Future plans from the Disabilities Team!

The festivals began as a way to reach out to the disabled within the community but it went so much further than that by reaching out to not only the disabled but carers, families, people with strict working hours so that anyone, even those who find it easy to attend regular festivals, wanted to be a part of what we created. This far exceeded our expectations.

We wanted to bring a small part of the community to those who felt like they were on the inside looking out at the world and what happened was, rather than bringing you outside or bringing the outside in, we just broke down those walls and now everyone is together and a part of it… Whatever it is! Even we still don’t know!

We can’t tell you all of our plans for the future as we don’t want to get your hopes up for things that may not be possible BUT we can confirm that a retreat is in the discussion stages, as are plans to fill the spaces between our quarterly festivals.

We’re looking into opening our own team shop to bring you some amazing work from our resident artist, Carl, and Batty Nan and there are big plans for other resources that we hope will engage you, inspire you and energise you all!

Part of this, is to move the Online Festivals on to the main Pagan Federation page and to expand them so we hope you will join us there and continue to support us in our work! 🙂

https://www.facebook.com/paganfederation/

Regards and Blessings

The PF Disabilities Team

 

Being a Disabled Pagan by Sylvia Rose.

Post by Sylvia Rose who is our District Disabilities Liaison for Devon, Cornwall, and the Isles

What’s it like to be a disabled Pagan?
In some ways, much like being an able-bodied one; in other ways it can be different. Obviously there can be physical limitations: you can’t get to rituals because you can’t walk that far, manage being cold for that long, or maybe can’t even get out of bed that day. More insidious are the internal differences. If you’re too spaced out for your brain to focus, even dragging yourself physically to a ritual wouldn’t mean that in your mind you were able to meaningfully participate.

So, you need to be kind to yourself. Maybe you didn’t even notice the last full moon. You didn’t mark the last seasonal festival. That doesn’t make you a worse Pagan: it makes you someone with a lot extra to be dealing with too. Over the last couple of years, as my health has become much worse, the usual seasonal celebrations have become painful for me. Not just the getting out of bed, but that that’s so much not where I’m personally at. Celebrating the burgeoning promise of spring when life feels more a matter of surviving than of looking forward? Dancing (or not, in my case) the maypole when rampant sexuality is the very last thing on my mind? I’ll opt out and stay in bed. And that’s ok. If where I’m at is somewhere very different, I have to make the best of what I actually can connect with. Birds nesting, swallows returning, flowers blooming, sunset lengthening and now shortening again, these are all the ways in which, intermittently, I stay in touch with where we are in the year, and with celebrating its pleasures. Sometimes that’s enough: it’s just different. I’ve certainly spent a lot more time watching the sparrows on the bird feeder than I ever did before when I was working.

And sometimes it gets harder to have faith. While everyone else is happily trilling how the Gods send you what you need/ask for/manifest from your own subconscious, it starts to look like by being so ill/disabled/debilitated, you’ve not being doing your Paganism quite right. Which is of course completely not true. Who knows why illness comes, but it’s certainly not sent by the Gods because of anything we’ve done or not done. Yes, you can learn things from debility: you can learn things from any adversity. It doesn’t mean that others are entitled to project their own views of the meaning of illness onto you, Pagan or otherwise. And if you yourself feel further from the Gods, uncertain of what you truly believe, that’s ok too. Don’t ever blame yourself, just go with it and see what might still make sense or give you a feeling of real connection to the greater world. (See sparrows above).

Don’t ever feel embarrassed to ask for healing, as if you might seem greedy for wanting more than your fair share of a ritual’s energy. If others are blessed with being able bodied, why shouldn’t they do something to help those who are less privileged? I’m sure that if the situation were reversed, you’d do the same. And in any case, working with healing energies benefits everyone, not just the intended recipient.

But you might want to spend some time thinking about what healing would actually look like for you. Able bodied people tend to assume that everyone wants to be like them, therefore healing is just about restoring someone to “normal” functioning. Which might be true for you too. But it might be something more complex, something deeper. Most people with a long term health condition, I think, would say that their illness or debility has gone towards making them who they are now. And if you don’t regret who you are, can you regret what it was that made you that way? So true healing might be in living better with your current reality, making your peace with how things are, having more options or less pain. Or maybe not. That’s the great thing about being a Pagan: no-one else can tell you what’s right for you. This Lammastide, the question I’m working with is from Starhawk’s The Spiral Dance: “what do you hope to harvest?”

And be creative. Do things intuitively, not by the book. If you can’t do things standing up, can you do them lying down? There are some strands of Pagan practice that use a lot of external props – the right colour candles and flowers, the right blend of incense, facing the right direction etc. In my view (others may disagree) externalities are useful in as much as they help us connect with something deeper, something beyond. But the true magic is going on within your own head, out of your own will and intent. So lie down and do it all as a trance journey, and you can have whatever colour candles you want, without having to do shopping first. Yes, it’s nice to work energy with other people there, or standing at your altar, but if you can’t, it still works from your sofa instead.

Sometimes illness feels to me like living in a bubble that’s floating gradually away from the quotidian world, to a place where my life is just so different from the usual day to day living that others can’t really follow me there. Which is true. So why would we expect able-bodied Paganism to reach out to our other place? We need to find our own disabled Paganism that works for us, individually, however we are. Which may be less about being connected with the cycles of the sun and moon, which can seem a bit distant, and more with our own immediate energy needs, and systems of self healing.

Some of these can be quite formal, such as reiki or chakra work, and some take more concentration than I can usually summon up. Some can be physical movements, which are useful when your body is working better than your brain. And sometimes I just don’t feel motivated, so I’m kind to myself and don’t. But here’s my favourite self-healing-while-lying-completely-still:

Take yourself into a trance state, whatever way works for you. Then see yourself entering a healing temple. Explore the edges, the quarters: what do you find there? Are there more things you’d like to add? Stand before the altar. What’s on it? Are there candles to be lit, incense to burn, water to purify yourself with? Is this temple sacred to a particular deity? (I usually work with Brigid, but there are many healing Gods). Invoke them, feel their presence. Maybe dance a bit, sing to them. (When you can’t dance in mundane life, dancing in a trance journey comes a close second). Are there other allies you’d like to be there to? Invite them. Then when you’re ready, go to a comfortable couch in the centre of the temple, lie down, and just open yourself to healing. Let energy, light, strength, whatever you need, surround you and flow into you. Luxuriate in it. Drink it in for as long as you wish, and then some more too. Then when you’re full, stand up, say your thanks and goodbyes and return slowly to the mundane world.
This temple is now yours.

It will be there for you whenever you need it and for whatever you need it for.

You deserve it.

Sylvia Rose – District Disabilities Liaison for Devon, Cornwall & the Isles.

 

Flare-up Ramblings From the Disabilities Manager

So, one of the few perks of being me, if you can call it that, (the ADD helps with this) is that when my brain is braining, I can do everything… All the things… All the stuffs! I can run the Disabilities Team, put together the Online Festivals, run the moot, cook elaborate meals for my family, go to my burlesque classes, go to the gym, write my novels, edit other’s novels, help with Pagan Dawn, support the community, raise money for charity, be peer support for an organisation I support for women with serious pregnancy complications and everything else you all see me doing (let’s face it, I’m not quiet about it; am i? I’m not all that quiet about much!)… But then, the time inevitably comes when I can’t do any of it… I can’t cook, I can’t walk, I can barely talk or type… I started writing this on the 28th of June (It’s currently 4am and I can’t sleep due to a persistent pain in my lower back, my hips and now my right leg… Which is bizarre and it’s usually my left leg…), I’m not sure when I’ll be able to finish it… Perhaps I should but dates throughout to show when I’ve written which bits…

I constantly have people suggesting that I slow down, not take on as much, only focus on one thing so I don’t overload myself… But my brain doesn’t work that way. The flare ups, the emotional and physical crashes that I get every few months, I get them whether I’m busy or not! So… While I’m able, I like to be busy and my brain works best when it has a lot to do. I can never concentrate on one thing for very long so it’s best if I do twenty minutes on one thing then switch to another then onto another until it’s all done. Took me years to figure out that was how my brain worked best and I’m very grateful for the knowledge, for see how well I work now I have this gift?

(Currently 8:50 1 July… The children are still asleep and I’m not in all that much extra pain today but my mind is more erratic than usual and I’ve been awake since about six with the same infernal song stuck in my damned head! Don’t even know what it’s called or the lyrics… Just a tune that I partially heard on the radio… The same few bars of the intro before it was turned off in time to listen to Paul O’Grady last week…)

I’m given a choice… Do nothing ever… Or do the things I can, when I can and then when I crash… Hope that those around me care and understand enough to allow me that time to recover from being all the crap that is me… I went through a phase… A few years, in fact… Of doing nothing. From 2013 to 2016, I sunk into a pit of self pity and didn’t engage at all with anything or anyone outside of the small bubble of my direct acquaintance… Was I happy that way? It was less complicated, that’s for damned sure… But I don’t think I could ever be happy unless I was serving my community, my country, my family and my friends…

So, I made the choice and I’m very lucky to be surrounded by the very people I’d always dreamed of working with. People who understand and tell me it’s alright to crash and take time for me and that my work will be right there for me when I get back.

(Currently the 4th of July – 3pm, just before the kids come home from school)

Just had a letter from PIP, I have an assessment a week on Thursday… Which is just what I needed when I’m in the midst of a rather scary flare up. Part of me is grateful because I always seem to be at my best for these assessments and find myself having to explain why I’m so coherent and able and trying to demonstrate how I am at my worst… They’ll likely see it for themselves this time… But the other part of me is very scared right now. I’m likely going to lose the tiny bit of PIP they “awarded” me last time, which was less than half what I was rightly entitled to but I was too weak to fight them… And this time I have no option, I’ll have to fight!

But also… This flare up isn’t like the ones I’m used to… Always before they centred around a particular side of my illnesses; the pain or the mental sluggishness or the forgetfulness and all the other stuff… This time… I’m getting it all at once and I feel myself truly drowning in a sea of pain, confusion, fear and depression… Always before I could focus on something to keep my mind steady until I could come out the other side and say “I’m alright, I’m back. I’m ok.” This time, I can’t hold onto anything… No lifeboat, no lifejacket… Not even a polo!

I’m sorry if these ramblings make no sense. Each sentence is struggling to get out amidst the sludge that is my brain… I keep saying sludge and I usually hate to repeat myself, which should give some indication of the lack of brain I have right now…

So, while I tread water in this sea of sludgy panic, I hope that you can forgive me when I’m not around and hope that you won’t think less of me for my weakness… And I hope you can trust me when I say that I’m fighting like hell to get back to you all…

Health Information Week

As a Staffordshire library assistant I’m very aware of the various campaigns run throughout the year to provide services for the public; your local library can provide a wealth of information and services for all walks of life from Baby Bounce and Rhyme sessions to access to Ancestry and Genealogy websites and training in the use of computers.

The beginning of July sees Health Information week, which the NHS explains as:

“Health Information Week is a multi-sector campaign to promote the good quality health resources that are available to the public. This campaign aims to encourage partnership working across sectors and benefit all staff and the public by raising awareness of the resources that are available to them.”

http://kfh.libraryservices.nhs.uk/patient-and-public-information/health-information-week/

But basically it’s about promoting good health practice and communication so that you know who to contact and who/how to get in touch.

Here in Staffordshire for example, this includes stalls and displays on a wide variety of health themes from Mental health and the availability of books on prescription* through to arthritis support and blood pressure testing, the  NHS site suggests that Health information week should help promote the following

Reduce the number of people who smoke
•Reduce obesity / increase exercise
•Support sensible drinking
•Improve sexual health
•Improve mental health and wellbeing
•Tackle health inequalities

Throughout the UK libraries will be running similar projects so it’s always worth popping in and having a word if you do need information.

*https://www.staffordshire.gov.uk/leisure/librariesnew/whatsavailable/Reading/Reading-for-Health/Reading-for-Health.aspx

Carl Johnson – District Disabilities Liaison for Mid-West & Wales.

National Arthritis Week with Catherine

Catherine Manning, our Disabilities Liaison for London, talks about National Arthritis Week.

If you weren’t aware this week is National Arthritis Week. I’ve had arthritis since I was 12 years old. I have 3 forms of arthritis and a number of other conditions thrown into the mix just to make life a little more interesting and challenging.

Arthritis is not just an old persons disease. It affects any age at any time. If I had £1 for every time someone has said “oh you’re very young to have that ” I’d be a rich woman. Another misconception is that it only affects joints. Rheumatoid Arthritis can and does affect joints, lungs, lining of the heart,connective tissue, eyes . I have RA in all joints and nodules in my lungs caused by inflammation.

Living with arthritis affects every part of my life from waking to going to sleep at night. It causes pain, swollen joints, extreme fatigue then you add the side effects of the medication into the mix…..nausea, sickness, thinning bones, weight gain. We take medication to counteract the side effects of the medication!

My life is made up of countless hospital appointments, physio and blood tests. My hubby helps with my day to day care. ….washing, dressing, cooking, cleaning. He’s an amazing gentleman but our relationship changes when he became my Carer instead of my lover. I know he’s worried and frustrated too and there’s not enough support for carers out there. Our wedding vows “in sickness and in health” are so true.

The hardest thing is to watch my 8 year old struggling and be in pain. He’s going through tests as it’s strongly suspected that he has Juvenile Arthritis. I can relate to everything he is feeling from worry to frustration to anger.

I had a wonderful job in the city but 2 years ago my contract was terminated because I couldn’t sustain my role due to pain, fatigue and hospital appointments. If I do something one day like taking the kids to school i then spend the rest of the day recovering.

Things that you take for granted, I struggle with such as holding a pen to write, cutting up my dinner, holding a cup of tea, brushing my hair, getting dressed. The list is endless but I won’t give up, arthritis will not win.

My name is Catherine and I have arthritis, arthritis doesn’t have me.

#nationalarthritisweek #nras #arthritisresearchuk

Catherine – District Disabilities Liaison for London

Happy Feet with Muddy Podiatrist

As June is Feet for Life month, Jenny has asked me to write a guest blog
on foot health for all of you lovely lot. I am currently training to be
a podiatrist and will quite happily ramble about feet to anyone who will
listen. I was told I would have a captive audience so grab a cup of tea
and a biscuit, make yourself comfortable and we’ll begin. Please feel
free to stop me if I’m still going next Tuesday.

It’s quite difficult to pick a foot health topic that will be relevant
to every member of our disability community so I am going to go broad
and simple.

Look at your feet. If you don’t have feet, look at your legs, stumps,
knees or whatever lower extremity you have. Really look. What does your
skin look like? Any cuts or bits of hard skin? Has that mole always been
there? Do your nails need a trim? When was the last time you had a
really good look at your own feet?

If you have diabetes, I’m really hoping that you’ve had at least a
cursory look in the last 24 hours. Diabetes causes damage to nerves and
blood vessels, meaning that if someone with the condition gets a cut on
their foot not only might they be unable to feel it due to nerve damage,
but the lack of blood supply also means their body is unable to heal it
effectively. I won’t put you off your garibaldi by telling you exactly
what happens if a diabetic foot ulcer is left untreated, but believe me
when I tell you it’s a scary prospect.

“But my insulin levels are fine!” I hear you cry. “Why am I
staring at the little piggy who went to market?”

Well, dear reader, there is an awful lot that can go wrong with the
lower limb if we don’t look after it properly, and the sooner you spot
any problems the greater the chances that they will be resolved quickly
and easily. Most people are familiar with how to check for breast or
testicular lumps and try to check on a fairly regular basis (I recommend
finding a buddy and checking each other), and checking your feet should
be a similar routine couple of minutes out of the month (buddy system
optional depending on your preferences).

So what did you see when you had a look?

I would imagine there would be a bit of redness in places. Probably
around the one or two littlest toes, and maybe around the big toe.
Although most people have this, it is not actually considered normal.
It’s a sign of badly fitting shoes, but as the market is filled with
badly fitting shoes there’s not a lot we can really do about this.
Just keep an eye on this for now, and seek further advice if it becomes
painful, swells, oozes or smells.

I suspect there will also be some hard skin in places. Again, not
considered normal but an unfortunate part of modern life. If it’s not
causing you any problems then we’re not going to worry too much. If it
ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If it’s getting uncomfortable or
splitting it might be time to get some further care though. Try to see a
podiatrist or a chiropodist (they’re the same thing, just use
different words to confuse people) if you can, but a doctor or
pharmacist may be able to help depending on the severity of the problem.

How is your skin looking? Is it soft and supple, or looking a bit dry?
The skin is our first line of defence against bugs and infections, so we
want to keep it in its best possible condition. And when you think that
your feet are down there on the ground with all the dust and bacteria
you realise just how easy it is for something to sneak into a patch of
flaky skin and BAM! Itching and pus and mushrooms and all sorts of
wondrous delights living under your toenails. It’s not just vanity –
moisturising saves lives, people! Or at least prevents another course of
antibiotics. But that’s important too.

And then there’s the one that everyone forgets – moles. When people
get a mole that looks a little iffy on their back the first thought is
to get it checked out with the doctor. Somehow, we seem to forget about
our feet. It’s the same with sun cream. If we’re going out in the
sun the factor 50 gets smeared all over arms, legs and backs, but how
often do we forget about the tops of our feet? If you’re wearing
sandals in the sun that could be a recipe for a very painful few days,
not to mention the same risk of sun damage as the rest of your skin.

It’s particularly tough to think feet if you’ve got a physical
disability that limits your movement. They are all the way down there
and tend not to complain too loudly. And you know what? Most feet are
generally pretty well behaved. The better you look after them, though,
the better they will look after you. I’m not asking for miracles, just
a quick once over every now and then so that you can spot any problems
in their early stages. After all, the earlier you catch anything going
wrong the sooner it can be dealt with and the less chance there is of
you needing more meds or expensive treatment or worse.

If you really can’t reach to see, there are loads of options
available. Ask your doctor if he can have a quick look next time
you’re seeing him. If you have a partner, carer, friend or family
member who helps put your socks on, maybe they could just have a check
every now and then. If you’ve getting your toe nails cut, ask whoever
is doing them to just have a look and let you know if there’s anything
that looks off. If you end up barefoot feeling the grass between your
toes at a ritual some time, ask your fellow participants if anyone is
feeling bold and would be willing to have a goosey while you’ve got
your shoes off already.

Just be wary about asking that one slightly odd neighbour. You know the
one I mean. The one who seems just a little too invested in your foot
health. Unless you’re into that kind of thing of course. In which
case, fill your boots.

Happy Feet for Life Month.

Muddy Podiatrist.

So, is your moot disability-friendly?

So, is your moot disability-friendly?

And no, I’m not talking about wheelchair access. Well, that’s a part of it, but there’s so much more. And no, we can’t always get it right, especially with limited choices of venue. But that shouldn’t stop us from trying. In a lot of ways, it’s often not so much about actual arrangements as about having an attitude of concern and inclusiveness.

Firstly, are there physical barriers to people attending? People with disabilities have, obviously, very differing needs and conditions, so there’s no “one size fits all”. There are people in wheelchairs who can do slopes but not steps, and people with balance difficulties who can do steps but not slopes. Is there Blue Badge parking nearby (this includes not only designated bays but also permission to park on double yellow lines so long as this does not cause an obstruction)? Are the chairs adequately comfortable for someone who might have difficulty sitting upright for too long? Are the lighting and acoustics good? If the answer to any of these questions is no, is there anything that can be done to help? And is all this information – or at least the most important bits – available online somewhere?

Then there may be emotional or cognitive barriers, which are often the more difficult ones to spot. If a new person has social phobias or anxieties, would they feel encouraged to ask for support such as meeting someone from the moot one-to-one first, before coming along to the moot itself? If they have particular needs, is there a space where they can ask for what they need? Is the moot tolerant of differences such as autism or learning disability? Are there assumptions that everyone is literate? If someone is too shy to speak out in a moot, could there be a go-round at the end specifically for people who haven’t spoken to have their say? Or use a talking stick? And not everyone likes to be hugged: many people, for reasons ranging from neurodiversity to a past history of child sexual abuse really don’t like to be touched – how would you make space for it to be ok for them to say so?

Disability, of whatever kind, has a tendency to restrict people’s ability to work, and therefore to be financially resilient. Many disabled people either can’t drive or can’t afford to run a car. Is your venue on a bus route, and if so, does the moot finish before the last bus runs? Would it help if someone offered them a lift home? If you’re in a pub, is there an expectation that everyone buys their own drink?

Part of the problem, it seems to me, is that humans, by design, think in categories. There’s normal and there’s not-normal. When someone is a wheelchair user, it’s fairly obvious what their restrictions might include. But when disabilities are invisible, the onus gets put on the person themself to explain their needs, which is easier done in an atmosphere of welcomingness, of inclusiveness, of sensitivity to difference and in individual needs.

I’m aware that this piece is really only a quick skim through these issues. If you can think of helpful suggestions that I’ve missed, please add them in the comments below, and I’ll see if I can collate them for a future piece.

Sylvia Rose
District Disabilities Liaison for Devon, Cornwall and Isles.

 

Are You Having Any Fun?

Morning folks.

 
I was just going through my memories here on Facebook and came across something that was said by Carl Johnson, Disabilities Liaison for the Mid-West & Wales. I thought I’d share it…
 
“I think people make this awful mistake of thinking they have to grow up and be adult. I know how crushing depression and illness can be. Which is why I think we all need to grab the fun silly bits whenever we can.”
 
I couldn’t agree more with this. Many years ago I worked with various military charities, raising money, awareness and morale within the veteran and military community and I became good friends with a man named William. He gave me some advice that has stuck with me for many, many years and I’d like to share it with you now.
Basically; have a little wiggle! Now, I know many of us have physical issues that may prevent a decent jiggle but even if only a mental wiggle is had, I feel this counts. Stick on a song, any song! A song that makes it impossible for you to sit still! A song that makes you want to dance and shake that bootay! Set it as your alarm in the morning and wake up to a wiggle! Even if you just wiggle a finger! Find something you can wiggle or belt out to and start the morning on a high of giggles!
Carl is right; people take life far too seriously and who does that more than us? The ones whose lives are serious by necessity, the ones who are too busy counting our pain medication, concentrating on physio, ignoring the puddles instead of jumping in them because putting one foot in front of the other without crying out in pain is far more important. But we need fun too! We need to stop and smell the roses, jump in the puddles, smile at the rainbows. We need that more than most because if we don’t take that time, the weight of reality can crush us.So, even if you’re like me and no good at self care… Even if you’re riddled with anxiety or crippled by pain… Do yourself this favour, this kindness; have a little wiggle!If you do decide that you can do this, I’d love to hear the songs you find irresistible! Please share them with me so I can giggle along with you!

Here are some of my favourites…


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UB_RFcpRXoE
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUqo31PUpgohttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HOou5i3IVsU

 

A Wiccan Spring Equinox

So here it is, my first blog on the Wheel of the Year. Why start here? Why not Imbolc, Winter Solstice or Samhain? All of which have been taken by some that because of their placement could be seen as the start of the year, if you can actually say Pagans have such a thing as a “new year” given our wheel is a cycle forever spinning, “with no beginning and never ending”, from one secular, linear year to the next. (Please note: don’t get me started on this little rant!).

So why start here?
1. I was uber busy in the run up to Imbolc sorting out the PF’s Pagans with Disabilities Online Imbolc Festival, and
2. More importantly, my Coven follows the Astrological Wheel of the Year, where the “new year” starts when the Sun enters the Sign of Aries, towards the end of March. This is also the start of the Magical Tide of Activation (the first of four tides in a year… More information on this concept can be found in Patricia Crowther’s Lid off the Cauldron.)

So, for us, our Equinox celebrations fall on or near the occurrence of zero degrees Aries. Another fact that dictates when we celebrate are peoples’ work commitments, including those of my non-pagan other half, so we tend to go for the closest Saturday night either just before or just after the shift of the Sun from Pisces to Aries, so that most members have Sunday to recuperate before work on Monday. During the festival we focus on the balance between dark and light, with especial emphasis on the increasing amount of light that this time of year represents, and the Sun’s effects upon the Earth and Nature around us.

Given that my oaths prevent me from saying what we actually do, I’m going to focus on our preparation for this festival. What have we actually, practically done in order to be able to celebrate our Equinox festival? Well, since you last saw the ritual room way back when, in between our seasonal celebratory festivals and esbats the room has been undergoing a necessary makeover. It has been redecorated (I’ve casually termed it “Smurf Blue”), a true, full spring clean to prepare for the positive burst of energy and activity signalled by the start of the Tide of Activation.

The previous tide, Lustration, has seen us take a break from esbats, full moon workings, and our yearly training group. Much as the Earth and most of Nature retreats into itself during this period (Winter Solstice to Spring Equinox), the energies we work with also retreat, and so we take a break from magical workings (unless absolutely necessary) and look after ourselves, nurturing our bodies, minds and spirits.

With the Spring Equinox hailing the start of the Tide of Activation, everything we haven’t done since Winter Solstice begins again in earnest; this includes preparing materials for the Training Group for both “year groups”, restarting magical workings for esbats, and continuing with the celebration of the festivals of the wheel.

As I’ve said, I (or we, when other coven members have been available) have spring cleaned the ritual space. Normally, this means an extra thorough clean of the tools on the altar, the altar itself, and the room and the furnishing therein. This year, as I’ve already said, has been a bit different as we have had to have the roof of the ritual room replaced. This made a lot of mess, and managed to ensure that redecoration was necessary!

In the run up to our ritual, we look through the possible scripts we could use from our BoS, Book of Shadows; we decide which one we like, if we want to use it “as is”, or make suitable and agreed (amongst the coven) additions, or create a new one that fits the symbology of the Sabbat. Roles are assigned where needed, once everyone confirms their attendance (or not), and words are learnt. Ritual equipment , both altar tools and extra seasonal “bits and pieces” are checked for suitability, maintenance, etc., and a shopping list of missing items and consumables are added to my shopping list… Typical items on this list include:
Cake (which is Gluten, Wheat, Lactose Free and Low FODMAP)
Red Wine
Seasonally appropriate flowers for decoration around the ritual room (for this festival there will be daffodils)
Seasonally appropriate decorations

And then we celebrate; Coven members arrive about an hour before the ritual starts, we catch up with each other, and sort any last minute preparation needed – mainly making sure that everything we need is in the ritual room. Someone lights the candles and the incense, we go get changed, and then we celebrate!

If you have any comments, questions, etc.m please feel free to get in contact, especially if there is something you would like covering about one of the upcoming sabbats, and I’ll see what I can do within the limits of my oaths!

I hope you have a blessed Equinox however you are celebrating it, and I will see you for our next instalment of The Wonky Wiccan’s Guide to the Wheel of the Year, just before Beltaine!

Blessed Be!

 

Trigger Warning! A Night Out with Severe Anxiety

This is an anonymous guest post

This blog post is written by someone with Severe Anxiety. It describes what it feels like to go out when you have anxiety. Please take care of yourself if you feel this article might affect you badly. Be sure to have someone to talk to. We have a wonderfully supportive community on Facebook, however we cannot take the place of professional help. It is our hope that by sharing this person’s experience that we can help others understand the demands of Severe Anxiety. Thank you to the writer for sharing this.

This piece is shared as part of the Disabled Pagans Voices Project. The project is aimed at giving disabled pagans a voice for their experiences and their creativity. Just click on the category for more.

What am I doing here?

Why did I agree to come?

No, I’m alright. It’s just a pub. They said it was a quiet place. There won’t be too many people.

What if someone touches me?

What if they’re all drunk?

What if they’re all stoned?

What if they breathe near me?

“We can go home, if you want to.” His voice cuts through the slime in my brain. It’s not a fog. It’s thick, sticky and slows everything it touches. My thoughts, my feelings, my fears, my desires; everything is heavier, it’s all just too much.

I look into his eyes. Those deep green eyes with chestnut brown flecks, speckled with gold. He takes my hand and squeezes slightly. I look at his hand. Steady and warm, full of strength. He gives his strength to me through that hand, the one I hold so often. He’s right. We can go home.

But do I really want to go home? Do I want to miss out again? See the pictures of the fun that I could have been a part of? Hear people tell me again that I missed a good night? No! I don’t want to hear about it. I want to be that person who says “Sorry we missed you last night. Maybe we’ll catch you next time?” I want to be the one telling the jokes, getting a round in, laughing at my friend’s anecdotes.

I smile into the face that is watching me, waiting patiently to see what I would do. Not caring that I may have wasted his time by having him drive me to a place that I may not even work up the courage to face. I’ve done this to him so many times. Wasting his time, frustrating him with my indecision, worrying him with my panics. This time I would try harder. I squeeze his hand and smile before turning to open my door.

As usual, I cautiously take small breaths. Trying to get a sense of how the air smells. Does it smell clean? Are there any triggers in the air? Not yet. In fact, it’s quite a clear night. I feel better. At least outside is clear and trigger free.

He comes around the car and holds my hand. I snuggle close to him and let my body relax a little, knowing that the shaking will stop soon if I can just avoid any triggers. A few people are stood by the door smoking, a cloud is hovering just above their heads, swirling in the light from the windows. I instinctively cover my face with the scarf I always have around my neck and try to make it look as though I’m just… I don’t know… Snuggling my scarf? I know I look ridiculous but it’s this or… The alternative.

I avert my eyes and turn my head as we walk past the group, holding my breath as well as hiding my nose and mouth in the scarf. I don’t know if it’s my imagination but I can feel their eyes on me. Feel their judgement. Hear their thoughts.
“What’s with the ugly bitch?!
“Why’s she covering her face? Probably doesn’t want to make us sick.”
“What a freak.”

I rush through the door, skirting the frame and door itself, held open for me so I don’t have to touch it. I stand in the dim room and let my eyes scan the people. They were right, it is quiet. It’s a big room and looks quite tidy. I do my usual checks, bottom to top, my eyes darting so fast I just know people are staring at me, thinking I’m having a fit. I ignore what I’m sure are judgemental stares and begin.

Floor – carpeted, well vacuumed, no visible stains from this angle.
Bar – smart bartender, no obvious puddles, not too strong a smell as I slowly lower my scarf.
Seats – a little too low, leather and wood so easily cleaned, sturdy looking, not too scratched or chipped and those that are there aren’t dark with muck so obviously well maintained.
Tables – usual pub coasters, look a little grubby and well used with the edges frayed so obviously touched by lots of people, none of them seem soggy from here.
Benches – silly, fuzzy fabric that’s typical of pubs, a little higher than the chairs so less likely to hurt getting up and down, not too grubby looking.
People – quiet but talkative, not sat too close together aside from groups in each corner.

I spot my group, they smile at me but don’t pressure me to sit with them. I look at my partner and let go of him, signalling that I’m ok to be left so he can go to the bar. I walk slowly to the group, breathing as shallowly as I can. They don’t watch me but two of them move up so I can sit on the bench beside them. I’m grateful that they’re taking my anxieties into consideration but at the same time I feel like I’m making them do silly things just to please me and I feel sad and like I wish I hadn’t come.

What if they’re only pretending to have fun, only pretending they want me here so they don’t seem nasty when really they think I’m a nuisance and want me to leave. I almost turn around leave but there he is, coming up behind me, exuding his strength, carrying a drink for himself. He knows better than to ask me if I want one.

We sit, me on the outside so I have him on one side and empty space on the other so I don’t feel closed in. I don’t touch anything as I sit, quickly making a mental assessment of how many layers are between my skin and the fuzzy bench fabric. They ask me how I am and I think I was being silly by wanting to leave. I enjoy their conversation and other than a few jumps when the door across the room opens and closes, I’m not too anxious.

Well… Unless you count the fidgeting with my rings while my hands hide up my sleeves so I don’t accidentally touch something. The eyes darting everywhere, the light layer of sweat I can feel on the back of my neck, the shallow breathing that is now making me feel slightly sick, the stuttering and stammering and the talking far too fast because I’m so nervous.

Other than that, I’m fine.

We spend an hour talking, I manage to make eye contact twice with one person and once with another and they’re so welcoming and open that I’m glad I made the effort but now I’m starting to get very tired. Being so anxious is exhausting.

Now I’m starting to think about what will happen when I leave. When I no longer have anything to focus on. When I’m finally too tired to fight anymore.

We leave and I see one of my friends physically stop herself from giving me a hug. I feel sad and almost try to hug her but I’m just not strong enough. I trust her but she’s been in this pub all night and I don’t know what she’s touched or where she was before she was here or when the last time she washed her hands was… I just daren’t so smile instead and she smiles back. I know she’s trying to look happy but I see how sad she is. I know she wants to ask me to stay. Instead she says she’ll call me, knowing full well that I mostly won’t feel up to talking. She’ll call anyway just because she knows I like to hear her voice. Her partner puts her arm around her and smiles at me too. She knows how sad this makes us both. We used to be so close. I couldn’t have even come tonight if she wasn’t there as a safeguard. Someone who knows what I can and can’t do.

He holds out his hand and I cling to him with both of mine. I know his hands are dirty from touching things in the pub but I need his hand right now. My hands are still inside my sleeves but I cling to him anyway. I don’t look back as I walk away, knowing I’ll just cry because I know I won’t be able to manage this again for a while. I know I’ll be in bed all day tomorrow recovering from the panic attack I can feel coming on.

I hold my breath again as we leave the pub even though there’s no cloud of smoke and this time I don’t bother testing the air. I strain my lungs as I hold my breath from the door to the car. He open the door for me and puts on my seatbelt, knowing that right now all I can do is sit stiffly and wage an internal battle of wills. Me against myself.

He puts some classical music on the stereo knowing it will sooth me if I can zone into it. He doesn’t know if I can hear it but he doesn’t ask any questions because he knows I’ll speak if I can. I sit and look out of the window as we drive home. I mentally check my whole body, resisting the urge to check my pulse and my brain and heart seem to pound. My skin seems to burn like ice. I’m not even sure how that’s possible but it does. My ears feel like they’re being stabbed, my skin crawls, my hands shake, my brain feels like it’s trying to come out of my skull. I start to shake and I know I can’t stop it but my body naturally tries to stiffen against it, causing spasms that wrack my already tired body with a pain that I know will last for days. My eyes start to close and I wonder if I’m going to faint. I wonder if I care. I know fainting isn’t good for me but I also know that if I just faint, I won’t have to think, I won’t have to feel… I’ll be cocooned in a sweet oblivion that I wished I was brave enough to make last forever.

My breathing speeds up as I realise where my thoughts are going. I don’t want to be here again. Why didn’t I just stay at home? Why didn’t I just keep hiding? I didn’t contribute. No one wanted me there anyway. They were just being nice. All this was for nothing. I’m nothing. I’m not even here anymore. All that’s left is a shell where I used to be. Panic fills the shell. A wasteland of panic, anxiety, self loathing and a pathetic excuse for a self trapped in a cage and prodded by slimy demons telling her she’ll never be good enough.

It’s all too much. I can’t do this anymore.

We pull up to our house and I see the familiar sight with a feeling of dread. Will my children be asleep? If not, will I be able to get to the bathroom and bed before they see me this way? The last thing I want is for them to turn out like me. I can’t let them see me like this.

I make a run for it. I don’t greet my oldest, the last one awake. My sister follows me upstairs and makes sure the other children are asleep so they don’t see me and she locks us in the bathroom and sits on the toilet to watch me clean myself. I know she’s there. We don’t speak. She doesn’t say it, she never says it but I know. I know she’s in there to make sure I don’t hurt myself. I turn on the taps and start to lather. I used to use seven soaps in a sequence but now I only use one repeatedly. I don’t let myself feel victory. I just need to clean.

The water burns me but I lather, rinse, repeat. Lather, rinse, repeat. Lather, rinse, repeat. Lather, rinse, repeat. I still don’t feel clean enough but I almost cry out at how hot the water is and my sister turns off the tap and unlocks the door. I strip naked and put on my night dress. I turn the tap back on and wash one more time as she watches me.

I see my bed and hope that I’ll fall straight to sleep. My sister watches me get in bed then goes down to my husband, knowing I can’t talk right now but satisfied that she’s not needed. I lay in bed and listen to the nothing screaming in my ears. I curl into a ball, my fingers at my throat to feel my pulse. I can feel the scream building inside me as the icy burns lap at my skin. I breathe. Four in, four out. Four in, four out. Four in, four out. Over and over and over until I feel my pulse slow.

The panic subsides and I wrap myself tighter, ignoring my ears, ignoring my brain, ignoring the pain in my limbs. All I am is my mind. The thoughts going around and around and around.

This wasn’t worth it.
They’re never going to ask you again.
Everything you said was stupid.
You pretend that you’re holding it together but they all know you’re a fraud.
He didn’t want to take you.
You’re ruining his life.
They’d all be better off without you.
You’d be better off without you.
There’s only one way out of this.
It’ll all go away.
Why do you even bother?
You’re pathetic.
You were the ugliest one there.
They all thought you were stupid.
Why are you such a freak?
Just get over yourself.
Drama Queen.
Ugly bitch.
Attention seeker.

Round and round and round and round… Until the darkness starts to slip over me and my last thought is a prayer to the Gods, any god… That I won’t dream tonight… Or that I just won’t wake up.

Please talk to someone if you have been affected by this post. You can talk to the Samaritans in various ways here.