CW: Mental illness, trauma (in general).
Among the many things rattling around my skull, approaching the concept of Witchcraft with mental illness gives me the most pause. When one’s brain is chemically imbalanced, whether psychologically or physically, it poses an extra layer of guess-work and mistrust to most subjects. Not least of which is those things that profess to healing or control.
Yet because of that imbalance, reaching for something—anything—that promises to heal is like dangling Adderall in front of a senior with final exams coming up. Or heroin in front of someone battling crippling chronic pain. Or alcohol to numb night terrors. Maybe we don’t need it. Maybe we don’t even want it; not really. Maybe we think it won’t work. But…
It’s worth trying, right? Because what if it works?
A dangerously unstable cliff edge.
Booze for the Soul
Often, followers of various religions have assured me that letting whatever deity of choice into one’s heart soothes all hurts. Similar, less ecclesiastical voices say that simply by letting light and happiness in can one heal. “Just smile!” or “Jesus will guide you!”
I know I can be tongue in cheek—humor is my most finely-honed shield—but I had and have zero doubt: Jesus would guide me right off a rooftop. That’s where I was not too long ago; where I end up when things get bad again. And you know how it is. It always goes bad again.
Many complex trauma survivors walk away from their religious beliefs. For example, to believe in a good and loving God who allows suffering and heinous abuse to occur can feel like the ultimate betrayal. (The Mighty; Lilly Hope Lucario)
I talked about my lack of religion already, so for a while, I ignored this. Of course, hindsight is perfection on a razor’s edge. Here’s the ugly truth: There were many, many times when I screamed inside my skin for a god to save me.
Faith, man. It’s a hell of a drug. …Especially when you’re only borrowing it for a little while.
A Magickal Version of Meth
You know why they call it a fix? Because it’s supposed to fix whatever is wrong with you. It’s a cure-all, a panacea—neglecting to add that it works because it gives you the illusion of control. You manage the pain; take the edge off; gain control of your anxiety, your health, your physical abilities.
You quiet your demons.
All pro-action, right? You are making a choice to take that fix and apply it.
My feelings (or is it my fear?) tells me that magick is the same choice, albeit one far more psychological than physiological. To be a Witch is to make a bid for power, to reach for threads out there and shift them the way you want them to go.
As Mat Auryn says at For Puck’s Sake:
“You cannot bend or shape reality without power. As witches, we seek power and that power allows us to shape ourselves and shape our world.”
Power. The ability to gain control of something so far out of my control…?
An interesting notion.
Trick question: What’s the difference between a psychological method of control and a physiological method of control?
What separates either from a magickal method of control?
Rational minds, I assume, might point to intent and will and how magick doesn’t have addiction issues or narcotics or…
My brain: isn’t the illusion of control what we turn to drugs for?
Isn’t magick… what? A wish? Is it like a drug, a balm to “heal” the pain, but ultimately only masks it with an illusion of control?
Faith, right? Faith and power and a desperate need to exert either…
Spoiler: What Do I Know?
I wrote, and I do quote myself:
Belief is a funny thing. To me, it’s different from faith. It’s, I think, more easily shattered. It’s a dream, rather than the sheer faith of one’s worship of gods. Belief is my bag. Faith? Not so much.
Did I mention that my thoughts tend to wander down cyclical, tangential paths? I don’t plan these articles ahead of time. I go with what I think and later… well, later, I often talk myself into a new direction. My therapist (well, ex-therapist; she skipped town, probably not my fault haha, no, really, awesome lady) had become a master at letting me talk, while skillfully redirecting my cycles back to the gist.
And well… and… well.
I was wrong about faith and belief; extremely limited in my definition of faith, even. I associated it at the time purely with religious connotations, even while I have struggled and struggled to rebuild a shattered faith in who I am and what I do.
Faith, right? Faith in myself. And belief in Witchcraft. Belief in… healing? Faith in Witchcraft? That it might… what?
Round and round about I go, wary of what help I may or may not put my faith in…
So I suppose that takes me right back to my initial question, stated or otherwise:
Is it because I’m desperate for a panacea, a modicum of control, that the power of Witchcraft appeals to me? Or am I actually drawn to it for itself?
Does it matter?
My mental illness keeps me always on a knife’s edge, questioning every new step I take. With time, through this blog, through experience and through learning, I intend to figure it all out.
But for fuck’s sake, brain… shut up.
K. C. Alexander is an SF/F author and very proud of smearing her bloody fingers all over the lines. She writes aggressive transhumanist sci-fi, co-wrote Mass Effect: Andromeda: Nexus Uprising, and may or may not be a witch. Like what she does? Consider checking out her tarot reads and behind the scenes glimpses of her work.