Travelling with Inanna

Last year I read Jane Meredith’s Journey to the Dark Goddess and became interested in the descent of Inanna as a way of exploring the processes of depression. I’ve spent a lot of time looking at the journey downwards, and the triggers for that downward journey. It’s taken me until now to properly grasp that while Jane Meredith’s book is as much concerned with ascent as descent, I’ve not looked at how I come back at all until recently.

Inanna is stripped of everything as she descends. Physical items that are symbols of power and self are taken from her. Then, after her time on the meat hook, she comes back up, and the things taken are returned just as systematically. This is the point at which the story ceases to work as a metaphor for depression. Many of us go down due to external factors – losses, setbacks, dealing with shitty people. We are not automatically given back what was taken. We either have to do without it, make it, or find it elsewhere.

I crash every six to eight weeks, to some degree. I’ve been in a cycle of collapse and return like this for many years. Paying close attention to the triggers of falling into depression, and the process of depression once in it, has not stopped me continually burning out. I know more than I did, and I’ve been able to reduce the magnitude a bit, much of the time, but that’s all. So it’s been time to look at ascent. When I’m so tired I can’t think or move, when everything hurts and there seems to be no point even trying, how do I get going again?

The answer is rage. What gets me up, every time, is fury with myself over how stupid, useless and unreasonable I’m being. The people around me deserve better. There are things that have to be done and I’m not doing them because I’m huddled in a corner, whimpering. I’ll call myself lazy, selfish, self-indulgent, a good for nothing waste of space, and I’ll batter myself with this language until the rage against myself is powerful enough to get me moving again.

I suspect there’s a direct relationship between this process, and the next round of falling over. It’s taken until now to question it, because until this month, the self-hatred that keeps me moving had seemed like a perfectly natural and reasonable thing. Feeling like my only point is my utility, and having internalised a sense of worthlessness a long time ago, I’ve had no way of being kind to myself in times of burnout. I haven’t felt I deserved being kind to, and I’ve had no way of fixing that alone.

When all you can change in response to a problem outside of you, is something inside of you, the options are limited. Depression is treated as an internal problem to be solved internally, but if it’s being caused by external issues, there’s a limit to what can be done. Problems that eat away at sense of self, self esteem, hope, and energy are not fixed by taking a positive attitude to them, especially if you have no means for being positive. Rewiring the longstanding thought patterns in a brain is not a quick or easy process. They aren’t fixed by anger, either. Sometimes, the change really has to come from other people. Sometimes, I need to ask for help, or to feel safe explaining the problem. Sometimes I need looking after.

I’ve made a few tentative forays into talking about what I need to have be different. I’ve sought a few changes from other people. I’ve worked out what, externally, is knocking me down and I’m trying to minimise contact with situations that take me apart. I am not a goddess in a mythical descent, but that doesn’t mean I can’t have the things taken given back to me.

Currently I’m working on how to get up gently. I’m ever more convinced that treating depression as individual and internal is part of the problem. The more time we spend collectively knocking each other back (or letting our politicians knock us back) the worse it gets. I think we can help each other to do something totally different.

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About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

7 responses to “Travelling with Inanna

  • G. B. Marian

    I’m unfamiliar with Jane Meredith, so I can’t offer an opinion on her work at this point. What you’ve written here makes me think of why I stand apart from most of the more magician-type Pagans, though. The thing is, Inanna is a Goddess, so of course She can take back all the things that are taken from Her as She dies and rises again. (Though we should remember that She did have some help from Enki in this regard.) The same expectation doesn’t hold true for humans, and it’s unrealistic for anyone to expect to otherwise. I’ve never met anyone who worships Jesus and who believes that they can rise from the dead by their own power just like Jesus could, so why should anyone assume that it would be any different with Inanna (or any other Deity)?

    I think we do an injustice when we encourage the idea that we can just use magic to solve all of our problems, because if we can’t, it’s usually taken to mean that we “aren’t doing it right.” And that’s just not true. Mind you, magic and faith can definitely be helpful in dealing with our problems, but they’ll never fix everything to the point that we won’t also need science and medicine and good ol’ fashioned love and support. Better to praise Inanna on the way to the doctor than to pretend that we can ever be just as powerful as She is, if you ask me at least.

    Anyhoo, I’m sorry to hear about your painful emotional cycle. My wife lives with bi-polar disorder, so I can relate (though I’m sure she can relate much more). It sounds like you have a very high level of self-awareness, however, so at least you have that going for you. I pray to Mama Ishtar that She will help you find the best kind of help to address your specific needs.

    • Nimue Brown

      I’ve not done the book any justice with this blog at all – it’s a much more complex and interesting read, it was simply the jumping off point for a recognition, for the purposes of this piece.

  • Ooh Chiara

    I have premenstrual dysphoric disorder so I crash every cycle. I found taking Inanna’s journey incredibly helpful in finding how to deal, and why I guess I was allowing myself to really fall and play the victim. It’s still hard to deal with each month, but Inanna showed me and gave me the kick I needed to own it.

  • lornasmithers

    Sounds familiar. When I’m in the flow believing in what I’m doing everything is ok, but as soon as the doubts and paranoia break through, the descent into worthlessness and pointlessness begins. Sometimes anger or the simple urge to flee begins the ascent, although my relationships with the other-than-human world and journeywork and dreamwork help too.

  • ninamgeorge

    I love your thoughts on the book. I also love the book. It made me realise that my depression was neither descending nor ascending fully, I.e. not daring to go to either place fully. It is true that we can be so harsh on ourselves too, in my case that sinks me more in some ways but has also helped me rise in others. I think we are in a crazy society where it is hard to give yourself a break, and where women (particularly) join in the kicking that patriarchal capitalist white supremacist society dishes out to us. Even though I know this, this unlearning and learning to support myself and others is still so hard…

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