What Happens When OCD Meets Astrology


The complicated problem of harnessing spiritual powers in an attempt to control a chaotic mind

I'm not a particularly spiritual person, but there are times in my life when I've attempted to be. At seven, my parents bought me worry dolls to try and quell my anxieties. I dutifully whispered to them and tucked them under my pillow, expecting my neuroses to be assuaged. Around that time, my nana bought me a good luck necklace that I obsessively wore, screaming if I misplaced it. Then, I got into astrology: Seeking a reason for why I was who I was, I bought books on the signs and clung onto the things that fit me—ignoring the ones that didn't. At 11, I got into witchcraft: I built an altar, bought a tarot deck, scribbled my spells into a book of shadows. When we were given Bibles at school, I read mine cover-to-cover, praying to a more conventional god, but still one I didn't believe in.

As a neurotic child, I didn't yet know what these disparate approaches to spirituality had in common: I was suffering from a serious case of undiagnosed Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) that would control my entire life, and my attempts at harnessing these spiritual powers was another attempt at taking control. My OCD took many forms, but it began in my belief in superstition. While people without mental illness can freely discuss superstitious beliefs as if they're real without worrying about the consequences, for someone like me, who is predisposed to intrusive thoughts, this turned out to be dangerous. These superstitions wormed their way into all areas of my life, until very few of my decisions weren't dictated by the voice in my head. The only real belief system I had was OCD, and I served it religiously: Clean that or you're a bad person. Check the doors again or else your dog will die. Don't eat. Don't buy anything. Don't see your friends. Check, clean, check again, you are responsible for everyone.

OCD takes many forms, but it often comprises magical thinking related to an obsession; in my case, those obsessions included: fire, death, my friends hating me, and just about anything else my brain latched onto. What followed was the compulsion: the action I performed to "stop" the thing from happening and thus ridding myself of the intrusive thought. It's something I find embarrassing: the cognitive cartwheels involved are astounding, but OCD is a very real, very serious prison for many people. You think, How long will the action take? You think you can handle it, and keep it at bay. But it builds up and takes over your entire life until you don't have really one anymore.

A lot of spirituality has roots in magical thinking, so it makes sense that people with OCD would latch onto it; performing actions like praying or buying the right crystal are tools that people use to feel like they have control. There's nothing wrong with that: the world is terrifying, and we are all just trying to cope. But, even just a decade or two ago, it used to feel like these types of things were more niche. Now, you can buy crystals, tarot decks, and spell books on Amazon. Horoscopes proliferate on the internet, and astrology memes have become cultural currency. Alternative therapies and spiritual healing are everywhere, and it seems to be no coincidence that this is happening as the world spins out of control. People are using spirituality as a means to understand their surroundings.

For much of my life, I have felt alone with my OCD, but I now know that I'm not alone with my OCD or with my inclination toward magical thinking. I spoke to Alice, who told me that she's been superstitious for as long as she can remember. Simple things, like seeing a single magpie, will ruin her entire day. Alice's struggle started from reading a book which detailed superstitions, from holding your breath when you walk past a cemetery to never changing your bed on a Friday. It sent her spiraling: "I follow a very specific set of rules so as to avoid 'bad luck.' I make up my own superstitions, like I can't be in the bathroom when the last bit of water goes [down the drain], and I feel genuinely frustrated and upset when people share their superstitions with me, because that is another thing I know I'll have to do."

Many people are now into astrology as a way to understand our world, or even just as a hobby. Alice tells me that she avoids reading her horoscope, though, because "what I don't know can't stress me out." She says that sometimes she thinks these things are quirks, but other times, "I realize it is taking over my day. I have to stop and do little rituals to cancel out 'unlucky things.' It is embarrassing, and I hide it from people when I'm out a lot." She says that because the feeling she gets when she tries to ignore these things is unbearable, for her, a focus on astrology would be "more of a symptom than a coping mechanism."

I also spoke to experts to determine the link between OCD and believing in these things. Is there ever a healthy way to approach it? Or, am I just clouded by my own negative experiences? David Veale, a psychologist, told me that "all religion is often a form of magical thinking, with beliefs about being able to influence events by thinking or praying. You could add astrology or witchcraft to this list, as ways for a person feel more in control and certain about the future." Jon Abramowitz, a member of the advisory board for the International OCD Foundation, told me that "people might have different reasons for their interest or belief in astrology. Sometimes it might have to do with OCD, but not necessarily. It's very alluring to think that we can explain or control parts of our lives that we otherwise don't have control over or explanations for."

Not everyone who believes in these things has OCD, of course, but in both cases, an investment in them seems to be about control, understanding, and, in some cases, healing. It isn't all bad: I spoke to Michael, an OCD sufferer who wasn't personally interested in alternative therapies but whose girlfriend uses them to help him. After recognizing when his OCD was worse, she would do things like "burning sage in the bedroom, putting crystals in the shower, [and] incense in the living room" in an effort to help him feel better. He says that while he doesn't 100 percent believe in these methods, the faith he has in her "absolute belief in these higher energies" has made a difference in how he feels. As he craves control to an unhealthy degree, his girlfriend's method takes it away and he finds this "meditative and therapeutic," while recognizing that it isn't a cure.

Our larger cultural interest in spirituality or magical thinking is not reliant on a diagnosis of OCD, and is much more about controlling and understanding the things that scare us. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, and as with everything, it's a case of moderation: Be careful not to place an unhealthy amount of faith in it. Veale agrees, saying that it's okay "as long as the person doesn't end up investing so much time and money that it ends up harming them, or that it takes time or resources away from getting more scientifically proven sorts of help." Some people can dabble as a bit of fun or to offer themselves support and guidance, but for many people with OCD, magical thinking can lead us down paths that might feel more harmful than healing.

Photo courtesy of Helen Sloan/HBO

"And now our watch has ended"

In a thoughtful tribute on Instagram, actress Emilia Clarke said goodbye to Game of Thrones, and her character, Daenerys Targaryen.

Clarke posted a gallery of photos including some group shots with the rest of the cast, as well as a closeup of Dany's intricately braided hair, and a still from the show. "Finding the words to write this post has left me overwhelmed with how much I want to say but how small words feel in comparison to what this show and Dany have meant to me," she wrote, continuing to say that "Game of Thrones has shaped me as a woman, as an actor, and as a human being."

"The mother of dragons chapter has taken up the whole of my adult life. This woman has taken up the whole of my heart," she wrote. "I've sweated in the blaze of dragon fire, shed many tears at those who left our family early, and wrung my brain dry trying to do Khaleesi and the masterful words, actions (and names) I was given, justice." She also gave a nod to her father, who died in 2016, saying that she wishes he was still alive "to see how far we've flown."

Clarke finished by thanking her fans, telling them that "without you there is no us... I owe you so much thanks, for your steady gaze at what we've made and what I've done with a character that was already in the hearts of many before I slipped on the platinum wig of dreams," she said. "And now our watch has ended."

Photo courtesy of HBO

Don't reusable cups exist in Westeros?

Apparently, no one could keep their drinks off-set during the final season of Game of Thrones. The show, which has been known for its meticulous editing, has featured a Starbucks coffee cup in an episode, and now, a plastic water bottle. Someone get these characters a reusable cup!

Yes, in the final episode of the series, there's a disposable water bottle hidden in plain sight in one of the scenes. If you look closely enough, you'll see the bottle peeking out from behind Samwell Tarly's leg in a scene where many characters were arguing about the fate of Westeros.

Another water bottle was spotted by someone else, hiding behind Ser Davos Seaworth's foot.

It seems that everyone was too parched on the set of the final episode to worry about a misplaced water bottle making it into the final shots. Some are speculating that the team left them in on purpose as payback to the writers for the series' ending.

We just really hope that everyone in the series recycles. If there are disposable cups and plastic bottles available in the fictional world, we hope that there's an ethical way of disposing of them. Otherwise, well, it might be more disappointing than the series finale itself.


Think about all the ways you've begged for ruin

I'll admit I can get a little possessive about full moons; I was born on a full moon, you see. I'll admit there's something that makes people go mad over a full moon and there's something in that madness that situates me, gives me a place to drop my anchor. I see the full moon, her one wide open eye, and think of the first gods—the cyclops and the titans—how they betrayed each other. The full moon reminds me that each of us walks this life having inherited the stories of the lives that brought us here, we carry moments of great suffering in our DNA and we carry moments of great joy too.

A Scorpio full moon is especially prone to these sorts of reminders, dancing partner to the Sun in Taurus, since both these stars are so devoted to the past, since both like to mine a wound just to see how deep it goes and how much they can stand to endure. It's true, too, that Taurus is the sign linked to the Hierophant in the Tarot. The Hierophant is a figure in service to Mysteries: guarding and teaching the sacred. The Hierophant is pre-occupied with devotion and desecration and so is Taurus. Steadied by worship and undone by violation, a Taurus knows that a cycle is a cycle, there's always a hunger that thrives in the devotional figure, that seeks to be defiled and, in that way, tested. What better consort, what better polarity, for an Earth sign like that than the watery depths of Scorpio? Scorpio, the sign of transformation, of the occult, of karmic debts, fertile and secretive darkness. Scorpio, the snake that eats its own tail, our sexual power and our sexual shame. Scorpio rules money and Taurus loves to feel wealth, to sense abundance, to roll around in the rich black dirt.

While the Sun goes down under the star of Taurus and Uranus activates Venus, so the planet of love can pour her light over the bull's horns, the Moon rises in Scorpio and we are tasked with acknowledging the many ways we begged for ruin. Is there a heaviness on your heart, dear reader? Wasn't there a time when, green as a new stem, you begged the world to give you something real to experience, to bring you to your knees with wonder and revelation? You must have known that you had to break the bud to bloom, you must have sensed—somewhere in that ancestral memory of yours—that to love something, to pour your life into something, is to prepare to lose it. That's the deal we've made with god, or what governs time.

Have you left a cup out overnight and awoke to find it brimming with memories of betrayal, of loss, of something you felt was owed to you and never retributed? You can drink from the cup of the past searching only for the taste of it, seeking only to sate your thirst for bitterness. It's your right to feel everything you feel, to remember everything that happened to you and everything you set into motion, everything you did. But, listen. The sun is warm and generous, calling new life out of the ground. You move over the Earth like a cloud heavy with emotion and memory, threatening pour, while night waits on the other side, smelling like freedom—sweet, sharp and ineffable—full of poison blooms. You can hold the truth of this wild living world, its sacred promise to consecrate you with beauty and ruin you with it too. You can sip from the cup of the past with gratitude for your past self—the one who gave her life so that you could rise again, three times as powerful and wise.

Asset 7
Screenshot via YouTube

It's so good

Lana Del Rey released a cover of Sublime's 1997 song "Doin' Time," and she made it completely her own. That means it's the perfect combination of trippy melancholia and full-out lust.

According to Rolling Stone, the cover will appear in an upcoming documentary which will "[outline] the history of the iconic California band." In a statement, Del Rey said, "Not a day goes by that I don't listen to at least one Sublime song. They epitomized the SoCal vibe and made a genre and sound totally their own."

Bud Gaugh, a member of the band, "We are so excited to be collaborating with Lana on this. The smoky, sexy, and iconic sound of her voice breathes new life into one of our favorite singles." It certainly does.

My personal favorite part of the cover is the fact that Del Rey doesn't change the gender of the person the song is about, like so many musicians often do. Instead, Del Rey's intonation of "me and my girl, we got this relationship/ I love her so bad but she treats me like shit" is gay rights.

Listen to Del Rey's cover of "Doin' Time," below.

Photo by JP Yim/Getty Images

Sounds fake, but okay

In a new interview for Australian Vogue, Kendall Jenner makes the claim that being associated with the Kardashian name was a setback in her modeling career. Hmmm, that's funny, because power and influence usually works in their holder's favor.

In the interview, Jenner addresses skeptics who doubted that she would make it as a professional model. "A lot of people assumed that because I came from a 'name' that it was a lot easier for me to get to where I got, but actually it's the completely opposite," she says.

"I've always been the person to prove [critics] wrong, even when I was younger," she says. "I've always been a hard worker: that's in my blood. My parents raised me and my little sister to be that way and the rest of my sisters, too." In the profile, it's revealed that Jenner used to attend castings "simply as 'K' or 'Kendall' to distinguish herself from her famous family."

But keeping her name off her portfolio wasn't going to fool anyone, really. Her face has been on television for years, and it seems unlikely that a casting agent wouldn't know who she was even if Kendall didn't come out and say it. Perhaps Jenner was more closely examined and more readily criticized by people who doubted her, but I'm not sure I believe that she had a harder time gaining a modeling platform or booking big jobs, even if she didn't use her last name.

After all, Jenner was likely able to get into those big casting rooms right away because of her family's connections, and she was able to devote her time to pursuing that career because of the wealth they have. She would've had a much harder time making a name for herself if she didn't come from an influential family. She probably wouldn't get to be so selective about which shows she walks, and she definitely wouldn't be the highest paid model in the world.