Q&A: Mental Illness And Heathenry

The Question:

I finished my way through Our Troth, and started on the Poetic Edda. Well, I found a 1930's translation online, but got back to uni and found a 2011 penguin translation, that even preserves alliterative verse. I have a question that I know I'm going to get conflicting answers on - is it bad (possibly even unmanly?) to have mental health issues? I suffer from depression, with voice hearing when I'm very depressed. I take antidepressants, antipsychotics, and exercise for my condition.
From OT and a few blogs (in the side bar. Did I mention that I love reading?) there is the repeated phrase "We do not discriminate...". So I'm thinking it won't be an issue. Furthermore, Hamaval 71

The lame can ride horses, the handless driver herds

The deaf can fight and do well;

better blind than to be burnt:

no one has use for a corpse.

Suggests that being disabled is better than being dead.

Finally, I can't drink while taking the drugs that keep me alive. So I'll be a good designated driver if I find Asatruar near me :) I'm eager to try the non-alcoholic mead recipe in OT (1 cup water, one cup apple juice, one or two tablespoons of honey)

In responding, I was trying to walk the line between an honest and forthright reply and between not wanting to reject OP outright but at the same time, not patter about with useless and cheap validation.

The Response:

Short, Useless, Answer:

No it will not prevent you from participating in Heathenry, but it remains an issue.

Longer, Difficult, Answer:

Orlæg is a stone cold bitch at times, and personally, I think Orlæg is either a handicap to overcome, or a legacy that must be lived up to. Your mental illness is something that whether you like it or not, is ever present in your life and seeks to define you in ways that those of us who don't share in it will never understand, that we cannot understand.

So yes, I do think it will be an issue, in the sense that it is an issue. It is a constant struggle for those who are mentally ill, and to wave that struggle under the rug in a foolish attempt at blind inclusion is unfair to both you, the sufferer, and those to whom you will be binding your luck.
I want to keep emphasizing that all the struggles and limitations I'm highlighting is not meant to discourage you. I'm not trying to tell you don't do this. What I am trying to do is give you a fair assessment of the challenges you're going to face.

And the biggest one I think you'll face is the stigma of mental illness means that you will be subject to a greater level of scrutiny. Its not fair, but it is what it is. In Heathenry, we think of the universe as a woven tapestry, the web of wyrd. Those we bring into our lives become tightly bound up in our wyrd and their wyrd interplays with our wyrd, impacting it far greater than the ways than those we hold at arms length (which is not to say the utangearde has no effect on wyrd, they do, but that's a digression for a different thread).

The fact that you are upfront about your mental illness does you credit. If you were to come into my life and my periphery, I would appreciate you are clear with your challenges and upfront with the things that could cause me issue. It is, I believe, a good thing that speaks to your character. I would still make sure that your mental illness is handled. I have to protect my innergearde from chaotic influences, and mental illness can be a chaos one invites into your home. This question even becomes more important if I have those who cannot defend themselves in my hold. Children, other family members who are themselves mentally ill. Is the frið of my hold going to be harmed by your presence? That's the ultimate question I'm asking myself as I begin to form a relationship with you.

I should stop here and make one additional thing clear. At no point, so long as you adhere to its laws, does your mental illness abrogate my responsibility to be hospitable. You will be welcome at my table, and to a warm, safe place to lay your head according to my abilities to provide such. But the laws of hospitality are temporary, and what you may be seeking is a permanent relationship.

I urge you also to consider this reticence as a two way street. While I am evaluating your impact on my home and frið, you should be doing the same. Can you really trust someone who, knowing your mental illness, refuses to struggle with its impact before it might become an issue? What will you do should, after proclaiming yourselves kinfolk, you need that extra help dealing with the challenges and tribulations of your Orlæg and the person who claimed brotherhood with you is not there, because he never really considered the costs of that relationship?

In the end, again, I think your worth isn't limited by your mental illness, but I don't think a one line answer (like my short, useless one above) is going to help you in evaluating whether heathenry is right for you.

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