3 “For the enemy has pursued my soul; he has crushed my life to the ground; he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead.”
Some time ago, I was hospitalized for my mental illness. (Actually seven times.) And though each time was bitter, but the Lord carried me. They would take from me my shoelaces, and belts, and fingernail clippers. Basically, I was stripped of everything, anything that I might use to harm myself. But I was creative, I took a clock off the wall and rolled it in a blanket, I smashed it and used the shards of glass to cut my wrists.The nurses were exceptionally observant, and within moments they intervened.
I had already been stripped, searched, and then brought into a ward full of very sick people. Much of all of this is a terrible glazed blur. There was a real awareness of unreality. I was quite confused, and it would take several weeks before I could reconnect. Things were no longer ‘reasonable’ and I could discern nothing. But I didn’t know I was so confused (but I did suspect it). The staff were quite aware and accommodating. They let me be, so time could take care of the rest. I needed to unravel things
Besides, Jesus knew exactly where I was if I didn’t.
Days rolled by, quite slowly. The tedium of a mental hospital is the worst— much more difficult than jail or prison. You walk in a very limited corridor, back and forth. You wait for your shrink, and wait, and wait. You pace, and pace. You pray, stupidly. The other patients were equally disturbed. There was a great variety among them. One guy would urinate in any corner. Once he jumped up on the nurses station, and took a “whizz.” It was hysterical. He almost shorted out their computer.
In all of this, there was a very bleak and strange awareness, of being incredibly ‘detached,’ and only remotely aware that something was not right with me. I tried to get well, but I was mentally lost. I paced, and I remained confused. I was most definitely in an ugly place. Desperate and increasingly bewildered, I knew I had no place to go. A fine place for someone who used to pastor, and teach at a Bible college.
If you have been in this place, you will recognize the ‘lostness’ of being on a ward of a mental hospital. It is confusion mixed with despair, and without a part of very strong drugs, and there is nothing you can do to be released. And really until you come to this fact, they will never let you go. They wait for you to snap out of your confusion, unfortunately that takes time. Sometimes many weeks and whole months. Sometimes never.
It’s worse when you have a family. In my case it was my wife, and two small children. This at times, would twist my heart. I would get a very short phone call, once a week. But this was quite difficult. I gained very little from those calls, and I found myself quite disturbed after each call. Being on this ward tinged me completely. It was like being dipped into darkness. I was very much affected. Now on the outside, I admit I was quite disturbed, but at the time I honestly did not understand a way out.
Dear friend, having a mental illness is cruel and disturbing. And being committed to a mental hospital is a desperate thing. Having passed through its locked doors is something you will never forget. The way I figure these seven hospitalizations have stolen over six months of my life. Its work is irrevocable, its fingerprints will be on your life, for as long as you live.But God will bring good out of this. This I know.
“Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light.”
There are plausible arguments for the non-existence of mental illness. But there are still people who declare themselves to have a mental illness. After all, being sick mentally has no physical symptoms; it’s not like a kidney stone or an inflamed appendix. One can only hope it was this simple.
Yet depression is a progressive and debilitating disorder. It is like having a ‘bruised brain’ that refuses to heal. There is an substantial list of psychological disorders. Technically depression is a mood disorder that has a series of symptoms. These symptoms are the evidence that something is definitely wrong.
Depressed mood (such as feelings of sadness or emptiness).
Reduced interest in activities that used to be enjoyed.
Change in appetite or weight increase/decrease.
Sleep disturbances (either not being able to sleep well or sleeping too much).
Feeling agitated or slowed down.
Fatigue or loss of energy.
Feeling worthless or excessive guilt.
Difficulty thinking, concentrating or troubles making decisions.
The above list is a summary of something called the DSM-IV which doctors use to diagnose the mental disorder of depression. Having five or six of these may indicate a problem. Spinning off this, you will discover some other disorders, like:
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder)
Psychosis and paranoia
PTSD (post traumatic stress syndrome)
Specific Phobias (fears of something)
SAD (social anxiety disorder)
Eating disorders (bulimia, anorexia)
Even though mental illness is widespread in the population, the main burden of illness is concentrated in a much smaller proportion-about 6 percent, or 1 in 17 Americans-who live with a serious mental illness. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that one in four adults–approximately 57.7 million Americans–experience a mental health disorder in a given year.
Unfortunately, there is a great deal of misunderstanding and stigma for those who have these disorders. I suppose it is akin to having VD (venereal disease) or AIDS. It seems that our culture is pretty quick at labeling people as deviant or undesirable.
I hope this post helps. I can see a 100 holes in it, and alas, it is a meager attempt. But perhaps it will be of some value. Both NAMI.org, Psychcentral.com, and WebMD.com all have excellent info on Mental Illness.
There are several types of schizophrenia, so signs and symptoms vary. In general, schizophrenia symptoms include:
Beliefs not based on reality (delusions), such as the belief that there’s a conspiracy against you
Seeing or hearing things that don’t exist (hallucinations), especially voices
Neglect of personal hygiene
Lack of emotions
Emotions inappropriate to the situation
A persistent feeling of being watched
Trouble functioning at school and work
Clumsy, uncoordinated movements
Schizophrenia ranges from mild to severe. Some people may be able to function well in daily life, while others need specialized, intensive care. In some cases, schizophrenia symptoms seem to appear suddenly. Other times, schizophrenia symptoms seem to develop gradually over months, and they may not be noticeable at first.
Over time, it becomes difficult to function in daily life. You may not be able to go to work or school. You may have troubled relationships, partly because of difficulty reading social cues or others’ emotions. You may lose interest in activities you once enjoyed. You may be distressed or agitated or fall into a trance-like state, becoming unresponsive to others.
In addition to the general schizophrenia symptoms, symptoms are often categorized in three ways to help with diagnosis and treatment:
Negative signs and symptoms
Negative signs and symptoms represent a loss or decrease in emotions or behavioral abilities. They may include:
Loss of interest in everyday activities
Appearing to lack emotion
Reduced ability to plan or carry out activities
Loss of motivation
Positive signs and symptoms
Positive signs and symptoms are unusual thoughts and perceptions that often involve a loss of contact with reality. These symptoms may come and go. They may include:
Hallucinations, or sensing things that aren’t real. In schizophrenia, hearing voices is a common hallucination. These voices may seem to give you instructions on how to act, and they sometimes may include harming others.
Delusions, or beliefs that have no basis in reality. For example, you may believe that the television is directing your behavior or that outside forces are controlling your thoughts.
Thought disorders, or difficulty speaking and organizing thoughts, such as stopping in midsentence or jumbling together meaningless words, sometimes known as “word salad.”
Movement disorders, such as repeating movements, clumsiness or involuntary movements.
Cognitive signs and symptoms
Cognitive symptoms involve problems with memory and attention. These symptoms may be the most disabling in schizophrenia because they interfere with the ability to perform routine daily tasks. They include:
Problems making sense of information
Difficulty paying attention
When to see a doctor:
People with schizophrenia often lack awareness that their difficulties stem from a mental illness that requires medical attention. So it often falls to family or friends to get them help.
Suicidal thoughts and behavior
Suicidal thoughts and behavior are common among people with schizophrenia. If you have a loved one who is in danger of committing suicide or has made a suicide attempt, make sure someone stays with that person. Call 911or your local emergency number immediately. Or, if you think you can do so safely, take the person to the nearest hospital emergency room.
“In my search for a counselor, I visited a secular psychologist, read books written by extremist biblical counselors, and had tearful talks with my own general practitioner. I wish I had known then what TYPES of Christian counselors were out there and how on earth I could find help I could trust and afford.”
Why Educate Yourself about Christian Counseling?
Perhaps you do not suffer from depression, have a great marriage, kids seem to be doing okay, everything is fine. Why should you look into various types of Christian counsel?
1) Think of a Christian counselor as an invaluable resource, much like the family lawyer, pediatrician, or accountant. When problems arise, wouldn’t it be nice to already have the information you need regarding local counseling services?
2) It’s always a good idea to have information at hand so that you can guide distraught friends and family members to a trusted counselor who can offer biblical guidance and support.
If you are a believing Christian, I MUST recommend seeking a Christian counselor.
“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household.”
The Problem with Secular Counsel
Many secular counselors will take your faith into consideration when treating you. However, as citizens of heaven,seeking counsel from a non-Christian is much like seeking counsel from someone who doesn’t speak your language…and he or she does not speak yours. Progress and inroads could be made, but in the long run, little will be accomplished.
There is wisdom and truth from godly counsel:
“The godly offer good counsel; they know what is right from wrong.”
Find a Christian who is a professional counselor. There are a number of directories on the internet. Each individual counselor is different from the next, however, and you will need to interview any counselor before you decide to use his or her services.
If Possible, Find a Specialist
You may wish to choose a counselor who specializes in a specific area. There a number of issues for which people seek counsel, including:
Coping with Stress
Major life changes
Religious doubt/ confusion
Sexual/ intimacy difficulties
The first thing to consider when choosing a Christian counselor is whether or not they are capable or qualified to handle the particular issue you seek counsel for. A marriage counselor may not be the best person to go to if your thirteen year old daughter is battling anorexia. This seems like a given; however, be sure your counselor has experience handling your specific issue.
Decide whether or not you would feel more comfortable seeing a man or a woman for your particular problem.
Seek a Licensed Professional
Also, if you seek counsel outside of your church, make sure your counselor is a licensed professional. I suggest finding a professional who holds a minimum of a master’s degree in their field of study, who has completed the required number of supervised hours, and who has passed your state’s examination to become a licensed counselor.
Remember that most counselors employed by churches are Professional counselors, but few are not. A church counselor should be qualified through their educational experience, should have some sort of license or certification that enables them to counsel (generally they have a Christian counseling certification awarded from various Christian counseling training programs or colleges.)
Interview Your Prospective Counselor BEFORE Your First Session
Going into a counseling session before you know where your counselor is coming from can be dangerous, especially when you are in a vulnerable emotional position unable to clearly think or discern the counsel you receive.
Before your first session, make the counselor shares your faith and concerns about the issue at hand. If possible, bring a trusted companion along to get their opinion about the practice you are considering.
Some questions to ask your potential counselor are:
What is your Christian counseling approach?
Do they adhere strictly to biblical counseling or do they consider psychological approaches as well?
What license or certification do you have? Is it from an accredited college? A Christian college? A training program?
Are you affiliated with any particular Christian counseling organization?
How do you integrate the bible into your counseling sessions?
How do your incorporate prayer into your counseling practice?
Do you have experience counseling people with (insert the issue for which you seek counsel)?
What is your payment structure?
Will my insurance cover my sessions with you?
What is your view on psychoanalysis, medication treatments for psychological ailments, and other scientific approaches to mental illness?
If you have an opportunity to interview your potential counselor in his or her office, take a good look at the books on the bookshelves. The types of books displayed give you an excellent indication of the types of counsel you will receive.
Before you make your final decision, pray on it, consult your Bible, and if possible, talk to your trusted general practitioner before seeking therapy.
Educate yourself about the various types of Christian counselors. When finding a Christian counselor, remember to find a licensed, experienced CHRISTIAN professional capable of addressing your specific issue. Interview your prospective counselor before attending your first session. Go prepared with a series of questions that will help your gain knowledge about the kind of counsel you will be receiving. Prayerfully consider whether or not you and the counselor are a good fit.
Taken from a great website for believers with issues:
“I’m sure about this: the one who started a good work in you will stay with you to complete the job by the day of Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 1:6, CEB
I was ‘saved’ in my early twenties. With that salvation came a sense of what really was true. And perhaps a real hope of what life could become. I’m now 55, I can only shake my head. It certainly has not been as rosy as I first thought. I blame myself, and go on to understand that maybe this is the way it was supposed to turn out.
But my walk with Jesus has been real. I haven’t given up on my pitiful faith and I haven’t apostatized. And yet I am aware of a confusion, and a disconnectedness that is a bit odd. I sort of realize that my soul has been hunted, and that I’m vulnerable.
But I can’t let go of Him who I call Savior. It certainly has not been easy. Sometimes it seems that I am perhaps the most troubled of all His followers. I’m sure some of you might understand.
You see, I have a disease called “loving Jesus” from which know I will never recover.
The promises that have been given to me can’t be diminished or revoked. He has dedicated Himself to reaching me. I’ve been told that He not only plucks me out of my darkness, but His intention is to heal and balance me. My confusion is not enough to sidetrack His will.
I don’t know what my future holds. But to be honest, I don’t anticipate anything magical, or some fantastically creative spirituality. I do not think things will suddenly get bright all of a sudden. But I can tell you this much, that I will never turn from His grace or goodness. I hang on them as a shipwrecked man clings to a log, out in the middle of the ocean.
I am most unorthodox, I know. I do not fit the mold of the average believer. I am too blunt, direct and disconnected. I have considerable issues, compounded by my mental illness. But I do know Jesus. He has come to save the broken-hearted, and come as a physician to a very sick soul. I trust Him to fix me. In 2 Timothy 1:7, Paul writes us:
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
It seems we stand on the threshold of a real and authentic life. For some, we must work especially hard to understand this walk of authentic discipleship. Unquestionably, we must trust in His love. But being stable and established will not save us. (Although, it would be nice). Salvation has always been by grace through faith.
My dysfunctional life doesn’t incur His rejection, the opposite is true. He loves losers, and looks especially on losers who know they are very lost.
I especially want to encourage my brothers and sisters who struggle with a mental illness. You’ve been dealt a severe blow. Others will never understand your “limp.” But Jesus does. You have a gift to bring to the table. He can pour much more grace into you. Don’t be discouraged by the resistance coming out of your thinking. You are especially His. He holds you with a transforming love.
This should supply direction and dialogue on the issues faced by every church member. It is a great opportunity we have been given— to minister to every person in the Body of Christ. —Bryan
by Ken Camp, Associated Baptist Press —
Living with depression — or any other form of mental illness — is like viewing life “through a glass darkly,” according to Jessy Grondin, a student in Vanderbilt University’s Divinity School. “It distorts how you see things.”
Like one in four Americans, Grondin wrestles with mental illness, having struggled with severe bouts of depression since her elementary-school days. Depression is one of the most common types of mental illness, along with bipolar disorder, another mood-altering malady. Other forms of mental illness include schizophrenia and disorders related to anxiety, eating, substance abuse and attention deficit/hyperactivity.
Like many Americans with mental illness, Grondin and her family looked to the church for help. And she found the response generally less-than-helpful. “When I was in the ninth grade and hospitalized for depression, only a couple of people even visited me, and that was kind of awkward. I guess they didn’t know what to say,” said Grondin, who grew up in a Southern Baptist church in Alabama.
Generally, most Christians she knew dealt with her mood disorder by ignoring it, she said. “It was just nonexistent, like it never happened,” she said. “They never acknowledged it.” When she was an adolescent, many church members just thought of her as a troublemaker, not a person dealing with an illness, she recalled. A few who acknowledged her diagnosed mood disorder responded with comments Grondin still finds hurtful. “When dealing with people in the church … some see mental illness as a weakness — a sign you don’t have enough faith,” she said. “They said: ‘It’s a problem of the heart. You need to straighten things out with God.’ They make depression out to be a sin, because you don’t have the joy in your life a Christian is supposed to have.”
A Baylor University study revealed that among Christians who approached their local church for help in response to a personal or family member’s diagnosed mental illness, more than 30 percent were told by a minister that they or their loved one did not really have a mental illness. And 57 percent of the Christians who were told by a minister that they were not mentally ill quit taking their medication.
That troubles neuroscientist Matthew Stanford. “It’s not a sin to be sick,” he insists. Stanford, professor of psychology and neuroscience and director of the doctoral program in psychology at Baylor, acknowledges religion’s longstanding tense relationship with behavioral science. And he believes that conflict destroys lives. “Men and women with diagnosed mental illness are told they need to pray more and turn from their sin. Mental illness is equated with demon possession, weak faith and generational sin,”
Stanford writes in his recently released book, Grace for the Afflicted. “The underlying cause of this stain on the church is a lack of knowledge, both of basic brain function and of scriptural truth.” As an evangelical Christian who attends Antioch Community Church in Waco, Texas, Stanford understands underlying reasons why many Christians view psychology and psychiatry with suspicion. “When it comes to the behavioral sciences, many of the early fathers were no friends of religion. That’s certainly true of Freud and Jung,” he noted in an interview.
Many conservative Christians also believe the behavioral sciences tend to justify sin, he added, pointing particularly to homosexual behavior. In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association famously removed homosexuality from its revised edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. As a theologically conservative Christian, Stanford stressed that scripture, not the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, constitutes the highest authority.
But that doesn’t mean the Bible is an encyclopedia of knowledge in all areas, and all people benefit from scientific insights into brain chemistry and the interplay of biological and environmental factors that shape personality. Furthermore, while he does not presume to diagnose with certainty cases of mental illness millennia after the fact, Stanford believes biblical figures — Job, King Saul of Israel and King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, among others — demonstrated symptoms of some types of mental illness. “Mental disorders do not discriminate according to faith,” he said.
Regardless of their feelings about some psychological or psychiatric approaches, Christians need to recognize mental illnesses are genuine disorders that originate in faulty biological processes, Stanford insisted. “It’s appropriate for Christians to be careful about approaches to treatment, but they need to understand these are real people dealing with real suffering,” he said. Richard Brake, director of counseling and psychological services for Texas Baptist Child & Family Services, agrees. “The personal connection is important. Church leaders need to be open to the idea that there are some real mental-health issues in their congregation,” Brake said.
Ministers often have training in pastoral counseling to help people successfully work through normal grief after a loss, but may lack the expertise to recognize persistent mental-health problems stemming from deeper life issues or biochemical imbalances, he noted. Internet resources are available through national mental-health organizations and associations of Christian mental-health providers. But the best way to learn about available mental health treatment — and to determine whether ministers would be comfortable referring people to them — is through personal contact, Brake and Stanford agreed. “Get to know counselors in the community,” Brake suggested. “Find out how they work, what their belief systems are and how they integrate them into their practices.”
Mental-health providers include school counselors and case managers with state agencies, as well as psychiatrists and psychologists in private practice or associated with secular or faith-related treatment facilities, he noted. Stanford and Brake emphasized the vital importance of making referrals to qualified mental-health professionals, but they also stressed the role of churches in creating a supportive and spiritually nurturing environment for people with mental-health disorders. Mental illness does not illustrate lack of faith, but it does have spiritual effects, they agreed. “Research indicates people with an active faith life who are involved in congregational life get through these problems more smoothly,” Brake said.
Churches cannot “fix” people with mental illness, but they can offer support to help them cope. “The church has a tremendous role to play. Research shows the benefits of a religious social support system,” Stanford said. They stressed the importance of creating a climate of unconditional love and acceptance for mentally ill people in church — a need Grondin echoed. “There needs to be an unconditional sense of community and relationships,” she said. She emphasized the importance of establishing relationships that may not be reciprocally satisfying all the time.
People with mental-health issues may not be as responsive or appreciative as some Christians would like them to be, she noted. “Others need to take the initiative and keep the relationship established. People don’t realize how hard it can be (for a person with a mood disorder) to summon the courage just to get out of bed,” Grondin said. Christians who seek to reach out to people with mental illness need to recognize “they are not able to see things clearly, and it’s not their fault,” Grondin added.
Mostly, Christians need to offer acceptance to people with mental illness — even if they don’t fully understand, she insisted. “Just be present. Offer support and love,” Grondin concluded. “You won’t always know what to say. Just speak words of support into a life of serious struggles. That means more than anything.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Camp is managing editor of the Texas Baptist Standard.)
For more information: National Alliance on Mental Illness (800) 950-6264 Anxiety Disorders Association of America (240) 485-1001 Depression & Bipolar Support Alliance (800) 826-3632 American Association of Christian Counselors (800) 526-8673 Stephen Ministries (314) 428-2600
“So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body.”
Ephesians 4:25, NLT
I intend to be simple. I am worried and distressed by my own confusion and a simple disorientation about my own detachment to what is spiritual. I confess a trust in Him, but am wary of an evil attachment to things that take me away from Him. I know this sounds confusing, please bear with me.
I turn to Him, and yet I know that I know that a small part of me does not really belong to Him. I want to belong, but am conscious that I just don’t work into the Kingdom. I am a liability. I quickly will admit to some confusion, but I have no real intention to deceive anyone. I desperately want to be His, but I’m aware of issues that would defy such a connection.
I have an incredible infatuation with Jesus, and His teaching. He is the most amazing man to step out out of the ‘river’ of the human race. I see in Him so much, and deep down I want to fall on my knees and worship Him. The things He did are honestly the most sublime in the history of man. He is astonishing.
And yet, I continue to struggle. I see all of this and yet I’m confronted with my own issues. I know what I would like to be. But if I press, I begin to short-circuit. I do, certainly turn it over to Him. But I also am aware of a certain antipathy or rebellion (although that word seems too harsh) against the whole idea of grace. I can not figure ‘grace’ out. Grace perplexes me. It is the ‘Gordian Knot’ of the entire human race.
But I do connect with Him. My bipolar would quickly render me a traitor. I vacillate much more then the average person. Ultimately, I do turn and trust Him. He has led me to a wonderful place. If it is all a delusion, then so be it. But I will still believe in Him who gave Himself for me.
If that makes me a disciple, then so be it. But I know I am the least of His. I guess faith would venture more. But I scrape up all that I have and a saving hope it is enough. I look at the accounts of Him and am pretty much astonished. Jesus did things, consistently, above others before Him and after Him. He is quite exceptional.
I am a follower. I will struggle, and then have to deal with that sin. But I do believe and intend to keep believing. I only wish I was more consistent. I sometime wonder that in the “Book of Life’ if my name would include an asterisk. (“Made it, but by the skin on his teeth.”)
Don’t fret, I am under His hand. He deals with me, and fully intends to lead me, home. I so do want that. If on that Day, you hear someone hollering, it will be me back in the 715,426,488th row, shouting ‘I am finally here”, in the fellowship of heaven.
Some will understand this:
“He who has this disease called Jesus will never be cured.”