One of my fears when it comes to spirit work is that I am crazy, that I am hearing things or seeing things that are not spiritual in nature, but all in my head. One of my constant battles, and part of the work I’m doing in making myself more useful to Angrboda, is learning to discern and process through these feelings.
Part of the reason for this is because I *am* a little of what you could call ‘crazy’. Until about two years ago, I was considered bipolar, and was taking medication to treat both BPD as well as an anti-psychotic to treat episodes of depersonalization; as well I have experience major bouts of depression and various anxiety issue – OCD particularly.
Now, two years ago, we discovered that I am *not* in fact, bipolar at all, and that the birth control hormones I was on were making me completely insane. Once those were out of me, my crazy subsided, at least to an extent. I am still OCD; however it is much more manageable now. And I do occasionally get depressed, however again, this is more manageable. The last, worst bout of depression I had started in late December off 2012, and started resolving later in 2013 after I left my husband. Its only been within the last few months that I have been happier more often than I have been sad.
So obviously, this all ties into and informs how I interact with both the material, and the spiritual world. One of the thing I have found that really helps me with my discernment are my Sanity Canaries.
A Sanity Canary is basically a person who, knowingly or not, is someone whom you can turn to to touch base with and ensure you are not crazy – much like a canary in the coal mine which alerts folks to dangerous gasses.
Now, coal miners only had one canary, but I, and you, can have several. Here are a few examples of my Sanity Canaries:
The first, of course, is your therapist. I feel very strongly that a good therapist is in order for just about every – including, and maybe especially, spirit workers. My therapist is amazing – she is comfortable with all aspects of my life; kink, woo, polyamory, etcetera.
I think the best moment I had with her was when several weeks after I started talking about the Norse Gods showing up in my life, she comes into a session with “Well, I was at a conference this weekend, and you MUST look up this presenter I met!” and she was talking about Raven Kaldera. Yup.
She has also on more than one occasion said something like “Well, I see you’re addressing x issue with y actions, but have you done a ritual/magic/spell/talked to your priest/etc?” which is INVALUABLE, trust me.
While I see her less frequently than usual, she is someone who has known me for a long time, has a good handle on my issues and quirks, who knows me inside and out – so when she says something, I fucking listen. Ultimately, what her job is, is to help me maintain myself, just like my GP and what not. I have given her a certain amount of authority and cache in my life, and as such it is my responsibility to listen to her.
How do you find someone like her? Well….its not easy. This is my nth round of therapy, but the longest lasting so far. It was years of trial and error, looking through Kink aware professional lists, making calls, and seeing terrible therapists before I found her. Ultimately, I googled sex positive therapists in my area, found her office, and took a stab in the dark as to whom to see based on my days off. It took a while before I brought up spirituality, but as it came up, it was a natural progression and thankfully she rolled with it.
The flip side of this is that I have to be as honest as I possibly can in therapy. This isn’t happy fluffy fun time, it usually ends in tears. But it is good.
Friends and Family
Obviously, your friends and family are other great sources of Sanity Canaries – they know you very well! For me, the two most important are my housemate and my friend whom I will call the Eagle Scout, because he is one.
The Eagle Scout is a pretty damn good one, actually. He’s one of my best friends – I joke that when we split, I got him in the divorce, because he was friendly with my STBX first and when we split, my ex just blew him off. We have lots in common, such as both having some anxiety issues, some wounds in our past, and a love of My Little Pony; but part of why I value him as a Sanity Canary are our differences.
See, The Eagle Scout is Christian. Not Catholic, Christian, and a very practical sort of one at that. I always describe him as very dense. Not physically, not emotionally or intellectually, but kind of…solid? For him, religion is very private, quiet and not at all immanent. If I had suddenly become a Christian Mystic, he would be looking at me exactly as askew as he is now. Its all equally as weird to him.
The Eagle is the person I called when I wanted to test my flying ointment for side effects. He’s the one who’ll watch a blót,
My house-mate IS kind of woo – she offers to our housewight, she does a little magic and understands energy, but not so much Gods. But she also knows me well enough that if she voices concern about a thing, I’m likely to listen.
Another is a friend who is incredibly woo, who is involved with quite a bit of this stuff, but in a completely different tradition than my own, with different experiences and thoughts, but with whom I can discuss these things and get feedback.
Another place to find Sanity Canaries, and another good place to have one, is with a co-religionist. There is a member of my kindred who was the person who first sparked the idea of a Sanity Canary. For me, this is a person who currently I don’t know well, and will get to know better, but whom I consider to be an upstanding ethical person who makes good choices and has a variety of responsibilities outside of the kindred. I looked at them and said ‘If this person thinks shits crazy, its crazy. They will be my sanity canary.”
Sanity Canaries are a wonderful concept for helping you processes through your own shit, and help you learn to trust your instincts and your own feelings – my Sanity Canaries don’t generally get involved unless shit looks fucked up – in fact I can count on one hand minus a thumb the times anyone has pulled me aside with a “WTF, are you insane?” They are more for my own peace of mind than anything; two don’t even know that I consider them sanity canaries
One of the things you may notices – the one thing all these folks have in common is that we have a pre-existing, trust based relationship. Someone who doesn’t know you at all isn’t a good Sanity Canary. Someone who can look at you and go ‘You’re left eye is doing that twitchy thing. Did you eat today?” or what not. Someone who knows you well enough to know when you’re acting out of character – not someone who agrees with you all the time. The Eagle Scout, and my Therapist both know me well enough to know my basic characteristics and when I’m acting differently. Regardless of how they may personally feel about my practices, they love and care about me enough to notice when something is not just different, but when something is wrong.
Do you have a Sanity Canary? Did I leave anyone out? Feel free to comment and share your stories!
2 thoughts on “Sanity Canaries”
Although all those people are very good in the trusted sanity canary category, I find people who are not trusted and close can function as a different kind of Sanity Canary. Instead of giving direct and helpful feedback in that vein, people who are not close to me can give me a gauge on how much my mental health is effecting my functioning… My boss notices when I stop working well, and addresses that with me. I then realize my depression is bad enough to be effecting my job, which also means it’s been definitely effecting my religious practices and friendships and everything else. Instead of being an insight into whether something is different versus wrong, it’s an insight into effectiveness to the outside world. This is probably something I consider an important sanity canary, because that is the arena where my particular mental health stuff is most likely to crop up without me realizing what is going on ahead of time.
But yeah, I definitely use my friends and therapist as Sanity Canaries too.
Thank you for sharing SeekerPhaedrus! Yes, co workers and bosses are definitely Sanity Canaries I forgot to include here! I know that personally, I spend 10 hours a day with my coworkers and employees – they tend to notice when things are up and are likely to point out when my behaviour changes too!
I think I was focusing more on folks who I talk to who notice changes, rather than folks in proximity to me who would notice as well. Thank you!