The Door to the Beyond: Mental Health and Paganism


     Merry Meet, my name is Moss Bliss. I have been an Initiated Wiccan since 1983, the middle part of my spiritual trek. (The Third Movement, so to speak, is developing as I learn to integrate all spirituality into one through my studies in Kashmir Shaivism, adding a couple thousand years’ worth of written works to my pagan beliefs.)

     I have also been considered "weird", "sick", "disturbed", etc. since about the age of three (due to a period of sexual abuse by my uncle and brother, which my mother has begun to accept recently). I went from doctor to doctor, my parents trying to find some medical excuse for what was "wrong" with me.

     Many of you will recognize this pattern; some of you will identify with it. Most of you won’t even bother to ask the question, "What has that got to do with paganism?"

     The answer, unasked or no, is that many of us don’t feel like we fit in to the "normal" society, especially with all the negative judgments we receive from whatever church to which our parents caused us to attend. You start looking around. You find other churches, which is almost safe for you, but they don’t fit any better, just more strangely. In the 1960s and 70s, there didn’t seem to be any other options, so you either stopped going to church or stopped believing (whether you continued to attend or not). My own path to Wicca culminated in 1982.

     But that’s not the whole story, is it? Even though you find a group of people who accept you as being "different", even if they’re the same kind of "different", you are still being judged by the people around you. In my time, I was diagnosed as some form of "mentally ill" long before I found the Goddess (or rather, before She found me), and paraded through legions of social workers, therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists before learning how to ritualize – both to rid myself of the "bad" and to celebrate the "good" (and learn what the heck the rest of it was and how to deal with it). Guilt and shame are not effective tools for healing these issues.

     By the time I was 12, I was on Mysoline (primodone), an anti-convulsant. Another doctor put me on Valium. The medications started to add up. One neurologist said I was "borderline epileptic", but if any doctor had bothered to read a medical journal I could easily have been labeled "ADD" and put on Ritalin. These drugs made others think I was "better", but they only made me feel like I was about 2 feet underwater, scratching for the surface.

     It wasn’t until I was 31 that I was given a psychiatric label – "mild cyclothymic disorder" – and placed on lithium (carbonate). That was the first ANYTHING I had been given that made me actually feel better.

     And when I was 48, my kidneys failed from too much lithium. The carbonate form is such that the effective level and the toxic level are so close as to keep the doctors monitoring your kidneys, but unable to tell anything until you’re in great danger.

     My doctors began what I call the "Medication Guinea Pig Dance", changing me from one drug to another, using drugs that were toxic only to my liver to give my kidneys a break. I have taken just about every psych drug on the market. None of them felt as good as lithium, all of them had "side" effects that made me hurt again. All the doctors repeatedly told me there were no alternatives, and these drugs would "cure" me.

     In mid-2003 I was directed to the ALT-therapies4bipolar Yahoogroup, and learned that there were natural alternatives. By early November 2003 I was entirely off all medications and felt better than ever. My doctor told me that they would no longer treat me or meet with me, until such time, as he cheerfully predicted, that I relapsed and needed their drugs again.

     As that prediction has not been fulfilled, I thank Goddess for showing me the nutritional deficiencies I had and what I can do to help myself heal.

At the present time, I am functioning as Owner of ALT-therapies4bipolar and am also a Moderator of Bi-Polar_Pagans Yahoogroup, and am also a co-founder of the Asheville Radical Mental Health Collective. I also have training as a leader in Recovery, Inc., which provides a number of helpful tools in keeping one from making one’s symptoms worse (or preventing them in the first place), and have been a group leader in NAMI CARE.

     It is my opinion that all cases of "mental illness" are caused by nutritional deficiencies coupled with traumatic experiences. If you take care of the nutritional aspects, you will be much better equipped to deal with putting your brain back together. I do believe in talk therapy, although I know there are probably as many good therapists as bad ones, and there are always other ways to work things out if you know where to look. I have also learned that at least 90% of the diagnoses themselves are based on politics, to allow doctors to sell you drugs – and that a lot of people are afraid to hear that. My opinion should not be taken as Law, and I support everyone who tries to heal from or control their "disease" regardless of the method they choose to employ.

     Just as in religion, there is no One True Right and Only Way to heal from "mental illness". I hope to provide information on some of the easier ones to find and use. Most of my information applies mainly to "bipolar disorder", although I have known it to work equally well in cases of schizophrenia, PTSD, "unipolar" depression, and even multiple personality disorder (or whatever the "in" term to use may be).

     A good High Priestess will help, as much as a bad one may hurt. I have known both – those who understand, and those who refuse to even talk to you because they are afraid of you (or your diagnosis).

     That should be enough for an introductory article. If you are curious as to some of the methods I employ, you are welcome to visit my website, Hippo Haven, http://moss.witchesgathering.com, or join one of the groups mentioned above. Write me at [email protected] if you would like more information or an invitation. If you need a hint, the magic words for you may be, as for me, "fish oil".

Bright Blessings