Self-Care Playlist

Today was… difficult. So, I got through with thanks to:

A sweet, funny movie: ‘The Final Girls

A simple but decent urban fantasy book: ‘Black Magic Woman

Knitting that’s complex enough to engage, but not frustrating: ‘Urdr

A podcast that makes me laugh out loud: ‘The Weekly Planet

Catching up with fun and familiar characters saving the world: ‘The Flash

Not being afraid to take time under blankets when necessary.

And puppies who realized something was wrong, and tag-teamed me with hugs all day:

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Now feeling more able to breathe. Hopefully I’ll do a little more tomorrow.

Surviving

This morning, I awoke in the throes of a panic attack. And it was HUGE. A whirlpool of chaos, sucking me down with constant thoughts of distress, failure, pain, hurt… And ultimately, the solid fact that You Cannot Do It.

Somehow, I managed to grab on to a lifeline in my mind (and a pillow in reality). Somehow I stepped out of that barrage of awfulness, managing to see it from the outside: a black hole of destruction, from which nothing good can emerge. But that wasn’t me.

I remembered who I was. I remembered how to breathe. I got up, found coffee. Showered, prepared for work.

I am now home, from a fast-paced, full day. Hectic and demanding, at top speed… But I did it. I Could, and Did. 

Someone spoke to me today of battling his own demons. Sharing made the tension fall away from his shoulders; as the session went on, his smile grew, until silly jokes were being shared instead. ‘I feel so much better for coming here.’

Battling for what is owed, for those I care for. ‘Go kick arse, Cat!’ Because they know I will.

Such words are worth more than gold. If the panic had won, I would not have heard them, because they may not have even been spoken. 

I survived today, and the demons did not win. Not just me, but those I touched with words, smiles… and a little Force Lightning.

😉

Forced Focus

Sometimes, all we need is focus. And the harder we try to attain it, the more elusive it is.

Yesterday, my mind was whirling – mostly in descending spirals. I had no objectivity, no motivation, no clarity of thought or intention. The Black Dog had taken over.

This morning, I somehow managed to get myself together enough to head out for my run around the park. The lovely sunshine and warm breezes helped, I admit.

But once out there, the sheer physical effort of the activity forced my mind to focus. I could feel the darkness pulling, trying to slow my muscles down with a background noise of ‘Too tired, too weak, just stop, go home’ – but I kept my feet moving forward.

Until my breath became steady. My eyes focused on the sights around, or even just the grass as I pounded through it. I felt the muscles in my legs, my heart and lungs… body and mind had to work together, to fulfil this task. That was all.

The endorphins kicked in as I hit a mile – always a thrill for this plodder! – and by the time I did return home, I felt invincible, that I could do anything. Because I had just run around a park.

Sometimes it’s the simple things, such as a distraction that engages the brain, or the voice of a friend. Sometimes a harder kick is needed, a challenge, that might seem utterly impossible at first. Even a breathing meditation (which needs no special equipment, just time and focus) can seem like the hardest thing in the world.

But by keeping on Doing, we pull ourselves back, to ourselves and to what’s true and important, drowning out the unhelpful voices and letting us move back onto our track. We have Done Something, just for us. And in so doing, we can feel alive again.

To Dare…

I gave a talk today at the Mansfield Mind, Body & Spirit fair – standing in the Council chambers at the Civic Centre, with pictures of mayors past and present watching from the walls. A full house, too, with a lovely receptive group of people.

I always get nervous. Even now, after doing this for some years. Especially when the topic is based around my second book – essentially talking about darkness and depression, but from the perspective of balance, acknowledgment, truth and potential. It’s not easy.

This isn’t putting a positive spin on a difficult subject. This is facing that subject head-on, seeing and feeling it in all its pain, guilt and social awkwardness. My Druidry pushes me, insists I see what needs to be seen. Generally speaking, this is often precisely what’s needed, and I’m glad that my audiences seem to welcome that honesty.

After I’d finished, I was told by one attendee that she’d heard people discussing the talk beforehand. “Ooh, darkness – I don’t know about that.” Because apparently it sounded too… well… dark. A bit much for some.

The presenter who came after me was talking about palmistry. Apparently even more people had squeezed into the (large) room for this one – because it was ‘easier’ than mine, I was told. Apparently people like to be told what to do, to be given answers.

Chatting to people afterwards, hearing their stories and even holding them as they cried, I was glad that I spoke as I did. Yes, it might well be challenging or difficult. I encourage exploration, to think for yourself, to find your own way. If you’re brave enough to dare to come into the room, to give up your time and simply listen, engage and consider – that’s a big step. The first of many.

I spoke of solidarity, of shared experience, of the potential in the darkness which keeps us moving. We can stop – or we can go on.

We can step through the door, or we can stay in the safe places, seek affordable solutions and people to sort out our difficulties for us. That’s our choice, after all.

One day, those who didn’t come in may find themselves ready. The door will still be there – as will the darkness, waiting to be faced.

I still get nervous when I step up to speak publicly, every time. But I take that step – because I know I must.