Why it’s OK to work magic and take your meds
If anyone suggests taking your meds is a sign of magical weakness, that’s on them. It’s not on you.
I was reading a book by a magical author I like. Much of the book had great value, because the magician in question has done so much work and knows how to communicate, and then this line jumped out at me:
“There is simply too much money involved in selling us pills that sometimes do nothing except give us side effects and make us poorer.”
The rest of the segment in this chapter encouraged magicians to only ingest natural resources in order to achieve peak physical, mental and emotional condition. And it didn’t include prescription medication in ‘natural’. In fact, it essentially filed depression medication as nothing more than a sucker emanating from the tentacles of Big Pharma.
I had to stop and catch my breath. Let the words osmose through me and out through the other side, so I could remain whole and my core untouched.
Because I’d been there.
I’m not going to mention the author’s name. I can only imagine that, when the author wrote this, they were speaking from personal experience. To have even dreamed of putting such words down in stark ink, black on white, like a tattoo on the skin of one’s soul, they must have faced their own battles. Like me, they must have used magic to get through dark times… but they must also have mistaken a path for the path. Perhaps they were intending to celebrate their hard effort in working with depression without the aid of medication – and in a brief yet terrible moment, they forgot that they don’t get to speak for the world.
When it comes to magic and medication we need to talk about ego, because magic is filled with it. The intertwining of will – your intent to create change – and the ego is the root of why magic is filled with jock culture to this day.
What is jock culture in magic? Why does it thrive like bindweed in magic’s fertile soi? In magic, jock culture is a certain kind of hoo.RAH bravo soldier attitude, and it’s not limited to any one gender, though – let’s face it – it often starts with men.
If your aim is to talk with the unseen and forge your own path through mostly uncharted forests, your will must be a giant tool. It must be strong and throbbing and powerful. You could probably banish a couple of demons using your will without even flexing.
You have to love and work with your will. You have to pump it up and test-drive it and you’re going to end up thinking about it a lot of the time as if it was some kind of vintage car called Bessie. You might end up polishing it every Sunday. Which is fine. Love your will. Work it. But when the will is given the wheel, the ego can get involved with some unwanted backseat driving.
“I will. “I must.” “I can.” These are all things that magicians have said to themselves at one time or another in order to do the thing. And, suddenly, the key word starts to be “I”.
Magic starts doing interesting things to the ego. Strange things. It starts drawing in the element of competition. You can say you’re not competing with other magicians, but in your constant practice of try-fail-learn-try-succeed, you can start competing with yourself. With the growth of your personal understanding of how discipline and endeavour factor into magic, another thought comes creeping in, one related to ego and competition, and it’s the gung-ho notion that magic must be earned with blood, sweat and tears. You must cross the Abyss. You must face total dissolution. If it didn’t nearly break you, it wasn’t magic at all.
And, with that, comes the occult badge-wearing. If you’ve earned your magical badge by crossing the Abyss, you can start feeling… very pleased with yourself. And it’s okay to celebrate and acknowledge your achievements. But jock culture mentality can lead to “this nearly broke me and I survived, so what good is your magic if you didn’t work as hard for it as I did?”
Jock culture. It’s everywhere. It’s in chaos magic forums, in your occult snapchat, in the books of people whose ideas and practice you love. You might see it in yourself. I certainly have.
Like I said, I’ve been there. I’ve been a jock magician. And I wish I’d recognised it sooner.
Shall we have a quiet little chat about meds? Just here, among friends? In my past, I lived with suicidal ideation and depression. I’m so grateful to no longer be in that space. When I first began my magical path, I was going through bad times in a period where medication for depression didn’t exist. Or maybe it did, but it wasn’t on the public radar. Magic helped me to recognise my processes, challenge myself and keep on going. But it wasn’t a cure-all for my depression. It didn’t even ease it. It just helped me question, acknowledge, and keep on going. And I am forever grateful for that.
Later, mental health prescriptions came into the public eye. But, by that time, I was a jock magician. I felt I had to earn my magical badge. Sweat on through to the other side. Take the long hard route, no cheating. I knew I had depression, but meds felt like cheating. That was partly my upbringing, and partly a lot of things. But, as a magician, I was immersing myself in jock culture mentality – even though I knew plenty of amazing magicians who were women – and didn’t know there could be another approach to magic.
I thought you had to go hard or go home. Climb mountains. Live in the desert for forty days and forty nights. Scale the limits of your consciousness. This attitude, I thought, made me stronger. And it probably did. In some ways. But in other ways, I was sorely lacking. I gave myself no kindness, no quarter. I gave others more quarter than I gave myself, but perhaps I still didn’t give them enough. I was too tied into the story of blood, tears, sweat and the Abyss.
These days, it’s much more widely appreciated and understood that you don’t have to be in pain to create your best work. That’s as true of the Great Work as it is of creative work like writing and art.
Yes, you have to challenge yourself to progress your magic.
No, you do not have to be in constant pain.
It took me over twenty years of magic-working and interior mess to go to a doctor. Talk honestly about my depression. Receive a prescription that, halleloo, worked.
And you know what? I’m still a magician.
Why is it OK to work magic and still take your meds?
I promised I would talk about why it’s ok to work magic while on medication, and I will.
Taking medication that’s useful to you isn’t failure. It isn’t cheating. It’s taking action! It’s using tools to shape your reality for the better. It’s acting in accordance with your will. It’s giving yourself a fighting chance. It’s being a magician.
Take a look at the classic Rider-Waite tarot card. What does the magus hold? What do they have on their table? Loves, they have everything. The wand, cup, pentacle, sword… the magus has all the tools they need at hand to call upon the powers of the universe.
Your medication is a tool. One of many. You have the right to use it. To be a magician is to use, and we do not need to fear that. Using resources wisely is the sign of a very clever monkey.
Anyone who takes medication knows it doesn’t make you automatically happy, and it doesn’t make life easy. It’s not a short cut, and it’s not cheating. It’s work. To identify and take your medication is one of many achievements. You can still take the hard path, the one less-travelled. You can still walk into the metaphorical (or physical) desert and head on out into the unknown to bring knowledge back. You can still face the Abyss, if that’s your intent.
But remember this – if you have a tool you want to use in your work, and it’s doing no harm to anyone, it is allowed. If I’d read that chance sentence in that favourite author’s book when I was just beginning my magical journey, I can’t tell what kind of harm it might have done. I might have quelled any urge to do my own personal investigation to see whether depression medication could provide any relief, seeing such an urge as a sucker move, playing into the hands of evil Big Pharma. It would certainly have solidified the erroneous belief that meds were cheating and that they might stop me from being someone who knew their magical onions.
As magicians we’re going to listen to ourselves and listen to our peers. We’re going to use what we can and discard what doesn’t work for us. We’re going to aim to go further, deeper, for longer. To aim for something is beautiful. And so is personal discovery.
But if a magician tells you taking medication isn’t a magical approach? Cast that personal opinion aside. It might be useful to them to think that, but it doesn’t have to be useful to anyone else. As the particular magician I have in mind said, “the very best magicians are scavengers of the useful and banishers of the useless.”
If a magician suggests that taking medication is for the weak? For sheeple? It’s on them, dear one. It’s not on you.