• Wren McMurdo Brignac

Dark Days + Mother Tarot: My Bipolar Journey

Image taken in 2018 by Mary Kahlor.

My spouse and I had been married almost two years in 2018 when I illustrated the first card of my second deck, The Mother Tarot. It was the Six of Pentacles. We were considering a family, and I was thinking about how much help we’d need from our community, not only for one of us to get pregnant, but also to raise a baby.

I didn’t know it then, but part of the reason I was thinking so hard about this was the fact that I was struggling with undiagnosed bipolar 1 disorder, characterized by intense mood swings and episodes of mania, depression, and sometimes a mix of both at the same time. These untreated challenges made it hard to imagine a life where I’d have the capacity to care for a child.

If you’re unaware of what mania and hypomania (a less intense version of mania) are, imagine a person with so much energy they don’t feel like they can act quickly enough. They can barely sleep due to a constant flight of ideas and impulses, and these episodes can last for at least a week but sometimes months and even years.

Bipolar depression episodes look like being unable to lift a sad or negative mood and stream of deeply destructive thoughts for a period of at least a week and also sometimes months or years. Mixed episodes are a dangerous combination of mania or hypomania and depression.

During the three years it took to create Mother, I channeled heightened creative energy into the cards. I also suffered intense breakdowns that perplexed my loved ones. I did some regrettable things including permanently deleting my Instagram (I have since built another account) and giving away my wedding dresses. My delusions and impulses scared and forced me to finally seek out a psychiatrist.

Bipolar disorder is best treated with medication. When I got my diagnosis in 2020 and started taking meds, it was as if the control switch in my brain was suddenly turned back on. Since then, I have been able to live a much more manageable life, and I am feeling more confident about building a family.

Mother Tarot is intimately tied to my discovery journey about the possibility of becoming a parent. The primary reason I was hesitant has been addressed. The second reason, climate change, is also woven into the deck, hence Mother’s dedication to Earth.

Photo by Kendra Kerscher.

My first deck, the Dark Days Tarot, isn’t about bipolar depression, but it does honor the parts of us that feel deeply, that ground us and show us our truth.

Once I was aware of my bipolar, my “dark days” made a lot more sense, but my witchy proclivities had taught me that depression is self-reflection that cannot be ignored, and completely natural. I am able to clearly see what I need to address in my life (as painful as it may be to do so) when I’m living through depression. I see the value in tough emotions.

Mother Tarot isn’t about mania, but it does aim to tap into the creative side of us that blooms and does great things.

Bipolar is most common amongst poets and artists. Our brains think in spirals, so inspiration comes easily. Sometimes bipolar gives me incredible energy and exciting ideas. This often makes it feel like a superpower, and I like to claim it like that. And Mother reflects this power.

Photo by Kendra Kerscher.

For all of us, bipolar or not, it is natural to fluctuate between heightened and low energy states. We are pulled by circumstances as well as the tides and the moon, and dark lunar days naturally guide us to reflect and make space for restoration. These days can be tough, especially when they mess with our motivation and conflict with our plans, but they are important to our growth.

Full moon days, by contrast, ignite our senses and call on us to take meaningful action. We can release what we don’t need and plant seeds of possibility on dark lunar days, and then answer the call of the full moon’s creative energy a couple of weeks later.

I encourage you to use Dark Days Tarot whenever you feel the urge to rest and reflect, or follow the lunar cycle and use this deck on dark moon days. Pull out your Mother Tarot Deck on full moon days or whenever you are feeling creative energy bubbling within. It is my hope that both decks help you to harness the ebbing and flowing energy of the lunar cycle, and life.