HOW CAT MARNELL COULD EASILY HAVE BEEN ME

Magazine career, eating disorder, bad boyfriends, addiction. In another life, could Cat Marnell have been me, asks Ruby Warrington?

Cat Marnell

What I like best about Cat Marnell’s car crash autobiography How to Murder Your Life: A Memoir is that she makes absolutely zero apologies for who she is. Yeah there’s a line in there about “white girl privilege” (“warning! If you’re grossed out by it (who isn’t?), you might want to bail now”), but otherwise Cat tells her story with an utter lack of self-judgement and the kind of honesty that is a direct channel from the heart. Fuck yeah!

For the uninitiated, Cat Marnell rose to notoriety earlier this decade as the openly drug-addicted beauty editor for titles Lucky, Vice and xojane.com. Her drug of choice was Adderall (with pretty much everything else layered on top), her stories (GONNA WASH THAT ANGEL DUST RIGHT OUTTA MY HAIR: “Miracle” (Uh-Huh) Treatments To Help You Pass Those Follicle Drug Tests, Naughty Nancys!) written on no sleep “in an amphetamine spell.”

How To Murder Your Life reads like a Bret Easton Ellis novel (except it’s real life) and is the story of the ghouls behind the gloss. In Cat’s own words: “AUUUUGHHH!” But what struck me while I was reading it, was that served a different set of life circumstances, Cat Marnell could easily have been me.

Let’s examine the evidence…

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She was a teenage magazine addict. Like Cat, when I first discovered magazines at around age 12, it was like being given an instruction manual on how to be a woman (read: look good so I’d fit in and boys would like me). Like Cat, I gravitated towards a career in magazines—when she moved to New York, she became hell bent on scoring a role at Conde Nast.

Unlike Cat, when I moved to New York I began work on the Numinous, and immersed myself in exploring all the other very, very important things it means to be a human. Not to mention began to see the glossy magazine message for what it often is—a way to keep readers locked in the cycles of craving (for trends, for stuff to make us happy, for a “better” body) that fuel the capitalist machine.

She’s a perfectionist. Cat’s birthday is September 10, making her a Virgo. And if Adderall had a sign…it would so be Virgo! Total “no-sleep-until-every-last-detail-has-been-quadruple-checked” vibes. Plus Cat started taking amphetamines because “I felt like such a failure getting those terrible grades.”

My perfectionist streak comes from Mercury (Virgo’s ruler) conjunct my Sun in Aries (“must-maintain-image-I-have-it-all-together-at-all-times”). Cue teenage eating disorder (me too, Cat), and reaching for drugs (in my case booze) as a way to just chillax for a sec. These days, meditation and a whole lot of healing of my inner child is what keeps the perfectionist in its place.

Her parents are mental health professionals. Cat’s dad, a psychiatrist, was the first person to prescribe her Ritalin (and then Adderall) at the age of 16. In America, most psychiatric consultations seem to end with a prescription.

Back in the UK, my mum trained to be a psychotherapist in her late 50s, having faced her own demons with years of talk therapy. Years of therapy that have made her the kind of parent who wholly accepts me for who I am, since she accepts herself for who she is. Part of the reason I used drugs and starved myself was because I didn’t believe this. But as my own healing journey has shown me, all the years I thought my mum / society was judging me, I was judging myself.

She idolizes Marilyn Monroe and Edie Sedgwick. The damaged (and self-medicated) heroines of late 20th Century folklore! I collected Marilyn books from around age 10, and even made a magazine about her for my first big school project. And I fell in love with Sedgwick’s story when I read Edie: American Girl (the SO GOOD) biography of Andy Warhol’s muse.

As archetypes, these two women represent some of the ways our inner wild woman acts out when we get duped / spooked into playing by the rules (be beautiful, thin, submissive, SMILE!). And I no longer idolize them. I see them as a mirror for the parts of me that still don’t believe I’ll be accepted / loved unless I am beautiful, thin, submissive, and happy.

She loves fake tan. It makes you look thin and like you got enough sleep. In other words, like taking drugs, faking a tan is another way to fake feeling good about yourself. Another addiction I developed in magazine land (my friend Henry used to call me Umpa Lumpa) and one my Numinous path has not yet helped me kick.

She’s lets men use her like a sex doll because she thinks it’s normal. Some of the hardest stuff to read in Cat’s book, and one of the themes in mine. I tear up every time I re-read my chapter on the Divine Feminine, and I would love for Cat to read it sometime too. For a lot of women to, actually.

She had a lot of fun on drugs. Some might say Cat glamorizes drug use, but one dictionary definition for “glamour” is: “magic or enchantment; spell; witchery.” And if drugs do anything, it’s cast a spell, creating an illusion of happiness, connection, enlightenment, etc, making narcotics by their nature “glamorous.” I too fell under this spell coming of age in the UK’s rave culture, and I have also had some pretty “magical” experiences getting high.

Which is not to make light of addiction, which is both a killer and a tragedy. My heart wept for Cat every time she reached for the Adderall again in her book. But it’s also way too simplistic to label all drugs “bad.” And unlike Cat, as I write about in a chapter of my book called Healing is The New Nightlife, I have discovered SO many better ways to get high on my own supply.

Writing her book was a healing experience. Not least because having an 80,000-word deadline was the thing that finally made her take rehab seriously. We leave Cat listening to Louise Hay affirmations, getting eight hours sleep a night, and even praying. “Spirituality is so dope,” she writes. But best of all; “I’m supertight with my family now. Can you believe it?”

And yep, writing my book had a similar effect on me—my own 80,000-word deadline being what helped me kick booze once and for all. But living my subject matter, day-in-day-out, has also taken my relationship with my mum to a completely new level of intimacy and mutual respect. Not least because, the way I see it, as women our relationship with our mother is often a reflection of our relationship with our self.

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I loved Cat’s book so much. Yes, because I can relate (anyone?) But also because it’s a straight-up, honest-to-Goddess account of living with addiction, AND the society that feeds it. Meaning a society that medicates the fuck out of any personality type that doesn’t fit the cookie-cutter mold for “success”; that places utmost value on productivity (fuel for the capitalist model); and that celebrates thinness and the ability to dress like you swallowed a copy of Vogue as the epitome of attractiveness / worthiness in women.

And also because the lessons of my Numinous journey mean I have written something kind of like the antidote. Perhaps I should have called it How Not To Murder Your Life.

Material Girl, Mystical World is out in May 2017 on Harper Elixir. Read more and pre-order your copy here.

RISE SISTER RISE: Q&A WITH REBECCA CAMPBELL

Whatever Donald Trump—the Divine Feminine is RISING! Ruby Warrington talks to Rebecca Campbell about her new book Rise Sister Rise, and hears why it’s time for the Wild Woman to be heard…

RUBY WARRINGTON: Your background is in advertising—what are the secret cues in advertising messages that have blocked the rise of the Divine Feminine?
REBECCA CAMPBELL: Wow, this is a BIG question. Generally speaking though, patriarchal society (which is exaggerated in advertising and the media) has tried to contain women to fit into a limited number of socially acceptable archetypes: the Maiden and the Mother.

There has been very little representation of the Wise Woman—the woman who is not afraid to share her voice, who cannot be contained, or restrained of the Crone, who becomes wiser and more potent with her years.

Advertising is also based on making the product a hero—which means exaggerating a problem it is designed to “solve” (often perpetuating fears). For example, when talking about periods, it’s about being discreet. When talking about aging, it’s about halting this natural process. So you can see how we’ve been taught that embracing the cyclic nature of being a woman is “a problem.”

RW: Was there an “aha” moment for you in terms of focusing on this work with your new book?
RC: I was very much in my feminine when writing my first book, but I soon realized I had no idea how to run my business from the this place. A career girl who learned to make it in man’s world, I reverted to the old patriarchal ways of being the hard worker, the warrior, the good girl. Of using pressure not pleasure as my driving force. Of putting my service to others above service to myself.

My client sessions were booking out six months in advance, and I kept promising myself that I would tend to filling my well when things quieted down. But days turned into weeks, and weeks into months. I became increasingly aware that it was not possible to bloom all year round and that there had to be a different way.

Then I had a dream that was just so real, I woke myself up mid sob. In the dream I had a baby—and everyone was in awe of her because she never ever cried. But because she didn’t cry, a whole week passed without her being fed. Guilt-stricken, I scooped her up and brought her to my breast. As I looked down at her face I saw myself, my mother, and all the women in my family.

I then checked my phone and discovered a text from my dad to call home because mum had breast cancer. Later, I looked up the metaphysical meaning of her illness, and discovered that it can be to do with a refusal to allow ourselves to receive and be nourished.

I saw how even though I had left the corporate world, I was still operating this way too. So I cleared my diary for a week and went to the Chalice Well Gardens in Glastonbury—to fill up my inner well at the mother of all wells. It was here that I heard the first whispers of Rise Sister Rise.

RW: Who and what have been key figures and teachings for you in terms of awakening the Divine Feminine in you?
RC: There are so many! Maya Angelou, The Magdalenes, Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Christiane Northrup, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Marion Woodman, Sally Kempton, Starhawk, Gurumayi Chidvilasnanda, Alexandra Pope, Monica Sjöö and Barbara Mor.

RW: You talk about the importance of healing our relationships with our mothers—why is this? And what has been your own experience of this?
RC: We receive a blueprint of what it means to be a woman from our mothers, and often the relationship we have with her will be mirrored in how we see the world. How held we believe we are by Life. How to give and receive love, nourishment and support.

When we heal our relationship with our mother, we have the opportunity to heal and connect ourselves to Mother Earth in the process. To let our own inner rhythm sync back into harmony with the rhythm of the planet and of all life. We are also able to give ourselves the mothering that we need, and are able to show up to life full rather than looking at the world and other people to fill us up.

RW: In what other ways do you bring your inner Wild Woman forth in your day-to-day life?
RC: First, by acknowledging my fears and feelings when they surface—no matter how inconvenient, uncomfortable, crazy or embarrassing (I’ve got an amazing whatsapp group of ladies where we hold the space for us to do so without judgment—there are A LOT of emoticons).

I then work on transmuting these feelings through creative expression (rather than pushing them down). This could be through dance (Sia is great for this) or some form of creation such as writing.

And finally, by really honoring the wild woman phase of my monthly cycle (PMS time). I have learned that if I push down what’s rising in me and what is falling away during this time, I will probably find a destructive way of keeping myself contained and restrained such as overeating or having a few too many glasses of wine.

RW: In what ways do you think the rise of the Divine Feminine is already creating a shift in society?
RC: I believe it is becoming safer than ever for her to be seen and heard. We can see her in Michelle Obama, and in shows such as Girls. We can see her at work as women rise together in collaboration rather than in competition. With every new woman who rises, by following her intuition, claiming her power, and sharing her voice, she makes it easier for another woman to follow her lead.

This era of history has been prophesized by the mystics and sages of all the ages, and I believe that social media and the rise of the female entrepreneur has had a lot to do with this coming to pass. It’s becoming easier for women to come together in circle, to collaborate, and to unite.

RW: And what do you think differentiates this movement from, say, the 1970s feminist movement?
RC: To me, the rising feminine is feminism of the soul. And as we recover from the past few thousand years (!) of patriarchy, I believe it is important not to seek its polar opposite—to move from patriarchy to matriarchy. Rather, it is time to bring the sacred masculine and sacred feminine energies back into balance. As the sacred feminine rises, may the sacred masculine rise along with Her.

RW: Looking 20 years into the future, what do you think the bigger impact of a feminine uprising could be?
RC: I believe if we all honor the cyclic nature of our bodies and of life, the planet will go back to a state of harmony. We see ourselves as separate from nature but that is just not true. We are part of nature but so many of us have disconnected ourselves from it—and in doing so, we have disconnected from both The Great Mother (Earth) and from ourselves.

The sooner we surrender to our own cyclic nature (for example: for women, our monthly cycles are connected to the waxing and waning of the moon), the sooner this planet will move back into balance. I do believe it is possible and I do believe that we are all being called to surrender to this calling before it is too late.

Rise Sister Rise: A Guide to Unleashing the Wise, Wild Woman Within is out now on Hay House. Rebecca Campbell will also be joining Numinous Founder Ruby Warrington and Madeline Giles of Angelic Breath Healing for a special event in NYC on 11/11 2016. Full details to be announced!