There is just so much change and movement in my life!
I am newly single, getting into a job training program, freshly moved, getting gender confirmation surgery, and so much else! I have a hard time fathoms how much has changed, and how well I am coping with it all.
Now, I have started a new medication, risparidone, which has been doing wonders. I feel like I have a calculating head again. Or at least I had. In the past two days my anxiety has been kidnapping my brain again and now im worried that I’ll backslide all the way down to brain fog again.
But I dont think I will. I think I am doing well, that I am coping well, and that things are moving properly in the right direction.
I have so many plans. So much hope. I am hoping and praying it’ll all go well. There’s so much I want for my books, for myself. I am so grateful for my health getting better.
Anyways, this was a little update, friends. I hope yall are doing well, and that you and yours stay well 💗
I want to apologize for my silence here, though I know I really shouldn’t. It’s been so quiet because I’ve started a new project, and have been trying to be gentler on myself.
What is this new project? A non fiction book!
Essentially, this new book is about mental illness and spirituality, and so much of the energy I would normally put into this blog and my youtube channel has instead gone into the book.
Luckily, however, I have a good friend who has agreed to coach me on the book, so this book should actually get done! So far, I have the beginnings of a contents page, approximately 5,000 words, and several prayers written out.
Why yes, it’s a book that involves prayers. It’s going to be a spiritual book, my friends, and I can’t wait to share more about it soon. But for now, I am going to rest.
So, in this blog post (and the video that will go along with it, at the bottom of this post), I’d like to talk about the difference between mental health and mental illness, and why that matters in a spiritual context.
Mental health and mental illness often get confused together, called the same thing, and mish-mashed together by the general populace. But! They are not the same thing at all.
Mental health relates to your mental well-being. This is: “our emotions, our thoughts and feelings, our ability to solve problems and overcome difficulties, our social connections, and our understanding of the world around us.” SOURCE
Meanwhile, “A mental illness is an illness the affects that way people think, feel, behave, or interact with others.” SOURCE
So, when someone is talking about their mental health, they’re talking about their moods, how they’re feeling, and how they can cope and interact with things. But when it comes to mental illness, one is talking about symptoms that are debilitating, crippling, and are diagnosed as things like depression, anxiety, bipolar, etc. SOURCE
Now, mental health and mental illness are NOT the same thing, but they are related. There’s this really useful image right here, that explains a whole lot, at least to me. SOURCE
Basically, mental health and mental illness are linked upon an axis. Mental health is the ‘up and down’, while mental illness is the sideways ‘left and right’. Or the y and x axis, if you feel like calling them that.
This means that one can have poor mental health without it being a mental illness, and vice versa.
Personally, I think I have pretty good mental health, at least in some aspects. I’m grateful, I like to see the positive aspects of things, and I try and be mindful (try being the key word, haha). But this good mental health does not imply no mental illness, as the diagram shows, as one can have good mental health while having a serious mental illness.
Now, what does this have to do with spirituality?
Well, because of the confusion of mental health and mental illness, people tend to assume that spirituality can heal it all. But, at least in my perspective and from what I’ve understood of the mental health and mental illness divide, spirituality can only affect mental health (outside of it being a miracle).
Now, there are plenty of great articles out there about how spirituality affects mental health. If this interests you, I encourage you to read up on them!
In my opinion, spiritual practices can help foster things like gratitude, positive thoughts, and a sense of connection with the world and promote happier and more fulfilling social connections. But these are things that fall under the mental health category, not mental illness.
I think you’d be hard pressed to find a reputable scholarly article about spirituality healing a mental illness. This is because mental illness is not dependent upon mental health or happiness or gratitude. Your outlook, gratitude, prayer, and positivity can all be on point and great, but you can still have a mental illness. This is because mental illness is, well, an illness, and not dependent upon our mental health.
Now, why is this distinction important?
Here’s the thing: because people confuse mental health and mental illness, they think that mental illness can be prayed away, meditated away, etc, etc, etc,.
But mental illness is an illness based in neurology! Unless one believes that their spirituality will heal a broken leg, I don’t see why it would heal mental illness. In my opinion, it’s a similar experience, a similar required amount of ‘spiritual woo woo’ and energy healing.
Another important point in this distinction of mental health and mental illness is that people confuse which one they had, and then go on to believe and assert that prayer or other spiritual practices did, in fact, heal an illness. In fact, they believe that’s what happened to them!
However, a person suffering from a mental illness will often not be able to function and perform the mental health practices, nor will they see any positive results, as their problems are neurological in nature, not mental health related.
This mix-up between mental health and mental illness ends up placing a huge amount of pressure upon a person with mental illness. Because spiritual practices are so beneficial to those with mental health issues and because there is no distinction between mental health and mental illness, there becomes an expectation that spirituality will be able to heal a mental illness. Furthermore, as these practices ‘worked’ for those without mental illness, the blame for the lack of success becomes placed not upon the process (because it has been ‘proven’ to work), but upon the person with the mental illness.
In cases like this, the person with a mental illness who isn’t achieving results is often seen as not being ‘spiritual’ enough, or not trying ‘hard’ enough. This is very damaging.
Here’s a link to the video I made where I discuss this, for those who prefer videos to written material!
Well, before I get back into my groove of writing about mental illness, it occurred to me that I should maybe explain the ‘why’ behind the decision to talk about mental illness and spirituality.
There’s a saying that goes (and I really don’t remember where it’s from) something along the lines of how the most earnest prayers come from people in hospitals. I think this is particularly true about people in psych wards, or who are dealing with mental illness.
People turn to spirituality when they are hurt, confused, or generally lost. And mental illness makes you feel that, in an strange way sometimes. Because mental illness isn’t seen as a physical problem, its invisible and most don’t realize it’s got physical roots, people don’t turn immediately to doctors. Sadly, people actually refuse to see doctors for mental illness because of perceptions and biases that have their roots in spiritual beliefs.
Some of these are ones like: mental illness is the result of a curse, or God’s punishment for a lack of faith, or the result of being estranged from God. It can also be believed to be an imbalance of chakras that only requires meditation to be cured, spirit possession, or (my personal pet peeve, and one that truly held me back) the belief that mental illness is some sort of psychic ‘breakthrough’.
A bunch of these are due to the conflation/mix of mental health and mental illness. Due to the lack of understanding on the difference of these two, people will often try and use spirituality and spiritual practices (which can be beneficial to mental health) to treat mental illness.
Personally, when I went out with my service dog for mental illness, people would often ask me what the dog was for. Once they found out it was for mental illness, these strangers would often end up giving me some sort of advice or opinion on mental illness. Most of these were spiritual perspectives that were against medication and ‘western medicine’, as well as conventional therapy.
Similarly, when I really struggled with my mental illness and was unmedicated, people often threw spiritual advice at me. It was all anti medication and anti conventional doctors. Now that I am medicated and happily so, I find it really disturbing that there is so much anti-medication sentiment out there! I sometimes wonder what my path to healing would have been like if I had been surrounded by more realistic approaches.
Anyways, now that I am in a better space mentally, I think it’ll be nice to get back into talking about mental illness and spirituality. I think it’ll do me good, as it’s something that I really care about, and love discussing with others. I find it nourishing and cleansing.
I also want to really show others that getting conventional help is not anti spirituality. I once met a doctor in training at a mental health clinic, and he was really surprised to hear that not all spirituality is against medication, and that I had arguments against those points. It made for a very interesting discussion, but also showed me that there wasn’t much perspectives out there that are spiritual and embracing of actual treatment for mental illness.
Anyways, that’s all I have to say for today! I will be posting a video to MY CHANNEL soon about these points, and it will basically be a copy of this post. I’m doing this because some formats are easier for some people and not everyone likes reading, and I’m hoping to make this as available as possible.
Hi everyone! I’m happy to announce that I’m hopefully going to be doing mental health videos.
It’s been a little bit that I’m wondering if I’ll get back into my mental health blogging, and I think I will. But I really want it to be a positive thing in my life, and to come from a positive space, not to be a grumpy rant. So, as YouTube videos have been a fun thing for me, I’m thinking of doing those, as well as some written blog posts.
I’m thinking of discussing technical aspects around mental illness and spirituality. I’m really hoping that these videos and posts can be educational and resourceful for people, especially those suffering from mental illness.
Hopefully I’ll have some guests who can come onto my blog and discuss some stuff with me, so if you have a mental illness/mental health issue and you want to talk about it within a spiritual context, let me know!
If you have topics you’d like to suggest, or things you’d like to see me talking about (not researching, I don’t feel like researching, just talking from a personal perspective), let me know!
Wishing you all a very lovely day, and hoping you’ll like these videos! ❤
I had a dream last night. I dreamt that I was coming to the conclusion that it was wrong of me to have pulled this blog from the web, and that I would resume my blogging.
The truth is, I’ve been feeling guilty lately about pulling my blog from the web. Maybe it’s inflated of me, but I like to think that my blog posts help people, even in a small way, to understand and cope with their mental illness. So, pulling this blog from the internet felt mean to me. Like I was taking away what someone might need in their moment of darkness.
But the fact is also that I feel vulnerable. I’m no longer sure of my spiritual foundations. Mental illness, psychosis, and the weird nuances of it all are getting to me. How do I define my beliefs? I do not know anymore. I’m really not sure, and frankly, am not sure I will ever be sure.
The thing is, when you get feelings and calling that contradict your beliefs, life gets weird. It gets weirder when you’re not sure what’s psychosis and what’s medication and what’s genuine – and how does it all tie in?
Anyways, this post is just to say that I’m going to be trying to bring this blog back to life, but hopefully not too personal of a way so that I feel like taking it down again.
Today, I discovered something. Namely, that I do not particularly like living in other people’s worlds.
What do I mean? I mean reading. But not the usual kind of reading. I mean, there comes a point when the reading is too engrossing, that you start feeling the story live around you. I hope im not the only one to experience this, because it is unsettling. Even more unsettling is the fact I have no control over where the story or setting will go. So I try and read faster to rip off the bandage and get it over with. But that usually just engrossed me more, and I sink deeper into this world.
It almost feels like a mist around me, today. The feeling, the aura of this novel I’m reading. In an esoteric sense, I suppose one could say the created soul, the Grigori of the book has been summoned. But it bothers me.
It really, truly, bothers me because the only stories where I want to live and feel myself in and around me are ones I can control, at least to some degree. Where I can halt the pain. Where I can truly enjoy myself without too much fear. There is uncertainty in every writing or true artistic endeavor, I suppose. But I like to imagine that I, the author, am in control of the art.
But in the past few days I have sprained my wrist rather badly, and so have been reading others novels instead of immersing in my own. In fact, I’ve done more reading in the past 24 hours than I have in a month. It has been fun, but rather unsettling. I feel like if I push the envelope, I will be bridging two worlds, that one I live in and the one I am reading about.
Thinking of it in terms of a created spirit, a Grigori, makes sense to me now, but it is still unsettling. I sort of feel like the silver tongue in Inkheart, who could create things by reading them aloud (or so I recall of the story). Truly, I am sure, there are many spiritual ramifications to this, from the neopagan perspective as well as an authors perspective. But I dont want to go there too much.
I like reality, but I also enjoy my own fantasy worlds. Today, while being all cozy, I realized that I truly enjoy immersing in my fantasy worlds and half living in them. I say half living, because they are all I think and breathe for half a day, or a quarter. They fill my mind and obsess me. They bring this aura to me, this presence of joy. It makes me feel accompanied, loved, and surrounded by magic. But it saddens me to realize, as I did today, that the only tasks I am truly successful at are ones that involve sinking into these fantasy worlds. Tasks related to reality and observing it, like cleaning, I am terrible at.
Maybe I am looking too much into things, but maybe I am not. Cptsd makes me often want to escape, to run away, to forget. It has made me sensitive, I suppose, but also makes me… unreal at the same time. I feel, because of my memory loss, a disconnect from the past. Like it didn’t actually happen to me. At the same time I feel a void where my memories should be. In a sense, I feel forever young because I am not aging because I have so few memories and ties to reality.
Anyways, I am writing this purely because I wanted to share. If you are out there an have lived something similar, this bridging of worlds between books and reality, please let me know. I’d like not to be the only one. If you read this and find it curious, I’ll admit that it is! But please don’t just think “oh thats weird” and move on. Entertain me a little, and think on what ifs and ramifications with me. Discuss with me, I’d greatly enjoy it.
In any case, I wish you all the best. Have a lovely day 💗
I saw an article the other day, in a free pagan magazine. Yay! It was about mental health and paganism. Wow! I was so excited!
Yay, yay, yay, I thought as I first saw the page-long article. Something interesting to read! Finally, some in-depth something on the topic!
Uh, yeah no. After a few sentences, then a quick skim-through, I was instantly depressed. Because apparently, just because we say ‘merry meet’, we’re a welcoming bunch. And the fact that we do fire gazing? Wow, that, like, taps us into ourselves and allows us to be grounded and shit. And the way we say ‘so mote it be’? Well, that allows us to accept things as they are. So, basically, (according to this author) we pagans are well equipped to deal with mental health issues because of these three things.
I was floored. What. The. Fuck.
This article, in my personal opinion, was like saying you get your vegetables from a pumpkin spice latte (Hint: there’s no pumpkin in most pumpkin spice lattes). I mean, really? Really? Not only was this a super-shallow discussion on the topic which failed to acknowledge SO MUCH of the discrimination that happens in neopagan circles, it felt like it was written by someone who had NO knowledge on the topic.
Now, maybe that person does have lots of insights and experience, but that their one article was just poorly written. Because really, it felt like a lazy slap in the face. It was just like a cotton-candied fluff of an article saying ‘don’t worry, it’s all fine, we’re the best, and here are my poorly-researched reasons as to why’.
Ughhh. Here, let me recap for you: most pagans don’t believe in medications, which are essential for most mentally ill people. Most pagans not only demonize psychiatric medication, but they also straight-out prohibit people taking certain medications from entering into their circles. Oh, and many pagans think mental illness ‘doesn’t exist’, so it’s all fake and we don’t really need clinical help. We should just, go trip out with a shaman or something and tada, we’re all cured. (this is a simplistic recap, by the way, but it would be a HUGE rant if I got into details about it).
I guess my point for this article is to vent, and to really say -> please don’t brush off this topic. It’s a real, vital, topic. It’s not something to be taken lightly. It’s meaningful and deep, and has repercussions for people’s mental health. To claim a hostile environment is, in fact, safe, juts because you haven’t experienced the discrimination as a non-mentally ill person is… flabbergasting? To put it nicely.
Also, why is it that there are so few wide-spread articles on paganism and mental illness from seriously disabled mentally ill peoples? Why is it that the articles I find are from people who had mild depressive bouts, not people who are schizophrenic to the point of a disability, crippled by anxiety to the point of a disability, or people with uncontrollable OCD? Why don’t we get people talking about their experiences as Wiccan or pagan in a psych ward?
It feels to me that our discussion, which should be written by very disabled and chronically ill people, is instead being discussed by abled and at best temporarily incapacitated people. Even the course I’m taking on self-healing at Woolston is not led by an ill person, but instead by an abled (to my knowledge) practitioner, and I find it shows in their approach. I really wonder how the discussion would look if we instead had all the disabled and chronically ill through mental illness folks sitting at this table. If you do have resources that are written my disabled folks, especially blogs and such, I’d love to read them. But for now, I’ll just grump and brood in my corner.
I’d like to say that this topic has been largely discussed, but as with many other topics related to mental illness and mental health, it hasn’t been.
Imagine someone with critical anxiety or paranoia trying to get their manuscript published. I’ve seen someone in such a state try, and believe you me it wasn’t pretty. They did not approach the right publisher, did not know which ones to approach, and ended up giving up after one refusal.
Here’s my point: it really sucks trying to get traditionally published when you’re not in a state of pristine mental health. Heck, even if you are in pristine mental health, I’m sure it’s nerve-wracking.
A lot of the discussion I’ve seen about traditional publishing vs. Indie publishing wails on and on about the poor quality of indie publishing versus the flexibility it allows. Is it worth to self publish, these people ask.
But I’d like to take a step back and point out that – > it’s disabled person friendly. For those of us with mental health issues, it’s not only just so much easier, it’s the only realistic and safe option for us to use.
I’d like to say that I don’t give a rat’s ass about traditional publishing, but that’s not true. It’s seen as a badge of credibility, of being a ‘true’ author, to be traditionally published. It’s seen as a marker of quality.
So why did I decide to indie publish? Simple. I couldn’t stand the other option.
Being someone with anxiety, depression, mood swings and the occasional hallucination, I didn’t need extra stress. But that’s all I got when I tried to query. My stress shot through the roof as I began obsessively checking my email for that fated answer that would give me that badge. But oh! What if they make me sign a bad contract? What if they market me wrong?
There’s a lot for traditionally published authors to worry about. I know, I know someone who was traditionally published and was screwed over. Their books were badly marketed, they made no money, an they lost the rights to their series. An author’s nightmare.
Now here’s another thing. Suppose you do get into the process where you start actually talking to the editor (or whomever you talk to first in that company)? Well, I got to that stage with one company. It was a shitshow for my nerves. My mental health plummeted, I was so anxious, waiting on every sacrosanct phone call and misinterpreting everything they said. Because here’s the kicker -> people with mental illness and mental health problems are (quite often) not good or comfortable at interacting with other people. I certainly am not. That made what was arguably a very good situation go terribly bad. I quit the entire process and curled up into a ball and cried.
Because people with mental illness can’t stand the extra anxiety and anticipation of waiting for their manuscript to be reviewed. Then add having to navigate the personnel of the publishing company (who can be very brusque and impatient) and then worry about all the very real pitfalls of the contract and manage all the editorial changes that the publisher wants to bring to the novel.
It’s just not feasible to expect someone with a mental illness to go through all that. It’s detrimental to their health.
Furthermore, I’d like to throw in an element that is highly personal to me. Simply, the fact that I’m very attached to my novels in a particular way. They’re my babies, yes, but it goes beyond that. Anyone who follows my blog knows that I regularly base my novels on my dreams and hallucinations and mental health experiences. They’re so close to my heart and, perhaps in a hallucinatory way, I believe in them. To me, to deal with someone wanting to edit them is akin to editing the Bible. I believe in these stories. Some of them feel as if they are practically channeled to me. I believe that I have a duty to the spirits that are sending me these stories. To have someone come in and tell me how to ‘fix’ them and potentially wanting to change the fabric of the story could be an affront to the spirits, a breaking of my special contract with them.
Now, I’m not expecting anyone else to believe in this. I am merely stating it to make my final point. For someone in the throes of a mental illness, chances are that their stories will mean more to them than to a non-mentally ill person. In my case, I would probably have lots of nervous breakdowns trying to cope with an editing process that didn’t take my beliefs into account.
Really, honestly, I don’t think most publishing companies are prepared to deal with someone like me. I don’t think they understand mental illness or how to treat a mentally ill person in order to reduce their anxiety. Once you throw in potential delusions or paranoia into the mix, I think it’s just highly improbable that it’ll succeed.
For me, indie publishing is probably the only way I’ll ever be published. It certainly feels like it’s the only way that I can be published. It feels like the only option that is accessible and usable for me.
So now you’re at step 8. You’ve done your research, dedicated yourself to your path of healing. I.e., you know what to do and you’ve made a vow to actually do it. You’ve laid the groundwork, and now is the time for one final plotting step before action.
My advice is not to do a giant jump. Just take one small thing. My social worker always tells me to break it down into small steps, and start with the smallest step possible and work it up from there.
I suggest beginning on a new or full moon and re-evaluating ourselves on the full or new moon, as is done in Buddhist monasteries in a practice known as ‘sojong’ where they constantly evaluate their progress. This creates a two-week cycle of practice and reevaluation.
Here’s an example. You have a hard time showering, shaving, and getting out of bed at a certain time daily. Break it down. These are actually three different challenges, and you’re going to want to fixate upon them one at a time, from easiest to hardest. So say, showering daily will be easiest for you. You pick that one to tackle first. What’s the smallest step you can do towards showering daily? Maybe it’s just getting into the shower and sitting in the tub for a few minutes. Maybe your next step will be to undress and sit in the shower daily. Then you can add in water and getting yourself wet and drying off daily.
So you’ve picked out your first task. It’s the smallest you can possibly make it while still building up towards your goal. Now, I’m going to reveal another trick a social worker gave me. It’s actually obligatory when they set down goals with their people to make their goals ‘SMART’.
So here’s how it goes:
‘S’ stands for ‘specific’
‘M’ stands for ‘measurable’
‘A’ stands for ‘achievable’
‘R’ stands for ‘realistic’
‘T’ stands for ‘time’
Now, I’m sure if you search ‘smart goals’, you’ll get plenty of great descriptions on how to use these. My main thing is that the ‘SMART’ goals acronym helps you set up a goal that is doable and identified clearly so that you know if you’ve succeeded or failed.
Now let’s take the shower thing and set a ‘SMART’ goal with it.
S: You’re going to get into the shower every day. M: you will be sitting in the shower, fully clothed, for 5 or more minutes with no water running. A: for the sake of this example, I’m going to say that yes, I can achieve this (right now, I do actually do full showers, so this is just an example peoples. The point is to sit down and ask yourself if you can actually do this, physically and mentally. If the answer is no, try a smaller goal.) ‘R’: in my case, it’s realistic to be able to get into a shower and sit for 5+ minutes. But say, if you’re physically handicapped, it may not be realistic. T: We’re going to do this for two weeks, 5-7 times a week.
So that’s how you do a ‘SMART’ goal. My further advice is: do it with someone who is a positive influence in your mental health life. Don’t do it with someone stressful, or someone who doesn’t want to acknowledge your problems. Pick someone realistic and helpful, if you have one available. Call a hotline and ask for a social worker to help talk you through it, at worse (in Canada, there’s the 811 line, option 2, that’s a social worker).
Here’s some more examples. You’ve decided to go at you mental health healing alone. You’re beginning by tackling your anxiety, and you’ve decided to work on your social anxiety. You’ve picked out a reiki practitioner as well as a natural remedy advisor, as well as a yoga class to attend.
You’re going to pick the smallest one: say, the yoga class to attend. So you set yourself a ‘SMART’ goal in regards to this yoga class, like this: ‘S’: attend X yoga class ‘M’: for an hour session ‘A’: yes, you can mentally do it. ‘R’ Yes, you can physically do it in regards to getting there and doing the basic poses. ‘T’: you will do this for two weeks, then reevaluate.
Here’s another example: You’ve decided to try a mixture of western medicine and ayurvedic practices. You’ve researched an ayurvedic healer, the info for your family doctor, as well as a dog park to play your dog at for stress relief. You break it down into the smallest step: it could be either to make a doctor appointment or try the dog park. Let’s say it’s the doctor appointment. So you set a ‘SMART’ goal like this:
‘S’: call to make an appointment with family doctor ‘M’ make an appointment for as quickly as possible ‘A’: yes, you can do it mentally. ‘R’: yes, you can do it realistically. You have no large phone phobias or difficulty physically making phone calls. ‘T’: you will do this within two weeks.
Now, where’s the pagan side in all of this? Of course, there are many ways to use your spirituality to bolster your ‘SMART’ goals. You can try and set spiritual goals to do in tandem with more ‘physical’ goals, even doing them together so that your spiritual practice makes it easier to perform your healing steps.
Lighting purifying incense daily (when you’re there to supervise it burning) to cleanse and purify your home/energy. Perform in preparation for more agitating chores/mentally disruptive tasks.
Meditate/sit in contemplation daily, at a specific time. Depending on the sort of meditation you do, it can either calm you down from a difficult activity, raise energy before a difficult activity, or take a breather in the middle of a difficult activity.
Draw a divination card or rune each day, either at the beginning of the day to suggest contemplative observation of one’s day, or at the end of the day to help ‘summarize’ the day and bring closure and reflection.
Perform an offering ritual. This can be as simple as laying a cookie with intent out on a windowsill for the fairies.
Do some breathing exercises.
Do some energy moving exercises. I recommend doing grounding ones for beginning your path, so as to not raise agitated energy that you aren’t ready to work with yet. If you do raise energy, remember to always ground it once you are done.
Recite a prayer. It can be a long formal recitation with prayer beads, or it can simply be a moment to talk to a preferred deity.
Sit in nature.
Again, these are just ideas. Whatever you feel is right, pick it and do the smallest step possible.
I wish you all the best. In our next step, we will look at the ‘how’ of doing these goals.