Mental illness is a disorder of the mind, why it occurs in people no one knows for sure, and there is no real cure for most forms. There are several different categories of mental illnesses, with several disorders within each category. With these several disorders of mental illness within the various categories still further classed depending on the depth of severity of the particular form of mental illness, from mild to severe, and it is possible for these disorders to interrupt daily activities to the point that life becomes extremely difficult for the sufferer. This past year, starting in March 2009, I personally went back into a deep and severe depression linked to my PTSD issues.
You might be asking yourself what this topic has to do with anything or on a blog of a person who is grateful to God for his sobriety or why the word Christian appears in the title. Well these are very good questions to be asking.
The answer is that the majority of people with mental illness reach for drugs and alcohol to help them cope and change the reality they see their life in whether real or imagined. This was my case for 32 years. I used drugs and alcohol to alter my reality I felt I was living in. It was not until I was, gifted, by God, with 10 years of sobriety that I found the answer to my personal question concerning depression and feeling as if I do not belong in this world. I have severe major clinical depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) stemming from the first 17 years of my life and which, amplified by my naval career, and was the major reason behind my 32 years of alcohol and drug addiction.
I recently read an article online, from a lady PhD member of the church in Canada, who wrote that 1 out of 5 members of the church has some form of mental illness and the church leadership as a whole world wide has no skills in offering help, support and aid to these members and fellow Christians.
Even clean and sober for over 19 years, I have had a tough year dealing with my PTSD issues and the depression that brings me. My only real support came from my friends in recovery from drugs and alcohol and three families from the local church here in Payson, Arizona. During this past year, I had people whom I thought were real friends, within the church, withdraw from me by pulling away their friendship, stopping emails, phone calls, or stopping by the little house God has seen fit for me to live in. One of the church leaders here in Payson, Arizona, when I asked them why they withdrew their friendship from me, stated that “the way your acting, I do not want that impression associated with the church.” These types of statements are unchristian and just reinforce a person with mental illness distrust of people in leadership or authority positions and it saddens me personally that the church seems so unaware and fearful of people with dual diagnoses such as me.
Paul says that we as Christians are to be ambassadors for God through Jesus in order to bring others into a reconciled relationship with God. How can we, in the church do this, if we do not want to be associated with people (1 in 5) that suffer from one of the many forms of mental illness or suffer from an alcohol addiction or drug addiction to survive the struggle playing war in their minds? Jesus went to all the downtrodden (viewed as less than people) reaching out to them in kindness, compassion, and love and we as Christians are suppose to follow in his footsteps. When are people in the church really going to start acting like Jesus and stop fearing people who are different then they perceive themselves to be? Payson, Arizona, has a very large portion of the total population living in the town, as do a majority of cities, towns, and suburbs of the United States, of who suffer from issues such as mine; i.e. mental illness, addictions of various kinds, etc… Is the church, as a whole, going to side set those people during their outreach evangelism to seek out only the people we think will not look bad in the church membership?
I do pray, and hope that the dark storm clouds of my own personal set back into severe depression is lifting. Therefore, I will once again feel the desire and have the energy to participate more with my life and find away to be active in reaching others, without fear of association, that suffer as I once did and still do at time.
P.S. By the way, I am thankful that on January 28, 2010, God was kind enough to have blessed me with 20 years clean and sober.