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Somehow can’t read

I have gotten two or three questions recently that basically boiled down to the same thing: “wanna do magick, plz tell me everything that you know”. I just say “I have a search bar and suggested books on my site, try that” because, frankly, I’m not going to repeat a near decade of info since someone is too lazy or incompetent to look for themselves.

Here’s the thing, I do expect people to exercise some basic form of thinking when traversing this site for info. Maybe it is because witchcraft doesn’t have any “oooOOoOOOOooo spooky!” glossy-gleam for me but it really is not that hard to find anything – at least not basic stuff. Though this site talks about occultism, I hide extremely little – because A ) it’s not really worth hiding and B ) if people are this stupid, hiding is pointless. I guess there’s the idea of going to a witch to ask for a personal how-to but, c’mon, it’s best to just search the site first and then bother me with questions. At least there is a chance the question will be one worth answering.

When it comes to magick of any tradition, you’re going to have to do some heavy reading, substantial research and critical thinking. Individual critical thinking. This means you have to think for yourself and make choices yourself for the most part. Given the amount of people that pop up in my inbox, a lot just want to be told what to do – and then somehow feel empowered because of it. That’s just being a lemming with a misplaced ego. Not a good fit for magick. That’s how you get cults.

Magick can be hard. Depending on what you want to do, very hard. Takes practice, takes diligence. If you don’t want to do the very basics by yourself, if you have to be personally spoon-fed information, magick is not for you. Trust, it isn’t. There are different traditions in magick, countless traditions, I won’t know every single last one of them. But a library might. Though scant, Google might. If it isn’t worth looking up and doing the basics, then it is best not to do it at all.

Granted, some people don’t know how to research, either as a result of being a sucky student or being stuck in a paltry education system. However, it still does not mean I have to spoon feed someone because they seem to be daft at using the search bar on my website. Or they think I practice the Left Hand Path because they can’t read: I never talk about LHP stuff (because I don’t practice it) and I have a lot of posts about being a Black person, including a “race” category. That should make it glaringly obvious why I call myself “Black Witch”. If you can’t figure out something as plain-stated as that, then magick is seriously not for you. There’s already enough racist dumb people in Paganism, we don’t need more. It just appears to me that folks think there’s a “101 EZ Witchcraft 4 U” guide I provide. I don’t.

Long story short: If you can’t use the search bar, the various categories or anything that requires independent thought, then just stick to the Harry Potter, Charmed, and D&D. It’s a better choice than asking me information I already provided time and time again on an accessible site.

Here is another installation of Ask Black Witch. As I generally say, good questions are appreciated, bad questions are eviscerated. Let’s start!

Hello,
Hope you are doing well today!

I am in need of a love spell to be cast. I can explain you my current situation. It would be really nice of you, if you can help me out in my situation by suggestion, the best suitable solution.
Actually, I have a very good friend of mine. His name is [Person]. He sees me and care for me as a good friend. But recently I deeply fell in love with him. His marriage is recently fixed, on [Date] (that’s very short span of time)
I just want to know, if we both can be together in nearby future, does he have feelings for me, or can I make him love me and propose to me at the earliest. It would really helpful, if he postpones his marriage for few months at least and thinks about his feelings for me and proposes me instead.

Any kind of guidance/ suggestion from you will be very helpful.
It will be really nice of you, If you can do an initial reading to check if my friend can fall in love with me/ does he love me, it will be really helpful.

– Sumitra K

Here’s the thing when I skim my emails: the second I see “I need a ___ spell cast”, I am immediately tossed into a bad mood. Especially if the _____ is a love spell.

Because I have said on this site time and time again my stance on casting for others (I don’t), love spells (don’t bother with them) and when people ask me to pretty much interrupt the free will of others (controlling is a form of abuse, you don’t love this person, it’s more about you than your relationship). And I’m not a Magic 8 ball so when people ask me divination questions, I bristle at that, too.

So you think you got friend-zoned (which isn’t really a real place but for brevity, let’s use the term) because, I take it, you didn’t say anything about your actual feelings back when you could have thrown your pitch. You’re free to tell the guy you have feelings for them, just to get it off your chest, but here’s the thing though:

A) the dude is about to get married (yes, there is the issue of arranged marriages but that’s not what we’re talking about at the moment)

B ) The dude sees you as a friend, not someone to date. Yay, friendship. Take that as something good and move on because he is very, very soon to be off the market – actually, he’s off the market now. Because he’s about to get married

C) Don’t hold your breath, you can easily wind up in a situation where you find out the dude never shared the same feelings as you. Don’t try to sabotage the marriage, get in the way of the marriage or anything that is meddling. Even if the marriage starts to turn sour, that’s not your moment to go in for the kill. Be there as a friend but don’t be there as a friend with ulterior motives. Because that’s not being a friend, that’s being a conniving person. Does it hurt? Yes. But it is what it is.

D ) Even if he did fall in love with you – how can we forget the actual wife-to-be? Cheating is a douchebag thing to do, divorces are tricky. Nothing has an easy route out. The dude is planted, and there are other people (innocent people, the wife-to-be didn’t ask for any of this, either) connected so this issue is pretty much done for unless the dude gets a divorce and is, therefore, back on the market.

Also, there’s the “recently fell in love” part, meaning this isn’t exactly a slow burn thing but could be one-sided love. All in all, it sounds pretty selfish to want to uproot someone else’s life because it doesn’t fall in line with what you want. Love doesn’t work that way.

Not easy to hear but just date other guys.

 

Is it possible to bring my friend back to life? If so can you do it for me or tell me how to do it? If not thank you for your time.

– Kim S.

Again, a spell request. In the world of magick, it is a good saying “It may be improbable, but not impossible.” But bringing someone back is a big and really, really, really, really, really advanced task. Not for noobs. Those difficulties aside, there’s also the ethics which are blithely ignored. The person won’t be back to their same old selves, they would be changed.

Death is sad but it’s better to find a better way to cope.

Howdy ma’am my name is Glenn nice to meet you. Let me start by saying that I am not a writer, but I have been having an undeniable urge to write. I am a strong believer in nature and evolution. I do believe in spirits, I believe all life is connected. My question to you is more like a request. The book I feel I need to write is fictional, but I don’t want it to be unrealistic. My problem is I don’t know enough about witchcraft to know if I go out of bounds. Would you please educate and guide me? Thank you and nice to meet you ma’am. SEMPER FI

– Glenn B

Yay, military speak, because that always makes me, a strongly anti-war person, happy. No shade on the Marines but that could have been left off.

I mention books all over my website, this question could have literally answered itself with a skim of the search bar I have up top. I am also a writer of fiction but even I get a little odd when I see “I need to write this book” as if there is some divine force leading them. Probably because I worked in one of the Incoming divisions at the Library of Congress, where I saw many, many crappy books by people “compelled” to write that I can’t help but to go “oh, great, another one.”

And I have rarely seen good works that focus on witchcraft, especially by folks who know jack all about it. I’ve come across stuff that just sounds over-technical, hard science re-imagined as magick, dull or chock full of gender tropes. Besides, fantasy is supposed to be whatever the writer wants, anyways.

Long story short, this question could have answered itself with a search bar.

The Arts: Tierra Whack

A buddy of mine, Femi the DriFish, hipped me to this performer, Tierra Whack. Here’s her music video “Unemployed”:

She’s described as the next Missy Elliot and, frankly, I see why. Her visuals are amazing and creative. She is gifted in rhyming, she put in the heavy work to actually be an emcee, not just another random Soundcloud spitter.

However! That’s where the “Just Like Missy” ends. Whack is definitely her own sound and identity. Look at this conglomeration short film she made of her various songs.

You can also find her on Spotify, FaceBook, Instagram, and Twitter.

I don’t do divination as much as I used to. I still have the tools and the books but I haven’t pulled out my playing cards or L-rods in a while. Not much need to because I don’t need to know what the future is going to look like every three days. And there certainly are situations and times where I don’t want to know.

However, because I have been doing divination for such a long time, it’s built into how I do things. Which isn’t bad, keeps me from getting totally rusty.

A good example is palmistry. While I don’t spend hours staring at the lines of my hands (besides, it takes about six months to spot any difference), I do note if a small white dot pops up on my nail. My diet is quite stable and regulated (and there’s also the fact every woman in my family with exception to a small handful is in medicine, I grew up around doctors pretty much) so I know the difference between “Maybe I could put more iron in my diet” and “Yep, I did have a big life event occur that really threw me off guard about three months ago.” When I catch them, they help me look at the situation and all the issues surrounding it because every finger represents something different. Basic palmistry 101 stuff.

Thing is, divination is good for looking in the future and the past but it’s not for reading every five days. The palmistry is good for me because a) I’m good at it, I still remember a person I read for banging on the door of one of my college classes during a final because they wanted me to read their hand again and b ) it’s quick and easy, no need for cards, pendulums or anything. It’s only when it catches my eye do I take notice.

I think this type of “divination-lite” is good for those who have pretty intermediate or advanced experience in divination because by that point, the diviner can separate the wheat from the chaff – as in, they can tell the difference between a sign they should focus on and a regular happening. I wouldn’t be trying to divine the cards dealt to me if I’m playing cards with my friends or doing solitaire. That would be nonsense. I would take note if I saw a deck and drew a card with the intent of getting clued into my future. Or do a simple yes/no card reading where I look for one of two different cards and it looks like I’m just straightening up the deck by dealing the cards out one by one. However, I just do those very few and far in between.

The thing about divination is that, while it is nice and if you do it right, you’ll rarely be wrong – BUT! Too much meddling in your own future can cause random left turns that could leave you in a worse situation than predicted.

Here’s the thing about humans and bad circumstances – they will try to change the hands of fate if so much as a blemish of a bad time blips up. I have done spreads for others where the future splinters off into two routes: the future if things stay the same, the future if there are changes. I have told people I read for, “Yah, this looks pretty bad but it appears you have to go through it because it looks like a life lesson you have been ducking for who knows how long. The smoother route is here but it’s really just a calm-looking fake out before things really hit the fan worse than they are right now.” Guess which part they hyper focus on? The “smoother route is here” part and that’s it. How do I know? They’re the folks finding me a month or two later pretty much going “I legit ignored everything you said that was useful, focused on changing the circumstance so I wouldn’t have to experience it at all and things went very Chernobyl with a dash of Three Mile Island. Halp meh.”

There is a reason why I have a “I do not unscrew your screwed pooch” rule. And why I don’t divine much for people outside of Samhain Pickers (which I haven’t done in a while) and that’s it.

But to keep from being rusty, I keep the light divination for myself. Works out better that way.

 

 

Black Witch will be 9 years old on Sunday!

 

I have been running this site for nearly a decade at this point. That’s a little astonishing for me because I thought I’d fizzle out completely by year five.

I remembered when Black Witch was the first and only Pagan blog dedicated strictly for Black Pagans. And trust, I looked everywhere, I could not find any blogs for Black Pagans or else Black Witch wouldn’t have happened.

Now, there are loads more, which is nice. There’s a sizable growth of them on Tumblr. This creates a better diversity of opinions and facilitates community. Granted, there is always annoying co-opting from outside groups (look in the bruerja tag anywhere on the internet, tons of non-Latin people bastardizing a cultural practice because “ooh, otherness and spookies!”). That sucks.

I still get crappy questions at least 90% of the time, I still would like to have questions that don’t suck. And to stop being contacted by racist fashion companies to vouch for their crappy products. Like, not everyone is impressed by goth sites that feature strictly White models. I’m snippy at them for a reason, I have an awful track record when it comes to being nice to bigots. And I prefer it to keep it that way. I mean, I got one fired, another looked at by the FBI, and even a couple apologies (that I never really fully accepted).

I’ll be doing a Facebook Live at the Black Witch Fan Page on June 9th at 2 PM EST. Be there!

It’s Ask Black Witch time! Let’s get into it!

What will happen if I write a desire I have on a piece of paper burn it with lemon grass and put the ashes in a shot glass and holy water, and drink it?

– Ang

Everyone, if you have to ask this kind of question, then maybe dabbling is a thing you should not be doing. I replied to this kid to check their research – because if you’re going to do magick, you better do research. I’m not a Spellwork Hotline.

 

Biggest Question: can I use these arts or have someone do special rituals to help me get through college exams. I am not sure how much merit there is for using Black Magic or White Magic, but how powerful is is up to question. 

I am honestly skeptical of the practice. All the books dealing with spells seem like a lot of self talk. Like you do a ritual and something is supposed to happen? I did, nothing occurred. You have to meditate for a ritual. Nothing occurred. I lighted a candle. Followed rules. I felt empty. Nothing happened. This was to get some success in school. I was dealing with some entities that were supposed to be your guides. The main issue is: Goodness, I hate school. Classes in college are hard. I almost wish something could give me super human powers to understand what I read and study, make it enjoyable, and not make me feel restless, or unfocused. This article you made on mental health makes so much sense. I get so frustrated about school and life and this feels to be the cause my biggest problems. Learned helplessness. Plus Frustration, turning into broody self pity and despair that nothing ever changes. Yet, I hate how my circumstances just do not change no matter how much effort. Everything is so slow and take so much time. Goodness, does the universe want me at all. I honestly rebel against the thought of being nothing, and fight back to make my dreams of an education and to a dream school come true. That is how I feel on the Inside. I desire with my soul empowerment transcending beyond physical limitations of this life.

– Danny L.

There was a lot written here. The question, in a nutshell: “Can I do witchcraft to pass college? It does me a mischief.”

Try studying, it isn’t fun but it works. Visit the counselling center (assuming it doesn’t suck, some do) or talk to someone about the stress university causes you.

Here’s the kit and kaboodle – I’m quite a meritocrat so it should be obvious my next words:

College is supposed to be hard, intellectually. That’s why it is college. If college is not for you, build a plan and go an alternate route. This is, of course, assuming the actual problem is “the course work is hard” and not “I deal with prejudice in college.” The former I have limited sympathy for – again, it’s college, not pre-school – the latter is an actual issue that every university in the US blithely ignore as long as it doesn’t land them on the cover of the New York Times for longer than two days in a row.

Here’s the thing, if you’re having depression about college – because what you describe sounds like depression – then you should get help for that. Ask if your college has resources for dealing with a frustrating courseload such as tutors, competent people to talk to (note the word “competent”, most college mental health professionals just plain aren’t that) and groups on campus of people you can possibly relate to vent your frustrations.

Magick isn’t a smart route here because dabbling gets you nowhere – and doing proper magick requires courseload-sized reading and research. That’s just adding more onto your plate in the attempt to take a short cut.

Instead of candles, try actually talking to someone. Use resources available to you and think about what you actually want to do with your life.

 

Hi I would like to know what it means when someone uses a statue belonging to the person with intentions on putting a spell on them.

 My story: Two months ago I threw away my Decolletage because it fell off of the shelf twice mysteriously and broke at the bottom. The next day my husband took the garbage out and said, “You put the garbage in the wrong container”. I didn’t think anything about the statue because it was broken and it never crossed my mind that my husband would use it against me. But, something tells me that he did just that.
– Rhonda T.
As an outsider looking in, it doesn’t really look like much from here. While hunches are nice, they can lead you into some wild goose chases sometimes.
If the hubby:
– does not have a background in magick/occultism
– does not have a “I don’t get mad, I get even” temperament
– does not treat you like you are his property, treats you like a human instead
Then it’s a good chance that nothing that level of nefarious is happening. However, it does show that maybe you should have a heart to heart with him about things that are bugging you in the relationship – because it is evident that something is amiss for you to think your husband is hexing you secretly. You don’t have to say “I think you were gonna put a fix on my decolletage” but you could say something like, “I just am having issues trusting you, because I feel like ….” and go from there.
If you’re thinking “that’s gonna incite World War Three” then maybe you should either A) Really have the talk because communication is crucial in a relationship or B) Consider leaving because things are only going to get worse from here.

I was able to read a digital copy of the manga, Adorned by Chi. It is a magical girl manga based in Nigeria that follows the story of Adaeze, a young, sensitive girl that is trying to make it through college life the best she can. Introverted and shy, she is stumbled upon by a small, puppy-bear creature, Chi Chi, and told that she, Adaeze, is the dividing line between the safety and destruction of the world. A nefarious group, the Order of Nothingness, wants to empty the world of all its joy – and Adaeze is the key to make that happen.

Paired up with her friends, Adaeze fights back against the Order and tries to bring peace back to her world.

Reading the manga, I have to say it is very delightful. I have grown up with mahou shoujo/magical girl stories (Sailor Moon, Cardcaptors and my personal favorites, Cutey Honey and 3×3 Eyes). Adorned by Chi is very similar to these stories but still puts a new spin on and old tale. There are still magical guardians, there is still mythical monsters and there is still an ominous, overwhelming force out to ruin the world/universe. However, the cultural infusion of Nigeria helps revamp the story and keep it from being just another “Magical girl” story.

The artwork throughout the manga is professional level, there are times it feels pulled from the pages of Clamp. There are still some slippies here and there with body structure and perspective but I chalk it up to being new – besides, they managed to avoid yaoi hands and shoujo legs so they’re off to a good start for a first book. The story line is simple but that’s not a bad thing, not everything needs to be read like it was penned by Lady Murasaki. Clamp had very simple stories but they wove together well to make for deep impacts. Adorned by Chi could probably do a little better though by removing the SFX directives (Example: “SFX: Bright Magical Light”) and let the art narrate for itself, it does an amazing job doing so without them. Some commas are missed in a few places, which can slow the story just a touch but, again, this is a new manga that is not backed by a major publisher. I expect it to get better as time goes on.

While there are some imperfections, imperfections doesn’t make for a bad story. Anyone who read One Punch Man when it was just a webcomic would know that deeply.

See what I mean?

The story is captivating, the outfits are amazing, the animal guardians are cute, it is all very satisfying.

Pre-Orders are still available

 

I had stumbled upon a couple posts that reminded me how fad-ridden Modern Paganism is thanks to New Age, the ridiculousness of Pop Brujeria* (not to be confused with actual brujeria – which literally means “Witchcraft” in Spanish and thus can consist of an astounding variety of history, ideas, beliefs and more), and the usual stupidity of the general public when it comes to things of the fantastical, metaphysical, etc.

There is the discussion that “healing crystals” are unethically mined. It always concerns me when I hear “healing crystals” and other keywords that make me think “ohhhh, I think this is bunk” because it usually is an item stripped of allllll of its culture and importance. This mean whatever stone used for whatever purpose most likely had some legitmacy but due to mainstream dilution, it’s pretty much pointless in use.

To explain better – let’s take the rose quartz and the jade. Rose quartz is peddled everywhere as a stone of “self love” and “gentle healing”. As if, if you pick up this random rock, all your issues will float away like a willow in the wisp. You will love yourself, you will be abated of all emotional problems. You will be amazing. I see it alllllllllllll the time as beginner stones to magick or just to peddle woo-woo New Age/Pop Brujeria. As if you just carry it and all will be better. Or “carry this and congrats, you’re a witch”. Neither are true.

Then there is jade. Such a pretty stone that can be anywhere from red to green, and used for luck, good fortune, etc. A lot of my East Asian friends have them; strung in simple neckalaces using red string, hanging on their rearview mirror, bracelets, etc. Guess what? They’re not carrying them around because some random website or celebrity went “Ohhhhhhhh, this has luck and good fortune! Wear it any watch your bounty grow!” Nah, it was gifted from their loved ones as bonafide cultural well-wishes, for actual protection, good fortune and luck. Many of my friends didn’t obsess over their jade pieces but they weren’t that careless to lose them or think they were stupid, pointless rocks their parents made them wear. There is cultural significance – something very divorced from the usual person buying crystals because something online or in a store told them to do it.

I have a bevy of stones, they’re all stored in a small satchel. They were expertly identified and categorized by one of my friends who is a Christian occultist and can rival any geologist ever. Known him since college and when we both were running the Pagan Student Union during our separate tenures. He wrote down every rock I had (even correcting info I thought was correct because I missed minute details), their properties, which are poisonous and how, so on and so forth. Some of the rocks in there were discovered because I was walking with said friend and he would point at the ground and go, “That’s raw hematite. Yes, that rust looking one there. No, they are not shiny when discovered, that’s tumbled.” Do I carry them all with me like I’m in need of a slingshot? No. They’re part of my practice, yes, but they are not stuff I just carry about. I mean, no Christian I know totes around a censor and I’m certain most don’t tote around vials of holy water.

My favorite stones are the rutilated quartz and the tourmalated quartz. They’re magnificently beautiful, the threads and bars are immaculate. My pendulum is a rutilated quartz, which I use for divination. Not for “Will the Ravens go to the Superbowl” type questions but for deeper issues and guidance because uummm, why would I bother the universe and the deities I practice with dumb, inane questions like that? I have a tourmalated quartz necklace I no longer wear because I’m pretty certain it wants to leave me – doesn’t matter what chain it is on, that chain breaks Every. Time. Gold, silver, hand braided with tough thread, it doesn’t care. It wants to not explore the world and I am super okay with that. Actually, it’s probably a stone of sobering honesty for me because every time I found it, I always learned something new about the folks I was around or the places I was in – and none of it was of the warm-and-fuzzy variety. So it stays home because hunting for a lost stone all the time and learning unhappy things can lose its glean quick.

Would I recommend these stones to a Johnny-Come-Lately? Absolutely not. These stones react to me the way they do because they’re part of my practice, not because I am derping around. I don’t use crystals to replace mental health work, I actually have a therapist. I don’t carry around rocks aimlessly because of a teeny placard at an overpriced metaphysical shop. That’s ridiculous for anyone to do. It’s one thing to collect stones because “pretty rock collection”, it’s another to assume it’s going to do something. Unless you have the Hope Diamond or you have an actual background in earth-type magick or cultural belief, chances are stupidly good that you just doled out money for a rock. One that comes out the ground. For free.

I would like to be omega clear that stones by themselves can not heal or fix anything. It doesn’t work like that, not even in magick. It’s not like a cell phone or a math equation, plug one thing in and if it’s correct, everything is fixed and working. Nah. Not even close. You can carry more rocks on you than a person buried in a landslide but it means nothing when there is nothing. No culture, no genuine practice, no nothing – just “I carry this rock because it’s somehow is better than working on my problems.” That is total absurdity. It also reminds me of people who wind up in my inbox thinking I pretty much exist to solve their life problems as if I’m a personal druid or something. Using crystals as a means of “healing” seems to be usually used by those who kinda don’t want to fix themselves, just feel like they’re doing something or pass off the work.

Actually, I remember when I used to hang around a local metaphysical store all day and I would regularly see people filter in looking for rocks to solve their problems. No lie. They would walk in, stare at the selection and the cards they had, pick a litany of them to be displayed on velvet and start talking about allllll their life problems. The store owner, Ms. Donna, always would try to talk sense to them, tell them that the rock doesn’t fix their problems by itself, that the legwork still on them. Some listened, a sizeable chunk didn’t. And guess who would come back weeks later bemoaning that the rocks are crap, they don’t work, and their lives still sucked?

Crystals are used as an assistive tool in appropriate actions. I mean, you don’t speak into a regular ink pen to write something down, do you? Even though you are communicating with the tool to dictate your words, that’s not the correct way to use a pen. Does that mean pens don’t work because they can’t turn ideas into words that way? No. But they work quite fine if you know how to write and have some semblance of a vocabulary. Otherwise, you may as well say it’s a pointless stick filled with stubborn, colored water. The crystals are the same way. Plopping a crystal in your pocket and saying it’s going to cure your cancer/heartbreak/life problems/etc. is not a correct way to use it. And it’s disingenuous, at that.

 

 

* If the only Spanish you know are half-fumbled lyrics from “Despacito” and the closest you have been to Latin culture is Taco Bell, you’re not an actual bruja – just a fluffy bunny dabbling in the “otherness” of someone else’s culture

It’s been forever since I updated my Links of Interest, which sits on the upper right hand side of my blog. It is a list of links that I personally like and think are really cool and useful. Not all of them are Pagan related or Black culture related, it’s just stuff that I like.

On the Outs:

MikeShinoda.com – It was a cool blog filled with interesting thoughts and feelings of Shinoda but now it’s pretty much Just Another Music Site at this point. That’s fine but it’s not what I came for nor boosted it for.

AfroPunk.com – AP has gone waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay downhill since I left in 2013. Yeah, my blog got started there but that was back when AfroPunk actually was that, Punk culture and music for Black folks in alternative culture. Now, it’s none of that. I may switch it with ECBACC (East Coast Black Arts Comics Convention) instead later but that’s still being considered.

That’s all! I personally pick the links by how much I like them so please use them. I may add links about mental health – primarily trauma disorders (since I have one) – later on.

 

 

It’s May! That means it’s Mental Health Awareness Month, which in turns means there’s going to be “well meaning” people coming out of the rafters in fake support of mental health issues and disparities – preferably without letting those with mental disorders talk or only picking ones that are super general (depression) or “sounds a little worse but still marketable/not too scary” (bipolar). Then there is the “omg, self care!” crowd. I’m sure it started as something real but it’s a bunch of meaningless capitalistic bullsh*t at this point, aimed at people who have little wrong with them.

Let’s start with Self Care:

Dealing with mental illness is difficult. Many people across the globe struggle and experience it everyday, me included. However, instead of actual, viable solutions such as better access to authentic mental health care, more genuine diversity in psychology/therapy fields, things of that nature – we get “self care”. Which is a paltry, hyper-capitalist idea that basically boils down to “Treat Yourself!”

An article written by Shayla Love “The Dark Truths Behind Our Obesession with Self-Care” talks about this in depth:

From the ashes of these increasing mental health burdens has risen a trendy, Instagrammable solution: self-care. We young people, suffering in unprecedented numbers, have been forced to take on the responsibility of caring for ourselves, and have fallen under the spell of this hashtaggable term to do so.

Self-care is a nebulous name for a group of behaviors that should have a simple definition: taking care of yourself. But it’s no longer just meditation and journaling; everything can now be #selfcare. Eating healthfully or indulgently; spending time alone or seeing friends; working out or taking a rest day; getting a manicure or forgoing beauty routines.

These activities and products are not sinister in and of themselves. I would hope that a life includes leisure, time with loved ones, and exercise. But self-care has been appropriated by companies and turned into #selfcare; a kind of tease about the healthcare that we are lacking and are desperate for. As Baba realized, you can’t actually treat an anxiety disorder with a bubble bath or a meditation app, and the supposition that you can is a dangerous one.

The article is a very good read (even despite being a Vice work, which is pretty rare for me to say) and strikes on how the captialized version of self-care, not necessarily the concept itself, is not a decent replacement for mental healthcare.

I have ran into people preaching self-care over and over again, especially when I bring the fact I have mental disorders, particularly trauma disorders.

“Do exercise!” I have practiced martial arts for over 10 years. And I roller skate. And I go biking. And I’m usually told this by folks who are less healthy than me.

“Do yoga!” Been there, done that. Doesn’t do anything for suicidal thoughts. Or stop attempts.

“Get a hobby!” I already knit, crochet, build robots, code, do martial arts, cook, write long length stories, make books and journals, create CADs, 3D print, roller skate, draw, sketch, bike, fix cars, fix bikes, speak several languages and more … and yet I still have several disorders. Huh, it’s almost like the two aren’t related. Like I can be really good at something, and still my brain will malfunct. Y’know, like how you can be really, really good at deep breathing but that’s not going to stop you from having lung cancer – or cure it.

“Have a gratitude journal.” Sounds like bullsh*t and I’m both a writer and a bookbinder. Gratitude journals are worthless because while being grateful for things is nice – it doesn’t fix problems. It’s just pointless distraction better aimed at those who have little wrong with them.

While doing these things are not bad in and of themselves, they are a shabby and crap replacement for actual mental health care. Happy thoughts and “positive vibes” can’t heal cancer nor mend a broken leg, why would it do the same for a messed up mind? It is important for people to have access to real resources for proper care. While having green tea every morning is nice, it doesn’t cure depression (if that were the case, Korea and Japan wouldn’t be fiercely competing neck and neck for who has the most suicides and China would save massive yuans on anti-suicide nets they put on buildings). Real conditions should be met with real solutions.

Then there is the money part – a lot of these “self-care” things cost money. Luxurious amounts. Here is the thing: if a poor person can’t participate, it is not a legitimate practice. I always use that as a litmus test because if something is supposed to authentically help but ices out those who need it most, then it is probably a fad for the rich and self-indulgent. I mean, who truly believes that wearing a temporary tattoo that says “you got this” actually fixes PTSD? Either you’re nursing a drug habit or plain stupid to believe this.

The Self-Care movement seems borne from the fact that, honestly, it is far too hard for the average person to get psychological help if they need it. On its face, Self-Care sounds very individualistic, pull-yourself-up-from-your-bootstraps … which conveniently ignores the fact you have to wait long months for a professional you can’t afford. As if being besieged by a disorder is a choice and can be greeted with simple solutions, like buying expensive tea or buying fuzzy pillows.

And this is just Self-Care. There is also the fact the bulk of mental health assistance really is just, “pills are the new strait jacket, everything useful is expensive, White people only – preferably women. Everyone else can go to jail. Or die.”

This isn’t to say that proper medication does not help conditions but A) not every mental disorder can be solved with a pill (or a litany of them) B ) Pills do not replace talk therapy, at all. US mental health care honestly feels that if someone winds up in a psych ward, they just need to be drugged up, no need for cohesive one-on-one therapy. And if they are not White, even their cultural experiences and perspectives are going to be labeled as a disorder, usually one of the psychotic ones. By the way, that is a historical problem because, long story short, White people always thought Black folks were legitimately crazy for believing racism exists. Give those same White folks a clipboard and hospital badges, and you get a lot of misdiagnosed people who never get helped – or get swept into a system that just rather dose them into silence or compliance. I actually had to argue with doctors over my diagnosis because they wanted to diagnose me with – guess what? Schizophrenia! Or bipolar. Because it was easier to ignore the fact I had a trauma-filled childhood that gave me memory problems that heavily hinted I had major dissociation. Y’know, a dissocative trauma disorder? Since I believed, “cops harm Black folks on the level of serial killers, the drug trade literally poisons and rot communities, and racism exists”, I was considered “militant and bananas”* – oh, and they weren’t too interested in shoving me in front of a therapist but they were pretty quick about “what pills should she be on?” That’s a problem. A big one. And pretty oft ignored.

And if you get tossed in-patient? Problems just compound. Remember, you will just about never see a therapist if you’re general admissions (which is most people: the suicidal, the psychotic, the addicted, everyone in between. They all wind up here) so if you want to talk out your problems, you have to settle for your fellow patients during down time – which is not what they are there for, by the way – or group therapy, where if you are not really cool with telling swaths of strangers your problems, you really don’t have options. And there is really little to do so if you want to stay outside your head, that’s probably not going to happen.

Should you spend too much time in your head and fall into an episode, the options are restraints, being tersely spoken to, solitary, or getting the Spike (sometimes three needles, sometimes one, always a knock-out serum). Restraints are no fun, you feel like you’re in The Exorcist. Solitary is exactly that, just you and your thoughts in a teeny room. Some places have teeny 6×6 rooms with four walls, a mattress and a camera staring riiiiiiight at you embedded in the corner of the room. You get a sheet and pillow but nothing more than that. Other places, it’s just a cleared out room – most hospitals have done away with padded walls, those are a thing of the past (and bad movies). The burnt out nurses have no idea how to talk to you so they opt for “as if speaking to a bad child”. The ones who do use training were trained by people who read from guides crafted by idealists and edited by paranoid lawyers – useless. And most do not seem to know how to reference the DSM, the handbook of mental health and disorders, when they meet a patient whose disorder they do not understand. Despite the fact I am diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder (old name: multiple personality disorder, hasn’t been used since 1994), nurses would go directly down the “schizophrenia” route in treatment and mannerisms towards me. If not outright ignore me because, eh, what is there to do? I’ve seen others get the Spike, it’s fast acting and you either wake up in restraints, in solitary or in your room. In some places, you’re surrounded by a small crowd of people when you come to, in others, you just wake up on your own but someone is definitely checking on you.

Psych wards pretty much are like holding cells for the mentally bereft. You’re not allowed outside, you get three squares a day, the nurses act like wardens, and your time is dictated with little variation. Not to mention, it’s a holding cell you get a massive bill for. And I am talking “You could buy a fancy Tesla with all the trimmings” massive. I thought I amassed student debt fast, I managed to outpace what I accumulated in four years from college in less than three weeks at a mental hospital for my trauma disorder.

Speaking of which – yes, there are mental health programs. For example, there are a few for trauma disorders – emphasis on few because there are about twenty hospitals maybe on the planet that can treat DID. I’ve gone to one of them twice. However, mental health programs are hard to get into and prohibitively expensive. Just one night there is about $1,500 USD. For my disorder, I need about at least six weeks for treatments to actually work. Some have stayed over a year. Yes, you get one-on-one therapy and structured plans but still cultural barriers exist (yay, being labeled “aggressive” even when you’re not and not being allowed to discuss institutional prejudice or racism). And if you opt out on meds, things get a little worse because it concerns the doctors. And the insurance companies think a mental disorder is like a cold – you do a couple things and the person is all better again.

For example, my insurance, United Healthcare, did not want to pay. They actually had me booted out a day after being taken off suicide watch, saying I was all better. Refused to talk to the doctor, just said “she’s good.” Oh, and they do this a lot. United Healthcare’s reason? As expressed in the linked article:

United had a structural conflict of interest in applying its own restrictive coverage rules because it felt pressure to keep benefit expenses down so it could offer competitive rates to employers.

… A major issue in the case was the adequacy of United’s coverage of behavioral and substance use disorders as chronic rather than acute conditions. The plaintiffs said United’s guidelines inappropriately limited coverage once patients’ symptoms subsided, rather than covering the range of services needed to maintain patient’s stable health conditions over a longer term.

And they were doing this for yeeeeeeears. That is a lot of people under-served because of one insurance company’s belief of “crazy people are crazy expensive”.

In Baltimore, my hometown and where I live, hospitals practice “patient dumping”. Still out of your mind and nowhere to go? Not their problem, out you go. I remember asking nurses when they would prepare discharge to people without stable homes, “Where do they go now? Like, they still seem not well.” The nurses would shrug and reply, “We give them a three day supply of meds and turn them loose. We can’t keep y’all here that long, state laws.” Because in Maryland, you’re out in a matter of days, it doesn’t matter if you’re really well or not. There is no infinity of beds and, again, “crazy people are crazy expensive” so that’s just how it is. They do try to point you to shelters and homes, they even try to give you bus vouchers and cab fares sometimes but if you’re not mentally fit when it’s time to go, you’re not going to understand any of that. Doesn’t matter though, out you go.

And as for the hospital that did the January patient dumping, University of Maryland Medical Center (better known locally as “UMMC” and used to be Maryland General Hospital), I am not surprised they did this because this hospital in particular is pretty nefarious about how they treat the mentally ill. When my doctor was seeking out hospitals for me, first thing she said was “Not UMMC” because of how poorly they treat patients. Other patients who have been to UMMC have described over-bearing security guards, non-caring staff and higher ups who pretty much don’t care as long as there isn’t a nagging lawyer staring over their shoulder. I bring this up because these are the same exact places that present themselves as forward-thinking and probably has countless “Mental Health Awareness Month” events that look wonderful but, let’s face it: they don’t actually care. Might as well say on a banner, “It’s nice to be nice to crazy people, but don’t ever become one.”

I personally don’t always believe in social awareness months. Black history month? Sure, be great if it was naturally embedded into everything already, though. Asian American Heritage month? Sure, be great if it was naturally embedded into everything already, though. Domestic Violence awareness month? Sounds like a checkbox excuse, a way to pretend to care about gender violence issues without actually doing anything. Same for Mental Health Awareness month. It’s a checkbox issue to pretend to care without actually doing anything. Outside of the occasional depression screening events, I honestly do not really see anything actively useful for people who have disorders. Maybe those who get a case of the blues or fret about a test but nothing more than that. Again, handing out bath bombs do not cure disorders. It would be poignant if it was a year-round thing and not something to do for a month because it looks good in the eyes of the unaffected.

For all the awareness month does, it really doesn’t do much. People still think mentally ill people are dangerous and vicious. You could get fired for having a disorder, and don’t bother with EEOC – they’re too overburdened to care or do anything about it. You could get placed into a hospital where you don’t get any sufficient care, just pills and apathy. You could find someone to treat you but it will put you in the poorhouse by hour 3. You might not be able to find anyone who can treat you at all. An awareness month on the issues of mental health is absolutely pointless if it’s does not cause any action and no one is better informed or impacted by these efforts. It simply feels like a way for neurotypical people (people who do not have disorders) feel like they’re good people, great allies – without lifting a single finger.

Actually, that’s probably the point.

 

* I still think it is ridiculous I was declared “militant” since I have friends who could make Spike Lee sound like Ben Carson. That and their solution for “militant” is not therapy but pills. Talk therapy isn’t lunacy but appears to the doctors I’ve ran into, it is.

 

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