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Hi, I’m Faith

“Mental illness does not exist! If you suffer from depression, then you don’t have enough faith in God or you must be sinning.”

These were the words that came from the mouth of a self-appointed, uneducated pastor of a hip relevant church on the outskirts of Winston-Salem, NC. My jaw dropped. Then I tightened my lips into a strong thin line, narrowed my eyes, and began clenching my teeth. My fury was palpable. I sent him an email expressing my anger and outright disagreement. I explained that I had been diagnosed with mental illness and that it is not a manifestation of a delusion nor does its origins stem from a lack of religious faith in God. I laid out examples of characters from the Bible that seemed to express a state of mental illness. Job, Peter, Noah, King Solomon, David, etc. 

He replied, quite disinterestedly, with “Do your research and then get back to me. Mental illness is just man’s way of excusing their rebellion against God.”

Disturbing? Yes. As it should be. Those with mental illness often face ostracism for simply being honest about their condition. For getting help. For admitting their lives are unmanageable and help is needed. It is still widely acceptable to make jokes about therapy or mental institutions. The word “crazy” gets thrown around as reason to write some off, or maybe just for giggles. I do it myself. It’s no wonder that someone suffering from depression would try to hide it. Or is it surprising that self-mutilation is on the rise.

In the case of mental illness, those who suffer from it, are doubly fucked. On the one hand, they cannot be open and honest about their struggles. On the other, those with mental illness, once found out, are then subject to harassment, or bullying, and being the butt of whispered jokes in the break room at work.

It is frustrating .Actually infuriating. As someone who lives every day with bi-polar disorder, and as someone who actively practices my faith, it is doubly frustrating and infuriating. Loneliness is a constant companion. Sometimes it seems as if my larynx has been surgically removed; cord by cord.

So, here’s a little advice: next time you find out a family member, or a friend, has some form of mental illness, recognize their illness as valid. Offer compassion and support. Speak up when people misrepresent mental illness and those suffering from mental illness. Educate yourself. Educate others around you.

For those suffering from mental illness, you are not alone. Hi, I’m Faith, and I suffer from

 

Image mental illness.

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Making Amends

This world makes me sad. Sometimes people infuriate me. The suffering of others settles deep into my bones, grieving with each step I take. I get discouraged at times because I am but one person. I cannot be there for everyone. I cannot fix everything. I desire to be. But it simply cannot be done. And if I dwell on this too long, I find myself being drowned by my tears.

There is so much suffering. Most of it is curable and preventable. Which of course makes me even more sorrowful. What makes it worse? People who confess with their mouths that they love God but are hateful in action. I’ve gotten to a certain place in my life where I can no longer tolerate superficial piety or intentional hypocrisy. It makes me sick. It angers me.

What’s worse than that? My own past, littered with superficial piety and intentional hypocrisy. For all those times in which I said “I’ll be praying for you” and instead watched more t.v. For all those moments when someone was crying and it was too awkward for me to comfort them. Especially those times when someone expressed what they believed, spiritually, and I invalidated their spiritual journey with my seemingly sage council. I am ashamed of my past bigotry. I am ashamed of my false humility. I am doubly ashamed of my overbearing pride.

I have been spending a lot of time thinking on these things. Trying to figure out just how I can rectify my past wrong doings and make everything right. Sadly, there are simply some wrongs that cannot be undone. I can only hope for forgiveness and understanding. Even so, it does not mean that I cannot try to make amends, with myself as well. 

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When I was younger

 

When I was younger, much younger, young enough to have Velcro on my shoes, I was immersed in the world of extreme evangelism. I heard the Gospel so much it eventually became background noise. One of things I was told is that if I accepted Jesus into my heart I would never be alone again. I was told that Jesus would be my best friend and constant companion. As a child who was constantly picked on and ostracized the idea of having a constant companion was quite appealing to me. Not at all surprising, by the age of six, Jesus was my personal Savior and Lord.

It was great for a while. My overactive imagination was a great illusionist. I imagined Jesus with me where ever I went. The illusion has slowly eroded with age.

The thing is, I have felt completely lonely, alone and abandoned over the years. Prayers went unanswered. In some of my darkest moments, when I called out to Him, he either didn’t hear me or he chose not to respond.

I’m left to cry the loneliness away, wiping tears on my twenty-two year old teddy bear named “Fuzzy”.

I realize now that it isn’t that Jesus didn’t hear me. It isn’t that He didn’t respond. It’s a shortcoming within the communities that we are each engaged. When it comes down to, we are each responsible for listening and responding to each other and each person’s needs.

However, our culture doesn’t foster or encourage communal living. It promotes individualism and consumerism. It encourages people to be so self-sufficient and independent that one doesn’t need to rely on others. The result: isolation.

A few months back I was staying with some friends in Charlotte NC while my husband was in Dallas TX looking for work. I was there about six weeks. During that time I experienced deep depression, bouts of elation, I got sick once with a cold too. My friend, Joanie, would check up on me. She would ask how I’m doing. And then she would respond accordingly. I did the same. We cared for one another in very tangible ways. During those six weeks, as I reflect back on it, I realize that though I experienced the same mood fluctuations, they were more bearable. I felt supported. I did not feel alone. The people around me, in that house, chased away the darkness just by their presence…they became Jesus to me with each kind gesture and their gentle nudges.

I need that again in my life. I crave it. I hope my journey through this life will find me, once again, living in community.

 

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“Curb the crazy or double the meds!”

Words spoken by my stepfather. Words that cut me deeply.

That’s the thing with words. Once spoken they can hang in the air like a thick fog and trying to maneuver around and through them can be a tricky and burdensome task.

These words, spoken in an email in August of 2011, were just as fresh today as they were back in August. I was driving to my doctor’s appointment and suddenly, in the lonely silence and stale air of the car, these words came back to haunt me. They taunted me for about ten miles. I became overwhelmed with self-hatred. Embarrassment of who I am. I began to tear myself apart mentally.

For someone with Bi-Polar Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder (not the same as Multiple Personality Disorder), words can be the catalyst for a raging and destructive fire or they can be a cool and calming water that quenches and heals.

I must remind myself of this often. I must remind myself that my words, too, can eat away at me much like a cancer. As a child I learned the adage “if you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.” Maybe a bit simple. But this truth is ancient. There are no shortage of ancient religious texts that speak to the taming of the tongue. There are also no shortage of texts and proverbs that provide caution concerning the thoughts of the mind; the internal tongue if you will.

Thankfully, on the way home from the doctor’s today I was reminded of “The Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi”

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

This prayer is a reminder. A reminder of peace, love, forgiveness, faith, hope and grace. Today it was a reminder of all those things for myself.

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https://www.moodtracker.com/index.php

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Mood Tracker

Mood Tracker

I love this website. It allows you to record your mood, including mixed moods, as well as irritability and anxiety scale, and to note if medications where taken or not. It also allows you to record specific medications, dosages, and how often they are taken with a beginning and ending date if needed. Each entry provides you with the opportunity to indicate in the journal section any specific feelings or circumstances that may have affected your mood as well.

 

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Mindfully Bi-Polar

I was diagnosed with Bi-Polar Disorder in 2000. It is likely that I have had Bi-Polar Disorder, or as some may know it, Manic-Depressive Disorder, since childhood. I have seen many Psychiatrists, Psychologist, and Counselors. I have been hospitalized over seven times in the past ten years. I have been written prescriptions from Abilify to Zyprexa. Shock therapy has even been suggested at one point, though I did not consent to treatment. Though in twelve years it has never been suggested that meditation, the practice of Yoga, natural herbal supplements, and other forms of alternative medicine, such as Accupuncture and massage, might be helpful in the treatment of mental illness.

I find this not only disappointing but alarming. Ancient practices that have been utilized by millions of people for thousands of years are regarded with indifference, apathy, and sometimes disdain by Western Medicine. 

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As someone who gets caught up in worry and rumination, The practice of mindfulness really speaks to me. The act of mindfully breathing in and out, being aware of my breath, and my body, quiets my mind and centers me in the present moment. The times in which I have practiced mindful breathing and meditation I have been reminded that Jesus encouraged us to stay in the present moment; that tomorrow will handle itself and the past is the past. I find it amusing that so many Christians are quite resistant to the Buddhist practice of mindfulness though it reinforces the very teachings, the very essence, of Christ.

I started reading “Living Buddha, Living Christ” by Thich Nhat Hahn. Thich Nhat Hahn relates the practice of mindfulness to the presence of the Holy Spirit, and both as ways of approaching the mystery of God.

I am excited about the healing possibilities that the practice of mindfulness, Yoga, prayerful meditation, and various other Alternative Medicines might bring me.

Specifically, I am excited to see how the practice of mindfulness and meditation might help foster self-love and acceptance. Many with Bi-Polar Disorder live in shame. I know I have. I have been ashamed of my mental illness. Embarrassed of it. The embarrassment and shame has led me, at times, down paths of self-hatred and loathing. Unfortunately, the culture in which I live makes it so easy to think in these ways. Mental illness is still a largely taboo and misunderstood subject.

Many approach the topic of mental illness with taught misconceptions and/or lazy ignorance. I have sat through many awkward silences after having educated my friends at the dinner table about mental illness, and why the joke they just made is neither accurate nor funny.

That is why I write this blog. I write it as an act of self-love, self-acceptance, self-appreciation, and for the opportunity to educate and inform.

I will leave you with a quote from “Living Buddha, Living Christ”:

          “in Buddhism, we speak of touching Nirvana with our own body, In Christianity, you can also touch    the Kingdom of God with your body, right here and now. it is much safer than placing our hope in the future. If we cling to the idea of hope in the future, we might not notice the peace and joy that are available in the present moment. The best way to take care of the future is to take care of the present moment.”

 

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