Mental Illness and Group Dynamics

I do love being part of pagan-themed groups on Facebook. They provide endless entertainment during the month of October…and a lot of fun reading material and debate topics the rest of the year as well. But they also bring up topics that sometimes annoy me, or bring out the worst in others (sometimes myself too, I can admit). The latest debate has been on whether people with mental illnesses could participate in covens or group rituals. That’s bound to be an interesting discussion. It brings up the emotions and the deep-seated feelings of the people involved in the discussion.

One of the people got really titchy about how people were persecuting them. They felt that their being bipolar was being used as an excuse to blanket dismiss them from all group activities. Others in the group said that the issue wasn’t being bipolar (group members on Facebook are bipolar themselves). The issue is the coven or group themselves and what they themselves want to deal with or what their rules/guidelines allow for. If a group does not want to handle the issues that come with a member that is severely mentally ill, that is their prerogative. After all, a private religious group (such as a coven) is allowed to make their own rules for membership.

I know what problems come with being bipolar. There are cognitive problems that affect an individual differently. I do not have the same reactions with my bipolar that another person with bipolar II will have. And my bipolar II will present differently than someone with bipolar I, manic depression as the old name, will present. Someone who was unmedicated would be, to may viewpoints, a problem. They would be at the mercy of their disease, and at the whims of whatever their mind was telling them to do.

A group has the right to refuse membership to people. This person in the Facebook group was not happy with this. Now, I know all about the stigma of mental illness in the US. I’ve been dealing with it for years. It makes people angry on reaction, which I can understand as a gut reaction. However, there are concerns that a group must have to the benefit of their whole membership. They are responsible for their whole group, not to a single person.

I prefer my solitary practice right now. I am leveled out now, under control. Even with that, I would not want to put other people into a position where they would be at the whims to the condition of my mental health. I am doing quite well, but joining a religious group and merging energy and goals with them…that is a far too large responsibility for what I think I’m capable of right now. After all, there are expectations of taking care of others when you are part of a group. That’s not something I want to take as part of my code right now.

Right now, for my mental health and stability, I need to be beholden only unto myself. A group doesn’t allow for that. By necessity, groups require responsibility to the whole, not just the individual. Which was a fun and yet also very heated discussion on this Facebook group.


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I'm a bibliophile who loves collecting books. Definite cat person. Amateur historian and major geek, who loves all things Tolkien and Star Trek. I'm also fluent in German.

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