the horror inside

it’s finally come for me: the nine of swords.

as someone that’s battled insomnia and depression for most of my life, i knew when i began tarot that eventually this card would find me. and after almost a year of reading, i’m a little shocked that this is the first time i’ve ever drawn it.

IMG_0296this card is the definition of horror. disgusting, confusing images crowd this card, dark and twisted, and it’s difficult to even tell what is happening. the longer you look at it, the more revolting and upsetting it becomes. symbolizing dark visions, anguish, and the nightmares that keep us up all night, this is a card i’ve been dreading. it seems to represent everything that i hate about myself, everything i fear, all in one hideous image.

there are certain weapons against depression that i can wield during the day. they don’t always work, but when i have tasks to accomplish, a mile-long to do list, or deadlines looming, i can usually force myself to set the darkness aside for a bit and get things done. and daylight offers other comforts – friends, television, delivery food. even at my worst, daytime is always easier.

but the middle of the night, oh. that’s when it’s always harder. everyone is asleep, darkness reigns, and the world is silent and still. it’s just me, alone and anguished, trapped in the endless upside-down. once those bad thoughts start, once i fall down that rabbit hole, it can be absolutely impossible to stop, breathe, and remember who i really am. problems become unsolvable, friends seem like enemies, and everything seems utterly hopeless. i’ve had a few nights like this in the past few weeks, and they never get easier.

is there any hope in this card? carrie notes that while the nightmare itself is a tangled mess, the swords themselves are orderly and evenly spaced, attacking the beast from all sides. swords are all about mental energy, and it’s important to note that this entire hideous thing is in the mind. as beth states, this is mental self-torture. it’s completely self-created, self-inflicted. this whole ugly thing is inside my mind.

i decided to give myself the gift of a clarifying card this morning, and the energy couldn’t be more different: the ace of wands.

bold as hell, crackling with wild, fiery, passionate energy, this energetic card is all about ace-of-wandsexciting adventures, fresh creativity, and flashes of brilliant inspiration. where the swords are dark and tortured, pushing all that negativity inward towards a secret nightmare, this ace pushes inspiration outward. those colorful beams of enthusiasm seem to go on forever.

the message here seems clear – put your energy outward today. find that fire, share your enthusiasm, spread positive energy, and perhaps you can conquer the hideous nightmare waiting at midnight. make the day bright and strong, and the night won’t seem quite so dark. i keep stabbing myself with those sharp edges, letting my mental swords cut me down – but the brilliant fire of those wands can help.

the monsters never seem quite so bad in the light.

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days go by

and again, weeks and weeks have gone by. i’ve been drowning in depression, and every time i think the tide is coming in and i think that i might be able to reach dry land, another current catches me and i’m pulled back under. depression ebbs and flows, but my compass has been completely shattered in the storm – i usually have a better sense of how long i’ve been treading water, when i’ve reached the eye of the storm, if i’ll get a glimpse of the horizon soon. but this time around i spent so much energy pushing it away, trying to hold it back, that now i’m utterly lost at sea.

i’ve been struggling in particular with my history of self-harm, and have gone down the terrible rabbit hole of comparing my struggle to that of others. any therapist, self-help book, or rational human will tell you that this is a terrible idea, that recovery is not a race, that everyone copes differently. but when i see the love and support given to friends of mine, whether they’re surviving sexual assault, dealing with crippling anxiety, recovering from eating disorders, or learning how to embrace life after a failed suicide attempt, i can’t help but feel ugly and lonely and wrong. why is it easy for me to extend kindness and sympathy and generosity to others that are struggling, and yet impossible for me to offer myself the same courtesy? my laundry list of issues are long and growing longer by the day, and yet when i see someone that has but one item on my own list, my heart aches for them. why can’t i ache for myself? why do i constantly listen to that nasty voice in my head, the one that says that nobody cares about me, that i have to be strong and not burden anyone else, that people only like me because of what i can give them?

my therapist is kind, my husband is supportive, and the few others in my life who know the ins and outs of my struggles have been wonderful. so why this need for me? why does my heart swell with envy when i see a friend post about her suicide attempt and get endless comments and notes of support, of love, of encouragement? people telling her she’s brave, she’s strong, she’s a fighter, she’s powerful, she’s an inspiration.

i tried, and failed, twice. what does that make me? (the voice in my head says, “it makes you a failure.”)

i brought all of this to the cards today. and they didn’t let me down: i pulled the tower.

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not for the faint of heart, this card. and though the instinct is to recoil, to cower in fear, to weep and beg and sorrow, perhaps this card and this depression are markers of real, internal movement. the tower signifies a permanent evolution, irrevocable change, a deep, significant transformation. there’s no going back to what we were before – we have to move forward into that wild unknown, whether we like it or not.

and perhaps the cards are simply urging me to learn from my darker past and stop being so afraid. step into the light. reveal the scary. shed that skin. if support is what you need, stop being afraid of rejection and simply ask for it.

naturally, steeped in fear and desperate to be wrong, i pulled a second clarification card: the nine of cups. a card of satisfaction, of pleasure, of contentment. it’s all about enjoying what’s in the present, reveling in stable, calm energy, and indulging in the things that give us joy.

could there be a stranger pair? i’m not sure. but what i see is that upheaval is necessary, that change is a’comin’, that the very foundations of my world are altering. and yet, there is peace to be found. there is serenity in knowing that this evolution is extremely necessary, and that i have been stagnant for far too long.

there’s a lot to process here, with many truths that i’m not sure i’m ready to see. but i’ve let the cards be silent for far too long, and i know in my bones that it’s time to listen. maybe that means that there are others in my life who are ready to listen too.

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stalker cards

the nine of wands keeps coming up for me – this is the third time i’ve seen it in two weeks. it seems to describe this move so aptly, and it feels like it’s haunting me. i even dreamed about this card the other night. i can’t seem to escape it.

nine-of-wands

when a card is recurring like this, i think it’s tempting to blow it off or find a way to explain it all – yeah, yeah, i get it. especially with a card like this, in a situation like this: we’ve been working towards this move for months, it seems like every stage gets more complicated and difficult, and this card signifying the end of a long journey and perseverance seems rather… obvious.

many of my resources talk about stalker cards, and the importance of giving them their due. when a card continues to show up in different readings, it’s trying to tell us something important, make us see something that we’re missing. and while the meaning of this card seems fairly straightforward to me, i’m also a very new reader – there’s always more to learn, additional insights, new information and hidden meanings that i need to spend some time parsing through.

with that in mind, i decided to do a simple three-card spread to gain additional insight into this card, and what i might be missing.

1. what is the importance of this card in my life right now?

seven of swords. seven-of-swords
secrecy, protection, remaining aware of surroundings, staying on guard – this card fascinates me. so many possible meanings, so many layers. this card can speak to deception, to procrastination, to avoidance, but i’ve always seen a fox under tremendous pressure, trying to remain aware of the dangers and protect herself. even in a position of rest, she’s got one eye open, a sword at the ready. she knows about the swords overhead – she’s looking forward, staying aware of any new dangers she hasn’t seen yet.

i see a lot in this card, particularly in this position – i think i’ve been extremely afraid of this move falling apart, and haven’t wanted to completely commit to the process in case it doesn’t work out. with someone taking over our sublet, our application to a new place pending board and management approval, the owner of our new apartment also trying to get approved for her new place – it’s so many moving pieces, and i don’t want to be too disappointed if it doesn’t work out. but being so guarded and protective of myself, being so aware of all of the potentials for this to go wrong… it’s making me slow and overly cautious. i’m putting off tasks that i could easily do now, simply because it moves me closer to the end. and while protecting myself isn’t completely foolish, it’s also working against me.

2. what is preventing me from hearing the message of this card?

five-of-wandsfive of wands.
scattered, unfocused, lost, confused, overwhelmed. this is absolutely the best card in the deck to describe my current frame of mind. i’m practically in a daze, can’t pay attention to details, and feel utterly exhausted. i keep missing pieces and forgetting to do things, putting things off and never coming back to them.

i’m so concerned with what might go wrong, so overwhelmed by the possibilities and making contingency plans, that i’ve completely lost sight of what it would mean to actually move. i can’t envision my goal. my limited energy is pointing in a million directions.

3. how can i release any blockages?

three of pentacles. three-of-pentacles
focus, collaborate, find discipline. the only card in the spread with any hints of color, it seems to point to both my dealing with the nine of wands as well as how i need to make this move happen at all. by harnessing my skills, leaning on the abilities of others, and working hard, i can both understand the deeper meanings of this card and also get everything on my enormous to-do list completed.

my recent cards have been pointing to focus and structure, from the fiery energy of the ace of wands to the stable, disciplined presence of the emperor. teamwork has been the key to my tarot studies, both in relying on the wisdom of more experienced readers and also getting involved in forums and speaking more with friends about what the tarot is teaching me. by continuing to harness that energy i’ll find a deeper understanding of the nine of wands, and will also be able to accomplish my goals.

overall, this was a really helpful spread. my fears of failure and my overall exhaustion are keeping me from the main message of the nine of wands – to stay calm, and to focus on one step at a time. it feels like i keep getting close to my goal only to have another setback, another complication, another delay – but if i can stay focused on each small task, rather than worrying about everything that may go wrong, and if i can lean on my husband and my friends and my family to help me get through this, this move will happen just the way it should.

the long climb

coming to the last leg of a difficult race, the final steps of a long journey, the end of an intense battle – even after persevering, after staying strong, after pushing yourself hard, sometimes finishing something is so much more difficult than starting it.

nine-of-wands

there are many different depictions of the nine of wands, but the wild unknown’s interpretation resembles a staircase, shaped with thick, roughly-cut wands leading up to a shining moon. the branches get narrower and thornier the higher up the stairs climb, though the gentle colors and bright crescent give a sense that the struggle to reach the top will be richly rewarded.

nines are right at the tail end of the journey – we haven’t quite reached the completion (or burnout) of ten, but can see the finish line in the distance. it’s all about that final push, gathering the strength and stamina to reach your goal. it’s important to keep a small reserve of energy, to protect ourselves, to stay strong and resilient and not stumble when we’re so close to achieving our objectives. the war is almost won, the prize is within our grasp – don’t give up now, not when you’re so close!

there’s also an element of transformation present in this card that i really love. there’s something in struggles, in pain, in a long, difficult journey that has the power to alter us permanently. the passions and fire that are so present in wands are capable of wild and beautiful things, but can leave lasting impressions that change us irrevocably. that lost job, that broken heart, that big mistake can hurt so deeply, but also continue shaping us into the people that we’re meant to be. and in those final steps towards mystery and magic and completion, as we reach down deep for whatever shreds of courage we have left, we can discover truths about ourselves that aren’t as visible when things are easy.

after yesterday’s bright, positive ace of cups that seemed brimming with love and joy and possibility, today’s wands still give me hope. so many pieces of my life have been stagnant for too long, but i will persevere. i will not give up. i will reach the top and be able to look back over the journey, with all of its twists and turns and struggles, and know that it was worth the trouble to finish what i’ve started.