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My thoughts about Traditional Witchcraft, Wicca, cooking, gardening, and anything else that catches my fancy.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Illness And The Witch

This post doesn't have much to do with magic, but it IS an important part of my life, none the less. At times in my blog, I've mentioned that I was unwell, or unable to do something on a particular day, but haven't mentioned why. Well, the truth is, I suffer from chronic illness which limits my activities. Around 2005, I suddenly came down with severe, chronic migraines accompanied by devastating fatigue, and despite brief periods of improvement it hasn't really let up since. I became ill almost overnight, it seemed, but it took around 7 doctors a good year to diagnose what was wrong with me. It was ultimately decided that I suffer from chronic migraine disorder, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Fibromyalgia. Looking back over the years, I can see signs of trouble as far back as my early teens (I would have periods where I felt as though I had the flu, but the doctor said I had no infection) but it wasn't until I was 25 that it got really bad.

I've learned, the hard way, that our American culture does not do well with chronic illness. People sort of assume that, if one gets sick, one either goes to the doctor and is "cured," or else worsens and dies. It seems hard for a lot of people to comprehend that there are some disorders which can neither be "cured" nor are fatal, and that it's possible to suffer for many years despite not looking sick. Almost as difficult as the severe physical pain my illness causes me has been the lack of understanding shown to me by friends and even family at times. When told of my condition, peoples' reactions tend to range from the kindly-meant but ill-informed ("Oh, I get headaches too, and sometimes I'm tired after a long day.") to condescending ("You just need to take vitamins/give up gluten/exercise/etc") to the both ill-informed and the hostile ("Well, I read on the internet that your disorder is FAKE! If I saw it on a website, it must be true.") There is a tendency for people to vastly underestimate how disabling some of these symptoms can be. A migraine is not simply a "headache" and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is not the same kind of tiredness you get from a long at work or too much exercise. My migraines are the most painful thing I have ever experienced in my life, by far (and I've had quite a few surgeries) and the fatigue I suffer from is, at times, so severe that even getting out of bed to go get a drink of water feels like an almost insurmountable task. The best way I can describe my daily experience is to say, imagine having the worst flu you can think of (but without the fever or congestion) and the kinds of aches, pains, and severe tiredness you feel. That's what I wake up to every day. Now, obviously, I don't usually discuss my health with strangers, but at times it becomes relevant when I have to explain why I have to cancel plans, cannot be somewhere at a certain time, or am moving slowly. Sadly, because of my health issues, I cannot work and have become largely disabled.

So, how does this tie in to Witchcraft? Well, the question has been asked of me a few times (by non-occult acquaintances) "Well, if you're so magic, why can't you just cast a spell and heal yourself?" My response is always the same: "Well, if modern medicine is so great, why can't they give me something to heal me?" For, indeed, while it's possible to reduce some of my symptoms, there is presently no cure. Going more in depth, it's my belief and experience that magic is a tool, but not a miracle. If something is possible, magic can make it more likely to happen, and can give things a little "push" in the right direction. For example, if you've an injured arm, or a fever, magical treatments can help the harm heal, or aid the body in overcoming the infection causing the increased temperature. However, no magic (or medicine, at this time) can regrow an arm which has been removed, or heal a body so badly damaged that death is imminent. There is no belief system or occult science which puts you outside of natural law, and negates that fact that people are born and will one day die. I do NOT hold truck with the trendy New Age idea that we "create our own illnesses" by not being forgiving or something (which is a terrible philosophy that blames innocent victims of disease) but I do think a certain amount of suffering and pain in life is inevitable, though we ought to work to lessen that and provide relief. Though if I had a magic pill which would cure me instantly, I would take it without a second's delay, I have learned from my pain to enjoy life's little pleasures, and now take much more enjoyment out of days when I feel well. I've also gained much more empathy for other suffers of chronic pain and other chronic conditions, for I know now what it's like to have an "invisible illness" that others often time do not understand, or do not take seriously.

Because of my magical training and skills, I've been able to find useful coping mechanisms, be they herbal remedies to treat symptoms like nausea and vomiting, or trance techniques I can use to "escape" during the worst bouts of pain. However, it's still a tough time, and I have a lot of regrets and ever anger over things I had dreamed of for my life, but will now probably never happen. I have gained a deeper understanding of what it means to be human, though, and perhaps also a more detailed glimpse of the darker side of the human psyche and experience. I sometimes wonder if my problems, and the solitary life which tends to accompany them, have actually aided my magical work in a way, as all that alone time is valuable for doing mental exercises and study.

I usually don't discuss this issue, because I know it's a drag to read about other people's problems. However, I think it's relevant to my experience as both a Witch, and as a human, which is why I've discussed it here. If nothing else, it might help explain some of my previous statements on here, or why there are times when I don't post or mention missing out on sometime important because of my health. I also like to help increase public awareness, since there is much misunderstanding and even hostility towards what some call the "invisible illnesses." It's been one of my goals in life to help educate people, so that those who suffer as I do can find better treatment, and so that family and loved ones can better understand, be be more supportive,to those struggling with these same issues.

For more information:
About Fibromyalgia
About Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
About Migraine Disorder


  1. "Well, I read on the internet that your disorder is FAKE! If I saw it on a website, it must be true."

    While the internet puts a lot of information at our fingertips, it also makes many opinions available, also. Unfortunately, some people determine truth by what is convenient to them.

    My wife has Fibromyalgia and CFS. She doesn't suffer from migraine disorder, fortunately. However, there are days that I hurt just watching her.

  2. Indeed, there is a lot of misinformation out there. Unfortunately, even some doctors don't get with the times, and still work with outdated information. Hopefully, with the recent FDA approval of several drugs to treat these conditions, that will change.

  3. I can empathise at least with the migraine. Definitely migraine is not "just a headache" - mine can be totally disabling if they get a full grip. I'm lucky in that my boss has a wife who also gets them so if I need to call in sick then there is no problem.

  4. In my experience, and I can be wrong, people many times say stupid things only because someone else chronic illness confront them with their own fear of mortality... People are scared of pain, of sorrow, of death and would do just about anything to hide away from seeing it, even in others... and there are no easy answers... Bright Blessings, brother