This is a post I’ve written and re-written a number of times. It’s probably one of the most difficult posts I’ve composed, simply because I feel so vulnerable about it. But I’m finally at a place where I feel comfortable sharing this here.
I have a mental illness, specifically Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). It’s something I’ve struggled with for most of my life; I can remember its roots in being a particularly sensitive and easily-worried child still in elementary school (and it just got progressively worse from there). But I wasn’t formally diagnosed until a couple of years ago, when I was seeing my therapist for sessions during graduate school. I told her of my suspicions, as I’d read the DSM-IV cover to cover for my diagnosis class, and so we sat down with the book and looked at the criteria for a variety of conditions. GAD was the one that fit the best, and all of the criteria were very familiar to me.
So why am I telling you this here, on my blog that’s supposed to be about shamanism? For one thing, it’s the platform I use the most for writing these days, and I want to have a basic “here’s Lupa on GAD” post that I can refer to when talking about this later on. Talking is good therapy for me, writing being included in “talking”. If being more open about my anxiety helps me to get better, then that’s an additional bonus.
I am a strong supporter of mental illness awareness and advocacy, moreso after having gotten my Master’s in counseling psychology. Even though I understand and empathize with my reasons for having stayed mostly closeted on this matter in the past, I have felt for a while like a hypocrite. I encourage others to be open about their mental conditions if they deem it the right time, and I feel that more open discussion about mental health, to include careful self-disclosure, can help facilitate better resources and less prejudice.
Yet I have hidden my anxiety away like a bad habit. Even having that degree, even having worked as a counselor, even knowing and believing beyond a doubt that mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, my own fear–and the anxiety–kept me quiet. And now I’m breaking that silence. Why?
While I have not yet “officially” used my Master’s degree, having spent the year since graduation being a fully self-employed author and artist (and recovering from the stress of grad school and corporate life before that), there’s still the possibility that some day I may need to get a job as a counselor at an agency. Even though the counseling profession is supposed to work against the stigmatization of those with mental illnesses, there is still a strong taboo against mental health professionals who are mentally ill. Even though such professionals as Marsha Linehan (the developer of Dialectical Behavior Therapy) and Kay Redfield Jamison have publicly discussed their illnesses, the stigma remains–especially if you aren’t a well-established professional yet. So even though I did well in my year-long internship counseling addicts in an inpatient setting, and was open with my supervisor there about my GAD, and we worked together to make sure it wasn’t a liability, I still worry that other supervisors, potential employers, and the like may not be so supportive.
Clients can go either way. Some clients are put off by knowing their therapist isn’t perfectly psychologically hale, especially as mental health professionals are often idealized as “perfect authorities”. But some clients feel more comfortable knowing that the person in the chair across from them might know a bit about what they themselves have been struggling with. I never told any of my clients in my internship about my anxiety, but having GAD did help me to empathize more with them. It also made me more aware of my own boundaries, and where the GAD could weaken my ability to deal with sometimes very challenging clients.
Then there’s the more general stigma. Many people still equate mental illness with everything from homelessness to senseless shootings as in Aurora, CO. Mental illnesses are seen as ticking time bombs. Or they’re dismissed; we are told to “just get over it”. We who have these illnesses are marginalized and stigmatized. It’s easier to ignore us or make fun of us than to help us and try to understand the complexity of our different way of viewing the world. Some people still even conflate alternative spiritual views as a whole with mental illness, and there’s the chance that me being out of the crazy closet will just fuel their misconceptions.
Continuing to hide my anxiety disorder just perpetuates stigmatization. One of the most effective methods of teaching is modeling. If I model the idea that it’s okay to be mentally ill and open about it, if I can just talk about it like an everyday (albeit unwanted) part of my life, then hopefully I can help others to do the same, whether they’re mentally ill or not. I’ve gotten so many emails from people who have told me that my writing here, and in my books and other places, has been a huge help and inspiration to them. By coming out as having GAD, my hope is that I can continue to provide inspiration to others fighting their own battles with mental illnesses.
There’s one other reason I’m bringing my anxiety up here, and that’s shamanism itself (see? It IS relevant here!) There is a misconception that because some indigenous shamans have had mental illnesses as part of their initiations/shamanisms, that this means that you have to have a mental illness to be a shaman, or even that mental illnesses ARE shamanism. I find these to be inaccurate and dangerous conflations.
First, it’s demeaning to indigenous cultures to assume they don’t know the difference between someone with a mental illness, and a shamanic practitioner. While there is some crossover in some cultures between SOME mental illnesses and SOME shamanic and spiritual traditions, it’s specific in degree and nature in each culture and even each community, and to say that they all see them as one and the same is short-sighted and inaccurate.
Second, here in the dominant culture in the United States, it is downright dangerous to equate mental illness with shamanism. “Mental illness” is a broad, broad concept. If we include the various entries in the DSM-IV (some of which are developmental disorders rather than “sicknesses”), we’re talking everything from autism to depression and anxiety disorders to Cluster B personality disorders such as Antisocial and Borderline. If shamanism helps you deal with your mental illness better, whether as a client or a practitioner, great! But there is no cure-all or universal treatment for mental illnesses in general, and I oppose the broad-brush assumption that shamanism is the magic bullet.
And there is one more reason I am talking about my anxiety disorder here on my shamanism blog: I want to emphasize that for me, GAD is NOT a facilitator of my shamanism. I know some shamanic practitioners of varying traditions for whom their mental illnesses are assets, or at least tools. And some of them do help manage their illnesses with their shamanic practices.
But I know for a fact that I am not the only shaman who would give up their mental illness in a heartbeat if they had the chance. Reducing the stigma against mental illness doesn’t mean automatically stopping treatment and accepting things as they are forever more. I’m still trying to get rid of my anxiety disorder. GAD does not make me a stronger person. GAD is my weakness, my Achilles’ Heel. If I did not have my anxiety, if I could shuck it off of me like an overworn, stinking old coat, I would be so much the better for it. I could function better as a person, as a shaman, as a professional of several fields. GAD cripples me at times. It is not my friend.
Do you know what GAD is like for me? It’s daily, almost constant, worrying over things that I know I shouldn’t worry about, but that my limbic system tells me to be on guard against anyway. I’m not talking about being aware of spirits. I’m talking about nights of insomnia fueled by the fear that I’ll get up the next day and all my money will be gone, or that my partner will suddenly leave me for someone else, or that I’ll die of cancer before I ever get the chance to own my own home. It’s overreacting to small setbacks because my brain automatically catastrophizes and focuses on the very-worst-case scenario in perceived self-defense. It’s being irritable and short-tempered because everything just hurts, where emotionally and psychologically I feel like I’ve been flayed and every single stimulus is agony.
It’s being so exhausted from trying to keep my emotions on an even enough keel to be able to function on a day to day basis that I sometimes have to take a mental health day to recover from the fatigue of that daily battle. It’s the constant ache in my trapezius muscles because I carry all that tension and worry in my shoulders. It’s knowing that the chronic acid reflux the anxiety caused could kill me early with esophageal cancer. It’s knowing that I am at a greater risk of heart disease because my anxiety puts such constant heightened stress on my body, to include abnormal levels of adrenaline and other such chemicals.
None of these things make me a better shaman. Okay, yes, you can argue that my experiences have been “character building” and I’m a better shaman and person for having “resiliency” and “empathy” built from dealing with anxiety for decades. But some day I want to be able to say “I used to have GAD, but I finally overcame it, and I’m better for it”. I refuse to let go of that goal to settle for the consolation prize of “might as well just be a shaman since I’m nutty as a fruitbat anyway”. Part of being a shaman is healing others, but part of it is also healing the self, and even if I never do get completely better, I’m not going to stop trying to find my cure, and my path to a life without abnormal levels of anxiety.
So there you have it. I’m out of the crazy closet. And I want to note that I use the term “crazy” not in its derogatory manner, but tongue in cheek, and with a bit of cynical humor. When the anxiety really gets going, I really do feel crazy in that out of control, my-brain’s-been-hijacked way. But I’m so used to talking about “anxiety” in serious, overwrought tones that talking about “the crazy” or “I had too much crazysauce today” or asking my partner “You still love me even though I’m a crazy girl, right?” allows me to acknowledge it with some contextual silliness. Those I use it with know I’m not crazy in the stereotypical sense, but it’s a convenient code for the illness that pervades my life.
So hi, I’m Lupa, and I’m crazy. But I’m working on getting less crazy.
(As with all my posts, comments are screened until I decide they can come out to play. I know most, if not all, of you will be perfectly cool and supportive about all this. On the off chance someone decide to be an asshat, know that your comment will be BALEETED before it has a chance to gasp for its first breath of air.)
It’s overwhelmingly honest and I fear all I could say could have a condescending feel to it, but I’ll try it anyway: It’s brave and honest and in my eyes it makes you a stronger person to come out with it. I know about anxieties, chronic sleeplessness and (in my case) depressive phases myself, so I have a clue what you go through. I’m glad I know about you, look forward to whatever more you have to say in your blog and through your work and wish you well on your journey!
Thank you for your support and empathy; I hope my writings on this spark good things for you!
Once more a deeply honest insight into your life, Lupa. I perhaps am not the only one who when judging someone with an outside perspective automatically reserve the more ‘perfected’ qualities of a person and use this to remember them by. This to me is just human nature, our tendency to rationalize our opinions of something or someone because of either common thought or comfort.
So, speaking also as a spiritual person like yourself, and knowing at least vaguely that outsiders generally consider us completely bizarre or truly impeccable beings full of bliss, neither of these are true. I know for myself at least that my own anxieties, and they are there, though fading, are the direct stimuli of being in a false society, that does not nourish my needs. It is the onset of responsibilities I take in daily existence that others perhaps need not worry about. Being completely alone in my actions, as well as personal life. It shows in yourself that people are never as they seem, some more than others of course, and are still prone to suffering of some sort that must be refined, healed, and overcome. Integrating your own self-realizations and writing about them seems to be a positive change in undertaking that process, as a means.
I had felt for years the most inane and serious anxieties that would well up from seemingly nowhere. This to me were my unconscious years. I would suffer extreme paroxysm because of something that was said to me, or assuming harmful situations could arise because of my simple actions. The anxiety every day would prevent me from truly living, from attaining any form of contentment with myself, always leading to anguish and depression. I did not know how long I could live while being in such a negative mind state. When I began to vent my energies to other outlets like creativity, writing, photography, spirituality, art then my natural balance started to be attained.
I find there are always remnants of ‘disorder’ or ‘difference’ of self, in relation to something else, and while I do experience them at times, I do now accept more than ever that these things are strictly ephemeral. Instead of being attached to my nervosas and suffering, I know inside that something must follow altogether more fulfilling. The contrast is both helps me understand myself even more intimately. Generally I think the reasons for any kind of problems in our life are not being in touch with who we are, and creating those divisions. Our ingrained fear of change, and not allowing for organic movement, balance, and health to take first priority in our lives. It is nice to know you can be non-serious about your own disorder it and not let it control you.
Thank you for your thoughts and your own experiences. Sometimes it’s hard to see someone as human, prone to both joys and flaws, instead of a caricature in one direction or the other. There’s a strong vein of either/or in our thinking, instead of both/and and all its gray areas. So I want to foster the idea that a person can be successful, and also have pretty significant challenges (and vice versa). I am not ruled by my anxiety; I have my work, and my social life, and plenty of days where I win the battle against anxiety, but I also have my days where I’m a wreck and I have to take care of myself more.
You make an interesting point with regards to attachment. I really like Dialectical Behavior Therapy because it’s heavily infused with mindfulness. Being aware of what’s going on when my brain goes haywire is helpful; sometimes I can catch and anxiety attack before it gets too bad and reroute it. This isn’t always easy, given that the anxiety overrides the very ability to be calm and present, and one of the benefits of a lot of spiritual practices, particularly those that involve meditation and mindfulness, is that they strengthen the ability to sit with something, or at least to be able to ride through it to the other side.
Indeed. What you said. So often we’re led to healing paths because of what we deal with in our own lives. So much is yet to be learned in the ideology that people who work as caregivers as others aren’t allowed to be managing their own challenges.
From the crazy closet into the crazy world,
I really think it’s the idea that anyone who isn’t perfectly whole can’t be safe enough to work with clients in any mental health field. I understand for sure the ethical implications of a practitioner letting their illness negatively affect how they work with clients, but even otherwise healthy counselors and the like can be affected by things like burnout, vicarious traumatization, etc. It’s up to all of us, regardless of our official mental health status, to be aware of our boundaries and our relationships with ourselves and our clients. And I feel that being more open about the fact that there are professionals in the field(s) who do have illnesses can help the entire system (which has a lot of flaws itself) be more supportive of their needs and their ability to be helpful to clients in spite of their own struggles.
I agree. The older I get and the further down the road I get on my path, the more my desire grows to help others. What a beautiful thing it is!
I applaud your bravery and honesty, Lupa. As someone else who likewise has GAD (as well as Major Depressive Disorder) and also writes a blog, is a published author, and has people looking for my advice, albeit not in a professional setting, I understand how difficult this probably was for you to write about publicly. I also sympathize with your fears and frustrations about how mentally ill people are treated by the rest of the world, and about making it understood that having a mental health issue does not explain or negate having an intense spiritual life.
I hope that coming out of the crazy closet opens the way for better understanding for both you and those who look to you for guidance, in whatever capacity 🙂 You’re good people, whatever your state of mind.
Thank you; it’s good to know that I’m not alone in this and that others understand. I appreciate you adding this in as support and solidarity 🙂
GAD is one of many nightmare experiences we might face in life. I’ve finally accepted and started to understand the realities of it this year, as well as sharing my newfound realizations with friends and family, hoping they will better understand my situation and possibly gain instights into what may also be their own. Thank you for this post and the revelation of the taboo nature (and reasons behind our fears) for sharing this reality, but also the many important reasons for why we should share it all anyway.
Thank you; I do feel everyone needs to come out (or stay in) at their own pace, but I hope that those who do choose to be open about their illness can see how beneficial that can be to others still struggling, whether openly or secretly.
I grok this deeply. Thank you, and you are amazing. ❤
You are most welcome, and thank you.
I have never been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Still, at certain times in my life, a deep anxiety seizes me and destroys my sleep as well. But over time (I am almost 60 and this has been going on since about age 25), I have come to recognize that these episodes mark (1) a new “initiation” experience in my ongoing shamanistic path or (2) a new “tasking” that will require deep preparation and commitment.
None of this knowledge keeps me from being miserable until I can put my mental/spiritual finger on exactly WHAT it is. So, yes, thank you for being open and posting about this!
I wish mine had as much rhyme and reason to it! Unfortunately, it manifests as chaotic and random, though there are certain triggers. And you are welcome 🙂
You have a strength I greatly respect. I have a lot of trouble talking about my personal mental issues for the same reason – there are a lot of people who respect me and my opinion and I don’t know how that’ll change if they find out I’m not “hale and hearty,” so to speak, mentally.
That being said, GAD is a serious bitch – while it isn’t one I’ve delt with personally, I’ve delt with people who do have it. It can really be a nightmare.I personally deal with functional MPD/DID, as well as bi-polar and mild autism/aspergers thanks to my genetics and other factors. And I just want you to know for the record – I do not think ANY less of you for knowing this. And anyone who would didn’t have any respect for you to begin with.
Thank you for the support; the thing I have to remember is that when people don’t understand mental illness, it’s not some negative reflection on me, but on their lack of understanding. Not personalizing it does make it easier, but that can be a tough process.
That’s very very true.
Way to go, crazy spirit bitch! I have had a few bouts of anxiety-fueled insomnia, and I don’t even want to imagine what that would be like if I weren’t pretty sure it was going to be gone the next day.
Depression is also an enemy of good magic.
I hope you find healing and wholeness on your road, and that you continue to be brave on the trip.
You have always been one of our favorite crazy spirit bitches, aandwe know a good CSB when we meet one.
Heh–“crazy spirit bitch” might have to be a new appellation here. Thank you.
Depression disarms a lot of good things to include good magic. Thankfully I generally stay away from that end of things, and despite the anxiety stay pretty functional. But it does bring up the good point that a lot of illnesses perpetuate their survival by making the person less able to do the things that will get rid of them.
Kudos for your bravery in speaking up (especially in coping with the extra stress/anxiety of anticipating people’s reactions). Naming and discussing this, of course, doesn’t change anything about you, but it’s amazing how much emphasis our culture can put on having everything classified and labeled and tucked away into safe little boxes so it can make its snap judgments without taking the time to understand.
The flip side is that by naming and labeling it, you get the benefit of all the knowledge and treatments and coping mechanisms that others dealing with the same diagnosis have developed. I hope that in the course of researching and pinpointing the GAD, you’ve picked up some strategies that make it easier for you to manage the negative aspects of it and focus more on the awesomeness of being you. 🙂
Thank you; the name is just a convenient shorthand for what it is, and everything that’s attached to it good and bad. It’s nice to know that it’s not just me being deliberately difficult, but that there’s this definite *thing* happening, and that other people are familiar with it, and we can do things about it. That collective knowledge is comforting.
Hi, I found this article and I just want to say, you are going through and have been through the EXACT things as me. I suffered horribly from anxiety as a child, so much that it affected my grades and my interests and my ability to be in social situations. I finally got help a little over a month ago, and was diagnosed with Social Anxiety, Manic Anxiety and Bipolar Type II Disorder. I was shocked about the bipolar part, but knew I had anxiety issues. I would have these extreme panic attacks that lasted the normal time, but sometimes they would last 1-2 hours, and it was utter hell. I’d get disoriented, feel like I couldn’t function, the world felt unreal, I felt like I wasn’t here and so on. I’m on medication, but have been delving deeper into my spirituality and that combination has seem to be the perfect grounding for me. While I understand, like you, that I will always suffer from these illnesses, I do know that one day, I will be able to truly beat it, and move on. I just started a book called Psychic Shield, and it has broken me down into tears. It’s helpful, and very therapeutic and honestly contains common sense that I believe we as a people have slowly thrown away over centuries. I think it’s something I’d like to use as a manual/guide if I ever decide to be a spiritual teacher, because it’s adding to my therapy. You should check it out, if you have not read it already. Blessings sister. Love and light, Victoria.
I am very glad you’re finding ways to feel better; it sounds like you’ve carried a lot over the years, and sometimes finding that first light at the end of the proverbial tunnel–or at least lamp to protect against grues in the darkness–can be personally revolutionary. Wishing you the best in your continued healing.
Sharing my dual diagnosis in honor of your bravery: *lifelong* major depressive disorder and panic disorder, bordering on agoraphobia. I currently (and thankfully) consider myself to be in remission, but the demons of my illness are never too far away from my door.
Thank you for the support; you’re a wonderful example of “make things happen and hell with the challenges!” 🙂
You are most welcome. I don’t think of myself as a “to hell with the challenges” person, but I can see how it would like that way from the outside. The work that the Goddess has gifted me with has often been one of my most helpful ways of dealing with stress. Not sure how I would have fared in the standard-brand business world — probably it wouldn’t have been pretty. I’ve also been on a hand-picked, low-dose anti-depressant for almost 15 years that does a very good job of keeping me on a more even keel. I also have found CBT a very useful tool. If you ever want to trade anxiety-treatment tips in a private setting, you know where I am. 🙂
Thank you very much for sharing. It’s very inspiring on several levels, and between this and something else I came across lately (go me being vague) something I am going to have to reflect on.
You’re welcome; I hope my writings continue to help in whatever you’re facing.
I came out of the crazy closet years ago when I had a nervous breakdown at work. It was in the bad old days when mental illness was considered a moral vice. Folks at work were leery of me for a long time afterwards.
Since then, I became a disability advocate at my place of work and the go to person for all things disability. Yes, there are folks who do not want anyone to know since it means being shuffled off in a corner. For those who are public, we provide a service for the silent others. We teach everyone that we are not the scarey insane people that they think we are.
I knew you had something wrong with you from your writings. I just figured that it was none of my business. But yes, I have found that many in the therapy professions are there because either they or someone they love has a mental illness.
As for me with my brain injury, I shake in public. I go around with a stuffed ladybug under my arm for tactile calmness. I also wear sunglasses inside buildings to cut down on the stimulation. I do get those stares but I figure I have just as much right looking weird as anyone else.
I’ve really admired your openness about your brain injury and how that affects you on a daily basis; it was one of the things that helped me to be brace enough to write this, to be honest. Thank you for that. It worked.
I see my injury as a part of me. If I deny that part, then I deny myself. It is that basic. Thanks for letting me know that I inspired you. You are brave too!
All I can say is that your story is inspiring. I suffer from anxiety, depressive bursts and what is most likely adult ADHD as well. I’ve had nothing officially diagnosed yet, but have been to therapy, had medication, and dropped out of school because of my difficulties. I’m finally starting to deal with my mental health problems, I’ve gotten back into college and am working on paperwork for ADHD testing, but some days I fall back into that same rhythm. Parts of me still fear the crippling panic attacks that adderol created out of my anxiety bursts (on the floor, curled up in fetal position, trapped in my own body for a time). I sometimes fear that I’ll never escape it, that my life will be one big self destructive spiral and that I’ll never be able to find a real spiritual practice because of it. Yet, you inspire me. You make it known there is hope for those who don’t have it as easy, that you can still delve into the pathways of the spiritrealm while having mental problems.
Thank you Lupa. You give many people hope with this, and your open and honest ‘coming out of the crazy closet’ makes those of us touched by it feel it’s a little less crazy. ❤
You are most welcome; I haven’t been on medications, but I would imagine it must be horribly frustrating when the medicine for one condition exacerbates the symptoms of another. It can take years to find the right combinations of healing techniques–medicinal and otherwise–to make things better, and there’s always readjustment. But you’re trying, and that really is the thing that matters the most, because as long as you’re consciously invested in getting better, then you can actively take part in the process instead of just being a “subject” of it.
good post and honest – but I question any reliance on the DSM – why label yourself anything?
Because it’s convenient shorthand, for one thing. The diagnoses are convenient categorizations for sets of symptoms that are commonly seen together pretty consistently, though there are plenty of gray areas (to include “Such and Such Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified”). For me, it was a huge step forward to get my GAD diagnosis, because it showed me that not only were there other people who had gone through what I was experiencing and that it wasn’t some scary, amorphous mental THING eating my brain, but that there are also tried and true things that have been shown to help people going through the same thing to one degree or another.
And, also, because that’s where my training is. I spent three years getting my master’s degree, and the framework of counseling and clinic gave me more tools for understanding what’s going on with me and others. If anything was emphasized in the very heavily Rogerian setting, though, it was that a person is NOT their diagnosis, that they themselves are systems of feelings and thoughts and influences, and that they are parts of bigger systems of family, community, environment, and more, and it’s just not as simple as “Diagnosis A? Give Pill B”.
It means a lot that you’re willing to be this honest and frank with your readers, Lupa. I was diagnosed with dysthymia almost two years ago (though I’ve certainly had depressive issues for most of my life) and I’m fairly certain I have an anxiety disorder as well. I’ve been surprised both at the number of close friends who suffer with me, and at the shocked reactions I’ve gotten from others who don’t understand why I’m so open about it.
Depression in no way helps my spirituality – it hinders it, in fact. Depression shuts me down and locks me up and sometimes all I can do is ride out the black wave until I can touch dry ground again. I’ve struggled my entire life to hear the gods, sense energy, trust and love myself. Am I stronger for this, in a way I might not be if these things came easy to me? Maybe. And I know that there are certain Mysteries that I can painfully connect to because of my mental illness. But I would never in an instant want to keep this depression and pain with me the rest of my life.
I personally think it’s high time for a talk in the Pagan/occult/mystic communities about mental illness and how to combat stereotypes, both within and beyond our circle of comrades. I’ve been kicking around an idea for a book for the last year and some change which specifically looks at depression through my Pagan lens (using my relationship with Brighid). I wonder if it’s time to dust that off and get to work?
Thanks again, Lupa, and I hope your day goes great.
You’re welcome! I definitely agree that there needs to be more discussion about mental illness in paganism, and in American culture at large. Anxiety and depression disorders are terrifyingly common; NIMH’s official stats that almost 30% of American adults will have an anxiety disorder sometime in their life–and that’s just the statistic for officially diagnosed cases for one group of disorders. And yet we still keep hiding these facts away like the people who have them are flawed. There’s something very, very wrong with that.
Honestly, this surprises me not at all… I have been following you for so many years, even having met and interacted with you at FPG, that I saw ALL the signs that I also carry. Mine is GAD + “Chronic Major Depression” (thankfully in remission currently). I have anxiety and panic attacks at the drop of a hat, if I don’t take my meds every day. And every day, I give a little nod of thanks to the Goddess that these meds were designed, that I found a GOOD therapist, and that I was able to remove some issues that were exacerbating the depression, so I WAS able to go into remission and start to build my psyche up from the ground floor to become a woman that I can enjoy being. I have had people tell me that I shouldn’t follow my religious path, since it “would make me worse off” or that it is the “reason I am crazy”. But I found that holding to my beliefs gave me MORE comfort, more feelings of control, and a sense of serenity that nothing – even drugs + therapy – ever did as well.
I am as open about my “nuttiness” as I am about my sexuality, religion, and the fact that I am a Gastric Bypass recipient. I feel that being able to share these things openly and matter of factually helps to remove the stigma in many of the people I meet and talk to. I agree with several other commenters though – it is time, and past time, for open discussion about the mental illnesses that Pagans may experience, so we can hopefully stop discriminating against ourselves!
Thank you for writing so openly. Keep it up – you are a pretty good inspiration for a lot of people – flaws and all!
This is awesome. You are very eloquent. This must have been very hard for you to write, but I can see the courage through the words. ❤ I'm glad you've come out. I have mental issues, and I take meds to help combat them. I'll probably have to take them for the rest of my life. Having depression, borderline personality disorder, anxiety, and ADD are NOT something that I usually offer to people. It's not that I'm embarrassed, not anymore. It's that most of the time, they think that I'm not doing X hard enough to overcome it, or that it's all in my head. (In some cases, some disorders don't exist to them.) Of course, having paranoia as well just adds to the confusion and hurt that comes with the above 'invisible' disorders.
I would love it if a group of us did start a campaign awarness via a blog (tumblr, facebook, etc) so that we could come together and discuss things in a safe place, as well as teach people we are not all loose canons.
An awesome and inspiring post! Thank you for your courage.
I have long thought that all of us are somewhere on the “craziness” curve. I know that I myself am deeply flawed. I guess I’m lucky because a big part of my crazy is that I tend to edit myself out of the picture; it isn’t about me (even if it is). I just enjoy the ride and try to steer in interesting directions.
So how is GAD a disorder if there actually are plenty of reasons to be generally anxious? Perhaps YOU are the one that is more “sane”. The world is in terrible shape and seems to be getting worse in many respects; climate change, rampant ignorance and hate, the rich taking over everything and buying our government and so forth. I will stop, no sense in bringing up more reasons for all of us to become more anxious.
BTW, I’ve missed you. I’ve been really busy with my herds, my prison ministry and my full time town job. I need to get up to Portland more but part of my crazy is that I tend to stick to the farm when I have time off. Also my eyes have gotten worse as I age and I hate driving. (Getting new glasses at the end of the month, so that should improve.)
Are you still making the antler rune and ogham sets? I’ve had some of my inmates asking.
Hang in there and continue in strength. You’re one of the strongest women I know, even if you ARE crazy.
You are most welcome, and thank you! I think perhaps your steering metaphor would be a good thing for me to think about more.
The problem is that my anxiety interferes with my ability to function at times, and additionally is over unlikely occurrences. I can trace it back to defense mechanisms that kicked in when being systematically bullied for over a decade when I was in private and public schools; my brain basically wired itself during those formative years into a semi-permanently heightened state of awareness and stress.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org ; I miss you, too.
Can I ask? (Well I suppose I can, but you don’t have to answer, do you? 🙂 ) Does your anxiety affect your shamanic journeying? I haven’t been diagnosed with GAD specifically, though I have had several episodes of depression in the past, and I probably have C-PTSD from a nasty childhood (which actually sounds very similar to your experience that being bullied long-term rewired your brain). I am very much trained to fear pretty much everything. It can be difficult to tell sometimes on a journey what is really dangerous or scary, and what are just phantoms thrown up by my anxiety (because of course I bring it with me). My primary spirit guide and daimon, an old friend, says I need to learn to ‘separate the wheat fears from the chaff fears.’
Generally, my journeying is pretty steady, though I make sure I’m in a healthy state of mind before going in. In fact, journeying is one of the few places where anxiety really doesn’t come into play; while I’m far from the biggest, baddest thing out there, I feel more capable of shifting things in my favor there.
I hear you, so so hard. I suffered positively debilitating panic attacks and suffer from bouts of hypochondria. This shit sucks and it’s so hard to talk to somebody that doesn’t understand where you’re coming from with it. But thank you for sharing.
This is so beautifully communicated Lupa, and I realize the bravery it took to make such a post! Interestingly, I have also read your 2013 Witches’ Companion articles and while I myself would never think of banning someone on the grounds of a diagnosed (or undiagnosed) mental condition, I didn’t think that type of thing happened in an alternative spiritual community that is supposedly open-minded and tolerant. Now please allow me to clarify that I may find certain behaviors unacceptable around me personally, but that is nothing against the person. They are either capable of acceptable behavior around me or they are not, and honestly, I have a HUGE range of acceptable since I so highly value the individual (and that means strong opinions too, as long as they are respectful). So by my holding onto a choice of what I wish for as behavior around me, I then see it as their choice if anything not within that very broad boundary is done. And I would not randomly apply something like this to a group level either, since I value all individuality too much (and due to this, I find it easier to not work with groups with a “collective” mindset, which most groups are, on any topic, and I often find this means my work is solitary). On the topic of mental (or perhaps emotional) illness? None of us are perfect, even those who would be considered by society mentally well. Part of the Human condition lies in its varying experience of imperfection but it is also the same thing that brings diversity which brings out ultimately qualities of the individual. While I see spiritually that we all are from source (whatever that is) and have compassion, I think we are all here to purify in a way, to reach for whatever is important. I admire you greatly because I see you walking your talk every step of the way – you actually do the work. On those grounds, I would say you are mentally more well than swarms of an asleep and/or lazy population, and I am thinking GAD is at its core just an oversensitivity issue. I would also strive for cure in your shoes and I do hope you find it sooner rather than later – that would be frustrating to me too! Thanks for a dose of pure awesomeness once again – I look forward to many more of your gems!
Thank you for this post. It was especially refreshing for me to read because just a day or two ago I was reading some very disturbing stuff online making mental illness sound cool, how mentally ill people are actually “god-touched”, and shouldn’t seek treatment but instead are called to be spirit-workers and so on and so forth.
Thank you for debunking that. I have clinical depression, and my mental illness is a great hindrance to me, spiritually (just like it is in every other aspect of my life). It really makes me mad to think there are people out there who might refuse to seek treatment because they think their illness is some sort of gift from the gods.
Good luck with your healing!
After 63 years in this lifetime I have decided we all have some physical , mental, emotional or spiritual problem. It’s the folks that can’t face it, and won’t or can’t try to work on it that are the really sick ones. This was very brave for you to write, and I think it will help many people to read this. Wishing you peace.
Thank you for your kind support 🙂