Tag Archive: Mental Illness


Disability benefits are already on the chopping block by the new GOP majority. And they are doing it in a rather unscrupulous way, by pitting the old against the young. I got this in my mailbox today from Social Security Works:

We knew that the new Republican Congress wanted to dismantle our Social Security system brick by brick—but we didn’t expect them to do it on their first day!

They’ve taken what should be a dry, mundane exercise – the adoption of new rules by the newly convening House of Representatives – and turned it into a stealth attack on our Social Security system. This rule is nothing more than an attempt to divide people who believe in Social Security.

We need to tell Congress we stand united on the side of our WHOLE Social Security system! We reject the games and forced crises. Social Security works.

The new Republican rule prevents a simple technical amendment, known as “reallocation” – something that has been done many times over the history of Social Security, something that few persons other than actuaries and other Social Security experts ever know about – from being enacted in the next two years to ensure that all Social Security benefits continue to be paid in full and on time.

The new rule mandates a 20% cut in benefits to disabled workers unless legislation is passed that either cuts workers’ Social Security retirement benefits or raises taxes.

 

There are obviously MANY things wrong with this, being unfair to both sides. But some people may ask why it would be unfair to cut disability benefits for the disabled if they are capable of working. The reason why is simple. Not all of the disabled are capable of working full-time. The way things are set up now a disabled person can make up to a certain amount of money before losing their benefits. For some this a a good test of whether they can make it in the workforce part-time or eventually even full-time. It is judged on a case by case basis. The amount of money they can make by working part-time before cutting off disability benefits is NOT enough to live on. It is in addition to the amount of money they receive from Social Security which usually is not very much at all. I get $1000 a month on SSDI. The last I was able to work part-time the limit of what I could earn was $700 a month.

This arrangement is meant to provide incentive for the disabled to work and as a test of their ability to work. Periodically for those who are not on permanent disability (as their condition may improve), they will be evaluated on whether they are capable of working full-time. This is done on a trial-basis and if they experience a relapse then they can get their benefits re-instated. With those who suffer from mental illnesses, this is a very important provision. I have witnessed relapses where people end up homeless, in one case it was less than a week. One man who went to the mental health center I worked at lost his job AND his housing after a schizophrenic episode because they thought he was on drugs.

Cutting benefits not only reduces the incentive to work but also makes it difficult for the disabled to save any kind of money for them to fall back on. It amounts to punishing them for working! These are NOT people who are living the “High Life!”

I am probably preaching to the choir here, but still my readers need to know what is going on and those who do not have any kind of disability should know WHY this is a bad move.

This is also a bad sign for those who can’t work at all. I am in that position right now because of my secondary disability, fibromyalgia. I was able to work part-time before. If the GOP is willing to do this now, what are they going to do in the future?  I am not lazy, as anyone who knows me and those who read this blog knows.

As far as people who have mental illnesses, I know people who are able to work and those who can’t. There are people who are “high-functioning” on medication and those who are not. Some are under permanent conservatorship and cannot even live independently. Of course there are some in long-term mental facilities, but that is rare since laws have changed and many such facilities have closed down. A more common thing to happen is for people to cycle in and out of short-term facilities, where they are stabilized and released. The average stay is about a week. There are advantages and disadvantages to that system, which I am not going to get into now. But the point is that no one should assume that just because someone with a mental illness is not in a hospital, that he or she is capable of living an independent life.

This move is about creating more resentment by those who are not disabled and work, and those who are retired. The GOP has already done a fantastic job of convincing people that the majority of people getting help from the government are not working and have no inclination to do so. THIS IS COMPLETELY FALSE.

Does anyone really believe that the majority of people that have been brainwashed by the TPGOP are going to go for raising taxes to help the disabled? Not when they have been taught that the majority of them are faking it!

While it is true that more people are on disability it is mainly because of an ageing population. Why not go after the minority who are abusing the system, instead?

Here is the rest of the email I got received. I would encourage people to not only sign their petition but to check their ideas on how to keep Social Security solvent for EVERYONE.

Social Security isn’t a hostage or a bargaining chip. It is a universal system based on the principle that we are stronger together. The program’s opponents seek to divide and conquer. They seek to turn young against old by falsely claiming that too much is being spent on the old. This time they seek to drive a wedge between retired workers and disabled workers by claiming that reallocation helps the disabled at the expense of retirees – another preposterous claim. All of these divide-and-conquer strategies are intended to turn Americans against each other so that all of our benefits can be cut.

This is no way for elected officials to treat the constituents they are supposed to serve. Hostage-taking to force changes that the American people do not want to a vital program like Social Security is no way to run the United States of America. But if we stand together, this stealth effort to pull apart our Social Security will be defeated.

Tell Congress: We will not be divided. Support for the whole Social Security system is essential to our economic security, and we won’t stand for underhanded attempts to undermine it.

Thank you,
Alex Lawson
Executive Director
Social Security Works

I found this great article by Christian author Rev. Dr. Sarah Griffith

Rethink Mental Illness

Rethink Mental Illness (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lund addressing common very bad and hurtful advice given to Christians who suffer from mental illness.  This is not to bash Christians, who are generally well-meaning in their advice. But their arguments come from ignorance and this article refutes them very well. It also gives great spiritual resources at the end of the article:

Reblogged from the Patheos Progressive Christian Blog Post Traumatic Church Syndrome:

5 Lies Christians Tell About Mental Illness

In honor of National Mental Illness Awareness Week (October 5-11), I invited minister and social worker Rev. Dr. Sarah Griffith Lund to write this post about some of harmful lies told in Christian communities about mental illness and faith. She is the author of Blessed are the Crazy: breaking the silence about mental illness, family & church (Chalice Press), which is both a memoir of her own family’s struggle with mental illness and a resource for faith-based organizations to provide healing and comfort for those who suffer.  

Lie #1: God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.

This statement echoes across the Christian landscape. Intended to comfort the afflicted, it actually lays an ugly guilt trip on the person suffering. To say that mental illness is something that “God gave you” implies that God wants you to suffer. “Mental illness is part of God’s will, and you are supposed to be strong enough to handle it.” FALSE!

Lie #2: Daily prayer and bible reading alone cures mental illness.

According to a recent LifeWay poll, nearly half of Evangelical Christians between the ages of 18-30 believe that prayer and bible study alone can cure mental illness. This belief is in direct opposition to medical research that confirms that many types of mental illness are best treated by a combination of cognitive, behavioral and pharmaceutical treatment plans supervised by mental health professionals. To say that mental illness can be cured by spiritual practices alone discourages Christians from getting the mental healthcare they need to treat and recover from mental illness.“God cannot use scientific advances to heal the human body.” FALSE!

Lie #3: Depression is a sin, a curse, or demon possession.

It’s true that we do not yet fully understand all of the environmental and biological causes of mental illness. Yet to state that mental illness is only caused by things in the “spiritual realm” denies what we know to be true: mental illness is a brain disease. While there are certainly spiritual aspects to both the cause and the treatment of mental illness, mental illness is not simply a spiritual disease, curse or demon possession. To talk of a person’s mental illness as a result of a sin, curse, or demon possession is to further stigmatize, shame, and isolate the person. “Mental illness is the result of a sin, curse or demon possession.” FALSE!

Lie #4:If you loved Jesus more you would be happier. 

This is a Christian twist on the “just try harder” lecture. If only you just loved Jesus more. If only you just believed more. If only you just let Jesus all the way into your heart, then you would be happier. This belief denies the reality of clinical depression that is not a matter of simply trying harder. Jesus loves all people, including people who have mental illness. Loving Jesus more is something we strive for as Christians, but not because it will make us happier. “Mental illness is a result of not loving Jesus enough.” FALSE!

Lie #5: You can’t be a Christian if you have a mental illness.

This is an old one, something that saints in the church have struggled with for centuries. We think that perhaps we are not deserving of God’s love because we have a mental illness. We do not know how God could accept us or love us because we are not perfect. So we think that a person with mental illness cannot be a Christian, cannot be a leader in the church, cannot be an ordained minister. Ministers, especially, are not supposed to have mental illness. But the truth is that Christians are humans, just as sick, broken, and in need of healing and wholeness as everyone else. As a person with mental illness, being a Christian can be a way to find compassion, support and love from a community of faith.“True Christians are immune from mental illness.” FALSE!

Sarah’s recommendations for healthy, faith-based mental health resources are as follows:

NAMI Faithnet: www.nami.org/FaithNet

Pathways to Promise: www.pathways2promise.org

Mental Health Ministries: www.mentalhealthministries.net

Interfaith Network on Mental Illness: www.inmi.us

United Church of Christ Mental Health Network: www.mhn-ucc.blogspot.com

 Follow Reba Riley on Facebook and Twitter

Read more: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rebariley/2014/10/5-lies-christians-tell-about-mental-illness/#ixzz3FySQchp9

 

Ah yes I remember mania, which with me comes once in a blue moon, if even that. I don’t get true out of control mania, but what is called “hypomania”, a less severe form. Thus I can be a bit nostalgic. My last one lasted about three weeks, and towards the end I was cycling between hypomania and depression several times a day, literally laughing one moment and crying the next.I had changed insurances and ran out of my Zoloft and had not made an appointment yet with a new doctor. And yes it is counter-intuitive that this should cause mania, but later on I stumbled upon an obscure research paper online that said that yes, this can happen when going off of an antidepressant.

At any rate for a while I was on a pleasant high and I truly thought I had reached enlightenment. For the first time, all my resentments went away. I loved everyone. I even considered contacting the Dr. Phil show to tell him how well I was doing and see if he could put me in touch with some people who could help me along in my spiritual journey.

Only one thing stopped me. That still small voice that knew that is was not real. Even though I had never had this kind of high before and it had never lasted that long before either, I was well versed in the symptoms of bipolar disorder. I had studied the symptoms. I was spending the whole day in a blissed out state. I was feeling hypersexual and was also fantasizing about that for hours a day. And I needed less sleep although at the same time I exhausted beyond belief. That is part of the fibromyalgia/ chronic fatigue disease I have. And I spent a whole  night pacing back and forth saying my thoughts out loud in rapid succession comparing my (what I thought to be) brilliant insights tying together different psychological theories.

Since I was living alone no one knew about all this and I did not tell them because, once again, a part of me knew that this was wrong and that I needed help. Especially when it started turning from hypomania to depression. So finally I decided to do so and go back on my Zoloft.

The whole thing left me disillusioned . Nothing about it was real. My resentments came back and  I was on solid ground again. I hated this. I felt like I had been cheated!

But just because this “spiritual experience” was not real does not take away from the spiritual experiences I have had when I have been well. They have been much more subtle, often coming in dreams or during spiritual exercises. I don’t feel high, or invincible or that I have all the answers. But I do feel a sense of comfort from them.

Here is Deepak Chopra’s take on the matter:

This is reblogged from Oprah.com :

Ask Deepak: The Difference Between Mental Illness and Enlightenment

Each week, spiritual teacher Deepak Chopra responds to Oprah.com users’ questions with enlightening advice to help them live their best lives.

 

This is such a realistic and compassionate point of view on Robin William’s suicide that I just have to share it. Be warned that this may be triggering for some people.

From the Patheos blog Camels With Hammers

 

Robin Williams’s Verdict on Life

 

 

Hi Peeps!

I rarely ever bring up political news on my blog but this one really disturbs me. Recently in the news they have talked about the “record high” of people on disability insurance. Below I have an article from Media Matters refuting the exaggeration of the “problem” But first I will put in my two cents.

Since some mental health consumers get disability at least for a short time then we need to be proactive against those who would cruelly hurt the mentally ill (and in fact all disabled persons). And despite what conservatives say, it is not easy to get in the first place. There are very few cases of fraud.

One of the big reasons that more people are on disability is simply because we have an aging population. It is not right to judge simply on the basis of numbers. Or by the way a person looks.

Many disabled people get judged by others simply based on the fact that you can’t always see a disability. I have experienced that myself, having both bipolar disorder and fibromyalgia. The people closest to me can see that I am disabled. The average person could not. And mentally ill people do not all go around talking to themselves all the time or exhibiting other odd behaviors. They can seem quite normal, until they have a relapse. A client at the mental health center I used to work at had schizophrenia. He had a relapse and within less than a week he became homeless and destitute. He was fired from his job and kicked out of his housing because they thought he was on drugs. He was afraid to tell them the truth because mental illness carries a worse stigma than drug use.

THIS IS WHY WE NEED SAFETY NETS

That is a good example but still many people do not understand that bipolar and other depressive disorders are just as disabling (and some do exhibit symptoms similar to schizophrenia, I have.)

It really is just about impossible to keep a job if you are crying all the time, or are manic and behaving irrationally. Add to it loss of touch with reality and the odds of keeping your job are zero. I got fired from a job that I had kept for 12 years because I was depressed and out of touch with reality. I was behaving oddly and made an accusation against a co-worker that was due to the fact that I could not separate reality from non-reality.

This is not to say that mental health consumers can never recover and lead productive lives. But we have to be careful to make sure that if there is a relapse that they can get help. Currently the law allows those who relapse after going off of disability to have their benefits re-instated.

And there are some that may never be able to work at all and they should not be judged.

A good line to say to those who think that you are faking your problems is to say “You may not see my disability, but I can sure see yours!” 😉

This article is from Media Matters:

Two Charts That Show Conservatives Don’t Understand Disability 

HANNAH GROCH-BEGLEY

Conservative media hyped a misleading chart attempting to show that the number of Americans receiving federal disability benefits has reached unsustainable highs, comparing the figure of recipients to the population of random countries around the world. Accurate charts putting the figure in reasonable context, however, show that the number of needy Americans in this safety net program is astonishingly low.

On May 21 Fox News and the Drudge Report hyped the findings of conservative news site CNS which pushed the false idea that too many Americans are currently receiving Social Security Disability Insurance, stating that the number has reached “a new all-time record” and featuring a graph blasting the fact that more people get disability benefits than live in Greece and Tunisia:

 

From CNS News, Disability Beneficiaries Compared to Other Countries' Populations

There are also more people in the state of Ohio than Greece or Tunisia, but that isn’t cause for alarm. A more accurate graph showing the number of Americans who receive this necessary benefit shows that compared to the total number of Americans who have disabilities, and the total population of the U.S., relatively few individuals are on this government program:

U.S. Disability Benefits in Context: Chart

Right-wing media have a history of misleading about federal disability programs as part of their campaign to deceptively portray the programs as wasteful and unsustainable. In reality, these programs have low fraud rates, are highly difficult to qualify for, and help the rising number of Americans with severe disabilities survive when they are unable to work.

UPDATE: CNS’ original chart is even more misleading than Media Matters originally noted. Their chart starts the y-axis at 10.4 million, rather than zero, exaggerating the difference between the number of disability beneficiaries and the populations of various random countries. For better context, we have updated our improved chart to show what CNS’ graph would look like if it included the full U.S. population at the correct scale and started the y-axis at zero: Read more…

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Pastor Rick Warren at Saddleback Church.

Pastor Rick Warren at Saddleback Church. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am very pleased that Pastor Rick Warren is helping to take the lead in getting rid of the mental health stigma within the Christian culture.  Warren, who is the best selling author of The Purpose Driven Life, lost his son to suicide. He is now opening up a dialog within the Christian community about mental illness. Warren, founder of Saddleback Church will team with  the Roman Catholic Diocese of  Orange and the National Alliance on Mental Illness to host a daylong event  next month focused on helping church leaders reach parishioners who are  struggling with mental illness.

Many pastors and church counselors have zero training in mental health issues and can do a lot of damage to the faithful. My own experiences within the church has not been helpful. When I was sixteen I was told by a church counselor that I just wanted attention when I told her that I felt suicidal. Fortunately my parents were smart enough to get me to a real therapist.

The other mantra that churches often use is that taking medications means you do not have enough faith in God and that you are an “addict.” There are actually very few psychiatric medications that are addictive. Addiction is defined as taking more than prescribed due to tolerance to the medication’s effects. Sleeping pills and tranquilizers have abuse potential, but medications for depression, mania and psychosis do not. So there is no such thing as a antidepressant addiction and it is not designed to make people “high.” When people tell you that you are addicted to antidepressants ask them what the street value of Cymbalta is? The answer: Zero.

There are plenty of well-meaning Christians who give disastrous advice. One of the most hurtful things is when they say that depression is a sin. One of the hallmarks of depression is guilt. So all they are doing is piling on more guilt and depression on that person!

And the big one: Suicide. I believe with all my heart that we need to have compassion towards those who have attempted or succeeded at suicide. It isn’t up to us to judge someone’s heart. Most of them do not intend to hurt others and in fact often believe that they are a burden and that everyone else would be better off without them. I cannot even begin to explain to others the thoughts that have gone on in my mind when I attempted suicide. A minor argument that I could have easily resolved by my apologizing became a reason to punish myself.  I can emphatically say that I was out of my mind at the time, because I would not have done that in my normal frame of mind. And there was also nothing else going on in my life to trigger my depression.

While I am sad about the tragedy of Rick Warren’s son’s death, I hope that this will help shed light on traditional Christian attitudes towards mental illness and inspire pastors and counselors to learn more about how to help those who suffer from devastating mental illnesses.

To find out more about what Rick Warren is doing read here.

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For those who follow this blog you will already know that I do not stick to just one spiritual perspective, but I feel that there is value in many different faiths. So I have decided to do a series exploring how faith traditions deal with the issue of depression in light of the recent scientific advances that show that depression and bipolar disorder are biological and have nothing to do with a person’s character.

No Me Mireis!

No Me Mireis! (Photo credit: El Hermano Pila)

I have been disturbed for a long time about the way mental illness is often denied by many Christians and their churches. This is not a problem unique to Christianity. Many people in other faiths draw a line that says “If you are spiritual enough then you won’t get depressed.”  Depression is seen as a “sin against God.”  So besides feeling overwhelmed by depression then a person has to cope with the guilt that they are somehow disappointing God!This of course is a false dichotomy. There is nothing in the Bible that says you have to be happy all the time and if you aren’t then you are sinning. Rather the Bible is pretty explicit that many characters in it in fact struggled a great deal with depression and despair.

I found a good article online called “Can a Christian Get Depressed?” by psychiatrist Adrian Warnock that expresses a more compassionate Christian point of view:

Some argue that a Christian should be able to reject depression “by faith.” Many would disagree with applying that notion to physical illness. Truth be told, we all know that Christians get sick. I have never heard of a “faith healer” who is 130 years old. Every great Christian of the past eventually succumbed to some illness or other. You do not simply die of old age.

As soon as we accept that Christians can get sick, we must acknowledge that they can get depressed too. Depression, like Bipolar Affective Disorder, Schizophrenia, Schizoaffective Disorder, and a number of other psychiatric conditions, is a real illness.

He goes on to discuss some of the scientific evidence to support his point of view. This reminds me of a discussion I had with a fundamentalist Christian who insisted that the brain cannot get sick. We started out discussing addiction issues and the disease theory of addiction promoted by AA. He insisted that the brain would never tell someone to do something that would be destructive to the body. Then the conversation went into mental illness with the same attitude. But exactly why would the brain be exempted from illness? We know that Alzheimer’s disease affects behavior as well and makes people do irrational things. So why should mental illness be any different?

The article continues as it discusses how the heroes in the Bible often struggled with deep depression:

The Gospel promises “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8). So how can we still be sorrowful? The gospel also promises a life free of sin and sickness. But we know that all these promises are only fulfilled in part in this earthly existence. Jesus himself taught us to pray “your kingdom come, your will be done, on Earth as it is in heaven” precisely because it often isn’t done here. Even a Calvinist must accept that much happens here on earth that is contrary to God’s revealed will, his pleasure.

Paul spoke of the paradox of the Christian experience in 2 Corinthians 6 where he describes himself as “sorrowful yet always rejoicing.” The Christian may have a complex emotional state where the joy of knowing forgiveness battles with unquenchable depression, and the hope of eternity wrestles with despair.

One time Paul said of himself, “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart” (Romans 9:2).

It doesn’t take much reading of the Psalms to discover that King David and other psalmists had times when they suffered from severe depression. See for example Psalms 6, 30, and 31.

This is an important point. Did God ever say that our lives were going to be all sunshine and lollypops?

He continues:

One message of the Bible, and the Psalms in particular is that depression does have an end point. Mercifully for most who suffer in this way, there are seasons of low mood that eventually give way to periods of resolution. We see that in the Psalms with such statements as,

“Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5).

While that statement is generally true, it is not true in every case. Or at least it is not always true in this lifetime.

Theologians sometimes talk of an “over realised eschatology.” This happens when we take benefits of the gospel which are promised for us in eternity, and assume that they will be available completely for everybody today. God does heal depression in this life. But he doesn’t heal everyone. He does, however, promise a future where,

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

I think this point is important. I do not know if I will ever be completely healed, but I can look forward to a time where I will be.

We must face the fact that there is much about this world that is not right. And we must fight it, both in our own lives, and in helping to rescue others from the grip of everything that God did not intend for us. And we pray. We pray in hope that the God who promised that he will deliver us forevermore can and does give us foretastes of that deliverance here and now. And we rejoice with those who experience such supernatural touches of God. And we rejoice with those whose healing comes by the God-given skills of doctors. And we are compassionate towards those for whom it seems that in this life at least there will be no relief.

Read the whole article here. He also has written other articles on this topic so check him out!

Related articles

A Travesty of Justice Against the Mentally Ill!

Pregnant woman in the shadows (BW image)

Pregnant woman in the shadows (BW image) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I received this horrifying e-mail today. Many of you may already know about this as it looks like this case is moving towards a trial. However it is not too late to make your opinion known! Please read and sign this petition and pass this along to as many people as possible!

Mary

When my friend Bei Bei found out she was pregnant, she was excited to start a family. But things took a turn for the worse. Her boyfriend abruptly left her and said he didn’t love her anymore, and she fell into a spiral of depression. It got so bad that she tried to kill herself on Christmas Eve.

Luckily, a friend found Bei Bei and rushed her to the hospital. Bei Bei survived, but after an emergency C-section, her baby — whom she named Angel — didn’t survive. It gets worse: now an overzealous prosecutor is putting Bei Bei on trial for murder.

Bei Bei lives in Indiana, which has a law that was meant to criminalize people who attack pregnant women. This law has never been used to convict a pregnant woman of harming herself — and suicide is not even illegal in Indiana. Bei Bei went through a personal tragedy, and now she could face 45-65 years in prison.

I started a petition on Change.org calling on prosecutor Terry Curry to drop charges against Bei Bei. Will you click here to sign?

I am terrified for my friend, and also for the precedent this trial could set. What if a woman like Bei Bei was struggling with suicidal thoughts, but then was too afraid to seek help because she knew she could be prosecuted?

After Bei Bei tried to kill herself, she did everything doctors recommended to save her fetus, taking rounds of medication and consenting to emergency surgery. When doctors told Bei Bei that Angel had to be taken off life support, Bei Bei was so devastated she had to be sedated.

Bei Bei has already been through so much — it seems like Terry Curry is the only person in Indiana who wants to prosecute her. I hope that if thousands of people sign my petition, we can bring enough attention to his cruel vendetta to get him to drop the charges and let Bei Bei finally move forward with her life.

Click here to sign my petition demanding that prosecutor Terry Curry drop all charges against my friend Bei Bei Shuai.

Thank you,

Brooke Beloso

Indianapolis,

Indiana

My wife reading in bed. And it wasn't because ...

My wife reading in bed. And it wasn’t because she was trying to get to sleep. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I found this excellent interview with Amy Simpson, who is a Christian mental health advocate and speaker. She has written a book called  Troubled Minds, a book to guide the Church in better understanding how to help those struggling with mental illness. Here is an excerpt from this interview done by   from her blog Christ and Pop Culture. The context is about Rick Warren‘s son who committed suicide recently due to a depressive illness. Rick Warren is the author of the best-selling book, The Purpose Driven Life:

Pastor Warren’s statement indicated that “only those closest” to the family knew of his son’s story and struggle. Why do people’s struggles with mental illness continue to be hidden and is this even more the case in the Church context?

Mental illness is stigmatized in our culture. We carry old, superstitious ideas about it. People fear mental illness and marginalize those with mental illnesses in a way they don’t treat people affected by other forms of disease. We tend to treat mental illness as either a source of entertainment, subject matter for jokes, a source for romantic notions, or something to be terrified of. We don’t tend to think of mental illness as what it is—that is, illness with biological and environmental causes just like a lot of other diseases. We tend to think that if someone has a mental illness or receives treatment for mental health, that person is somehow compromised or perhaps unable to live a productive life.

Within the Church, we add our own layers of stigma. Many churches assume all mental illness is spiritual in nature and reflects a spiritual weakness or lack of faith. Some churches assume all mental illness is caused by spiritual forces like demon possession and ignore the overwhelming evidence for the biological factors involved. Some churches assume mental illness is meted out as punishment for sin and anyone who exhibits an ongoing problem with mental illness must have an ongoing problem with sin that’s the real cause. So they point fingers at suffering people and blame them for their illnesses. Some church people are simply so horrified and offended by the idea that mental illness could happen to them and their own families, they keep their distance. They marginalize people with mental illness to make themselves feel better, convincing themselves they’re different and it couldn’t happen to them.

In this kind of environment, who wants to speak up and admit to mental illness if it means being kicked out of the church, being treated like a second-class or third-class citizen, or being subject to insistence that the church can pray the problem away or that the solution is found in simply having more faith or praying more? Rather than subject themselves to this kind of treatment, most people would prefer to stay silent. Many people are also afraid of risk to their jobs, their relationships, and their reputations—so they keep quiet.

This is a great tragedy made even more tragic by the reality that in any given year, more than 25 percent of adults in the United States suffer from a diagnosable mental illness of some kind.

You can read the rest of this at:

www.patheos.com/blogs/christandpopculture/2013/04/overcoming-mental-illness-stigma-in-the-church-an-interview-with-amy-simpson

The past few days have been an eye opener for me as I am finally coming to a sense of closure about what has been going on in my family. It seems that cutting them off has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. I feel more at peace than I have for a long time. Why? Because I realize I don’t owe them. Not only that, they don’t owe me either.

Fly-away close up

Fly-away close up (Photo credit: tdlucas5000)

Spirit has been showing me that my sister is on a different path than mine, and that we aren’t meant to travel it together. That does not make her path any less valid than mine. I firmly believe that all roads lead to the same destination.  But her path is custom-made and the lessons are for her alone.

The bottom line is that just like some romantic breakups occur because of unworkable expectations, the same thing can happen in family relationships, too.

The reason why we are here on this earth is not to make everyone happy. Nor should we expect that others should make us happy either. We are here to love and grow through our mistakes and we can choose to share that with others or not.  Many times we get hurt by sharing with the wrong people.  It is not always our fault but we can learn little by little who we can trust, and who we can’t.

Despite all of my complaints about my sister, I do have a good model of what trust looks like with my dad. I think this situation has been brought to a head because just like with any creature, it is time to leave the nest and look for sustenance elsewhere. I am financially independent and I have my own house, but I am extremely emotionally dependent on my father. Underneath all my drama with my sister has been a desire for her to take over that role. But she can’t and I shouldn’t expect her to.

Ironically what has held me back from making more friends is that I am afraid of rejection. I have felt unworthy of any love or compassion. Yet with my sister I have created the very situation that I am afraid of!

The fact is that I am worthy and I don’t have to prove that to anyone. My worthiness has nothing to do with the fact that I have a mental illness, bipolar disorder. It is not a moral issue. Who I am transcends all that, because I am in the image of Spirit.

When I close my eyes an image comes in front of me. I am walking through an apartment complex. I am in an  indoor passage with carpeting. As I stop in front of an apartment door it does not bother me that it is firmly closed against my entering. In fact it feels like freedom. I don’t have to be a part of what is beyond that doorway anymore. I walk past and leave with a spring in my step and lightness in my heart.