Occultism and Mental Illness

Over the course of my life I’ve had to reconcile my spiritual beliefs and my insecurities over how I’m perceived, knowing that many will conflate my experiences with psychosis with my experiences with gnosis. While, as with any aspect of a life, they are interwoven in my development as a person, it’s important to give myself the autonomy to be involved in mysticism. 

Esoteric studies have been the most grounding force in my life since before I learnt to read. I was born predisposed to bipolar disorder and began developing early symptoms near puberty but throughout the ups and downs my faith in the vastness of metaphysics was constant. While I struggled to discern visions from hallucinations as a teenager, medication and meditation provided instruments of awareness. 

For many, occultism is a dangerous trigger. It can lead a vulnerable person down an enabling path which eventually ends in tragedy. The same can be said though of religion, fictional entertainment media, superstition, those who struggle with psychosis should not be barred from experiencing life freely and it is up to them, their doctors, and their loved ones as to if a relationship with something is healthy. 

For myself, my bipolar disorder is usually seasonally affected, and otherwise mood cycles are triggered by stress (especially stressful life changes). I remain vigilant and take note of a situation that enables extraneous or problematic magical thinking. Believing in magic has kept me alive since birth but experience has taught me when a line of thinking becomes damaging. For example, when I was sixteen my cat disappeared and our neighbour said he saw a dead cat that looked like mine that’d been hit on the road, but we never found the body. For months I acted on my best behaviour, did good deeds every day, because deep down I believed if I did everything right then the cosmos would give my cat back to me. This wasn’t true, and even if my cat did come back, what I was doing was driven by selfish and maladaptive forces, cognitive distortions.

However, when I finally sat down and meditated on my acceptance of my cat’s death after my mother caught on and directly confronted my tip toeing into delusion, I could feel my friend’s presence and knew that Fergal had passed on. I was at peace. I didn’t need to see a body to know that my cat wasn’t coming back, but I also knew that he wasn’t truly gone. His essence was still present in his impact on this world, on me, and the fragments of his spirit that remain attached, and that his soul would go on to transform into some new wonderful thing. 

I wouldn’t be who I am without occultism. I’m twenty four, but I never had a childhood and I never grew up. Over the course of my life I’ve earned my right to call myself a mystic, an alchemist, though I won’t feel comfortable holding these titles proud until I’ve managed to age and prove true wisdom. I don’t discount my psychotic experiences which provide insight, but I don’t rely on them to prove what I already know. This is similar to the failure of psychonauts to form a grounded basis of spirituality, or anyone who relies on psychedelics to peek at what they term ‘enlightenment’. Severe early childhood trauma caused me to understand things that may have taken me thirty, fifty years to grapple with— the rest of my life now has been spent building upon the truths my soul knows. Occultism and the esoteric have given my understanding context.

I can’t hide from my genetics. I’ve inherited much of what I have. My children will also most likely be autistic, have ADHD and bipolar disorder, but I have created a good life for myself and I can give them a good life. I know this because of what life and occultism has taught me. My hope comes from my beliefs in the communication that goes on within a forest through the mycelium, tree roots, vibrations, from my fearlessness of the paranormal or supernatural that all people inevitably face at least once in a life but that I seek out, from the corroborated proof, from the love, from the reason, and ultimately from something that some would call God.

When my fiancé refers to what I do as alchemy to their family, I shudder. I think of what runs through their heads, that I’m delusional and am trying to turn lead into gold. What I’m doing is alchemy— the most middle of the road between modern and ancient practices as the uninitiated can get— but it’s no more incredible than a patient in therapy or a religious prayer. I take my prescribed medication and it works, I have a general practitioner, a psychiatrist, and psychologist, I go to my appointment, and it helps. Without my deep beliefs though, I never could have gotten the point of knowing I could be helped.

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