Actually, let’s go ahead and talk about some of the mental health stuff that I said I wasn’t going to get into last time.There’s a meme called “The Ten Wiccan Commandments” that’s been floating across my tumblr dashboard lately. I keep writing snide comments in preparation to reblog and then choosing not to because I decide at the last minute that it’s not really constructive to do so.
There are all kinds of problems with this meme (not the least of which could be summarized with the assertion that the people circulating it should simply go back to church if they’re so insistent on having commandments), but I’m mostly troubled by seven: “Don’t self harm or have self doubt.”
Aside from my usual reaction of “what does that even mean,” I’m troubled by the implication that those who struggle with self-injury (I’m yet to meet anyone who doesn’t engage in self-doubt) are somehow doing Wicca wrong. I’m troubled because this isn’t the only such meme floating around and not by any stretch the first time I’ve dealt with (perhaps marginally less asinine) conversation concerning self-harm and Craft practice (usually in the form of, “But that’s, like, totally against the Rede!”).
As someone who has been coping with self-injury and depression for the past couple of decades, I thought I’d do my part to shine a light on what depression can look like from a Pagan perspective.
Caveats first: I am not suicidal, nor do I mean this as a passive-aggressive attempt to get either my friends or people on the Internet to tell me how great I am. You don’t need to reach out to me. Just channel that urge into hugging a puppy or something. I am years into recovery and have all kinds of supporting crap in place. This is merely an illustration of my own depressive thinking, reconstructed to make a point. I cannot choose not to have these thoughts, only to redirect them in constructive ways (which can be a positively Herculean task some days) that hopefully help to minimize them over time:
Hey, I haven’t called my mom in a while. I wonder what she’s up to.
But we’ll probably just talk about the same old things.
I’ll probably whine too much about stuff that doesn’t really matter.
Nothing really matters.
Life doesn’t really matter.
I should be dead.
Hey, Morgan’s calling! Yay!
I’m lucky Morgan is my friend.
I’m lucky anyone is my friend.
Why would anyone be my friend?
I am terrible.
I should be dead.
When these thought trains end in self-injury, it’s usually because I’m so anxious that I wasn’t able to come up with alternatives as I was rocking back and forth on my kitchen floor. I don’t want to be dead so I’m going to do this other thing that I know makes me feel better because that would be better than being dead right now probably maybe I can always kill myself tomorrow if I change my mind. It’s problematic, but it’s not really unreasonable in the moment.
And when it’s all said and done, I don’t need some asshole on the Internet shaming me for it because I feel terrible enough as is thanks.
My struggles with mental health are not reflective of my status as a Wiccan. My struggles with mental health are the product of a combination of god-knows-what-brain-chemistry-I’m-not-a-neurologist and past traumas, neither of which has any bearing on my witchhood.
Which is not to say that they don’t impact it. Obviously one’s mental health does not occur in a vacuum. My practice is absolutely affected by my depression. Just like I don’t feel like going for a run (or maybe even getting out of bed), I don’t feel like circling. I don’t feel like fucking talking to people, let alone gods or spirits. My patience is low, my foresight is lacking, and I have exactly zero fucks to give about self-care. And just like running, if I can stand to make myself circle I almost always feel better afterwards. My involvement in Wicca improves my quality of life. It’s even helped me to find ways to—for lack of better phrasing—use my crazy to productive ends.
People do not choose to suffer from depression and mental illness. Sometimes we fail to address problems when given the opportunity, sometimes we fail to acknowledge we have problems to begin with, and sometimes we make poor choices even after we’ve developed the tools to help ourselves. But it’s not a matter of simply “Don’t self harm or have self doubt.”
I’m not violating any kind of moral code in struggling with depression. I don’t owe anyone an apology for either my scars or for any relapse I might have in the future.
So shove your Wiccan commandments.