Pagan blog project – when Hope fails

Hope is the thing with feathers

Emily Dickinson

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

I am a firm believer in not hiding anything of myself, so some of my posts contain information that is usually not discussed in polite society. This is gonna be one of those posts.

I have suffered from depression since I was a child of about seven or eight. I came from a horribly abusive home and my depression and anger is what helped me survive. I have been suicidal numerous times in my life, been hospitalized and medicated and still struggle with things that you would not think a 30 year old would still find herself under. I have a great life right now, a full-time job I enjoy that pays well, a home, three cats, my own car, a loving fiance and an amazing step-daughter. And it is still a struggle every day to do anything other than sink my head beneath a pillow and drown out the sorrow.

 

Most of us can identify hope, even if we dont have the corresponding words for it. And most of us can identify despair, especially in these tough times when we find ourselves struggling. But how many of us, I wonder, have silently acquiesced to living side by side with despair and depression?
Hope is that which moves us forward. I firmly believe this. In our spiritual practices, hope is why we keep doing what we do. Its why I talk to the voices that answer. Its why people continue to become nuns and priests and pastors and ministers. We, as human creatures, are constantly moving towards hope. I think its part of what keeps us alive and evolving. We hope there is something better on the other side after death. We hope we aren’t alone in the Universe. We hope that the person we marry really means the vows that were said. We hope that the job we do every day is worthwhile, will still be there. We hope against everything, against any indication that we might be wrong. We hope for a future.

The flip side of this is despair, or depression, which has the ability to destroy the soul and destroy hope in the process. It drags us down and turns the days into a long, black line of sameness, where getting out of bed can be as much of a chore as visiting the in-laws. Depression isn’t something that is talked about very much. Sure, we see the commercials on TV and the representations of umbrellas and balloons with sad faces on them. But the push in western society is always to solve the problem and make people “normal” again. Your value and worth as a part of society is in how much you can work and buy, not in your inherent value as a human being.

I think we need to look at depression and melancholia in a different light. Did you know that many of our most famous artists, musicians and poets had some form of what we would now term mental illness? Lord Byron was bipolar. Blake was depressed. So were Agatha Christie, Charles Dickens, Winston Churchill, Michelangelo, Mozart, Newton and Nietzsche. And that’s just a few names. What would our modern world look like without these influential people? And the question you have to ask is: what would our world look like if these people had all been fully hopped up on modern medication?

Because what no one wants to admit is the fact that depression (and other forms of mental illness) and genius tend to go hand in hand. We live in a world where every little sniff, cough and sneeze are dowsed with pills. Nothing is allowed to run its course. And we are paying for this over-medication with drug-resistant bugs. I have a patient at work with an 8-inch hole in his leg and MRSA. Its not pretty. And we are also over-medicating every little mental bump. Look at the rise is diagnoses of ADD and ADHD. I am beginning to believe that we are medicating our children and the general population into a easily-controlled biomass who can’t think for themselves or fight back.

Depression brings us closer to death and the black. It forces us to contemplate our issues and failings. It demands that we DO something, anything, change our path, rethink our patterns, rework our lives. Yes, it can be a “black pit of despair” that leads to suicide, but it can also be a signpost along our road, one which points out what is not working and what needs fixing. I try to see my depression as a warning sign. It lets me know when I am too stressed, when I haven’t been taking care of myself, when I need to stop and change something. Its a stumbling block, yes, but its there to keep me from truly being pulled in by the undertow.

So what do we do as pagans if we aren’t willing to buy into big medication? We keep reaching for hope. We have a huge arsenal of things at our disposal as pagans, things which include prayer, meditation,  homeopathy, crystals, and herbs. Mother Earth has placed a huge pharmacy at our fingertips. We just have to reach for it.

Advertisements

9 thoughts on “Pagan blog project – when Hope fails

  1. Polly Taskey says:

    Absolutely LOVE your post! I, too, am no stranger to depression. Major Depressive Disorder has plagued me for many years, and it is with that anger and pain that changes get made. If everything were always easy and happy all the time we would never aspire to “anything”. We would not appreciate when things really ARE good.

    I loved your statement, “I am beginning to believe that we are medication our children and the general population into a easily-controlled biomass who can’t think for themselves or fight back.” I agree with this whole-heartedly.

    Recently, I wrote my own bit on depression. I’m not sure if you had read it. I will link it with the hope you won’t feel I am sabotaging your awesome post. Before I do, I want to say I’ve been there too…attempted suicide, had experiences from Hell, survived a lot of things, and am currently becoming a sober alcoholic. Anyway, I had written “Depression and Magic: 13 Steps to Finding Balance” here: http://paganbydesign.blogspot.com/2012/02/depression-and-magic-13-steps-to.html

    • lcward says:

      🙂 Thank you for your reply. Its important we talk about the things that society tries to sweep under the rug. Ill go read yours now.

  2. Tana says:

    Brilliant!
    It is for people like you, who don’t hold back, are not ashamed of telling their stories, that other folks find hope.
    I am reblogging this, so it reaches more people. 🙂

    • lcward says:

      Feel free to reblog at any time. 🙂 I appreciate your comment. I try very hard to say the things that I feel we all need to hear.

  3. Tana says:

    Reblogged this on My Witchy Diary and commented:
    A brilliant piece about hope, depression and genius.

  4. ladyimbrium says:

    I both enjoyed and appreciated this post. No, it’s not something we talk about in ‘polite’ society, but maybe it should be. I know how much we as a society tend to run to the pill bottle when something isn’t quite right. I was medicated in middle school for depression- the meds made kind of a mess of my head for a while. The doctor absolutely could not figure out why all of my depression symptoms suddenly stopped: the group of bullies I’d been dealing with finally moved to another school and I wasn’t coming home bleeding anymore. It wasn’t depression, but rather than look for a human cause the doctor and my family went straight to the medications. Given the amount of irritation typing that last has stirred up, I don’t think I’ve quite forgiven them for it yet.
    I’ve noticed a surprising number of pagan bloggers who mention their own battles with depression. I wonder if there is some kind of correlation or if it’s coincidental.

    • lcward says:

      Maybe its the opposite correlation: being Pagan gives us the freedom to face our shortcomings.

      I was depressed because I couldnt get out of my parents house as a child. I had a child psych tell me I was a compulsive liar, as my mother had informed her, when I was 7. I had a school therapist at 16 tell me that I just needed to make my mom happy after I had run away for the fourth time.

      Some things we don’t forgive. Some things we set aside and say “I wont let this affect my day to day, but dont you dare think I have put aside my emotions.” To me, its about owning the things that happened. I never have to forgive. Thats such an almost Christian ideal. I dont have to forgive my parents or the psychs or anyone who didnt ever look beyond the angry child.

      Oh boy, I feel another post coming on.

      • Steve Tanner says:

        This comment may be as important as your post, “…being Pagan gives us the freedom to face our shortcomings.” Much of what you write about involves embracing the dark side. My experience is that Pagan beliefs encourage us to do this.

        Mainstream religious people seem to correlate anything about “the dark side” with “evil.” However, this is far from the truth. The “dark side” usually simply involves the stuff we hide. The stuff we (or society in general) do not want to look at; stuff like what you have written about here. That being said, I look forward to the post you feel coming on.

        I also want to share something about the forgiveness issue. Forgiveness is of benefit for the one doing the forgiving; to carry a grudge is to carry a heavy burden. However, my years with Christianity taught me that the Christians overlook and integral part of forgiveness: repentance. It seems impossible to me to forgive someone that continues doing the same hurtful or negative things. Thus far, I have seen little (if any) repentance within mainstream society. They continue to judge and medicate innocents to this day.

      • lcward says:

        🙂 I adore all comments. The less we hide, the more space there is for us to heal as a community. I have the second post up, do tell me what you think.

Comments are closed.