Being catholic and mentally ill


#1

This may sound like something off the wall, but I assure you it isn’t. I am mentally ill. I’m pretty much stable now, but I do still have my spells. Recently, I went through one because I had run out of one of my meds, and it took about three weeks to get it refilled. Well, by the end of last week I was on the edge of going totally berserk.

At one point, I was on the verge of going violent. Not against people, but I had to set on my hands to keep myself from starting to throw things around. And, mentally at least, I was cussing and screaming. Mostly at God. Whenever I have a spell like this, I basically throw a temper tantrum at God.

My basic question is, does God hold this against me? Or does He know that my mental illness is the reason for this? Does this sort of behaviour mean that I don’t have faith? That is the scary part. :crying: :bible1:


#2

[quote=Christy Beth]This may sound like something off the wall, but I assure you it isn’t. I am mentally ill. I’m pretty much stable now, but I do still have my spells. Recently, I went through one because I had run out of one of my meds, and it took about three weeks to get it refilled. Well, by the end of last week I was on the edge of going totally berserk.

At one point, I was on the verge of going violent. Not against people, but I had to set on my hands to keep myself from starting to throw things around. And, mentally at least, I was cussing and screaming. Mostly at God. Whenever I have a spell like this, I basically throw a temper tantrum at God.

My basic question is, does God hold this against me? Or does He know that my mental illness is the reason for this? Does this sort of behaviour mean that I don’t have faith? That is the scary part. :crying: :bible1:
[/quote]

God is all merciful and forgiving. He knows your heart. He knows you love Him. Reception of the Holy Eucharist is a beautiful gift where we can become one with Christ and bask in His Grace and peace. Receive it often! God Bless you.


#3

Mental Illness mitigates one’s free will in committing sin, and so the gravity of such committed sin is lessened.

I know that the issue of medications and not being on them drastically affects your thoughts and actions. The best thing to do is realize that, even though most Catholics may not understand your diminished ability to control yourself, that God does understand this and will very much take it into consideration when you sin. It is quite possible that the sins of anger which you commit are only venal, not mortal, because of your diminished free will.

The very fact that you are concerned about not sinning shows that you have faith.

Hope you get better soon :slight_smile:


#4

Christy, God bless you in this great trial.

Are you familiar with St. Dymphna?

catholic-forum.com/saints/saintd01.htm


#5

Christy Beth, I have bipolar disorder and have also suffered from severe post-partum depression, which is part of the reason I left the Church for a while and am now returning. My priest assured me that mental illness does mitigate the free will in committing a sin, as Magdalan said. Rest easy. He also told me that guilt and shame came from the devil. Sounded kind of Baptist to me :slight_smile: But then again, he’s right.


#6

Insanepreschool:

He also told me that guilt and shame came from the devil. Sounded kind of Baptist to me :slight_smile: But then again, he’s right.

I don’t mean to redirect the subject from the issue at hand, namely Christy Beth’s well-being, but I just wanted to clarify a docttrinal point. Not all guilt is from the devil. There is a healthy guilt that one feels when one has done wrong. However, the Devil wants us to feel guilty to the point of despairing God’s forgiveness. This excess of guilt is from the Devil, as you mentioned.

Yes, I agree that St. Dymphna is a good saint for you. She is the saint of the mentally ill. In fact, there is a shrine of St. Dymphna in Massillon, Ohio. Here’s their website: natlshrinestdymphna.org/index.php?location=location

If you send in just two dollars you become a member for a year and they light a candle in your intention for a week, and they send you a letter with numerous prayer cards. They also perform daily novenas to St. Dymphna for the well-being of the mentally ill. If you sign this form you can become a member immediately:

natlshrinestdymphna.org/index.php?location=membership

Ok, hope that helps :yup:


#7

Christy Beth,

Thank you for your post. That shows honesty and courage.
I am very very familiar with Bipolar disorder ( manic depression).
That trait of wanting to throw things is not particular to you. Others do it too, and later when stabilized hate it. I don’t know about the theology of guilt except I know its real. But that illness is real, we just try to stay on the meds. Some people do escape the meds after a few years but they are in the minority. God Bless You. Pray!


#8

I’ve gotten into trouble myself because of my mental illness. To add to the wonderful posts given here, know that Jesus suffered mental agony, especially in the Garden of Gesthemani. You can unite your illness, even med side effects, with the sufferings of Jesus. This will give value and meaning to your sufferings, because it makes you more like Him. Here is an article on Redemptive Suffering and Mental Illness I wrote last fall:

forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=20525

Don’t forget to offer up the good things too, God wants us to enjoy them with Him.

kepha1

P.S. I have the coolest hand-painted T shirt with the Crown of Thorns on the front. It means more to me than it means to most people.


#9

Years of medicine and psychiatrists and psychologists helped me get through my illness (severe bipolar), but it was a spiritual director who led me down the spiritual journey and resulted in my actual healing.

My (Christian but non-Catholic) psychiatrist compares the medicine to a cast. It doesn’t exactly cause the bones to heal, but it will hold things still enough they can heal themselves.

It is like that with medication. For example, in a manic state I might get only 3-4 hours sleep per night on average, and I am very agitated. Tranquilizers helped me get enough good nights’ sleep so that I could physically endure a little better.

Medical science does not claim to know exactly how the healing takes place, although there are many psychiatrists and philosophers who have contributed greatly to this subject. Personally I believe it is the Holy Spirit. Under the guidance of my spiritual director for a year and then more on my own for two more years searching for my faith, I believe the Lord allowed the Holy Spirit to heal me of maybe 99% of all the emotional damage I’ve suffered in a lifetime.

Medical science can help you get sleep, get your blood pressure under control, help you feel less physical pain and to some extent, emotional pain. It doesn’t know how to heal you, though. They just have to do their best and hope for the best. I believe that building a great prayer life will ultimately see to the actual healing.

In the past three years, I have gone from being manic and involuntarily hospitalized for it, lost a job, had symptoms so strong I thought I was God at one point and responsible for all the world’s ills (that lasted maybe a few months) and several months where I was depressed but mentally agitated and suicidal for hours a day, to now where I feel overwhelming peace and handle some of the most difficult times of my life with peace, love and joy.

Alan


#10

I can empathise with you too - I have had post-partum psychosis after the birth of my first child and it took 7 mths to over come it.

I can say that during this time, I was not practicing my faith, I was too ill. You are not culpable if you are not in your “right mind”. God understands about all these issues. If one is not in their “right mind” then they in some way have lost control of their ability to reason.

God sometimes permits us to suffer these crosses in order to bring us closer to Him. He allows it to happen, as it is part of one carrying their own cross - I see it as purifying our selves (maybe due to the sins we have committed in the past).

Mental illness is certainly a very unbearable cross to bear - but each time that you become well, you can see that it was God that carried you through those tough times, even though it didn’t seem like it at the time.

The biggest thing is - not to despair, as it is the Grace of God that gets us by.

All the best


#11

God bless you, ChristyBeth! I wanted to let you know about my website and support group/message board for Catholics with mental illness and their families.

freewebs.com/dymphnaswell/
forums.delphiforums.com/dymphna


#12

Dear Christy Beth and other sufferers of mental illness - I too suffer Bipolar Disorder and when I first became ill 30 years ago, my then husband (annulled) was advised I would be a cot case for the rest of my life. I am now an APlus student in college after taking in ironing for 17 years, six days week every day of the week except Christmas - one week off. I did this to help support myself.

As far as guilt and how far are sufferers of mental illness guilty - I simply mention to Father at the beginning of my confession that I suffer mental illness and then go on with my confession. I entrust myself always to God’s Mercy since it can be difficult to discern, very difficult, just where guilt and then how much guilt should begin. I take my medication religiously as it were - it is my lifeline to good mental health and a successful contributing life in my general community anyway (see final paragraph below). I think generally speaking after suffering mental illness over a 30 year time span and being a practising Catholic since birth I’d have to say - that knowledge in the Catholic Church re mental illness is quite archaic and most are not well informed and tend to be content in their misconceptions.

But I would be interested in any comments my post under ‘Apologetics’ re parish ostracization . . . I have noticed quite a few have read it, but no advice. Advice really would be appreciated.:wink:

I took to the post re Jesus in Gethsamane. An aspect of the sufferings of Christ was intense mental anguish - spiritual too . . . as well as social disgrace . . .those who suffer mental illness usually share to some degree a marked aspect of this aspect of the Passion of The Lord.


#13

Well I certainly agree that the view of mental

illness on the part of society as a whole is archaic.

Here’s my take:

A person who does not produce enough insulin, or is
insulin-resistant, takes medications to restore balance
to their physical “system.”

Psychotropic and other medications help somewhat to
restore the balance of neurotransmitters in the brain,
in those individuals who have a neurobiological imbalance.
[aka “mental” illness…it is a* brain disorder, for heaven’s
sake!]

Trying to “fit” the thoughts and emotions of one who’s brain
function is affected, into moral categories is risible, to me.

If a person, for instance, has brain damage as a result
of an auto accident, and from time to times starts
throwing around a dish or two, who would characterize
that in moral categories?

So, a neurobiological disorder [aka “mental” illness]
is the only illness that a person suffers that they
have to feel guilty for as well as endure?

A final thought for the vast majority who do not
suffer a neurobiological disorder:

Please take a moment to remember the last
time you were so fatigued, mentally and physically,
that your thoughts tended toward pessimism,
“it’s all too much for me”, etc. A good night’s sleep,
and you’re back on your feet, so to speak.
Now, picture a physical disorder that makes you
"feel" this way day after day. Further imagine being
told to pick yourself up by your bootstraps and
"get a grip."

Or, suppose you’ve just been in a minor car
accident. Picture that dazed feeling that may come
upon you, briefly. The difficulty understanding
what people are saying to you for a moment.
Extrapolate that to get the picture of what some
people experience on a frequent basis.

And where is God in all of this? Cradling the
"mentally ill" in His arms, trying to tell them that
He made them, He knows what dysfunction is
and, to Him, these are some of His special
children, who He knows carry a double burdern…
the illness itself and the lack of comprehension
in those around them…mostly there because of
a lack of knowledge, not a lack of charity.

My own suggestion is that each diocese provide
priest-confessors who are trained psychologists
and make these men available as confessors for the
"mentally ill" in their dioceses.

Those who have been significantly injured emotionally
by others in their lives are just that…injured. They
need our love and understanding and support, and
most especially, our prayers.

For myself, I prefer Benedict Joseph Labre as a
role model for the mentally ill. This poor, suffering
soul lived in a day and age when nothing was
understood about brain disorders. He embraced
his suffering and made the best of it, spiritually,
with God’s grace.

reen 12


#14

PS,

I say the above as a laywoman with no medical
training, but as the bearer of both a neurobiological
disorder and hefty emotional injury from childhood
forward [including what’s called Post Traumatic
Stress disorder.]

reen12

My favorite song, while in college, contained the line:

“Everybody’s talkin’ at me,
I don’t hear a word they’re sayin’,
Only the echoes of my mind…”

Understand?


#15

One bipolar support group referred to it as the “illness that doesn’t bring chicken soup.”

Alan

P.S. As long as we are quoting songs, this one got me through my hospitalization in 1983 when it came on the radio, by the group Rush:

That song gave me strength, helping me endure being locked up in a psycho ward with a bunch of kooks – albeit friendly kooks. The song helped me realize that I wasn’t crazy, just misunderstood. :whacky:


#16

Dear Alan,

How true, how true. I loved the lyrics you shared,
especially:

Eyes wide open
Heart undefended
Innocence untarnished

And a look in the eyes of the hungry
Awakened him to what he could do

Oh, yes.

reen12


#17

Those are great lines. I think my favorites are:

Cinderella Man
Hang on to your plans
Try as they might
They cannot steal your dreams

and

He held up his riches
To challenge the hungry
Purposeful motion
For one so insane

Oh, gee. It’s all good.

Alan


#18

Alan,

You know, if looked at from one perspective,
conditions like bipolar, or major depression or
schizophrenia can be seen as a gift, albeit a
"heavy" gift.

I look at my life of many decades, now, and
think: What if I hadn’t had this to deal with?
How would I have been different in the world?
And you know what? I would have been very
different, I think.

I could understand loneliness, limitation,
woundedness in a way that many of my
contempories could not. I could be there
for people in empathy, not sympathy. I
could never experience the hubris that can
come from good health, unlimited opportunity,
the ability to travel widely.

But I could speak as an equal with people who
were down and out…not as a benefactor, but
as a companion on the pilgrimage.
So, in some ways, having to carry the burden
has been an opportunity as well as a
deprivation. In my own case, I could even
think of it as a gift from God.

What do you think?
reen12


#19

Thanks for all the encouragement and advice. I’m aware of St. Dymphna, but I hadn’t looked at her for years. :o I guess I’ll take another look. Right now, I’m looking more at Our Lady of Mental Peace. I don’t know anything as of yet, but I’ve put out the question. I have come across, and purchased, the prayer card and metal.

As for my diagnoses and all, I’m not bipolar. My full diagnoses is Major Depression, Dysthymia (a milder, more chronic version of depression), anxiety disorder and Borderline Personality disorder with avoidant, dependent and paranoid tendencies. The depression has been a part of my life for over 35 years. Ever since childhood. And, yes, I’ve come across many who do not accept this sort of thing. I was once told that “there’s no such thing as disability.” Wanna bet?

When I pray the Rosary, I hesitate at the sorrowful mysteries. Od course, whenever I DO pray the rosary, I keep in mind the “fruits” of the mysteries. The one for the agony in the garden is: sorrow for sins. See my hesitation? :eek:

I have finally accepted my diagnoses. I fought it for years. Instead of saying I’m mentally ill, I’d say only that I had “mental health issues.” Now I say that I am mentally ill. It keeps me from trying to be someone I’m not. I’m no longer hiding from reality. That has been a help. But I also don’t expected to get “fixed” in this life time. My healing will come according to God’s timetable, not mine. But that doesn’t always help!!! :crying:

When I’m “strong” enough, I have learned to throw myself on God’s mercy. It’s the only thing I CAN do some days. :coffee:


#20

Dear Christy Beth,

It sounds like you have a pretty good grip on the situation. I have a million things to say but I just want to plant a couple of thought seeds for now…

Know that diagnostic labels are determined by symptoms.

Symptoms are not the illness, but indicators of the illness.

I have finally come to believe in Dr. Glassner and others’ way of looking at mental illness, that most of it does not have a biological basis. Alzheimers, mental retardation, stroke, and others cause physical brain damage, and these are the “real” kinds of mental illness according to Glassner. I am convinced 99% of mental illness has to do with psychological and spiritual problems caused by emotional damage resulting from original sin in concert with an upbringing in this society.

More later, right now I have to go pick up my daughter from her violin lesson.

Alan


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