The Page of Wands (flaps again)

During my last therapy session, my psychologist and I talked about the Wheel of Life exercise. It’s a relatively quick — yet surprisingly in-depth — bit of self-evaluation designed to help you see where you are in life, figure out where you want to improve, and design a plan to get there. Initially, I thought it felt a bit more “life coach-y” than therapeutic, but, having finished it, I can definitely see the value in doing so. I consider myself fairly introspective, but it’s still a valuable framework for translating self-awareness into action.

(I’m not gonna subject you to a point-by-point analysis of my answers and my action plan here, but, suffice it to say, it’s a worthwhile endeavor if you feel like your life could use a little growth.)

Anyway, all of this is to explain that I drew this week’s tarot card with the desire to get some further insight into my findings from the Wheel of Life exercise. I know where I’m satisfied, I know where I’m behind where I’d like to be, I have an idea of how I can get from point A to point B, what else?

Luckily for me, I drew the Page of Wands.

This card is all good news, inspiration, creativity, motivation, and youthful energy. It’s an exciting card, full of motion, ideas, and playfulness. In an advice context, the Page of Wands tells us to seek out the opportunity to learn, to seize the chance to discover things we didn’t know before.

The Page of Wands has come up before, you might remember him from my Libra new moon reading. There, he was something I needed to be open to. During that cycle, I had plenty of good news and opportunities to learn about myself, so I’m eager to see what this holds. Even though the Libra moon has come and gone, it may also be that his hour has finally arrived — new moons are when we sow the seeds we hope to harvest later, so this “openness” may be coming to fruition now. Great!

 

The Seven of Wands and Wild Hares

When I draw cards for myself or others, I always read the “wild hares.” These are the cards that seem to slip out of the deck of their own volition — not through careless shuffling, but seemingly without provocation. You can be shuffling just fine, and still end up with a loose card or two… and sometimes they’re significant.

Some readers use the wild hare as the first card in whatever spread they’re using. Personally, I don’t. Rather than placing it in the spread itself, I set it to the side and use it for added context. These cards generally don’t change the entire tenor of a reading, but they’re often very insightful.

This time. I drew the Seven of Wands. This card generally signifies a struggle against some form of opposition, whether it be a competitor or a challenging circumstance. In the Crow Tarot, the Seven of Wands specifically indicates that though you might be on top of things at the moment, there are always forces ready to topple you.

Lately, I’ve been feeling it. Things are coming together for me, but I can feel physical and mental fatigue tempting me to rest on what I’ve already done. I should work on increasing my dose of sertraline, I need to keep on top of the exercises my psychologist has prescribed to me, but, since I’m feeling better (not well, but certainly much better), the temptation is always there to let myself become lazy. My shop exists now, but I should work on adding new things to it and helping more people find it. I need to keep working on shoring up my finances. There are plenty of places where I’m doing well, but I need to keep doing if I’m going to maintain that.

And, as I shuffled, the Nine of Cups slipped free. I have a bit of a history with Cups and Wands — tons of them have been appearing in readings for me, not that that’s really a surprise. The Nine of Cups is fulfillment, optimism, joy, and positivity. It’s a fantastic card to pull (whether you’re actually drawing one, or just have it sneak out at you).

In this context, it seems that things are continuing to look up for me. I am in a place of happiness and good things, but I’ll need to work to keep them. I’m not surprised. The kind of minor successes and small, comfortable miracles I’ve had lately are things that come with effort, and disappear with a lack of it.

Crystal Power, Crystal Healing

Note: This post contains affiliate links to the book(s) I mention. These allow me to earn a small finder’s fee, at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting writers and this site!

cpchI recently picked up a copy of Crystal Power, Crystal Healing, by Michael Gienger, based on a recommendation by the lovely people behind Dreaming of Avalon. What really intrigued me was the idea of a more “scientific” guide to crystal healing — that is, one that’s based on trials and a definite system, as opposed to some of the very vague information circulating on the internet.

While I can’t necessarily say that the information in Gienger’s work adheres to the scientific method, it’s a fascinating read nonetheless. He breaks crystals down by their structure, mineral class, elemental composition, color, and method of formation. This yields some very interesting ways to choose a stone for your particular purpose. For example, halides have a dissolving property, chlorine-containing minerals break down tension and stress, and green minerals help release emotions. By cross-referencing your lifestyle with the specific chemical properties that would be the most helpful to you, you can find a stone to try working with — or, perhaps most interestingly, get advice for the next geological formation you should visit or move near.

A fair amount of Gienger’s advice runs contrary to what I’ve seen in numerous other crystal guides, which I rather liked. (You won’t find dodgy claims of curing cancer or reversing heart disease, for one. Any physical healing properties are discussed in a supporting sense, not a curative one.) If you’re meditating or working with one of the handful of usual suspects recommended by crystal expert and not getting anywhere, you may want to see what Gienger suggests. Even if you aren’t into working with crystals as a healing tool, the sections on lifestyles, crystal formation, and chemical properties make for a fun, intriguing read. (I learned that I’m rhombic.)

Overall, I recommend this to anyone who uses crystals, even just in a crafting or jewelry-making sense. It’s an interesting book, dense with information, and probably has something to teach even veteran crystal-workers.

The Magician

The Magician is resourcefulness. He means creativity, power, and the ability to achieve your goals. He shows up to tell you that you have the things you need to do the things you want.

In my case, I think he means serotonin.

It’s kind of funny, really. I’ve tried cognitive behavioral therapy, which had some success for some aspects of my anxiety. (What’s the worst that can happen if I embarrass myself in front of people? They get a cringy-funny story to tell, and, since I don’t mind laughing at my own dumbassery, so do I.) However, it did not work super well for others. (There’s a 99% chance I don’t have a heart condition, but, if I am wrong, I die and cats eat my face.) I already meditate, breathe diaphragmatically out of habit thanks to several years of singing class, and practice roughly seventeen different kinds of relaxation and mindfulness techniques.

I use aromatherapy — there’s a duke’s ransom in lavender, sweet orange, and ylang ylang oil in my bedside table. I use herbs, even though lemon balm mostly just makes me sleepy. I carry crystals, which helps considerably with the meditation and mindfulness. Even so, I still felt panicky.

It wasn’t until trying an SSRI that any of it really started to stick. Even though I’m on the tiniest dose imaginable, the difference is already noticeable.

There are a lot of witches who aren’t willing to do healing spells or health-related divination, and I can’t blame them. Magic works best when it’s focused on something — it’s why I don’t really hold with a lot of the pop-witchcraft ideas of doing things like enchanting your tea for prosperity. Nonspecific witchcraft brings nonspecific results. If you cast a healing spell, what should it do? If you ease soreness, you’re really erasing one of the body’s signals that tells you something is wrong. Ease inflammation, and you’re really altering a powerful mechanism for healing. Without knowing the root cause of something, without knowing what it is you’re really trying to change, it’s difficult, at best, to address.

The trouble with mental illness is that there often isn’t a simple way to diagnose it and figure out the root cause. I have intracranial hypertension, and I know this because a very nice team of doctors stared into my eyes, stuck needles in my spine, and ran more tests than I previously knew existed. I have anxiety, but there’s no blood test for that. They can’t stick me in an MRI and tell me why my brain malfunctions the way it does. The best tools I have right now are persistence and experimentation. They can’t tell me if it’s genetic, from some form of trauma, or has some as-yet unknown etiology. Fortunately, that experimentation is starting to pay off.

It isn’t that I was performing CBT wrong, or meditating improperly. It goes deeper than that, in ways diet and lifestyle could only help so much. I’m happy I’m closer to understanding my panic attacks and anxiety, and I can’t even tell you how happy I am that I feel like I can finally do something about it now.

I’m not one hundred percent where I want to be yet, but I know the way to get there.

And then everyone saw my butt.

Hello, I’m writing this to you with one hand, because the other one is mostly shrinkwrapped.

I’ve talked about my anxiety before — about starting sertraline, taking beta blockers, the whole nine. My health is not really something I’m secretive about at all. Too many people have anxiety and panic disorders as it is, and I’ve been dealing with it for too long to give half a shit in a handbag about being ashamed of something I can’t control.

I have not, however, mentioned nocturnal panic attacks.

I’m lucky in that I don’t get them super often — once in a blue moon, really, usually when I’m under a lot of stress. At first, I thought they were something akin to a night terror, but the presentation is actually very different. I’m aware when I wake up panicking, albeit usually confused for a bit. My heart races, I feel a sense of impending doom. They suck super hard, but, as I said, I don’t get them often.

Then this afternoon happened.

We upped my dose of sertraline last night. I’ve also been on Bactrim for the past few days, which made every joint in my body feel as though it had been beaten by a team of enthusiastic pixies with cricket bats. Both of these can potentially increase anxiety, and panic disorders can be pretty unpredictable anyhow. I lay down to take a nap late this afternoon, and woke up feeling like someone had hooked most of my organs up to a car battery.

So, I did what I usually do: call my S.O. and ask him to hang out on the phone with me until things calm down, in case I lose consciousness, or experience transient blindness, or something else happens that keeps me from being able to call 911. Usually, it takes about twenty minutes for the parasympathetic nervous system to kick in and override the adrenaline response portion of a panic attack. I usually spend it on the phone, doing breathing exercises, holding an amethyst palm stone, waiting for things to pass. There isn’t really a way to speed up the process that I’ve found. Most of the emphasis is on riding it out with as little mental trauma as possible.

Twenty minutes came and went. I thought this might be more than I could handle on my own, so I took a beta blocker. (They’re not pleasant, but they’re pretty neat. From what I have experienced, read, and been told, they help me by blocking the adrenaline receptors in certain areas of the body. Pretty rad when your primary anxiety symptom is a racing heart, right?) Twenty minutes after that, my heart rate was almost normal. I also couldn’t breathe and felt like a donkey had kicked me in the sternum.

Welp. Plan B. I called an ambulance.

To make an already too-long story short(er), it was probably a reaction to the propranolol. We’re not sure why I had the original nocturnal attack, but I wasn’t actively having a heart attack when I got to the hospital. In fact, my vital signs were impressively normal, considering the completely dumbass amount of pain I was in. Just to make sure everything was okay, they took an EKG, drew some blood (shoutout to the dude who was able to draw from the back of my hand), and had me strip down and put on a robe for chest x-rays.

Remember when I mentioned taking Bactrim?

Do you know how hard it is to properly tie one of those damn robes on a good day?

Reader, I stood up to hold onto the x-ray machine so they could get a few shots of my heart, and flashed my entire butt at radiology. (To add insult to injury, when I got home, I realized I accidentally stuffed the hospital gown into the bag with my other belongings. So now there’s a permanent souvenir of my shame.)

Part of me berated myself for relying on medication. The fact of the matter is, though, that if you believe in an herb or crystal’s ability to heal, you must necessarily recognize its ability to harm. Anything can trigger an allergy. Anything can cause an adverse reaction. You can have a bad time with anything you put in your body, whether it’s a drug, a plant, or a sandwich. It’s the price we pay for having bodies, which, when you think about it, are both delicate and largely terrible. (Who’s idea was it to put the esophagus and trachea right next to each other? It makes no damn sense.)

Truth be told, butt-exposing aside, this went really, really well. My biggest fear has always been having an emergency when I’m alone, and potentially screwing up the things I need to do to handle that emergency. I was still half insensible with grogginess when I was fumbling with my phone to call for help, I was afraid of taking beta blockers because of the side effects, I experienced my worst fear after taking them, and came through it alright. I can’t say this has inoculated me against fearing these things in the future, but it’s a step. It was terrifying, and I did it, and if it happens again, that’s future J.’s problem.

And that’s something worth celebrating.

The Star Rises

The weather’s finally cooling (after an inexplicable 94°F) , the trees are starting to change. and I’ve watered my cacti for probably the last time until next spring. We haven’t had any more carbon monoxide scares so far, and, as soon as our next apartment is done being renovated, we’re pretty much ready to upgrade our space.

So, as per usual, I figured I’d do a one-card drawing to see where this week’s going. In the midst of all of this (much anticipated!) upheaval, it helps to have a little extra insight. I didn’t ask a specific question — just cleared my mind, let my thoughts arise as they would, and shuffled until I felt like that wasn’t something I needed to do anymore.

And… I drew The Star.

Not gonna lie, seeing it made me a little emotional. The Star is a tremendously positive card. It stands for hope and optimism, and, since it comes immediately after The Tower, it points to positive feelings that arise from the ashes of whatever was destroyed during The Tower’s phase. I haven’t exactly gone through the kind of things indicated by The Tower (well, not recently), but it still indicates a lot of hope for the future.

This is especially good to know because I started Sertraline. I’m afraid of taking pills, so I held off as long as I could, but my doctor(s) and I came to the agreement that it would most likely do more good than harm at this point. I’m only on a tiny dose to make sure I tolerate it alright, and it’s too soon to feel any difference yet, but I have hope that I might not have to go from medication to medication to find something that helps re-balance my neurochemistry. I was especially impressed that my psychiatrist was willing and knowledgeable enough to take my cerebrospinal fluid pressure into account when she prescribed it to me — I can’t tell you how many doctors I’ve had who either didn’t know enough about IH to realize that that was necessary, or shrugged off my concerns when I  brought it up.

The idea of taking it still gives me some anxiety, and my S.O. literally hid the first half-pill in a spoonful of applesauce for me so the action of taking it wouldn’t make things worse. (I know, I know.) As time goes on, I feel more optimistic, though. It’s good to know that those feelings aren’t misplaced.

It’s going to take some time for things to really smooth out, but so far, so good. Wish me luck.

The Libra New Moon (or, Man, That’s a Lot of Cups)

So, last week I drew the Ace of Wands. Aces represent beginnings and opportunities, and I definitely had my share: I started therapy, queued some posts on a new creative project that’s going live very soon, and went through my first (and hopefully only) carbon monoxide leak.

Yeah, I know. It can’t all be fried gold. At least I know I can kind of handle one if it happens again, and came to the realization that we really needed a different kind of CO detector. As it turns out, there is a lot of variability in what will make a CO alarm trigger. When you hear that beep, you can’t always be sure if it’s an “open the windows and turn everything off” 30 ppm that’s been going for the past seven hours or so, or an “evacuate immediately and call 911” 400 ppm that’s spiked in the past four minutes. This news was less than reassuring to me, so I picked out a new alarm with a display that reads in parts per million. Is it as accurate as the detectors the fire department uses? Probably not, but I still figure it can ballpark enough to help me save myself in an emergency.

You know that mental exercise where you’re supposed to reframe “have to”s into “got to”s? I’m trying to do that. It was terrible and terrifying, but everyone’s okay. I had to deal with a carbon monoxide leak, but I also got to see myself go through it and come out alright, and got the opportunity to learn more about how to better keep us all safe. It really could have been much, much worse.

Anyway, with this out of the way, let’s talk about the Libra new moon.

Like Aces, new moons are beginnings. A Libra new moon is a great time for balance, cooperation, and magic for anything related to the two — creative work, justice, partnerships, or balancing the emotions. Instead of doing my usual one card pull this week, I decided to find a new new moon spread to try out. I usually create my own on the fly, depending on the situation, but I do really enjoy seeing what others have come up with. (That’s why I keep a Pinterest board full of kickass spreads.) This time around, I chose this one from Emerald Lotus Divination.

So! Let’s see what we’ve got.

Position 1: What This New Moon Has in Store for Me

The Seven of Cups, from the Rider-Waite deck. Artwork by Pamela Coleman Smith. A silhouetted figure stands in front of seven cups. One holds a blue head, one has a glowing sheet ghost(???), one has a snake, one has a very tiny caste, one has either very excellent jewels or extremely terrible fruit, idk, one has a laurel wreath, and one has a very small blue dragon.

The Seven of Cups, from the Rider-Waite deck. Artwork by Pamela Coleman Smith.

The Seven of Cups. A figure (in my deck, a crow. In the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot, a dude) stands in front of seven cups, each filled with different things. It is up to the subject to choose the cups that hold good things, and not, like, snakes and creepy heads and bitey-looking blue lizards.

Many possibilities are open to me, and I have a lot of choices to make. This definitely tracks — October is going to be a month of big decisions and major upheaval. To make the best of these situations, I have to be proactive and make a choice. Fantasizing about some idealized situation is not going to put that cup full of jewels in my hand.

Position 2: My Energy During This New Moon

The Queen of Cups. Alright! As the suit of emotions, the Queen represents a figure that offers care and support. She can be the aspect of yourself that nurtures and provides you with self-care, or someone else entirely.

This card could represent my desire to take care of myself, or one of the people I’ve reached out to for help. It’s worth noting that both of my mental health professionals are female, so, while this position specifically asks about my energy during this new moon, my energy is also reaching out in search of a caring figure to help fix my brain. In either case, I’m reassured by the queen’s presence here — either I am making the nurturing, self-caring choice, or I am reaching out to someone who exhibits those traits. I need either (or both!) of those things right now.

Position 3: What I Need to Be Open To

The Page of Wands. He’s so happy with his giant walking stick. The Page of Wands is a playful figure, and may represent a charming, roguish person, or even just the arrival of good news. He is a bright, lovable, puckish, impetuous character.

I swear, I shuffled this deck well. Still, somehow, he is the only non-cups card I drew. To be honest, whether he represents a fun person or a piece of good news, I’ll take it. It’s hard to find a negative aspect of the Page of Wands (outside of his tendency to rush into things, but I think the Knight definitely has it worse). If this is what I need to be open to, I can handle that.

Position 4: Something That Wants to Manifest

The King of Cups. A kind, compassionate figure, he tempers his authority with understanding. He is calm, sympathetic, and good at listening.

At this point, I am actively trying to manifest emotional balance and creativity. The suit of cups stands for both, so I will take the King’s appearance as a sign that I’m on the right track. Coupled with the Queen of Cups and the Page of Wands, things are looking pretty good.

Position 5: How to Focus My Attention to Bring My Desires into Reality

The Three of Cups. Party on, my dudes (or dudettes, or dudes-as-in-men-and-not-as-a-gender-nonspecfic-term, or dudes-meaning-literal-city-dwellers-vacationing-on-a-ranch-and-pretending-to-be-cowhands). This card stands for reuniting with people from the past, or just straight up celebrating.

While this card can mean that I should party down and enjoy myself, it can also indicate that there’s a happy event to look forward to. In this case, it makes sense that I should both express gratitude and celebrate where I am and what I’ve achieved in life, and maintain an optimistic outlook and keep looking forward to the future. I think I can manage that.

All told, this reading feels great. I have choices to make, my energy is compassionate and nurturing (or attracting compassion and nurturing), I need to be open to fun people and good news, emotional balance is just waiting for the opportunity to manifest, and I should focus on celebrating the good times to achieve my desires. Sweet.