I am sitting here, after having a very hard winter, thinking about how important it is to address mental illness in our community. I have noticed that mental illness in the occult is divided in opinion. Some people believe those with mental illness should not practice at all, and others see mental illness as a divine gift. I am personally in the middle. It depends on what magic and the extent of the mental illness that should be the markers on whether it should be practiced or not, in my opinion. There are always magic practices one may do, regardless of mental health.
I would like to discuss how mental illness has effected my practices and what precautions I suggest for anyone with a mental illness, or who is going through a traumatic event.
Mental Illness – The Eternal Stigma
I’m very glad to see that many people are now trying to take away the stigma of mental illness. However, the truth is that mental illness has always carried stigma. Even in the ancient times, while those “Divinely Touch,” if they were lucky to enough to be listened to, were also feared and ostracized. The Aghori in modern times is a great example of how mystics are ostracized, but held in awe.
There are more tribal cultures that may see mental illness as a gateway, or portal, to the Spirit World. These individuals are seen as mediators between the people of their tribe and the Otherside. They could find things, change the weather, or heal using spirits. Occasionally the shaman would have to expel ‘evil’ spirits that made a person or the land sick. The ability to harness their “illness” allowed for them to become powerful shamans, wizards, and medicine men.
Our current Western society does not accept mental illness in this fashion. It is a way to label people as “lazy”, “weak”, “stupid”, and “crazy”. It is seen as shameful, even though it can be genetic or caused by trauma – people don’t choose to have mental illness. Those with mental illness are devalued because they are not seen as productive members of society. I think we are. I have chosen to use to my gifts, which are tied with my mental illnesses, to help others and learn to overcome obstacles. I think everyone has something to offer to society – we just need to make room for it.
I have noticed that while the stigma is slowly being lifting, it is now also “trendy” to have a mental illness. Having a mental illness is no joke! It is hard and, frankly, very terrifying! It is not romantic, it is not beautiful melancholy, it is not a way to get attention. It is the feeling of drowning and suffocation – there is no anchor to hold on to during a time of extreme mental stress. You know the feelings aren’t real on one hand, but there is another part trying to convince you that it is. It is one of the most awful feelings in the world.
I have been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder with bipolar tendencies, PTSD, severe depression, and severe anxiety. I have other physical problems on top of mental illness. My strengths are that I am stubborn and follow my Will, along with trying to find solutions and boundaries for my illness. I am not ashamed. I didn’t ask for any of it, but through acceptance and hard work, I can live with it. I am being transparent, because I think it is crucial in the understanding why I find this article important – and why I think it is important to discuss mental illness in the occult community openly.
Those with mental illness can still lead a semi-normal life. Some are high functioning and can work, others can’t. While mental illness certainly effects the body and mind, it is can be an inhibitor and obstacle if we let it. This is also why knowing our boundaries is important – to over exert is to lose control of the stability created.
Mental illness has nothing to do with intelligence either. I have scored genius level on IQ and EQ tests. I have the ability to convey my thoughts and what I have experienced. You don’t have to be below normal intelligence to be sick. Many geniuses have had some kind of mental illness.
Mental illness is merely the brain misfiring and chemicals being under/over produced. It is a physical condition, but one that can be improved, though not eliminated.
Should Mental Illness be Allowed in the Occult?
Now that we established what mental illness is, we can move on to why it can be an asset , or a hindrance, in magical practices.
I do believe that mental illness has a place in the occult. I believe it can be an asset when harnessed and honed. There are many trial and error experiences that I have been through. I use these to teach those interested in how to turn their mental illness into a tuned machine that works for them. This is not a hundred percent guarantee, since there are times that mental illness just needs to run its course. It’s during these times that magic workings should be set aside.
As I said earlier, some cultures see those with mental illness, especially schizophrenia and bipolar, as conduits to the spirits and gods. This is definitely something that can be harnessed and used to help others, and yourself, through your transitions in this plane of existence.
Dealing with Mental Illness Through Magic
The amazing thing about magic is that it is a catalyst for change. It is an alchemic marriage that can help us transcend our current situation. This is true for those with mental illness, as well. I have found that magic has helped greatly with curbing certain traits I don’t wish to have, or in helping to change my attitude.
I have used a ritual/prayer to create a two second time slot in order to know what I am feeling – and then choose not to be destructive. I have also used magic to bring the friends and support that I need to me. It is a very powerful tool in dealing with the stressors every day life.
There are times though that a person becomes vulnerable. One shouldn’t practice any magic that includes any form of channeling during this time. This includes tarot, evocations, meditation, etc. This is also why shields and grounding, more than any other techniques, should be learned.
Here are some every day things that anyone can do safely:
- Practice Gratitude. This is a simple and powerful tool for any type of practitioner. It opens up the heart, which is the seat of power regarding communication and spirits. I like to say three things that I am grateful for when I have a negative thought. I will also burn incense in gratitude for my guides and guardians. There are many ways to express gratitude. Find one you like and practice it for at least a month.
- Mindfulness. Most people think of Mindfulness as a type of meditation. I like to think of it as a way to “check” yourself. It is a very simple way to feel where you are at in both physical and emotional health. It is simply noticing your breathing, how your muscles and organs are feeling, and what emotions are occurring in the moment. Simple, but very effective.
- Keep Track of Your Cycles. I suggest every practitioner keep track of their emotional feelings, and when their magical talents decrease or increase. You can use this in conjunction with Mindfulness. This will also help you see patterns in your behaviors. Some people will also keep track of what they eat, when and how they exercise, daily activities in conjunction with emotions, etc. All of this effects our mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health.
- Study and Research. I suggest sticking to safer topics, such as self-help, history, science, mythology, philosophy, etc. during times of stress. I do not suggest reading grimoires or studying magic when in an unstable mood. Correspondences for certain things like herbs, should be fine.
- Grounding. This is one of my main techniques I use to keep myself stabilized. After using mindfulness, I find the the tree meditation can help. However, instead of bringing in energy from the ground and sky, feel yourself growing roots into the ground allowing for stability. I also like take salt baths to ground myself. It is very relaxing and I feel more connected to myself.
Here are some activities that I would suggest avoiding when you are not feeling stable. This goes for traumatic situations such as loss of loved ones and major stressful life changes.
- Meditation. From personal experience, I have found that meditation does not help the situation. Also, because mediation is a form of altering the mind, it can leave you open to certain forces out there. There are many entities that will use any opportunity to attach themselves to someone for feeding. There are also some that can slide in and become possessions. When a practitioner is in a vulnerable position, it is best to err on the side of caution.
- Ritual and Ceremonies. Rituals and ceremonies are very strenuous activities. The strain can cause more problems, and stress, on the mind and body. Many rituals and ceremonies also require mind altering states. Instead of doing rituals, I suggest that the practitioner focus on goals in the physical so that the progress can be quantified and measured. This allows for instant satisfaction and accomplishment.
- Channeling or Evocation. You do not want anything inside yourself when you are not feeling your best. Not only does letting in certain entities and energy drain you, but it will be difficult (if not impossible) to push them out. This can lead to possession, or worsen your mental and physical symptoms.
- Anything requiring energy or exchange. This goes back to number “3”. You need to conserve your energy for yourself and healing, and not expend it for magic. The faster you heal, the faster you can get back to magical practices.
Hopefully some of this advice will help those that need it. I always suggest going to a medical doctor and to seek counseling when dealing with mental health problems, which are attributes of the physical realm. However, I have used magic to help facilitate self healing – when I was well enough to do it.
Just remember that you have worth and value as you are. It is up to you to decide how to use your talents in this world. Be safe, be healthy, and good luck in your endeavors.
January 7, 2018 7:53 P.M.
Photo: Seeking Credit