Is It All In Your Head?

In pagan parlance, I have an “open head.” To non-pagans, this is best described as being prone to mystical experiences; I communicate frequently with the Divine. Depending on where you are yourself in the spiritual spectrum, this statement may sound silly, grandiose, delusional, or even deceptive. I assure you, it is none of those…well, it is a little silly. I’ll give you that. OK. It’s very silly. But while I cannot prove my honesty (this is the internet, and I am talking of subjective experiences. You want proof? Sorry. Go somewhere else, troll), I can provide ample evidence of my sanity. (Though again, not here. I’m not giving you my medical records over the internet. Go away, troll.)

You see, I am indeed under psychiatric care, and I am also quite comfortable discussing why. I have Aspergers syndrome, or I did before that particular name was stricken from the DSMV. I also have ADHD and OCD, as well as chronic anxiety issues and a panic disorder. I’ve suffered from depression, and in my adolescence, I had fits of uncontrollable and often violent rage (this is sadly not uncommon for children on the autism spectrum, though we do grow out of the worst of it). I am – I fully admit – a disabled individual. I am twenty-seven years of age and still not quite capable of taking care of myself. I remain financially dependent on my parents. I have the emotional maturity of a teenager. My personal hygiene is lacking. I need a cocktail of pills to even function: one prescription for anxiety, one for my ADHD, one for my mood swings, and one to counteract the sluggishness and lethargy brought on by the mood stabilizer. (Yes. I have a medicine that treats the side effects of my other medicines. It works fine like that. I’m not going off either of them. Got a problem? Go away, troll.)

I am one of the mentally ill, you might even say. And the gods talk to me. I have communicated with Norse Trickster Loki, and with myriad Shinto kami from Inari to Uzume to Amaterasu herself (and she’s every inch a Sovereign; none of this ooey-gooey pagan fluffy-bunny “patron goddess, work with me!” business. She is granting you an audience, foolish mortal!). I’ve had the Egyptian Cat Goddess Bast show up and make a demand of me (buy that statue) and then leave. And of course, the Indian Goddess Sarasvati is immanent in me.

But here’s the thing: I am not delusional. I have no history of psychoses. I have no history of disassociation. I have neither an individual history nor a family history of these issues, nor of bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, or any other mental illnesses that could cause delusional thoughts or behavior. I am not delusional. My mind is certainly not normal, but it is quite sound. It may not work as well as yours, but it is not making things up. I am sane. Never said anything about normal though.

The major hangup I see is the idea that these gods are “talking” to me. The first thing I have to explain is that they are not “voices in my head.” When I (or, from what I have learned of other open-headed people) talk of the gods “saying” things, that is only because I for one have no better way of putting it. The gods usually give me impressions, sometimes almost in a literal sense. I feel what is being communicated. I do not hear it as a voice, as words. It doesn’t sound in my ears. It often seems more like a touch than a sound, yet it is a touch that triggers my brain to form words.

You can call me a mystic. I cannot prove to you that what I say is the truth, but I will say that I am being both honest and earnest. Do you want to say that this is all in my head? You are probably right. But why can’t the gods be in our heads as well as in the heavens?

5 thoughts on “Is It All In Your Head?

  1. As a Catholic, I found a lot of this easy to relate to, especially this: “It doesn’t sound in my ears. It often seems more like a touch than a sound, yet it is a touch that triggers my brain to form words.” I know what those moments are like, especially when they come as seemingly random commands. Whatever name of a God we attribute it to, I think that being mentally open to spiritual influence leads people to be more attentive to this unheard voice, and spiritual practice leads people to be better at recognizing it.

    Thank you for opening up about your challenges and care as well, especially so articulately. Although I do not have the same challenges, a very good friend of mine does, and I’m always thankful to gain more of an understanding.

  2. Thank you for commenting. I was raised Catholic, actually. It turned out to just not be for me, and I was ushered on to where I am now by Mother Mary herself. She still comes by to check on me every now and then.

  3. Once when someone asked me where the Gods were, I pointed at my head, then at my heart, then at my center. Then I reached towards the earth and raised my arms towards the sky, then spread them to embrace the world. Just because part of them is in your head doesn’t mean that that’s the totality. Just because part of them touches our mind doesn’t mean that all of them is there.

    Thank you for this. I’ve had to struggle with the same thing, against the voices of the trolls in my head (we all have those), against doubters both polytheist and non. I’ve always been the sort to get impressions, though I occasionally do hear voices (though never with my ears) when I do I know that it is how my brain is processing those impressions.

  4. I know this is an old post but I felt like commenting anyway, I’m also autistic and mentally ill and I know people who have delusions and similar conditions, it’s not impossible to have experiences with the Gods and those mental illness, it’s even possible to try to learn the differences, harder but possible, many even say the experiences are quite different. I guess is discernment in a different way.

    Besides, unlike mental illness the Gods are not here just to confuse us and make us suffer, if pain is all we got from this or if we caused pain because of this that would be a problem but as long that’s not the case we can’t call it symptom of an illness.

    Thank you for this post, I like reading how other people think about this subject.

  5. Thank you so much for replying! You are indeed EXACTLY right about mental illness and the gods. I’ve often felt defensive when talking about Saraswati’s interactions with me, because I *do* have mental health issues. This post was meant to discuss my own experiences, and from my experiences, I *can* point someone to my history and tell them “this just ISN’T what’s going on here.” I feel like I have no standing to discuss other mental illnesses and how they impact spirituality, only my own experiences.

    Does that make any sense? I know where you’re coming from, and I agree with you. It’s just that I can only talk about my own experiences regarding mental illness.

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