Posts tagged ‘depression’

Finding my Path Again

As Paganicon approaches, I find myself re-evaluating my (rather dormant!) spiritual path. I think for the past year, with the depression, it’s kind of like I’ve been wandering through the mists and need to find the path again, only to find it rather hidden and overgrown. I need to do some weeding, replace broken pavement stones and such. Being a caretaker of an old house, these home maintenance analogies come very easily to mind!

My main focus has had to be managing the depression, becoming active and involved with my communities in a sustainable manner that helps me get away from sitting at home alone stewing in my thoughts. One aspect of that has been becoming a Director of the Bisexual Organizing Project, a way to give myself a job (even if unpaid) with responsibilities that helps me develop my self-confidence and skills. The next step is to psych myself up enough to start looking for work again. I don’t have a specific idea of what I want to do, mainly Please Not Customer Service!!! Or at least not certain types. This time I would like to network with other people with disabilities- particularly learning disabilities/autism/developmental disabilities, and perhaps their family members and so forth.

Anyway, I am ignoring spiritual approaches that others do that don’t seem helpful to my situation (the Put the Gods first type stuff) and looking for ones that do seem helpful. I am looking for spiritual practices that might help me build up my confidence, reduce my anxieties, and re-direct negative though patterns in positive directions. I am not sure if I believe in magic, but if I’m not mistaken there are magical techniques that are more about changing how you think than changing the world around you. Without being totally, The Secret and the power of positive thinking can totally solve your problems!!!

I am also trying to back away from more intense and extreme versions of activism and social justice stuff. I’ve noticed that I feel good about going to meetings and doing things in person, but online discussions have a tendency to get really negative and depressing, so I am avoiding or at least being more selective about participating in them. In particular, climate change/Big Environmental Problems OMG!! are things I avoid, which is difficult because it’s also a big thing at Unity Unitarian. I have sat through at least two sermons about environmental destruction one of which listed in detail all the types of species that were endangered or going extinct that made me cry. It was like, yes I get it, humanity has messed up, and all this bad stuff is happening, but there wasn’t much space in the sermon for redemption, and oh here’s something small and manageable that you can actually do. It just fills you with despair, not a desire to be active. There’s also a lot of elitist baggage involved which is really alienating to someone who doesn’t have much money.

The other political area that I have to get away from for sanity reasons is the anti-capitalism and anarchism. I am not an anarchist, but I hang out with some of them online, and they can be cool people with whom I agree with some things. But a lot of the stuff they write I have to avoid, it’s like drinking a giant depression dose. I am skeptical of capitalism in many ways, and I realize it has a lot of problems but I kind of need to set that aside and well believe in it enough to go find a job, keep it etc. It seems like we’ve gone to the opposite extreme of Keeping Up with the Joneses, to a contest of who can intentionally live the simplest life on the least amount of money, involving the least amount of working for “The Man” and feeling morally superior to people who have regular jobs. When I signed up to be Pagan, that didn’t mean signing up to be poor. Wanting a decent job does not automatically make me Scrooge. I feel like we can’t have real discussions about these things because there is too much political division. Well that was long enough. More on the path development thing another day!

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March 6, 2015 at 11:24 pm 7 comments

A Guest at the Kwanzaa Table

A couple years ago I intended to write a series of posts on a different set of seven principles- not the UU ones, but the Nguzo Saba, the principles of Kwanzaa. Here’s a link to my earlier post. My struggles with Krampus…err depression have gotten in the way enjoying almost anything this year, holidays most of all! I went thru most of November and December in a haze, almost refusing to participate in Christmas Eve festivities with my partner & his family. Just Not In the Mood! Sometimes you just have to work thru your moods and force yourself to be there, because it’s not about you, it’s about family. Depression makes you self-centered by its very nature, and sucks the joy out of life.

I was reminded of Kwanzaa again by various things such as the prominence of Black Lives Matter campaign in current events, including discussions in the Pagan, polytheist and U.U. communities. In the communitarian values of Kwanzaa, I find pieces of what feels missing from the Nine Norse Virtues, which seems like more of a reflection of American libertarian individualism than the tribal values of pre-Christian Europe.

Upon further reading, I discovered that the Nguzo Saba are part of a broader philosophy known as Kawaida (meaning reason or tradition in Swahili) created by Dr. Maulana Karenga. All this is of course, centered on the experiences and cultures of African peoples and the African diaspora, but I feel that those of us outside of that can also learn a lot. We too are cut off from our roots, sometimes violently, even more so when we go back to the destruction of pre-Christian European spiritual traditions. Is it in part, due to that disconnect, that profound alienation, that many of the peoples of Europe sought to conquer the rest of the world, and later after at least partly realizing the errors of our ways, collect tidbits of music, clothing and spirituality to feed the spiritual hunger within us?

And as an neurodivergent and autistic woman, who has often felt excluded from definitions of “humanity”, I have found many resources in the liberation movements of other oppressed peoples. There are such things as Disability Studies, disabled liberation theology and disability culture(s), but they are not very well developed yet or well-known or accessible to many people, particularly outside of certain countries. To that end, I have often looked to political and cultural theories about race, gender and sexual orientation to put together my own disability theory. There is an emerging sense of “peoplehood” among many disabled individuals, across many types of disabilities, bodies and minds, genders and cultures.  And so I come to the Kwanzaa table as a humble guest, to learn, to show solidarity and to listen, grow and celebrate.

Articles on Kwanzaa:

Official Kwanzaa website

The Blank Candle, a documentary about the holiday narrated by the late Maya Angelou

Wikipedia article

Kwanzaa Guide

We Can Learn About the Real Meaning of the Season from a Holiday Most of Us Don’t Celebrate

Christianity & Kwanzaa– Great article for better understanding Kwanzaa within its Kawaida context!

Let’s Stop Making Fun of Kwanzaa

December 30, 2014 at 12:54 am Leave a comment

Retreat and Renewal

(Written on August 16th- not posted due to technical goof)
Today, I’m leaving on a trip to Wyoming/Montana to visit family. (Response from one of my housemates: “Where’s Montana?”)  “Uh, it’s a state, far out to the West of here.” I said. Hopefully this will be a good way to finish getting over my depression and as my partner put it “Find Mariah again. I really miss her!” That’s my actual name, I think I’ve used it here but can’t remember. Keeping this blog has been a major solace to me, but also an unhealthy obsession at times. It can be a healthy way to talk about my issues and connect with like-minded people. But it also can be a way of escaping my problems and responsibilities. Seeing my family and getting out in the wilderness and away from technology will be good for me. Just so long as my family isn’t too crazy-making…but I can only control me, not them.

Note: I tried posting this from my tablet, which can be a little wonky- it’s better for browsing/reading than writing because it sometimes crashes and copy/pasting links doesn’t work well either. But the internet is being painfully slow on my partner’s computer (I know I’m spoiled, aren’t I?) So I may be posting some things, just with less links, and perhaps go back and add them in later.

September 5, 2014 at 1:18 am Leave a comment

Depression/Mental Health Pagan Links

When searching for articles, posts and books on Paganism and depression/mental illness, I found so much stuff that I decided to make another post to include these resources, in addition to the general Pagan/Disability resources post. I will make another post about distinguishing mental illness from shamanism/visionary/magical experiences etc.

Pagans, Mental Health & Abuse– extra kudos for discussion of related social justice issues involving shame, access to care etc.

Pagans in Recovery by Isaac Bonewits- Old essay- numbers of people with “issues” may be exaggerated…for one I will say as an Aspie, I have detected a noticeable number of Pagans who may be unlabeled Aspies, but I don’t think *most* Pagans have Asperger’s/autism.

Pagan Therapy & Counseling– blog last updated in 2013, but still has good info

Dealing with DepressionExhaustion, Bees and Depression by Nimue Brown This is advice for people who have depressed friends/family members in their lives- very helpful and not specific to Paganism, the second is social commentary. I also thought she wrote a book about depression, but I can’t seem to find mention of it!

Finding Motivation– (and other posts) by Nornoriel Lokason on the Staff of Asclepius blog (Depression & PTSD)

The Importance of Maintaining a Healthy Level of Skepticism by Sarah Anne Lawless

“Almost everyone in the Pagan community has suffered from a mental illness at some point in their life because 20% of the general population (in Canada) has had mental health problems during their lifetime.” Err, not sure about that statement. It’s a lot though.

“Sometimes the (online and physical) Pagan Community is too accepting and accommodating of everyone’s own personal level of crazy. Because we are on the fringe, many think we have to accept anyone who identifies as one of us and take them as they come.  Sometimes we are too afraid to tell someone they are crazy (this is especially hard to do when the person in question is in a leadership role). After all, who is a Pagan (believing in many gods, spirits, and magic) to tell someone they’re nuts or are taking something too far? But when no one calls a stop or calls bullshit, then things do get taken too far and people with real mental illnesses end up being accepted as sane.”

My “primary” line with other people is when they want me involved in their “weird”. What’s my motivation? If people want to involve me in their personal weird/kink… they need to provide a reason for me to care.”- comment from Scylla

I feel that way too. I meet a lot of Pagans that are *so relieved to be accepted* that they feel the need to share everything (Hell, I’ll admit, I’ve probably been guilty of this at times too!) I’m pretty open-minded and accepting and non-threatening seeming so often I get Way TMI pseudo-therapy session info-dumps from people I just met. Umm, thanks for sharing. Some of these people just really need a friend. I understand that but *insta-friendship* share all your personal info at once is a good way to scare people off, not keep friends. It also leaves a person very vulnerable to manipulative people. Boundaries are a thing a lot of us need to work on.

Pagan & Crazy by Alexandra Chauran- “My Pagan path has led me to British Traditional Wicca, which can be a complicated route to follow when mentally ill.  Not only do I deal with the psychological issues inherent in any religious practice that involves the supernatural, but Traditional Wicca requires that I work with others who are historically cautious about the company they keep. In fact, Ed Fitch wrote a document titled “So You Want To Be A Gardnerian” that implies that the ideal prospective coven member is, “not currently in psychological therapy.” Coven of the Wild Rose does not accept people who take psychotropic medications or require therapy and writes as a footnote to the above document that, “if you cannot function as a fully responsible adult individual in the mundane reality then you cannot function effectively in the magical/mystical realities and should not even attempt to do so until you have all your oars in the water and they are working all in proper tandem.”- last part in bold seems reasonable to me.

I can understand if very disciplined, focused magical groups are more restrictive in their membership, personally I think people with mental health issues that are getting treatment and have been stable for a certain length of time should be included, a similar rule could be in place for former/recovering addicts & alcoholics. I think excluding anyone who takes SSRIs and such and/or sees a therapist now and then but otherwise lives a stable life is ridiculous.

August 8, 2014 at 9:58 pm Leave a comment

Mental Health Self-Care Virtues: Intro

Over the years I’ve studied European polytheistic religions, and their modern revivals, I’ve seen many different views of ethics- generally focused on lists of virtues that have been presented. Sometimes they can be seen as “one-size fits all” when they are very much subject to interpretation. I’ve realized that we all need to tailor our philosophies and practices to the current situation we are in, mine currently is trying to take care of mental health issues and prepare for seeking employment again, once I am more balanced. I am not trying to promote an easy way out, a “pick and choose” morality that is most convenient. I am still considering this in terms of how these virtues fit into their original cultural worldviews as well as how they fit into our own. One thing to keep in mind, is that the texts we have were all written for elite noble warriors, by poets trying to flatter their lords to earn their keep, or by Christian monks with their own perspective. Throughout most of human history, the vast majority of people were just trying to survive on subsistence farming and herding. They were not literate, and they were not socially important so their stories are not written down. They might’ve enjoyed listening to stories around the fire of brave heroes fighting giants and dragons, but they could relate more to their own stories of how Uncle Thorvald fought off that bandit many winters ago, or how Aunt Sigrid somehow managed to feed all of her children after a bad harvest. And how their fellow villagers banded together to help all of them survive.

We have those stories too, but sometimes we are too ashamed to tell them, because our culture tells us that we are always supposed to be able to help ourselves, and that is the same message we get from interpretations of Celtic and Germanic cultural values that leave out the “it takes a village/tribe/family” part and seem to have a modern bias. Consider that the Nine Norse Virtues were written by the Asatru Folk Assembly in the 1970’s United States,  and while they did take inspiration from the Havamal and other Norse texts, I suspect there was a modern socio-political reaction to love/freedom/peace/anything goes hippie philosophy that was common at the time, as well as a reaction against Christianity. (Similarly as with Anton LeVey’s Church of Satan!) Also in the wake of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements, many white Americans were trying to figure out who they were, culturally since their cultural and political dominance had been challenged, what it meant to be “white” had changed. Europeans also faced this as they watched colonies in Africa and other lands fight for independence. Sometimes this was taken in the wrong direction, certainly the case with AFA. We are still struggling to figure that out.

References:

Ar nDraiocht Fein’s Nine Virtues

Celtic Virtues by Alexei Kondratiev, Celtic Reconstructionist

An Irish Mythic Model for Celtic Virtues by Erin Johnson

Nine Noble Virtues of Asatru by John Yeowell & John Stubbs-Bailey of AFA, adopted by many other Asatru/Heathen orgs since then

Vanic Virtues (unsure of origin)

Six-Fold Goal from Edred Thorsson’s A Book of Troth

Books: The Other Side of Virtue by Brendan Myers

July 22, 2014 at 11:32 pm 6 comments

Who’s With Me?

In our very divided world, that’s the question that is always asked. Man or Woman? Gay or Straight? Black or White? Liberal or Conservative? Christian or Atheist? There is almost always only two options, nothing in between can be a trustworthy position. That person is light-skinned- are they “really” Black or white? We can’t trust the bisexuals, or the trans*, or genderqueer folks- they have to pick a side. You’re too moderate, you can’t caucus with us.

For some time now, a religious division has been arising, in small subset of the population- Pagans vs. Polytheists. Some “hard”- (the gods are totally separate) polytheists argue that the Pagan subculture emphasizes an all-Gods-are one theology,  a secularized hippie culture that doesn’t fit with their values, and has a bias towards Wicca, and religions that resemble it. There was conference last weekend, the Polytheist Leadership Conference in Fishkill, New York that discussed many of these issues. I’m glad to hear of its success- many thoughtful, talented and dedicated people were involved in it, and plans are being made for another one next year. I’m glad to see polytheist traditions grow and develop spiritually and intellectually. I’ll talk more about that in another post. But for now I will put this into perspective in my own life.

As I’ve discussed before, I’ve tried to do what I can for my local Pagan community. I’ve served in a couple of leadership positions, I’ve tried started groves that haven’t gotten off the ground due to different scheduling and commitment issues. Other people have planted groves in places I couldn’t get to by bus. I’ve accepted that. I was in a cult-like Celtic group at one point. I moved on from that, and in keep with the subcultures code of silence regarding abuse, I even kept my experiences to myself. (A decision that I am not proud of)

One of the things that has kept me going, in the Neo-Pagan subculture is, as an autistic person, and one who suffers from depression & anxiety, it was one of the few places I could feel truly accepted. I rarely had to explain myself, my quirks, my difficulties. No matter what, there was always someone at a Pagan gathering who was weirder than me. Some of them are autistic or neurodiverse- wired to be weird. Some of them just had a goofy personality.

But acceptance isn’t enough. I’m very fortunate, for an adult on the autism spectrum. I was identified at an early age. I had the opportunity to go to college, and one with a great learning disability program to boot. I completed my degree. I live in a community with many social services for people with disabilities, and a fairly good awareness of autism. I’ve never been homeless, I’ve for the most part avoided the abuse folks with disabilities so often receive from various “loved ones”. I’ve met many others who weren’t so lucky. I can do a lot to help these other people, but I need to help myself first. But I can’t do it all alone.

Whenever I look for work, I rarely think of asking other Pagans for help. It always seems like they’re struggling to keep afloat. The economy sucks, and some of them have disabilities too. Maybe the more well-off and well-adjusted Pagans keep to themselves. Besides, it always seems like much like when I go to one of my sci-fi or gamer-geek events, people come to Pagan events to escape their “mundane lives”. To reconnect with the past, their ancestors, their gods. Their cultural roots. All the things they feel the need to deny and bury and hide when they go back to work. They don’t want to talk about that stuff. It’s just too depressing. I don’t blame them. Many Pagans have strong political opinions, but I rarely see them at the political events I attend. Maybe they’re too busy with their religious activities- or geeky activities. Maybe they are more involved in radical anarchist type groups. I don’t know.

I go to Unity, and sometimes I feel as if everyone there has their lives together- at least if they don’t, they don’t seem to advertise it as much as Pagans do. Sometimes maybe Unitarians are a little out of touch in some ways. Maybe a little too privileged, or idealistic or optimistic. Most of them don’t know a lot about Paganism beyond Wicca or feminist Goddess worship 101. But it still seems they are a lot more in touch with reality than most Pagans I meet. Certainly I go to church in part to relax, to find support and community, but the Unitarians very much ground themselves in the issues that are happening in the community- locally and globally. I wasn’t sure how to ask them for help either. I went to their “career transitions” support group, which mostly was populated by middle-aged job seekers who didn’t seem to know what advice to give me.

So look folks- I know we want to talk theology, or ritual design, or spirit work. Or sometimes things like should we raise funds for a building, or what the role(s) of clergy should be. We’re a religious community those things should naturally be our focus. What about people in small town and rural areas? Many of them just one understanding person to talk to them about their religion, in their town, regardless of their personal beliefs. What about people who are getting out of prison (or are currently there) whom society rarely gives second chances to?

Some folks involved in the conference are primarily spirit-workers, they have stated, and I understand this- that their primary calling is serving the spirits and the gods, rather than the community- or that they serve the community by serving the gods. That’s fine. I can respect that. I feel called to serve the gods by serving community. I’d just like to remind you of something. Yes the gods have been neglected for thousands of years, and they want our attention. But the gods are not going to starve if you don’t feed them, or freeze on the streets if you don’t house them. They will not commit suicide if they feel alone, abused by their families or spiritual leaders, abandoned by the American Dream.

So I ask you, are you with me?

July 17, 2014 at 12:57 am 2 comments

Favorite “D” PBP Posts

Dagaz- Huginn & Muginn’s musings

To Dare- Super-Duper Space Witch on activism

DánSeeking Imbas

Deity/ies/Divine

Druid Bird– My Relationship with Deities

Seeker Sight– Divinity: a guide for seekers to concepts of the divine

Scathcraft- Divinities (in French, Google translate link on site)

Mistress of the Hearth– Devi, the Great Goddess

Deity Communication- Witch of Valenwood   “I am not a Pagan because I have chosen a priestly path to non-Abrahamic deities, and I don’t believe that communication with deities is integral to a Pagan identity. Your pagan beliefs may allow for such communication to occur, and the praxis of your pagan beliefs include such a thing as a goal, but it is not obligatory.   I believe in the gods, I love a few of them, and I believe that occasionally I can feel their presences. But my praxis is to live in a way I believe will please them and make offerings in their names. Whether I pray to them or not, they exist, and I am wary about meddling in the affairs of gods, for they are subtle and quick to anger. My love and respect for them is too sincere.” -That’s piety, my friends.

Specific Deities: Miach Rhys writes about Dian Cecht, an Irish God of Healing

Seeking Imbas- The Dagda and his epithets (actually the name Dagda itself is an epithet meaning Good God)

DependencyLeithin Cluan

Devotion/Devoted/Devotional– Strip Me Back to the Bone:  “Devotion is, I believe, ultimately a private affair that can not reliably be measured empirically by outsiders — and in this case, outsiders means anyone other than you personally”

Spirit Stitch– A Place Where All Forces Come Together

Isleen – Daily Devotion to the Divine

Echtrai “In addition, it has been the experience of many polytheists that you do not choose a god. If they desire a devotional relationship from you, they’ll come knocking. Imagine if someone walked up to you on the street and said “I’m going to marry you.” Wouldn’t that be weird?

Abgeneth– Unlikely Devotionals: Everyday Things in My Life I Find Brought Me Closer to the Gods

Delight in Doing the Work- Grave Moss & Stars “Doing the Work is a common phrase used to indicate doing the hands-on, occasionally tedious work that is related to or directly causes a sense of personal and/or spiritual fulfillment.”
Delightism– Donald Engstrom

Discernment- Red Menace “Discernment, I find, is a topic that is strangely absent from a lot of pagan books I’ve read. I’ve seen books go on at length about the clair abilities, the various methods of divination, but there never seems to be a discussion on training yourself to understand when the divination is coming from an external force, and when it’s you seeing only the patterns you want to see. ”

Disillusionment- from Thorn the Witch

Disney & Callanish StonesKnot Magick on the standing stones depicted in Disney’s “Brave” and information about them in the real world. I hadn’t heard of these stones before reading this post, so thanks to the writer and Disney from bringing them to the fore (even if Disney just happened to find them convenient Scottish scenery)

Disting– and other Heathen Holidays in February Pagan Grove

DivisionConor hopes for an amicable division between pagans and polytheists

DomovoiWitch’s Journey– domestic spirit in Slavic folklore

Domatites (Poseidon) Strip Me Back to the Bone “The biggest reason early on that I decided I was not and could not be a Hellenic pagan was because Hestia would not be my hearth; Poseidon was. Poseidon would remain so. Fast forward years later. Just last April I was reading through Pausanias’s Guides To Greece, as one does, and I stumbled upon a reference to Poseidon Domatites – Poseidon of the house, or, more specifically, of the rooms.” I vote that she can jolly well call herself a Hellenic pagan or polytheist if she wants. You don’t need to strictly follow “Old Stones, New Temples” to be one.

DoubtBaring the Aegis

DraugadrottinWytch of the North (she is doing a series on Odin’s epithets/titles) This one basically means “King of the Zombies”

Drawing Down/Drawing In– In general I wasn’t interested in posts on Drawing Down the Moon, but Raven Scribe has her own meditation loosely based on it, to help her deal with seasonal depression- asking help from Brighid (so of course I couldn’t resist)

Druids/DruidismPhilosophical Pagan– Allec, on why she doesn’t call herself a Druid

Ci Cyfarth untangles a mess of historical Druid definitions

Duir, the Mighty Oak at Raven & Oak

February 22, 2014 at 12:15 am 4 comments


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