Being Depressed and Being Wiccan

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.10003466_302815689867384_1467143949_nThere’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.

 Or this:

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.

17 thoughts on “Being Depressed and Being Wiccan

  1. Yay I get a blog cameo!

    I try not to pay attention to things like that meme. You’ve probably put ten times the effort and thought into addressing just one of those statements than the original creator spent on the whole thing. If you were to address that sort of thought to the author (or anyone who takes two seconds to tumble/repost it), then the most likely response you will get is a vacant look, a shrug, and “it’s just a meme. I dunno. I like it.” Pearls and swine 😛

  2. Good for you for coming out with this and setting it straight! There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with being a Wiccan and struggling with depression simultaneously. Just because someone struggles with depression doesn’t mean that they can’t practice Wicca, as if only people who totally have it together are the only ones that can be Wiccan. That’s absolutely ridiculous! This path is yours and yours alone and you can be whatever it is you want to be.

  3. Chris Mann

    *insert comment about how great you are here*

    These commandments have the same kind of tone as those emails that go around with chicken-soup-for-the-soul type of wisdom. Those emails are so annoying.

    Who ever wrote these did a poor job of making his/her points clear. “Cause harm to none (only in cases of protection)” – I’m pretty sure that’s suppose to be “except in cases of protection”. Also, “Don’t be greedy and tip the balance of Nature.” Is that two commandments put together into one? (i.e. Don’t be greedy and don’t tip the balance of nature). Or does it mean “Don’t be greedy because greed tips the balance of Nature”? Or is it something else?

    And “What you give out…” isn’t even a commandment. It’s just a principle.

    As for “Don’t self harm or have self doubt”, that sounds good advice but it sounds unreasonable as a commandment.

    1. Thank you for your comment, here and on my other post!

      Yeah, this meme is clearly pretty ridiculous, and I try not to get invented in things like this. Sometimes I just reach a tipping point.

  4. Pingback: Wicca and Depression, Revisited | Thorn the Witch

  5. alyssa

    Can i like this 100 times over? I’m not much of a wiccan yet, but I also struggle with depression. When I found this post on Tumblr I was super discouraged because of all of the things you listed. But i agree with you, my mental illness doesnt have anything to do with being a crappy wiccan. Thank you for making this post, it’s very well written. Blessed be!

  6. Pingback: Wicca and Depression | Panic Free 411

  7. Becki

    While I believe everything that you’re saying, I see a flaw. The Wiccan rede clearly states ” an ye harm none do as thou wilt” ( I don’t think I spelled that all right). When it says harm none that includes yourself. The great goddess and god would not want us to hurt are selves or each other. You are right in saying being or having been a self harmer doesn’t mean your not following Wicca as long as you aim to help yourself get better and stop.

  8. Stratyllis

    This is a great topic that needs to be talked about more in pagan spaces. Thank you for writing this and being brave enough to post so many personal details.

  9. Rose

    I have spent years off and on researching the Wiccan community and have also, for the past 10 years (I’m 24, if that gives you any insight into just how much of an impact this had for me) have struggled with depression and self harm. For several years I had managed to rise above it. Here lately, I’ve fallen again, and am coming to realize that it never really goes away. And today, I felt myself drawn back to the idea of Wicca. It’s something that I had fought giving in to as I was raised Southern Baptist, and this sort of thing is an instant ousting. On a hunch, I searched up Wicca concerning depression. This was the first thing I found. I have spent hours before finding this page, or even looking to see if there would be help here, wondering if maybe Wicca could be an outlet, a way to help me focus those inner pains and turning them into something much more beautiful. And so I suppose the whole purpose of this entire comment is just to ask the simple question: Is there anything in Wicca that can help me cope with my depression better?

  10. Melissa

    Thank you for your posts on this subject. I was diagnosed with depression last year after suffering from anxiety and depression, and self harming since I was 13 (which was 15 years ago.) I am just now getting help and after watching your Youtube videos and then finding the one you did on depression I was hugely inspired by your experience. I think sometimes in the craft we can take too much responsibility for things, it seemed like I always thought that if I truly tried hard enough, or was brave enough, or did enough Shadow Work Magick or Alchemy or whatever you want to call… that it I could fix myself. I truly thought that I was just never trying hard enough, or had never unlocked the secret. I was unable to see my obvious un-wellness for what it was. It took courage to “give conventional counseling and medicine a try.” It might have saved my life. So thanks for sharing your experience. 🙂

  11. Wow!!! I just finished reading this because I searched depression and Wicca since I practice one and I’m enduring the other and your blog came up and I’ve got to say it has helped me just a little bit see the light at the end of the tunnel thank you so very much

  12. Karla G Withrow

    I REALLY needed to hear that today. I too struggle with major depressive disorder (w.e. psych’s call it) and severe anxiety, as well as PTSD. And you being brutally honest helped both myself and hopefully, those who perhaps do not suffer from this awful way of life. Like you, there are days I can hardly get out of bed, nevermind dressing, bathing, setting up altar, gathering the necessary POSITIVE energy in order to do what is needed of us Wiccans. This helped me tremendously, today and I’m certain I’ll be re-reading it on my bad days in the future. Thank you!

  13. Julie

    I know this is an old blog post but well said. I have other diagnoses but for some reason never gotten depression diagnosed although I struggle with it and have had it verified by a therapist that I most likely suffer from some degree of depression, my family knows this too. Luckily I come from a very spiritual (although not wiccan) family who gives me many good advice to combat negative thought patterns, useful herbs and essential oils, visualization spells etc. But in some days I just feel like I need to be able to sit in a corner and cry and have my feelings of hopelessness without being shamed for it and told that it’s not right and that I know better. Of course I know better but when things get too much I can’t control that in the moment and some people don’t seem to understand this! For me when in a bad place I always turn to witchcraft, just reading up on my knowledge about it, lighting candles, drawing sigils for positive energy and just doing those small things makes me feel a little better for a while and sometimes even works in my favor so that I attract good luck!
    It helps to read posts like yours, that there are others who understand that depression can’t just be magically deleted! Blessings to you.

  14. April Pashovich

    Well said. As somebody who struggles with crippling anxiety, I get shamed in my community for it to the point, I just stay away from public gatherings these days. The longer I have this issue, however, the more people I meet with similar issues. There are many of us, and speaking out, we support one another. Thank you for speaking your truth and being supportive of the rest of us. Blessed Be.

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