My obsession with my horoscope, and deep love for astrology memes, is arguably one of my most millennial traits. I can hear Piers Morgan calling me a snowflake, and the echoing laughs of the older generation each time I make a comment about the mercury retrograde or when I check my Co-star App each morning, holding its predictions as gospel for the day ahead. And I get it, I’m aware that someone somewhere is sat writing my horoscope, and could be making it all up based on empty facts and useless information. I know how silly it seems, especially to those with solid religious beliefs, or even unwavering, certain atheism. I can laugh along with them, taking the phenomena of ‘Twitter Astrology’ with a pinch of salt and a dash of sarcasm, but sometimes it’s just nice to have something to hold onto.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m barely even knowledgeable when it comes to Astrology. I only started checking my horoscope religiously this past summer, and have done very little learning beyond reading a couple of Instagram stories by @stalkalice. I’d always been interested in astrology, but I only ever checked what the stars had in store for me if there was a newspaper lying around – or via internet clickbait that made me desperate to know what Mamma Mia 2 character I am based on my star sign. I’d read my birth chart when I was 18, and while it resonated with me and it was cool, I never really cared. But in summer something stuck. When I re-read my birth chart I felt exposed, like someone was reading every part of me, even the bits I didn’t want to admit to (pro tip – read your birth chart drunk so you’re forced to admit to your chart’s claim that you’re stubborn and make terrible decisions). And now for the cringiest phrase I may have ever written – I really felt like a Taurus, specifically a Taurus sun, Aries moon, Gemini rising, you know? I felt a real sense of kinship with the qualities, behaviours, and even the flaws that were being pulled out. I felt understood, like all these things made complete sense and ahh here’s why, it’s because of where the moon was at exactly that time of that day. So, I clung to that, desperate each day for more guidance, more info, more relatable content from Taurus memes that felt custom made just for me.

I clung because I needed to cling to something. My new-found dependence on my horoscope coincided with the height of my depression, following a big breakup and a big move to a new city for a big opportunity. I felt overwhelmingly out of control, floundering and terrified that I was ruining my dream internship because of the fact I just felt adrift in a big ocean of sadness, confusion, anger – all the negative emotions. But my horoscope, as silly as it seems, came as a lifeboat.

The feeling of being out of control is one that is probably relatable to everyone, but more-so to those who suffer from mental health issues. As if a flare up of depression or anxiety isn’t bad enough, we’re also treated to a lovely dose of confusion, the unshakable question of why me? Why now? What can I do? The dark cloud imagery often painted of depression is true. It feels like your head is encased in grey – like a storm in the pit of your tummy, rumbling relentlessly as you try to go from day to day. When my summer storm became just that, I clung to my horoscope, as it gave me end dates and reason, telling me it would be okay and that it all made sense.

Regardless of whether or not astrology is even true, the sense of relief I felt each morning when my horoscope promised emotional transcendence and transformation felt very real to me. I relied on the three categories of the Co-star App (Luck & Opportunity, Changes Afoot, and Frustrations & Challenges) as a kind of armour, giving me positives to hold close and negatives to prepare for. As minor as it is, it gave me a sense of control and reasoning. A daily breakdown of what I was feeling and why, assured me that I wasn’t totally losing it, it was just a tricky part of some celestial cycle. And if that failed, I memorised the end date of the mercury retrograde, ritualising and relying on the joking comments about retrograde madness. I sighed with relief each time it was a joke shared, hearing others complaining about their own uncharacteristic mood swings, relationship struggles and bad luck. It helped me feel less alone.

When things felt particularly uncontrollable, I repeated the date in my head like an affirmation: August 18th, August 18th, August 18th. I set it as a goal – just get through till then. I used it as an assurance, a distraction, even joking that my ex would come to his senses by then, that my heartbreak would be all done and dusted by that deadline. I used it as a light at the end of the tunnel, saying to myself that on august 18th it would all blow over. I’d feel fine after that, I just had to wait for retrograde to end – and an end is something that is hard to see in the midst of a depressive episode. You can’t promise yourself a cut off point because not only do you feel hopeless, and like you’ll never be happy again, but you also just really can’t control it. You could be doing everything you’re meant to: therapy, medication – sometimes nothing works and you just have to ride it out. But I had the 18th of august, an (albeit placebolike) assurance that my mood was nothing more than the product of the retrograde, and that it would end when the retrograde did.

It let me feel a small sense of control. I had something to hold onto, to reason with. If I felt particularly angry or irrational, I could read into my Mars in Taurus alignment. If my heart felt especially broken, I could find articles online that promised me my sign and his sign were vastly and wholly incompatible. I could research which signs and which kind of people I should let myself fall for instead. I read my birth chart again and again, finding comfort in the seeming explanation of every aspect of myself. I could breathe out, tell myself I made sense – I’m not a mess, I’m just a Taurus!

As unreliable and millennial as it sounds, we all need some hope. You might pray, obsessively text your mum for words of assurance, avoid drains and cross your fingers – well, I check my horoscope, caring little for the fact or science behind it, and more for the small piece of control it gives me.

I rang in 2019 in a bath, listening to an astrology podcast about the new year and understanding pretty much nothing about the explanation behind it. But what I did learn was that the new year, ruled by Venus and Neptune, will have a softer energy and be centred around pleasure and progress. I’m holding onto that, letting it calm my emotional highs and lows with the knowledge that like planets in retrograde, they too will complete their cycle.

Words: Lucy Harbron

Illustration: Nina Goodyer