Thursday, August 1, 2013

Trying to Feel God's Love While Dealing with Mental Illness

A friend of mine shared the following personal viewpoint about trying to feel God's love while dealing with mental illness.  I thought it was profound at the time and decided to share it now.  I hope it helps someone, somehow: 
Part of the recurring problem is not being able to believe good about yourself. Hearing that someone has gained something positive from something you have done or had influence on can be a real pleasant surprise - if you are in a position to accept it. Some times, no matter how kind the words or how straight from the heart they come, they can't penetrate the lead shield that may be a temporary/long-term emotional state for someone with a mental illness. Still, I am grateful for your kind words.

One of the issues that I think can stand some scrutiny is the issue of what happens to worldview with a mental illness. All my life I was taught:

"The light of Christ is given to all men so they can know good from evil. If you do what's right, you will be blessed (always with the caveat that it may be in the next life that you are blessed)." 

This is a great principle. It sounds like a law of physics or a mathematical equation - when you do x, y will happen. You pray, you get a feeling someone is listening. You serve others, you get a warm fuzzy feeling inside.  

So what happens when it doesn't work for me? Did I just fall out of the human race / all men category?

We like rules to be comprehensive and without exception so we can count on them. Without rules that follow accepted patterns, the apple cart is upended and the whole world around you can go into flux. You think, "I don't know what I can count on anymore when life itself seems to change on a daily basis." This way of thinking could end tomorrow, or it could go on for decades or until the end of my life.

It is a shame that we mentally ill folk are so complicated. ("Doc, what do I do?" "Take two aspirin and call me in the morning." "Bishop, I don't feel things anymore. How do I feel the spirit?" "Just pray, and it will come to you.") The 2 + 2 equation breaks down like light around the event horizon of a black hole. (perhaps a more apt analogy than I intended!) Thus, it is not unreasonable to conclude that for some people, just doing the "prescribed" church standard answers will not necessarily result in an invariably positive result. Ergo: a faith crisis that may or may not have a resolution subject to missionary discussion-level prescriptions for "finding the truth."

By the way, I am not looking for anyone to diagnose or try to treat me or my issues. I have shared what I have in order to put forth the idea that there are people in the faith community of the LDS Church for whom the normal rules do not appear (I choose that word carefully) to work the same as they do for many others, or even themselves earlier in their lives. This is not a necessary consequence resulting from sin, lack of faith, apostasy, or not "doing the right things." In these cases, it simply "is" - as a result of who I "am".

If I could speak for others who may feel like me, I would want to say:

"We just want to know that we are not excluded (by biology, by genetics, by disease, by spiritual state, by nature) from what other faith-holding saints are able to feel and recall on a daily basis that guides them on their walk through life." However, I have to admit, I do feel like God has made an exception for us, and I struggle to believe that what happens in my life and my heart is "evidence" of a "loving" Father in Heaven. Thus, I am left to hope for things I can't see or feel. 

It is possible to feel alone standing in a room crowded with people - depending on if you feel excluded, not even necessarily by them but simply from them. It's also possible to feel the same way about God, even when you are doing everything "right". 

I don't need to be told to be more faithful; I just need to be loved and accepted for who I actually am. 

1 comment:

Paul said...

Thanks for sharing this, Papa D. This has been my observation, too, and I'm glad to have someone who has experienced it share that.