Continued Wrestling with AnxietyBrain

I mentioned last week that I had to schedule a minor surgical procedure that I was super anxious about. I felt better as the week went on, but now that I’m three days away from the reality, I’m finding myself worked up again. So, rather than drive my partner nuts with my worrying and venting, I decided to take some time this afternoon to try to re-center and focus on minimizing the anxiety.

ace of stones, five of arrows, the archer

the ace of stones, the five of arrows, and the archer from the wildwood tarot, art © will worthington

The Ace of Stones is ancient, grounded, full of history. It stands tall and proud and strong. It’s been carved by human hands, a reminder that we have the power to bring about change in reality by dreaming it up and then carrying that dream forward into existence.

The five of arrows depicts and archer shooting wildly at a target, arrows flying haphazardly around and hitting nothing. It points out that unfocused energy will not only lead to frustration, but is a waste of valuable mental resources. This rings particularly true for me as a person who deals with anxiety pretty frequently as well as chronic pain, and therefore only has so many spoons to give.

The Archer is the polar opposite of the five of arrows. She is focused, skilled, and confident. She looses her arrows with purpose. The book that accompanies the deck points out that, “The key to a smooth and accurate release of the arrow is a steady and relaxed state, both physically and mentally.”

At first, I was pretty frustrated when I saw this spread, because it’s telling me things I already know – mostly that worrying is ultimately a waste of energy and that I need to focus in order to relax. But it brought in some other elements that I needed to be reminded of.

If I put positive energy out into the world, particularly about this surgery, chances are better that things will turn out okay. I cannot hope to go into this with any expectation of having any sort of power if I can’t approach from a place of calm. I need to take charge of what I can now – my mental state and my attitude, to the best of my ability – and let go of what I really can’t do anything about.

This isn’t new information, but then, that’s not generally why I turn to the tarot. I need to be more mindful of what’s happening when I let anxiety take the reins so that I can resist the temptation to hand them over. I need to be actively and consistently centering myself if I want to get better at managing this.

(Not So) Subtle Hints

My best friend in college once described me as “about as subtle as a brick through a glass window,” and she was absolutely right. Subtlety has never been my strong suit, and it seems I am getting even worse at it as time goes on – the more I grow into and embrace myself, the more I find I’m wearing my heart on my sleeve. I am a creature of extremes in many ways. If I like you, chances are you know it; if I don’t, you probably know that, too. If I’m excited about something, I go for it 110%; if I don’t care, I find it hard to be motivated at all. Subtle, I am not.

This week, it feels like my cards are taking a leaf out of my book. I’ve been pulling some of the same cards over and over, and they all point to one obvious truth that I’ve been trying desperately to ignore: that in one persistently challenging area of my life, it is time to let go and move on.

I was doing a pretty decent job of ignoring the pattern of recurring cards (like the Five of Pentacles, or the Nine of Swords) and recurring themes (anxiety, fatigue, depression, endings) until yesterday, when I ran into the Ten of Swords not once, not twice, but three times.

When I drew my daily card for my morning meditation, it was there.

When I absentmindedly clicked on the “card of the day” on one of the tarot apps on my phone, it was there.

When I was shuffling another deck as I was killing time in a coffee shop before my evening of music classes, it practically jumped out of my hands.

In the past, in the rare moments when I encountered this card, I remember being repulsed by the imagery: such wanton destruction, such overkill. (Kim Krans suggests in The Wild Unknown Tarot Guidebook that this card can sometimes indicate a touch of melodrama – I mean, ten swords? Really?)

Yesterday, though, I didn’t feel that revulsion.

I didn’t feel anything.

I looked at the card, and I saw finality, and a point from which there would be no return. I saw the end of a long and painful struggle, and a terminal sort of peace.

And I felt nothing in particular.

And I thought, Oh.

It’s not that I’ve been generally terrible. In fact, life is going pretty well. But this one specific area of my life is making me increasingly angry and anxious; the relationships involved have turned toxic and are doing nothing for anyone involved but making us miserable. I’ve known this was coming. The road ahead has been clear for at least a week now.

I’ve reached a fork in the road, and I’ve been pacing back and forth between the two options and refusing to make up my mind, which has only increased the anger and anxiety and the sense of being trapped.

But I know which road I need to take, for the sake of my mental health and for everything else good in my life. It’s not going to be easy, but then, there was nothing easy about the road I was on. Some bridges need to burn, either for the sake of peace through separation or to make way for a newer, sturdier bridge to be built.

I know it’s time to light the match, but still I find I’m hesitating…because I don’t know what I’ll find when the embers burn down to ash. I don’t know if these bridges can ever be rebuilt. I don’t know if I care – though I wonder if I’m supposed to, and I maybe feel guilty for not caring more. I don’t know if I’ll regret the decision to cut ties, or if that potential regret could ever outweigh the horrible, festering hurt that reigns in this area of my life right now.

I think, in the end, I want to be done. I’m ready, or as ready as I’m going to be. I know it’s time to move on.

I’m just not entirely sure how.

Gallery

Wrestling with AnxietyBrain

I don’t think I’ll be posting personal readings here often, but this one was interesting.

Today I had to schedule a minor surgical procedure…minor in scope, but major in that I am transgender, and this operation involves letting medical professionals poke and prod at my butt. There’s not exactly a long and glorious history of good treatment of trans people by medical professionals in situations where our unconventional genital configurations are even tangentially involved, so I am (I think understandably) very, very anxious about this. I have been putting this off for months because of this anxiety, but the time has come, and now that it’s been scheduled (for a scant 12 days away), I have been fighting AnxietyBrain in a major way.

I decided that some tarot-driven meditation would be a good way to start bringing my brain back around to some semblance of calm and groundedness, and I decided to go with a five-card spread to tackle the question of how to best deal with this intense anxiety. A five-card spread, as I generally do it, goes from top left, down to the bottom, to top right, like this:

1. The question.

2. The situation/background – how we got here.

3. A strength or weakness I’m bringing to the table – or, often, something that is both a strength and a weakness.

4. This card can be more ambiguous, but the two basic categories it tends to fall into are outside influences or internal struggles surrounding the issue.

5. The answer.

Despite the fact that it made perfect sense, I was almost surprised that I drew the 9 of Swords for the first card. Obviously, the card of nightmares and anguish perfectly matched my extreme anxiety, but in the nine months that I’ve had this deck, I am reasonably certain that I have never once pulled this card. Of course, that makes its impact that much more powerful – I really am a writhing ball of anxiety right now, and the horror this card conveys feels like an accurate reflection of my brain today.

I was puzzled for a moment by The World showing up in the second position, but then it came to me: The World is all about wholeness, and the point of this surgery is to deal with a recurring problem in such a way that it is able to heal from the inside out, finally preventing it from coming back, and leaving my body whole again. I am not going under the knife for no reason, and it is good to be reminded of that.

The Ace of Pentacles changes meaning for me on a regular basis, but today it revolved around being grounded – something that is both a strength and a weakness in this instance. See, on the one hand, I have a firm grip on reality, which generally allows me to remain calm and level-headed. On the other, I have a firm grip on reality, which means I’m well aware of the sorts of horrors my trans siblings have faced in medical situations, which is causing me to panic now.

The 2 of Pentacles is all about balance, and that’s something I am struggling with in a big way – balancing my anxiety and the rest of life, ultimately. I have a full time job (thankfully, and I am lucky enough to have an incredibly supportive supervisor AND department head), and other responsibilities, and I need to be able to juggle those despite feeling like I’m seconds away from toppling headlong into the abyss when AnxietyBrain attacks.

The 3 of Pentacles (it’s fascinating that these three ended up all in a row – the deck wasn’t in any particular order, and then I shuffled it several times further before starting) is the obvious answer that I’m really bad at reaching on my own – teamwork. My partner is taking the day of my surgery off work to come with me and advocate for me, and he’s just generally wonderful and supportive and wants to help however he can. My instinct, when I get super anxious, is to go to ground and shut myself off from everyone, even people like him who I know are safe and who love me, because I feel toxic and I’m afraid of infecting the people around me. Ultimately, though, that instinct is wrong and unhealthy – if I am not open and honest about my anxiety, it festers and gets so much worse. I need to let my partner help me if I want to get through this without totally losing my mind.

Sometimes, at the end of a five-card spread, I’ll pull a sixth card, which may or may not have bearing on the rest. This time around, it was the 2 of Cups, which perfectly confirmed the answer: I have a wonderful, supportive partner who is the love of my life, and I need to lean on him just like I would want him to lean on me were our roles reversed.