Friday, January 19, 2018

Winter Totem

I love symbolism of all types! I especially love the symbolism associated with animals. They teach us so much if we just pay attention. Do you have a favourite animal totem or spirit guide that is meaningful to you?

Back in 2004, I think my worst year on record, I couldn't even force myself to go outside. I did look out my back window every day and watch the birds in the woods. On one of my particularly miserable days, I was looking out the window in mid-winter and saw some tracks in the snow. Long story short, an adolescent bear had been sleeping under my back deck! I saw it one day emerging in the morning and walking back to the woods. This was frightening actually, we had bears up on the mountain often trying to get at the garbages, but steel boxes were put in place and they went away. I had to call the animal control department and they picked up the bear and brought him further up north.

This is around the time I started my spiritual journey. I did a lot of research on animal totems and to me this bear was giving me a sign to never give up and to be courageous. Whether the bear does this knowingly or not is a subjective belief. But I do love the messages each totem has to offer. And the bear's message could not have come at a more important time in my life.

I took this photo back in 2013. But I saw a similar bird today, the Woodpecker. The one I saw this morning had quite the mane on him! He was gorgeous and the dogs were just as star-struck as I was! We rarely see these birds outside of the woods, but this one was pecking away at all of the trees in the back yard. Then he just stopped and perched himself and looked at me. Kind of cool!

I took these photos back in 2014, the last time I saw a Woodpecker. They loved the suet feeder! This bird symbolizes opportunity knocking. Each tree he raps at is a door opening for new his case, maybe a new grub or worm!

Knock and keep knocking, seek and keep seeking, ask and keep asking, march to the beat of your own drum.

Woodpeckers will also find a suitable tree to hold their young. So they also represent the desire to have a home of your own, and to carve out the way and persist until you find it.

In colour symbolism, you could see the red on his mane as a wakening up of new ways to look at things...or new wisdom in general. Red is the colour of passion.

This bird has a lot of meaning for me today. Firstly, I'm proud to say that I've put into place an automatic transfer to a tax-free account. I also have budgeted for the next few years. Alex and I have a savings plan in place so that we will achieve home ownership. This is how we carved out the way! :)

And more importantly, this winter, I'd finally hit rock bottom with the anxiety. There were nights when it was so bad that I couldn't even swallow my food. For whatever reason my brain decided, nope, not tonight. You can cook the food, but you cannot eat it. It was quite devastating, especially around the holidays. And especially since it happens at random. This is what post-traumatic stress disorder does to a person unfortunately. 

The last few weeks I've been eye-ball deep in research, looking for new ways to fight this horrible thing that just loves to pop up every now and then.

I started a meditation program specifically for anxiety. It's VERY interesting. It's theory, breathing exercises and meditation. It's 8 classes and has links to lots of articles and yoga programs as well. I'll write a post about that in the future when I'm done with the program. I'm also on a new supplement which is chamomile and passionflower combined. I have increased my daily fish oils too. I'm spending an hour journaling also. I have my days very structured which brings me a lot of harmony. So far it's working pretty well.

But...and we all have these days...when I woke up this morning, I felt tired and achy and not in the mood to sit quietly for a meditation. The Woodpecker changed my mind. :) I'm making this year the year where I dump anxiety to the curb...or at least conquer it when it rears its ugly head. I don't have time for it anymore! :) I'll be putting out a few more suet feeders tomorrow to thank the Woodpecker for that important message this morning! I hope he comes back!

I used to have the attitude that all of these things I do is just too much to manage anxiety without pharmaceuticals, but I don't want to take them anymore. They are poison and just a band-aid anyway.  I managed to get off them so many years ago and I won't go back on them. The measures I'm taking for myself do take up a good few hours daily, but I accept that it's necessary and I feel the benefits already. I think that so many ills would be cured if we learned how to breathe properly, do some exercise and stretching, eat fresh foods, relax and be thoughtful every day. Our existence is body, mind and spirit and we need to take care of all of them to be in balance. What do you do to balance your life?


Toni said...

You should be commended on the effort and energy you are dedicating to self-care and health. Not enough of us take on the responsibility. We are all about taking a pill and getting on with life! (Me included. I take 2 Rx's for my PTSD and Depression). I was slowly weaning myself off meds but with all that is going on with folks, Dr. says hold off for a bit).

The black jaguar has been my animal totem for many years, appearing to me in dreams and often in my peripheral vision. One night, several years ago, I woke from a dream of walking with one of those big cats. It was the middle of a summer night, the window in the bedroom was wide open. I could hear something very, very large drinking from the pool. Goose bumps ran up and down my body; I knew it was the jaguar.

Wednesday morning I went to pull up the blinds and open the window in my bedroom. About six feet from the house is a small fountain under a peach tree. There were two birds perched on the edge, drinking. One was a beautiful pearl colored Dove with the tiniest bit of tan coloring; the other was a Nutall Woodpecker. They stood about 6 inches from each other, just sipping away. A Scrub Jay was hopping around behind them.

The dove flew away from the fountain to a group of about 10 other doves walking around the back yard. It was a great show, good to see none of the birds gave any notice to the jay's noisy complaints!

I find being in my home very peaceful but when I find myself feeling restless or full of anxiety, I light candles and place a little sandlewood or citrus eucalyptus essential oil in a burner. Or I jump in the car and drive out to Whiskeytown Lake. In the summer I may swim but in the winter, I park with a good view of the lake and mountains and just sit. Always, always brings peace to my soul.

Nicolas Hall said...

I agree with everything Toni said above about how you should be commended for all your effort and awareness!! And I wanted to say too that when you wrote "I'm making this year the year where I dump anxiety to the curb...or at least conquer it when it rears its ugly head. I don't have time for it anymore!" I smiled because I wanted to share with you that Sofie, my partner, went thru years of the same debilitating anxiety for much of her life but only found her way back to a balance when she made the same proclamation. Of course, that was coupled with eating right, better self-care, grounding herself in several important pursuits like journaling, gardening, weaving and cooking more. . . but she points to that moment when she just said "No more" as a key turning point! Like you, her self-care requires a lot of time, sometimes entire days, but the change has been remarkable. She still has days where she feels it "knocking" but they are far less prevalent than before and she tells me that it helps a great deal to have me just go about my day as usual, as if seeing that all in your world is well in me, it helps her realign and pull herself out of it and get back on top of things. Lastly she knows it will be ongoing work and she no longer looks for the "magic cure" so its a constant process. Just one day at a time with no judgement on the bad days or the good. Just one by one. From my perspective, which is admittedly one without the personal experience of such anxiety, I've seen that a good starting point for many people is to re-sort life as much as possible and to make the time for that self-care. Prioritizing and letting go of all the extra, stress inducing factors that one can. We're taught these days, more than ever, that busy is good, busy is success, busy is accomplishment. . . but I think it's just the opposite really, whittling away the unnecessary, unwanted and undesirable is all self-care at its best, web an all do it and THAT simplifying is the greatest self-gift in every way, yes? :)

Woodpeckers. . . oh I love them! Our favorite nature walk allows us to see them fairly often. We have found that if we take our walk, pick a spot and then sit in the woods quietly, we become part of the surroundings and all the birds that other folks we run into out there claim they never seem to see, well, they just come to us! Eagles, owls, ravens, stellar jays, chickadees, winter wrens and warblers in the woods and dippers, ducks, egrets and herons on the water. . . the littlest birds all travel together in what we've dubbed "bird clouds", hundreds of them moving across the tree tops and then moving on but our favorite is the woodpecker! We sat on a log one day and had one that began way up high above in the trees work it's way down close to us below as they went about their search for food. . . I love all of your insights on the woodpecker as a totem. I haven't done totem work for a few years but I DO take time to watch and commune with the animals all around us.

Plowing Through Life (Martha) said...

That is wonderful, Rain! I'm so glad you are finding ways to take charge of your health that don't involve medications. Not that people shouldn't take them. Sometimes they are absolutely vital. But...if there is a way to at least limit them, I'm game

And that is great about the tax-free savings account. May I suggest that you make that money work for you. Tax free accounts don't pay much interest, so you might want to look into putting that cash into mutual funds. It will still be connected to your tax free savings, so you don't have to declare the interest, but your returns will be higher. My brother is a portfolio manager and he's been in the investment industry for almost 35 years. This is the type of advice he always gives. In any case, just a suggestion that may help you reach your goal sooner!

I am a huge believer in messages sent to us from animals. Just a few days before Nacho was laid to rest, the sky was filled with crows just outside our home. They were circling around and around, and making quite a raucous. I'd never seen anything quite like it. And just for the record, I love crows. I find them highly intelligent and wonderfully mysterious. And I don't consider them bad luck like many people do. So when I saw them, I thought that some major change is coming along, perhaps even a looming death. Or a message was being sent from a departed soul. And then Nacho died. At that point I realized that they were there to help her prepare to leave this earth. Crows are communicators or messengers between this world and the next, and their appearance in such huge numbers that day was a sign.

I can't tell you how much I enjoy these posts :)

wisps of words said...

I am so happy, that you have found ways, along the way, to deal with issues.

For myself, I "searched" my way, away from a strict life-long religion, when I was about 60 years of age. Did not "drop out." Took years, to come to this. But after, I had eliminated so many, many "rules", which triggered my OCD. -happy sigh-

I do medicate. I am not cured. OCD is never cured. No matter how many things, one "throws at it," it is never cured. I know this. And I never have a day, when I do not have to deal with it. But all in all, my life is so much better.

That was one big thing, which made a big difference, in my quality of life. For me. For me.

Pam Jackson said...

Balance in my life is to keep others drama out of my life. To not allow stress near me. I know it is not easy but not working, having my home and car paid off makes life easier. Now with that said, I have been stressing a little more than before due to the fact that I know I will need to locate a part time job and wondering if my body will allow it. Balance is the easy life I have made for myself. As for an animal I am not sure one has given me a sign with its being. I am so in aw of animals out in nature but like I said, not sure that watching or seeing them is a sign. I love your blog. I love how open you are becoming on your life. Hang in there Rain.

Rain said...

Thank you Toni :) <3

Please don't get me wrong, I think that pharmaceuticals are needed and fine for some people, just not for me. I was on 4 at one point and my quality of life was poor at best. I think that considering your parental issues currently, it's not a good time to get off the meds at all. I was on them 7 years until I found the timing to be right. :)

I LOVE your black jaguar story! How brilliant that your jaguar visited you, but also how scary! I got goose bumps reading that!! I had to laugh at your "noisy jay's" my gosh they CAN complain can't they???

My most favourite bird is the Mourning Dove. I think their "coo" is lovely and haunting...and they are usually always in pairs. Wonderful birds, how cool that you had about 10 of them all together! I've never seen more than two at a time, that is definitely a nice totem reaching out to you! :)

I'm like you, I find a lot of peace near water. I'm a water sign. Of course, I'm an emotional being too so I'm ruled by water! I've often walked over to the river and the lake when I'm not feeling right. I love swimming in the lake too, how lucky we are to have that available to us!!

Rain said...

Thank you Nicolas :) That is very interesting about your Sofie. You are a super supportive partner, and trust me, we who need that are truly grateful. Alex is very supportive too. I had some friends (now former friends) who would feel my anxiety was a nuisance and trust me, things don't last without the true understanding that anxiety and panic is a real disorder that can't always be controlled. And yes, it does take a lot of time, I guess I wasn't willing to put as much time in before because I was being pulled in all directions. But yes, enough is enough. The time spent during the holidays where I couldn't swallow for a few days was horrendous. I'm so much better now, haven't had any problems in about a week now so I know I'm on the right track! And I know from experience that busy is NOT good. Occupied, yes. If I'm bored, anxiety starts. When I'm occupied, doing things I really enjoy, I'm just fine. But busy causes more's such a fine line and I'm so happy your Sofie found her path away from it. It's never really gone, but she has the tools to fight it now if it ever comes back! Well done for her, I hope I'm there soon too!

Oh I've done the same thing! I find a spot in the woods to just sit and observe and listen. I've seen many an animal that way. In fact there was one time where a porcupine waddled right beside me and kept walking along his way. This freaked me out actually lol...those quills! But he was a beautiful creature and I was so lucky to have seen him!

Rain said...

Hi Martha :) I agree, some people do need meds, but for me, it was such a bandaid and all it was doing was prolonging a very miserable life. I'm sure I could benefit from a daily tranquilizer, but those side effects were bad. And, at least in my case, they stopped working occasionally and the p-doc had to always increase them.

You know Martha, I worked at a brokerage firm. I was an administrator but I was taking courses at the Canadian Securities Institute to get my broker license. It was a day-trading firm. I watched EVERY one of our 150 clients lose so much money. One man destroyed the bathroom one afternoon when he lost 50k+ on a Yahoo stock that tanked within a few hours. I often thought about mutual funds, but I'm still very gun-shy about any type of risky investment...though mutuals are lower risk depending on which portfolio you choose. And I have this silly problem. I'm on workman's comp, which tax-wise, means net zero income...there are a lot of loop holes which inhibit me from making investments. I'd have to talk to the CSST and see about that because if I have to pay taxes on any returns, I'm better off with the less than ZERO interest the TFSA pays lol...I do appreciate your advice! Have you read The Wealthy Barber? It's a great book about invensting for the layman/laywoman!

My gosh, how spine-tingling about the crows...really, I am all freaked out right now physically. I don't consider them bad luck either...though I do see them as presenting an omen. I like that you see them as a message from a departed soul too. And that is so sweet about how you saw them as helping Nacho prepare! Although I do love saying "a murder of crows"...that's just the spooky-lover in me though lol!

Rain said...

Hi Wisps of Words :) I think that if you need medication and it's not affecting your quality of life, then I agree it's necessary. If it helps you, that's great :) But in my case, it was hindering me terribly. My body doesn't react well to any pharmaceutical, even an Advil for headaches makes my stomach ache for days. And like OCD, I do believe that anxiety is never cured...only managed. Whatever method works for a person is the right one! I'm so glad your life is good, even with that awful OCD...I know someone who has it and he suffers.

Rain said...

Hi Pam :) Thanks :) I'm sorry Pam that you will have to find a part time job...with your fibro...the only thing I can think of is LIBRARY. Little stress and maybe some wiggle room to take days off when you're not doing well. But then again, the job needs to be available. Drama is a big person's drama can ruin another person's day that's for sure. I've been pretty good keeping it at a distance. But any kind of drama sets off my anxiety.

I think that any animal that makes itself really obvious to you could be showing you a sign. Like for me, that Woodpecker...they have a huge forest to hang out in...why was he in my yard? And why did he just perch on a branch and look at me? Most birds are very skittish and will fly away if you make a move...this one just stared...and I had Jack and Marlene loose in the yard too and he didn't budge. For me, that was a message to learn! Keep your eyes and ears might see some things you never noticed before!

I think in your case the cat is a good totem. You are working so hard to find homes for those feral cats...I think it's interesting because cats (they say) have 9 they can afford to take some big risks without fear of failing. Also, as you know, they are really adaptable...maybe the cats are encouraging you to try something new and maybe risky (out of your comfort zone)?

Fundy Blue said...

Hi, Rain! Your post was full of many things today. I don't have an animal totem, but sometimes in my dreams or drowsing I'm a red-tailed hawk riding the thermals in Monument Valley. I can feel the wings in my shoulder blades. I'm also very drawn to humpback whales, especially those in the Bay of Fundy. It's hard to have two more different animals. Red is my favorite color, followed by blue. My massage therapist always does a reading for me from a fairy deck which appeals to me because of my Celtic roots. I have a Tolkien deck somewhere. You're piquing my interest to dig it out. I really, really enjoy your posts!

I am so sorry that you are dealing with anxiety. It's been the bane of my existence for decades. I admire what you are doing to tackle this. I am taking a medication and have done so over two decades. For me the medicine has been a lifesaver. It is not good if I go off my meds. "Fibro" leapt out at me in your comment to Pam. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 1993. It was so bad that I thought that I would have to leave teaching. However through exercise, massage, and a reasonably healthy lifestyle I have it under control. I usually know the moment it threatens to flare, and I have a "rescue" prescription that I can take to nip the pain in the bud. If the pain gets away from me, I'm in for a serious flare that can take days to overcome and no painkiller will help. Anxiety and fibromyalgia often go hand-in-hand. Your PTSD comment made me wonder for the first time if I have PTSD. I had some traumatic things happen to me in my teens that changed my personality and impact me to this day. It's something for me to think about!

I'm very curious to see how your anti-anxiety meditation works. I'm looking forward to walking beaches in a couple of weeks. I have always found walking by the ocean a kind of meditation. Walking meditation is something that appeals to me. Wishing you luck as you tame the anxiety beast.

Rain said...

Hi Louise :)

I'm sorry you have to live with Fibro AND anxiety! My gosh...Like I've mentioned, I'm all for meds if they work for you, but I tend to plateau on them and always need an increased dose. I was on Clonazepam for 8 years and it slowed down my metabolism, gave me dry mouth and if I skipped a dose I'd get migraines and eye flashes. It was scary for me but I definitely needed it back then because the panic was really out of control. PTSD is a beast. Something that happened to me when I was eight years old can trigger a panic attack today. And I just can't pinpoint it. Years of therapy helped me over the worst, but I still am perplexed by this disorder. I figure that if I can keep my depression at bay through exercise and living a joyful life; and work on managing the anxiety once and for all...then maybe the ptsd will ease up too. Like you said with the Fibro and anxiety, a lot of these disorders go hand in hand.

I love that you do walking therapy! I do that as well, but for me it's in the woods. When I lived on P.E.I., I often went to the beaches and walked with my dogs and yes, it was very soothing and grounding. I feel the same when I'm in the forest...I call it nature therapy. :)

Oh yes, get your deck out!!! A Tolkien deck sounds fabulous! That's something I can relate to. :) Humpback gosh I love those creatures. When I visited Pleasant Bay in NS about 20 years ago, I went on a whale watching boat ride and we saw pilots, humpbacks and some other that I just can't remember. I was fearful, but so curious. Alex and I will be relocating to the Maritimes somewhere between 2019 and 2020 and my dream is to live near the Fundy Bay. :) I spent a year in Moncton and lots of time at those Hopewell Rocks too! :) Your animal totems are great...lots of strength and insight in those two!

RO said...

Wow, Rain, you are so beautiful, perfect and gifted that it never occurred to me that you are battling personal demons, and my heart goes out to you so much. PTSD and anxiety affects people in ways that many don't understand, but it's so traumatic. I like the idea of meditation, and plan to do some of that myself. Sometimes just being in a peaceful environments with minimal stressors can help too. I like how symbols show up in our lives to make a difference. For me, it's dreams. I'm sending some HUGE cyber hugs of healing your way! RO

Rain said...

RO! Thank you (hugs hugs hugs)!!! Oh my gosh, I've been through the ringer with these mental health issues or disorders...I never know what the "pc" term is lol...all I know is sometimes it really gets the better of me...but I can't keep allowing it. I have tried so many things, but clearly not enough. Now I'm done. Not being able to eat was the last straw I think. Before I burned out in 2003, that happened too, and then I had a full-on nervous breakdown that required hospitalization. I got scared around the holidays when I noticed it was starting again. One of the main stressors though was the dog situation and now knowing what the heck was going on. When we insisted on our friend making a firm plan with us...a lot of that stress eased up. But I just can't let it happen again. It's too debilitating.

I think that the meditating and learning how to breathe properly is already doing me so much good! I'm going to post something about all of this when I'm done the program because if it helps me, I would love to pass on the methods to others who suffer this. And yes, it is traumatic. Horrible. Actually being in a peaceful environment was my saviour back in the day. Living in the city made everything worse. As we walk our path, Alex and I both want even more of a peaceful surrounding and we're definitely going to make that happen soon!

MrsDuncanMahogany said...

Well done Rain - on every aspect of this post! :) We all can take something away from this today I am sure. Anxiety be damned! So hard when it tears you down. But I am sure that this program will help - and keep looking out the window! ;)

Rain said...

Thank you Dianna :) My eyes are always out the window! :) It's true that anxiety can tear a person down...but as you know, my program is doing me a lot of good! :)