My friend Joe posted this article the other day:
While some of it is very general things ANY mentally ill person has to put up with, some of it seems specific to pagans, occultists, and even new agers. Other items on the list may involve things pagans may contend with while dealing with non-pagans.
In a system where “magical thinking” is listed as a criteria for diagnosis, what happens when your world view includes Magick? At least, the sorts on the fringes. If I said I believed in a talking snake in a tree full of fruit that makes people super smart, that would be normal. But nooooo, I believe my core Self (and everyone’s core Selves) is a winged androgynous center in a circumferential Goddess whose star-filled body comprises the Universe. That’s just nuts man! I know, right? Whatever, there’s this falcon, and if he hears you dropping this smack he’s gonna FUCK. YOU. UP.
Anyway, yeah, I’ve had some professionals view my spiritual beliefs as part of my condition. I don’t know how much I can castigate them , since I myself wonder, “madness”, visions, six of one, half dozen of the other? I’ve had people from other religions as well point to my beliefs as the source of my mental health issues. When I was in high school I encountered some Bible study kids who were rather dismissive of the idea of mental illness at all, attributing symptoms from feeling kind of blue to panic attacks to full blown hallucinations were due to demonic oppression. At the time my mom and stepdad weren’t paying much attention to my mental state and the idea of being in some sort of battle of wills with attacking demons appealed to my melodramatic teenage imagination. But needless to say this didn’t solve my symptoms.
Oh, and you over there? The smirking atheist? Don’t be so quick to look smug, I’ve also had your ilk tell me my symptoms would disappear if I would only learn to rationalize my way through them. 🙂 It hasn’t provided the solution either, though some of the CBT exercises have helped at times. I’ll just save my criticisms of Albert Ellis though for some other post.
From other Pagans or New Agers I’ve heard a number of the things on this list too. The dreaded positive thinking fanatics. The white-light judgements about working with “dark” dieties. The touting of meditation as an easy cure-all (fun fact: meditation is NOT simply a relaxation tool. Sometimes it brings up some unpleasant hidden stuff, which can make it an instrument of healing, but no, not an easy one.) Perhaps the nastiest bit of sanism came from a now-former friend and bandmate who’s guru-crush-of-the-week had suddenly convinced her she was some all powerful Jaguar-medicine-woman and that I, as someone with schizoaffective disorder was not fit to be around someone of her power and would only end up hurting myself. What a thoughtful concern-troll. Ironically, on the other end of the spectrum, there are a number of cultures which view those who exhibit what America calls “psychotic symptoms” —and it’s all just words—-as exhibiting traits of an untrained shaman/ curandera. Even Buddhism, Christianity, and Hinduism have their archetypes of Mad Saints, Divine Fools, those who achieve enlightenment in transcendence of ego boundaries.
But mostly what I can say is that I regard my spiritual work as being something that has helped me to deal with having schizoaffective disorder. It’s even been a bigger positive for me than…wait for it…”positive thinking”! It’s not a cure, but hey, it helps.
And I guess for no reason other than to share some art, here’s a collage I did a little while back: