Mental health and taking the Bard course

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Linnende
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Mental health and taking the Bard course

Postby Linnende » 30 Dec 2013, 15:47

Hi guys. I've emailed OBOD with this query but I thought I would post it up here also as I may get an answer quicker and it might help others who are in a similar position. I'm not sure if I've posted this in the right forum, so please move it if I've got it wrong! :oops:

I've recently signed up to the Bard course and received my first lot of materials. However I notice that in the welcome letter it states that you should not take the course if you have ever been diagnosed with a psychotic condition (such as schizophrenia). I don't have a psychotic condition as far as I am aware but I have suffered a lot with neurotic conditions such as anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, and I am also quite vulnerable to stress. I was wondering if it is only psychotic conditions that may be affected by studying the course or are neurotic conditions such as those I have outlined above affected also? I had hoped to be able to take the course as having a spiritual outlet often helps my symptoms by bringing calm into my life, and I would be gutted if I couldn't take it.

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Re: Mental health and taking the Bard course

Postby Aphritha » 30 Dec 2013, 18:41

I have those things as well(though the OCD is mild and untreated), and I've been pretty happily managing the course. Actually, my panic attacks have dimished almost completely.
I had hoped to be able to take the course as having a spiritual outlet often helps my symptoms by bringing calm into my life
Absolutely. Its really helped me tons as well. What the course didn't teach me directly, I learned how to seek myself. I think it'll be a great thing for you.


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Re: Mental health and taking the Bard course

Postby Duellist » 30 Dec 2013, 19:11

I think part of the problem is that you are meant to get in touch with your inner self and while it can be quite therapeutic, it can also be a bit much for someone who is already struggling with their daemons. As I understand it, the message is not so much 'this could be dangerous' as 'we cannot be sure that this will be safe' and so they don't want to risk hurting you.

If you have a psychiatrist / psychologist / counsellor, maybe you could talk to them about your intention to explore your spirituality. They can give tips on what to keep an eye on and how to minimise any risks. I have met some pagans with psychiatric issues and I have seen how dangerous it can be to explore the bardic grade without a stabilising influence to help ground you.

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Not to say that it is not the same with other faiths, just that pagans need to be twice as careful about bad PR...
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Re: Mental health and taking the Bard course

Postby Linnende » 30 Dec 2013, 19:34

I have those things as well(though the OCD is mild and untreated), and I've been pretty happily managing the course. Actually, my panic attacks have dimished almost completely.
Yes my OCD is mild also and is mostly under control, as is my anxiety. I have been treated for, and recovered from, depression in the past. I do get occasional panic attacks when I'm under a lot of stress but practicing regular relaxation techniques reduces the frequency of these.

It sounds like our cases are similar and seeing as you have taken the course and had no problems then I guess I should be ok also. :) I just wanted to ask just in case. I guess one symptom of having an anxious personality is worrying about things unnecessarily, like reading "you shouldn't take the course if you have a psychotic condition" and thinking "oh no that might mean I can't take it because I've got anxiety!" :-( (even though anxiety doesn't come under psychoses but there you go!)
Last edited by Linnende on 30 Dec 2013, 19:40, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Mental health and taking the Bard course

Postby Linnende » 30 Dec 2013, 19:39

I think part of the problem is that you are meant to get in touch with your inner self and while it can be quite therapeutic, it can also be a bit much for someone who is already struggling with their daemons. As I understand it, the message is not so much 'this could be dangerous' as 'we cannot be sure that this will be safe' and so they don't want to risk hurting you.

If you have a psychiatrist / psychologist / counsellor, maybe you could talk to them about your intention to explore your spirituality. They can give tips on what to keep an eye on and how to minimise any risks. I have met some pagans with psychiatric issues and I have seen how dangerous it can be to explore the bardic grade without a stabilising influence to help ground you.

Edit:
Not to say that it is not the same with other faiths, just that pagans need to be twice as careful about bad PR...
Yes I understand. I wouldn't say that I have "psychiatric issues" though. I've never seen a psychologist/psychiatrist, and my neuroses have only ever been mild in their severity. I had one bad spell of depression a couple of years ago but that was triggered by a number of bad things that happened to me in a short space of time (losing my job, losing friends, family members passing away etc.)

My point is since discovering Druidry I have been a lot more centred, grounded, and calm and I do really feel like I'm "home", but I just wanted to check that it would be ok for me to do the course.
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Re: Mental health and taking the Bard course

Postby Alwin » 30 Dec 2013, 20:40

My point is since discovering Druidry I have been a lot more centred, grounded, and calm and I do really feel like I'm "home", but I just wanted to check that it would be ok for me to do the course.
You'll be absolutely fine, since I guess you're exploring your spirituality anyway.
Give it a try but take your time and listen carefully if an exercise suits you.
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Re: Mental health and taking the Bard course

Postby xidia » 30 Dec 2013, 21:36

As someone else who had depression, and completed the medication & therapy route t o recovery couple of years ago, I'm finding the course helpful. It would not have been helpful when I was in the grip of the depression, and it wouldn't have pulled me out. So...if you're generally coping with life (home/job/kids/education/training/whatever) and social stuff, you will probably be OK. If you're finding it hard to cope with daily life to start with, I'd really suggest leaving the Bardic course until that's under control. Aspects of the course are intense and require some serious digging around in your soul, which is not helpful if you're struggling to, say, get dressed and find the energy to cook!

I think the psychotic warning is because guided meditations and images don't play well with conditions like schizophrenia. Even that, though, says that you can do this with appropriate guidance of a professional, just don't sit and home in the dark on your own and do it.

Disclaimer: I am not a mental health professional :)

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Re: Mental health and taking the Bard course

Postby elementalheart » 31 Dec 2013, 10:46

I would say that anxiety/stress is not a reason to decide against the course, nor are other neurotic conditions per se. They are simply reasons to be cautious in how you proceed so that you are looking after yourself rather than risking any worsening of symptoms when and if you trigger difficult personal material along the way.

The course will do that, it takes you deeper into yourself and you won't always like what you find, challenges come unexpectedly and trigger old memories and patterns that are ready to be revisited. That isn't a reason to say "don't do it" it's more a "be warned and take responsibility for any necessary personal precautions" - for some it might be working with a counsellor or therapist face to face while processing the stuff that comes up. For others they may have a strong druidic community to hold and support them. It is your responsibility to work out what you can do and to do it. For those with past experience of depression I'd say it may help at certain points but not at others. If you were in the midst of a major depressive episode then that wouldn't be the time to start but you say you're not, so just monitor things you know happen and be ready to slow down at the first signs, and have all the safety nets in place just in case. My belief is that doing the work is often what the underlying causes of the depression need to be transformed, but AFTER you've got some established changes and tools not while spiralling down or in the depth of it, and not alone.

As a minimum I would suggest you apply to OBOD for a tutor, everyone is offered access to someone who will exchange correspondence, read and consider what you send them and feedback to some degree. I'm not one so I don't know all the parameters of the role, but I think having someone walking beside you in that way may help you consider the issues that arise and decide how/whether to tackle them. In some cases you might skip an exercise and come back to it when you feel ready, in others you might stay with something until it is done with, but I have found (under stress particularly) that sometimes I don't know which is habitual belief/behaviour and what is the challenge that will change things and it doesn't come clear by thinking it through alone with anxiety believe me! Telling someone like a tutor isn't about them telling you the answer but may give you another perspective that helps you find your way through, a sounding board for your own process that just gets it out of your head and lets you see it clearer. Indeed some of the bardic journey is about finding new ways to express yourself and use your creativity which can mean finding new outlets you never had before.

My perception/understanding of the risk for psychotic (rather than neurotic) conditions is that psychosis relates to difficulty establishing boundaries between physical reality and psychosis driven delusion. When I did shamanic training it was expressed that the shamanic practitioner steps through doorways or veils between worlds by an act of intention and focus, and learns to walk with one foot in each reality so the choice is easier both ways but at any time they can choose to return and deal with something in physical plane reality. So you don't get taken over by spirit guides in a supermarket or while driving, but when you open the door/veil and step through consciously for a defined purpose, usually healing. Someone with psychosis doesn't choose when and where and doesn't notice when they have stepped completely through and lost track of the way back. Their access to and from alternate reality is without intention/purpose so they are easily lost, and their experience is heavily overlaid by the delusional state so they may not perceive the doorway any more, or fear returning more than being lost. A neurosis that is known to manifest as fear (anxiety, panic, OCD) will ensure the practitioner sets up the safety protocols, is very clear with spirit guides about the intention, holds a thread to the doorway home at all times and probably checked the way several times before embarking on anything particularly likely to trigger the fear, so the risk to that person should be far less - indeed as the fear becomes seen as a useful tool it can be transformed by the positive use of its energy..

PS that last para is a shamanic perspective rather than an OBOD one but I've managed the gwersi with anxiety, stress etc so far and see no reason you couldn't if you go carefully rather than blindly. You most certainly won't be alone here!
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Re: Mental health and taking the Bard course

Postby Linnende » 31 Dec 2013, 11:23

My point is since discovering Druidry I have been a lot more centred, grounded, and calm and I do really feel like I'm "home", but I just wanted to check that it would be ok for me to do the course.
You'll be absolutely fine, since I guess you're exploring your spirituality anyway.
Give it a try but take your time and listen carefully if an exercise suits you.
Yeah I was going to utilise some common sense, read through the exercises carefully and if I don't feel comfortable doing them or they don't seem right for me then I won't do them and may come back to them later. :)
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Re: Mental health and taking the Bard course

Postby Linnende » 31 Dec 2013, 11:26

As someone else who had depression, and completed the medication & therapy route t o recovery couple of years ago, I'm finding the course helpful. It would not have been helpful when I was in the grip of the depression, and it wouldn't have pulled me out. So...if you're generally coping with life (home/job/kids/education/training/whatever) and social stuff, you will probably be OK. If you're finding it hard to cope with daily life to start with, I'd really suggest leaving the Bardic course until that's under control. Aspects of the course are intense and require some serious digging around in your soul, which is not helpful if you're struggling to, say, get dressed and find the energy to cook!

I think the psychotic warning is because guided meditations and images don't play well with conditions like schizophrenia. Even that, though, says that you can do this with appropriate guidance of a professional, just don't sit and home in the dark on your own and do it.

Disclaimer: I am not a mental health professional :)
Thanks for your advice. I'm coping with life fine at the moment. I can go about my day-to-day activities, go out and meet people etc. I'm glad I asked this now as I'm grateful for the advice and support you have all given :)
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Re: Mental health and taking the Bard course

Postby Linnende » 31 Dec 2013, 11:27

As a minimum I would suggest you apply to OBOD for a tutor, everyone is offered access to someone who will exchange correspondence, read and consider what you send them and feedback to some degree. I'm not one so I don't know all the parameters of the role, but I think having someone walking beside you in that way may help you consider the issues that arise and decide how/whether to tackle them. In some cases you might skip an exercise and come back to it when you feel ready, in others you might stay with something until it is done with, but I have found (under stress particularly) that sometimes I don't know which is habitual belief/behaviour and what is the challenge that will change things and it doesn't come clear by thinking it through alone with anxiety believe me! Telling someone like a tutor isn't about them telling you the answer but may give you another perspective that helps you find your way through, a sounding board for your own process that just gets it out of your head and lets you see it clearer. Indeed some of the bardic journey is about finding new ways to express yourself and use your creativity which can mean finding new outlets you never had before.

My perception/understanding of the risk for psychotic (rather than neurotic) conditions is that psychosis relates to difficulty establishing boundaries between physical reality and psychosis driven delusion. When I did shamanic training it was expressed that the shamanic practitioner steps through doorways or veils between worlds by an act of intention and focus, and learns to walk with one foot in each reality so the choice is easier both ways but at any time they can choose to return and deal with something in physical plane reality. So you don't get taken over by spirit guides in a supermarket or while driving, but when you open the door/veil and step through consciously for a defined purpose, usually healing. Someone with psychosis doesn't choose when and where and doesn't notice when they have stepped completely through and lost track of the way back. Their access to and from alternate reality is without intention/purpose so they are easily lost, and their experience is heavily overlaid by the delusional state so they may not perceive the doorway any more, or fear returning more than being lost. A neurosis that is known to manifest as fear (anxiety, panic, OCD) will ensure the practitioner sets up the safety protocols, is very clear with spirit guides about the intention, holds a thread to the doorway home at all times and probably checked the way several times before embarking on anything particularly likely to trigger the fear, so the risk to that person should be far less - indeed as the fear becomes seen as a useful tool it can be transformed by the positive use of its energy..

PS that last para is a shamanic perspective rather than an OBOD one but I've managed the gwersi with anxiety, stress etc so far and see no reason you couldn't if you go carefully rather than blindly. You most certainly won't be alone here!
Thanks for your reply! I hadn't thought about having a tutor/mentor before but yes that is definitely a good idea and is something I would like to do, so thanks. :)
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Re: Mental health and taking the Bard course

Postby ShadowCat » 31 Dec 2013, 12:58

Many wonderful thoughts have already been posted so I won't repeat those. I'll just chip in my own experience:

My background is one of borderline-ish symptoms. The question is wether it's just a personality-anomaly or really a psychological pathology, but in my book the only line between the two is really just: "does it bother you or hinder you in any way?". I've found that the bardic course has been a wonderful tool to regain control and it has also given me enough direction to find a therapist to work out some of the remaining kinks in a way that fits my natural wiring. The contact with the tutor is wonderful too, but they can't replace a therapist when neccessary.

So I'd say, start the course, take things in your own rythm and be alert what the exercises do to you. If you get stuck, don't hesitate to find a therapist that is open to your personal path and work with that. Most people here find that during the bardic course, they often also start practicing other ways, like meditation, creative arts, mindfulness, yoga, music etc, that are a good foundation to balance out your emotional/mental equilibrium.
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Re: Mental health and taking the Bard course

Postby Aphritha » 31 Dec 2013, 17:08

As someone else who had depression, and completed the medication & therapy route t o recovery couple of years ago, I'm finding the course helpful. It would not have been helpful when I was in the grip of the depression, and it wouldn't have pulled me out. So...if you're generally coping with life (home/job/kids/education/training/whatever) and social stuff, you will probably be OK. If you're finding it hard to cope with daily life to start with, I'd really suggest leaving the Bardic course until that's under control. Aspects of the course are intense and require some serious digging around in your soul, which is not helpful if you're struggling to, say, get dressed and find the energy to cook!
I've had a different experience. Sometimes, I found myself displaying anxiety or depression because some aspect of myself was 'clogged' spiritually(if this makes sense), and I had to deal with it before I could get my energy back to do the normal daily things.

A tutor is a fine idea indeed. I think they come in pretty usful on any path, but even more so if you're concerned you might struggle. Therapists are great, too, for anyone needing outside advice, and also, for the course, I recommend these very boards! There's a section completely devoted to the Bardic course, and I've found its a great place to bouce ideas off of, and hear other's experiences of the same material.


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Re: Mental health and taking the Bard course

Postby Whitemane » 31 Dec 2013, 18:20

Don't forget that you are frequently admonished only to conduct the practicum when you feel ready to do so. There is no time limite, so take the time to contemplate and reflect, and to seek professional advice if you feel the need to do so.

I'll freely admit to not being short of baggage, but even the practicums and rituals I have not been too sure about have worked out well, and have even been beneficial.

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Re: Mental health and taking the Bard course

Postby sunstone » 02 Jan 2014, 00:23

Hi. I'm new here, but several years ago I did do the Bard course. I've had PTSD, probably since childhood. It also meant having depression and anxiety and even some ocd like you have. And if anything, it helped me. I think it centered and grounded me. I wonder if anyone who is in the position to explain, can say why those who are schizophrenic or experience psychosis should not do the course. Many of my peers in the community have schizophrenia or psychotic episodes. Some would be unable to do Bard studies, but I know some whose medications would seem to be working well enough. Perhaps they can do it with medical professional's approval?

I wish you the best with your Bard studies. May the bless you in the upcoming year. :)

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Re: Mental health and taking the Bard course

Postby Selene » 02 Jan 2014, 03:29

Sunstone, Linnende, and anyone else with questions like this, in the FAQ on the OBOD site, there is this:
Is the Course suitable for me if I have had mental health issues?

Many people go through difficult times in their life, and the course can be very helpful and supportive at such times. But you should not enrol on the course if you have ever been diagnosed as suffering from schizophrenia or a psychotic condition.The reason for this is that while much of the course material can be instructive and helpful to anyone, the course does offer meditations, visualizations and rituals which are designed to 'open people up' to their unconscious states and potentially other levels of perception. For those who haven't suffered from such a condition this process can be helpful, but if you have, these exercises have the potential to be counter-productive. If the training was undertaken in a face-to-face situation the exercises could be paced and adjusted to suit the individual, but since the course is administered from a distance, such adjustment and monitoring just isn't possible.

Although the distance learning programme is not suitable if you have had these challenges, Druidry can still be followed as a spiritual way/philosophy/religion by making use of the many resources available on the web and in books.
I would not read into it any more than it says regarding people who should not attempt the course; neuroses of one kind or another are pretty common and there are thousands and thousands of people who have successfully done the OBOD courses.

Good luck and best wishes on your Bardic journeys!
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Re: Mental health and taking the Bard course

Postby sunstone » 02 Jan 2014, 15:27


But you should not enrol on the course if you have ever been diagnosed as suffering from schizophrenia or a psychotic condition.The reason for this is that while much of the course material can be instructive and helpful to anyone, the course does offer meditations, visualizations and rituals which are designed to 'open people up' to their unconscious states and potentially other levels of perception. For those who haven't suffered from such a condition this process can be helpful, but if you have, these exercises have the potential to be counter-productive. If the training was undertaken in a face-to-face situation the exercises could be paced and adjusted to suit the individual, but since the course is administered from a distance, such adjustment and monitoring just isn't possible.
Thanks for quoting that part from the FAQ. I know there have been times with my PTSD when I would have been better not to have done the Bard course (in the beginning of my healing). I've been a Sufi for several years now and the PTSD has hindered me a lot on the path yet helped me a lot also. So mental illness can both negatively influence and positively influence those who practice mysticism.

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Re: Mental health and taking the Bard course

Postby Linnende » 03 Jan 2014, 11:51

Thanks everyone for all of your help and advice. I feel much better now and more supported with starting the course. Best wishes everyone and I hope 2014 is a good year for you all! :) /|\
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Re: Mental health and taking the Bard course

Postby cosmic » 22 Jun 2015, 13:54

@linnade
i aslo suffer the same, i did another druid course before hand that helped me and now im on this , so far so good xx

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Re: Mental health and taking the Bard course

Postby babblebeth » 23 Jun 2015, 10:27

My biggest struggle was that I am bi-polar. I've never been formally diagnosed as that but I have had several of my therapists/doctors say they think I am bi-polar and since my sister and mother are it's very likely. The reason I've never been formally diagnosed is that my Mania's have never really been a problem. They've been controllable and mostly channeled into positive creative things. I do have a problem with my mania and religion though.

One of the symptoms of a manic episode is seeing meaning in everything and delusions of being chosen and religious experiences. This is the main symptom of my manic episodes. So I can never tell if what I am experiencing is real. It feels real at the time but when the mania passes it doesn't any longer.

It's a struggle for me because I can feel a great moment in the grove but then doubt what I experienced as being genuine.

How I have personally reconciled this is this way: It's very likely the experiences I have with Brigid in my grove are simply a manifestation of my subconscious...however that doesn't mean I should disregard the message. The message I get in my spiritual encounters is invariably to believe in myself, that I can succeed and that I am worth something and should strive. That is the message I need to hear I have learned not to listen or believe the voice of my depression/anxiety that calls me a failure and an idiot who shouldn't even try because all I'll do is fail...don't get me wrong some days or weeks it's very difficult to ignore that side of my mind and it's a constant struggle.

However, just because my mind is an unreliable narrator doesn't mean I shouldn't listen to the positive things it tells me. It may be a Goddess, it may be my mental illness but I chose what messages to listen to.
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