Around the Cauldron

What a Shaman sees in a Mental Hospital (a different view on mental illness)

I’m sure I’ve said this before, but I don’t believe I “suffer” from depression any longer. I have days where I go back into that world thanks largely to PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder) which is PMS on crack, but I don’t “suffer” from it anymore.

I’m not on medication, and I no longer need to be on medication for it. After being told “there’s nothing wrong with you” in 2003, spiraling out of control, and attempting suicide three times before screaming for some true help…

I’ve seen therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, holistic councilors. I’ve worked with Gods, Goddesses, Angels, ancestors, ANYONE who was willing to help me.

I’m finally at a point where I can say “I’m OK.” I have my moments, but I’m OK.

In 2005 I thought I was OK, so I enrolled in university to study Psychology. One semester in, I was suicidal, had Breakdown #3, quit, and moved back home.

Today, I read this article, What a Shaman sees in a Mental Hospital. Amazing.

Having gone through hell and survived, I truly believe this article is correct – for some of us. I wouldn’t go as far as saying it will work or it’s true for everyone. Because when your head is so far up your own behind and you can’t open your mind to the possibilities of help outside of pills, then how can you allow yourself to believe this article?

This article (for those who aren’t interested in reading all of it) had me hooked in the first two paragraphs.

In the shamanic view, mental illness signals “the birth of a healer,” explains Malidoma Patrice Somé.  Thus, mental disorders are spiritual emergencies, spiritual crises, and need to be regarded as such to aid the healer in being born.

What those in the West view as mental illness, the Dagara people regard as “good news from the other world.”  The person going through the crisis has been chosen as a medium for a message to the community that needs to be communicated from the spirit realm.  “Mental disorder, behavioral disorder of all kinds, signal the fact that two obviously incompatible energies have merged into the same field,” says Dr. Somé.  These disturbances result when the person does not get assistance in dealing with the presence of the energy from the spirit realm.

I’ve read in many forums that many of us Pagans have been through life with a mental illness of some form of another, and we find ourselves at the doors of Paganism (and its many branches) and feel at home. We’re attracted to the beautiful energy of this path, because it’s what our souls, our bodies and our energy is craving. We recognise the energy as good, and we want to be with it. We want to devour it, to lose ourselves in it, because we know that on some unconscious level, we can find the help we need, and possibly find the path to help heal ourselves.

Those who develop so-called mental disorders are those who are sensitive, which is viewed in Western culture as over-sensitivity.  Indigenous cultures don’t see it that way and, as a result, sensitive people don’t experience themselves as overly sensitive.  In the West, “it is the overload of the culture they’re in that is just wrecking them,” observes Dr. Somé.  The frenetic pace, the bombardment of the senses, and the violent energy that characterize Western culture can overwhelm sensitive people.

It’s been eleven hellish years for me to work with my head, my mind and it’s behaviours. For me, this article is truth. I completely agree that we go through this to then become the healers. How can you help someone when you don’t know what they’re feeling? How can you empathize, assist, or truly know what it is like until you have walked a similar path before?

How can you listen to a youth who is saying their mind screams at them, and understand what they are trying to tell you, if your mind has always been clear?

Everything that has happened in my life has happened for a reason. I’m choosing these words carefully. I won’t say that it happens for everyone, because there’s no reason for the horrific things that goes on in today’s world. But for me personally, and perhaps a few of you can agree with this for your own life and your own path – to know is to experience.

You won’t know what it’s like to cast a circle until you’ve experienced casting a circle. You won’t know what it’s like to draw down the moon until you have experienced it. You won’t know what it’s like to wish your arms were bleeding and death to come swiftly until you have experienced such a mentality.

So please, read the article. It might just change your view on mental illness.

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2 thoughts on “What a Shaman sees in a Mental Hospital (a different view on mental illness)

  1. Thanks for this one – this is why I quit working in a mainstream psychiatric clinic, and studied transpersonal art therapy. Now I work so differently, and my integrity isn’t compromised, by a mindlessly mechanised health system, that wants everyone to be the same so they can be “measured”. I still think medication has its place, by the way… but only when used prudently…

    1. Oh absolutely. I needed the meds while I worked out what was going inside my head. It helped balance me until I figured out what the real issues were. And this is why I say this isn’t for EVERYONE. Some people need something to help bring stability.

      When I was studying psychology I realised soon into it that it wasn’t for me, that what I wanted to do was more holistic. I explained this to the head of the department in first year, and she looked at me as if I had three heads.

      The last psychiatrist I saw was the best, as she REFUSED to put me into a box. It was the best thing for me, as so many people get so worked up into staying within that box, they don’t see that there is a way out.

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