Attempting Murder

It’s All In My Head

I am done with my Jerk Brain.  For forty years I allowed it to sit in my mind, eating away at my self-esteem, mental health and happiness.  This past April, I turned forty-one and decided that I didn’t want to play host to that parasite any longer.  It’s a decision borne of annoyance and desperation, but also of weariness.  The idea that I’ll be eighty-years-old and still dealing with a voice that tells me I am fat and ugly and stupid and a waste of space is exhausting.

Evicting Jerk Brain isn’t the goal.  I’ve tried in years past to mitigate the harm it has done.  I’ve turned down the volume on its voice.  I’ve redirected its energies.  I’ve engaged in endless efforts to soften its vitriol.  All of these measures have been taken under a belief that Jerk Brain serves a purpose.  For as long as it has been with me I have treated it as my very own Jiminy Cricket—albeit an insect whose guidance owes more to a school of unwarranted cruelty rather than kind correction.

None of my previous attempts have mitigated Jerk Brain’s nastiness for long.  Always, it would convince me that ignoring all the harsh criticism was proof that I was a bad person.  Jerk Brain, it would insist, is just trying to help me become a better person and here I am, being an ungrateful, petulant child in the face of that help.  And I would capitulate, allowing a voice that most assuredly wants me to die have room again in my life.

Breaking that cycle of abuse has to start with the acceptance of one solid fact: Jerk Brain does not have my best interests at heart.  It’s an easy enough realization, harder still to embrace and use as a platform for change.  I am required to reject outright any of Jerk Brain’s comments.  More than that: I have to murder the fucker.

So I set out to come up with a plan for killing off my most intimate enemy.  I need more than self-help psychology and affirmations.  I was going to call in some spiritual help in ending the putrescent Clarence once and for all.  It was time to take my relationship with Hekate to another level.

Hexing My Jerk Brain

I’ve been working with Hekate for about a year now.  I wanted to move beyond my pagan relation to the world and into practicing witchcraft.  My practice and study have been focused on my sewing, and the book I am writing about sewing and magick.  I’ve consecrated my sewing machines, imbued my pins and needles with magical intent, and wove ritual into items I’ve made.  Beyond that, and the regular smudging of my home, I haven’t cast spells.  And yet, here I was, drawing up a plan to cover a year of regular hexing my Jerk Brain, as well as spells to build up myself, to become the person I wanted to be.

It is an ambitious undertaking for someone with little experience under her (imaginary) belt.  But that is my Jerk Brain, talking, and I’m not interested in listening.  I am a woman desperate to free her life of a poisonous toad.  What else do desperate women do, if not acts that look impossible from the outside?

Hexing is a touchy subject in pagan circles.  More than one person has brought up the “rule of three” when I started outlining my plan.  Honestly that rule has never figured into my belief.  It’s a concept that doesn’t make sense to me and I’ve never seen it in action in my life or worldview.  I’ve found that my feelings on magick, hexing and its usefulness  are in line with Seo Helrune’s in their blog post “A Witch That Cannot Hex Cannot Heal” (parts 1 and 2).  I won’t expand here what has been so eloquently put there.  Click on the links if you want to read more.  Even if I abided by the rule, if ever there was an entity that deserved hexing, it would be Jerk Brain.  It is a matter of magickal self-defense at this point.

After some research and meditation I wrote out the plan, titled “A Year and a Day” (because “How to Kill a Jerk Brain in About Thirteen Months” seemed a little wordy).  For the next year I will perform a hex on my Jerk Brain at the dark of the moon.  On the full moon there will be a more constructive ritual/spell because I need to focus on building up as well.

I cast my first hex last night.  It was a rather low-key affair.  I don’t call the quarters or invoke lords or ladies.  I don’t speak in rhyme, or out loud, even.  As an introvert pagan my spellwork happens primarily in my mind.  The focus of the spell was identifying Jerk Brain as my enemy, aided by a drawing of a blocky, snarling monster surrounded by swirls of black.  This image was burned with rue (for exorcism), flower of the hour (to heighten the speed of the spell) and a dried snapdragon husk (for its resemblance to a skull and thus the death of Jerk Brain).

The only altar image present was the Death card from my Herbal Tarot deck to amplify the change I am attempting.  Later I might add a Hekate image, to reinforce her presence.  The altar is a family affair, constantly shifting with items added or removed by any member of the household, not to mention the occasional visit by the cats who find it a perfect place to perch while looking out the window.  Because of this, I can’t really have an elaborate set up.

The whole ritual took an hour, from the start of assembling the herbs for the incense, to the end when I snuffed out the candles, made some tea and headed to bed.  This will be key to maintaining the spellwork over so many months. Anything that requires hours of preparation or participation won’t work with my schedule.

I have twelve more months to build on what I started last night.  I go into this knowing that what I have set out to do will take time.  Jerk Brain won’t be gotten rid of overnight.  It will reanimate and lurch back into my mind to harry me once again.  That’s the reason for the year long ritual.  With each month I will build on the spell, increasing its potency and deadliness.  Every time I say “You are not welcome here” and burn Jerk Brain’s image it will be easier to tell it to fuck off between spells.  Every time I call on Hekate to help me overcome my sadistic inquisitor, I will feel stronger.

Therapy is useful.  Medication helps immensely.  And where those two fall short, I have witchcraft in my arsenal.

 

 

 

The Idiorhythmic River

Over the last couple of years I’ve tried to work with my depression instead of against it.  To me this means going with the flow: working on those tasks that I feel up to, and not forcing myself to slog through tasks.  Do this goes against my upbringing.  It goes against some of the underlying belief in hard work that is so prevalent in American society.

We “tough it out” and “work through the pain.”  We never take sick days.  We pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and soldier on.  We put in 110% and go big or go home.  We fake it till we make it.  What we never, ever do is stop to question who is the taskmaster that set this schedule, let alone why we should follow it.

Hard work, after all, is it’s own reward.

This last week I’ve been plagued with insomnia … again.  I can’t fall asleep until four or five or six in the morning.  And then, when I do, I sleep away half the day.  If it weren’t for the fact that Stephan is at home and responsible for the kids in the morning, the house would be miserable.

Part of this is a physical cycle: sleep away the day and of course I won’t be able to sleep at night.  Part of it is my depression: meds help, but the American Horror Show: White House that is playing out is making it worse.

I’ve tried to work with this: breaking down work into simple tasks and tackling them as I feel able.  I spent Monday baking and prepping meals.  Tuesday was running errands.  Yesterday I started seeds for the garden, and registered for some events later this year.  Very little time was spent in the workshop.  And it’s that which Jerk Brain latches onto.  I have deadlines!  I am not depressed, I’m lazy!  Going with the flow is just an excuse for not having dedication and follow through!

And, despite having years of practice dealing with Jerk Brain, it can still be hard to ignore.  Especially when one or two bad days drags out into four or five.  I begin to second-guess this plan of giving myself permission to do work that isn’t tied to a paycheck.  I start to look at my output, at my hours worked, and scattered as they are across the days and week it is hard not to see them as inferior to a solid forty hour work week.  When I have to budget and scrimp and save, when I look at my dwindling bank account, it is hard not to believe Jerk Brain when it insists that I am a failure.

One of my weapons against all this is Stephan.  I tell him that I feel like I am being a bad partner and mom.  That I worry I am not contributing enough to our family’s stability.  I tell him that I’m worried my insomnia is responsible for his own sleeplessness.

He responds that I am doing fine.  He says Jerk Brain is an asshole liar.  He promises that if he had an issue with anything he would say so.  And he cracks jokes to make me smile and laugh.  He gives me permission to keep going with the flow, not because he thinks I need it, but because he knows I want it as a shield against my doubts.  I’m hoping that one day I won’t have to rely on him so much.  I am also okay with the knowledge that that day may never come.

More than that I will try to take it a day at a time.  Despite the insomnia and sleeping in today I managed to tidy up the house, help Benjamin with his homework, and take some measurements for projects.  And I wrote this post.  Little tasks.  Little check marks on the to do list.  And one by one I will get things done.

Putting a Face to the Jerk Brain

As long as I can remember, Jerk Brain has been with me.  My earliest memory of it was in kindergarten where it pointed out how my coloring wasn’t as good as the other kids around me.  This voice, coming as it did from inside at all hours of the day and night, I just took as being part of me.  If I ever thought about it, I figured it was my very own demon Jiminy Cricket.  A critical voice telling me like it is; keeping me honest and on task by reminding e that I had to always be on guard against my natural inclination to be lazy and a waste.

It hasn’t been until the last year or so that I have become able to treat the Jerk Brain as an entity separate from my person.  Therapy helped with that when one therapist asked me to give it a name.  My first instinct was go with “Adversary” or “Nemesis”.  But I rejected those ideas as granting that critical, inner voice too much stature.  I settled on Jerk Brain as the most honest label.

Giving it a name helped, but only so much.  The voice is still there, quick to criticize and blame.  I’ve come across other suggestions on how to diminish or weaken Jerk Brain’s prominence in my thought processes.  There are techniques of changing the tone of Jerk Brain’s voice, making it sound like Mickey Mouse, or turning down the volume like on a stereo.  Another suggestion was to minimize it like an annoying pop-up window.

None of those solutions worked for me.  Having lived all those years with it, I have a hard time dismissing it.  When I have tried, it fights back, accusing me of ignoring it not because it doesn’t have my best interests at heart, but because I just don’t like what I am hearing.   I engage with that line of thought, get dragged into a debate on why I should be able to ignore Jerk Brain.  It is exhausting to find my mind a hostile place where i have to constantly justify my existence.

Which brings me to the realization I had a few weeks ago.  I needed a way to undermine Jerk Brain, to cut it off at the knees before I got treated to yet another chorus of “You’re not really depressed, you’re just lazy and here’s the proof.”   And I thought to myself: if my Jerk Brain was a person I was actually living with, I would have moved out long ago.  On the heels of that thought came the image of someone in my life who has been thoroughly unpleasant to me the entire time I have known them. This is a person who has said truly hateful things to my face and when called out on their unkindness responded with “But it’s true!”

In other words, this person is the Jerk Brain personified.  More importantly, though, I know nothing they have said to me is true. I have no problem ignoring their words because I know they are calculated to hurt me.    It was that realization that has changed how I interact with Jerk Brain.

For the past couple of weeks I have been able to tell Jerk Brain, “I didn’t ask for your opinion.”  And because I can say it with confidence, it works.  Jerk Brain, in the guise of this person, shuts up.  It has been one of the most satisfactory feelings I have had in a good long while.  I can picture Jerk Brain’s sour, puckered mouth, the hunched shoulders and crossed arms, just as I would see in the real life person who has been so nasty to me.  I don’t even feel the twinge of guilt that would otherwise follow the satisfaction of telling someone off.

I don’t know if this is a permanent solution.  Jerk Brain is a tricky creature, capable of evolving it’s tactics in response to my defenses.  For now, I’ll take whatever respite I can get from my jerk of a brain.

The Zombie in the Basement and the Gremlin in my Head

To say that I have been happy the last few weeks feels like I am confessing a horrible secret.  It took forever to admit it to myself, let along to say it out loud—even to Stephan.  I feel guilty about my happiness.  Jerk Brain pipes up immediately to point out that I don’t deserve to be happy.  There are many reasons, the topmost being that I haven’t fulfilled my duties with regards to Eggplant and the Spellbound & Spindles anthologies.  No matter that there’s nothing I can do at the moment.  I am waiting on the printer.  Jerk Brain counters with the argument that I wouldn’t be waiting on the printer if I had gotten this done in a timely manner.  Ergo: I shouldn’t dare be happy with that unresolved business shambling around in the basement like a zombie I’ve trapped but have yet to dispatch.

More than the anthologies, though, the admission that I am happier than I have been for years brings up the question of why I was so unhappy.  When I reopened Eggplant I viewed it as a return to what I loved.  As time passes, I have started to view that move as a step backward.  With every bag I sew, every pattern I draft, I see that I never let myself enjoy my work as a costumer.  I looked at it as what I was doing to get by until I could do something “meaningful” again.  And now I find that I enjoy the sewing so much more than I did running Eggplant.

I have struggled to admit all of this.  It can be taken to mean that I regret going back to publishing, and that’s not what I am saying.  I’m glad I reopened Eggplant, even if I had to close it down again.  I am so very proud of what I published, and I won’t have to live with the regret of not having tried it again.  Still, it is clear that Eggplant was a way station on my journey, one that I wasn’t meant to revisit.

Until I can finish all of the Eggplant business I will continue to argue with Jerk Brain.  It’s a tenacious little gremlin, one that knows all of my insecurities and weaknesses.  That’s why it’s attacks are so successful.   And that is why I have decided to publicly admit that I’m happy.  One of Jerk Brain’s tactics is the fear of being judged by others for my happiness.  I make this admission to cut the legs out from under one of the gremlin’s most effective barbs.  And perhaps once I have laid that zombie to rest I will be able to banish Jerk Brain to the back closet of my mind.  If not, at least it can’t use my happiness against me any more.