ingerman's Soul Retrieval: Mending the Fragmented Self. The book is an interesting exploration of some of the concepts of "healing the inner child" that counselor John Bradshaw talks about, but from a shamanic perspective. When we undergo trauma, parts of the soul can fragment as a protective mechanism. These missing pieces can continue to impact us in deep ways as we go through life -- physically, mentally, and spiritually. Unfortunately, retrieving them is not really something you can do on your own. There are things you can do to help heal and overcome the trauma, but, much like self-help books are not quite a substitute for guided therapy, it is not the same as soul retrieval.

Ultimately, I know that being no contact is the right thing to do and I will never go back from that. I also know that the unshakable fear that the narcissist will reappear in my life is not fully justified, and that the deep, saddening feeling that I won't be able to relax and be happy until they are fully gone is not necessary. Overcoming this in a way that allows me to thrive -- not just pushing the thoughts aside and trying to ignore them while they fester -- is going to be a real challenge for me.

There is a lot of work to do.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Technical stuff!

Hello! Due to some annoying (and expensive) security issues, I am switching hosting providers. So, if things seem a little broken for the next couple of days, I apologize. It should only be temporary, and things should run much more smoothly for everyone concerned after that.

Thank you for your patience!

What search terms brought people to my blog? (The answers might not actually surprise you.)

Every year or so, I like to see what kind of search terms lead people here. It isn't really anything I act on -- I do enough annoying SEO stuff for my regular job as it is -- but it's fun to see nonetheless. I recently pulled up a list from the last year, and oh boy did I probably disappoint a lot of people.

We've got:

"ive been channeling goddesses"
and "goddess chanelling quiz"

This probably brought them to a short series I wrote about channeling the inner goddess (not in a 50 Shades of Grey way, don't be like that). Since this was mostly me messing around with internet-new-agey things, it was probably... less than helpful.

"which item is were for fashioned in fellow visual treats in my fair handle with care & gem in the water"

I... I think this might be related to gem elixirs?

I got nothing, I'm sorry.

"that is a ghost n that movie three men and a baby"

Nah. Just a piece of cardboard.

"clam ice shelter"

I can see why you'd have to buy one online. It's probably really hard to set up one of those ice fishing tents when you're about three inches long and don't have any hands.

"can crystal send somewhere for revenge"

That's an interesting concept! It reminds me of this article I read from 1956 where a neighborhood found itself pelted with mysterious stones. The local police responded by machine-gunning the adjacent woods (WTF?), only to have the stones resume flying as soon as the shooting stopped.

It's called lithoboly, and has been a Thing for a very long time. In folklore, stone-chucking demons called lithobolia were usually blamed for it. I might write more about this subject -- it's an interesting one!

But yeah, to get back on topic, I don't actually know how to send rocks after people for revenge. Maybe don't do that if you don't also want there to be a lot of machine-gunning, though.

"do people with iih need another drug to get off diamox"

Oh boy, that's a tough one... The answer? Maybe. Some people's pressure becomes low and stable enough for them to step down and eventually discontinue their dose completely. Other people have terrible side-effects from Diamox, or find it doesn't work for them anymore, and need to switch to something like Lasix and Topamax rather than quit completely. Whatever your situation, talk to your doctor about it first! They'll be able to help you avoid a sudden upswing in intracranial pressure, or at least prepare you for what you might experience.

There were more than these, but these were the ones that stood out. I like to think I am educational as well as entertaining (particularly on the subjects of rubbing yourself with garbage and hiding small containers of vinegar in your living room), so hopefully my blog has been of some use to the general populace. Here's to another year!

Monday, January 29, 2018

This Week's Card: The Wheel of Fortune.

Coming after last week's Nine of Cups (which turned out to be a great omen for me!), there's the Wheel of Fortune tarot card.

This is another good omen, though not quite as unambiguously so as the Nine of Cups. Where the Nine of Cups represents a culmination of sorts, the Wheel of Fortune is more like a step in a process. The wheel is neverending -- it inevitably rolls onward, cycling through feast and famine, good times and bad. This is a chance to influence its direction.

The Wheel of Fortune card illustrates the cycles of life. Everything has its season. That said, this doesn't mean that we're passive recipients of whatever fate chooses to hand us -- upright, the Wheel of Fortune also indicates consequences for one's actions. People often use the word "karma" for this, but that's not really accurate. Karma is a specific concept that relates not only to how a person's actions influence their life, but also their position in the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. In a non-religious context, the Wheel of Fortune tarot card's meaning is closer to the idea that you're going to reap what you now choose to sow. Even if you are at a point where you're doing more reaping than sowing, how you choose to act will affect your future. Will you be complacent and rest on your laurels, or will you continue to push forward? If you are at a low point, will you wallow or will you remain optimistic and persevere?

The Wheel of Fortune card can also indicate a turning point. It may not seem to be a good at first blush, but it provides the opportunity to act in a way that offers increased happiness and abundance. Though it depicts the inevitability of change and the fact that there are some things in life we just can't control, we can control how we respond to them.

Whatever is coming up may look like a very good opportunity, it may not. Nevertheless, it is an opportunity. Take this  chance to choose to stay on the side of good and ensure you're in a position to enjoy the benefits in the future.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Trichotillomania: A week or so after shaving my head.

In case you missed by Instagram story the other day, I showed how my hair has been growing back since I completely shaved my head. This was mostly because, since I was dealing with the damage of trichotillomania, I wanted to camouflage the spots that had been plucked clean and avoid having it look all patchy.

So, I kept my hair shaved completely for a bit. The last time I shaved it was roughly a week and a half ago. Now that my hair's had the chance to grow back a bit, how is it doing?

It's a bit tough to tell yet. My hair grows pretty quickly, so the spots that were completely bald are starting to fill in, which is great! Unfortunately, as anyone who religiously plucked their eyebrows can tell you, hair just kind of stops growing back if you're persistent enough about yanking at it. Plucking gives way to traction alopecia, which gives way to damaged follicles and scar tissue. Eventually, those plucked-bald spots just stay that way.

Is my hair growing back?

I have a few places that are most likely not going to fill in completely, but that's okay -- I kind of knew that going in. I can't quite tell the full extent of the damage, though, because hair that has been pulled out takes a bit longer to grow back than hair that's just been cut. So, even though my pulled spots are growing back, it's going to be a solid couple of weeks before I can really figure out what I need to do in the future.

This spot is right along where my part was, and one I pulled from frequently. It's going to take a long time to grow back, and, even then, may not do so completely.

Do I still want to pull it out?

I do still feel the urge to pluck sometimes, but it isn't nearly as strong as it was back when I was able to indulge it regularly. It's easier for me to identify triggers now -- like boredom -- than it was when I subconsciously resorted to hair-pulling right away.

Interestingly, I've caught myself developing new ticks in its place. Most of them are actually odd little behaviors I used to do as a child, before I began pulling my hair.

Is this curing my trichotillomania?

I don't know. Honestly, I'd be very surprised if shaving my head "cured" it -- trichotillomania is a notoriously difficult issue to treat, even by professionals. That said, even if shaving doesn't get rid of it entirely, having very short hair is allowing my poor head to heal and letting me exist without constantly worrying what my hair looks like. Even if I'm not cured, I'm still benefiting from having shaved it!

Worse comes to worst, I may just decide to keep it very short.

What else am I doing, besides shaving my head?

I have a bunch of other strategies I'm using to help my hair and scalp be healthier and control the impulse to pull and pick at my hair. I'm most likely going to break some of those up into their own posts so I can go into greater detail, but they include:

  • Redirecting the impulse onto other things.

  • Using a special hair potion to help my hair grow back stronger.

  • Meditating to help control my stress levels.

  • Habit-breaking spells.

  • Using bamboo silica, biotin, and zinc.
Even though I haven't been able to see a huge difference yet, I'm feeling pretty good about my decision!

Monday, January 22, 2018

The Nine of Cups

I've been getting back into the habit of drawing a card once a week, as a kind of barometer and meditative aid. It hasn't been something I've posted about, but I might start -- it's helpful to write these things down, and, if my experience can be helpful for someone else, it's worth the tiny effort of posting.

This week, I drew the Nine of Cups!

[caption id="attachment_4056" align="aligncenter" width="514"] From the Animalis os Fortuna deck.[/caption]


The Nine of Cups is a very positive, uplifting card. The little stingray sits contentedly, surrounded by the bubbling cups. It is comfortable and happy. The Nine of Cups signifies re-connecting to the things around you that allow you to feel contentment and enjoyment, no matter how hard the road has been. It is comfort, happiness, and the fulfillment of desire.

This card represents more than wealth and the manifestation of material desires, though. The suit of Coins or Pentacles has much to do with material prosperity, but Cups speaks to a more emotional and spiritual meaning. In the rider Waite tarot, the Nine of Cups card portrays a well-dressed man sitting in front of an arch of golden goblets. He has achieved success and contentment both materially and spiritually, and can sit back to enjoy what he's accomplished.

Some sources call the Nine of Cups tarot card the "wish card," since it often means an upcoming granting of your heart's desire.

Personally, I've had a lot of things that have been in the working stage, so I'm particularly happy to have drawn this card. It can be easy to succumb to greed in the rush toward contentment, and forget to enjoy what has already come to be. Even though I'm far from being finished yet, it's time to enjoy the things that have unfolded thus far.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Lodolite Love Affair

Note: This post contains some affiliate links to things I thought were pretty neat. These allow me to earn a small finder's fee, at no additional cost to you. All images are the property of their respective owners, and appear here via a URL preview widget. Thank you for helping to support independent artisans and this site!

Have you ever stared into a lodolite crystal?

They're clear quartz (usually, though some may be smoky) but, within their depths, entire worlds unfold. Inclusions of chlorite, iron oxides, feldspar, and other minerals create elaborate scenes of miniature forests, branches of coral, or landscapes that look like they belong on some distant planet. They're amazingly beautiful, and taking the time to contemplate the tiny inner worlds within them is a very peaceful, grounding activity. Sometimes, lodolite is referred to as "shamanic quartz," "garden quartz," or "scenic quartz." It's said to help with meditation and journeying, as well as having all of the properties usually ascribed to clear quartz.

Specimens can be tricky to find sometimes -- it's not often that you find pieces of quartz with a lot of inclusions and enough clarity to really appreciate them. The highest quality pieces of lodolite look like they encapsulate entire countrysides, while other specimens may only have a few clouds or tufts of bright color within them. When they're cut or polished, they can make for absolutely stunning jewelry.

Check out some of these pieces:

This lodolite sphere pendant ($45) by AllsNotLostDesigns combines the beauty of chlorite-included quartz with antiqued copper. Per the listing, "[t]he inclusion of CHLORITE minerals in this quartz sphere blends the energetic properties of both minerals, making it a powerful tool for healing, grounding, and connecting with nature. Scenic inclusions not only make this crystal a natural wonder, but also augment its beneficial properties."

I love the detail of the spirals in the wire work. It's a really beautiful piece.





Green Phantom Quartz Pendant Necklace: Raw Lodolite Healing Gemstone Crystal, Chlorite, Shamanic Dream, Wire-Wrapped, Nickel Free Copper

If you prefer the rustic, natural look of rough crystal, this green phantom quartz necklace ($75) by DoodlepunkArt is a great addition to your collection. The green coloration comes courtesy of chlorite, which gives this stone a particularly lovely, aquatic, dreamlike appearance that's beautifully offset by the antique copper.

These necklaces are made to order, so each one is a unique piece of wearable art unto itself.




Chlorite Phantom Quartz Macrame Necklace

I'm a sucker for beautiful knotwork, and this phantom quartz and macrame piece ($35.95) by TalesofUsJewellery is particularly pretty. I love the combination of the black cord with the dark green chlorite -- the deceptive simplicity of the macrame really does a lovely job of showing off the detail and inclusions within the stone.

Per the listing, "Affirmation: I link myself to the Earth and the world of Nature, finding there the keys to inner balance, health, and well being."







Set of 5 Natural Lodolite Quartz Points / Chlorite Inclusion Phantom Crystals #4


If you are interested in working with lodolite in a metaphysical capacity, or just want materials to craft your own jewelry, these rough lodolite specimens ($22) from KouvaDreamCatchers are a good place to start. I have several stones from this seller already, and all of them have been very high-quality pieces. A photo really can't do them justice -- they have to be seen to really appreciate the detail in their inclusions.





Purple Garden Lodolite Ring

definitely couldn't finish this post without mentioning this stunning lodolite ring ($170) by RenateSurh. The undulating spirals of purple, silver, red, and deep green almost look like waves, or some strange species of moss. It's like a forest scene frozen in time -- the longer you look at it, the more colors and details emerge. There's so much texture within the stone, it's almost hard to believe it's all held inside a smooth, polished quartz crystal!








Have you worked with lodolite? What have your experiences been?

Monday, January 8, 2018

New Year, No Hair.

After nearly twenty years, I am completely done with trichotillomania. I shaved my head.

Well, technically didn't -- my wonderfully kind, supportive S.O. did. He told me I had the facial structure to pull it off, and, if it was really something I wanted to do, I should.

See, I've dealt with trichotillomania of varying severity since my teens. Sometimes it would be bad enough for me to have large bald patches, sometimes noticeable only as a slight widening of my part. Treating trichotillomania is notoriously difficult, and, even with therapy, many people struggle for years. Some may stop pulling their hair out, only to start again weeks, months, or even years later.

It's kind of a multi-faceted thing, for me:  I have sensitive, itchy skin, and pulling the occasional hair provided relief. It's also something I tend to do more when I'm anxious or bored. There's also a definite sense of satisfaction, however strange it may seem, from getting a "good pick" -- finding a hair that was a different color or texture from my others, and pulling it out. Hair-pulling combines physical sensations, obsessive-compulsive characteristics, and even the kind of relief you only get from satisfying an addiction. It's a terrible, difficult, embarrassing thing to deal with.

Even beyond the pulling itself, trichotillomania causes a lot of anxiety and depression. When you have patches where you've pulled out hair, you worry about what they look like. I confined myself to one or two hairstyles that I knew would let me cover my spots, and would never let anyone else touch, cut, or style my hair out of shame.

Finally, I figured... screw it.

It's just hair. I like having long hair -- I've kept it that way for most of my life, and absolutely never had anything shorter than a chin-length bob -- but if it's only causing me grief and anxiety, why keep it? Sure, society generally has some stares and comments about female-passing people who don't have hair, but there are examples all over of beautiful, confident, feminine people with shaved heads or alopecia. Besides, I've never been much good at living my life by committee.

I'm not entirely used to it yet. I still have moments where I go, "HOLY CRAP, I'M BALD," but I'm glad I did it. It has done a lot for my confidence, since I no longer have to worry about what my hair looks like. Without hair, I can also try to transfer the trichotillomania impulse to something less harmful (I've found a ton of really pretty spinner rings) or even break the habit entirely. I've also received a lot of really supportive comments from people around me, which feels amazing -- not only because they're an ego boost, but because they serve as a reminder that I''m surrounded by people who care.

Do you have trichotillomania? Have you done anything to combat it? If so, what worked for you?