WARNING: This article contains UPG (Unverifyable Personal Gnosis). It’s true for me. It does not have to be true for anyone else.
A little over two months ago, the absolute best thing that could have happened to me happened. I hit rock bottom. I reached that place where you pick yourself up and change everything because you have to. I had developed type 2 diabetes.
With the exception of Facebook posts regarding weight loss, I have been quiet. It’s a lot to take in and process. I had to shed a lot of unnecessary, outdated ideas. I needed space to put myself first with as few distractions as possible, until it was an established habit. While I could just blog about my progress, the numbers of pounds lost (31 pounds and counting!), and the improved glucose readings, there is so much more underneath it all.
These changes go deep, to core beliefs and a restructuring of priorities. That is to be expected when making major life changes. What I was not expecting, however, was to reach a new understanding of a goddess I have worshipped since childhood.
There is power in words. This is nothing new to magical folk. I began listening to my choice of words regarding diabetes. The most frequent thing I said was, “I have to manage my diabetes”. After that, it was, “I have to get my diabetes under control.” Here is what is wrong with those statements.
First, I do not wish to identify with a disease. It’s not “my” diabetes, as if it were something special to me or part of who I am. It is simply diabetes, a condition where, at the present time, I am resistant to insulin. As a result, my blood glucose levels get too high, setting me up for serious complications like glaucoma and heart attacks if it continues. However, I have no interest in establishing a relationship with or identifying with diabetes, or feel in any way that it’s “mine”. I made that error with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome). I won’t make it again.
Second, I have zero interest in just “managing my diabetes”. Why would I settle for “managing” a disease state that is reversible? Why on earth would I willingly choose to simply maintain the same level of sickness? This idea of controlling it is problematic for the same reason, if not worse. It implies an agreement to be its caretaker, like an animal handler in a zoo controls a lion or a polar bear.
I will not assume responsibility to keep this disease under control. My goal is to reverse it and be rid of it. People reverse type 2 diabetes every day. Reversing diabetes and sensitizing my body to insulin again is managing and increasing my health. Doing so is holy because it increases my personal hælu. My health, which is connected to both luck and holiness, is something for which I gladly take full responsibility. That is the language and imagery necessary for my focus to remain clear.
Just a Make-Believe Figure of Primitive People
Since I haven’t blogged about this, here’s a little background. I have had a devotional practice to Freyja, that stretches back to childhood, with an interruption of about 8 years before it resumed again when I was 15. Way back when I was about 4 or 5, my mom would take me to the library once a week. I was drawn to one book in particular, and renewed it weekly for a couple of months. It was D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths.
In this book, I met Freyja, at least a simplified version of her. I read how she was a goddess of beauty and love. I read about how when her necklace was stolen, all of Asgard basically came to a grinding halt. For all of Odin’s wisdom and all of Thor’s might, no one could get on with their own business until Freyja was happy and whole again. Now, that’s power.
I started silently praying to Freyja instead of saying my nightly Catholic prayers. Nothing formal, just a simple conversation in the mind of a young child talking to a goddess. Eventually, I asked my mom why we didn’t also pray to these and other (Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Celtic, etc) gods. They were gods afterall. They might be a bit irritated that no one was praying to them! I wasn’t allowed to take that book out anymore.
I continued my prayers, but eventually stopped. The Catholicism I was raised in did not allow for Freyja to be “real”. My CCD teachers taught that none of these other gods were real, just make-believe figures of primitive people who didn’t know any better until the Christians came along to enlighten them. The cultures who worshiped the Old Gods were made out to be no more more evolved than cave men. This was a deep hurt, to give in to the belief that “my goddess” wasn’t real. But, my 7 year old self was more concerned about what others might think.
Jeans That Don’t Fit
Fast forward to my teenage years for a moment. I completed CCD and made my confirmation because it was expected of me. After which, I promptly ditched Catholicism. The draw to all things occult was too strong to ignore. I couldn’t help myself from studying things like palmistry, tarot, ghosts, and spellcraft. Eventually, I started reading about Wicca and various neo-Pagan religions. Here, among these varied paths, Freyja was acknowledged as a living goddess, not some make-believe figure. That was my “switch-flipped” moment. I resumed my private devotionals to Freyja, while looking for a religion that was more for me.
Over the years, I’ve changed religions a few times. In looking for something that truly reflected my views, I would end up forcing myself to fit into established paths, like trying to put on a pair of jeans that belongs to someone else and happens to be a size smaller.
While a label makes it easy to convey a general sense of one’s belief’s in a single word, I don’t want a label at this point. I worship Earth Mother and Sky Father, old Germanic and Celtic gods and goddesses, like Freyja, Freyr, Woden, Brigit, and the Morrigan (yes, I know, multiple cultures… it’s evolved for me over years, it is what it is), plus a few more. Ancestor veneration and honoring the land spirits are a major part of my ways. I believe there are several layers of existence with all sorts of inhabitants, some friendly, some not, that are not visible to most here in the physical layer. I also think there are threads that connect these layers, as well as connect actions and luck. I believe these threads can be manipulated, and that it is possible to see into other layers. I also believe that there is no light without the dark, and that both are necessary. Perhaps, it’s just best that I refer to this as “my ways”. Those jeans will always fit.
That being said, my devotionals to Freyja have evolved over the years as I wore different spiritual jeans. I have written prayers and music to Freyja as devotional offerings. I have crafted special herbal packets to be burned as offerings, and special incense and oil blends for use in rituals to honor her. I have offered pieces of amber to the ocean and one rather large lake for her. I have offered food, mead, and even my own blood from my fingers to her.
On a few occasions, I asked for help, mostly in the love department. This is a great topic to blog about more in depth another time. For now, let’s just just say that I was always left with the message that my “soul mate”, for lack of a better term, was out there. But, there were things I needed to do first, and things he needed to do first.
Sometimes I would get a message that I would meet someone, but it was just to keep me company for the time being. Perhaps, it was just to shut me up. In the final analysis, I would have been better off just focusing on myself, instead of conjuring up the next ill-fated, “just for the time being” relationship. Putting energy into myself and taking care of myself felt unnatural to me, and relationships were a fabulous distraction. Just thinking about focusing on myself, I could hear my mother’s voice scolding me, “Just who do you think you are, girlie?”
However, one morning during a devotional, a recently-single me was lighting my candles and getting ready to offer up my prayers of devotion. All I wanted was to feel the calm and centeredness I felt sitting in front of my altar space while the incense smoke curled skyward. And while Freyja may not have blessed me with the love of my life (yet), I received blessings from her nontheless in other ways (another great topic for another time), comfort being one of them.
Then, I started crying uncontrollably. I would not find comfort. I was too angry. After years of petitioning and praying and breakups one after another, I’d had enough. Why? Just WHY did I have to be alone? I recall screaming up to the sky, “I don’t give a shit what I’m supposed to do, or whatever he’s supposed to do. But, I’m done with being alone. If there’s someone out there for me, I deserve to meet him, and I mean now. Not later, not someday, right the fuck now!”
There was a change in the energy of the room. Not heavy or forboding, but it definitely felt like the ritual was over. There was no sense of her presence that could normally be felt around my altar. It was more a feeling like when someone has just left a room. Something of them lingers, but they are gone. I was worried. Afterall, I did just shout “fuck” at a goddess. Not exactly my finest moment. Would there be a punishment? I took a deep breath, expecting the worst.
Within days, a certain tall, broad-shouldered, deep-voiced man with the bluest eyes I had ever seen began flirting with me. We’re now married, about to celebrate our 11th wedding anniversary, and we are blessed with two beautiful children.
Thirteen Years Pass…
I always wondered how a devotional-turned-temper tantrum could result in such an immediate and significant blessing. I was loud, rude, irreverent, and demanding. That’s hardly the way to win friends and influence people, let alone approach a goddess. While I felt comfort from my devotionals to her, make no mistake: being in the actual presence of a god or goddess is a humbling experience, and not something that happens every day. I felt her presence that day, and I felt it leave. I’ve felt her presence since, and I was not punished for my disrespectful behavior. Did I just get away with something? What happened here? Her response never made sense, until recently.
In these last 13 years, I somehow found myself at the bottom of the totem pole in my own life. Everyone and everything was more important- my husband, my kids, extended family, friends, clients, my publisher… all more important that I was. With the exception of my husband (he’s a gem), and my kids (they were too small to understand that the world doesn’t actually revolve around them), the way people treated me began to match how I treated myself. And don’t get me started about how people closest to us would scatter if we dared breathed the dirtiest of all words, “babysitting”.
While I was writing my books (under another name, that’s a completely separate part of my life), I would sit at the computer writing or at the kitchen table to homeschool the kids, sometimes for 14 hours a day. Add in clients and teaching local herbal courses, and something had to give. It was usually the cooking. I would call my husband and have him go through a drive through on his way home. I knew it was unhealthy, but I “couldn’t afford” (words again, they have power) the time to cook.
In otherwords, I wasn’t valuable enough to make my health a priority. I ignored a knee injury, the weight gain, the PCOS, gluten-sensitivity, hypothyroid, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (oh yeah, forgot to mention some of these earlier), and the telltale signs of diabetes. Because, deadlines. Even my own work had now become more important that I was. My husband, my kids, my parents, my clients, my publisher… everyone mattered except me.
I didn’t matter in my own life. I was literally at the bottom of the priority list. I had this idea that I was tough enough to just muscle through it. I told myself, “Suck it up, Buttercup!” It had always worked in the past.
Sometimes, Bad News Is a Good Thing
The books were done. I had been dealing with burnout for months. Then, for three nights in a row, I was up every hour to go to the bathroom. My mouth was so dry. I couldn’t help but guzzle water before going back to sleep. I couldn’t quench the thirst. I was dehydrated, but urinated hourly. I knew what that most likely meant.
Because of a pre-diabetes diagnosis back in my twenties, I had been keeping it at bay through diet for about 20 years. I got a meter to test my glucose readings while pregnant with my daughter. Thankfully, I didn’t develop gestational diabetes. Anyway, I still had the meter, so I ordered new test strips and took several fasting blood glucose readings over the course of three mornings.
I had been through enough fasting blood glucose tests in the past, including several 5-hour glucose tolerance tests, to know what those numbers meant. Fasting blood glucose readings over 126 mg/dl indicates diabetes. I had type 2 diabetes.
I didn’t freak out, though I wanted to. Because of my background in holistic health, I already had a protocol for diabetic herbal clients, which I would then personalize to the individual. I went through my protocol and tailored it for my needs. I stopped seeing clients and stopped teaching locally to give myself the time to plan and prepare my herbs and my ketogenic meals, plus make time for more movement.
If, dear reader, you are wondering why I did not seek help from the medical profession, I have my reasons. As this entry is already exceptionally long, I will sum it up with this: every time I have turned to mainstream medicine and medical professionals for help, that system and its professionals failed me. Every time. I have no interest in going down that road again.
More importantly, this healing journey involves more than just controlling my blood sugars. To have thrown a pharmaceutical at it that would have suppressed my blood sugar levels would not have ultimately solved the problem. It would have masked it. It would have buried it. I would have missed out on the real healing that was at the root of this knarled diabetes tree.
I had to put myself first.
You Say, “Selfish Bitch”, like it’s a bad thing.
Really, putting myself first was scary shit. Based on what I heard growing up, I believed that I was just born unnaturally selfish and self-centered. This was a flaw that I had to keep hidden, buried deep, otherwise, no one would ever want to be my friend. Later as a teenager, I thought I had to suppress my needs or whatever I may have wanted in order to have a boyfriend. I wouldn’t be liked if I got the reputation of being a selfish bitch.
Thinking of other people’s feelings is normally a good thing. We should consider other people’s feelings and needs and wishes. But, there should also be reciprocation, and time spent with others shouldn’t leave a person feeling drained. Conversations with friends shouldn’t just be one person listening to the other person ramble on and on about their own lives without ever asking how you are.
My needs may not have mattered to many people. But, they should have at least mattered to me. I will be damned that my children will grow up thinking that their wants and needs don’t matter, or that they have to be doormats in order to be liked by anyone.
So, I told myself, for now, at least, for right now, I will focus on what I need. You know, otherwise, I might end up blind or dead. That would definitely not be good. In the past couple of months, unfinished work projects have piled up sky high. But, right now, I just can’t care about it. I’m putting a majority of my work on hold for the next 3 to 6 months, and will reassess from there. I refuse to worry or feel guilty about it. It will all get done, but not at the expense of my health.
I have had to assert myself in order for our household to break some bad habits, like relying on take out. No, I don’t really care if some nights we’re eating dinner at 9pm. If that’s when there’s time to cook, that’s when its happening. And if that means that I’m up a little later at night to eat something healing as opposed to just having Chinese food delivered, then I will also be sleeping in later the next morning, and I refuse to feel guilty about it.
For those who may not know, sleep deprivation can be as damaging as eating a carb-loaded meal to a diabetic, though I rarely hear from clients that their doctors bothered to mention it. Lack of sleep leads to elevated blood glucose. Since I have had issues with insomnia and being a light sleeper, I bought myself a cat-shaped sleep mask made of mulberry silk to block out the early morning sunlight that manages to hit just my face on my pillow each morning.
Diabetes and Reciprocity
Prior to this rock-bottom moment, I had a history of difficulty losing weight. This is largely due to the PCOS, which makes weight management difficult and raises the risk of developing diabetes. It is something that can, like type 2 diabetes, be reversed. I’ve helped other women do it. It wasn’t a mystery to me. I just couldn’t seem to apply what I knew to myself. It was too selfish. When I would make the effort and see some success, someone else’s needs would run right over mine, and I was expected to jump. It was like clockwork. At times, I thought I was cursed.
I don’t jump for anyone anymore unless they also jump for me. If that makes me a “selfish bitch”, then so be it. I will wear that title with pride. Reciprocation. That concept so well represented by the rune Gebo, an X or equal armed cross, symbolizing an agreement, that a gift accepted demands a gift in return. It matters.
Light Dawns on Marblehead
This time, weight loss has been completely different. It is literally falling off, and my blood glucose readings are much improved. I made my needs clear, and they are being met. I never doubted my husband would support me. Did I mention already that he’s awesome? Because, he is. However, I’ve lost a number of people that were close to me. I could say, “good riddance.” But, it would be lying to say it didn’t sting.
It would be accurate to say that I’m lightening the load in many areas of my life, from weight, to toxic people, to those parts of my workload that bring me the least financial benefit. Yes, my financial needs matter as well. (Again, another great topic for another time, as there are connections between diabetes, nutritional deprivation and wealth.)
A few days ago, I was sitting on my couch relaxing with a cup of nettle tea. I was still full from eating a lovely piece of salmon with spinach and lemon sorrel coated with hollandaise sauce two hours prior. I had just tested my blood glucose to make sure I was on track, and was doing well. I was musing over how just a few months ago, I was hungry all the time. How awful I felt. How uncomfortable it was for me to put my foot down and demand better for myself.
But now, my body was, for once, NOT my enemy. Food was no longer my enemy. My mother’s voice was not ringing in my head, chastising me for being “selfish” or asking who do I think I am.
I decided to make a list of things to mark my weight loss successes, like a new recurve bow when I reach a weight loss of 40lbs and a tattoo of a dragonfly when I lose 50lbs, and so on. There was no fear of, “But, what if I don’t lose the weight?” That was a long-held fear of mine that PCOS helped solidify over decades. It was gone. I didn’t feel selfish for making my list of rewards either. I deserve the weight loss. I deserve to reverse the diabetes. I deserve to reverse the PCOS. I deserve to feel full. Damn it, after being so unnecessarily miserable for so long, I deserve to celebrate these successes! (I was starting to get fired up again.)
Then, I felt that sensation of the room spinning and of being here, but not being here, that comes with the presence of a diety. It’s that sensation where you’re possibly standing in more than one layer of reality at a time, swimming and swirling in suspension, while feeling the awe of being in the presence of a goddess. I heard her voice in my mind, “And now, you understand.”
And, I did. I finally did. In an instant, I got it. That “something” that I still had to do on my own before I could meet the love of my life? I needed to know that I deserved it. In my emotional outburst, I demanded it because I deserved it, and I knew it. I was losing the weight now because I made that leap from knowing what to do to reverse this hormonal imbalance, to knowing that I deserved to reverse it. In fact, I owed it to myself to reverse it.
I also knew, in an instant, that I didn’t need to apologize to anyone for taking care of myself. That may sound odd to people, But, when you have family try to guilt you into eating a piece of birthday cake because you’re just trying to be difficult, and you’re selfish for not participating in the celebration by refusing cake, the need to apologize for self-care can become ingrained. It is a difficult mental barrier to breech.
It would not be in Freyja’s nature to put herself and her needs last. She refused to be married off or to be without her necklace. She was not apologetic for demanding what she wanted. Granted, she’s a goddess, and we’re talking about myth and lore with these tales. But, I have a hunch that she may take a special interest in women who need to develop more of this unapologetic self-worth thing.
So, for all the times that I was asked this question, who do I think I am? I’m a Priestess of Freyja, girlie!