Depression

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The Ordains: Part 13 – The Stories We Tell Ourselves May Harm Us

This is the thirteenth entry in a series on a set of Pagan guidelines known as the Ordains. The Ordains, as we know them today, can be found in the works of Gerald Gardener. Maiden’s Circle uses a simplified version that has been edited and altered to reflect our core beliefs.

“Never lie to yourself for this is the ultimate act of deceit.”

I believe this is a tough one because most of us tell ourselves too many stories to count. Personally, as someone who is pursuing a career in writing fiction, I find that it can be quite easy to build a story in my head and even easier to believe it. The older I get, the more vigilant I have to be about what those stories are.

In the last two or so years, I’ve gone through some pretty big shifts emotionally, physically, and spiritually. And while the core of my belief hasn’t changed, a lot about the way that I practice and the way I think of myself is very different from five years ago.

Five years ago, I moved to New York with my mind set on following a particular path. At that time, I told myself I was being guided by Goddess and, if I didn’t take that exact route, I was a failure. Failure, in my warped mind, was equivalent to badness. So, when I moved here set on a certain course and I couldn’t hack it, that meant that I was bad.

The lie I had told myself was that people chose their path and stuck to it. Anything else was wrong.

It’s taken a few years to overcome those stories, as well as the fear of not living up to them. But I’ve realized that those stories don’t have to be true. When I accepted that, I finally began to feel like myself.

From childhood, I told myself so many stories. I listened to what people said about me,—that I was too quiet, that I was smart, that I was weird—and stepping out of those labels always left me questioning my identity.

But so many of those stories were false beliefs. Because they weren’t true, the part of me that knew that suffered. These lies I told myself led to near-constant confusion, depression, and feelings of worthlessness. They led to self-destructive choices and unhealthy compulsions. Things I’m still facing.

Nowadays, I’ve reached the point where I’m more aware of the things I tell myself. Of course, it takes work to actively try to change the kinds of thoughts that come into one’s mind. Many people knock the idea of positive thought, but it’s part of what’s kept me alive.

With words of affirmation, rephrasing negative thoughts, and reminding myself over and over that I don’t have to believe every thought that crosses my mind, I’ve found that my mindset is a lot more stable than it was a decade ago.

When we lie to ourselves, we’re robbing ourselves of the opportunity to feel peace. We’re stealing happiness from ourselves with dreadful stories.

How many people do you know are struggling to find a job? How often do you hear them say things like, “No one will hire me,” or “I just can’t seem to find a job.”? We lie to ourselves when we engage in bad behavior due to mental illness, but refuse to acknowledge any personal responsibility in the matter. These lies serve to absolve us and to temporarily free us from the hard work it takes to live fulfilled.

The more we believe these lies, the harder it becomes to understand ourselves and to truly feel joy. As we age, it becomes that much harder to find true freedom. That is, the freedom to be our most authentic, joyful, and spiritually-connected selves.

Many people think therapy or medication is the way to finding balance. I believe that those methods have extreme value in one’s healing process, especially therapy. That should be a resource that every person has access to. However, it sometimes feels like people use therapy as a tune-up, while doing little to no maintenance in-between sessions.

They go to a session, suss out their feelings, tell themselves they’re fine for a week, and then start the whole routine over. For whatever reason, many people seem frightened of the deeper, harder work. There’s no questioning of their beliefs and morals, no examination of their daily thoughts, no consideration for what they truly desire.

Instead, they continue on their routine. Work, home, dinner, entertainment, bed. In and out. Then, it’s back to therapy to discuss how they feel like they’re in a rut.

If we don’t work to reach the core of our problems and take the steps to solve them from within, then we can’t come to a place of true healing.

The only way to solve our problems is to face them and be honest about why they’re there. I counsel everyone to do so. The world will be much better for it. No matter how scary that is or how much it hurts, look at yourself with clear eyes. Ask yourself the hard questions, then ask again a month later or whenever you’re feeling unsure of who you are.

This is something I’m still learning. There are still things that I believe or that I tell myself that I know aren’t true. There are moments when I question my motives and my work, but that’s just one story. It doesn’t have to be true, and if I can see the lie for what it is, I can get through it to see the truth.

Have there been times when you knew you were lying to yourself, but kept going with it? Why do you think some of us do such a thing?

With eternal love,
Lady Morgana Brighid HP MCCA

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The Importance of Gratitude

How many times have you had someone say, “you should be grateful”? How many times did that lead to you actually feeling grateful? Often, being told when we should feel gratitude only serves to make us feel somehow “wrong” when we don’t. It’s important to take time and get to the root of why that is. And if you find yourself saying things like, “you should be glad”, take a moment to consider how they might affect the person you’re speaking to. These comments are typically said with someone’s best interests in mind, but they can be seen as dismissive.

Let’s say a person (Shane) is telling their friend (Jess) about their hard day at work. Jess responds: “At least they pay well.” Jess may have simply meant to encourage Shane, but the result is that Shane’s complaint is diminished. What Jess has essentially said is that Shane shouldn’t talk about the less pleasant parts of the day because they should be grateful for the money. The message Shane receives is that their complaint doesn’t matter—their feelings don’t matter. And every time someone tells Shane that they should be grateful for something, it adds to their discomfort.

Eventually, Shane finds the simple act of expressing gratitude difficult. They may not even notice this discomfort, but it shows in a few ways. They’re perfectly fine thanking a cashier or waitress (and we all should be), but the idea of living a grateful life is foreign. They push against it—preferring instead to focus on the negative in their life.

I’m willing to bet that Shane isn’t alone. We’ve all had someone tell us that we should be grateful when we didn’t feel it. Even children experience this. And we all feel bad about it whether we want to or not. This negativity can make true gratitude that much more difficult to feel or experience.

Last Wednesday, while washing dishes and listening to music. I was overcome with a wonderful surge of joy that brought me to tears. I started thinking about the good things in my life. I thought how lucky I am to have a home to clean, how awesome it is that I have an understanding partner, as well as a pet and day-job that I love. I thought about my friendships and the lessons I’ve learned over the years and where I was just a few years ago.

The truth is, I could have ended up in so many negative situations. My background, without going too much into detail, is riddled with addiction and abuse. I could easily have followed the patterns of my family—and I nearly did.

I credit my mother and my faith for giving me the vision to change my path—and for allowing me to suffer the consequences of my own choices. Experiencing certain hardships has made seeing the beauty in my life that much easier.

After a recent period of darkness, I began to put more effort into living a grateful life. It seemed like the only way to find joy again was to sort of force it. So, I wrote in my journal at the end of every day about something that I was grateful for. At first, it was a little tough, but I began to see more and more good with each passing week.

The act of forcing myself to be grateful eventually led to me seeing real change in my outlook. In fact, every time I’ve found myself in a cycle of depression, I’ve used a similar method to get myself out of it. Simply put, I pretended until it became real. Were there days I didn’t actually feel grateful? Definitely. But I wrote something in the journal, anyway. Finding things to be grateful for helps to improve my life, and I think it can do that for anyone.

You don’t have to work hard to find something you’re thankful for. The fact that you wake up each day is a thing to be celebrated. If you’re capable of doing something someone else isn’t, be grateful for your good fortune. If you’ve gone through some hardships, take notice that you’re still standing—you’re strong. Tell yourself to see the good in your life and you will. “Fake it” as they say.

Every day, I find some reason to thank the Goddess. For inspiration. For holding me up when my pain seemed too much. For making Entenmann’s donuts so good. Whether it’s in song or silent prayer; whether I simply close my eyes and feel grateful or I spend half an hour crying and blubbering about the beauty of my life—there is no wrong way to thank Her.

How do you find gratitude in your daily life? Think about what you’re grateful for. Do you think you could bring more gratitude into your life? What are some ways you express gratitude?

Let me know your opinions in the comments!

With love always,
Lady Morgana Brighid HP MCCA

Have any questions or topics you’d like to see on the blog? Interested in writing a guest blog? Let me know in the comments or reach out through the contact page!

The Depressed Witch

If you’ve been following the blog, or you’re reading this later and paying attention to the dates, you’ll notice there’s a two-week break between now and the previous post. In the interest of transparency, I feel it’s important to explain my absence with more than just exclamations of a busy life.

I’m typically a private person; I consider compartmentalizing a sort of special skill. So, I originally intended to keep these posts related only to Maiden’s Circle business and separate from my personal life. The issue with that is Maiden’s Circle was born from an aspect of my life that is very personal. The core of Maiden’s Circle is my belief in the Divine and desire to serve Her. It comes from my desire to reach out to the Pagan community and, in turn, deepening my own relationship with the Goddess.

Unfortunately, there are times when I fall into a depressive state and, during those times, I have a knack for shutting down. I have cycled through these depressive states since adolescence. After being evaluated and diagnosed, I tried different medications and was in and out of  therapy. Over the years, and with plenty of help, I’ve learned many coping skills, and practicing Wicca has been one of them. Even with what I’ve learned so far, I know there’s still a long road ahead of me. It might sound cheesy, but recovery isn’t a destination.

That said, I have found myself in a low cycle. In the last few months, life has thrown a few curve balls my way, the aftermath of which I’m still dealing with. In response, I withdrew and nearly fell back into old habits. My days consisted of my day jobs and Netflix or game binges before bed. This is fine on occasion, but I wasn’t doing any work at all towards my goals. I couldn’t write; I didn’t even want to think about MCCA. I didn’t meditate or read or any of the things I’ve come to rely on to maintain a sense of balance. Instead of taking steps to improve, I almost gave up on myself and my goals!

I’ve given up before; as a teen, I harmed myself. I am not that person anymore. I’ve learned too much and there are so many more experiences to look forward to. However, I will never experience anything if I don’t move forward. If I allow myself to stagnate, then I will remain in this darkness. For me, that is absolutely unacceptable.

So, I’ve taken a vacation. This trip was planned months ago, but the timing couldn’t be any better. I need space from work and other societal obligations. I need this time to reconnect with myself, with nature, with my goals.

There’s an idea I often share, that you can’t help anyone if you aren’t okay. It’s one of the ideas I live by. I have to be well if I am to do any good for the world around me. One of the first steps I’ve taken to be well has been to start re-reading one of my favorite books. I’ve also begun bullet journaling, getting outside a little more, and, of course, writing this post. There’s still a mountain to climb ahead of me, but these little steps have already made me feel a bit more balanced.

Depression has been a long journey, and has never been easy–to deal with or to discuss with others. I’m grateful for the community here, those of you reading this. I’m grateful for those of you affiliated with Maiden’s Circle and others in the Pagan community. I’m grateful for my friends, witchy or otherwise, who have been a constant source of support. And, again, I am always grateful for you, the readers.

Expect more regular posts in the coming weeks. I’ll try to return to a regular writing schedule, but there may also be transplants from some of my other writings or even guests posts. Thank you for being a part of my journey, and for allowing me to take part in yours.

Deepest blessings and love,

Lady Morgana Brighid, MCCA HP