Treating depression in a Pagan context

Terence P Ward —  January 15, 2015 — 30 Comments

UNITED STATES — It’s become fairly commonplace for articles about “Blue Monday” to come up at this time of year. According to a formula concocted for a now-defunct travel network, the third Monday in January is the most depressing day of the year. While that designation was most likely created to sell vacation packages, it does serve to focus attention on a complex, often intractable condition.

[public domain]

[public domain]

Pagans are certainly not unusual in suffering from depression, but since their worldviews can differ widely from that of the overculture, the tools and techniques for treating depression may also differ. To learn more, The Wild Hunt spoke with Pagan mental health professionals, as well as those who have struggled with depression.

Reverend Selena Fox, founder of Circle Sanctuary, has been a practicing psychotherapist for most of her adult life, and most of the people she works with in that context are Pagan. “It’s important one takes a holistic approach to healing and wellness,” she said. For Pagans, she added, that means “to be able to tap into their spirituality as part of working on getting better.”  That is only one part of a successful treatment plan for depression, she stressed, for two main reasons:

  • Selena Fox

    Selena Fox.

    A biochemical imbalance may be contributing to one’s depression, and often the best treatment in such cases involves biochemical support. “It’s really important to deal with the physical-plane dimensions of the condition, as well as the spiritual ones,” Fox said. That may mean medication, or one of the many herbal supplements which are used to lift mood. Determining which is best should be left to a trained professional.

  • There is a tendency among depression sufferers to constrict one’s social life as these interactions and activities stop giving pleasure. “It’s important to be aware of those tendencies and get help shifting out of holing up like that,” said Fox. Again, that help can take the form of a professional, such as a social worker, counselor, or therapist, or that help can be observant loved ones who are able to recognize depressed behavior.

Fox actually likened depression to a common cold in that it’s a relatively common condition, which should be resolved within a couple of weeks with self-care. Like the cold, though, if it persists longer than that, outside treatment should be sought. She recalled working in a clinic where some patients would only decide to seek help after having suffered for six or eight months. “It’s much easier to treat depression when it’s addressed earlier,” she said, noting that there are always treatment options available, no matter how serious the condition has become.

Some ways to find a suitable mental health professional include asking for references from Pagan friends and organizations in the local area, or contacting a professional association, such as the Association for Transpersonal Psychology that recognizes the importance of holistic approaches.

Tony Rella.

Taking all of that into account, there are Pagan-specific approaches to handling depression; all of which can be incorporated into a larger treatment plan. Both Fox and Tony Rella, a mental health counselor in the Seattle area and a student-mentor at the Morningstar Mystery School, use the elements of earth, water, air, and fire in their treatment plans.  Fox also includes spirit in her approach.

While not every Pagan incorporates these concepts into their own religious practice, these elements can be used to present the information and recommendations that we have gathered from Fox, Rella and others.

Earth

Earth, the body, can take a beating during depression. Sleep patterns can be disrupted, and an attitude of, “What difference does it make?” can lead to poor self-care. Fox likens this to a passive form of suicidal ideation. “Someone who has the flu might not have the energy to get it treated, and it turns into pneumonia,” she explained.

Rella said activity and diet are very important earth aspects. “Am I getting exercise? Am I spending time outside? Am I getting regular doses of sunlight or Vitamin D? (A big problem in the Pacific Northwest!) Is my diet promoting health? There is emerging research that indicates a relationship between depression and inflammation in the body, leading some professionals to suggest experimenting with reducing or eliminating foods that might promote inflammation, like foods high in sugar.”

Foods are an important part of Shauna Aura Knight‘s personal strategy:

About a decade ago, I started noticing certain foods seemed to impact me. I was focusing more on reducing my migraines and acne, but (as it turned out) those foods also impacted my depression. I used to live off hot pockets, mini pizzas, and soda. Carbs, sugar, dairy. It took years to finally make the switch to a (roughly) paleo diet. No grains, no added sugars, no dairy, no calorie free sweeteners. Part of what helped me to make the switch was my belief that the divine is in each person, and that my body is divine. ‘My body is a living temple of love’ is a line from one of my favorite chants. My sacred body is worth the extra effort. Eliminating certain foods reduced the exhaustion/depression symptoms, and helped me to lose a hundred pounds which has significantly reduced my foot pain and joint pain. Taking Vitamin D, B, and my prescribed thyroid medication also helped.

Factors like sunlight and physical activity can be difficult to manage in northern climes. When reached for this story, Fox reported that it was 40 below outside her Wisconsin home. “Some days, sitting by a sunny window is all you can do,” she acknowledged, but she suggests supplementing limited exposure to sunlight with full-spectrum light boxes, and visualization exercises. Weather permitting, she also recommends nature walks for a number of reasons:  exercise is known to improve depression in its own right, changing one’s environment can interrupt a cycle of negative thinking, and Pagans in particular tend to respond well to exposure to the natural world.

One very pragmatic approach comes from Heathen Cara Freyasdaughter.

I take my depression meds regularly. I also get them refilled and checked on a regular basis by doctors who are qualified to do this. I see this as part of a larger technique for dealing with depression called “taking care of myself.” My Goddess has Strong Opinions on whether I (or others) take care of ourselves enough or love ourselves enough. It’s a constant message that I, and others who work with Her, get. So I find that when I take care of myself, I honor Her as well.”

Water

Regarding the element of water, Rella asks questions that are tied to mood, including “Can I give space and permission for painful emotional experiences to emerge? What deeper wisdom might these feelings point toward? What difficult truths can I see in my heart?”

Feelings about others also feed into the water element. Fox pointed out that loved ones can be among the first to recognize depression. “If you are encouraging a loved one who seems to be in the funks and talks negatively day in and out, it’s a really good idea to have some conversations with that person hoping it will encourage or motivate them to get some additional help.”

Blogger Alyxander Folmer, writing about his own struggles with depression, said that his loved ones serve as a source of motivation:

Alyxander Folmer

Alyxander Folmer

. . . during the hardest points of depression just mustering the energy required to express emotion can be daunting. When just getting out of bed feels like it takes more energy than you’ve got in the tank, it’s hard to care enough to put on music (or fight laundry monsters). On those days, the only thing that gets me moving is remembering that people need me. I have a wife who deserves a functioning partner. I have approximately 1/3 of a child who needs me to to provide a safe and stable life for it to grow. I have friends that need to know they can call on me when times are hard. This has become my morning mantra for those days when I’m just to exhausted to muster up will to function. It doesn’t matter how I feel, or how little I care about anything else. That one thought will get me moving.

Jolene Poseidonae spoke about a technique she developed for herself:

Detached compassion is something I developed not initially to cope with depression but as part of shadow work years ago as I learned how to drop the tools that had helped me survive a violent, abusive upbringing but were then getting in the way of my being a functional adult with healthy relationships. It was something I developed so that I could trust in my gods and in the people who loved me, and it spilled over into dealing with depression. It’s a sort of stepping back from the emotional ups and downs that hit so fast they leave me dizzy, it’s the practice of disengaging from one’s emotions. Emotions are always in a state of flux for me, and they are often untrustworthy. It’s harder when the emotion is a constant, steady stream of a conviction of unworth, of wretchedness, and the knowing that nothing will ever get better, and this burning desire to cease existing will go on and on and on with no relief, but having the practice in place helps me turn my connection to those emotions off. It’s like I sort of side-step them. I watch them, I hear them, and I feel them, but I turn aside so that the feeling of them isn’t as direct. I’m not as engaged with them. Usually, this helps shorten the duration of my being mired in the black. The days I have when I lose all interest in my projects are fewer, and it’s been a long time since I’ve lost months like I used to.

Knight noted, “When my depression was at its worst, I couldn’t acknowledge I had depression because that would mean I was ‘bad,’ ‘worthless,’ ‘hopeless.’ Admitting I had a problem — looking into that dark, shadowy mirror of my own fears — was the first big step. Getting help was more difficult as I have no health insurance, and I was alone without much income. I did manage to get some help via therapy at a cheap clinic, but even that cost too much. I was introduced to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, though, and I realized that I had done personal work similar to that when I was doing leadership training at Diana’s Grove.”

Air

Air is associated with the intellect and thoughts. “What kind of story is my depression telling about me?” asks Rella. “What harmful self-beliefs are coming to light? How could I rewrite those stories to promote more ease and self-acceptance?”

Fox suggests monitoring self-talk to identify the onset of depression, which can otherwise begin without detection. On paper or electronically, jot down one’s thoughts over the course of a day. “If a person is finding a great propensity for negative thinking that is often an indicator that there’s some kind of depression going on. Phrases such as, ‘Well, what’s the point, I’m failing at this, nothing’s ever going to get better.’ If there’s ideation indicating hopelessness, sorrow, putting oneself down, that’s a sign you need some help.”

512px-Depression-loss_of_loved_one

[public domain]

S. Jade Gribanov said that distracting herself from negative thoughts works for her. She added, “Music. Anything that makes me feel good. A brainless inconsequential activity to occupy my conscious mind. My brain will run itself in circles for a few hours. Most of it will be garbage but I always come up with a couple of things to keep me going for a while longer.”

Music works for Knight, as well. “I sometimes also sing to manage depression, and I’m trying to work singing into a daily practice. While I still struggle with occasional ‘pit of despair’ days where I am utterly exhausted, and I am still trying to find ways to feel emotions like joy and happiness, my life is far better than it was.”

Freyasdaughter embraces her own thoughts from times when she felt better. “I read my past writings. There are times when I am full of faith and trust in the Gods completely, and when depression hits I lose most of that. So it’s good for me to go back and see these hopeful things, written by my own hand, and remember that the depressive funk I’m in can and will pass. It has before.”

Poseidonae also uses her writing, but slightly differently. “Writing is a huge part of coping. Going easy with myself when I need to is also a part of it. Losing myself in fiction. Sometimes throwing myself into my devotional acts helps, and sometimes it makes it worse. Sometimes I have to retreat away from all my gods — Poseidon being the sole exception — and just be.”

Fire

“In my observation, qualities of Fire are particularly challenging for people with depression,” said Rella. “The depression says, ‘I don’t care about anything and I don’t have the strength to do anything.’ Engaging the will to act on something important to me is a powerful coping strategy. Sustaining a daily practice, even when you don’t ‘feel it,’ helps. For some people at the height of depression, getting out of bed to take a shower is a tremendous act of will, and worth validating. Those who have never experienced a deep depression might have trouble understanding how much courage and strength it takes to do these daily tasks, and it is the enactment of these that helps the person work through and move out of their depression.”

For Fox, action can often break the patterns that feed depression, as has been touched upon earlier. Fire can also be utilized literally, in the form of candles or exposure to sunlight and other full-spectrum lighting.

Spirit

Fox uses spirit in the context of “one’s practices and understandings” when speaking about depression. “Some daily spiritual practice can be a really important component,” she said. That could take the form of “being at a home altar calling on the Divine, Goddess, God, Great Spirit, or a particular pantheon, depending on the tradition. Actually call on the sacred and ask for assistance as one goes through life and the day.” Further, “a ritual for self-healing involving chanting, candlelight, incense, [or] affirmations . . . is really a complement to whatever else one is doing.”

Sable Aradia

Sable Aradia

Sable Aradia, a Pagan clergyperson, provided some specific actions for depressed Pagans to take in her second post on The Downward Spiral — Depression and Suicide in Paganism, including the use of banishing pentagrams to dispel negative moods, witch bottles to get rid of bad luck, and seeking council of the gods.

I believe that if you keep your eyes open for them, the gods send you signs also. When my husband was in a major car accident and in the ICU for a month, the phrase “this too shall pass” continued to be sent to me. People would say it on the bus to me; I saw it tattooed on the wrist of one of the kinder nurses. You get the idea.

Hellenist Conor Davis finds that religious ritual sometimes works for him. “I have found that, when I can manage it, prayers and devotionals can help me with some of the milder symptoms of depression. On bad days where I don’t want to get out of bed much less leave the house, nothing seems to help and everything seems feeble.”

Freyasdaughter said, “I make a gratitude list. By that point or so, I’m in a place where I can move easily into a state of worshipping my Goddess, and in return She gives me back love. It’s a great feedback loop. When I’m depressed it’s often very difficult to reach out to the gods and trust that they are there, or to trust that anything I’m feeling or hearing from them is real or true. So, the gratitude list, where I sit myself down and make myself look at the things that are going well in my life, helps me to get back into that connected, hopeful headspace again.”

Dver, a spirit-worker on the margins of Hellenic polytheism, made this observation: “I have come to the conclusion over the years that my chronic depression is actually a recurring shaman sickness, essentially (I’m not actually a shaman, but a spirit-worker, and this concept seems to apply to various sorts of mystics). When I hit my worst point many years ago, I began delving into spirit-work (though I didn’t call it that at the time) and things got much better. To this day, when I am experiencing any longish stretch of depression (more than a few days), it is almost always a call to pay attention to what I am neglecting, and once I begin doing my Work again, the depression lifts.”

[Photo Credit: Martin Gommel/Flickr]

[Photo Credit: Martin Gommel/Flickr]

Many of those who reached out or wrote about this topic have compared depression to an underworld journey, in which the traveler must confront difficult truths, or even discern truth from self-lies. Given the complex and powerful symbolism in this area, it’s worth further study.

Depression is a condition which can alter one’s own perceptions of self-worth, which can lead to neglect of the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of life. A holistic approach to treatment might include physical activity, monitoring self-talk, performing regular spiritual practice even if it seems pointless, and changes in diet and medication. Because it can be a serious illness, and particularly because it changes self-perception, outside help should be sought for any depression which lasts for more than a few days.

Terence P Ward

Posts

Terence P Ward is a moneyworker, journalist, Hellenic polytheist and convinced Friend who lives in the bucolic Hudson Valley with his wife, five cats, and multiple household shrines.
  • Lots of great stuff in this article. Depression is so common, and for a lot of us, it’s something that comes back multiple times and takes prolonged efforts to eliminate. Speaking for myself, in 2003 I was diagnosed as severely depressed, chronically depressed, type 2 bipolar (not otherwise specified), and border-line personality disorder.

    The only real help I was getting from my physicians was a regularly monitored program of anti-depressants. I don’t blame them – I think the doctors were providing the best care they knew how to provide, but at the same time, I don’t know why they weren’t better trained to recommend other options either first, or in addition to, the pharma-fix.

    For me, the drugs kept me stable and made the difference between suicidal ideations and suicidal actions. My symptoms never really “went away” and I didn’t experience a consistently higher quality of life until I addressed other issues: improving my diet by removing caffeine; practicing meditation for managing stress and anxiety; taking up regular exercise; and ensuring that I got enough sleep.

    Kudos to these folks for providing holistic programs that address all these things – I wish a provider like this had been an option for me 11 years ago.

    • James, I’m a BP(NOS), too. Dx’d at 47, after almost two decades of increasingly longer, deeper, and darker depressions. Having had various medications that worked to some degree over about 12 years, and seen some poor excuses for pdocs, I was blessed in finding an excellent match. Given those poor excuses, if it hadn’t been for an excellent study on the suitability and dosage of rTMS (repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation) at Stanford School of Medicine, with some truly caring pdocs, I might not have known such folk existed. Because of them, I knew what to aim for.

      One primary quality in a pdoc is listening to what *you* are saying, and accepting what you feel your needs are. If that’s what you don’t have in front of you, time to hit the search button or the phone, until you can find someone like that, always permitting presence of someone like that you can afford and get to easily enough.

      Enough sleep? Good luck if you’ve been a lifelong insomniac. I have found nothing yet that *dependably* gets me to sleep when something is keeping my brain going. I have become much more sensitive to caffeine, and don’t have it, for the most part, after 1pm, unless I really want to be up all night. If it’s clearly something physical, I can try to fix it. Allergies, in spite of A-Hs twice daily, can keep me unable to get to sleep due to coughing or clogged nasal passages, as I’m allergic to codeine…grrr. I just resign myself to, or accept, the situation until the pollen count retreats again.

      • In the grand scheme of things, I think I had it pretty easy compared to other folks on the BP spectrum. I’ve been off meds for seven years and doing great, but I know that’s the success story that other folks are able to achieve.

        • Did you leave out a “not” from your last sentence there?

          When reading a list of parents of bipolar pre-adolescents, I discovered just how easy *I* had it with our son. No fires set, no knives pulled on us, no having to call the police for protection from a kid.

          • Yeah, missed a key word in that last sentence, lol

  • Cibolo

    I’ve found over the years that the best way for me to deal with my cyclical bouts of depression (generally the same time every year around the beginning of summer) is to simply roll with them — to allow myself to feel the way I feel at that moment, to be kind to myself and allow myself to be a hermit for a while. If I try to force myself into social activities, it only makes the situation much, much worse. That’s when feelings of worthlessness and anxiety take over. I’ve also found that these times are when I’m at my most creative and insightful. I’ve learned to value this part of myself and acknowledge it, and it passes more easily.

    • I think you’re doing exactly the right thing for you! It’s what you say about forcing yourself into social activities that makes me think it’s your sign that your annual retreat is just that.

    • dantes

      That’s interesting, I personally get quite depressed in late Fall/Early Winter almost every year, but it’s actually I think because that’s the period where I have the least work and it’s the hardest to get by…Ultimately, things get better and I manage to do fine again…You are true saying that sometimes, it’s better to just let it go.

  • Labrys

    Excellent, excellent!

  • Cat Treadwell

    Great article, thankyou. I tried to turn my own experiences into stories to help others in similar situations, and have had a great response from the Pagan community. Wonderful that we’re coming together to help 🙂
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B00FAIFZAM/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?qid=1421354849&sr=8-1&pi=AC_SX110_SY165_QL70

  • I’m so grateful to each person who chose to share part of their story, of their wisdom, for this article. Too often, I think, we act as if “being spiritual” should be enough to manage all mental and physical health issues that come up in our lives. Something in our culture tries to tell us that any suffering we experience is the fault of some individual failing in us. As Shauna Aura Knight puts it, “When my depression was at its worst, I couldn’t acknowledge I had depression because that would mean I was ‘bad,’ ‘worthless,’ ‘hopeless.’ Admitting I had a problem — looking into that dark, shadowy mirror of my own fears — was the first big step.”

    I have to believe that every story shared here today has the potential to help someone who is having a hard time acknowledging their pain. But far from being a mark of spiritual failure, depression confronted seems to be a common experience among many of the men and women I love and admire most, in both the Quaker and the Pagan worlds. Something about that underworld journey, perhaps, has the potential to bring a lot of us to deeper wisdom than we might otherwise have had. I don’t mean that depression itself is the teacher–suffering for its own sake is a lousy teacher. But learning to see it, recognize it, and seek out help for it, overcoming whatever illusory “shoulds and oughts” stand between ourselves and the help we need–that process seems to bring depth to enough spiritual teachers that it’s worth noticing.

    Nothing in living a spiritual life means living on easy street. And the full range of human afflictions, from old age and cancer through depression, are part of the lives of spiritual practitioners.

    The difference is in how we address them–with spiritual tools and with traditional ones.

  • EmmettGrogan

    Good article which covers all the important things people can do to help with their depression. However, due to the title of this article, I expected there to be things in here that are pertinent only to Pagans – but it doesn’t, these are all panaceas that anyone with depression should probably use.
    I was a psychotherapist for 17 yrs and have been Pagan for 20 yrs. I worked with depression alot, have depression myself, as does my partner. I have found that most people with depression, even if they do all the things mentioned in this article, will simply have days with zero energy. Those are the days we all dread and hate. So how do we make it to work, care for our families, etc. and get anything done? That’s the big question.

  • Great article.

    I’m adding my own bit from a few years back. Maybe it will help someone else.

    Depression and the Modern Pagan

  • Pixieandbaby

    How would I go about finding a pagan therapist in my town. I don’t like where I go now.

    • Here’s a place to start. You could also connect to local Pagan groups, and ask for recommendations from other members. It’s important to have a good fit with a counselor… whether they are Pagan or not. Do shop around if you can!

      http://www.witchvox.com/vn/vn_index/xskills.html

    • Shauna Aura Knight

      Pixie, there are some areas where there are a lot of Pagan therapists, and there are other areas where there aren’t as many resources. You might post your general geographic area (town/state, or nearest metro area/state) to get recommendations for that. For instance, Tony Rella (quoted in the original post) is in Portland. I know a number of Pagan therapists in the Chicagoland area. You might email Circle Sanctuary; Selena Fox or one of the other Circle ministers might know of a Pagan or Pagan-friendly therapist in your area.

      So much of the Pagan community is still word-of-mouth connections, but if you ask around, you may be able to find a resource.

      If not, just remember that you, as the client, are hiring your therapist. If you don’t like your current therapist, you can go searching for another. What I found was useful, even though I was working with a low-cost clinic, was to tell them right off the bat, “I’m Pagan, and I will need to work with a therapist who is Pagan-friendly.” Two of my therapists had never ever met a Pagan before and so I had to do a fair amount of explaining my own spirituality and how that impacted my life. Both were open to it, they just didn’t understand the jargon, as it were.

  • Great timing, as always.

    I may break my comments/reactions into portions, if I get too longwinded about one or another in particular.

    Rev. Dr. Selena Fox says:
    Determining which is best should be left to a trained professional.

    Oh, no, not *left*–discussed with. Once I’d been exposed to “real” pdocs (psychiatrists), I knew that even though I have a mental illness, my words, my brain, and my experience have worth. Remember this, and if you have the liberty to look around, do so until you find someone who listens, and who honors your self-knowledge.

    After I’d been dx’d BP(NOS) by the pdoc we took our son to, and after the Stanford rTMS study was over, I tried to find a good match. I carefully left a detailed medical history of the sort that you’re given to fill out when you enter someone’s practice, with about eight pdocs covered by my insurance at the time. Those who returned my calls who were taking new patients, asked me the same questions for which I had given answers in my initial call…except one, who I still see. Her response was to thank me for answering all the questions she usually asks at the beginning.

    I let her know that questions were not challenges, that I do a lot of research, and that I wanted to be able to discuss options. 13 years later, she enjoys sessions with me because of that, and because I don’t just say, “Whatever you think best, Dr. T” (and just in case that’s a reference to you, she only has ten fingers, not 5000). She trusts my self-awareness and honesty about my experience, and I trust her deeper knowledge of treatments and current areas of research of which I may be unaware.

    There are a number of physical conditions, echoing what Selena says, that can underlie depression. Low thyroid production runs in the women of my mother’s family (along with, alas, increased risk for stroke), and I take synthroid for it. I managed to find an endocrinologist who noticed that just because one fit in the “universal” normal range for TSH, did not necessarily mean a particular individual was producing what that one needed, and adjusted my dosage accordingly.

    I also have two mutated genes that prohibit bioavailability of folates in my system, and folates are needed to the production of serotonin.

    I am indeed sensitive to light levels–lumens and color both. If you have SAD along with, or as, your depression, have as many full-spectrum light bulbs or devices as you can. Too many overcast days (Californians and Australians are happy for as many rainy days as we can get), and the OTT or the Happy-Lite goes on, in spite of lots of outside light getting to me. I don’t tend to like dimmer-lights, as the middle levels often get to a color/heat that makes my hackles rise. I can only say it feels too much like tornado sky, and I don’t stay in CA to fear tornados!

  • Elements in treatment plans–love this approach.

    Diet. The more processed foods you can avoid, the better, I agree. Topiramate for two years killed my soda habit, because anything fizzy tasted absolutely foul. I’m pretty much off cola (and caffeinated root beer) because I’d mostly have it at the movies, and the caffeine at that hour is a prescription for sleep disruption for me. Remember, in many cultures, hot coffee or tea is a nightcap. I now take a large insulated bottle of water with me to the movies.

    I encourage all of you, not just those dealing with depression, who haven’t read Michael Pollan’s Cooked, to do so. Cooking through the elements (except for spirit, which he doesn’t cover, darn it).

    Shauna’s reaction to depression has not been mine. It’s damned easy to admit I’m depressed, and until my bipolar dx, I couldn’t understand what I had to be depressed about, I just was. That was frustrating, not knowning the source.

    Jolene’s shadow work is something I might find useful for depression/unhappiness derived from situational issues, as opposed to the weird wiring bipolars have.

    Go soak your head–or at least find a substitute for a cauldron and put yourself in it with some water. Water is often useful for sorting out emotions or calming them. My son’s therapist suggested I send him to the pool when he was “jaggedy”.

    Tony Rella suggests asking:

    “What harmful self-beliefs are coming to light? How could I rewrite those stories to promote more ease and self-acceptance?”

    I’d be asking: What words do I throw back at the NNNs or the IBSC? How might I correct the messages I’m repeating, consciously or unconsciously? NNN = nattering nabobs of negativity (points if you remember the source) and IBSC = ittybittyshittycommittee (from a friend, wish I could claim it for my own!).

    When you’re far enough down in depression, it’s truly difficult to *sense* our deities. Have you tried, in depression, projecting/imagining yourself being embraced comfortingly by yours?

    As to gratitude lists: it may take work, and it may take working through tears, but it helps in a lot of situations to find at least three things you are grateful for/to have *right that moment*, even if it’s something as simple and basic as breathing. Breathing’s a nice thing. Anything positive in your sensory array? Has a stranger smiled at you? Is anything better than it was the day before, or even earlier in the day? Is there something later, or tomorrow, to look forward to? What’s *not* wrong for you right now, if that’s possible to know. I seem to recall hearing on NPR that people who could be grateful for what they have/had, no matter how little, were often happier than those with much more, who couldn’t express gratitude for what they themselves had.

    Thanks again, Terence, for this article, and the work behind it.

    • Gratitude–yeah, absolutely, gratitude is an amazingly potent spiritual practice, and it could be helpful with depression. Though I know there’s a difference between a genuine practice of gratitude, and being told by the allegedly well-meaning, “Be grateful for what you have.” Forced gratitude is not helpful… but noticing small blessings in the midst of pain can be.

      While I have never experienced Major Depression or the depression of Bi-polar Disorder, I have experienced clinical depression before. I find noticing and journaling small blessings–warm socks on a cold day, the smell of spring earth, hot water in my shower–can give me traction in the dark times, when work feels like a hand over hand crawl up a cliff.

      I sometimes turn my observations into poetry; haiku is especially good for this, I find. Writing a sort of nature praise-song has been a good tool in my toolkit… and those occasions where the gratitude comes in in waves rather than by the eye-dropper-ful are helpful, when they come, because they usually are signalling the shift, the lifting of a bout of depression.

      That’s something it’s easy to be grateful for.

      • Shauna Aura Knight

        Cat–I absolutely agree that the “forced gratitude” thing is not helpful. Whenever people tell me I’m being negative and that I should be grateful for what I have, or even the ever-dreaded “Just think positive” unsolicited feedback, that really isn’t helpful.

        I admit, I struggle with the gratitude thing, and it’s something I’m working on this year. It’s hard to feel grateful when I often don’t “feel” anything at all. This year I’m trying to find that elusive joy/happiness emotion that I remember feeling once.

  • Sable Aradia’s post on the downward spiral is here http://www.patheos.com/blogs/agora/2014/10/seekers-and-guides-the-downward-spiral-depression-and-suicide-in-paganism-part-two/

    rather than at the URL linked above. I only know because I tried to follow the link, and then stuck the text in a search window.

  • Jennifer Lawrence

    >>Fox actually likened depression to a common cold in that it’s a relatively common condition, which should be resolved within a couple of weeks with self-care.

    A couple of WEEKS?

    I was diagnosed when I was *11*. I’ll be 48 in July.

    If it goes away in a couple of weeks, it isn’t actually depression.

    • It is hard, that we use the same word for a depressed mood and for a clinical depression. A depressed mood that lasts for weeks, or that is accompanied by thoughts of self-harm, does go beyond the level of self-care alone. I think that’s what Fox was saying, though obviously, to someone who has experienced Major Depression, the very notion that a depression could lift in a couple of weeks is absurd. Major Depression, of course, is not a mood, and even if it starts with a situational cause, it has acquired a physiological component…

      • Shauna Aura Knight

        I suppose I look at it as the difference between the natural state of exhaustion after exertion, or, going through the process of grief, and the long, endless tunnel of what I know of as depression. Both feel the same, and I’ve experienced both. When grieving a breakup or a death in the family, depression after is normal. When I’ve run a big event like a Pagan conference and I’m flat-out exhausted, and beyond that, my creativity is gone for a couple of weeks after, that’s normal. After “summer” there must be “winter” so to speak.

        It is difficult that the same words are used for this, but it was helpful for me to read this post to have the words Major Depression vs. the more common term of just calling it depression.

        In my case, it’s probably…dysthemia? I think that’s the word. I don’t really have thoughts of self-harm. It’s just that I often face ridiculous exhaustion/can’t get out of bed/can’t write/can’t function/brain fog, and I also don’t have a lot of emotion, particularly joy/happiness.

  • dantes

    I totally agree that doing things and investing time to transit into a healthier lifestyle does help. Feeling physically better can only be a plus, in addition to the great feeling one gets after actually achieving something.

  • Enimal Spivey

    Medical scientists have discovered a new way to battle cancer by using a man called Dr. LAMANO
    MY NAME IS spiveey .I SAW A COMMENT ON CANCER BLOGS AND I WILL LOVE TO TELL EVERY BODY HOW I WAS CURED!,
    AND
    AM NOW A LIVING WITNESS OF IT AND I THINK ITS A SHAME ON ME IF I DON’T
    SHARE THIS LOVELY STORY WITH OTHER PEOPLE INFECTED WITH THIS DEADLY
    VIRUS.
    cancer HAS BEEN ONGOING IN MY FAMILY, I LOST BOTH PARENTS TO CANCER. AND IT IS SO MUCH PAIN I’VE NOT BEEN ABLE TO GET OVER..
    AS
    WE ALL KNOW MEDICALLY THERE IS NO SOLUTION TO IT..AND MEDICATION IS
    VERY EXPENSIVE..SO SOMEONE INTRODUCED ME TO A HERBAL PRACTITIONER IN
    AFRICA..
    I HAD A JOB THERE TO EXECUTE SO I TOOK TIME TO CHECK OUT ON HIM.I SHOWED HIM ALL MY TESTS AND RESULTS..
    I WAS ALREADY DISORGANIZED WITH CANCER AND IT WAS ALREADY TAKING ITS TOWL ON ME..
    I HAD SPENT THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS SO I DECIDED TO TRY HIM OUT ALTHOUGH I DID’NT BELIEVE IN IT,
    I WAS JUST TRYING IT OUT OF FRUSTRATION? AND AFTER 2 DAYS, HE SENT ME THE PORTION ND I USED IT AND WAS CURED.
    AND
    YOU WON’T BELIEVE THAT 5 DIFFERENT DOCTORS CONFIRMED IT THAT AM CURED ..IT WAS LIKE A DREAM,,I NEVER BELIEVE CANCER HAS CURE..AM NOW CURED,,
    AM A LIVING WITNESS..I DON’T KNOW HOW TO THANK THIS MAN? I JUST WANT TO HELP OTHERS IN ANY WAY I CAN..
    I
    HAVE JOINED MANY FORUMS AND HAVE POSTED THIS TESTIMONIES AND ALOT OF
    PEOPLE HAS MAIL AND CALLED THIS MAN ON PHONE AND AFTER THEY ALL
    CONFIRMED CURED.
    BBC NEWS TOOK IT LIVE AND EVERY EVERYBODY SAW IT
    AND ITS NOW OUT IN PAPERS AND MAGAZINES THAT THERE IS A HERBAL CURE FOR CANCER AND ALL WITH THE HELP OF THIS MAN,,
    IF YOU WISH, TAKE IT OR
    NOT..GOD KNOWS I HAVE TRIED MY BEST. ABOUT 28 PEOPLE HAVE BEEN CONFIRMED CURED THROUGH THE HERBAL CURE OF DR.LAMANO.
    AND THEY SEND MAILS
    TO THANKS ME AFTER THEY HAVE BEEN CONFIRMED CURED,THIS MAN IS
    REAL..DON’T MISS THIS CHANCE,,CANCER IS A DEADLY VIRUS,,GET RID OF IT NOW..
    If
    there is anyone who has similar problem and still looking for a way
    out, his email still remains
    lamanospellalter@yahoo.com or call him on +2348135738602
    YOU CAN ASLO REACH ME ON SPIVEEY@GMAIL.COM or call me (951) 643-2085,,,,,,,,

  • Enimal Spivey

    Medical scientists have discovered a new way to battle cancer by using a man called Dr. LAMANO
    MY NAME IS spiveey .I SAW A COMMENT ON CANCER BLOGS AND I WILL LOVE TO TELL EVERY BODY HOW I WAS CURED!,
    AND
    AM NOW A LIVING WITNESS OF IT AND I THINK ITS A SHAME ON ME IF I DON’T
    SHARE THIS LOVELY STORY WITH OTHER PEOPLE INFECTED WITH THIS DEADLY
    VIRUS.
    cancer HAS BEEN ONGOING IN MY FAMILY, I LOST BOTH PARENTS TO CANCER. AND IT IS SO MUCH PAIN I’VE NOT BEEN ABLE TO GET OVER..
    AS
    WE ALL KNOW MEDICALLY THERE IS NO SOLUTION TO IT..AND MEDICATION IS
    VERY EXPENSIVE..SO SOMEONE INTRODUCED ME TO A HERBAL PRACTITIONER IN
    AFRICA..
    I HAD A JOB THERE TO EXECUTE SO I TOOK TIME TO CHECK OUT ON HIM.I SHOWED HIM ALL MY TESTS AND RESULTS..
    I WAS ALREADY DISORGANIZED WITH CANCER AND IT WAS ALREADY TAKING ITS TOWL ON ME..
    I HAD SPENT THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS SO I DECIDED TO TRY HIM OUT ALTHOUGH I DID’NT BELIEVE IN IT,
    I WAS JUST TRYING IT OUT OF FRUSTRATION? AND AFTER 2 DAYS, HE SENT ME THE PORTION ND I USED IT AND WAS CURED.
    AND
    YOU WON’T BELIEVE THAT 5 DIFFERENT DOCTORS CONFIRMED IT THAT AM CURED ..IT WAS LIKE A DREAM,,I NEVER BELIEVE CANCER HAS CURE..AM NOW CURED,,
    AM A LIVING WITNESS..I DON’T KNOW HOW TO THANK THIS MAN? I JUST WANT TO HELP OTHERS IN ANY WAY I CAN..
    I
    HAVE JOINED MANY FORUMS AND HAVE POSTED THIS TESTIMONIES AND ALOT OF
    PEOPLE HAS MAIL AND CALLED THIS MAN ON PHONE AND AFTER THEY ALL
    CONFIRMED CURED.
    BBC NEWS TOOK IT LIVE AND EVERY EVERYBODY SAW IT
    AND ITS NOW OUT IN PAPERS AND MAGAZINES THAT THERE IS A HERBAL CURE FOR CANCER AND ALL WITH THE HELP OF THIS MAN,,
    IF YOU WISH, TAKE IT OR
    NOT..GOD KNOWS I HAVE TRIED MY BEST. ABOUT 28 PEOPLE HAVE BEEN CONFIRMED CURED THROUGH THE HERBAL CURE OF DR.LAMANO.
    AND THEY SEND MAILS
    TO THANKS ME AFTER THEY HAVE BEEN CONFIRMED CURED,THIS MAN IS
    REAL..DON’T MISS THIS CHANCE,,CANCER IS A DEADLY VIRUS,,GET RID OF IT NOW..
    If
    there is anyone who has similar problem and still looking for a way
    out, his email still remains
    lamanospellalter@yahoo.com or call him on +2348135738602
    YOU CAN ASLO REACH ME ON SPIVEEY@GMAIL.COM or call me (951) 643-2085

  • Debbie

    Help me please

    • dantes

      How?

  • For anyone reading and commenting who is in need of assistance, I am posting the national suicide hotline number for emergencies: (800) 273-8255 and/or NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness): http://www.nami.org. For all non-emergencies and to find Pagan professionals, there are many good resource suggestions within the comments below.