Ugh. It's January and just like clockwork I find myself dragged under the suffocating waves of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Cute that its acronym is SAD. I have a mood disorder. Depression. I don't take meds for it because when I did I didn't like myself or others very much. And the auditory hallucinations, stomach cramps, head crawling and other unsavory side effects upon weaning myself off them were enough to scare me off them entirely. I know, I know, I should try another, a different kind, and maybe one day I will. I've dealt with recurring bouts of depression all my life and sometimes they get scary, but usually it just means I hole up in my bedroom and refuse to join the human race. Which suits this hermit-y muse just fine, except for the crying. That part sucks.
Very few people know how to talk to a depressed person who is bent on seeing nothing in life worth doing, including breathing. I do. Because I have lived in that dark, sad place. I can't and don't try to cheer them up, that ain't gonna happen. Well, although I can usually get one friend of mine laughing until she cries (in a good way). That is, unless our depressions coincide and then, well, we just better avoid talking until it has subsided in at least one of us.
I can't always tell if my depression is situational or chemical, or both (probably both). Right now I have a lot going on in my life that would depress anyone. And it's January, my annual depression month. But what I try to remember, and you can believe there are many big chunks of time I can't remember this, is the image of the Fey Tarot Nine of Swords. I find it interesting the artist chose to color this fey red rather than blue. She's in agony, and her aching tears are not reserved. She hurts so much, her arms wrapped around her chest in that universal pose of grief and pain. She's feeling alright. Feeling too much. The sword is poised between her wings, one of which is tattered. She cannot fly. Her head bowed, she cannot see the doorway in front of her which leads to a star-laden sky. Hope shines up those steps, but with only one functioning wing, how will she get up into that starry night? The sword, however, is tethered. It cannot reach her. She is afraid, so very afraid, but it is her fear and pain that paralyze her, not the sword. As real and scary as that sword may be, it isn't touching her. She is free to walk, though maybe not fly, from the perceived danger.
I found it interesting that both the Fey 9 of Swords and the Cosmic Tarot's 9 of Swords both depict a sword either aimed at or piercing the figure's back. In the Cosmic, the sword has actually pierced the young man's back through his chest, through his heart. He is also pictured as lame, just as the fey's one wing is tattered and torn, his leg is pierced with another sword. While the other swords in the air reach their mark or not, he is obviously hurt, in serious pain, and well, totally freaking out. You know that commercial on television, the one that says, "Depression hurts?" Yes, it does. Physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, socially, it hurts. Swords represent mental activity, communication, and conflict, so these swords are not genuine blades of steel. So often the 9 of Swords is said to represent someone inflicting mental pain on oneself, that the swords are all in his mind, not real. It can represent worry, guilt, anxiety, depression, and all the mental stresses that can plague us. True enough. However, even in the Rider Waite depiction of this card, the swords that are lined up on the wall beside the bed of the upset figure do touch her, at least a few of them do. This tells me that there is good reason for the pain and anguish. That, even though these are not physical wounds, they are actual injuries. It's not all in your head. The suffering is real from real hurts. One can hardly say the guy in the Cosmic is freaking out over nothing.
They say it's not a good time to make major decisions, when you're depressed. And in the Cosmic image the snake, which usually symbolizes wisdom and healing, is baring its fangs. It's as if all conventional wisdom has become hostile and dangerous. That which maybe was meant to heal has hurt. It could be, but I cannot quite tell, that the snake has likewised been pierced by the sword and the anxious, depressed thoughts have nullified wisdom. It's a common symptom of depression to feel a deep, pervading sense of pessimism. When suggestions are made to bring healing, the depressed one will say, "Yeah, I know, I've tried that. It doesn't work." or "I can't." And she isn't lying. She can't. Not now.
This card can represent anything from migraines to PMS to insomnia to depression. Once, a woman asked me when a good time would be for her to approach a very sensitive topic with her boyfriend. The 9 of Swords was in a placement in the spread which indicated the week ahead. I advised her that, due to hormonal upsets along the lines of PMS, she would be better off waiting a week and approaching him when she was more even-keel. Apart from her awe that I was able to tell when her period was due, she agreed that the next week would be a better time. So, this card isn't always indicative of a debilitating condition. It could be you ate too many chalupas and you spend the night battling one-horned devil Dachsands in your dreams. So just because I happen to suffer from intermittant and recurring bouts of depression doesn't mean that's what this card always represents. As a reader, I need to keep my own demons out of the reading.
Yet, if I do sense that this card is pointing out depression, I don't hesitate to say so. Depression can really skew our perceptions and sometimes we don't even notice that we are depressed, especially if it's mild or chronic. So I suggest that maybe the person in question may be depressed which could be affecting their behavior as well as their ability to see the situation clearly. Through dialogue, if the person acknowledges the depression, I also don't hesitate to suggest an appointment with their physician and/or therapist. Tarot's great, but it's not treatment. (And don't anyone go wagging their pointy fingers at me and say, "Physician, heal thyself," ok?)
Anyway, so you might find this card showing up a bit more in the winter months, whether that be January for those of you in the Northern Hemisphere or July in the Southern. Seasonal Affective Disorder is common and can be alleviated by full spectrum light, vitamin therapy, exercise, and good food. I can do those things. It's the other causes I'm having trouble with. Meanwhile, just hand me the tissues and chocolate. I might climb out of my bedroom come spring.
The Fey Tarot Written by Riccardo Minetti, Artwork by Mara Aghem Published by Lo Scarabeo and distributed by Llewellyn Worldwide
The Cosmic Tarot by Norbert Losche Published by Published by US Games 1986