Saturday, June 1, 2013

Religion and Mental Illness

Growing up in the deep south I was raised in church. This is not a post of my religious beliefs. I have mine and you have yours.  I want to keep my posts more on mental illness issues rather than my beliefs because mental illness is present in all religions or lack there of.
What I discovered is the shame that goes with having a mental illness and having religious views. Many times my problems were over looked by other church goers. I was told that all would be well if I just prayed harder or believed deeper. I would pray and pray until I was completely exhausted. Waking up and realizing that I still was afflicted by mental illness was a blow to my self esteem. It left me with questions. Maybe I was not good enough. Maybe I prayed wrong or not hard enough. Maybe I wasn't a true believer. Maybe God couldn't hear me. Maybe I was too damaged to be healed. Maybe I was too sinful to be saved from my afflictions.
I have no problems with religion. I believe that it is your right to believe as you wish. I do not judge others, we all have our own reasons to believe like we do or think like we do or practice whatever religion we choose.
For me it came as a hard realization that having mental illness was my burden to carry. Everyone has one. What I realized in my many years of failure to pray my mental illness away, was that the advice I was getting was a form of stigma. Not the outward ugly stigma we are used to seeing in a glaringly obvious way, but a more gentler stigma wrapped up in pretty Christmas paper and big satin bows. A stigma wrapped in concern and ultimately ignorance. My advice was no better than the advice of dear friends that have no knowledge on how to help me so they offer the same advice as you would to a normal person. Unhelpful an sometimes slightly insulting. As if I could just stop having OCD or panic attacks simply by thinking "rationally".

What needs to happen in all religious environments as well as educational environments is an understanding that somethings can not be willed or prayed away. Some things can not be thought away.What I propose is that every church, temple, or organization that teaches and preaches contain a booklet of numbers . Numbers for places that offer therapy, groups, and psychiatrists. That instead of being told that prayer or meditation will cure you, being told that not only will you be prayed for or meditated about but that they will also be willing to help you find the support you need outside of the religion, school, or organization. That instead of sweeping the things that make others uncomfortable under the rug, we look at them in all their horrid ugliness. That we attack mental illness as we would any physical ailment. That we are given options that are not archaic and ancient. That we are held up and supported. I have become aware that my mental illness does not make me any less religious. In turn my religion does not make me any less mentally ill. All places that you go for support and inspirational thinking and beliefs should be able to offer you resources on mental illness. Whether it is phone numbers or community groups. After all one in four people suffer from mental illness in their lifetime. That is a lot of people that could benefit from such resources. It makes sense to me that we stop preaching and teaching stigma no matter what wrapping it comes in. Stigma is hurtful and ugly.Being told that we only have to pray or try harder to get rid of our mental illness is a sure set up for failure. It can not be done. You can not fix a broken arm by praying for it. You have to go to the doctor and set it first.I am not saying that prayers are not helpful. I am saying that you have to also seek help for it to properly heal. If you can't fix a broken arm by prayer why would it be acceptable to believe that you could fix a broken mind that way? We truly need to step up and educate. I don't want anyone else to go through the despair and self deprecating questions I did when I failed to do the impossible. I don't want anyone else to believe that they are not good enough or that they are too broken to be healed. Too unlovable to be heard. I believe in my religion. I also believe that prayers are helpful. What I know to be fact is that if you pray you need to do it in conjunction with proper treatment of mental illness. Don't let anyone set you up for failure by suggesting that your mental illness is your fault and you can stop if you really want to.
Neurotic Nelly


  1. Hello, I would love to use this on my site....its nearly ready to go live so would you mind discussing the possibility of sharing your thoughts on my site....of course linked back to your blog.

    If you look at what I'm starting to develop with bipolar, I would like to do the same with you if you're okay with that.

    At the moment my site is hitting nearly 5000 visits a month.


  2. Are you putting my blog posts under OCD or just mental illness? Both are fine I was just curious. Just send me a link when you have it up and I will check it out. It's an honor to be used as a resource and I truly appreciate it.