Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Popping Pills and Practice

Since writing my latest article for WitchVox (btw, I tried to write back to you, Carol but it bounced! Hopefully you'll see this instead?), I've actually been getting the same question a lot which makes me think it's on a lot of people's minds:

Do you think that taking medication affects your magical practice?

For the TL;DR crowd, my short answer would be: no. For those of you interested in a discussion, I will share my thoughts with you here. Firstly, I'd like to say that I really dislike it when people are made to feel like they need to engage in secrecy and shame. If that happens, something has really gone wrong in my opinion and the fact that apparently a lot of Pagans/Magical Practitioners feel that they can't talk about taking prescription medication and need to hide that from the community makes me really sad. Taking care of your health and taking advantage of modern medicine shouldn't be something you have to feel shame about in spiritual circles in my opinion.

So let's start kicking down some walls and lay it all out there. I have depression, anxiety, anemia and fibromyalgia. I currently take the following medications to make it so that I am a productive member of society: Prozac, Xanax, Remeron, Savella, Celebrex, Vitamin D, Multi-Vitamin and Birth Control. In the past, I have: gone to therapy and tried Kava and St. John's Wort to help. The therapy helped immensely, the Kava and St. John's Wort significantly less so. In addition to my medication I use yoga, stress management techniques, japa/self guided meditation, massage, journaling and talking to loved ones to manage my conditions. I see my doctor regularly. She is v. tight fisted with all the "fun" meds and I don't think I could get a Vicodin out of her if it meant she could retire on a island of her own. But at the same time, she treats my conditions very aggressively.

Even with good coping mechanisms, good medication and a good support structure, I still have days where I'm anxious and can't sleep and occasionally have days where I am depressed for no reason, sometimes my fibromyalgia causes me so much fatigue and pain still that I can't get out of bed. Despite these aspects, I still feel the normal human range of emotions and generally only feel sad or stressed when I'm "supposed to". I've worked since I was fourteen, I pay my taxes, I write, I ran a con, I go out and have fun doing all the things early thirty-somethings like to do, I have loving relationships and I own a car and a condo. My medication makes it so that instead of being too depressed to be motivated or paralyzed with inexplicable fear and anxiousness or too bedridden with pain and fatigue on the regular, I can lead a fairly "normal" life.

Which is why at this point I get confused about why shame needs to be implemented for taking advantage of first world medical care in order to lead functional lives. Are there people who abuse prescriptions? Um, yeah. They're addicts like the people who are alcoholics and have other drug abuse problems. Is that the majority of people who take meds? No. There's this idea that bugs the shit out of me that there are all these people who take medication they don't really need and this medication *magically* takes away all of their problems and they don't need to deal with them. Last I knew, you needed to take like a fistful of Xanax or are shooting H to get that effect. Which . . .see: addict.

Medication (and therapy) helps get you to the point where you're not in a full blown chemical freakout so you can effectively solve your problems and live your life. If you can do that for yourself without meds, rock out, you have an awesome immune system and brain chemistry. If you can do that solely with homeopathic methods, rock out. If you feel taking meds makes *you* a lesser person somehow then that's your business. But I start to get *real* touchy when you try to lay your trip on me. I get *even more* touchy when you start to try to tell me what to do with my body because I have a real problem with that. Control over my body goes way beyond whether or not I decide to have an abortion, it's also about having agency over the decisions I make regarding my health care.

And this bullshit that some people in our community put on others about how taking prescription medication is selling out, supporting corporate evil and bringing our community down and how you don't "believe" in the pharmaceutical industry so neither should anyone else and positive energy/crystals/herbs/alternative therapies would work for everyone regardless of their brain chemistry and body systems and personal desires is just that- bullshit.

With all that out of the way, let's get to the nuts and bolts of the question asked. While I haven't been completely unmedicated in roughly ten years, there are times where I have a little time in between prescriptions due to various reasons (mostly due to the length of time it takes for my prescriptions to arrive to me via mail) where I am in a quasi-unmedicated state and/or if my fibro-flare is that impressive that it punches past my meds that I feel able to give my own take on whether or not my medications have affected my magical practice.

When I was unmedicated/quasi-unmedicated, it was significantly easier for me to be in touch intuitively. What that means to me is that Tarot reading was easier to "pull", getting random psychic impulses and having an easier time seeing what's going on with what I call The Tapestry. The Tapestry refers to everything that's happened in the past, everything that's happening right now, everything that will happen and everything that never happened. To me it looks like a huge tapestry constantly weaving and unweaving itself in bits and pieces. Typically I could see about like one billionth of the whole tapestry, it was mostly my little corner of the world.

However. And this is a big however, my magic has significantly improved since medicating. My spells are much more effectively, I have the focus to have a personal practice and my rituals are more effective and meaningful.

So while yes, my general fuzzy random psychic ability was better unmedicated, having the ability to cast better and have a better personal practice *to me* (and YMMV) far outweighed my unmedicated abilities. While yes, my unmedicated abilities were more "traditional" psychic aspects, the ability to get the perfect condo through my targeted magic work far outweighed the benefit of being able to say, "Gordon! I think something is going to happen to you on Wedne- Thursd- No, definitely Wednesday. No idea what though. Cheers!" So for me, being more functional in my daily life and being more effective in my targeted magical practice far outweighed being unmedicated.

Discuss among yourselves.


Lydia said...

I hear you, and this is one of my pet peeves as well. I DON'T understand why it's right to judge anyone else's choices in how they care for themselves or their children. Aren't we Pagan? Doesn't undermining each other defeat the whole purpose?

sonneillonv said...

Not to mention that judging people who take prescription medication is veeeeeeery ableist. Like conflating 'insanity' with 'immorality' (which happens a whole lot), when many many people with mental disorders which may classify them as less-than-sane are also highly moral and dedicated to making sure their neurochemistry doesn't cause them to do harm to others.

People with disabilities are everywhere, and the degree to which they are not afforded full participation in our society is shameful. At every turn, we block their access... whether this takes physical form in buildings without handicapped access, or verbal form by criticizing those who take medication.

It's BS. It's got to stop.

Anonymous said...

*claps* Thank you very much for posting about this topic. Since I'm chronically ill and a Pagan, this is something I think about a lot. There are times I've felt inferior because I take medication and because of the type of medication I take.

It's very interesting that comments from various Pagans regarding medication are virtually the same as the comments I've heard from everyone else (and that includes some people in the medical field).

It's all the same ignorance.

To add the experience of another "Medicated Pagan": If I'm not taking medication, I'm unable focus on anything because I'm in too much pain. No really. It's not an experience I'd wish on anyone.

Unknown said...

I agree. Last February I was in constant pain because my wisdom teeth were impacted and I didn't know it. If I wasn't taking some kind of painkiller I couldn't function.

On the other hand, I also worry about what I put into my body. Not so much about not trusting doctors or anything. I just don't want to have pills counteracting other pills. I try to go homeopathic remedies whenever I can. This bugs the heck out of the walk-in clinic doctors where I live, because, I kid you not, they don't like to stray from the medical information they get off the web. Argh!

P.S. I can have this opinion because I've never had to take a crazy amount of medication over several years. If I did, I'd probably be at the doctor's right now holding my arm out and yelling, "Pump me full of whatever you've got, Doc!" I'm a wuss when it comes to pain. :P

Rei said...

I'm generally a big ol' lurker but I have to say I appreciate this post. I'm bipolar and when I was unmedicated I was extremely in touch with 'the other realms'. It was a lot easier to see and communicate with non-human entities. Now that I'm medicated its a little like there is a thin wall I can occasionally see through. However, like you, I am a lot more focused and can pull of rituals and magic I never could before.

I've heard a lot of behind the hand talk about people not wanting 'mentally ill people' in their circle, ritual, spellwork or whatever as if their brain chemistry was going to leak all over the place and make a mess. *rolls eyes*

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