beyond fight or flight

“it is significant that during WW2 the amount of mental illness plummeted” – an acquaintance, in an email exchange yesterday.

We hadn’t been in touch for months – not for the whole duration of my horrible depression – but since we were debating welfare, I was open about how my recent experiences had challenged my perspective and made me more compassionate towards others. The observation about WWII was his response. It rankled.

Whether or not it was true (for a given value of “true” – how do we define mental illness now compared with how we defined it in the 1940s? How was it recorded then? How is it recorded now?), it plays to the idea that depression is a malaise of the privileged, that all we really need to do is pull our socks up, show some backbone, and imbibe a bit of the ‘Blitz spirit’.

Sure, in some ways, there is privilege involved in addressing mental health issues: when you have to struggle every day for physical subsistence, mental and emotional and spiritual needs are pushed back. Although the poorest and most vulnerable in our society suffer from mental illnesses, most of them have at least some basic provision for food and housing, creating time and space for them to tend to their other illnesses.

This does not, however, mean that we should ignore any problem that is not immediately life-threatening (and depression can be life-threatening). Nor does it mean that a state of war causes a reduction in mental illnesses (the acquaintance in question failed to provide any sources to back up the claim about WWII, but after a little digging I found that the assumption was questionable at best).

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Dig for Victory leaflet from the British Library

 

The ‘Blitz spirit’ might have helped – having a good support network or a sense of cameraderie and common purpose can help a great deal in preventing or recovering from depression. But what this really tells us is that we need more than just our physical needs to be met: we need community and connection, work which is meaningful to us and valued by others. And why should this be more readily available in wartime than in peace?

If more and more of us are struggling with poor mental health, it is not because we are growing a nation of ‘soft’ or ‘entitled’ people, unable to cope with the demands placed on previous generations; it is because we are privileged to live in a time when we actually have a chance to heal these chronic, life-destroying illnesses, instead of hiding them or pushing them aside to deal with natural and man-made disasters. If I owe my wartime ancestors anything, it is self-care, the self-care they were denied. And that self-care finds its fullest expression in creating a better world – the sustainable, cooperative communities and ecologies so derided by people who hark back to the ‘Blitz spirit’ as some golden age of Britishness, but which grow from the same seeds of camaraderie and common purpose.

IET police station crops

community corn outside the Todmorden police station – courtesy of Incredible Edible

 

So put that in your wartime pipe and smoke it.

re-balancing

Vernal equinox: the sun rose at 6:22 am, entered Aries at 10:39 am, and sets tonight at 6:22 pm. And though the sun was hidden all morning by the rainclouds, the afternoon is beautiful.

eostre2

artwork by Thalia Took: http://www.thaliatook.com

I’m feeling strangely non-verbal today. March usually sees me tensing like a coil, ready to spring into action as the days get longer and the leaves unfurl. This year, things are definitely blossoming, but quietly; growing roots as well as shoots.

I’ve taken a step back from a full-time job that didn’t suit me. For now, I am a part-time assistant at our local apothecary, getting back in touch with herbal remedies – my first and abiding vocational love. It’s an incredible, unprecedented (terrifying, guilt-inducing) gift, to have the stability and security of a home with a low cost of living, allowing me the freedom of this choice. Appreciating this gift, and making the most of it, is my challenge for the season.

At this time of year I often get run down: the tell-tale sign is symmetrical red spots on my neck, above my glands. This lunchtime I checked my bank balance to see if I had enough for a bottle of tincture of cleavers, which is the best remedy I’ve found. I stopped myself – it’s spring, there is cleavers growing everywhere, and meanwhile I’m serving my notice at work with only one more paycheck left from my ‘proper’ salaried position.

So instead of picking up supermarket daffodils and pre-prepared remedies on my commute home, I will walk to the station through the woodland footpath. It means arriving home past 8pm, but it also means collecting my own wild remedies free of charge, to decorate my altar and to heal my body.* Precisely the kind of balance I am seeking.

Top of the season to you all /|\

*p.s. there is so much to say about the ethics of wild harvesting, but as I wrote above: I’m feeling strangely non-verbal today. I’m incubating so many ideas – ideas for writing about divination, foraging, healing, gardening and growing – but they are still only just beginning to bud, and I’m learning not to force them, and to trust that some of them will simply open up to be written when they’re ready. Another challenge for me, with my typical Arian impulse to do everything already!

p.p.s. found some!

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spring: sap rising

Hello!

My goodness, it has been a while…

Since the last post on this blog, I have married (with an oaken ring!) and moved to the incredible town where our interfaith marriage was celebrated. I have also plunged into another horrible, wordless depression, and emerged on the other side with some radically changed ideas about what I am doing and why. And now spring is here! I can really feel the sap rising.

Over the next few weeks I will make some changes to this blog, to harness and channel the renewed enthusiasm that always comes with spring. This time I plan to keep up the momentum.

Right now, I am fulfilling a decade-long ambition by (finally!) studying the tarot. The course I am following is provided by the wonderfully grounded and inspirational Beth Maiden at Little Red Tarot. At two weeks in, it has already taken me to some deep and unexpected places, which has inspired copious amounts of notes in my journal. I plan to share the journey in a dedicated section on this blog – please drop in and join the conversation!

My posts on deity will have their own area, where I can indulge all the mysticism and reverence in which my soul delights, leaving the core of this blog free for more topical posts about forthcoming events and conversations in druidic cyberspace. Speaking of which… in the next few months I will produce a video talk or two for the ADO exploring our Taliesin-inspired approach to druidry. My first planned talk will focus on Caer Siddi, the seat of illusion, where Gweir sings woefully before the spoils of Annwn. What is the nature of the chains that hold us back from reaching the spoils of Annwfn, the wisdom and inspiration of the deep? I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this topic.

The last, tentative, change will be to introduce an area for exploring flower remedies. I plan to train as a Bach practitioner this year, in the hope of helping others, after receiving so much help myself. This blog embraces magic and intention-setting, with a strong emphasis on healing relationships with the natural world: this is what I feel flower remedies have to offer. They are empowering. Having said that, over the past few weeks I have found myself frustrated by the lack of depth in what I read about these remedies online – most sites seem to parrot the brief descriptions given by Dr. Bach without exploring what they mean in a modern context, in a culture with a radically different understanding of emotional and spiritual wellbeing from 1930s Britain. At the moment all I have to offer is personal experience, but that is a start, and I hope to write more as I progress.

hornbeam

hornbeam

How is everything on the other side of the screen?

/|\ Cadno