Popping Pills and Magical Practice
Since writing my latest article for WitchVox on Magically Cleansing Your Home, I’ve been getting the same question over and over:
Do you think that taking medication affects your magical practice?
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. The fact that apparently a lot of Pagans/Magical Practitioners feel that they can’t talk about taking prescription medication — and need to hide the reality that they do take medications 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.
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 very 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 an 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 I occasionally have days when 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.
Even with taking medication, 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 convention. 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, I can lead a fairly “normal” life.
Which is the reason I get confused about why shame needs to be implemented if people choose to take 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 drug abusers. Is that the majority of people who take meds? No.
There’s this idea that really bugs 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 so 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 freak-out so you can effectively solve your problems and live your life. If you can do that for yourself without meds, awesome! You have an incredible immune system and brain chemistry. If you can do that solely with homeopathic methods, great! There’s nothing wrong with homeopathy if it works for you.
If you feel taking meds makes you a lesser person somehow then that’s your business and you certainly have a right to your feelings. But I start to get really touchy when someone who thinks that taking meds makes him/her a lesser person insists that I should think that too. 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. Agency over my body goes way beyond whether or not I decide to have an abortion; it’s also about having the right to make the decisions I make regarding my health care.
And this junk 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, along with the hype that positive energy/crystals/herbs/alternative therapies would work for everyone regardless of their brain chemistry and body systems and personal desires — is just that: junk.
Because honestly? Unless you’re completely off the grid (and then would not be reading this on the internet) , we all have to make compromises every day with big business. Do I like that? No. Am I willing to compromise my issues with big business in order to be a reasonably functioning human? Yes. Am I saying you have to make that compromise? No. Am I saying you need to leave me alone and make my own big girl decisions about that compromise and why I don’t use crystals for healing? Yes.
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 occasions when 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) . It is during these times when 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, and 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 now have the focus to have a personal practice (which I didn’t previously) 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 far outweighed my unmedicated abilities. 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.