Posts tagged ‘self-care’

Improving Online Mental Health Self-Help Culture

Online mental health self-help culture has its pros and cons-  most of these are also true of other medical conditions and disabilities- particularly ones that are less well-understood or acknowledged by mainstream health care professionals and institutions. These are some observations I’ve made after long-time participation in autistic adult & neurodiversity communities. Note that I am far more familiar with helping adults with autism & parents of kids with autism than say, people who have bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

Pros:

* Spread of good information about mental health, self-help techniques, both mainstream & alternative mental health resources

*More access to information & support particularly for people in under-served populations- uninsured, low-income/working-class people, people of color, GLBTQ individuals, folks with disabilities in addition to mental health issues, people in countries or regions that have minimal or non-existent mental health care

*People finding community, sometimes pride in neurodivergent, mad, disabled and queer identities.

*More understanding for family, friends, community members and mental health professionals

*Advice on how to navigate healthcare/social service/education bureaucracies, and less conventional ways of accessing basic needs (barter, sharing, crowd-funding)

*Peer supported/confirmed self-diagnoses for people who might have a harder time accessing formal diagnosis. Sometimes a person later gets an official diagnosis, services and accommodations.

Cons:

*Spread of bad information on mental health, ineffective or inappropriate self-help techniques (either for everyone or for specific individuals) Framing either mainstream or alternative mental health structures/techniques as either 100% good or bad.

*Professionals & family members who are otherwise unaware of the broad range of mental health self-help communities may see more extreme factions and assume they are representative of the whole. But this is a problem with every subculture, internet or otherwise- especially if something is either unfamiliar or someone is already prejudiced against it, they will pick the most extreme version of it, and that’s the part that becomes most well known, even if it’s a small minority. (This is why respectability politics never works!) And if some part of the media gets involved, well St. Dymphna help us!

*False self-diagnoses that lead to a person to engage in self-help and self-medicating that harms them, spreads inaccurate information about a condition to others. (I’d add “uses self-diagnosis as an excuse- but those of us with official diagnoses are so frequently told that “we’re just using X as an excuse, it’s all in your head, not real, that didn’t exist in my day, blah blah” that quite frankly I doubt that many people specifically seek neurodivergent labels for themselves while knowing they are not accurate. Yes, sometimes there are hypochondriacs or maybe even trolls that try to infiltrate communities. But this is not something people seek out to be “cool”.

*Confusion by both participants and outsiders between  identities and subcultures perceived as unusual/eccentric- such as- otherkin, multiple systems, various alternative spiritual beliefs & practices, gender & sexual minorities that *do not* by themselves indicate a person having mental distress issues vs. assuming that if this person claims this identity they must necessarily be mentally ill, add extra stigma helping.

How to we increase positive results of our communities while reducing negative results?

*Self-care and knowing your limits- do what you need to do to take care of yourself, mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. If that means taking a break from these communities- both online and in-person support groups, fine!

*Figure out clear boundaries for what you are and aren’t willing to do to help others- a therapist can help with this.

*Get out and be social, hang out with people who are supportive but don’t have mental health/substance abuse issues themselves

*Get lay-level training about how to deal with mental health crisis- both for yourself and others from orgs like National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) Note: I know some of my fellow activists don’t care for NAMI- I am just suggesting them as a baseline, you don’t necessarily have to agree with them on everything to learn from them.

*Suggest and redirect people towards groups that focus on resources in their area (I’ve often encountered pleas like “I’m about to become homeless/lose X type of benefits etc” from people without them telling us where in the United States they are, let alone where on the entire frickin’ planet!

*Encourage people to seek out in-person help in their local area, and not wait til things have gotten to an emergency level (or what they perceive as an emergency!)

*Recognize when/if you have a Savior/Martyr/Compulsive Parent Figure Who Must Help/Adopt all the Lost Puppies & Orphans type mentality. Helping people is a wonderful thing! It can also become an addictive and dysfunctional behavior!

*Learn about Minority Stress Theory, and particular issues facing various minority groups that can affect them while accessing mental health care. Learn about different cultural views of mental health

*Share information about how to get professional help, while being understanding of concerns people may have about doing so.

*Moderators of different communities/fora should talk to each other to share information about problematic individuals. Even if some of their behavior is related to their mental health or neurodivergence, that is not an excuse for breaking rules that are clearly stated, being disruptive, or harassing and bullying other people. Hence why, in these communities in particular to clear rules that all participants agree to, and steady & active moderation. Confidentiality is also a must.

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May 30, 2015 at 3:05 am Leave a comment

Self-Care as Spiritual Practice

The next Pagan Experience prompt is to write about a particular personal spiritual practice. I’m coming up blank, since for the past several years, I’ve been pretty much an armchair philosophical polytheist with agnostic leanings (or agnostic with polytheist leanings?) I think, and read and write, and rather obsessively collect information about religion but don’t use it! I think the problem is that I’m an extrovert, and I don’t feel very motivated to have a solitary practice.  Introverts get their energy from being alone, while extroverts get their energy from other people.

I have sometimes questioned this, being an Aspie and all, but my partner (himself an introvert) reminded me “Nope, honey you are definitely an extrovert.” I’m just a social butterfly that doesn’t fly straight…that’s OK so are a lot of Pagans! I actually think introverted Pagans might even be in the majority, that may be one reason why there are so many solitaries. Being an autistic extrovert though, means I do need to pace myself and sometimes take breaks from social activity to avoid over-stimulation and potential emotional and sensory burnout. For right now, self-care is my spiritual practice- working through emotional issues and getting it together to be a Healthy & Responsible Adult ™ That does not have to mean being perfect, having The Right Career (if such a thing exists!) Just start with trying as best I can to live a healthy lifestyle, eat, sleep, hygiene, exercise, keeping the house clean, social time.

A writing project I have been working on in relation to this is the Self-Care Virtues series of posts. It started because I felt the Nine Noble Virtues and similar virtue systems with a heroic, warrior focus left out people who need to focus on simply taking care of themselves- folks with disabilities, including mental illness, chronic illnesses, people taking care of loved ones with such issues, people living in poverty, in jail/prison or mental institutions and so forth. Some people need this temporarily, others will need it much of their lives. This is my own project, but if it helps and inspires other people to use it and perhaps write similar posts with other religious or cultural frameworks, I’d really like to hear about it, so please link if you have your own additions or comments.

January 15, 2015 at 9:59 am Leave a comment

Love Thyself

Since the Pagan Blog Project has discontinued, the Pagan Experience has popped up as its “heir apparent”. The first prompt for January is to write about one’s intentions or resolutions for the new year.

My main intentions are to re-direct and be mindful of negative thought patterns, not feel bad about them but to direct them in a more positive direction. Meditation and prayer are ways to help with this especially mantras or affirmations.

  • I intend to get more exercise- planning on going to yoga classes
  • Get crafty- art therapy!
  • Re-connect with old friends, make new ones
  • Enjoy/value relationships more
  • Love self, take care of self, before taking care of others

January 15, 2015 at 8:26 am Leave a comment

Black Lives Matter Responses

Crystal Blanton’s call for a response from Pagan & Polytheist communities has been met with many statements from organizations & individuals listed here on the Wild Hunt blog. I’m happy to add any further statements from people of any tradition, ethnicity that are anti-racist and specifically that this about the lives of Black/African-American people. I’m proud to see organizations I’m a member of of, like ADF and Heathens United Against Racism, come forward at this difficult and divisive time and stand up for what’s right. I’m disappointed by the statement given by the Covenant of the Goddess nationally- which was much too generic in nature, and I don’t blame Ms. Blanton and her coven for resigning from CoG. I’m not a member of CoG but I have attended many of their rituals over the years, and have been grateful for them providing rituals in local, bus accessible, handicap accessible locations (which a lot of other Twin Cities Pagan groups *do not*!) I’m hoping that the Northern Dawn Council, our local CoG chapter will write & release a better statement. (Shall I get off my duff & join?)

There are also some incidents going on with mistreatment of American Indians- in particular Corey Kenosh, a 35-year-old unarmed man who was killed by police. I don’t want to steal the thunder from the Black community, but this needs to be acknowledged as well. American Indians are a smaller group, and many people aren’t as aware of the American Indian Movement. I’m originally from Montana- where “No Indians” signs on stores were once as common as “Whites Only” signs in the South.

Here’s an Open Letter from LGBTQ organizations on the Bisexual Organizing Project’s website

A Commitment to Realignment & Resignation– by Crystal Blanton

Caer Jones- gets into an explanation here of what’s wrong with the CoG statement, and writes her own.

These events are showing me, more than ever how huge the gulf of understanding of racial issues is between Black and white Americans. I am seeing many of my fellow white folks who are getting it, but just as many who are not, though it is hard, please folks we need to educate the people who don’t get it. Some of them won’t listen, but some of them will. One great first step you can take is by reading the book the New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, if you already haven’t.

Personally I have not said much as I’m trying to focus on getting over depression and finding a new job. Information & emotional overload does not help with that. I still care about what’s happening, but sometimes you have to take care of yourself first before you can deal bigger problems!

Here’s also something my Dad wrote on Facebook:

“I think we need to get beyond recent specific incidents that allow critics to pick through facts of the case to try and demonstrate that racism was not a factor. We need to look at the larger problem. Our society continues to be animated by subtle and not subtle racist attitudes.

People of conscience no matter their faith system must be aware of the many strata of racism in and around us and find ways to witness against it. Few things are more difficult. It must begin with self awareness and, well, transcendence. If we are afraid to speak out then we must ask ourselves why. We must be willing to risk social consequences. We must be courageous.

Within any meaningful faith system we can find wisdom and truth that can inform us. And maybe we can employ beliefs unique to our own faith that can motivate like minded folk to acknowledge the greater truth that has seemed hidden from us.

Citizens, believers, cannot easily reach the right conclusions with no outside help. So faith groups can help by offering training; by giving participants insight about what is happening around them; and suggesting specific actions they can take.

Grand juries can fail to indite but that is a technical legal process. I doubt anyone believes those officers INTENDED to commit murder. But in the mix of things going through their minds at the moment they pulled the trigger or choked the victim was race in the equation? I think it is difficult for any critical thinker to say NO!
Now that state bodies have ruled limited as they are by facts and law, the federal Justice Department can ask did these officers as individuals and as part of the law enforcement collective violate the civil rights of these men? We can hope and expect that the answer will be yes. But then we cannot just move on and wait until the next injustice presents itself. No matter the answer we are called to continue the struggle against institutional white racism.”

(Virtual hug) Thanks, Dad!

December 12, 2014 at 12:42 am Leave a comment

Self-Care Virtues: Self-Advocacy

Of all the Nine Noble Virtues, the one that I most wanted to re-write/re-frame from a disability-inclusive perspective was self-reliance. Even from a historical view-point, it does not really make sense. A tribe or village or household had to rely on itself but an individual did not have to be completely self-reliant unless they were utangard– cast out from society and left on their own. This “virtue” seems to be more of an influence from extreme individualist capitalism than ancient Norse culture.

The Greek Delphic Maxim of “Know Yourself” also comes to mind. From what I understand this is often seen as “know your limitations, know that you’re human, mortal, imperfect”. This sort of idea is a lot more emphasized in Christianity, but in European polytheist traditions we often go to the opposite extreme of proving how awesomely heroic we can be, how many mystical, magical powers we can develop and so forth.

Self-advocacy is a movement among people with disabilities, particularly developmental/intellectual disabilities. Self-advocacy means explaining your disability or health condition to others, and advocating for accommodations, equipment or other considerations that you need.  When growing up as a child with a disability, parents and others do advocacy for them (well hopefully they do!) but as a child gets older, he/she/zie needs to learn to effectively self-advocate for themselves. Non-disabled people do self-advocacy as well- a pregnant woman might ask for accommodations in her working conditions, a left-handed student might ask for a left-handed desk, and so forth.

Being a self-advocate is different from being a disability rights activist, because it is only asking for getting your own needs met, and not trying to change broader social structures to make society accessible to all. However, being an effective self-advocate can be a great step towards becoming an activist.

Resources:

History of the Self-Advocacy Movement– Interesting that it started in Sweden!

Speak Up: Your Guide to Self-Advocacy

Self-Advocacy: What’s That?

October 30, 2014 at 9:20 pm Leave a comment

What Do Healthy Spiritual Communities Look Like?

(Note: this advice is coming from my experience dealing with Pagan/magical/New Age communities, however much of it is relevant to other spiritual/religious communities as well as secular ones)

Healthy Friendships

If someone is mostly a negative influence on you, remove them from your life. Cut off contact. Make friends outside the Pagan community, in secular settings who are positive and supportive. Look for friends, who while they may not have everything in life figured out, in general have fairly stable lives that they are holding together. If you have friends who constantly ask you for help, a place to sleep, store stuff, money, rides etc. but do not seem to be doing much to improve their situation *when it is within their power* and keep giving excuses, seriously re-evaluate these friendships. Make boundaries that you are comfortable with.

Personally I have a limit of having one friend at a time that I help with serious issues (mental health, looking for jobs/housing/healthcare/childcare etc) I focus on referring them to services and giving them someone to talk to (about non-professional level appropriate things), while drawing the boundary of not allowing my health or finances to be dragged down by them.

True friendship requires give and take- much like relationships with our gods and spirits. There are times when a good friend needs to give more support to a friend in need, but everyone must use their own judgment about how far that support should go.

Healthy Leaders/Elders/Clergy 

How is the status/title/power of this person determined? By the person and their claims? By a group, or a broader community? Is it based on fame and trendiness or more on hard work and learning, regardless of how glamorous or not?

What boundaries does this person have over their personal life- choices in career, relationships to family, expectations of being public with their religion, being able to take care of health? Are the expectations they have of themselves, or that the group members have of them the same, and are they realistic and sustainable?

What responsibilities do they have towards members of their group or community?

What responsibilities do the members have towards them?

What responsibilities do the members have to each other?

Do the members have stable/sustainable lives outside of the group (i.e. their basic needs are taken care of, personal difficulties they have do not drag down the rest of the group.

What is the stated purpose or mission of the group, and does it live up to that mission, or clearly seem to be working towards it in a realistic way?

This was originally titled Recovering from Toxic Pagan Communities, but the topic drifted a bit..

To be clear about what I am talking about:

*Recovering from dealing with dysfunctional individuals, groups and relationships within Pagan, Heathen, polytheist or occult/magical and New Age communities.

Not:

*Having difficulties with one’s spiritual path development- a “crisis of faith”, Dark Night of the Soul, etc. can be related to this but is a separate issue

*Recovering from mental health problems, past abuse/trauma, alcohol & drug abuse (or coming from families with such problems) This are important and need to be dealt with (and hopefully helped by healthier spiritual communities!) but if nothing else I’m drawing a line between “problems you had before you become pagan” and “problems that were mainly exacerbated or originated due to bad behavior among Pagans- i.e. abuse of drugs/alcohol in community, abusive relationships, discouraging of getting help for health/financial or other problems (or of only using spiritual/magical/alternative techniques) I will address these matters when relevant…

October 7, 2014 at 11:54 pm Leave a comment

Good Posts on Mental Health/Illness

(Note: these posts are all personal accounts, and are not to be taken as professional psychological advice)

 The Thinking Atheist & Mental Illness by Hessianwithteeth  Yes! Just because someone suffers from mental illness does not mean they don’t value reason, logic and critical thinking. In fact they may know all too well how important those things are because of their mental illness!

Facing Depression by Carol P. Christ- Carol shares her experiences with depression and what she has found helpful in her journey

Spirit-work and Self-care by Nornoriel Lokason Having an intense spiritual life doesn’t mean neglecting taking care of yourself.

An Open Letter to the Toronto Transit Commission: Please Remove These Posters

A response to posters advertising a “Mystery Room” a “fun” scary role-playing game that involves a psych ward. 

On a more cautionary note-

No Good Deed– Sannion’s attempt to share spiritual info with a person with apparent mental issues unfortunately getting a lot of insults and threats in response. Thanks for trying Sannion! In the meantime, be cautious if you get contacted by someone using any of those names.

“I was contacted by a person who goes by Marie Benoit, Kerra Eivor, thelandofthesevenhorizons and no doubt a number of other online aliases. They claimed to be looking for information on Dionysos and shared a lot of rambling, incoherent and contradictory information about themselves.

I rolled my eyes and dutifully began answering their questions as best I could, since part of my service to the god of madness is treating the mentally divergent with respect.” Possible trigger warnings. 

August 28, 2014 at 5:00 am Leave a comment

Mental Health Self-Care Virtues: Beauty

Beauty
The pursuit of beauty and elegance in thought, form and speech. (Vanic Virtue)

quote-10060

Text of image: Life is sometimes hard. Things go wrong, in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all the other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do. MAKE GOOD ART

– Neil Gaiman

I think of this one more as a “value”- a concept that’s important, rather than a virtue, because to me that implies an ideal to live up to. I was reminded of this one while reading a post by a Christian friend- The Absence of Self-Care in the Church by Kati Hammar. She talked about how she felt selfish in her church in even taking simple pleasures like painting her nails, because she felt she was supposed to be thinking of others at all times. “One of the most hurtful things someone ever told me was, “You don’t have real problems. You aren’t precious. Children in Africa are precious and they have real problems.”

This is one of the reasons I don’t feel comfortable in churches anymore. For the most part, self-care and mental health are subjects that are stigmatized or even forbidden in some circles.”

Reading that made me feel really sad. Kati is such a sweet, thoughtful young woman, any church or community of any sort should be happy to have her. (Virtual hug!) Anyway, back to beauty. It sounds like a petty luxury at first- beauty. A luxury for wealthy, non-disabled, “sane” neurotypical people.

But take a step back from the great false idol that is the commercial beauty industry. One thing you notice about anthropology, is you study the world’s cultures and you find anywhere, in every society no matter how so-called “primitive” or focused on basic survival that culture is, they make art and music. They create beauty. Look at prisons and jails. Even prisoners of war and people on death row will create art with whatever materials they have available- even if they’re not allowed to, and the art they create is taken and destroyed. Why? Out of boredom, or to create trouble, prison guards might assume at first- but also to demonstrate their humanity. To express a voice that is silenced. Mentally ill people are also terribly dehumanized and silenced, and often end up in prisons and jails, sometimes because they have nowhere else to go.

Related Virtues: Creativity, Eloquence, Confidence, Dignity

Note: Beauty is also one of the 8 virtues mentioned in the Wiccan Charge of the Goddess.

Practices for Cultivating Beauty:

Follow Neil Gaiman’s advice- Make Art/Music/Write etc. I’m leaving out the “good” part, because who’s to judge what is good art or bad? Just make something, have fun with it, and don’t worry about how good it is. Stay away from people who discourage your creativity, and stifle your inner critic. Remember the prisoner artists- you don’t necessarily have to spend a bunch of money on art supplies. I would also count cooking and baking in ways you consider fun, rather than ordinary “oh, I have to cook dinner”, better yet invite over a friend!

Embrace Your Inner and Outer Beauty

Look in the mirror- think about what your good qualities are, and speak them aloud “I am kind, smart, beautiful, wise” etc.

Take a bath, add some bubbles or bath salts, enjoy yourself, put on some soft music, later put on lotion, makeup if you want, fun accessories and clothing that is comfortable and adds to your beauty. Feel free to step outside gender norms and experiment with different clothes/make-up if you feel comfortable doing so!

Resources:

Offbeat Bride– even if you’re not planning a wedding, this has a lot of fun ideas for fashion, (including many frugal ideas) entertaining for people who don’t fit the conventions of the wedding industry- GLBTQ folks, goths, geeks etc.

The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron (and sequels)

Ms. Cameron is a successful writer, who once believed that she “had” to drink in order to write, but came up with this self-help plan to help her learn to be creative without drinking. To follow this program, you make a contract with the “Great Creator” but this can be any deity you associate with creativity (I’m thinking Brighid!) , or perhaps an artsy ancestor like Frida Kahlo.

Play With Your Food– a book to help you create beauty and have fun

Pinterest board– with fun food visuals

July 26, 2014 at 12:49 am Leave a comment

Mental Health Self-Care Virtues: Even-Mood

Even-mood: Harmonious and balanced thought and action; tranquility, calm, serenity

One of the Vanic Virtues, Even-Mood struck me as being the most obvious self-care virtue. Tranquility and serenity tend to get more of an emphasis in Eastern philosophies, such as Buddhism and Hinduism- indeed many practices such as meditation can be useful in dealing with mood disorders. We also find similar ideas in Greek Stoic philosophy. We think of Celtic and Germanic peoples as mostly valuing passion, might and anger in battle, but they understood the wisdom of keeping a cool temper.

I have seen analogs to Even-mood in other lists of virtues.

  • Moderation (ADF) a very broad virtue applied in this case to emotional balance
  • Foruste (Irish)- Forusta (modern ‘forasta’). “Well-grounded, sedate, composed”. The noun is ‘forus’ (modern ‘foras’) which originally means “established base”. The idea is “calm, composed” — also “sensible”

Related Virtues-

  • Steadfastness– one of the 12 Aetheling Thews of Anglo-Saxon Heathenry- from Swain Wodening seems more about being steady in ones beliefs/principles, which is not what I’m talking about. Still keeping steady in ones typical beliefs, versus changing them frequently could be a sign of good mental health (so long as those beliefs are healthy!)
  • Gratitude– I haven’t seen this specifically on any virtue lists, though it was one of the “Wiccan Graces” suggested by Dianne Sylvan. (This is one book on Wicca I do find very useful and insightful to non-Wiccan Pagans) I have found for myself cultivating a sense of gratitude gives me a sense of tranquility when I am feeling frustrated with other aspects of my life, I focus on the parts of my life I am grateful for.

Practices for Cultivating Even-Mood:

Serenity Prayer– originally by theologian Reinhold Neibuhr and popularized by Alcoholics Anonymous

God(s), grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.

This simple prayer is easily adapted to address any deity/deities you prefer, plus it has bonus virtues! There is a longer version that is more specifically Christian in theology which may be harder to adapt for polytheist uses.

Next lines:

Living one day at a time,

Enjoying one moment at a time,

Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,

I like these next couple lines, but I’m unsure about the “accepting hardship” part, because it could be used by some to justify a “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, “everything happens for a reason” type philosophy that I think is unhelpful and unhealthy. However it can also just be a simple acceptance that life is hard sometimes, your mileage may vary.

Practice 2: Gratitude Exercises

These are examples of psychological exercises you can do to contemplate gratitude. Just be careful to not use this to convince yourself to be “grateful” for things like “love” from abusive family members (and “help” from them that comes with unfair strings attached!) Be grateful for things that are genuinely helping you! There are loads of gratitude articles online, these are just a couple that popped up, written by a psychologist.

10 Benefits of Practicing Gratitude10 Ways to Practice Gratitude I noticed the second article mentioned “3 blessings” exercise, this reminds me a lot of Irish triads! See if you can find some positive proverbs and sayings you can recite to yourself, your God(s) or supportive friends/family members. Or write them down and hang them on your wall, or put them on a screensaver on your computer.

Practice 3: Physical Activity

Physical exercise is great for mental health, just going for a walk, bike ride etc. Keep it modest and simple at first! Of course different people have different physical abilities, issues of pain, mobility so what activity you can choose may be limited. I also recommend yoga, tai chi, and some types of martial arts also can help with managing one’s emotions (though please make sure extreme mood issues are under control first!)

Caelesti’s Note: this is part of a series discussing Celtic/Germanic virtues (and possibly other cultures if I get to them) for people who are trying to manage mental health issues, it may also be helpful for those dealing with addiction and chronic health conditions and disabilities in general. I am not a mental health professional, nothing here should be taken as medical advice. It is beyond the scope of these posts to do in-depth research about What is Truly and Authentically Attested in the Lore, I am mostly interested in what is useful in promoting self-care, and in general seems in keeping with Celtic/Germanic cultural worldviews.

July 23, 2014 at 12:56 am 1 comment


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