Mental & Spiritual Health- Paganism and mental health disorders

Posted by Theresa Mennig on

Struggling with mental health problems can make it very difficult to find magick in the world around you. Some days can seem dull, like trying to move through a fog or murky water. I struggle with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), Anxiety, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Like many others out there, I found comfort in self-harm and suicidal thoughts. I have shrouded myself in darkness, both real and not, allowing my inner voices to tear my heart and mind to shreds. I have spent time in a mental institution. I tell you this not for sympathy, but for those of you who feel alone. I am here.

I am not medicated for my mental health issues. I had a difficult time with side effects and determined that the pills made me feel worse than the disorders did, so I have been going without. In no way do I feel that medications are unnecessary. I strongly urge anyone struggling with their mental health to speak with a doctor or therapist. There is no shame in needing medication to help with a chemical imbalance in your body. There is no shame in needing a neutral party to talk with about problems that may be plaguing you. There is no shame in having a mental disorder or disability. If you are thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend, or need emotional support, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

MORE MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES

Every day is not perfect. I struggle constantly to stay in balance. I have built a family that I trust to keep me safe, something I did not have as a child. I have the confidence of someone who knows all my cracks and shadows, and they love me anyway. A strong support system is only one of the things I have painstakingly built to stay safe and sane…or as sane as I get.

Understanding that as a pagan, there are spiritual aspects of my life that many disparage and chalk up to mental imbalance. Things, like believing in or seeing ghosts, feeling energy flows in the natural world around you, believing in psychic ability, are just a few examples of things that psychiatrists and psychologists have attempted to list under ‘delusions’ and ‘possible schizophrenic traits’. As you can imagine, that left me feeling scared, frustrated, indignant and offended. I went through many therapists in my small town growing up before finally giving up on finding someone who I could relate to.

Your spiritual path can help you deal with mental health issues. Religious leaders, spiritual guides, and coven members can be pillars of comfort and support. Look online for resources if you prefer talking with someone who holds your personal views. Fortunately, now that I have moved to a more diverse and accepting location I have no doubt I could find a professional who fits my needs, but I have developed a routine over the years that works for me and I am going to share it with you.

How I live with mental disorders
I refuse to let my mental health rule my life. I have survived and will continue to do so. I try to exercise regularly, eat a (mostly) whole food diet, and get consistent sleep. I realize that the key to happiness for me is finding balance. I understand that life truly is about flowing, natural rhythms and I need to go with the flow or be dragged under. There is nothing wrong with craving pizza and cupcakes, just be moderate and balance it out. There is nothing wrong with having a lazy morning off and staying in bed late, just be sure to take a walk after breakfast and get moving.

The biggest help I found over the last 17 years of struggling with my mental health is meditation. Don’t scoff or roll your eyes, it really can help! Now, I am no guru or meditation expert, there are only a few ways that meditation works for me. My Anxiety and PTSD make it very difficult to quiet my mind for traditional meditation. I utilize meditation in three ways: walking meditation, shower or bath meditation, and music meditation (also called sound therapy).

Walking Meditation
This is not truly about exercise, but it does help remind me to make sure I move on days that I resemble a growth on the couch more than a person. Walking meditations are about intention. Be aware of your steps, keep them smooth and measured. Be aware of your breathing, keep it deep and even. The location does not matter, but I find it easier to do walking meditations in quiet landscapes like parks or nature trails. There is no prescribed length but the longer you walk the deeper the meditation.

walking, nature trails, meditation

Shower/Bath Meditation
I prefer showers to baths, but both can work equally well. The entire bathing ritual can be included in this or just a quiet few minutes either floating in the water or feeling it pour over you. Visualize the soap and water washing away whatever is plaguing you. The bubbles pull away the darkness and rinse it down the drain. Focus on the feel of the water; allow the physical sensation to block out everything else. If you feel safe doing so, keep the bathroom dimly lit with candles or a nightlight, it can help you focus on the water.

shower, rain, meditation, relaxation

Music Meditation or Sound Therapy
This is one of the easiest forms of meditation I use but also the most inconsistent. How I go about this depends on what I truly want out of it. If I need a pick me up, I will make a short 30-minute playlist of songs that make me truly happy and I will listen to them through headphones that block out anything but the songs. I may dance around the house or sit and bop my head, it doesn’t matter. If I’m craving more peace than energy, I will play soothing classical music or the sound of rain. Again, whatever speaks to you will work.

music, meditation, relaxation 

Finally, on the dark days, when the thought of leaving my bed brings me to tears, I remind myself that everything is temporary. The darkness will pass. The feeling that the world is better off without me will fade. I have people who love me, who will miss me, who I can talk to.

If you find yourself in a situation you feel you can’t get free of, please use the links in this post. See a doctor and do not feel ashamed to tell them how you truly feel. Don’t sugar coat it, don’t belittle it. Your feelings, no matter what they are, have value and are important. You are an amazingly unique spark of light in the universe.

Are there ways you utilize your pagan practices in dealing with mental health issues? Share them in the comments below.


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