Pat Deegan, who has schizophrenia, owns a mental health consulting firm and teaches at Dartmouth medical school. She recently blogged about “being normal.” For us of faith, the crux comes when she describes what “recovery” from a “mental illness” should look like:
… recovery is not about becoming normal. The goal of recovery is to become the precious gift that we were born to become. …The goal of our recovery is to become the unique, never-to-be repeated gift that we are.
This post deals with topics that some may find triggering. If you are currently struggling with the desire to end your life, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255 or message the Crisis Text Line at 741741 (US). Compassionate people will help you rediscover your possibilities. Hugs and God’s love to you!
As I write, “the winter that wasn’t” has slapped coastal Maine with what we hope is its last dose of ice and hazardous travel. Good Friday’s freezing morning mist coated even sand particles, making my unpaved driveway a slippery, treacherous mess. In the afternoon, a freezing rain frosted the pine needles and slicked roads. By Saturday, it had bent trees and broken branches.
Still, this ice landed on New England streets and yards almost entirely clear of snow after the extraordinarily warm “winter that wasn’t.” A thicket of crocuses is already blooming in my front yard. Budding daffodils are 4 inches high. Tightly furled tulip leaves have begun to push through the soil.
Most of the spring bulbs in this yard were planted more than three decades ago, when I began to create my little legacy in flowers.
Until then, I had spent dark years through my teens and early adulthood. I cried so much of my adolescence that I propped a favorite stuffed toy at one end of my bed and designated that area “my crying corner.” Throughout my days and nights, I heard a voice tell me over and over, “You shit. You schmuck. You fuck up. You fuck everything up. You can’t do anything right.”
A study from a surprising source — The London School of Economics — adds to the evidence that involvement with a faith community is good for you. The four-year study found faith community involvement was better at alleviating depression than:
The study looked at depressed European adults aged 50 and up.
Epidemiologist Dr Mauricio Avendano said it was unclear why religious activity was associated with long-term happiness. Options he suggested included:
Support during periods of illness
A sense of community and belonging
Reduction in social isolation
Activities that were rewarding, vs. political and volunteer work where there might be high effort without clear benefits
Among other interesting study findings: depression in Europe has less to do with the weather (often hypothesized to result in depression in Scandanavia) and more to do with such issues as economic well-being or social relationships/
A new study found that 11-month-old infants, confronted with an object that behaved unpredictably, chose to spend more time with that unpredictable object.
Jesus told us we could only enter God’s Kingdom by becoming like little children. A new study reported in Science suggests a trait of very young infants that could be very valuable to God’s Kingdom: openness to new experiences.
The Johns Hopkins researchers found that 11-month-old infants, confronted with objects that behaved in unpredictable ways, were more — not less — likely to spend time with that object, investigating its properties and behaviors.
What would this kind of curiosity look like in the Kingdom of God? How might it benefit those of us with mental health issues who are often shunned in Christian churches as not “normal”?
Lately, I’ve been reading Thomas Joiner and Anthony Pisani on suicide and its prevention. They approach the subject from slightly different views, but at base have community- and person-focused theories. The key distinctive between their theories and most of what I’ve seen is they don’t assume a suicidal person is “mentally ill.”
Illness or Lack of Community?
Here’s the difference between the mainstream and how these two researchers approach the subject. Mainstream theories – 90-95% of people who suicide suffer from 1 of these 4 mental illnesses: depression, substance abuse, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia. Joiner / Pisani – People who suicide have reached a point where they cannot find meaning in life, lack a community where they feel valued, feel burdensome to those around them — and have also obtained the fearlessness, means, and skill to do the deed. Continue reading →
People with mental illnesses often feel as if the disorder is something almost apart from themselves. Certainly these illnesses sometimes behave as if they “have their own best interests at heart,” not those of their human host.
One good example is when a mental illness betrays its host’s mind into thinking that treatment is a bad idea. This is how so many people with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia end up in dangerous situations. Their illnesses convince them that it is better to live without medication. But without medication or other appropriate treatments, it is their illnesses — not the persons — that tend to flourish. Continue reading →