Lesson Learned: How False Spirituality and Toxicity Ruined a Friendship


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By Shermeeka Mason

 

The issues started two weeks ago when my former housemate, Kelleigh, told me that I had to move out.  And I was given two weeks.

The reason, she explained, was that I became too comfortable, that she and her partners, Alan and James, were enabling me by letting me stay longer, and that I was prevented from reaching my highest potential.

At first, I thought about what she said, actually believing to some extent that Kelleigh may be right. The time period I was allotted was, of course, not enough, so I asked if I could stay until August 1st so I could at least get everything situated.  “But will you be able to pay,” she asked with slight concern.   My unemployment ran out at the beginning of June so I was unable to pay the $300 needed to pay for the room me and my cat Tobias shared (I thought my benefits would last until October—around the same time I was terminated).  Until then, I was told that I could stay for an extended time as long as I paid rent every month—which I did until the benefits dried up.

Now I was given a two-week notice to “reach my highest potential.”

With very little money to my name, this sudden change caused me unnecessary anxiety and depression that made me emotionally shut down for the two days (I usually do this to process anything negative going on).  My coping mechanism instigated further tension that resulted in me and Kelleigh distancing ourselves from one another.

It all came to a head when I found out from a lawyer friend of mine that, because I was not served eviction papers by a marshal, then Kelleigh and Alan were legally obligated to grant me thirty days to move out—not two weeks as originally requested.  When I told Kelleigh this, that was when her true nature and feelings about me revealed themselves.

“So you’d rather stay someplace where you’re not even wanted?” she asked aggressively.

“It doesn’t matter,” I replied, feeling my own agitation. “I still have thirty days according to New York State law.”

“If you’re not out by Friday, your stuff will be on the lawn.”

“You can’t do that either because it’s against the law.”

“This is my fucking house and I can do whatever I want.”

When I stood my ground, her voice became louder and her tone more aggressive. She eventually declared the conversation over with and I left her room.  I retreated to my room, my entire body shaking as I began dialing numbers absentmindedly just to talk to someone.  The verbal assault and the feeling of being unwanted pushed right back into my childhood.  All this because she was informed of state’s tenant laws?

I was sitting on my bed when she opened my door and starting accusing me of yelling at her.  When I denied doing so, Kelleigh screamed:

“SO NOW YOU’RE WANTING TO PLAY THE VICTIM??  I WANT YOU TO GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY HOUSE. YOU YELLED AT ME DOWNSTAIRS, YOU SLAM DOORS, YOU TALK SHIT ABOUT US ON FACEBOOK, YOU BANG ON THE WALLS–”

“No, I didn’t!”

“YES YOU DO!  I HEAR YOU ALL THE TIME DOING IT!  YOU’RE A VIOLENT BITCH!!”

She then slammed the door and pulled on the knob, preventing me from leaving.  “FUCK YOU!! I barked, banging on the door.  I’M NOT VIOLENT, BITCH!!!

Kelleigh quickly opened the door once again.  “SO NOW YOU’RE BANGING ON MY DOOR??  YOU SCARE THE LIVING SHIT OUT OF ME!!”  She then hurried to her own room and shut the door, leaving in tears and reaching out to friends and family on Facebook.

Fuck the thirty days, I thought while I frantically typed my vitriol S.O.S. call.  I wanted out and wanted out right then and there.  Whatever it took—job or no job.   A few minutes later, I heard a knock on my door.  I opened the door with a shaky hand and found myself nearly face to face with not one cop, but two.  Kelleigh told them that I lunged at her and because she’s blind, she feared for her safety.  What?  Last time I checked, she displayed very little fear while standing at my door calling me a violent bitch and hurling false accusations.  And now she’s playing the role the potential blind assault victim?

That alone was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

For the rest of the week, I was on guard and extremely standoffish.  If I did address Kelleigh or Alan, it had something to do with what I needed to take care of before I finally left.  Even as my friend Lilah and I loaded her car with my belongings, they displayed bouts of subtle disrespect—especially her husband Alan, who kept observing my every move while doing nothing to help.  When Alan did speak, he made comments like “At least you got the attic cleared out” or “How many more trips do you have?” in attempts to rush me out.

Tobias and I are currently living with my friend Phill and his cat daughter, Princess, until I get on my feet again. He’s a fellow Nichiren Buddhist who immediately opened his home to the both of us and I feel a difference emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Now that I’m settled for the most part, I can finally process the debauchery that was the last week.  In fact, ‘debauchery’ isn’t the appropriate term for this experience.  It was basically an example of an immense abuse of power involving socioeconomics, economic abuse, disability-shaming, mental illness, the misuse of positive psychology, and religious/emotional manipulation.

That’s a mouth full, right?  But bear with me and I’ll explain what I mean.

Before I moved into their home, Kelleigh and I had already connected as friends and spiritual beings. By “spiritual beings,” I’m referring to the fact that we share similar beliefs regarding mediumship, energy, and anything pertaining to the paranormal. I do not speak about that part of my life often, so it was a relief to share that aspect of myself with someone.  It was because of this that I also connected with her emotionally, disclosing to her my distrust of most people while crying on her shoulder.  So I moved in truly believing I had found a kindred spirit.

They all knew that I had no job and living on unemployment, but also me and my cat to stay in the spare room because we were all under the impressions that I would be gone within two weeks.  But when my housing plans fell through, Kelleigh comforted me by saying that it was ok because she appreciated a having a spiritual woman in the house—even if only a for short period.

Eventually I was given the opportunity to stay there as long as I paid rent because I couldn’t find a place.  She told me that was a member of the family and became enmeshed in their household culture as far as helping around the house.

Though I was grateful for their help, there were some red flags—especially in regards to finances. They had more of an income than I did, yet took the majority of my benefits for rent.  I was initially supposed to pay $400, but that was too much, considering the other expenses I had.  I even said that if $400 was the price, then I will have to find another location.

“Where are you going to go where you can stay for free?” she asked.  I told her that I could reach out the Care Management team at Trillium, but no other immediate option other than a shelter.

We finally agreed on $300 a month—or $75 a week.  Though it was still a little steep, it was better than being on the street and it included everything. But I soon began falling behind on other expenses such as my cell phone bill and storage fee.  Despite me sharing this concern, Kelleigh and Alan still expected to pay the amount agreed.

Speaking of concerns, there were also a few times when Kelleigh criticized my use of mental health services.  She stated more than once that, though completely blind, she managed to maintain her independence without the services.  Therefore, she didn’t understand why I couldn’t do the same, wondering what I would do for myself once mental health services were no longer an option for me.

I became defensive immediately, explaining to her that this was my first time ever focusing on my mental health and trauma since graduating from college!  Noticing my distress, Kelleigh told me that she and I were “the same person” because “we are both emotional people.”  I want to point out that she made this comment a few times whenever I was upset about something she said or did.  In retrospect, this was classic gaslighting, a form of emotional manipulation utilized by abusers to make their victims question their own reality.

But I refused to internalize her words, knowing that they only reason why I became pissed: she compared her reality, her experiences, and emotion irregulation to mine when they were dissimilar.

For one, Kelleigh not only collects disability, but has two employed partners supporting her and the household financially.  She has enough income to pay a mortgage, care for a menagerie of pets, and buy spiritual books online.  I, on the other hand, was homeless and heavily relying on unemployment benefits to rent a room and care for Tobias—while searching for employment.  And until recently, I was not prescribed adequate medication for my mental illness and Inattentive ADD so I was dealing with suicide ideations, chronic depression, anxiety, and PTSD symptoms—in addition to not possessing the wherewithal to maintain focus and motivation.  I’m the complete opposite when on the right meds and I know this about myself.

So by making such comparisons, my fellow “spiritual being” was erroneously implying that I heavily rely on services as if they were a crutch. Even if that was the case, my receiving assistance—and what that entailed—was really no concern of hers as I was taking the initiatives necessary to better myself.  Therefore, Kelleigh’s assessment of me using social services I needed was inappropriate, extremely shaming, and psychologically violent.

Her need to give unsolicited pseudo-spiritual advice involving positive psychology soon put me on pause.  Two days after telling me I had to move, Kelleigh accused me of “having an attitude.”  “Either you can make the next two weeks miserable or it could be positive,” she said calmly in front of her silent partners.

“You gave me two weeks and I don’t know what’s going to happen to me,” I snapped.  “So if I have an attitude, it’s because I’m scared.  I’m trying not to go off, which is why I’ve been silent for the past two days.  Ok?”  I then went upstairs to my room, suddenly feeling sickened by what just occurred.

I stopped believing in positive psychology years ago because its main purpose is to completely dismiss individuals’ negative emotions.  Practiced by many metaphysical spiritualists, this school of thought is not only detrimental to those struggling with mental illness and emotional issues, but there is no scientific evidence supporting its validity.  Not to mention that positive psychology is NEVER about the individual dealing with negative thinking, but ALWAYS about someone else’s discomfort.  And in this case, this “choice” pertaining to my emotional state was about Kelleigh and her partners’ discomfort with confrontation.

So telling me to “be positive” when I was being disposed of was nothing more than her slapping me in the face while praying for me.  This alone is why I’m officially distrusting of those practicing metaphysical spirituality, for Kelleigh was the third practictioner to show their true nature once realizing that they have no control over me.

Long story short, I am glad to have distance myself from such a toxic situation.   For the being, Tobias and I are living in a safe place until I find employment that will support me, my furry ball of a son, and my dreams of being a full-time writer and public speaker.  But living with Kelleigh, Alan, and James also revealed to me how I am too nice to individuals who are all too willing to dispose of me.  I experienced this with people I’ve dated, worked with, and befriended.  I wasted so much energy and time striving to prove myself to those who don’t deserve anything involving me.  So regardless of how hurtful and abusive the living arrangement was, I now know that from this moment on, I will give time and energy to not only care for myself and spirit, but support those who show me genuine love and support.

 

Author Bio:  Shermeeka M.L. Mason is a self-published author, blogger, and volunteer radio show host.  She recently published the political science-fiction novel, The One Taken from the Sea of Stars under the pen name Octavia Davis.  She is also the creator of and contributor for two blogs, The Possible World and The Chuck Taylor Buddhist (both available on WordPress.com).  In addition to being an active author, Mason is currently one of the co-hosts of The Bonfire Talks on WAYO 104.3 FM.  In her spare time, she reads, performs with the Rochester Womens’ Community Chorus, binges on Facebook, and spends time with beloved cat-son, Tobias.

 

 

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What I’ve Learned from Having An Emotional Rescue Squad


you’re on your own now
we won’t save you
your rescue-squad 
is too exhausted

“Army of Me” by Bjork

 

For folks who know me, I’m on Facebook ALL the time.  If I’m not posting on someone else’s page, then I’m sharing content on my own while commenting on a video or posting a random status.  I also pay attention to many of my friend’s statuses as it’s sometimes my only way to check up on them.

Facebook addict

I notice that many of these same friends tend to post something about their emotional state on their page as it pertains to something that has happened to them or someone they know.  If the status is serious or positive enough, they will get numerous responses from folks showing genuine support (which is awesome—especially if the person is struggling).

I myself do the same as a way to communicate about my struggles with mental illness and ADD.  But I notice something:  I don’t get as many responses at 34-years-old compared to my younger friends (not that I’m looking for it either).  So this makes me wonder:  are there certain expectations associated with age?

Let me explain.

In my early to mid 20s, I have had what I call my Emotional Rescue Squad—groups of people who have entered my life and supported me in some way. They have been more prevalent during the time of my life in which I’m pursuing my Bachelors in Social Work and winning in the life of sobriety.  My brothers, sisters and people in spirit have been willing to listen and even offer a helping hand when I make a mistake or struggle to get on my feet. When I think the worse of myself, they are there to pep talk me out of my misery.  When I need money, they gave me that and then some.  Even people I haven’t met before make sure I have enough to eat—literally and spiritually, with the assumption that I’m working towards a bright future that only a bright person like myself deserves.

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Ok.  So this is my version of a Rescue Squad, alright? (Art by JPRart)  

But as time goes on, it becomes evident that the future I imagine for myself is slipping away from me.  Unlike the creative 20-year-old with energy and no filter, the 30 something is struggling to keep up with a hectic grad school schedule and the ability to remain focused—all the while attempting to ignore the negative gossip among my professors around me.  The bravado I once use to coast by is no longer working as my mental health issues become more prevalent.

I would post my battles on Facebook, writing entire essays about how I am being treated unfairly and wishing to use my English degree.  By this time, I now have an online ERS, showing their sympathies and regard and telling me that I’m going to graduate.  And I’m not only lifted up by their words, but the idea that my Higher Spirits are going to protect me—regardless of the fact that I almost fail out of grad school. I need them to help me—to lift me up and tell them how bright I am and that I’ve not made a mistake.  I need them to support me in the manner I’m used to.

By the time I graduate, I’m burned out and wish for someone to hold me up.  But guess what?  And though I receive emotional support and then some, the ERS is now few and far between.  Even as I fast forward to the age of 34, I have asked myself what the hell happened.  Where is my ERS?  Why are they unfriending me on Facebook or shooting me looks of disapproval when I see them in person?

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Because there’s now the expectation to hold myself accountable, considering that I now know better.  Unlike the 20 something aspiring social worker, the 30 something broke writer has no excuse as to why she is cannot look out for herself—regardless of the struggles she has.  The intense emotional responses that I am used to getting away with will no longer work.  The angry-five-year that is trapped inside this adult body is expected to be tamed by therapy and medication and not the people in my support system.  In other words, I’m expected to grow up and handle shit differently.

A part of me thinks that my ERS is tapped out and have simply decided to move on because they waiting for me to act on my own behalf.  But another part of me realizes that I have been searching for parents who are willing to care for me.  I unfortunately will never have that parental care I long for and I have to be ok with that.

For all I know, the Dark Passenger could be using my troubles against me.  I have been depressed for the past three days for reasons unknown to me.  Even if my assumptions have any merit, I hope people see that I’m trying. I’m trying everything I can to make my life better so I can look in the mirror and not see a person with problems, but someone that even I will be proud of.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Reason, Season and a Lifetime: Lessons From a Wedding Picture


My Mama always said you’ve got to put the past behind you before you can move on.
– Forrest Gump

 

I accidentally found out that one of my exes is married.

I wrote about him a few times on here, but every once in a while, I happen to stumble upon either mentally and emotionally.  But this time?  It was through Facebook.

I needed to re-add someone to the “Leonard H. McCoy” fan page I admin and, after realizing I blocked her from my personal account, I went to the searched for, found and scrolled down to the “Privacy Settings” before clicking on the link.  Sure enough, I found and unblocked the person I was looking for.  However, my eyes also fell upon “Indiana’s” and name and that of  his…now wife?

Say what??

For some reason, I thought to myself “No…really?”  Out of curiosity, I unblocked him and went to his profile.  It had been a couple of years since I even laid eyes on anything pertaining to him.

But  as I looked at those pictures–TRULY examined them–I saw that he was happy, his eyes illuminating with contentment, holding the hand of the woman he is most likely going to spend the rest of his life with.

I noticed that I wasn’t bitter or felt a smoldering heat rise within my body.  What I felt was heart ache and a sadness that was soul deep.  And it had nothing to do with him.

Let me explain.  I was not in love with him and time helped realized that we were not meant to be–we were totally two different people.  But I have to admit that I used him as a human shield to protect me from myself–from my feelings of inadequacy and self-proclaimed worthlessness.  I assured myself with a shadow of confidence that, because he slept with me more than once and told me he loved me, that I didn’t need to fix myself or face my Dark Passenger.  Since Indiana was here, I didn’t need or want anything else to protect me.

So when he left, it was one of the most anxiety-ridden periods in my life and one of the most devastating.  He not only left (though I knew he was going to.  He hated New York State), but he left me…with me.  And the Dark Passenger, who wants me spiritually and physically dead.

Hence, when I found out about his new relationship, I made sure that we were engaged in many a fallout.  I was angry at his then new girlfriend for “taking my shield.”  That was what pissed me off the most, not the fact that he moved on and he wasn’t there to protect me anymore.  No one was there. At 29, I was left with me, my Dark Passenger and my own fears of constantly fighting my emotional demons.

Fast forward to four years.  I am at my internship looking at this happy married couple on the computer screen during my break, quickly wiping away tears, wondering why this keeps happening: either getting involved with someone, only to have the relationship end and months later see them be happy with someone else or me wanting to get involved with them, but they end being with someone else.  I found myself wondering whether or not I was even relationship or marriage material, so flawed and broken that potential partners sense my character defects and therefore wanted no part of me.

At the same time, the responsibility ultimately falls on my shoulders.  When I was with Indiana, I was also very active in my sex addiction.  Though we cared about each other at the time, I attempted to hold our relationship together with sex.  This seemed to be the case for all my relationships because I simply didn’t know any better.  Now I do and, at 32 years of age, I now acknowledge and feel in my heart that it’s my responsibility and a gift to myself to finally move on, doing the work needed to be at peace with myself.  Which means I accept who I am–good, bad, indifferent–and know in my heart that there’s more to me than heartache.  It means that I view myself as flawed but not broken and that my past is something I can’t do anything about but to learn from.  It means that, in order to be with myself or anyone else, I have to live life–embrace it with a heart devoid of hopelessness, self-proclaimed unworthiness and self-doubt.  I am not branded, insane or sick.  I never was.   A few friends told me that people stay in our lives for a reason, a season and a lifetime and Indiana was a seasonal person.  In fact, all my relationships were with seasonals and, until I make the necessary changes in my life, I will never meet a lifetime partner.   I accept this fact now and the seasonals only taught me that I deserve better than what they were capable of giving me.

There is nothing wrong with me.

I’m glad I saw those pictures.  It gives me the opportunity to realize that I too can move on now.  I don’t have to hold onto him or deem myself broken.  If he can start over with a completely clean slate, I don’t see why I cannot.  But I also understand that it’s ok to grieve. I talked about my relationship with Indiana, I never fully grieved.  I would cry, harass and berate, but I never grieved.  Now I feel I can do that without self-judgement, but not let it cripple me, either.  Lastly, I have the support of close friends, family, Spirit and my spirit guides.  They were always there, but they were all waiting for me wake up and embrace my True Personal and Spiritual Power.

In other words, it’s ok to love and be loved.  To begin embracing all that I am. To live long

To prosper.

The Brave New World: Chapter One


Ring out the old
Ring in the new
Ring out the old
Ring in the new

Ring out the false
Ring in the true
Ring out the old
Ring in the new

–“Ding Dong, Ding Dong” by George Harrison

It’s been a while since we’ve talked and I have so much to tell you.

I have so much to share that I don’t even know where to begin.  For the most part, there is no devastating news to type into this post, but I have news nonetheless.

For one, this happened:

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Left to right: Gaby, me and Colleen

On May 11 at 9:00 a.m., I graduated from the University at Buffalo with a Masters in Social Work.  After 2 years of writing papers, having panic attacks over my lap top and trudging through rain, sleet and snow to get to class, I finally earned the damn thing.  Even though this past Fall and Spring semester was the most difficult for me, I finally tamed that wild horse and I’m ready to move on.

When I walked across the stage, I thought I’d be calm and collected.  I imagined myself shaking hands with professors before flashing the Vulcan salute to the audience. Of course that didn’t happen because I was trembling and pretty much ran off the stage because too many people were staring at me. But once I walked off the stage, I was surrounded by supports (Spirit, my spirit guides, Gaby, Colleen, Sara and Joe, the other Joe) and I was able to finally realize that this happened.  This finally happened.  Even after a week, I seriously can’t believe it.

I will not lie to you, Readers.  I told myself many times that I wouldn’t make it. That I was too much or not enough of *fill in the blank.*  I was too immature or not professional enough.  Or I didn’t win any awards, so no employer would pay attention to me.  I was also dealing with triggering subject matters: sexual abuse, child abuse and neglect.  Those who’ve read old blog entries know where I’ve come from and there were times when I didn’t even want to sit through another lecture reminding me of what happened.

At the same time, I learned that I could use my past to help others somehow, that it didn’t have to be a curse but a beacon of hope for people.  The main reason why I became a social work major was to do something to make life better for someone.  I know I can’t help everyone, but if I can do something, then I’ve served my purpose.  And I had to prove to myself that success was possible and that, just because I’m not wired like everyone else, doesn’t make me different.

With that being said, a new chapter has started in my life and I wonder what’s going to happen next.