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Thank you for visiting. Content MAY BE TRIGGERING ESPECIALLY FOR THOSE WHO HAVE EXPERIENCED ABUSE, STRUGGLE WITH SELF-INJURY, SUICIDE, DEPRESSION OR AN EATING DISORDER. Contains graphic descriptions of suicidal thoughts, self-injury and emotional, physical and sexual abuse. Do not read further if you are not in a safe place. If you are triggered, please reach out to your support system, a mental health professional or call 911.

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Disclaimer: Although I have worked with persons with mental illness for twenty years, I do not have a Master's Degree or a license. This is not meant to be a substitute for mental health care or treatment. Please obtain professional assistance from the resources listed on the right of the page, if needed. And call 911 if you or someone is in immediate danger.

A key word that you will see:

Fragmentation: a mental process where a person becomes intensely emotionally focused on one aspect of themselves, such as “I am angry” or “no one loves me,” to the point where all thoughts, feelings and behavior demonstrate this emotional state, in which, the person does not or is unable to take into account the reality of their environment, others or themselves and their resources. This is a term that my therapist and I use and is on the continuum of dissociation.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Being a Christian with Mental Illness ~ STIGMA!!!

May be, triggering. Do not read, if you cannot handle church related issues. Please do not try because it triggered me!!

Most of you by now know that I am a Christian. Now, I don't want this to turn anyone off to Christianity because we all know there is stigma everywhere and this does not exclude the church, in fact, I think it is even more difficult to have a mental illness if you are part of a church. Also, what I am going to share is one person's opinion.

I'm part of this Christian social network which is sort of like Facebook for Christians. It has been a source of pain, anger, frustration and confusion.
My feelings have been really hurt by well meaning people who haven't got a clue or have their own issues that they project onto me.

The church like non-church people are not knowledgeable or scared of mental illness because they don't understand or misunderstand. Sometimes, when people are scared or don't understand things, they think more simply like everything is good or evil; black or white. The church tends to split anyway. The church is far from perfect and I think they also tend to do this with mental illness in general or just don't know how to handle it and avoid it. People, unfortunately avoid me or I them because I don't feel safe. They just do not know what to say and do mean well. Sometimes, I just want to yell, "I'm a human first and I'm not contageious."

Anyway, at this site, I was going to leave, but decided to stay and keep mental illness in the forefront. So, once a week, I've been posting something on my blog about mental illness and start at least one discussion. My therapist told me today that this is a part of me that he really likes...the edgy side, the one that likes to stir up the pot. My intent is as long as I feel I have the energy that I will continue to do this. However, yesterday, I became really angry and today my therapist talked about how it tapped into my anger about all the cult stuff including the brain washing. I really felt like I need to share it.

This was one of my two questions and explanation for the week, "Quick what are the first two thoughts you have when I say, mental illness? I have asked this question in another online community with interesting results. First, be honest, don't give me "the Christian" answer. I want your gut honest feelings and thoughts. (You can find out more about mental illness at my blog and in "I Am Effected By Mental Illness," group). Remember be honest...no judgement here."

I've had some really touching, real answers and some of what I expected as misinformation including this one from one of the women. What I was surprised about was how angry and how much energy I am and have spent on it. TRIGGERS!!!

This was one of the replies, "I wanted to respond, I know you asked not for the "christian" answer but I do not know how else to answer. My thoughts, personal beliefs, experience, is.... That mental illness in all shapes and forms are spirits sent by satan. I suffered from clinical depression for years, but when I surrendered it all to Jesus he set me free from that, so I know that there is a cure, it's called Jesus! But God showed me that any type of illness, whether it be physical or mental all come from one place, " The devil" and God said that he has given us power." She followed it with some Bible verses.

By the way, one of the first thoughts in my head was what does surrendering it all to Jesus look like, what do you do, what does that mean? I know what it means to me, but what do you mean? I also had the sense that she was angry and also where did the depression go. My guess is that she hid behind the "Christian, I gave it to God and he healed me."

Now, I am a confident believer in healing, so I don't want that to be misrepresented. It is just that I see Christians hide behind it too often. Even with their inability to look at abortion, adultry, divorce, homosexuality and mental illness, as real issues that Christians face. Some bitterly attack these issues and cause people not to talk about it in church because they do not want to accept reality that it exists in the church. Now, this is my opinion. What is called from us, is acceptance of the person, get to know the person, no judgement because we have all sinned and not all of these issues are sins of the person. Anyway, I could go on.

I waited until I responded to her answer with this, "Thank you for sharing. I want to find out what people really think. However, I had a different type of reaction to your answer compared to others even though I expected it among the possible answers. I felt angry about what you were saying. From a very young age, I was told that I was evil, shouldn’t have been born, was the devil’s spawn and was bloodied from a beating that was to “beat the devil out of me.” I was constantly told and things were done to me that meant “I had evil spirits in me.” Well, all of that was a lie and I was being used to fulfill their evil purposes including sexual abuse. I actually was a well-behaved child, obedient, quiet and never got into any trouble.

As a child, it made me feel like I was bad, didn’t deserve to live and that I was evil. Even now, I have difficulty with these issues. I am no longer angry, but it does make me wonder with this belief system how those with medical and mental health issues feel around you. I would feel like you would be blaming me that my relationship with Jesus is not in order, but nobody’s relationship is. We are all a work in progress. Obviously, I do not share your beliefs. I think in rare cases that illnesses are related to evil spirits or Satan. In most mental illness, there are actual chemical changes that occur in the brain. Mine has much to do with my being abused.

I also know about spiritual warfare and have been involved in many prayer groups where we are trained to expect it. However, you are right, it does have to do with evil…the evil that was done to me. I am not “blaming” my childhood on my difficulties now because I am taking responsibility by taking my medication, going to psychotherapy with a Christian therapist, talking about the unspeakable, connecting with others, remaining in relationship with God and my local church who also support me in prayer and working on making changes in my thoughts and behavior."

I'm feeling better now that I've shared it here. God, I really pray she doesn't come to read my blog. I doubt it, but no it is okay. I just gave my opinion in a somewhat diplomatic way. Please do not attack the church in your comments, it will just make me want to defend or I'll agree with you and become angry.

13 comments:

Mike Golch said...

I believe that there should never be any type of stigma in any Church at all it does not matter what "sect" you belong to. Jesus taugh that we should love not hate on an other. Did he not heal the sick.No matter what their alilments?
This is what I believe in cast not the first stone!That's my story and I'm sticking to it!! HUGS and BLESSINGS!!!

Clueless said...

Mike, I agree with you, but it is not reality in most churches. He spent more time healing the sick than casting out demons. Thanks for the support.

catatonickid said...

I think perhaps part of the trouble around subjects like mental illness it that when you are a Christian there is this perception that there is a "right" answer. It's hard to be open to the people involved, to their emotional well-being as the priority when everyone around you thinks that there is a correct viewpoint, and other answers should not be.

I have no brilliant answers to the dilemma, and blaming the Church does nobody any good. The stigma is evident in the Christian community precisely because there is a conflict between what Jesus taught and the way people have always thought about those with mental illnesses. People have to struggle with cognitive dissonance issues. You hope that with time the teachings become important enough, enough of a focus that they replace those old thoughts but it's not always the way.

P.J. said...

This is a VERY interesting post!! I grew up in church and holding much of the same stigma that the lady has. I think we mostly CHOOSE not to get to know the issues that people around us have. It wasn't talked about, and if someone had any kind of mental disorder, I'm sure it was kept "hush, hush". I feel that things are changing, for the better, and it's people like you and me, and all of us with some kind of mental disorder, that we are human, and probably more "feeling" and "sensitive" than they'll ever be.

Things can change. It has to begin with me in my church, and that scares me!!

austin said...

I think her answer is only partly correct. Since we come from Adam and Adam could only pass down imperfection then all illness comes from that imperfection. Of course anything unholy can't come from God but it doesn't mean we are condemned. A person can have an imperfect body that has physical and mental health issues and still be in good standing with God. It is not our fault that we inherited sin. Her answer is only partly correct. I've heard it before, that people have surrendered their mental illness or physical illness to God and they're now good to go. That statement makes it seem as if those still suffering don't have faith enough to "let go and let God." They've over looked the fact that in an imperfect body we will have to deal with a break down of the mind AND with a break down of the body. After Adam sinned he couldn't pass to us the perfection he once had.

Austin

austin said...

I have to wonder if you asking that question on that site was to stir your inner pot.

Austin

austin said...

I wanted to check w/ you to see if that comment was upsetting or something. I was trying to say that she took the scriptures only so far and gave no room for imperfection making it sound as if mental illness has to do with lack of faith as opposed to the result of someone else's sins and crimes OR a body living with the sin of Adam. I wanted to make sure I worded things right and got across what I was trying to say. I could leave a thousand follow up comments but I won't. I just wanted to make sure my comment came across as intended.

Austin

Clueless said...

@CK. Some Christians are like that and this one has a need to make things simple. Everything is all evil or all good; however, that is not what the Bible teaches. Also, Jesus healed many more people than he cast out demons from. It actually is a very complicated issue and you need to be able to think abstractly and on multiple levels. I'm glad I replied in the way that I did.

@p.j. That is a good thing, but it does take someone to pave the way. I always have been and I've been associated with my church since 1981 and also helped to start a healing ministry to meet emotional needs and to educate. About 10 years ago, it helped that our pastor and his wife almost divorced and went to counseling successfully and he shared his struggles and some of his depression.

@Austin. You came across fine and I agree with you. It is a very complex issue like I said to CK.

Also, I was thinking about if it was to stir my inner pot. I don't think that fits...I want to stir the church up at least those that belong to that site. If I am able to educate a few people that can replicate itself. One of the blessing is that people are emailing me about their struggles with depression and bipolar.

I'm just a little out of it. Therapy has been tough...so when is it not? LOL!!! I think, I'll write a post.

Ash said...

BRAVO!!!!
*giddy hugs*

What an excellent answer!

I was raised in the Lutheran church throughout my childhood, but my heart left the church when I realized that a Pedophile Pastor could go to heaven, based on their beliefs. I figured that IF there really was a "heaven" and a "hell" then I'd rather go where the people were at least 'honest' about their human-ness (sin).

Jesus (and the stories passed down about him) was a magnificent guy. He taught many things that I believe and agree with-- that we can all experience "the Light of God" and that all people are deserving of forgiveness and love. His parables taught of truth and light. He was an excellent example of the type of person we should strive to be.

Unfortunately, mental "illness" still has a HUGE stigma against it-- applied by people of all kinds. Most people fear the unknown, and in fear, there are significant reactions that accompany this emotion (anger, hatred, uncertainty, judgment, blame, etc.). Because mental wellness is a science that is still in its infancy, many people don't appreciate that any dysfunction of the brain's inner workings is a physiological problem-- not really a "mental," "spiritual," or "emotional" problem. Yes, we have defined it as such in the past-- but as we discover more and more about how the brain works, we learn that it's not so much about a "failure to think right" as much as it is a "failure of neurotransmitters to work right."

(Of course, they've shown that thinking/behavior/experience DOES change how the neurotransmitters work, it's a chicken/egg sort of thing.)

I believe that one of the greatest errors that has been made and then perpetuated by "the church" (in general) is to say that spirituality and actuality cannot be the same. They've perverted the spiritual nature of humanity into an absolute-- one that disagrees with the physical expression of human behaviors.

Does this make all churches bad? Not at all! I think it just makes it more important for individuals to dig down deep inside and REALLY connect with their God in a way that transcends the nonsense stuff that so many believers tend to get sucked up into!

Anyway, I'm proud of you!

Clueless said...

@Ash. And, people who are unable to think more complexly, need things to be all or nothing or can't bring the reality that for some things there is not a clear cut answer in the Bible, it is impossible or at the least extremely difficult.

Thank you...I'm glad you are proud of me.

Sharri said...

I cried through your entire post because oh how I can relate to what you said. Because I'm dissociative I'm unable to remember all that you said but what hit me was the stigma there is with mental illness and Christian going together. I go to a church where the minister has said many times when I have needed support "just give it to God" or "have you given it to Christ?" Needless to say I stopped going to him for prayer or any kind of help. Thanks for talking about something I needed to hear for I've felt so alone with this experience. One of the most toxic beliefs that some churches teach perhaps not even so much with words as with actions is that If I was a good enough Christian or if I had enough faith I wouldn't struggle with __________. Especially with mental illness issues. What has been such a blessing is to see that there have been so many people come to this church who have mental illness and it is like staring this minister in the face and the prayer group that my husband and I started consists of five people all of which except for my husband have mental illness. So many prayers have been answered out of that little prayer group! I've seen the pastor softening some with his rigid stigma against mental illness. We have a man who would say Amen and make some noise once in a while and at first the pastor was irritated and then when this man got sick and was unable to go to church for awhile the pastor actually admitted what a heart this man has for God and how he missed his Amens. Sometimes I feel like pastor will never get it, but I am going to pray for God to soften his heart and I pray more and more people who have mental illness will attend this church. On some level I want to put pressure on him to try to get him to accept mental illness as any physical illness. Our churches prayer list is lenghty with physical and spiritual needs. Because of my abuse I have multiple mental illnesses. Oh and that's another thing. Affects of abuse is a stigma. "Just put it in the past" "Just give it to God" I will never forget the day I saw a man who had raped me and I went into the church crying and told the pastor's wife that I had just seen a man that had raped me and the pastor's wife says, "Just give it to God" and walked away as she said, "let's go to choir practice". I try to keep silent around the pastor and his wife about my abuse for there is no support. Like many survivors it hurts too much to hear a person say "just put it in the past".
Thanks for your brave posting and sorry for what you have been through.
Blessings in Christ
Sharri

Clueless said...

Sharri,

Thank you for your comments and I am glad that you have found a safe place within your church. I pray that God will soften your pastor's heart and will open his eyes to see everyone as He does especially those with mental illness.

My pastor is very open and accepting of those with mental illness. At times, ill-equipped. He often consults with me and plans are that when I am ready, I will be a part of starting a "healing ministry."

Cynthia Lott Vogel said...

HI,
I was able to access this article through my email notification of your comment...by clicking on the link...Thanks for sharing this!
Cynthia

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