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My experience of schizophrenia and faith

Monday, 23 September 2013 Nick

The old Jane Wagner quote goes: “When we talk to God, we're praying. When God talks to us, we're schizophrenic."

Talking to God sometimes helps me. And I’ve even learned to ignore those head-voices which pretend to be God talking back. There is no immunity from an illness which affects 1% of the population simply because you believe.

The thing about having mental health problems and a faith are that one way or another people may say you are deluded.

Being diagnosed with schizophrenia and having a faith requires a huge dose of humour (prescribed on a monthly basis). Some of the things which happen defy any kind of sane logic.

I don’t think that believers necessarily have it easier by having a faith. Everyone has some kind of doubts. In many ways both faith and sanity will be tested to the nth degree. For example, believers are supposed to hear voices and supposed to believe strange things. This can have the side effect of resulting in a kind of acceptance within a faith community.

I think that being part of the Christian community and being diagnosed with schizophrenia is a strange blessing. But it can be a positive thing. There are rumours that having mental health problems and a belief in God can bring creative and unique perspectives to things. Not of a God who punishes or who always looks for the bad, but in a God who practically cares. When you are so reliant on people caring for you in one way or the other, it is possible that you will see the true God in those who actively care.

There are stories in the Bible about people who clearly had some kind of mental health problems. Elijah gets depressed, King Saul and King David both have trouble with paranoia. King Nebuchadnezzar just seems to lose all his sanity.

There are all kinds of stigmas in the world and having a mental health problem is, I think, a greater stigma than being a believer. But there are some things which you can’t easily say in polite company. Mental illness and belief are taboo in much of society. I would say that mental illness is the greater taboo, but it is a hard thing to mention either of these things on a job application!

Believers are often encouraged to hope for healing. In my case the chances of healing are pretty slim. But I play along. I figure that there are only so many requests God can say ‘no’ to. And maybe having a faith also gives you someone to blame for the things which go wrong. The most helpful thing I have heard anyone say is that God still loves you even when you blame him. So it is this kind of God that I pursue.

So I take my medication, suffer the side effects and when I get deluded I remind myself that it isn’t such a strange thing because there is nothing stranger in this world than the Christian story.

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