On Faith & Mental Illness

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

The first time I went to a Christian based therapist, I was freshly home on a university ~sabbatical~ trying to understand why my brain was working the way it was, (read: it wasn't) & I was willing to try anything I could get my hands on, & I'm a Christian so obviously a therapist with the same values will be of great help to me, right? 

As I sat on the stuffy couch, trying to explain things as well as my jumbled mind could, I realized I was sorely mistaken. 

I came out of the session feeling defeated, helpless, & hopelessly guilty. I thought this was supposed to make me feel better? I thought we were supposed to come up with a plan of action & instead I came away with a worksheet on praying when you feel the bad things. 

Obviously I'm not minimizing the power of prayer. It's the only thing we have sometimes, & it ~has~ been a huge tool in aiding my recovery. 

But there's an epidemic within the church. 

The 'taboo' of mental illness has come such a long way & the conversations we have about it on multiple platforms on a daily basis are inspiring. encouraging, & make us feel less alone. But there's a part of it that still makes the church (not every church, & thankfully not mine. But the church as a collective entity) hush hush. 

Mental illness? We can't talk about THAT here.

According to a study done by Lifeway Research in 2013, half of the evangelical church believe that prayer & bible study alone can cure a mental illness. Although 2013 is now six years ago, (what) I'd say that number probably hasn't declined enough. The problem with the ‘just have more faith’ mentality is that you start to question your own faith when you try it all, have more faith, pray more... & you still have a mental illness. 

When you use faith combined with medicine, therapy, & self care practices, amazing things can happen. But no one should be shamed for going ~on~ medication or going to therapy. That’s when the damage happens. 

The 'do not worry' verse has been ingrained in me for as long as I can remember, whether from a well-meaning sermon or articles on anxiety, & I've had to deal with a lot of guilt from being anxious. I felt like a failure. 

One night, in the midst of a meltdown to my mom about my feelings, she told me, 
'It's a little bit different for people with brains like yours.'

I've had to remind myself of that time & time again, when that little voice creeps up that tells me I'm doing something wrong, that my faith isn't strong enough. The funny thing is, my journey with mental illness has actually made my faith stronger & more stable, so there's that bit. 

This whole 'faith & mental illness' thing can be a slippery slope & I only hope that the more people talk about it, the more something can change. 

You're not less of a human for getting help, & you're certainly not less of your religion. 


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