Insane in the Membrane

Insane in the Membrane

It has been over a year since I wrote a blog post and I only wrote three blog posts total last year. It’s pretty unprecedented for me! I have been blogging for 15 years and never have I written so little. Granted I did write a few posts for my wilderness education website and I have been working on my book, but it’s still very little writing for this writer! I have never been the apologetic blogger, my policy has always been to write when I can and not worry about it when I can’t, but it’s gotten to the point people are emailing me to ask if I’m okay! What happened? Go read The Dark Year for perspective (in 2016 I was very ill and lost three people very dear to me all in a row).

In the past four years I had two children, my little boys who are now ages one and four. My heart bursts with love for them and little ones are so freaking cute, but man does having children turn your life upside down! It is hard to run a business, write, and travel to teach when you have babies. You are a caregiver now and it’s not about you. There are a lot of sacrifices and waiting but those times are also filled with lots of time with your beloved partner and tiny cute faces and voices of your little sporelings adorably trying to become human like you. My older son turned out to have multiple health issues that make life more difficult, but my partner and I do our best to keep things silly and keep the kids happy. I am unfortunately in the percentage of mothers with the luck of getting postpartum depression (PPD). It revealed an anxiety disorder that had always been there but was never diagnosed until this past winter.  Depression and anxiety were compounded with severe sleep deprivation. The new baby would not sleep through the night for an entire year. He would wake up every two to three hours like clockwork. I was completely broken. I would cry all day and my nerves were so shot I would have anxiety attacks resulting in vomiting and migraines.

My partner took me to the hospital and had me admitted for a psych evaluation. They prescribed me a week of trazodone for bedtime and to let my partner worry about the baby. We began a brutal couple months of sleep training and emerged broken but victorious. Both children sleeping through the night. With sleep for us adults, the worst of the madness went away. This was in March-April of this year. My health practitioner prescribed me sertraline for the depression but it made things worse and I had all the adverse side effects, so they switched me to desvenlafaxine and after a couple months I feel almost human again. Yes I am a herbalist and I like my medicine natural, but I shut up and I took the damn pills. I was in no place to help myself. My partner Alex has suffered from depression for his entire adult life and has been incredibly supportive through this difficult time. We’d both rather not be on the meds, but understand that the situations in our life making our mental health worse aren’t going to go away for a while and that we need help in the meantime. He has one of the healthiest views on mental health of most people I’ve met in my life and he shines with compassion when things are especially hard.

And they have been hard. On top of all our troubles we also had to deal with my narcissistic ex who is the father of my older son. After moving to Ontario, I had to ask him to leave because he was being abusive on top of not taking care of his health and mental health issues. He did not like this and kept trying to trick his way back into the house. Once Alex and I fell in love, he tried to make life as difficult for us as possible. Living within sight of my house despite the lack of job opportunities in town, threatening my partner to the point the police were called twice, breaking into my garage and stealing, spreading rumours and lies in our small town, and using our son to manipulate and intimidate me; like using visit pick-ups and drop offs with the kid to verbally abuse me and Alex. Typical narcissistic bullshit, but when it’s done to two fragile people with depression and anxiety, the results are not good. We were terrified of him. He had a violent past and he liked to brag about it. You think you know and love someone and then you experience them turning into an unrecognizable monster when they don’t get their way. I was very pregnant at the time and scared. I reached out to a local non-profit women’s shelter and support resource. They gave me a free counselor who really helped keep me sane and helped us write and implement a safety plan as well as encouraged me call the police and take things to family court.

Almost two years ago, I had enough and I started court proceedings over custody and access. I received sole custody with full decision-making powers and he was ordered not to contact me, come to my property, or come near me. Due to his past abusiveness, my ex was ordered by the court to sign up for the local supervised visitation centre for access if he wanted to see his son and if he did so, he could see him a minimum of once a week. If he did that, and there were long-term notes with good feedback from the visitation centre social workers, then my ex could broach the subject of unsupervised visits. It didn’t go so smoothly, of course. Family court is brutal and the case is still not settled. It keeps getting adjourned because he didn’t file his paper work, he waited an entire year to sign up for the court mandated visitation centre, he failed to follow the court orders, and, of his own doing, he only had visits for a few months out of a period of two years so our son has no idea who he is now. It mostly just makes me sad my son’s biological father cares more about hurting me and winning some imaginary battle than actually being a dad to his son.  So, I just keep going to the court dates as, in my opinion, it’s already settled.

Did I mention my ex is a satanic Thelemic witch? So not only do I have to deal with his mundane bullshit (thankfully only through the bullet-proof shield of the Ontario court system now), I have to waste my time smacking down his stupid curses and evil eye every once in a while. Even though he’s a dark, creative curser, I’m lucky that he’s a very lazy, complacent old magician who hasn’t done any real work since the early 1990s. I know what you’re thinking, hot foot powder, right? I was seriously thinking of slipping some in the next court papers I have to legally serve him with… but then a couple months ago he fell from the top of a warehouse at work and broke his hip, an arm, and some ribs I think. I didn’t work any magic, but I have some friends I’m suspicious of. The ex was in the hospital for two months and it was really nice to be able to reclaim space in our little town for that time. But now he’s back, and still within sight of my house. He’s across the creek now though, and it’s pretty hard to throw curses over moving water. I’m not so afraid now, to see that once big, frightening man be sickly, skinny, and limping. In my life I have done very little cursing as I find the people who deserve it the most curse themselves best. They tend to end up alone, broke, ill, and in pain like Aleister Crowley. Even dark familiar spirits will abandon you if you don’t feed them offerings. Having patience while moving on and living your life as best you can is sometimes the most destructive curse you can cast on someone who is bitter.

So the old narcissistic tiger is toothless and limping and this witch is medicated, therapized, and starting to feel more human. My oldest boy will start kindergarten this fall and my one year old will be old enough for daycare in November which will help with our current childcare deficit. Things are starting to look up! The trouble is, sleep deprivation is literally torture. It’s probably number one in the international “how to torture” manual. Me and my current partner’s brains are swiss cheese — they are full of holes. Some of the damage will heal over time, but honestly some of it will not. We are both having severe issues with short-term memory loss. I am a lot slower than I used to be at everything, I can’t multi-task any longer, I can’t remember even the important things. We are both having a lot of trouble juggling a business, caring for young children not yet in school, and keeping on top of normal household chores (dishes, laundry, garbage, recycling, etc). We just move too slow right now and there are never enough child-free hours in a week to get things done. We have two kid-free days a week and that is the only time we have to do all the work we need to for the business. It is insane!

Our broken brains can barely keep up with our current life. This is one of the main reasons we closed our Fern & Fungi online store to focus on teaching foraging and why have pared things down to just making and selling medicinal nightshade ointments (aka my flying ointments – different name, same thing, same dosage). You can find the new home of my ointments here: Medicinal Nightshades. We were really hoping to be able to hire a Canadian manufacturer to make the ointments and a professional shipping fulfillment service to handle our shipping for us… but it’s not meant to be at this time. Because of red tape, no one will make our touch my nightshade ointments until we register them with Health Canada (our FDA) and receive approval and natural health product numbers for each different recipe (NPN). I’ve tried, but I can’t even start the application process until I first add the nightshade herbs to the natural health products ingredients database, but I can’t even start that application because they won’t give me the form and the only link in the internet universe to the form is broken and I have failed to hear back after contacting them about it. So, I’ll have to get back to you on that process later. In the meantime, it is still just me and my partner Alex. I make the ointments and he does the shipping.

So this is my life right now. Keeping the kids alive and happy, remembering to take my meds, remembering to turn the dishwasher on, remembering to water the plants, and trying our best to get orders for the business shipped out within 1-2 weeks of purchase. It’s hard when supply shipments are always late, supplies and herbs are always out of stock, your oven catches fire and dies (it did, two days ago), you forgot to order more beeswax, the kids keep passing on cold viruses to you, it’s monsoon season and the power keeps going out, your printer won’t work, the post office’s online shipping tool is always crashing, you go through three computers which all die… (see what I mean about having to slap down dumb curses all the time?).

How do I deal with all this stress? Going to bed early because I can’t afford losing my mental health from staying up late to work or watch tv. Asking for help from my partner, my family, and any social programs available to me. Lowering my expectations, like really lowering them and being okay with dirty floors and laundry piling up. And honestly, weed. My health practitioner point blank told me to, especially for help falling asleep and preventing panic attacks. Welcome to Canada where cannabis is poised to be sold in liquor stores any time now… any time now. It is a common part of medicine and culture in my area. Bootleg forest weed and whiskey have long histories in my county despite it being a Bible Belt. The weed came with the commune hippies and draft dodgers hiding in the woods here in the 1960s. Farmers do not get paid well for their hard job, so even if they’re not fond of hippies, many local farmers have hidden cash crops to supplement their income from corn and soy. So it’s still here, crossing social and economic boundaries. I had no idea moving from the cannabis capitol of Vancouver that there could be such a prevalent cannabis culture in the middle of nowhere in Ontario. If you ever wondered why Canadians are so chill and polite, now you know. It’s because from coast to coast, we’re all smoking the pot.

Recipes For Calming the Fuck Down

In case you are feeling insane in the membrane too, here are some recipes to help you chill out. You don’t have to be part of cannabis culture to enjoy and benefit from the plant and its effects. If you live in a state or country where it is legal, why not see if cannabis can help you? There’s not much to lose as the effects wear off in 1-3 hours. Don’t try it if your employer has a zero tolerance policy and drug testing, however!

A note on making herbal preparations with cannabis:

You will need a small scale to weigh the herb. If you’d like to make these recipes medicinal for pain management, select a high CBD strain. If you want your oil or liqueur to be psychoactive, then choose a high THC strain, such as a hybrid or an indica, and make sure to decarboxylate it before adding it to any edible or topical herbal recipes. To do this, spread the flowers out on a baking sheet and place in the oven at 225°F for 20 minutes. Allow to cool, and then the flowers are ready to grind and use.

Cannabis Flying Ointment

7-15 grams cannabis flower, decarboxylated
500 ml vegetable oil (coconut, almond, sunflower, grapeseed, olive)
60 grams beeswax, chopped or pastilles

Place oil and herb in a double boiler on low heat for 5-8 hours, stirring every 30-60 minutes. Remove from heat and strain out the herb. Add the strained oil back to the double boiler in a clean bowl and add the beeswax. When the beeswax melts, pour the ointment into jars and allow to fully cool for a few hours before putting on the lids. Do a patch test with a pea-sized amount of the ointment and wait four hours for all the effects to be revealed. Then try using larger amounts. After you’ve made it once and know how it effects you, try making it again and adding your favourite essential oil blend or other herbs.

Cannabis Smoking Blend

3 parts cannabis flower
1 part dried motherwort leaf
1 part dried rose petals
1 part dried spearmint leaf
liquid honey to blend herbs

Pick through the dried herbs and remove any stems and hard bits that won’t break down. Then rub the herbs with your hands until they break down but are not a powder. Drizzle a few spoons of liquid wildflower honey over the herbs and then mix them with your hands, rubbing the mixture between your hands, until the honey is completely blended in. The honey moistens the smoking blend and prevents it from having a dry, harsh smoke. When it is blended, store in an air tight container until use. It can be rolled with papers into herbal cigarettes or smoked in a pipe or with some vape pens.

Cannabis Elixir

15-30 grams cannabis flower, leaf, and/or stems, decarboxylated
15 grams dried damiana
one handful of ground, raw cacao beans (optional)
1/4 of a vanilla bean pod or 1/4 tsp of vanilla extract
3 thick slices of fresh ginger
1/2 cinnamon stick, crushed
500 ml of dark rum, bourbon, or brandy (don’t cheap out!)
1 cup unpasteurized honey

Smash up the herbal and spice ingredients, but don’t grind them to a powder. Place it all in a canning jar, seal the lid and leave it for 7-10 days to infuse, do not leave it for longer or it will be bitter and undrinkable. Shake it every day, as many times as you can remember to. When it’s ready, taste it. If it tastes a bit too strong, strain it quick! If it tastes weak, wait another couple days and taste it again. Strain out the herbs and put them in a canning jar and add 500 ml of water and seal it. Shake it every day for three days. Strain out the water and mix it with the alcohol extraction. Add more honey at this point if needed. Allow to further infuse, rest, and clarify for 2-4 weeks. It’s important you do not shake it anymore during this period. After the time has passed, pour your finished liqueur off of any herbal sediment on the bottom of the jar and into a new, clean jar or fancy bottles. It’s ready to drink or gift but will improve with 4-8 months to age. The resulting elixir will be around 20% alcohol. Dosage is 1-2 shotglasses (with a shotglass being 1 fluid ounce or 30 ml).

Author Sarah

Illustrator and weaver of words. Witch. Forest siren with talons, succubic tendencies, a love of otherworldly beauty, poisonous plants, wild places and dead things.

More posts by Sarah

Join the discussion 24 Comments

  • Kathy says:

    What incredibly useful recipes. Thank you for these!!

  • Gersande says:

    Thank you for your candour and honesty. Here’s to hoping things turn around !

  • Bianca says:

    Saudades, Sarah! We’re sending you good energies from Brazil. Btw nice recipes!!!

  • Holdrost says:

    Very good indeed to finally see your sails on the horizon again
    Dearone!
    You are a survivor and things WILL AND ARE getting better!
    Best blessings to you and the family.

    Holdrost the blue )O(

  • Rebecca says:

    I’m so sorry for everything that’s happened in the past year. I also had a second baby and am suffering from PPD and anxiety, and I know what a torture they can be, although you’re right–nothing beats sleep deprivation for causing sheer insanity! I’m not a good person OR a good mother when I haven’t gotten sleep. It must be so difficult with an abusive ex and all your other many stresses on top of that. I think your way of dealing with your ex is brilliant, and I admire you for accepting the help that you have. Please hang in there. We are all rooting for you!

  • Samantha Turner says:

    So much of your troubles resonate personally with me and my “sporeling” (love that, by the way). I admire your work and I admire your determination. I’m glad to hear from you again and wish the best for you and yours in this struggle.

  • henro says:

    Thank you for sharing so candidly. <3

  • Sierra says:

    Hoping for the best of outcomes with your ongoing health, your family, and your ex, along with everything else. As someone who has suffered for 10+ years from anxiety and persistent, sometimes life-threatening depression, it was incredibly meaningful to me to read your candid story about your own experiences. I have accepted pharmaceutical help along with therapy and I see the concrete evidence of how definitively it changes my ability to cope, but it is so easy to still think I should take a ‘witchier’ path to health – knowing the work you do and the huge store of knowledge you have, and then hearing that you also choose to take these types of medicine for mental health is just a.. relief, a reminder that it’s okay to do what works. Thank you, for sharing this.

  • Pamela says:

    So sorry to hear you’ve been through all of that. I can’t even imagine how difficult things must have been for you, but glad to hear you’re coming out of it stronger.

    As for help with the business, maybe you can rope some folks into volunteering? It would give you a break without you having an extra expense, and they would get some work experience and learn new skills.

    All the best to you and your family for the rest of this year, have a blessed Summer Solstice

  • Magpie says:

    So glad you are starting to feel better. <3 Really appreciate your honesty about Mental Health, particularly the meds which can be a contentious issue. Thank you for speaking about it, as another Witch (but one currently training in Medical Herbalism) it's a very important topic to cover, I think. In England, I know we just aren't there with our knowledge surrounding herbs and the ways they can help treat mental illness – it is a deep hope of mine to work on moving this area forwards after I qualify. But when your illness is severely affecting your life, you don't have the time to wait for future findings, you just need treatment that helps – conventional or herbal, witch or not, it ceases to matter. Hope your research obsessions are going well. 😉

  • White Raven says:

    I have a 2, 5, and 11 year old that I homeschool. You are so lucky to have a husband that helps you with the children.

    The best advice I can give you is to take one day at a time and forget about “schedules” and “order”. There is nothing wrong with embracing spontaneity. I get chores done during their naps or when they go to bed for the night. And I pick one or two goals a day. Throw out the to do list. That thing will never end. You put pressure and added stress on yourself by focusing on too much at once. Pick what is most important and forgive yourself from whatever else doesn’t get done. Feel good about what you accomplish, even if it’s just that the kids are fed, clean, and well and you showered that day. Congrats mom, you did a great job.

  • Jules says:

    Damn right you take the damn pills! It’s known as using the right tool for the job. Just like you don’t use a blow torch to light a candle, you can’t do welding job with your Zippo lighter. Proves your wisdom as an herbalist knowing the difference. I am impressed.

  • Jen says:

    I love you even more for being so forthcoming about the bullshittery of life. 2016 was definitely the year of The Great Despair (I had so many friends and family die that I wondered if the world would keep spinning at all) but I’ve seen most of us find our way back to being somewhat-sane, and it’s been inspiring. I’m glad you’ve both found your groove and are seeing brighter days. Cheering for you, always.

  • Rane Selene says:

    So very sorry for for your pain and struggles. Youre an inspiration to me as I struggle with the recent death of my mom and the sadness that I feel as I watch the youngest of my three sporelings as he goes off to college. They are so precious when they are little and just as precious as we watch them take their first steps as grown humans. Knowing the good and the bad they will find when they are out there alone. I too found out it’s sometimes too painful and too overwhelming to endure without help. Thank you for your honesty. I have read your blog for years, used your products. You are always inspiring, always offering ideas and other ways to think about things, but through this time of loss , time of raising children our pain is primal and so similar. Thank you Sister.
    Rane Selene

  • Rasphul says:

    Few weeks ago I have read a blog post about ‘how we can’t speak about real life in social media’. Author was saying that we are living in incredible fake times, where everything what is valuable for most people is that how another people are looking at us. So on, the most important are our likes and shares on social media websites. However, the point is that nobody is showing his true self, real problems with their struggling. And again the something incredible brave is admit that we have mundane problems, mundane weaknesses and that we are not perfect.

    From the position of magician and male witch I have to said: this post was really brave one special in our magical environment. Where all this season witches can say “oh, if you are so powerful witch, why you not solve your problems with magic charms?”. Where people do not understand that very often our harsh times are nothing more than spirits tests. There is no point of walking through the river to take power above water element – in this times, if you want have power of this forces on you side then you have to defeat anxiety, defeat depression, mental illnesses which are associate with powers of water spirits (for example).

    Sometimes even if you are powerful witch you just have to shut up and take pills. To get a lesson of patients and humility. I really love your bravery Sarah. And if someday you will need some mundane or magical help, just say a word. ~Rasphul

  • L says:

    Thanks for this brave and honest post. Keep moving.

  • Madelon says:

    I am so sorry you have been through all this. I have had very similar experiences,including the narcissistic ex and a bunch of nasty witches throwing cursres at me.

    I have severe chronic pain,PTSD, and insomnia. Some years ago, I decided to grow my own medicine. Thanks for the recipes. They will come in handy.

  • Todd says:

    I admire your strength. It takes courage to seek outside help for depression and anxiety and even more to be so honest and open about it. In my own life I’ve noticed that when I’m dealing with someone’s attacks on me or my family , bad things happen to them without throwing curses around. I really think that when you have a close relationship with spiritual beings they will take care of the dirty work for you without ever being asked. Maybe that’s where the stories of witches cursing folks comes from originally. Also have you heard of ashwaghanda? I used this wonderful herb to make the jump from pharmaceuticals for my own anxiety issues. It helps quite a lot with anxiety and takes the edge off of sleep deprivation. It’s fairly easy to grow and as a bonus it’s a nightshade!!! I wish the best for you and your family.

  • Time says:

    Such a beautiful sharing. You are lifting and brightening others by opening your experiences. An act like this can help to change what is in a massive way. Like a ripple slowly turning into a tidal wave as momentum and energy is gained. Thank you for this. As a representative of the collective, our heads bow in recognition and respect.

  • Tomek says:

    For what it is worth, many many thanks from this average white dude for all your posts, often sign posts, on this convoluted road of life.

  • adrienne says:

    I understand… going through that narcissistic shit myself… only my ex decided he would abduct our daughter and now Im trying to deal with it all.

  • Taiga says:

    My condolence on the ex drama and mental health ordeals. I have also been on a trazadone / sertraline combo for sleep and anxiety and it wasn’t fun! I have noticed from a number of friends & personal experience that Escitalopram (lexapro) works really well for a lot of assigned-female-at-birth folk (you know, if you’re into SSRIs). I have also noticed that a high CBD cannabis can be helpful. <3

  • Sage says:

    So glad to know you’re back and better! I couldn’t imagine what you’re going through, but it will get better soon. I truly admire your strength and courage, honestly, you are an inspiration. Sending positive vibes to you and your family! May this year be easier on you!

Leave a Reply