I study healing and disability for a living (actually, mostly for student debt, but you know what I mean). If I ever finish my PhD, it will be about ideologies of disability, and normalcy, and about how Christianity has treated those who are different (physically and mentally) through the ages.
And modern Paganism has absorbed a lot of this ideology, without realising that it’s rooted in Christianity. I’ve experienced this imposition of normalcy from society, including from the Pagan community. I’ve lost count of the number of people who were praying for me to be “healed”, and of those who were “doing healing” on me – often without my permission. Why does this matter? For a couple of reasons.
First, because I have a really complicated chronic illness. And I mean really complicated. It may look to the outside as though I mainly have mobility problems, but that’s just a part of my condition. It also involves joint dislocations, neurological issues, potential and actual problems with several internal organs, circulation problems, food intolerances, migraines, a skin condition, a bucketload of chronic pain, and chronic fatigue. And that’s before we get to the mental health/neurodiversity stuff. I work very hard to keep my energy in balance, so that I’ll be able to do everything I need to. It really is a balancing act. And when someone comes along who thinks they know better, and does healing work (or prayer work for my healing) without checking with me first, it can actually cause me major problems, from migraines to exhaustion.
But second, because it says a whole lot about the normalcy that society values, and about how my difference can’t be accommodated into that, so it has to be dealt with through healing. While that’s not always what’s going on with healers, it sometimes is. Someone recently suggested healing when I said I was having some issues with the Asperger’s stuff*. Asperger’s is a part of my life. Like dyslexia and dyspraxia, it has pros and it has cons. It’s part of what makes me creative, intense, and fascinated by the world. It’s part of what makes me who I am. And I don’t need healing from it. Yes, it gives me some really bad days. But most of those are about the way that the world doesn’t accommodate me. Read up on the social model of disability if you want to understand this better. In short, though – if the world were better suited to my neurology, I wouldn’t find it so difficult. My own focus is on changing the world to make it a better place for everyone who is different. My work, and my spiritual path, is about justice.
Recently I’ve been hearing a lot of people talking about how they send healing energy to people without their knowledge. I expect there are skeptics reading this who will laugh at my naivete for taking this seriously, but I’ve experienced (good, well-directed) healing energy during reiki and acupuncture, and I know it has an effect on my system, and that that effect can be both positive and negative. I go home from a reiki or acupuncture session and I need to sleep for a day or two. Long-term it has a very positive effect, but the change of balance in my mind and body can be fairly extreme. And this is especially true if I haven’t asked for that healing. There are people who really think that sending healing energy ‘can’t hurt’. And that may be true in the case of a lot of people, who will absorb it or shrug it off if they don’t need it. But for someone whose body (and mind) is in a very delicate balance, those well-meaning healers could be doing serious damage. And they’ll never know – but I will.
I have the greatest respect for the healers who have offered me healing, often at a distance (fantastic for me when I’m ill and can’t travel), and many times without asking anything in return. They are wonderful people, and I’m very grateful to them for all the help they’ve given me. I trust them, or I wouldn’t take up their offer of healing. But I always try to give them information about exactly what help I need. And I do hope that they understand that they need to ask each time they attempt healing on me. But again, I trust them, and I think they do understand the delicacy and care needed when working with chronically ill people. And I hope they understand that there are plenty of things about me that don’t need healing.
But there are some things that will always need healing, in this complex world. I have my own healing ritual I use for other people (who have asked for it), involving candles and meditation at Brighid’s shrine. I’m not a healer – it’s not my calling, nor part of my path. But I can (as the Quakers put it) hold people in the Light. And that’s what I try to do..
*Diagnosis not complete yet. Should be, next week. I’ve been diagnosed with ‘dyspraxia with Aspergers traits’ for years, and I’m so relieved that the complete diagnosis is finally being put into place. Not because I like labels, but because it will mean I can ask for the kind of support that might mean I can actually finish my PhD and do something meaningful with the rest of my life, rather than succumbing to the near-inevitable spiral of decline that I’ve been in for the past four months (because my university doesn’t know what to do with me, even though I’m really effing good at what I do).