On Spiritual Emergency, Shamanism, Mental Illness, Therapy, and Anti-Psychiatry Sentiment in the General Pagan/Polytheist Community

Alternative Title: I’m Gonna Keep Talking About This Until It’s a Generally Accepted Thing…

It happened again. Someone posted another article on mental illness being a sign of a healer being born on the Local Pagan Facebook Group with the general overarching but not direct message being that all native and ancient cultures saw it as this. Now I don’t deny that mental illness can be the birth of a healer. I’ve known too many people who have struggled with a history of it, myself included, that haven’t found themselves called to help others dealing with similar problems.

However, these articles tend to stress how society is actually the sick one, and how we need to stop shoving pills at people to fix all their problems.

Anyone who has ever been on psychiatric medication will probably tell you that pills don’t solve all the problems and most professionals are pretty upfront about that fact. Chronic illness medication isn’t meant to cure diseases. It’s meant to treat symptoms. Mental health issues fall under the chronic illness umbrella most of the time.

Today I’m not going to rant about this playing into the Noble Savage stereotype of indigenous cultures that is out-and-out racist. This rant is saved for another day.

Today, I’m going to dig through Wikipedia and summarize some ways that ancient societies handled mental illness in the past. Since we romanticize and glorify ancient cultures, we might as well take a good look at what our spiritual ancestors did for those suffering from mental health problems, right?

And then I’m going to dive into my own experience and what I’ve learned about our community, healthy boundaries in medical relationships, and my own personal journey with mental illness, spiritual emergence, and spiritual emergency.

(And yes, I am using a single Wikipedia page to illustrate how easy it is to challenge these harmful ideas that are keeping people from getting the help and relief they need.)

Here we go!

In Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, the Ebers Papyrus suggests lots of things from applying bodily fluids to painting to hysteria treatments involving fumigating the vagina. (Actually, I’m tucking this back, because it looks like an interesting paper.)

Ancient India tended to believe that mental disorders were spirits or witchcraft. Maybe you angered the Gods, a teacher, or other superior. Maybe your three bodily fluids were unbalanced due to inappropriate diet or something in your body generally being off whack. They used herbs, charms, prayers, moral and emotional persuasion, and emotionally shocking the person to treat them.

If you add in acupuncture, you’ve summed up Ancient China for the most part, too.

But it’s Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome where the foundation of our modern concept of mental health come from… Socrates did indeed find that there were positive aspects to madness. Prophecy, mystical initiations, inspiration, and induced hallucinations were accepted, but you notice that those things fall within controlled parameters and not just people wandering down the street left to freeze to death in the cold.

Hippocrates came around and classified mental disorders into paranoia, epilepsy, mania, and melancholia.

Then the Romans took on what they’d learned from the Greeks. Asclepiades threw out the humors theory and advocated for humane treatments and allowing those who were mentally ill to not be confined. They were treated with diet and massages. But then it kind of swung back into other types of treatment.

These cultures treated mental illness like real diseases, because they are real chronic illnesses. Even if there was a point where they noted a positive trait to it, it was still considered something that needed the negative aspects kept under control. And this is where my voice of genuine experience as someone who has completely walked through madness and managed to come out alive and stable comes in…

There are mental illnesses that can teach us an infinite amount about the way the world and our own minds work. I have social anxiety disorder that’s kept me from living life to the fullest at times, and you know what? It’s not Gods-sent. It’s not here specifically to make me stronger, but it has taught me a lot about how strong I really am. It’s caused by how I was raised, a biological propensity towards panic, and a brain disease that causes me to have sensory overload super, super easily. There is therapy for it. And when therapy doesn’t work, there is medication that helps me control the panic attacks.

I have experienced Spiritual Emergency, which is a term that the New Age and general Pagan community have picked up on. But it seems like no one has actually read the literature put out by the people who coined this term… Spiritual Emergency, the shaman’s initiation for instance, is exactly that: an emergency. It’s the point where a healthy and natural spiritual emergence situation turns into something that causes a person to no longer function in a way that is healthy for themselves and those around them. It’s a crisis. These people in spiritual emergency need help. For me it was a slow build of Bipolar II, which it took psychology and psychiatry almost a decade to catch up to what was I was telling them I was experiencing to get that diagnosis.

That spiritual emergency that came with it, though, was hell. It was a hell I never, ever want to go back to, and at the time it was happening I was not only terrified of what I was experiencing but I was also convinced I didn’t need help. Part of my fight against getting help for the mental illness component was that everyone in this larger alternative religion community told me that medication would only dampen what needed to happen in order for me to become who I was meant to be.

You know what happened while I wasn’t on medication? I couldn’t hold down a job. I dropped out of college twice. I drank in an attempt to take myself out. I ran myself into debt I’m still paying off. I engaged in all kinds of activity that was solely set on destroying myself.

And yes, I would get messages. During that time, I learned a lot about the way the Gods worked. I developed what is referred to as my Godphone. I took the steps I could on my path to getting my spiritual health together.

But my life was a mess. I would be up for days writing. I would smoke 2 packs of cigarettes a day. I would starve myself. The list goes on.

Would having a person around who could have seen the spiritual component to this situation around helped me? Yes, it would have, but only if that person was also trained in what mental illness actually is and took an integrated approach. For me spiritual emergence was tangled up with mental illness, and there was no untangling the two to be done.  That person wasn’t going to be wandering around the local occult shop offering soul retrievals and telling me that medication was only going to make this situation worse. Much like a psychiatrist not listening to my concerns and complaints about medication I was put on was also not helpful.

Eventually I got to the point where I was so exhausted, I was so broken down that I finally realized something had to change. I went years in this cycle, fighting medication. Fighting the mental health community. Not trusting them, because I knew they’d just think I was crazy…  I thought I was crazy.

But in the end society’s view of who I was or how they wanted to medically treat me wasn’t destroying me. The thing destroying me was myself. And, yes, I do believe the Gods put me on this path to become a healer, but I couldn’t walk down that path without regaining some balance. No amount of meditation, diet changes, prayer, or letting me ride it out would have gotten me to that point of balance at that point in my life. You know what did? Medication.

And you know who was waiting for me as the tornadic chaos of hypomania and mania died down with His hand held out to me?

Apollon.

With each pill I took to gain equilibrium, His voice and the other voices coming from beyond my own head got clearer and clearer. I had to relearn a few skills, but those skills came back easier and stronger than they had been.

When we moved to Missouri, I lost my health insurance and couldn’t afford the $800 a month it took for the pills I needed, but I had learned to carefully monitor my own actions. I sat down with family and came up with a plan. And I found that, at that point, things seemed to be under enough control that we were going to trial off the medication… There wasn’t much choice.  If I was going to flounder and fall, it was going to have to be in such a manner that the state considered me disabled and would allow me to be on medicaid.  Which sounds easy, but I’d discovered Missouri’s laws were more complicated than Iowa’s had been.

I struggled some, honestly, until we learned that most likely I have Celiac Disease that was causing some of the mood swings but not all. So I went strictly off gluten, and as soon as I got insurance back (Thanks, Obama! No, really!) I immediately went back into therapy to work on what I still needed to work on… Impulse control, for instance, and being kind to myself. I’m human. I am flawed. I’m not ashamed to admit that, but I’m also proud that I can say I’m working on it.

It’s that whole Maxim of Know Thyself again.

However, with that said, I also have a written emergency plan in the event I ever need it, I want to be hospitalized and medicated. We’re not in denial that this might be a rare remission, because they do happen from time-to-time. In that case, I have no problem being on medication for the rest of my life… I mean, I already am on plenty of medication for other life-long diseases, including an old school antidepressant for migraines. So why not? Because mental illness is illness. It is something many people respond to treatment with, and if they find a doctor they can work with (like any other chronic illness out there) then why are we shaming people for getting help that works for them?

Why are we scaring people away from exploring things that might help them?

Because a few people who have never actually read anything on contemporary psychology and psychiatry have decided you can’t take pills and be spiritually enlightened? Because the vast bulk of the Transpersonal Psychology literature was written decades ago when, yes, psychiatric medication sucked?

And this fear that if you actually talk to your therapist about what you believe, they’ll think you’re mentally ill? Were you aware that there are actually people out there that don’t do that? Therapists are just like any other healing professional, and you’ve got to find the one that fits you. I’ve not talked about all of my religious life with my therapist, but at the same time my religious and spiritual life aren’t causing me any problems currently. She does know, however, that I believe in some pretty non-mainstream things, and I laid it out for her at the first appointment knowing that if she couldn’t handle it then I would need someone else to work with.

I’m not saying this is an across the board thing, but if you’re going into a relationship with someone you’re paying to listen to you and help you work out your issues and you find yourself hiding large chunks of who you are… Well, it’s time to evaluate if it’s a healthy relationship or not. Granted, I know there are some really deep, personal, on-the-fringe experiences out there, and maybe it will take you some time to build trust to talk about that. Maybe it will never come. But if you can’t talk about your religion and beliefs at all… If it’s a huge part of who you are… If the person you’re talking to can’t challenge what you’re saying about the situation, not in a Hey, I think you’re psychotic! but in a Hey, this might be reinforcing this unhealthy thought pattern you’ve developed from crap you dealt with as a kid. Let’s examine that, shall we? way, what good is this person going to be in your life?  You’re paying them to help you, so you might as well give them what they need to know to help you, right?

I’m not saying stop therapy, obviously, but really evaluate if this is a you not wanting to trust a person issue (I’ve been there more than once) or a this person isn’t the right fit for me and maybe someone else out there will be type of situation. But, please, if you decide it’s the latter, stick with the therapist you have until you find a replacement, too. There’s no point rowing yourself out to the middle of the ocean only to throw the oars out before you get to an island with new ones to buy.

I really, truly, deeply hope that in my lifetime I’m able to see professionals trained who understand mystic and alternative beliefs. In fact, I’m starting to feel like that’s the overarching space my life’s work is meant to fall into that I simply can’t avoid anymore.

But I’m starting to realize that we, as a community, just don’t talk about our dark nights of the soul or where mental health and illness falls into place in our stories when we’ve been touched by it. Maybe we’re afraid of the stigma. Maybe ignorant people from all camps will say “Hey, you’re not legit. You’re just crazy.” So let’s prove them wrong, shall we? Let’s talk about this stuff! Let’s not tuck it away like it’s some weakness…

Let’s challenge those trying to act like it makes us weak. Let’s challenge those who shame us for doing whatever it takes to find what helps us, medication included.

Spiritually-based, biologically-based, or anywhere in between, do you know what the mental illness label makes you in my eyes? Fucking warrior strong.

You may be struggling, but you’re here reading this right now. I know how hard it can be. I know the veil depression puts over your eyes that distances you from those around you. I know the peaks of euphoric mania that are followed by the deathly crash. I know the terror so deeply ingrained in your mind that your body goes into flight-or-fight mode when forced to make a phone call or walk into a room late. I know what it’s like to just want to give up and to think constantly about how you’re going to get around to doing it. I know what it’s like to not know if those bugs you’re seeing or the voices you’re hearing are coming from inside or outside of your head.

But you know what I know even more about?

Having an illness is not a weakness. It’s not something to be ashamed of. Seeking out help is a show of strength. And there’s a certain grace to the person who finds themselves having to do this over and over again in an attempt to find the key that will unlock relief for them.

Let’s stop romanticizing the dangers of things like shaman sickness sending a person out into the wild to freeze to death. Or, at the very least, if we’re going to pretend that we’d be better off in tribal society, let’s look at how our society, our little religious community, treats those who are sick… We still send them out into the cold to freeze to death. Only we do it with shame and perpetuating the myths that modern medicine is never the answer. We do it with turning our eyes away and not speaking up when we’re worried about a friend who seems to be having a particularly hard time…

Let’s be warriors and fight for those who are too entrenched in their own inner-battles to stand up for themselves when the bullies come along saying that they need to get off their psych meds and go live on the outskirts of our society in order to be healers.

The noble savage myth is sickening to me, but I think anyone with sense should be able to see that someone who can’t integrate on a basic level with the society they were born into is probably not going to do too much good as a healer.

Let’s talk openly and expansively about where our own illness has taken us, because being silent about it is only going to allow this level of idiocy to keep taking hold of our people and keep others from exploring on their own if what is available to them may actually help them.

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38 thoughts on “On Spiritual Emergency, Shamanism, Mental Illness, Therapy, and Anti-Psychiatry Sentiment in the General Pagan/Polytheist Community

  1. Seeking out help is a show of strength

    So much of this stands out, but this line could be applicable to so many things. I still (still!) have it built in that seeking help/talking about things Is. Not. To. Be. Done. It’s a battle. I hate it. And my chronic issues do not include mental illness. Depression is a thing, but it’s mostly manageable at this point, and I don’t count it, even/unless it flares up. I run blue. I accept that. Most of the time, the overwhelmed/I can’t deal does not rear up, because I’ve gotten my life to the point where it is the way I need it to be. I don’t count it, because it is, at this point, just another part of who I am, and it does not threaten me/make life miserable. It’s chronic, but it’s . . .calm. And I value that.

    But getting help was so hard to do. And continuing to be willing to get outside help is a fight.

    Thank you, so much, for this whole post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That seeking and asking for help thing? Yeah, not exactly the best at it myself. It comes from the training that I know we likely both come from. I’ve decided to look at it as a skill that one has to develop, and I’m somewhere in between complete newbie and modest novice at it these days. Much like boundaries and assertiveness. I’ve decided to no longer consider myself bad at these things so much as they’re just skills I need to strengthen. Somehow that makes it slightly easier. Who knows why. Maybe because I don’t feel like I’m starting at square one then.

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      1. I was just speaking to someone about the ridiculous way health care for mental illness is done with the expectation that those who are in crisis have the where-with-all to seek appropriate help, navigate the system, plus adequately screen their therapists. She has been trying to navigate it, mostly unsuccessfully, for a few years.

        Then she mentioned the stigma surrounding mental illness and had this sad accuracy to say: There’s a stigma but the real stigma is hidden inside a system that fosters denial of true care.

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        1. My mother talks about my worst spells when she’d call to see what she could do, and they’d tell her they couldn’t do anything until I was a clear danger to myself. And then trying to navigate the state-funded mental health system really, really is a nightmare. Even more so than the other part of the medical system.

          If your friend needs any advice from someone who has been through the system and has helped a few people through it, pass a message along to me on Facebook and I’ll see if I can offer anything I’ve learned.

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  2. Reblogged this on Lokkatru and commented:
    Whatever works is what’s right, whether it’s with medication or without. I will not support either extremes of medicating someone to death or shoving someone outside saying they need to get in touch with their inner wild self to be a healer and deny all modern society.

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  3. Thanks for writing this. Every single time I see those statements reblogged, my eyes roll a little bit harder. While the spiritual investigation and meaning of mental health stuff is fascinating, can be very useful to investigate, and can be comforting in moments of personal suffering, holding it as The Answer to a person’s mental health stuff creates this really unpleasant occurrence where people start waxing poetic on how if person with would just meditate more, get right with the Gods, eat this crazy diet, or do more yoga, they would be cured and/or be just fine.

    This leads to people feeling like they are broken, less-than, or somehow fucking everything up when they really aren’t, and I deeply resent that as both a person who walks with the Gods AND with mental illness and a spirit-worker, priest, and pastoral counselor who sees clients who have internalized this sort of jacked up thinking.

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    1. True story: more meditation, getting right with the Gods, eating crazy diets, and more yoga was exactly the thing that threw me into the spiritual crisis. Sometimes we actually need to be telling people to lay off of them for a while in order to regain footing. We need to recognize that whole “cracking open the head” deal is sometimes a much more over-zealous “I accidentally smashed the egg against the counter and now there’s no shell left” and we need to take our foot off the gas.

      I’m currently dealing with a chronic rare disease that little is known about. The medication they have me on is thankfully working, though the side effects leave a lot to be desired. But I know other people who have had to have surgery for it. And then I know people who have had surgery, and it hasn’t worked on them. I know a few people now who have lost weight and went into remission and others that weight loss caused their symptoms to literally blind them. The lesson I’ve learned from the chronic illness front is this: Different treatments work on different bodies, and that is an across the board fact in all illness, mental included.

      Hopefully one day we’ll get to the point as a larger community where people aren’t internalizing these things quite so much. Or at least it’s easy to untangle them from it. I am seeing more and more of a need to get the professional training I need to help with this situation, though, but it decidedly feels like it can’t come soon enough some days.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This is a great post. When I write about topics of Pagan leadership, I sometimes address the elephant in the room of mental health issues in the community. And oh my goodness, it’s hard to strike the balance of communicating that I want us to stop reinforcing the negative stigma of mental health, while also helping our community members to get treatment when that’s available. And, yes, in some cases I do advocate removing someone from a group because of negative behavior that may be caused by their mental illness, but for me the focus is on the behavior, not the illness.

    I’ve heard so many Pagans talk about any number of things that you mention above–that therapists will think we’re crazy because we talk to gods, that medication is always bad, that ____ holistic thing will work better. And yes, positive thinking can help. Holistic things can help. In my case, eliminating gluten, dairy, and a few other things, as well as adding in D and B vitamins, reduced my depression symptoms significantly. And, there are other folks I know who need meds to function. I know a few folks with severe Bipolar who are able to live functional lives when they are on the right system of meds and working with a therapist they trust.

    Just last weekend when I taught a workshop on magic, I was talking about my use of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to address my own anxiety/depression spiral, as an act of magic.

    A while ago I took a stab at addressing some of the challenges with mental illness in the Pagan community. http://paganactivist.com/2014/04/09/pagans-mental-health-and-abuse/
    It was written more from the perspective of, dealing with folks who are engaging in disruptive behavior and identifying what kinds of behavior may not be “fixable” (a la the book, Antagonist in the Church) but, I’ve wanted to follow up and talk about the other elephant that you elegantly address here. That seeking help is not somehow failing to be Pagan or holistic. Thanks for writing about your experience.

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    1. The issues of mental health in the community are huge! Not just of it running about untreated, turning everyone touched by it, including the individual with it, into victims. And I’m starting to suspect it’s going to take multiple people blogging about it, people trained in understanding it, people who have experienced what it is like to survive a mental illness, EVERYONE talking about it to get to a point of community equilibrium.

      I hope that eventually I see more people talking about the behaviors instead of the illness from others when it comes to it being a problem within group dynamic, and I feel like you’ve done an excellent job of doing so. It’s very much a behavior and not the illness, which a lot of people have a hard time understanding when they’ve not struggled with the problematic behaviors on a personal level themselves (and I don’t wish it upon them by any means). I’ve seen other popular bloggers and writers say that if a leader has a mental illness (and are basically imperfect) then we should run fast and far away from them. I’ve seen teachers of the more mystical arts refusing to take those with mental illness across the bar, which is their right, but it seems that people need to understand that despite the fact someone hasn’t had problems in years and has sought out treatment, they still carry the label. I’ll always be bipolar even if I am asymptomatic. I’ve found it to be a good litmus test as to if the leaders I’m approaching are up-to-date on the subject of mental health and half-way educated on it if they ask how I’m managing my disease instead of turning me away and how they react to the topic of medication.

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      1. Yeah. I’m finding that paradox is one of the hardest things to get into people’s minds. For instance, in some cases, a mentally ill leader is a reason to run, particularly someone exhibiting traits of some of the major personality disorders, or untreated bipolar. Sadly, there’s no cure or even really a viable treatment for sociopaths/psychopaths, and narcissistic personality disorder is another one of those that defies effective treatment. I’m never going to say “impossible,” but I will say “improbable.”

        And yet at the same time, many leaders have mental illnesses that are well managed and they can be fine, effective group leaders. Some of them manage with therapy, others manage with medication, or both. I know a number of folks who finally figured out the right balance for their Bipolar. And oy, what a process that is to find the right balance of meds! What works for one won’t work for another.

        It’s also a paradox that a spiritual community should be able to help those in need–including those struggling with mental illness. And yet, so few of us Pagan leaders have the skills to effectively deal with those in our group who are mentally ill. Further, some of those folks are going to be repeat antagonists. And, based on behavior, there is absolutely an appropriate time to kick someone out of a group because of repeat bad behavior.

        For me it’s about the behavior–but I can’t ignore that often mental illness is the cause of some of that bad behavior. And I, as a leader, don’t have the tools to help and support folks in the way that would really serve them. I don’t have people on the “payroll” for that either. And it gets worse when the system breaks down for those folks, because many of them can’t get appropriate treatment because they don’t have health insurance.

        A friend of mine has ADHD and couldn’t afford his meds. He had lost his job, and then finally got another job…and then got fired from that job because he was screwing up at work. He just didn’t have the focus to do the kind of programming work that was in his job description, but he hadn’t caught up on bills enough to afford meds out of pocket. It’s a vicious fucking cycle. Lack of systemic support (especially health care) for those who need help has a domino effect. And the Pagan community’s weirdness around mental health doesn’t help.

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  5. Reblogged this on Lean in to Joy (transition priestess, spiritual midwife) and commented:
    So much truth here. Mental illness is not a sign of a “shaman being born” it is a sign of mental illness. Because 2 things look similar does mean they *are the same*. General pagan community, you could learn a lot from my tribe, my initiatory kin. I am so grateful for them and that they clearly know the difference. They watch, they love, they pay attention deeply, and they recommend help if needed. Blessings to them.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Reblogged this on Siren Afire and commented:
    “Today, I’m going to dig through Wikipedia and summarize some ways that ancient societies handled mental illness in the past. Since we romanticize and glorify ancient cultures, we might as well take a good look at what our spiritual ancestors did for those suffering from mental health problems, right??”

    OMG thank you for this post.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m so glad to see someone else saying this. I’ve tried many times, but I’m tiring of the fight with age. Eventually all this recasting (and this seems to all stem from statements in various sources that the symptoms of shamanic calling in some cultures might be considered symptoms of mental illness in others, which is true enough) is going to reduce down to “All shamans are mentally ill, and all mentally ill people are shamans.” Neither is true, but it sounds so *pretty*!

    I have actually had people ask me which mental illness I suffered through (and cured!) as my calling. None, thanks; I fell 40 feet out of a tree and walked away uninjured.

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  8. Reblogged this on The Quill Is Mightier and commented:
    I just found this blog and wow. And, if you’ve followed me anywhere online for any amount of time, you know my struggle with my mental illness. My long and sometimes debilitating struggle and how much I loathe how pagans seem to approach it. This… is amazing. Read it, all of it. I encourage you all to do so.

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  9. Reblogged this on musings of a kitchen witch and commented:
    this…1000 times over.
    Gods, I don’t know how many times I hear/read complete and utter BS about the fact that my child has ADHD (because, you know, its apparently some made up disease…that’s only been described in medical literature for about a century) and worse, that we are The Evil parents that use medication as one of the tools to help him learn to live more effectively with it (because, you know, medicine is some Big Pharma conspiracy). Or that maybe if we were better parents (because its obviously a problem with our dicipline philosophy and methodology (never mind that we have one, to borrow a term usually used in conjunction with autism, neurotypical child, without the same challenges)…and hey, why don’t you just change their diet (like we didn’t try that first) or focus on herbal remedies (nevermind that herbs are drugs too with their own contraindications and side-effects and are often not quality controlled or standardized) or do __________ therapy-of-the-week with him (totally ignoring that study after study after study shows the best results with a combination of behavioral therapy *and* medication.
    The problem is that too many people don’t know what they are talking about, but feel free to pass uninformed and uneducated judgement on situations they aren’t living in.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Reblogged this on Sage and Starshine and commented:
    I’m really glad to see this being addressed and talked about. The dual romanticization and shaming of mental illness in all communities (but especially Pagan or polytheist or “alternative” or whatever communities) is really, really destructive. I have depression and anxiety and can’t count the number of times my experiences have been erased and my use of medication and therapy questioned.

    It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with dysthymia, put on meds, and seeing a therapist weekly that I was able to make enough space in my life to find Brighid, Who I now see as a patron of mental illness and healing. I don’t think it’s coincidence that Brighid in Her guise as Lady of the Stars found me a month after my diagnosis, or that Her holy festival of Imbolc takes place during a month of extreme emotional trauma for me. But I don’t think that She /gave/ me this trauma so I’d understand Her better (geez, that’s horrifically awful thinking isn’t it?) or that my mental health issues have somehow made more spiritual or whatever. They haven’t. They just exist.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Reblogged this on Bright Spirits and commented:
    I agree with this post wholeheartedly. In my last post I admitted to my mental illness, and to my use of medication to treat it as well. It was hard for me to talk about because I was afraid people, then, might not take me seriously. On the flip side of that, some people are saying that mental illness can help you, spiritually, or that it is the sign of a healer, and that these people should therefore not take medication. I think that it’s possible for a mental illness to awaken things in you, and might even teach you something, but if you are suffering, get help! My husband, who I’ve mentioned is agnostic, taught me that while my spirituality is important to me, and surely has helped me grow and made me who I am, it is not the only thing that is important. If, because of a mental illness, you are having profound spiritual visions, but the rest of your life is crashing and you can’t see a way back, if you can’t hold a job or a relationship, then it just isn’t worth it.
    When my depression and anxiety were at their worst, I am absolutely sure that nothing would have dug me out of that dark hole other than medication, therapy, and time.
    I am pagan. I have a mental illness. My spirituality helps me, and so does medication.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Reblogged this on The Lefthander's Path and commented:
    Must-read. By the way anyone who comments on this blog insisting that people with mental or other health issues *only* use spiritual techniques or alternative treatments (and shames them for seeking other treatment) will be deleted and blocked.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Thank you for writing this. I have depression, Asperger’s/autism, and ADD. I’ve mentioned to Pagan leaders before how I have trouble “hearing” the Gods, and they asked what medication I was on. I told them and they said they were “pretty heavy-duty,” and that I should work to get off of them. I tried going off one of the pills I take and things did not work out at all. If it’s okay for diabetics to take medication daily to maintain their condition, why is it not okay for those with depression and other illnesses?

    Many blessings,
    Rosemary

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    1. I really do believe that, in some ways, the skill of “hearing” is built over time and also may involve needing to find the teacher who is the right fit for you. I liken it a lot to my own discalculia (math disability). It’s not that I couldn’t do math, but I had so many teachers who didn’t work for me that I was convinced I couldn’t algebra. And then I spent a semester learning it online, and that mode worked better for me. And sometimes peoples’ brains are wired differently, so it takes someone willing to learn along with a person how to work with that different wiring. There’s also divination, which is a different mode of hearing. So I’d think the last place I’d go would be “This is the medication causing problems,” and the first place would be “Let’s find a way to work with this!” I hope that people talking more openly about this sort of situation helps leadership and teachers address where they may need to be updating their base of knowledge and figuring out how to work with people who are wired differently.

      Thank you for speaking of your experience!

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  14. Reblogging this. I’m on the Autism Spectrum, and have other chronic mental health/learning disability issues. If I hear one more person spout something about changing my diet to deal with my anxiety attacks, they will get their eyeballs ripped out. Give me my Paxil and no one gets hurt.

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      1. Yeah, I have an old friend who is also on the spectrum, but whose anxiety isn’t so bad. She’s also a vegan and rather too into the “healthy lifestyle fixes everything” mindset. I’ve come very close to just sitting down and telling her – Stop. Stop posting this rubbish on FaceBook. It’s GARBAGE, and it’s hurtful to me.

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        1. I’ve quietly taken to unfollowing those who post things repeatedly that do that. It’s not worth my own mental anguish to be bombarded by it without having any control over it. Instead I visit their walls on my own schedule. I completely understand how you feel with that.

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  15. I very seldom read an entire blog post. I usually skim or read the first paragraph or two and continue on my way. But this one I read all the way through. Outstanding! I read so many things in common with myself. Thank you for speaking out about this, and in such an eloquent way. I am reblogging this because it hits so closely to home for me. Thank you!

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