Discerning the call to be a volunteer missionary - am I too ill?


#1

Hello everyone,

I live in London, UK. Just outside of London there is a retreat centre for young people. It is run by a dedicated team who each year recruit volunteer missionaries to help with the running of the retreats for young people aged 5-18.

After spending a good six months or so dithering about applying, I put in an application to be a volunteer missionary and have now been invited to look around the centre and spend some time there. I am still not sure whether it is for me. This is not because of my character or my faith, but rather because of my health. I am schizoaffective and currently suffer from PTSD too. I have a care team based in London and am on a waiting list for a psychotherapy assessment.

The Director of the centre has been nothing but kind to me so far and so I thought this was a positive sign. I am trying to get hold of my spiritual director to talk to him about whether he thinks I am well enough to join the centre. (He used to be a mental health social worker and knows all about ill health and religion and its interactions :thumbsup: ) Until then I was just wondering if there’s anyone on here who has pursued life in a religious community (whether as a priest, brother, friar, or sister, or as a lay person) with mental health problems. If you have, what support have you received and what problems have you come across? Obviously everyone’s situation is individual and different but I feel it might help me to know whether other people have achieved what I would like to.

Thank you for any responses: God bless you all and please pray for me.

Justicia :blush:


#2

A few years back, a priest at our parish spoke after the reading about “the stone that was rejected becoming the cornerstone” that he had bi-polar disorder. He spoke about his difficulties, but he was able to make it to the priesthood despite them. Make sure you follow the advice of your doctors and pray to St. Dymphna! I will pray for you, too.


#3

I know, from personal experience, that PTSD severely limits your ability to identify rational and irrational thoughts. I faced death at age 16 when the boy I had a crush on for 4 years passed away in a tragic car accident. I was diagnosed with unipolar depression, social anxiety, and PTSD. It took a year or two for me to fully recover from the PTSD and I had to be home schooled during that time. I still have depression and anxiety but it has been 13 years since my diagnosis and I have made a drastic recovery.

My recommendation to you is that you get yourself some therapy. I know you said you are the waiting list. Is this the only place you can receive services? Sometimes, Catholic dioceses have a psychologist on staff who sees patients for a low fee. Until you recover from the PTSD at least for the major part, I wouldn’t recommend that you get involved unless your therapist says it is OK. PTSD has a tendency to rule your life even if you don’t want it to. Schizoaffective disorder is the same way.

I am currently in the process of discerning a vocation to religious life and I am a candidate for a religious order based in Europe. It has not been easy, at all, discerning with a history of mental illness. Even though my disease is under control with medication, many orders see it as a burden both financially and spiritually. I have found only 3 orders willing to allow me to try the life – the one I am discerning with is the last one.

This process has been MUCH different from other orders because my pastor is the one who introduced me to the Provincial Superior and spoke to her on my behalf. He vouched for the fact that I am VERY active in Church ministries including CRHP (Christ Renews His Parish), Bible Study, and an EMHC. This is a necessary reference since many religious orders see depression as an illness that causes you to withdraw from society. However, my disease is chronic, low-grade depression that simply requires a maintenance dosage of medication. I also have hypothyroidism which is known to cause depressive symptoms and I am on medication for that, too.

Today, I’m having my psychological assessment done to prove to the Superior that I am competent and able to live the life normally. My pastor got me in touch with the psychologist that does the testing for the aspirants to the seminary/priesthood. If I can pass this test, the Superior is giving me permission to try out the life. :slight_smile:


#4

Thanks for your post. I had forgotten about praying to St Dymphna! :o Thanks for the reminder :thumbsup:

Thank you for taking the time to write a detailed response. I am glad that your afflictions are less than they have been in the past.

I’ve never heard of my diocese (or that of my SD, who is in the neighbouring diocese) having a psychologist on hand. I guess that is something I could investigate :thumbsup: I am quite lucky in that I am quite high functioning even in a psychotic episode and my PTSD is quite mild compared to most people’s (though still distressing, obviously). Perhaps I should run it by my psychiatrist before making any decisions though. He’s generally quite supportive of me applying for jobs etc. but this is a different ballgame :slight_smile:

I wish you lots of luck with the discernment of your vocation and hope your assessment went well.


#5

I am trying to get hold of my spiritual director to talk to him about whether he thinks I am well enough to join the centre. (He used to be a mental health social worker and knows all about ill health and religion and its interactions

:thumbsup:

Re consulting a Catholic diocese psychologist re your discernment :

Perhaps I should run it by my psychiatrist before making any decisions though. He’s generally quite supportive of me applying for jobs etc. but this is a different ballgame

:thumbsup:

Prayers


#6

Thank you for your prayers, TiggerS :)


#7

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