The difference in a year

This time last year I was preparing for my wedding day.  Tomorrow will be our first anniversary so it feels apt to do a little reflecting on what changes this year has brought.

This time last year I was on fluoxetine, an anti-depressant, and had been for six months.  I remained on it for a further six months but I am currently off that medication.  It wasn’t the first time I had been prescribed fluoxetine and I have no idea if it will be the last.  Some people feel guilty for taking medication to aid their mental health.  I don’t. I needed the support at that time and it helped.  At present I am doing well without prescription medication to support my mental health.  This doesn’t mean that I am “cured”, it simply means I am in a better place and have some better strategies in my mental health tool box for helping me manage my mental health.

My biggest ongoing issue on the mental health front is social anxiety.  I still have anxiety attacks and I probably always will in some circumstances.  Where the anxiety flares up the most is when I am going somewhere I don’t know or to something with people I haven’t previously met or have had bad experiences with in the past.  I do my best to manage this without running away but I don’t always manage that.  When I do run away from situations I then feel ashamed of myself for giving in.  I shouldn’t feel that shame, I know that, but I do. I have discovered that I cope with things much better if I have a set task or role for the event or meeting.  It gives me something else to focus on and a job to do which help me feel useful.

This time last year I was waiting for counselling through the NHS.  I was extremely fortunate in having some cognitive behavioural hypnotherapy sessions with a hypnotherapist I know while I was waiting for NHS support.  These and my later counselling sessions helped me to work though some things and build some better strategies for coping in the future.

In July I started with a series of counselling sessions with a psychotherapist through the NHS.  I had eight sessions if I remember correctly and they were very helpful.  The therapy approach was a compassion based one, similar in some ways to cognitive behavioural therapy but with out the focus on changing thought patterns, more about accepting and trying to move forward.  It suited me.

One of the more stressful situations in my life last year was my employment.  I had been having problems with work related stress for a few years.  If I’d only had the work stress and no other areas of stress maybe I would have been able to manage better but I didn’t and when you get stress in too many areas something has to give.  I ended up going through the work capability process.  This is supposed to help support you back into work.  It is supposed to help but personally I found it a very stressful process to go through and not helpful in the slightest.  Part of that may well be down to personality conflicts, part down to my mental health, but I have to say that I still feel that part is due to the powers that be deciding that I wasn’t really worth supporting even after 19 years as an employee there.  I could feel very bitter about the whole thing but I don’t.  In July last year I was officially dismissed on capability grounds and it’s one of the best things that could have happened to me!

One of the immediate concerns on losing a job is how you are going to cope financially.  Well I had three months pay in lieu of notice to help with that transition.  As I had been off work on mental health grounds I decided to apply for ESA (Employment Support Allowance) which is a benefit for those not fit to work for whatever reason.  The forms are almost as horrid as the DLA and PIP ones (Disability Living Allowance and Personal Independence Payments) and I had to go to an assessment.  Needless to say I was deemed healthy enough to work.  While going this process for myself I also went through the process of applying for DLA for both of my children.  In their cases I was successful and that meant I could also apply for carer’s allowance.

The experience of going through the ESA process myself has been helpful in that I have a much better understanding of what others go though and can better support close friends and family going through the similar process of PIP forms, assessments and appeals.  It truly is a horrid and very stressful system!

In September last year I contacted the Riding for the Disabled Association Glasgow Group with a view to starting some voluntary work there.  My psychotherapist was very pleased with me at the time for taking this step without her suggesting I try and do something like this.  In October I had my induction and I haven’t looked back since.  I absolutely LOVE my voluntary work at the RDA stables.  I go there on Tuesday and Friday mornings during school term times and usually help with the classes that are on either leading or side walking, whatever is needed.  I’m now in the process of completing forms for my daughter to go on a waiting list for lessons there and to have lessons myself.  After about forty years or dreaming about learning to ride it looks like I’m finally going to be able to do it.  Most of the RDA lessons are designed for those with impairments of just about any type but they do also do a small amount of lessons for those without impairments.  If you want to know more please do visit their website, Riding for the Disabled Association Glasgow Group

In January I started taking my daughter along to dance classes with Indepen-dance. This is another fabulous organisation.  I’ve known of them for years as one of their staff gave music and movement sessions to my son several years ago now.  That wonderful person gave my son about a year of free sessions, enabled by another wonderful person who allowed us to use a suitable room in a place she owned and managed on a free basis.  So it’s lovely to be a formal part of the Indepen-dance family now with my daughter.  She absolutely LOVES her lessons with them!

The school year has progressed reasonably well for both kids.  There’s been glitches along the way but that’s life.  I am blessed in having two wonderful autistic kids.  I have been for an adult autism assessment myself but did not meet formal diagnostic criteria. I have however had a few lovely peer confirmations of my neurodivergent state.  I am proud to be a neurodivergent Druid.

In February I started a Counselling Skills course and I’ve recently received the official certificate for that.  I’ve written about my experiences and what I gained through that process elsewhere.

I’ve also had changes in my patterns of devotion over the last year.

So a year of marriage has seen me though all these things and more.  My wonderful husband Neil has been further developing his photography skills – do look at his site Awen Photos and have a look at some of the wonderful images he has taken.  I’ve also seen much more of Scotland with him than I did before as going out and finding new and interesting places to take photos is something he loves doing.

It’s been a year with many unexpected changes and generally I do not like unanticipated change. I tried to stay employed but that didn’t work out.  The results of that change have been much better than I could have imagined and Neil has supported me though it all.

Thank you Neil and happy anniversary my darling!

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A Prayer for LBGT Pride

My sacred Ladies, I come before you,
A woman grown in a lesbian home
And I pray for the well-being of women loving women.

My sacred Lords, I come before you
As you embrace and love across cultures
And I pray for the well-being of men loving men.

My sacred Loves, I come before you,
Child of a bisexual parent,
Parent of a bisexual child,
And I pray for the well-being of those loving more than a single gender.

Single gendered, I come before Sacred Ones of all genders and of none,
And I pray for the well-being of those who cross boundaries, who re-define what we are as human beings.

I come before all beings here.
I can not know your journeys,
I can not know your fears,
I can not know your pain,
I can not know your joys,
I am not as you.
But I stand beside you in love and respect,
I stand beside you in Pride!

rainbow rose

 

For Loki

I’ve written in an earlier post how Loki came into my life and I’ve also written a little about how my patterns of devotion have been changing.  Saturday has become the day I devote time and thought to Loki.  Last Saturday I received an email that led to me writing something for Loki.  This Saturday I feel I should post what I wrote on my own blog.  The photo is of the candle burning on my altar for Loki as I write this post.

Words from my heart

Loki, you came unlooked for, unasked for into my life.
Bound one, your challenge forced me to face my bindings.
Shifter of forms, you lead me to change.
I honor You!

Burning one, you scare me still!
I don’t know what you see in me,
Why I interest you,
But I know you come calling.

Calling in the darkness
Shining in the silence
Mystery and Mischief

I honor You! I praise you!
I’ve even come to love you.
You, the disreputable friend!

The one that speaks truths no-one else will face
The one bringing joy in the madness
The one whose pain we turn away from
The one who forces us to see
The one who scares us in the night
The one who holds us when we cry
The one who gives us the blade with which to cut our bindings
If…

If we have the courage to turn and take it
If we choose to try.

Uninvited, unexpected, uncomfortable,
Yet welcomed, honored, praised and loved!

 

Healing Needs

Over the years I’ve felt the need to do something of a healing nature.  There have also been times I’ve needed some healing support myself.  Most of the time what I have done has been as an individual. I’ve prayed; dedicated and lit candles; developed and carried out healing spells; chanted and sung; sent out distance healing using Reiki; visited people in hospital and given healing in the form of Reiki and similar types of spiritual healing; and I’ve asked for some of these for myself from people I know that also do forms of spiritual healing.

I have a whiteboard hung on the wall by my shrine to those deities I have special relationships with and on it are the names of people I know of that have asked for healing either directly or via a trusted loved one.

I’m not medically trained.  I’m not trained in one of the many and varied healing  and associated professions  and I’ve never been called to do that sort of vital work.  What I can offer, what I do, can not replace good medical care and expertise.  What I offer is something that can support the heart and soul, something that helps with feeling loved, feeling cared for and supported all of which aids physical healing.

Recently though, I have felt the need to do more.

One aspect of doing more is to take on the role of healthcare chaplaincy coordinator with the Scottish Pagan Federation.  The basics of this role is to ensure NHS trusts in Scotland know where to come to if they wish for Pagan information and support.  Another is to provide a visiting service to any Pagan who is in hospital and would like a Pagan visitor.  I can’t do all of this myself by any means but there are volunteers across the country who will do what they can to support Pagans who find themselves in hospital.

The reality of our current society is that much of the longer term healthcare takes place in the home and community.  Now many Pagans will have some form of Pagan community they can turn to for support at these times, that might be an online community or a moot they attend when well enough but there are many that for all sorts of reasons will not have that support.  Part of the role I have with the Scottish Pagan Federation is to try and provide some support for Pagans in Scotland that find themselves isolated and in need due to their health, physical or mental.  Being able to support people though does rely on someone letting the Scottish Pagan Federation (via their contact form) or myself know that there is someone in need support and that’s not always easy in itself as often we don’t like to ask for support for ourselves even when we need it.

But I felt I needed to do something more.  I felt pushed, prodded, urged to set up some form of virtual healing group.  I bounced my ideas of a few others, some of whom are, or have been, involved in other healing groups.  I wanted something which was open to those of any type of Pagan and Heathen path to join.  I wanted something that didn’t restrict how healing was done or sent, other than it would be virtual.  I wanted something that had a central hub that requests to join and requests for healing went through.  And I wanted something that had the potential to grow.

I think in the Pagan Healing Circle that I have set up, I have planted the seeds.  It’s young yet but already I have close to a dozen individuals who have joined me in this circle.  Healing is being sent out for a couple of individuals already and I hope that as word spreads others will ask for healing too.

Healing requests come to me on a dedicated email address.  I then send them out to the rest of the circle and make a note of what date they are sent round.  The plan is that requests stay active for a month unless we get follow-up requests or feedback of some kind asking us to keep sending.  A minimum of a first name and what the healing is for is asked for, I don’t circulate the whole email I receive, just the request itself.  This is to preserve as much privacy as possible while still providing support and healing.

If you want to know more about this healing circle, would like to join or wish to make a healing request please do email me on paganhealingcircle@gmail.com.

Oh and we’ll happily accept healing requests for beloved animal companions too.

Image thanks to Awen Photos

Patterns of Devotion

I have written in the past about my deepening devotional practices. Today I wish to share with you how my devotions have changed.

I used to honour my ancestors at the dark moon, Maponos on Sundays and, Brigantia, Epona Rigantona and An Cailleach around the full moon.

Then I joined a flame tending cill with Clann Bhride and began flame tending in honour of Brigantia every twenty days.

I can’t even remember exactly when after that point that other things began to change but at some stage I began to honour Epona Rigantona each week on a Friday. I chose a Friday because Epona is my beloved and Fridays in the past have been linked to deities of love (see Wikipedia Names of the days of the week if you are interested).

It felt good to be honouring Epona each Friday so I decided to start honoring An Cailleach on a Saturday. I was now honouring different deities on Friday, Saturday and Sunday plus every twenty days flame tending in honour of Brigantia.

Then Loki came into my life.

I used to consider myself to be solely a Brythonic Polytheist.

Then Loki came into my life!

That bit bears repeating.  Loki brought change with Him.  I wasn’t looking for Sleipnir’s Dam and I didn’t expect or invite Her (at least not to start with) but for some reason best known to the Bound One, He decided to bring Her changes to me.

One of those changes was that I started to include Loki in my weekly devotions.  At first I tried slotting Him in on Thursdays but that didn’t feel right. So I switched to Saturdays, prompted in part by something I had read that suggested Saturdays had been linked to Loki in the past.  I can’t remember exactly what that was now but I switched days and it felt much better.

But it didn’t feel right honouring An Cailleach on the same day so after a bit of thought I decided to move honouring Her to Mondays.  There are aspects in some of the lore which I believe indicate ties to the moon for An Cailleach so this seemed to fit well.

For a couple of moons I tried to keep the lunar links I had made as well but that became a bit confusing as I ended up trying to honour two different deities on one day.  For me that became confusing and I felt I wasn’t doing justice to my devotions to either deity when the days linked into full moon cycles.  I decided drop the full moon devotions in favour of the weekly ones for a moon or two to see how it felt and I’ve kept that change.

So now I honour different deities on four days of the week and another every twenty days. I’m also no longer solely honouring Brythonic deities.  At first I thought maybe Loki would be in my life for a set purpose and then maybe wander off but at the moment it feel much more like the Sky-treader is here to stay.  The current pattern feels good with one exception and that’s the ancestors.

In dropping the full moon devotions I found I began to lose touch with the lunar cycle and the pattern of honouring my ancestors at the dark moon began to slip as well.  I still have my ancestral shrine area and still think of varying ancestors at different times but the more ritualised devotions have fallen away.  I’m still not sure if I need to start on a weekly basis for honouring my ancestors or try and restore the dark moon practice.  I think maybe moving to a weekly based practice would work out best, if so I have my choice of Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday currently free of other devotions. Maybe Wednesday as that day has links to deities of communication.

My journey with devotional practices has not been a swift one but one that has gradually altered to a more frequent family of devotional practices.  And I know that I am still changing and that my practices will also continue to change.

Reflecting

For the last few months I have been absent from my blog.  I didn’t intend to be and I have still been musing on various thoughts and ideas but I never quite got to writing any of it down.  Part of that is due to an opportunity that arose in February for me.  Through my son’s school I had the opportunity to do some online study.  There were three courses available all linked to mental health, all available via distance learning and all free providing they were completed.

I chose to sign up for a Certificate in Counselling Skills course.  This was made available through the Skills Network.  This was a level 2 NCFE qualification for those interested in such things and from what I can tell that’s roughly equivalent to a GCSE (English and Welsh qualifications) or National 5 (Scottish qualifications) level course.  Although this was a distance learning course it still had deadlines for unit assessments the last of which was a few days ago.  I submitted my last assessments a couple of days early and have already received my results.  Subject to final moderation I have passed the course.

Today I am writing this as a reflection on how the process of studying again has been for me, where I am, and, what next.

I enjoyed this course.  I’ve learnt some new things and clarified other things.  I’ve had the opportunity to put my listening skills to the test in an observed session with a volunteer client.  I’ve been encouraged to reflect on my own beliefs and values and to consider how they could impact others in a counselling environment.  I have the teaching materials in the form of booklets and that includes links to further reading material so I have a concrete resource I can go back to in the future.  I have enjoyed stretching my mental muscles a bit more again.  It has been satisfying to know I can still put suitable responses together for assessment purposes.

I’ve also learnt that distance learning suits me, being able to pace myself around my other commitments is vital to me.  At the present time attending college classes at a set time and place is not something I would feel able to reliably commit to, I need flexibility.  I completed the course and submitted all my assessments in good time but there were occasions that I struggled to do so and that’s with a fairly short duration course.

In many ways I would like to go further with counselling skills but I have also had to be realistic about what I am able to do and afford at the present time.  To become professionally qualified I would, from what I can find out, need to study part time for at least another two years.  While I could possibly do some of that studying by distance some of it, particularly the practice of core counselling skills, would need to be face to face.  Such study does not come cheap and owing to my previous qualifications and studies I wouldn’t be eligible for certain types of grants for funding further study.  Realistically I can’t currently commit the time or money to develop my skills further.  Even if I had the funds, I can’t commit the time at present.

The door to further studies in the future is not closed to me.  It is just that at present I can’t take that pathway.

Overall this has been a valuable experience for me in several ways.  I have developed my skills and learnt new things.  I have dipped a toe back into the world of study and found I can still do it.  I have discovered that I am good at listening to people, I had thought I probably was but I have had this put to the test with very satisfying results.  And I have found out that my behaviour in a one to one situation can help to put others at ease which is always a good thing to know.

I think one of the best things to have come out of doing this course has been an overall increase in my personal confidence and a better sense of where I am in my life.

So what next?

I still have my voluntary work with the Riding for the Disabled Association and I have recently learnt that there are opportunities there for further skills development. I intend to investigate the possibilities further.

I have my family which provide me with new, and sometimes challenging, situations to learn from on a frequent basis.

I have my Druidry and there are many opportunities there for development in several ways.

My own mental health may still provide me with challenges from time to time, most recently with anxiety attacks, but I have proved to myself that in spite of losing my job on capability grounds less than a year ago I can still learn new things, develop my skills and be useful!

A Scottish Hearth Druid response to the question of how to respond to the varying issues of Brexit, Trump and increasing xenophobia be?

The subject of this post is inspired by a topic of discussion the the Druid Network members’ message board referred to as “social_dot”.  Reading other responses on “social_dot” felt like a clarion call to me to start blogging again.

Following the Brexit vote in the UK I feel that uncertainties and fears have steadily increased.  Added to the issues in the UK, where I live, has been the impact of changes in other influential countries in the world. Trump has in his first few days in office as the president of the United States of America made a number of executive orders that are internationally unpopular (to put it mildly).  Russia’s parliament has approved changes in legislation that seem to set human rights in that country further and further back.  Wars are rife in the Middle East with many other countries across the world involved and yet we still don’t call it a “World War”. And it seems that many countries are choosing to pick on some group or another as the scapegoats for these problems and in doing so become increasingly violent towards that group.  I’ve never been so scared of what the future will bring and yet I recognise that I am in a very privileged position compared to all too many people in this country let alone the rest of the world!

So what can I do?

One of the things I think we have to try and do is help each other to listen without becoming overwhelmed with everything that is going on.  I doubt that I am the only person I know who is struggling against the desire to “bury their head in the sand” and wait for it to be over.  I know I must not do that but I also struggle with figuring out what I can do. I struggle emotionally to believe that my single voice can make any difference and yet intellectually I know that single voices joined together are very powerful.

I am afraid for the future of my country.  I’m afraid for the future of other countries in the world, I am afraid for my children’s futures within this often chaotic world of ours. I am afraid I can’t do anything to make a difference and yet also afraid of standing by and not trying. I am afraid of being alone in my fears and even more afraid that all too many of us share the same fears.

What can I do? One person, one voice.

I can raise my voice for others to listen to so they know they are not alone.

I can listen.

I can witness.

I can act, even if only to type a few words on a keyboard, sign a petition or refuse to let my fears overwhelm me.