Jack of Many Trades

E is for Emo

Originally posted: 2014-02-27

I know emo is kind of a dirty word, but Fall Out Boy is back together and I feel it's an accurate representation of how I feel right now.

Every so often I see comments making the rounds about how religion is or is not therapy, or whether the gods are or are not interested in helping people for their own sake. Aine wrote a good post taking that apart last year, and I feel like setting that up as a dichotomy is missing the point. Not all gods have the same goals and motivations, and to assume that all gods want to be worshipped in the same way seems weirdly monist.

I suspect part of the problem is one of defining terms - what "therapy" is in this context is usually left unaddressed. Dismissing internal work as "therapy" as if they're the same thing and as if therapy is a bad thing for people to want is also getting into mental-health-shamey territory, but I'm sure people who get referred to as "crazy" would never intentionally turn around and do the same thing. And yet I don't see a lot of people talking about how Loki told them to try Acceptance and Commitment Therapy or something, so I'm not sure what conclusions to draw.

Oddly enough, Kuan Yin and Mara have both been motivating forces in getting me to start therapy. Kuan Yin, being the kind of bodhisattva she is, basically just wants me to lessen my suffering, and ACT is helping with that. Aside from Kuan Yin, most of my deities aren't interested in therapy for therapy's sake with me. Some of them are, however, interested in seeing me be a better person for whatever reasons of their own. Mara wants me in therapy because I have things I should be doing, and anxiety gets in the way of that. When I'm more functional, I'm more likely to be doing the work they value.

I actually have a tag on my personal Dreamwidth blog that's 'if I call it emo it's not depression.' I tend to fall back on the term emo when I feel like my symptoms aren't "real" enough to qualify for treatment as something outside of my control. If I'm just being emo then I should pick up my bootstraps and... hang myself with them, I don't know what I expect myself to do. I'm devaluing my own experience, just as large swaths of the pagan conversation tell me that I either need to Think Positive or Focus On The Gods and put my own issues aside.

But depression doesn't go away because I use a mocking term to describe it, and anxiety doesn't go away because I tell myself I have important work to do. It's as ridiculous to tell myself that I should be above the brain raccoons as it would be to tell myself that I need should be able to perform devotional whirling as a person with vertigo. I can do exercises to improve the vertigo, and I can do work to improve my brain, but I can't fix it with sheer force of will no matter how much people tell me to, or how much I want to.

So instead of using emo to demean myself, maybe I should embrace it. Rather than call myself an empath like a lot of pagans do, maybe I should be an emopath. I'm great at worrying about what other people are feeling and trying to get them what they need. I need to figure out what the hell I'm feeling and how to deal with that if I'm going to really accomplish all I can for other people, for the gods, and for myself.