Practicing through depression

I’m going through an episode of major depression. This is not unexpected given how much has been going on for me lately. It seems odd to me that it’s happening when things are finally settling down, but maybe that’s to be expected too. I’m seeking care in a lot of different ways. One of those is talking about it. Another is continuing my daily practice. But my daily practice can be extremely difficult for me right now, and I was wondering if others have gone through something similar.

The problem is that while it’s very difficult to do my daily practice(s) right now, this is the time when I need it most. This is the time when I know it’s good for me, and yet I can barely care enough to sit down and do even the simplest work.

Depression is very sneaky and difficult to deal with because it is so self-reinforcing. Take social contact: it’s generally good to be with friends and loved ones, but depression not only makes me want to be alone, my depression tells me that no one cares how I’m feeling, or worse, that by trying to discuss my depression with others I’m imposing on them or hurting them. Intellectually, I can know that statement isn’t true, but it doesn’t change the force of the feeling, and that feeling is very difficult to overcome.

Similarly, depression is self-reinforcing by sabotaging things like my daily practice. I know, in my head, that doing my daily practice is good for me and may actually help me be less depressed. But in my feelings, it’s not only hard to do my practice, it’s not rewarding once I’ve accomplished it. There’s no “think of how good it’ll feel when you’re done” as motivation because it doesn’t feel good when I’m done. Sometimes it feels relieving to cross one thing off my to do list, but only in the sense of not having it hanging over me any longer; sometimes it just doesn’t feel like anything.

At times like this, it feels like I’m faking my practice, or doing it in an empty fashion. (When I’m depressed, empty is at least better than hurting.) That plus difficulty concentrating makes it pretty hard to do even the simplest devotions or meditations. Yet I want to keep doing them, if only so that I know I’m not making things worse or letting things get worse by letting that part of my life slip away.

Have others gone through something similar with spiritual practice, especially with depression? How do/did you deal with it?

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About Literata

Literata is a Wiccan priestess and writer. She edited Crossing the River: An Anthology in Honor of Sacred Journeys, and her poetry, rituals, and nonfiction have appeared in works such as Mandragora, Unto Herself, and Anointed as well as multiple periodicals. Literata has presented rituals and workshops at Sacred Space conference, Fertile Ground Gathering, and other mid-Atlantic venues. Literata offers healing and divination services as well as customized life-cycle rituals. She is currently completing her doctoral dissertation in history with the support of her husband and four cats.
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11 Responses to Practicing through depression

  1. Having gone through incidents of this myself with my personal struggle with mental illness, I still have done the daily rituals of devotion to my Gods. Even if at times it feels l am only “going through the motions” it ultimately helps maintain my connection with Them. And, in time, when the depression inevitably starts to lessen, I am at least not sent into another bout of depression from knowing that I have ignored Them and their support. It is at that point in the depression cycle that the daily rituals start to bring me out of the feeling of futility. At that point, I start to feel THEIR love again, even if I still have trouble loving myself.

    • Literata says:

      Yes yes yes. I’m so glad others know what this is like.

      Interestingly, my devotions are probably the easiest thing to keep up and are really becoming my “baseline” – if nothing else, do devotions. Probably because they’re more external (not visualization or so much about how I “feel”) I can do them on all but the very worst days, and I feel as if I’ve externally succeeded at doing them, even if I don’t get the deep feeling of connection that I usually get. Trusting that that will come back is part of coping right now, I think.

  2. slothicorn7 says:

    Yes to everything. Much like how my room gets disastrously messy when I am depressed, my practice falls to the wayside. I don’t stop to enjoy the elements when I go outside, my grounding practices take longer to work (if they do), and it’s hard to focus long enough to connect with my Powers. I’ve created a charging station by my bedside with some crystals, a bowl of shells, and an idol of my main goddess so that I can spend just a moment when I wake up and go to bed to ground and recharge. Just acknowledging that it’s there helps build up the charge for the moments when I can spend more time to focus for longer to connect. Depression feels like a shroud over my head, it weighs me down and puts a barrier between myself and everything else. My Powers feel dimmed and it’s a struggle to connect, if I have to desire to even try. Sometimes we have to just do what we can to get by until the wave of depression passes.

    • Literata says:

      I like the idea of a charging station, and I definitely think I need to add some touches to my bedroom area.

      “Sometimes we have to just do what we can to get by” – QFT.

  3. John Beckett says:

    I wrote a bunch of stuff, then decided I was projecting myself onto your situation and deleted it. I’ll leave one thing: doing the right thing is doing the right thing. Why and how aren’t nearly as important as the fact that you’re doing the right things.

    One more thing: the fact that you’re mindful of all this is a very good sign.

  4. Raj Bhosley says:

    {{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{ ❤ Lit ❤ }}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}

    I definitely have a thing or two to say about this, but possibly in private. Also, it might take some time to put my thoughts in writing. For now, I'm here for you, and I have neither stopped caring about you nor looking up to you.

  5. Marcellina says:

    Yes, absolutely it’s the right thing. Recommendations for self-treatment with depression always include keeping to a routine of positive things: exercise, eating right, getting out to see friends, trying to get regular sleep. It seems to me that your regular practice would fit right in as keeping to a positive routine. For me, it’s musical pratice. There really is something to the phrase “fake it til you make it”.

    • Literata says:

      I’m trying to believe in the “fake it till you make it” approach, but I guess one of my questions is whether it’s appropriate to “fake it” with one’s relationships to the Powers if necessary. It sounds like the answers from others are a resounding yes, and that’s the impression I’m getting internally, too, so I’ll keep on keeping on.

  6. In my experience, moving through the actions, even if it doesn’t feel like anything is happening, is worthy. I frequently don’t feel as if anything is happening when I am in ritual performing magick, but I am told that it is, in fact, happening. And at times like this, doing *anything* is better than doing nothing.
    Hugs to you – we’re thinking fondly of you and your journey!

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