The Many Faces of Mental Illness
“Thus my heart was grieved, And I was vexed in my mind.” – Psalm 73:21
Much love to everyone who continues to show me love and support!
As I’ve mentioned before, mental health is not a topic that’s discussed often in the church or among Christians. It’s rarely even discussed openly among families where mental health issues exist. So, I want to share my experience in hopes to help someone else and to assist in my own healing. By now, you know. My heart is set on promoting love, honor, and respect of all people – including those with mental illnesses.
I’ve discussed my depression and anxiety in Steps Ordered By The Lord and Warfare of The Mind. Up until this point, I had not come to terms with my other mental health issues. But as a number of mental health professionals have tried to drill into my head, that’s part of the illness – not believing that you have one. It has taken some time and some challenging circumstances to get me to the point of where I am today.
Schizophrenia has many faces.
Mine is one of them.
It’s a delusional disorder that’s characterized by maintaining false opinions and beliefs that are fixed even after being confronted with facts. Many mental health providers have told me for years of my illness, but I did not believe them.
In my mind, they were all somehow out to get me by trying to make me believe I was sick so that they could make me take medicine that would keep me coming back to their office for business. I thought that maybe they were trying to make money off of pharmaceutical companies by dishing out diagnoses and prescribing medicine. Or, maybe they secretly hated me and wanted to get me to take medicine to weaken my defenses against them and against whatever attack or plan they were plotting.
It’s really difficult when the very people who are there to help you are the ones you feel like you can’t trust.
So, I would pick up the prescriptions, but I wouldn’t take them consistently. I would start taking them and then stop because I didn’t believe what the psychiatrists and therapists were telling me. I didn’t think that I could trust them. That meant that I would miss appointments, along with medications, which only exacerbated my problems.
Paranoia goes hand-in-hand with schizophrenia. So do racing thoughts, distrust and suspicion of others, difficulty sleeping or oversleeping, not leaving home, the belief that someone is spying on or stalking you, hearing voices, and being unable to sit for long periods of time.
Unfortunately, I can put a check mark by all of them. It was those symptoms that drove me to a week’s stay as an inpatient in a psychiatric facility. I walked in voluntarily, but by the time of check-in, I had decided I couldn’t trust the people there with my care or the people who were there for help. So I wasn’t about to stay. Or, so, I thought. They would not let me leave. They literally closed the doors and locked them. Naturally, I became frustrated, and they threatened to commit me. Apparently, they thought that I needed to be there. So someone who was nice eventually came to calmly talk to me and help allay my fears. It was no small feat.
Eventually, while there, I was able to see some benefit to taking medication as needed. To send me into a negative head space, it could be that one-dose-too-many of medicine that I miss. You wouldn’t believe how my overall outlook can change.
For me to go out in public takes a lot out of me. Now that I’m consistently taking my medication, I am able to function better but it’s still difficult to be around a lot of people – even my family. I can’t stay at family gatherings for long, when I do garner the mental strength to go and be there.
I also have some strong beliefs about things that cannot be proven and probably more than likely are not true based on evidence presented to me. It can be hard to let go of some of those opinions and beliefs, however.
You may laugh, but for a long time, I believed that someone had somehow placed a chip in my body that had a GPS tracker and was following me everywhere I went. I actually thought, at one point, that the pills that the psychiatrists were trying to get me to take had some secret device inside of them and when I would swallow them the device would implant itself inside my body so the doctors could work some kind of experiment on me. I don’t know how bizarre that sounds to you, but to me it seems very possible.
It’s also possible that landlords or previous tenants leave hidden cameras in bathrooms and in people’s personal spaces. Maybe I should have never watched 13 Cameras. But for a long time, I thought that I could possibly be living a life that people were spying on and watching without my consent. That belief nearly drove me insane. In my house, I would cover the ceilings, walls, doors, televisions, and mirrors with anything that I could – sheets, duck tape, paper, posters, and wood planks – because I believed that there were hidden cameras in my home.
To me, nothing is ever what it seems to be. There is always some underlying motive to people’s actions. I’ve driven several miles out of my way on many occasions because I was convinced someone was following me. In reality, I probably just wasted my gas. But, that’s the nature of the illness.
I count the cars passing by my home; sometimes I start to believe that they are waiting for me to come out of the house so I’ll stand and wait and watch. And on some days, you couldn’t tell me any differently that the same cars are passing by more than once – and they are people who don’t live in the neighborhood. I’ve thought that they are stalkers spying on me.
For a considerable time, I couldn’t even leave my house to attend worship services of the Lord’s church. It took a lot of work with my therapist (whose closed office I would often call late at night and leave frantic voicemails for help…Wow, now that’s hard to think about me being that way. It seemed very reasonable at the time, though). But with his help, the help of the Lord, and a great big effort, I was able to attend services again. Though there are times when I still feel overwhelmed by the people there or it gets too crowded around me and I just have to leave, I have made considerable progress.
Again, my thoughts race and I am paranoid about any and every thing. It’s not a good feeling. It can be very depressing and discouraging at times. But, acknowledging my mental health issues have helped me to be able to take care of and manage them.
Christians experience issues of the mind that are not necessarily related to their spiritual well-being. Many mental health issues are a result of a chemical imbalance in the brain. And that’s something that you don’t control. But, medication helps. If you have mental health issues, be encouraged; we can make it work through proper management.
I was so opposed to taking any medicine. I have never been a fan of taking pills every time something was wrong, anyway. However, I now see the importance of managing my mental illness with the aid of medication. Without taking meds, my one saving grace has been the Word of God. When I think on it and when I read it, it helps quell the racing thoughts and bring my mind into focus and at ease. But at times, I’ve been so fidgety that I couldn’t even sit to read anything.
“You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.” – Isaiah 26:3
I only write this to encourage my brothers and sisters who may be going through something similar. I don’t want you to have to wait too late to get the mental health care that you need, like I did. It’s my hope that you also know that you are not alone in your journey. You can function with schizophrenia and live a full life. It just takes proper management to bring you to a place of functionality.
I would be remiss to not mention my therapist again. He has been a great help to me in so many ways. It helps so much that he is a Christian, and always with permission, he shares insights from God’s Word to help me in my journey. He’s a true professional who has been there with me the whole way.
If you are struggling with some of the issues that I mentioned above, I hope that you will seek the appropriate medical attention from therapists and psychiatrists who can help you manage your mental illness.
Schizophrenia can be managed with proper care. It’s not just the homeless person on the side of the road who is schizophrenic. It’s your brother or sister in Christ sitting on the pew next to you. It’s your accountant. It’s your coworker. It’s your friend. It’s me.
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7
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