For me, living with schizoaffective disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is an everyday struggle. Some days are alright, when the demons in my head are neatly tucked away and I can smile and laugh like any other person. Other days the emotional pain is so immense it is physically tangible. On those days, it’s all I can do to get dressed and slump into my armchair. Showering, housework or exercise feel impossible. Once I went five days in a row without showering, too broken to do anything but cry. Most days, though, fall somewhere in between the two extremes. Fighting multiple mental illnesses is exhausting. Like swimming against the current of a raging river, battling a mental illness can seem near hopeless at times. And yet I continue to fight, refusing to give up even when my mind screams at me to do just that. What is my biggest motivation to continue on? My faith in Jesus Christ.
I use my Christian faith to help my mental health recovery in several ways:
I pray every day, morning and night and several times in between. I talk to Jesus like he is my best friend and mentor, because in actuality, he is. When my anxiety becomes unbearable, when I am terrified that somehow I will be raped yet again, I pray. I pour out my fears to God and feel a sense of peace fill me in return. Does the anxiety vanish completely? No, but it becomes manageable. It becomes something I can handle with my coping skills. When my depressed mood overwhelms me to the point of suicidal thinking, I pray to God for the strength to carry on. Do the heavens part and a magic wand is waved to take away all my problems? No. Instead I believe God helps me in far less dramatic ways, placing people and events in my life at the right time to help me on my journey of life. For example, when I got out of the psychiatric hospital in March of 2017, I was on the waitlist to get into the intensive outpatient program at my counseling office. Still devastatingly depressed, bordering on suicidal and utterly unequipped to handle the various symptoms of my mental illness, I prayed to God to help me hang on. He did. Within a week of me being out of the hospital, I was accepted into the intensive outpatient program and began learning skills to cope with my mental illness symptoms. Now, a month and a half into the program, I have several skills to turn to when I seem to be falling apart from the inside out. I believe God doesn’t always part seas for us, and instead sometimes our prayers are answered in simple, quiet and effective ways.
2. Reading the Bible
Reading God’s Word has become a part of my daily routine — as essential to me as brushing my teeth and combing my hair. I wake up in the morning, get a cup of coffee and crawl into my recliner with my Bible in my lap. I read the Old Testament in the morning and before I take my nighttime medicine and go to sleep, I read the New Testament. Why is the Bible so important to my recovery? Because when I have no words of encouragement for myself, I inevitably find some in God’s Word. One morning I was really struggling with feeling like my mental illnesses made me too weak to achieve my dream of becoming a pastor. I happen to read the following passage that morning, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). Through God’s Word, I have learned that what seem like my weaknesses can actually make me a stronger person.
3. Attending Church
Since I turned back to God in October 2016, I have attended church every Sunday, save for the times when I was in the psych hospital. For me, there is something uniquely uplifting about Christian fellowship — something about hearing a church full of people reciting the Lord’s Prayer together, head bowed, hearts open to God. I love everything about attending church. From seeing my friends in the congregation to singing songs of praise from praying to the sermon to Communion. I gain an immeasurable amount of strength from these gatherings with fellow Christians in worship. The congregation’s kind smiles and encouraging words and God’s presence filling the room help me see through my mental illness symptoms to a future of recovery.
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