I consider myself to be a laid-back person. Easy going. Calm. But lately, I’ve been questioning whether this is my real identity or just a fabricated fantasy that I desperately want for myself in the vain hope that it will become reality. Then again, most people I know have suffered with anxiety at some point in their lives. It is absolutely nothing to feel ashamed about.
I remember feeling anxious as a child. I moved schools several times and loathed being the new kid because it meant that all eyes were on me when I just wanted to blend into the shadows. I always felt different to other people, and I can see now that that was part of the reason I was drawn to supernatural literature and films where the heroes and heroines embraced their weirdness and had cool powers to boot.
I wrote a post a while back about being an HSP or Highly Sensitive Person and the huge relief I felt when I realised that I wasn’t abnormal. I wish I’d known that as a child. I discovered that my desperate need for security stems from a deep insecurity I had in my younger years.
In school, there was a recurring theme of me starting off every new school as the exciting new girl who all the other girls wanted to be friends with. This would soon descend into cattiness and outright physical bullying. I hated school and found escape in books, movies, and writing. I preferred my own company to other people’s because it was the only time I could truly relax and be myself without fear of judgment.
As an adult, I have frequently dug deep into what makes me the person I am today, and why I occasionally suffer from bouts of anxiety. These bouts have ranged from full on panic attacks and episodes of sleep paralysis to just a mild feeling of being unsettled and not knowing why. In what is often referred to as shadow work, we need to confront our inner demons face on and get to the root of what we’re grappling with. I believe it’s an ongoing process, and the work is never ‘done’ because our lives are not linear; there are potential changes and upheavals around every corner. That’s life. My magical friend Veronica Varlow uses the analogy of choosing whether you want your life to be safe but dull like the monorail at DisneyWorld, or an exciting roller coaster like Space Mountain. Or as Homer Simpson says to Marge, “I can’t live the button-down life like you. I want it all: the terrifying lows, the dizzying highs, the creamy middles.”
Anxiety can be that annoying person who outstays their welcome or it can creep up on you and shout “boo!” in your ear when you least expect it. I recognise certain triggers that set off my anxiety, but likewise, sometimes I have the physical symptoms of stress and I’m perplexed as to why.
A big thing for me at the moment is feeling comfortable in my writing. I’m writing a novel and it’s only in the first draft stage, i.e. the stage where writing is supposed to be freeing and perfection can go out the window. As Ernest Hemingway so eloquently put it, “The first draft of anything is always shit.” But I come to my work every day with a crippling fear that it’s far too terrible to ever be shared with anyone. I know this is my inner critic pulling a fast one on me, but it still gets me. I have to try and acknowledge the negative thoughts and change them into something positive.
I was even anxious about publishing this post. I actually wrote it early last week but kept putting off clicking the publish button because I worried that I was making a serious subject come off as frivolous. If it comes across that way at all then it’s not my intention.
I’m also aware of how food can bring on anxiety, especially if I drink too much coffee (I try to limit my intake to two cups a day) or consume too much sugar. Hormones can also obviously play havoc with your emotions, and I’ve found that tracking my cycle is really helpful to highlight patterns. I use the app Hormonology as a cycle tracker, but I’m not completely convinced that an app has all the answers so I also make a note of my moods and energy levels every day. For more information on cycles, I highly recommend Lisa Lister‘s books Code Red and Love Your Lady Landscape.
So how do I cope with anxiety? There isn’t a magical solution (believe me, I’ve looked), but I have little habits which I believe help me. The following suggestions are tips which help ease my anxiety and in no way am I advocating doing these instead of seeking help or seeing a GP. Also, these are just my go-to solutions for mild anxiety. In the past, when I’ve experienced more serious symptoms such as panic attacks, then there has often been a root problem which needed identifying and solving.
Today is the Winter Solstice, traditionally a time of the death and rebirth of the Sun God. Today is the shortest, darkest day of the year, and the longest night. Despite the usual planning, prepping and stress associated with this time of year (as we often have to shop, travel, cook and gather with our families) today is a day to rest and reflect.
A perfect way to celebrate the Solstice is to confront the darkness and delve into some shadow work. Darkness is not to be feared. Light many candles to illuminate your space. Write down your fears, pain, secrets, and anything you are holding onto that you no longer need in your life. What limiting beliefs are holding you back? Dig deep. It’ll be hard, but it is more painful to carry past trauma, grudges, shame than to release them. Once you have written down everything you need to, fold up the piece of paper and light it in a cauldron or fire bowl. Be safe. Watch your fears and pain dissipate with the smoke.
We need to let that part of ourselves die before we can be reborn. Just as the days start to become lighter, so must we.
I happened to pull the two oracle cards today purely by chance, but they perfectly illustrate the importance of this festival. The Welsh Goddess Cerridwen is also known as The White Lady of Inspiration and Death. She tends to a cauldron which represents the cauldrons of inspiration, transformation and rebirth and therefore the eternal cycles of life, of continuous birth, death and regeneration. The Shadow card urges us to take off our masks, and to shine light on our darkest shadows so that we can move forward into the light.
October was such a whirlwind! I can’t believe it’s November already. This time of year always makes me want to go into hibernation mode. I just want to snuggle, write fiction, read, drink copious amounts of tea and eat comfort food. So it’s the perfect time of year for me to hunker down and get on with writing my book. I know I’m not alone in this endeavour, as National Novel Writing Month kicks off today. I don’t have the greatest track record with NaNoWriMo because in the past I’ve always failed. I think where I went wrong was to get too hung up on wanting a perfect, fully-formed draft all at once, which is completely unrealistic. All first drafts are supposed to shitty, and that is the fantastic liberating thing about writing them. So I need to embrace that freedom and kick my bullying inner critic to the kerb for the next 30 days. Will you join me?
Yesterday I was featured in an article about modern day witches. It felt really good to come out of the broom closet on such an epic scale and say, yes, this is who I am! Not that I was exactly hiding my interests. I’ve been using the hashtag #witchesofinstagram for quite a while. I’ve had an absolutely lovely response from the article, and also some questions from people who are interested in the craft themselves and want to learn more. I’m thinking of doing an introductory series to let you guys know a little bit more about my practice. I’m currently brain dumping ideas, but I’ll keep you posted. I also want to write more about my writing process, as I know writing a book can be overwhelming. Even combining writing and magic! I do it all the time.
Being witchy doesn’t mean that technology can’t still fail you. I have to admit that I avoided this blog space for a while last month. It all started when I wrote a three-parter post about my wonderful trip around the US in September. A few people had asked about my trip and I was keen to share, but technology thought otherwise. For some reason, none of my photographs would upload. I kept getting the same ‘error’ message. It was really frustrating. Then a couple of other posts I wrote just completely disappeared, despite me saving them. So I threw a strop and avoided coming here like the plague. I took part in a fun #innerwitchoctober picture challenge on Instagram. I returned to my lovely witch sisters in Woodstock and learned archery, and I got a magical influx of inspiration, hence the intense need to write.
But I also felt the need to write without my author hat on. Sometimes throwing yourself into a story can be like struggling underwater and unable to come up for air. It can become an obsession. Sometimes you forget where you start and your protagonist ends. So it’s good to be back. It’s good to write about something real and honest. Until next time.