Spirituality’s Relationship With Mental Illness

Spirituality’s Relationship With Mental Illness

Spirituality’s Relationship With Mental Illness

Spirituality and mental illness have a complex relationship. My goal today is to talk about mental illness within the spiritual community in a way that can help those of you reading this recognize just how pervasive it is in the spiritual community and help you identify spiritual people–psychics, channels, influencers, whomever–suffering from mental illness, all the while without stigmatizing it.

I’m going to rely a lot on personal experiences to try to demonstrate this, both my own as well as those of a friend with Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder).

Mental illness encompasses a very wide variety of experiences that affect emotions, mood, thinking, or behavior, including common afflictions like depression, anxiety, and eating disorders to more severe ones that affect a person’s ability to accurately perceive and interpret reality to varying degrees, such as body dysmorphia or schizophrenia. Even drug addiction is considered a mental illness.

Mental illness is a lot more common than you might think, it’s just that a lot of people don’t talk about it because of the stigmas associated with it. There’s been a concerted effort in the last few years to destigmatize mental illness and create a more pervasive conversation around how common of an experience it is. It is estimated that 19% of adults in the US experience some type of mental illness in any given year. I have personally experienced disordered eating, body dysmorphia, PTSD/C-PTSD, anxiety, panic, depression, and suicidal thoughts.

Mental illness doesn’t have to be something permanent. All of us experience emotional ills in the form of depression and anxiety from time to time, just like we might catch a cold every couple of years. Other mental health issues which are more long standing in nature, or which appear to be so deeply ingrained that they are almost a part of someone’s personality may be classified as some kind of disorder.

Spirituality and Mental Illness

In the mainstream, the same stigma applied to mental illness is often applied to spiritual experiences, both of which induce shame. There’s some merit to the idea that at least some aspect of some mental illness is more so a spiritual disease than a physical one–or that some things which are classified as symptoms of mental illness are actually spiritual in nature. The idea that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance is a myth that was popularized by pharmaceutical companies to sell prescription antidepressants. In reality, psychiatry in general recognizes that disorders are not strictly chemical in nature, but are the result of a complex combination of physical, psychological, and social factors.

If you define spirituality the way that I do, as the intersection between science, psychology, and philosophy (which includes sociology), that means that mental illness does overlap with spirituality. The fact that social and psychological factors (i.e. trauma) are involved means that spirituality is part of a holistic approach to viewing mental illness. It also means that prescription drugs can be an effective and helpful aspect of treatment, when they are administered responsibly as part of a balanced approach.

Psychology only knows what something presents as on the outside. Psychology does not fully understand that different presentations of “symptoms” may have multiple causes, some of which may actually be completely normal manifestations of psychic activity rather than delusions brought on by mental illness. It’s a very complex subject and we have to use a great deal of discernment in our approach to undrestand our own experiences and those of others.

The problem is that we don’t necessarily have a balanced, holistic approach to mental health at the moment.

There’s a tendency toward over-medication on the clinical side that is a result of a culture that wants an easy way out in the form of a pill that will fix everything rather than addressing the personal, social, and cultural factors that largely contribute to trauma at the root of much mental illness.

On the other side of the spectrum, there’s a lot of anti-science people in the spiritual community who view the pharmaceutical industry as evil, and by proxy, the doctors who prescribe them, and they completely dismiss the decades of scientific research behind drug discovery. In other words, they’re throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Their real problem is with business practices in the pharmaceutical industry, not the science. Their problem is with unregulated capitalism, not science. Science’s only agenda is discovery.

That lack of distinction in the spiritual community not only leads to a lot of very harmful misinformation and propaganda during times of global health crises, but it also leads people who are experiencing mental health issues to believe that their experiences are actually (only) spiritual in nature, and thus, they don’t even recognize the need to seek professional help.

Narcissism and Spirituality

As I mentioned earlier, there are some forms of mental illness which affect a person’s ability to accurately perceive and interpret reality to varying degrees, and some of these mental illnesses cripple that individual’s ability to even recognize their own mental illness. Narcissism is one of those mental illnesses, and, along with sociopathy/psychopathy, is a mental illness that lends itself to a desire to hold power over others. Because of this, people with these kinds of mental illnesses are disproportionately attracted to positions of power.

For example, between .5% and 1% of the total population is estimated to have a narcissistic personality (of which 50% to 75% are male), however, various studies suggest that anywhere between 4% and 20% of people in leadership roles are narcissistic personalities, and that proportion may be on the higher end in areas where that leadership is self-appointed, such as with social media influencers.

Learn how to spot spiritual leaders with these kinds of personalities.

This doesn’t just apply to New Age spirituality, it also applies to religion. Prime example:

My dad exhibits signs of undiagnosed Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

In 2015 or so, he started saying really odd things. He first told me that he invented a generator that produced free energy. Then he told me how he was experimenting with growing plants by putting essential oils on them. Then he started texting me and telling me to take all of my money out of the bank and buy enough food to last for six months because Jesus was coming back in October and the stock market was going to crash and there was going to be martial law… (which is not unlike the doomsday fears of QAnon adherents after Biden’s inauguration).

 

Eventually he started his own church where he spoke in tongues and believed he had the power to cast demons out of people. Most of the congregation was made up of drug addicts and people who’ve been in and out of jail. In other words, vulnerable people looking for acceptance.

 

“God” told him that he was going to start a revival that would unite all church denominations and go on until the rapture came. He believes he has divine revelations that other people do not have access to.

 

Anybody who didn’t obey him, particularly if it was a woman, was “rebellious” and had a demon because “to follow the man is to follow god” and he would systematically begin to discredit them and attempt to turn others against them.

 

He believed that he had the ability to heal people, and told me how he healed a pastor from cancer.

 

Then he ambushed me in a public parking lot and attempted to cast a demon out of me… because I was getting a divorce. He was having an out-loud, two-way conversation with the “demon” that he believed had hold over me.

 

At the height of the pandemic in the spring, he started texting me (again) telling me how this was the end times and martial law was going to be declared. “Watch. I will be right.”

I’ve recounted in a couple of posts an encounter I had with a guy who exhibited similar behavior which you can read here. That actually occurred before everything went down with my dad, so I had a sense of what it was as it was happening.

Both of them are preying on people who are in vulnerable states by abusing their self-appointed spiritual authority, and this happens within the spiritual community frequently.

Learn how to spot spiritual abuse.

Aside from the two stories above, I’ve witnessed countless other examples of this kind of mental illness and spiritual abuse.

When I first began my spiritual path, I found a sense of community with a Facebook group built around another blogger who was writing and posting about channeling. Eventually, that blogger themselves demonstrated signs of mental illness and many many many people in the group (which was a few thousand people) did as well.

There were people in this group who believed they were being physically attacked at night by spirits. There were people who believed they were being sexually molested by spirits. There were people in the group who believed they were the reincarnation of religious and historical figures. There were people who believed that dead celebrities were their twin flames. There were several (I forget where the count ended, but I think it was somewhere around six at the time I left) women who believed that the spirit being channeled was their twin flame. Some of them posted regularly in the group about perceived sexual experiences they were having with said channeled entity, some of them went on to become alleged channelers themselves and pass along messages to other people in the group from this channeled entity, some of which included telling those people they were demonically possessed.

It was a very common occurrence for someone to come into the group completely green to psychic development and spirituality, and within a matter of weeks or just a couple of months, be giving people psychic readings and spiritual advice, without having any prolonged experience, integration, or any depth of shadow work. Many of them used their self-appointed positions of power to shame or dismiss people who disagreed with them. It’s my understanding that one of those people eventually went on to develop a large following and claimed she was impregnated by archangel Michael and gave birth to a spirit baby.

Learn what you must do before pursuing psychic development.

There were a number of people in the group who were there because they’d lost someone and were looking for answers about the afterlife, and their grief and desperation made many of them prime targets for manipulation by narcissistic personalities.

*** Trigger warning: the following discusses themes around depression and suicide.***

As a member of that group, I personally talked to at least five people who were contemplating suicide. More than a couple of members of that group eventually succeeded. One of them was a young kid, around 20 years old, who told me he’d been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. He thought the government was tracking his movements and was suspicious of taking his medication.

He went on and on about things he’d read online, how he’d met his twin flame two weeks prior, and he knew it was his twin flame because he took an online quiz that said so, and it was crystal clear that he had absolutely no sense of discernment–he believed everything he read related to spirituality, word for word, and didn’t question any of it. I tried to convince him that it was okay to take his medication and that he should listen to his parents and doctor. The last time I talked to him, he told me “I’m getting off of this planet before it blows,” and deactivated his Facebook account. To this day, I don’t know if his parents had him committed or if he killed himself.

The problem with this group was that there were very few people in it who had any length of experience with spirituality or mental health. There was no one to ground the group or present alternative points of view–and many times, if an alternate point of view was presented, the group attacked that person–so people who were not familiar with how some forms of mental illness present had no handle bars, either, and were left up to their own devices to try to discern whether or not these people were the real deal. This left them incredibly vulnerable to misinformation, manipulation, and abuse.

Learn how discernment is is key for a grounded form of spirituality.

A number of those people had also experienced serious trauma, including sexual abuse. A lot of the spiritual concepts being talked about were over-simplified and positioned victims as being responsible for their abuse. I don’t need to tell any survivor just how damaging that is, but for those of you reading who do not understand trauma: survivors of abuse often already feel responsible for their abuse. They don’t need spiritual people telling them how they manifested it.

You’ll see a lot of information online that truly vilifies narcissists and sociopaths. In terms of those who’ve been abused by them, the feelings are certainly warranted and a part of the healing process. I would never, ever tell a victim of abuse that they have to forgive their abuser, that they shouldn’t judge their abuser, or that they need to have compassion for their abuser. That said, it is possible others who are not in that position to look at narcissism through a compassionate lens.

Not everyone with mental illness falls into this kind of delusion, but it’s tricky.

I don’t doubt that many of these people are having some spiritual experiences, because all of us do. The problem is not with their experience in and of itself, but rather, their ability to accurately interpret those experiences and discern between what is spiritual in nature and what is a result of the mental illness. The line between those things is not always clear cut.

I’m very happy to be able to give you some perspective on this nuance by including a Q&A from a friend of mine–who for the purposes of anonymity, were going to call Ocey–who is both a member of the spiritual community and someone who has been living with symptoms of Dissociative Identity Disorder.

What’s your spiritual practice and how you identify within that?

I’m a follower of Hekate. I see her as the manifestation of Source, of the divine consciousness that permeates all things. I’m also a traditional witch with my practice almost exclusively focusing on shadow and spirit work, as opposed to spell work.

My specific practices are always changing and evolving but I try to regularly spend time in study, in meditation, and creating some kind of art. Recently my practice has been focused on studying comparative mythology and sociology in a way to try to better understand the universe and my role in it.

What is it like living with DID?

I’m so nervous to even talk on the subject of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) because the community isn’t a forgiving one. There’s much debate about what qualifies as official DID and the legitimacy of a self-diagnosis, so I want to say up front I have not been officially diagnosed as DID, although that’s partly by choice, as my therapist has recognized it and is treating me for it. And technically I would be diagnosed as OSDD, Otherwise Specified Dissociative Disorder, which is a catch-all category of diagnosing for cases who don’t meet the exact criteria for DID.

Dissociative Identity Disorder use to be called ‘multiple personality disorder’ but the name was changed in 1994 to better describe the disorder. It’s not a personality disorder but a dissociative one caused by childhood trauma.

My DID is pretty subtle compared to other cases I’ve read and heard about. I basically experience my consciousness as being multiple. While there are “Others” inside my brain, they mostly feel like me, just “other me’s”. I’ve done a lot of work the past year to try to understand it all better and it’s felt like shadow work boot camp. But we [meaning all identities] are working on understanding triggers and what they mean to us as a single individual. I’m constantly working on ways to express all parts of myself and giving every side a voice, because it seems to be soothing of the symptoms which can range from black outs/missing time to complete breakdowns where I’ll experience paranoia and psychosis. It’s hard but I’m lucky to have a safe place at home and in therapy to try to work through it all. And I count myself lucky because like I said, DID is a spectrum and there are some who suffer from daily amnesia and depersonalization.

Back when you didn’t know you had DID, how did you interpret it through your spiritual lens?

My Others were always very real to me and because of the nature of it and because I was raised in a strict Christian household, I struggled with faith and spirituality my entire life.

Along with having these Others existing inside me, I’ve also experienced interactions with the spirit world my whole life. So before I was aware of the mental aspects of some of what was happening to me, I categorized it all as the same nature.. which was scary. I wasn’t able to separate or distinguish between hallucinations and apparitions, or paranoia and intuition. It was hard to decide what it was I actually believed because my experiences didn’t all make sense together.

When I first kind of put it together that DID is what I’ve been experiencing it was a huge shock. I had a little breakdown. But soon after a lot of things I’ve always struggled with started making sense. Before I had a name for what was happening, I knew there was something. I’ve spent almost the entirety of my adult life trying to understand myself.

It wasn’t until I was married for a few years and had settled down in life when things started becoming apparently amiss. I was realizing there would be huge gaps in the information I knew about myself and my life and gaps in memories, and mostly, my life felt as if I had just been dropped off there yesterday and often felt alien to me.

I was extremely paranoid and had psychosis symptoms, but refused to acknowledge them as anything but spiritual. But, I wasn’t always “myself” so spirituality wasn’t always a consistent part of my life. The fact that I couldn’t explain to myself why I’d go months, years, without having a spiritual care in the world and then suddenly feeling as if that’s all my life is about, really held me back spiritually. I thought I must just be wishy washy and not really care or believe. But the constant contact with spirits and the constant feeling of missing my life or feeling like I’m going through parts of it asleep, left me in a dark place.

I found witchcraft sometime around 2007 and paganism around 2012 and they both set me on a course of self discovery. My entire spiritual practice for the past almost 15 years has basically been just shadow work. And it has led me to where I am now.

And I’m still everyday carefully combing through my thoughts and experiences trying to make sure I categorize them appropriately, because while I believe mental health and spirituality are very closely linked there’s still a distinction and I try hard to make sure I’m making one consciously.

How did you reframe that perspective after you figured this was a mental health issue and how do you navigate your spiritual experiences now?

The hardest part of all of this has been trying to make a distinction between what’s spiritual and what’s mental. A lot of it is inseparable. The biggest way I’d say I’ve reframed my approach to both is I strive for perspective and verification. I realize now that I may have multiple perspectives on something and instead of making a decision or forming a belief based off only a part of how I feel, I make sure to take into account all sides of me. Even when it comes to how I practice my witchcraft and experiences that seem spiritual in nature, I have a process I go through to verify to myself how I should personally categorize it and if it deserves more attention, and the nature of attention I give to it. And I also have a couple trusted people that I share my experiences with and try to get outside perspective on their nature.

The biggest difference to how I go about my spirituality and life in general is now I have an understanding of how things in a person’s past can manifest themselves later in life.

I believe a person’s trauma can manifest in a damaging way if left untreated. I choose to view my situation through a spiritual lens to give me a framework of how to go about healing myself. I spend a lot of time fighting my own personal demons and am slowly working on recognizing, accepting, and healing old wounds.

A big change I’ve made to my spiritual practice after taking my mental health into account is how I apply it to the world and if/how to share that with others. I’ve come to learn that some things I experience are unique to me and cannot necessarily be applied to the collective reality. So I try to make sure I have more discernment with the things I share and how I share them, and am constantly questioning the decisions and opinions I make to make sure I understand where they’re coming from.

How has spirituality helped you understand your experiences from a mental health perspective?

When I first realized I had DID I lost all faith. I was devastated because I thought this meant that all of my experiences were nothing more than a fantasy created by a mental disorder. It shook me. I spent half a year just navigating that. Eventually I came to the conclusion, with the help of a very special part of me named Joan, that it was up to me how I decide to view this. I could choose to see only the medical/psychological side of it, renounce all my beliefs–or I could choose to also see the spiritual side. If anything, that short time when I lost faith in everything showed me how fulfilling and comforting a spiritual practice can be.

What’s some advice you’d give someone who might be struggling with something like this unknowingly?

My main advice to everyone is to recognize that mental health is just as important as spiritual and physical health. We live in a world now that offers us a lot of different approaches to life and our problems and I think the best way to go about it is to try to maintain a balance between science and spirituality. I think my spiritual practice is crucial in my healing but I also see the benefit and necessity of taking my meds and seeing my therapist regularly.

DID is tricky to notice even within yourself. The entire purpose of the disorder is to hide things from yourself as a survival mechanism. But it is typically known to start showing noticeable signs when you’ve reached a point in life where you’re “settled” and your psyche starts to feel like it’s a safe time to start unpacking all its baggage. My advice is if you have any doubts or questions about your experiences or sense of being, then reach out. Find a therapist who is open to your personal spiritual beliefs and find a support group of people who are having or had had similar experiences. Also shadow work is everything. I feel everyone, even those who may not be suffering from mental health issues can greatly benefit from it.

Scientific American: A new paper argues that DID may help us explain the nature of reality. 

I just have to say that I’m in such awe of how strong this woman is, and how she’s gone about handling this. I honestly started crying when I read her responses to my questions, because even though she’s having to work harder than the average human to navigate the world within her, she’s doing it with so much integrity.

We talked about how there is an opportunity here for her to share her experiences and help others who are struggling with these kinds of things and she said, “I hope to eventually be in a place where I can help others with stuff like this from what I’ve learned. But I want to make sure I’ve learned enough before I start really trying to help others.”

And that, my friends, is the balance that all of us need to strike.

Xo,

Ash

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Four Ways to Stay Sane Over the Next Two Months

Four Ways to Stay Sane Over the Next Two Months

Four Ways to Stay Sane Over the Next Two Months

I‘m trying to write more, but I am fortunate enough to still be working full-time from home, so a lot of my time is still dedicated to business as usual.

I know things have been intense these last two weeks, especially here in the greater New York City area, and they are only going to get more intense in the next few weeks as cases continue to rise. Earlier this week, the notifications about confirmed cases from people at work started rolling in. Many of them began exhibiting symptoms just 1-3 days after we were sent to work from home (March 10th).  Of course, none of them were able to confirm what they had until two weeks later due to the unavailability of tests. At the time we closed, there were only four confirmed cases in New Jersey (where my office is located) and none in Hoboken where I work. Our offices closed at least five full days sooner than many in Manhattan. As you can see (and as was made clear by many health officials), COVID-19 was already spreading, and this delayed action and lack of proper testing is a major reason why New York City is in the state that it is in right now.

Luckily I work for a university who, like many other universities across the country, closed campus out of an abundance of precaution–and they got us out just in time. Many in the media criticized this action, however, it may very well have saved our student population AND ME.

Like most people, I’ve been experiencing waves of fear and anxiety about current circumstances. Just because I’m here helping you all doesn’t mean that I’m immune to the emotion surrounding what’s happening in the world, and I won’t pretend to be.

I want to tell you that it’s okay to be afraid.

You don’t have to pretend to be strong. You don’t have to bury the fear and pretend everything is going to be ok when you don’t know if it is.
We use coping tactics like denial (it’s just a cold), dismissiveness (I’m not worried!), humor, or even positivity as ways to mask our fears. It’s ok to admit to yourself and others that you are afraid.

You can’t help what you feel. Uncertainty is a BITCH and we are facing a lot of it right now.

But I do know that this is the moment we’ve all been waiting for. This is the moment so many people have been predicting. The world will never be the same after this. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. We have the opportunity to collectively create something better when this is over. Life will change. And we will be better for it.

So for now, we must all be here, together, with each other and for each other, as we move through this. Let yourself cry, and then let go of control, and surrender to change.

As of right now, my tentative return to work date is May 18th, which means I’ve got another month and a half of hanging out at home, and I imagine many of you do as well. Here’s four things that can help you survive the next few weeks:

#1: Limit Your Media Consumption

Stay informed, but moderate your consumption. Stop watching the news and stay out of your Facebook feeds. Stay informed, but remember that once you stop learning useful information that is relevant to your immediate safety, it becomes fear porn. Media speculation is only going to feed your fears, but it’s just that: speculation. Headlines are particularly loaded, divisive, and misleading right now because we are in an election year. The same way that you feed your body, you also feed your mind. Don’t fill it with fear.

You can still be social, just stick with groups that uplift you (like mine! Join here) or on platforms where there’s less fearmongering, like Instagram.

#2: Stay In The Present Moment

The more you focus on uncertainty of the future, the more fearful and anxious you become. Stay rooted in the right now, right in front of you. Your family. Your home. Your work. Yourself. Take it one hour at a time. The sun will still rise in the morning. You are going to be okay. Take a break. Take a breath. Let your mind be with things that bring you joy.

Some of my magical friends and I are offering lots of free or low-cost spiritual resources, classes and events right now including spiritual reading material, free long-distance group reiki sessions, donation-based one-on-one reiki sessions and personal readings, daily online yoga classes and so much more. Join my Facebook group for more details.

#3: Emotional Stability Comes From Within

The notion that it comes from certainty of outside things (like jobs, routines, and otherwise) is an illusion. When you relax into trusting the universe–that you are going to be okay, no matter what, you can release your need for control. This gives us the ability to be resilient, to change and adapt as we need to to whatever comes. It’s easier said than done, but if there were ever a moment to place your faith in something bigger than you, it’s now.

#4: Release The Need For Control

The only thing any of us truly has control over is ourselves. Mind your business, stay in your lane, take care of yourself and the ones who matter to you most, and detach from everything else. The only exception to this is if you feel called to help. Just remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup, and you must take care of your mental health and emotional well-being first and foremost.

It’s crazy out there, guys. Remember, you cannot control what goes on around you, but you can control what goes on within you and that is the greatest power any human being possesses.

Xo,

Ash

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A Bystander’s Guide to Suicide

A Bystander’s Guide to Suicide

A Bystander’s Guide to Suicide

For whatever reason, the Universe has seen fit to make me a magnet for for the highly traumatized and downtrodden. Astrology tells me it’s my 29th degree moon in Cancer. Other intuitives tell me it’s because I’m a healer. Broken people are attracted to my energy like moths to a flame – drug addicts, sex addicts, narcissists, schizophrenics, borderlines, depressives, stage five clingers, and anyone who just needs a fucking hug (and I don’t even like hugs. Don’t touch me unless you’ve known me for at least six months).

While many of these scenarios have played out on multiple occasions, the one that seems to recur most frequently is me having a one-on-one with someone contemplating ending it all. A couple of weekends ago, I once again found myself in the suicide boat, attempting to convince an acquaintance from college not to jump overboard. By now, I’ve got a pretty good handle on the situation, I think.

I have experienced depression, but not to the depth that those who have considered or attempted suicide have. Being an empath, however, I do understand, with cold clarity, the kind of soul sucking hopelessness that often accompanies it. I understand, from personal experience, how we become trapped in our own thoughts, unable to see the way out. I understand how, in the right moment, when those two elements occur at the same time, taking your own life seems like the best and only solution.

I am and have been deeply connected to people who have and still do battle with depression and suicidal thoughts. Some of them have lost that battle. Some of them have managed to hang on, if even by pure accident. And for the ones who have, I’m glad you’re still here, and I love you. Even if we don’t speak often, or at all anymore, due to circumstances beyond my control.

I did a mental inventory a couple of months ago of all the people in my life over the years who had been clinically depressed and/or suicidal. Thirteen. Four of them were people I was romantically involved with to some degree.

There was Tim, a guy I knew from high school and briefly dated in college. We stayed good friends afterward. He dropped out of school temporarily after being diagnosed with depression.

There was my first love, who would never admit it and I was too young to recognize it, but it was most likely a contributing factor to the train wreck of a four year fucked up off-and-on non-relationship we had, which, coupled with psychological abuse, completely obliterated my self-esteem, led to my first depressive episode and brought me to the edge of an eating disorder, but those are much longer stories for another day.

There was Sean, who I also dated briefly in college and through a bizarre twist of fate, ended up being roommates with my first boyfriend from high school. He killed himself a couple of years later. I went to his funeral. It was hard, not just because of him, but because of all of the different friends we had in common. Collective grieving is an interesting experience. (Funny side story- I actually met a girl after I moved here that knew him. All these years later and he still mysteriously somehow knows everyone I know, even halfway across the country.)

One of my close friends from back in St. Louis tried to kill herself five times. I practically had to kick down her front door to get her to engage with human contact again after the last one.

There was a kid from back home about seven years younger than me. He tried to overdose on prescription pills when he was in high school. We talked about it after the fact.

There was a guy I knew from a Facebook group I used to manage, who I was texting during his first two attempts.

This isn’t all of them, but you get the picture. The list is long. Too long.

When Sean died, I saw how devastated his family was at his funeral. That angered me. At the time, I thought it was a selfish act. Years have gone by and I’ve been more thoroughly exposed to the internal struggles of people close to me who suffer from depression, and I now have a better perspective. I don’t begrudge anyone for feeling so much pain that they simply want relief from it. It’s not my place to judge you. Your choices are your own. You have sovereignty over your own body, your own life, and I can understand how ending your life may feel like the only way you can gain any semblance of control.

For those considering jumping overboard…

I don’t believe that depression and anxiety are something that just happens for no reason, and I also don’t believe that it’s a life sentence. I don’t believe that people have to be medicated for the rest of their days to simply cope with it, and I don’t believe that “it’s just the way it is.”

There’s no shame in how you feel, but there is hope. I believe in hope. I believe that there IS hope. Even when you can’t see it. And it’s my hope that you’ll be able to find it, in your darkest moments and the depths of your suffering. We were not made for that.

It is my hope that when you can’t find hope for yourself, when you can’t see the light, that you’ll reach out to someone who can show it to you. Someone who can lead you out of your darkness. Always remember that it’s temporary. No matter how frequently it comes or how long it lasts, it’s still only temporary. And with hope and help, it can become fewer and further in between, and the moments of joy, more frequent.

I don’t like the word “cured.” I do like the word “healed.” To be cured from something suggests that it had power over you and you needed an external antidote to save you. To be healed suggests, to me, that you’ve had the power all along. And I do believe that depression stems from unhealed trauma. Sometimes that trauma is so great and so multi-faceted that it’s overwhelming to even think about healing. Where the fuck do you even begin?

Depression, along with many other mental illnesses, are less a disease of body, and more a dis-ease of the soul.

It takes time to heal. It takes courage to push through and commit to continuing to heal. And it takes even more courage to reach out and ask for help. Sometimes we don’t know how. Sometimes we test the waters with vague statements, just to get a sense of how it will be received, and when it doesn’t feel safe, we withdraw. Sometimes the people we want to approach for help aren’t equipped to do so – even some professionals.

One of the most difficult things for anyone suffering from this, in my experience, is how alone you feel, especially when the people around you can’t relate, and aren’t able to help you. You feel like a burden when you find someone you CAN lean on, because leaning on them makes you feel safe, but a single person can’t bear the weight for both of you. That’s why having a support network is so important. A group of people who are able to provide a safety net for you is so much stronger than a single individual, to give you connection during the times when you feel the most disconnected.

And the key IS to connect. Connect with someone who loves you and let them do that. Let them love you. Let yourself receive it. Let it lead you out of your darker moments. Let it help you hold on, just until tomorrow, because tomorrow can make all the difference.

For those of you holding the life preserver…

If I’ve learned anything from these situations, it’s that you cannot make yourself solely responsible for another person’s well being. And it isn’t fair to you for them to make you solely responsible, either.

Your name is not Jesus. You’re not a savior. They cannot and should not carry the weight of this alone, but neither should you. No matter how much you love them, their healing is, ultimately, their responsibility. You’re job is first, to simply hold space.

What does it mean to hold space?

It means to offer a safe, nonjudgmental environment. Validate emotions. Listen. Be receptive. Be supportive (being supportive does not equate to fixing things). Let them know that they don’t have to be alone, if they choose it.

Secondly, your job is to help them find more support, preferably from a professional, and perhaps other friends and family.

Most importantly: maintain boundaries. Know where your responsibility ends and theirs begins. This is a collaboration.

For those of you who find yourself being “the” person, if YOU need support (and believe me, sometimes you do), or guidance about what to do, I’m happy to lend an ear and some advice.

Everyone… take care of yourselves.

Xo,

Ash

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Everything That’s Wrong With The Body And Sex Positivity Movements

Everything That’s Wrong With The Body And Sex Positivity Movements

Everything That’s Wrong With The Body And Sex Positivity Movements

I try not to write critiques anymore, and the reason is because instead of raging about what someone else is doing, I could be doing something constructive that helps myself, or writing something constructive that helps someone else. Promote what you love, don’t bash what you hate, and all that jazz.

However, I also recognize that on occasion, a righteous criticism is necessary to cut through the bullshit. That criticism is even more righteous when it’s meant to cut through chatter in my own industry and/or area of expertise, and especially when I’m ready to call bullshit for the sake of all the other people out there who may need to hear this perspective. In that regard, being critical is helpful.

I’ve done this previously with people who think you can only think positive thoughts and spiritual bypassing and I’m about to do it again on a whole new topic which actually kind of relates back to spiritual bypassing in a roundabout way.

Spiritual Bypassing

A term coined by psychologist Robert Masters to describe the practice of empty spirituality devoid of real personal development. In spiritual bypassing, a person “acts” spiritual without actually doing the internal work to develop real spiritual understanding, often resulting in stunted spiritual growth, repressed emotions, inflated ideas about their own level of enlightenment, and a plethora of other detrimental activities and ideas.

Learn more about spiritual bypassing.

Since this spring, I’ve really gotten into Instagram. There’s a lot of really helpful content there for mental health, body image, etc. that I’ve found exceptionally helpful in my own personal development. But that also means wading through a sea of bullshit to find buried treasure.

I have observed a lot of conversation happening among influencers about body positivity, feminism, and owning your sexuality. I’ve observed that on Instagram, people seem to be able to create entire platforms off of these “positive” concepts, and yet the content they’re putting forth seems to still be rooted in the very thing that they claim to stand against–and they don’t even realize it.  The end result being that they actually end up perpetuating the very norms and stereotypes they purport to oppose.

On Body Positivity…

I don’t know about you, but there for a while, I literally couldn’t scroll through an Instagram search feed without seeing butt cheeks, twerking, side boob, workout mirror selfies, and women in their underwear. I honestly don’t have a problem with nude photos. I think the human body is beautiful. I think the female body is especially beautiful. I think photography is art, and these kinds of images can evoke emotion and important conversation when used in a skillful manner.

That said, posting 1,038 professional photos of yourself in revealing outfits does not in and of itself scream, “I’m love my body.” I’m about to elaborate for you, in great detail, exactly why this is the case, especially if your purpose in posting photos of your body is to make other people feel better about themselves.

Let’s be honest. Most of us–dare I even say ALL OF US–women have struggled with our body image. Some of the most beautiful women I know have what would be deemed by society’s standards as “amazing bodies” and the way they talk about themselves is heartbreaking. My best friend from college is 5’10” and athletic as fuck, and she talks about how “gross’ she is all the time. Another friend just weighed herself for the first time in years and realized she’d lost 40 pounds. She texted me a picture of herself at the pool a couple of days later and asked me if she looked fat.

I know many men who deal with these same issues. Obviously, a lot of it comes from a deeper rooted issue of self worth–the physical body is simply an easy target–but that self-worth is also informed by subconscious societal standards of what is and isn’t beautiful, and those standards of beauty are deeply rooted in patriarchal conditioning.

Because of all of this, some of us have taken that self-loathing to whole other level and engaged in destructive eating and exercise habits in a failed attempt to try to feel worthy. I was one of those people.

Frankly, it’s a miracle that I didn’t develop a full blown eating disorder in my early 20s and I’m thankful that I didn’t, but that didn’t stop me from obsessively monitoring my 600 calorie-per-day diet while working out five days a week or abusing prescription diet pills.

Representation vs. Dysmorphia in Body Positivity

I understand the importance of representing all types of bodies in the media. Everyone should be able to see someone like themselves represented. But I also recognize that body dysmorphia doesn’t fucking care about that.

Dysmorphia is when your perception of your physical body is skewed in a negative way, and you hyperfixate on one or more physical flaws, either real, or imagined. It exists on a spectrum and most people have dealt with it to some degree at some point, if not on a regular basis.

We like to think that the reason women hate their bodies is because marketing and advertising has bombarded us with images of photoshopped stick figures. It be wonderful and so easy to fix if it were that simple.

The real reason we have these issues to begin with is a bit more complex, and it’s because our culture has placed an inordinate amount of emphasis on our bodies as being synonymous with our beauty, our self esteem, and our inherent value as a human being. As I mentioned earlier, it has its roots in patriarchy and the way women have been taught to perceive themselves, and that message has been beaten into us from the day we were born.

Let me restate that for emphasis in case it got lost in translation: It’s not exclusively the images we are being bombarded with on a daily basis that’s the problem, it’s the psychological connection that’s been forged between the physical body and our self-worth.

Unless you have a body type that is vastly different from the average human, it doesn’t matter how many pictures you post of your half naked thicker-than-the-average-runway-model body captioned with, “You don’t need to count calories #ilovemyself #ImBeautiful #BodyPositive,” because you still fit a societal beauty standard and you’re still placing an emphasis on physical appearance as a source of your self-esteem.

Let’s take me, for example. Someone like me by all accounts has a body type that society generally recognizes as “beautiful,” but I still struggle with dysmorphia and hold the belief that my body is far from perfect. Regardless of how shitty I may feel about my body, other women who have bodies that aren’t considered beautiful are still going to look at me and recognize that I fit that beauty standard, and feel shitty about themselves. And if I’m one of those Instagram models with a societally acceptable body type posting about how imperfect my body is, but I love it anyway, then they’re going to feel doubly shitty because “obviously” I’ve conquered my body issues so why they fuck can’t they?

In these women’s attempts to love themselves, they’ve co-opted a movement that isn’t necessarily for them and the end result is that they end up reinforcing the damaging stereotypes they believe they are tearing down.

You cannot tell someone with body issues, particularly someone who’s body doesn’t fit the normal beauty standard,”Don’t obsess over your body” or “Don’t compare yourself to other people’s bodies” while simultaneously shoving photos of your societally acceptable body in their face. It just doesn’t work.

“What’s that, you say? You have body issues? You don’t need to compare yourself to other women! Now, behold this posed, professionally shot photo of me in my underwear. Not only that: that’s all I’m going to post. EVER. Follow me for more body positive deliciousness!”

It’s fairly absurd when you think of it that way, yes?

“I’m posting a no-makeup selfie today to let you know that you don’t need to wear makeup to feel beautiful. Nevermind the fact that I’m 22, perfectly tan, have no wrinkles or blemishes and most likely spend a ridiculous amount of money on skincare. I just wanted you to know that it’s ok for you not to wear makeup, too.” 

You’d might as well be Adriana Lima walking around with no makeup on saying, “Look, you can be like me!” No, I can’t, because even without makeup, you’re still a god damn supermodel. 

Faulty logic aside, there’s a bigger problem with the story here. The well-meaning message of “don’t compare yourself to others,” is actually a subliminal form of emotional invalidation.

Let’s say I’ve been comparing my body to other people’s bodies for years. It’s an ingrained part of my behavior. I’ve got 99 neural pathways that all lead to feeling like shit. Feeling like shit is basically like a drug for me at this point.

Then you come along and you say, “Don’t do the thing that you’ve been doing your entire life. It’s super easy. Look at me. I did it.” Then I try to not do the thing, and I fail. And I fail again. And I fail again. Then I start to feel like shit for feeling like shit because you’re telling me I shouldn’t feel like shit, and that starts a whole new shame cycle.

It’s basically telling people not to feel what they feel (emotional repression and invalidation) while simultaneously failing to give them the actual tools to work through and release the negative feelings and the beliefs that underly them on a psychological, emotional, and energetic level…most likely because the influencer in question hasn’t actually worked through their own issues, either, and their entire Instagram account is just pictures and posts of them trying to convince themselves to believe the things they’re telling everyone else to believe and their own self-image is just as distorted as everyone else’s.

Uh oh. The secret’s out.

Now, since I’m the type of person who says “Don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions,” I’m going to provide solutions.

If you want to be a body positivity role model and you want to do it in a less destructive way that people can actually connect with and heal with, here’s what you do:

Step 1: Stop posting professional photos of yourself 24/7. Not staged. Not posed. You think posting photos to the public dressed in sexy lingerie or sprawled out on a beach in a bikini is being vulnerable, except it’s not. Especially not when it’s retouched or posed with professional lighting, etc.

Post real pictures of yourself. That’s the whole point, right? To show what real women look like?

“But professional grade photography, that’s how we’re supposed to build our brand!”

If body positivity is your brand, then you’re telling the wrong story.

Branding is partly what got us here in the first place. You really want to change the game? Then stop playing it and get real. What a radical thought.

Step 2: Show some real vulnerability. Don’t act like you’ve mastered shit that you haven’t. Be raw with your struggle. Own your story and stop sugarcoating it. Let people know that you’re in this, too. Of course, that first requires getting really fucking honest with yourself and that’s not something most people are willing to do. You’re definitely not being honest with yourself if you can barely bring yourself to post an authentic photo of your body.

The story is not “Look at what I’ve done! You can be just like me, let me show you how.” That’s your fucking ego talking. The story is “I am just. Like. You. We can do this together.”

Step 3: Don’t do it once it a blue moon. Do it all the fucking time. Walk the fucking walk. I’m so tired of influencers talking about how “authentic” they are when they clearly don’t even have the faintest inkling of what that really means.

Step 4: And here’s the most important solution. Show people that their worth is more than their body. Show them. Don’t just tell them. That might mean that you focus on other shit that isn’t your body, like who you are on the inside.

By most societal standards and outside opinions, I’m beautiful. People tell me that all the time and they have my entire life. But I do not always feel beautiful, and I’m not going to pretend that I do.

What does authenticity look like?

It looks like this:

I remember the first time I recognized that I didn’t feel beautiful. I was in second grade. At eight years old, I was looking at myself in the mirror and wondering why other people thought I was pretty, because I didn’t. In my greatest moments of self loathing, I contemplated plastic surgery, and the dialogue in my mind always came down to, “Do I hate myself enough to carve up my own body?” The answer was no.

As much as I may have hated my body over the years, I have always been exceptionally aware of the fact that there are other people out there who would kill to look like me.

I once asked someone I loved if he liked my body. He said yes. I was curious to know how another person perceived my physical appearance and whether or not he’d find certain things I actually disliked to be attractive, so I asked, “Why? What do you like about it?” He said, “Because it’s yours.”

 

I’d never felt so seen or so loved as I did in that moment, to know that someone saw me as more than a body and valued me as more than an object.

That’s what we need to be pushing. That’s what creates self-acceptance. Not 30,000 photos of someone talking about how they’ve (allegedly) accepted their comparatively mild case of cellulite.

Sometimes, I do feel beautiful. Those days are becoming more frequent. I try to celebrate them, but I’m also going to be really honest about the fact that I didn’t always, and a lot of days I still don’t.

You know how many professional photos I’ve posted on my Instagram account? Exactly one, because I’m not trying to convince myself or anyone else that I’m pretty. The more I fall in love with the person inside me, the easier I am on the person in the mirror.

On Being “Sex Positive”…

***TRIGGER WARNING: Discussions in this section involve the subject of rape and sexual abuse.****

The sex positive movement is a great thing. It’s helping our culture move out of this puritanical mindset that we have toward something that we all pretty much do and that a lot of people are really uncomfortable with. I once interacted with an adult male who could not even use the words penis or vagina because he carried so much fear and shame around sex. He called them a “p” and a “v.” We should all be comfortable enough to talk about sex openly in a serious manner in order to be able to have healthier attitudes toward it.

Learn more about spiritual perspectives toward sex.

That being said, I don’t have as many obvious cultural hangups as a lot of people do, generally speaking, with the concept of sex or expressing sexuality. I’m pretty unattached to it, in that I’m not necessarily obsessed with sex but am also not averse to it in any way. I know a lot of people who carry around a lot of shame in regard to sex but I don’t believe I’m one of those people (maybe some more mild, subtle forms, but as a rape survivor, I’ve done a lot of work to become aware of that).

While I was raised in a conservative Christian environment, I never really latched onto the “sex is a dirty, awful thing” mentality, maybe because my parents avoided the subject at all costs and left me to my own devices to learn about it from friends at school.

The only other potential influence was church and the one thing I remember being told there was that you should wait until you’re married. I didn’t personally put a lot of emphasis on that, myself. The thing that was important to me was that I wanted to be in love. I wanted to feel deeply connected to the person I was was with. I later discovered the concept of demisexuality, and I would say that it accurately describes me.

Unfortunately, initiating and maintaining a relationship with someone I actually loved proved to be difficult, due to having spent the majority of my life as an out-of-touch, emotionally stunted ice queen, which only served to reinforce my self-worth issues. I didn’t lose my virginity until I was 24.

This may seem uncomfortably personal, but oddly, it’s one area that I’ve never had any hangups about being completely transparent about, even as a teenager when all of my friends gave me hell about it since they’d all lost their virginity when they were 14. Nevertheless, it didn’t stop people from making things up and spreading rumors about me. I’m sure I wasn’t the world’s first virgin slut and I’m sure I won’t be the last.

When I finally did lose my virginity, it was basically just to get it over with. I was tired of feeling like a freak. By that time, my self-worth had pretty much bottomed out. Even though I had only had four sexual partners until I got married, they were mostly one-night-stands or guys that I only dated for three or four weeks. Some of them were people that I’d completely lowered my standards for and my boundaries were so nonexistent that I allowed myself to be pressured into things that I wouldn’t have agreed to in a healthier frame of mind (as an aside, men should be learning how to respect boundaries so that women aren’t put in that position in the first place).

I vividly remember crying in the bathroom of my apartment after having sex with a guy I was kind of seeing that I didn’t even really like that much or want to even have sex with. He put a lot of pressure on me even though we’d only been dating for a short period of time. I finally gave in and waited for it to be over with. I cried because it was the fourth time I’d had sex and I still hated every minute of it. I thought I was never going to be able to enjoy it.

That’s what coerced rape looks like, and that’s one kind of emotional response that women have that kind of trauma.

As it would turn out, it was just him that disgusted me, not sex, though I never did find much fulfillment in a casual shag.

And so, to this day, I highly prioritize deep emotional connection over purely physical or surface level connection. Hence why I have a quality over quantity mentality, but I do believe that you can have short-lived, mutually respectful and even meaningful trysts that are experienced in a healthy way if that’s what you’re into.

Healthy Sex vs. Unhealthy Sex

That being said, like anything else, and maybe even more so than anything else, sexual energy can be twisted, compressed, and warped from something that’s beautiful, natural, and meaningful into something that keeps us chained to our lower consciousness. God damn, people love to fuck up a good thing.

I’m not talking about people with a healthy sense of sexual exploration, at least not directly. What kind of fetishes you enjoy in your bedroom among consenting adults is your business. I do, however, think it is incredibly important to have an awareness of why those things have manifested the way that they have, especially if you feel an underlying sense of shame around it. And that’s what I’m talking about in this post.

Being a polyamorous empath and interacting with more people in the poly community in New York, I am quickly realizing how many fall into the latter category. There’s so much toxic shame and self-loathing (manifesting as sexual confusion and dysfunction) masquerading as sex positivity, it’s utterly unreal.

Similarly to what I discussed about the body positive movement and how some people’s behavior is actually an overcompensation for their underlying sense of insecurity about their bodies (which is effectively a form of repression because they’re trying to force themselves to be positive when they actually don’t feel positive about their bodies at all), this same dynamic plays out in the realm of sex positivity.

If you’re engaging in behavior that makes you feel shameful, you have to explore the internal source of that shame. You cannot heal shame by ignoring it and jumping on a bandwagon that embraces the overlying behavior without any form of introspection about where that behavior is coming from.

For example, I’ve met several people–both men and women–with BDSM fetishes (I swear, it’s half of New York City). Many of them were sexually abused as children, but none of them seemed able to make the connection that perhaps their fetish (which in these cases were tantamount to a sex addiction) was connected to their underlying sexual trauma, and as such, their way of coping with that trauma was to attempt to justify the fetish (and the addiction) under the umbrella of sex positivity.

Of course, you can’t totally explore sexual trauma until you remove the stigma of sex being dirty, so in some ways this is a part of a process, however, it can be harmful to tout these kinds of things as sex positivity (without appropriate nuance) because it can reinforce unhealthy behavior.

Many of the women I’ve spoken to who consider themselves BDSM submissives are actually suffering from severely low self-worth and misunderstood ideas about what feminism is. They’re falling into submission scenarios that act out a form of sexualized male approval-seeking, but they’re not fully aware of how that is a result of unhealthy societal conditioning.

Healthy Sexual Empowerment vs. Unhealthy Sexual Empowerment

It’s one thing to embrace femininity and own your sexuality. That comes from a place of power and confidence. You own that. It lives within you. It initiates desire in others, it does not require it from them. It is self-sustaining.

It’s wholly another to hypersexualize yourself because you’ve mistaken your self-worth to be equivalent with how desired you are by others. That’s a gaping black hole inside your soul that sucks in any and all attention around it that it can possibly pull into its gravitational field. That comes from a place of emotional insecurity.

Unfortunately, I see a lot of the latter dressing itself up as sex positivity on Instagram, and even female empowerment. And yet it’s the very antithesis of female empowerment, because it leaves your value completely beholden to how fuckable men on the internet think you are. Once again, this aspect of alleged feminism is actually reinforcing the stereotypes it’s purporting to tear down.  

You know how to tell the difference between the two? 

A truly empowered woman has no need to call attention to her sexuality. Her essence commands it, regardless of how much or how little clothing she is wearing. She has presence. She glows. She doesn’t need to be, or try to be overtly sexual. She just is, by her very nature.

Her allure isn’t derived simply from primitive lust. Her sensuality resonates from within the depths of her soul, and it’s synonymous with kindness, grace and vulnerability. She’s a god damn goddess and she knows it.

Sex is a power play, in many cases. When you base your self-worth on being desired, you put your personal power in the hands of other people, and they can take it away at any moment. Your sexuality becomes a manipulative game of cat and mouse. An empowered woman knows her worth and she knows that it lies within her at all times, she doesn’t need to seek it from anyone else.

Once again, I come bearing solutions, or at least a question to ponder:

What’s your motivation? Your REAL motivation?

Like I said earlier, to be able to truly answer that requires getting really fucking honest with yourself and that’s not something most people are willing to do.

Body and sex positivity are not specifically my platform–authenticity as a path to healing and self-love is. But body positivity and sex positivity are aspects of authenticity that do have to be examined and integrated before you can truly be free to be yourself. No matter how hard you try, you’re never be able to force yourself to feel positive about pieces of yourself that you’ve been hiding for years. There’s a process of self-examination, acceptance, and release involved that requires rigorous self-honesty. And this is where this post ties back into the concept of spiritual bypassing.

My goal with this piece is not to shame people or even judge them. We’re all on a healing path and sometimes we go down a few dead ends. What this was meant to do was pull back the curtain on the shiny exterior of Instagram branding and take a look at the dysfunction that lies underneath so that you don’t have to go down that road, too. But hey, we’re all a little dysfunctional underneath, everyone is on their own journey.

All I’m trying to say is, I would love it if people–especially those who are attempting to portray themselves as role models for other people or poster children for a positivity movement–were a little more honest with themselves and their audience about where they actually are in this process. But as is so often the case in the land of Instafame, what you see isn’t always what’s real.

[/end rant]
Xo,

Ash

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The Oxygen Mask Analogy

The Oxygen Mask Analogy

The Oxygen Mask Analogy

God knows I love a good fixer upper project. I’m the queen of the come up, and I’ll turn another man’s trash into treasure all day err’ day. My steps kids joked that Thrift Shop was my theme song. I have an entire Facebook album of shit I bought from Goodwill and upcycled. I decorated my entire wedding with stuff from Goodwill, and then at least half of my house.

This excellent, innovative ability to see untapped potential, revitalize and make use out of broken or unwanted things takes a turn for the worst in other parts of my personality, when I try to revitalize and make use out of broken people.

“But Ashley, isn’t that what a healer does?”

Helping people heal becomes problematic when you’re using it to avoid healing yourself.

That can look like a number of things. For me, it manifests as, “I’m the strong one. I don’t need help. I can take on your problems as well as my own, and we’re going to focus on yours first because mine aren’t dire.”

But there’s plenty of people in the world whose problems are more dire than your own, and you’re always going to be able to find one. The storage closet of projects not-yet-started in my basement proved that. In this analogy, it means you’re always going to be prioritizing other people’s dire problems ahead of your own, and that means you never actually fully focus on your own healing.

To use the oxygen mask analogy – it’s not just the equivalent of putting on someone else’s mask before your own. It’s trying to put oxygen masks on everyone else on the entire fucking plane before you put on your own. YOU’RE GOING TO DIE before you get to row seven.

You don’t realize you’re doing it and before you know it, you’re crying yourself to sleep at night, breaking down in the shower, your hair is falling out and your immune system crashes because you’ve been under a tremendous amount of emotional stress that’s built up over all the years you’ve gleefully ignored it while helping everyone else. You wake up one day and you’re entire fucking life fell apart while you were busy fixing other people’s problems. I’m speaking from personal experience here, obviously.

There will always be another project, so you’d might as well make yourself one.

Take it from me. I finally put on my oxygen mask. I can save a whole plane now instead of being that idiot who thinks that martyring myself sounds like a glorious way to die.

Xo,

Ash

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Baby Steps

Baby Steps

Baby Steps

Iposted this to my Facebook group already, but thought it was worth sharing (and adding to) for the blog. This is going to sound really silly to some of you, I’m sure, but I just reached a really big personal care milestone.

I’ve had a lot of hip/lower back issues since 2015 and they have been getting progressively worse, particularly since I moved. I’ve also had very limited flexibility in my right hip, probably even longer than 2015.

I first noticed it when giving myself a pedicure/clipping toenails. I could bring my left foot almost up to my chest, no problem, but I couldn’t get my right foot anywhere close.

Since January of 2016, I started making a serious effort to stretch on a fairly regular basis.

I just noticed today that I was able to almost bring my right foot up the same way I can my other leg. It only took two years.

The thing is, I’ve had to learn how to make time to take care of myself. I used to put things like this off because I had work to do, or things to clean (all of which boiled down to taking care of other people before myself). I always told myself that whatever I needed could wait. Until it couldn’t wait anymore, and I was (still am) consistently in pain, started losing my hair, and my immune system crashed and I was sick with a respiratory infection for 10 out of 18 months between 2016 and 2017, and got the stomach flu for the first time in 13 years.

I had to learn how to prioritize my own needs and stop sacrificing them for the benefit of other people. I’m still learning, but I’m getting better at it. And, as you know, that prioritization created a lot of really big life changes for me.

Additionally, I’ve been taking vitamins for hair growth since November to try and get some of my hair back, and I noticed this weekend that I have a lot of baby hairs growing in. And it is very much like baby hair – all crazy different lengths. Which is why I cut off my hair this weekend to allow it all to catch up.

 

My next big project is to allow myself to spend money on myself without feeling guilty.

Xo,

Ash

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