I touched on the relationship between seasons and our inner work not long ago. I wanted to take this exploration a step further and delve into how mental health conditions common to trauma survivors, such as depression and PTSD, are also affected by the rhythms of Mother Nature. I do want to take a moment to note that being a trauma survivor and having a mental health condition are by no means synonymous; one can occur without the other. They do co-exist for many people, and the ways in which they manifest can relate to the earth’s patterns.
Words like “lunacy” and “lunatic” date back as far as the Greeks and Romans. These words refer to mental health problems thought to be caused by the moon. Although the scientific evidence for this connection is scant, many people still believe that the full moon brings out something wild and untamed. One explanation I’ve found intriguing is that the brightness of the moon, especially to those living exposed, may have caused problems sleeping, which we know does factor into symptoms of mood disorders and anxiety.
For those of us who are women, our monthly menstrual cycle interrelates strongly to our mental health. For many women, the time just before menstruation involves an uptick in emotional distress, even to the point of full-blown depression symptoms. In her book Witch, Lisa Lister describes this time as one where we may be able to more deeply access our intuition and feel ripe for inner work. Some months this holds true for me; others I am too far gone with depression to be able to do this.
If you are curious about your emotions and mental health problems correspond to monthly cycles, consider tracking the course of your rhythms using resources such as a moondala or moon dreams diary. I’ve been using Molly Remer’s book, the Womanrunes Companion Journal, and have been delighted to see how many days I’m actually feeling good at the start of the day. It is helping me track the specifics of how my cycles affect my viewpoint and vice versa.
Wheel of the Year
As a practitioner of Goddess spirituality, I do not follow the Wheel of the Year quite as closely as some Pagan traditions, but I’m fascinated by the richness of each celebration for both community and individual spiritual life. I’m beginning an exploration of how it related to our inner work, using resources like The Great Work. As a strong proponent of self-care, I will be examining more fully how we can resource our needs and respond to the needs of others at each spoke of the wheel. I plan to publish a series with guidance for each of the upcoming celebrations for the next year.
Mental health concerns do wax and wane with the time of year. The manic side of bipolar disorder is sometimes related to excessive sunlight in summer. There is a specific form of major depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder which relates to experiencing depression in the winter when there is a lack of sunlight. Suicidal behavior is highest in the spring and summer. One explanation I’ve heard for this phenomenon is that people who have struggled with seasonal depression may have lingering depression symptoms coupled with their energy escalating as winter lifts. Anxiety issues and PTSD may increase with certain seasons as well, depending on the specific triggers an individual faces.
It is interesting to me that some of the Pagan traditions reflect, in a healthy way, these flows of energy and mood. The summer festivals are full of energy and light, whereas some of the fall and winter ones are centered on contemplation and loss. Our ancestors appear to have recognized the cycles we go through, some of us in a more serious way than others, as the seasons change.