When People Tell Me They Don’t Believe in Mental Illness

I am a deeply spiritual person, and as a result I look for healing in both psychology and my faith. When I have questions I go to my counselor for answers as well as leaders in my church. I choose counselors who share my faith so we have the same worldview. Unfortunately, many people who preach my faith or practice it have told me they don’t believe in mental illness. I have often been told my “supposed” illness is due to a lack of faith and if I had more faith and was more disciplined I would be “cured.”

This pattern of thinking is incredibly hurtful. I know I have diagnosable mental illnesses and my illness is not my fault. I can find healing through my faith, therapy, and medicine, but I will likely never be cured.

I have bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder and social anxiety disorder, along with dissociation and psychotic episodes. I don’t particularly like having a laundry list of disorders, but I do know they describe me and they are not my fault. Over time I continually accept my illnesses as part of my life experience, and my faith as a way to cope.

The most hurtful thing I get told is that I am demon-possessed. I don’t understand, in our modern society, how people could still believe this, but they do. I wish I could convince people psychotic episodes are not evidence of demon possession. They are simply an aspect of my illness. Psychotic episodes may be bizarre, but they have a legitimate medical cause and are nothing to be feared. When someone informs me I must be demon-possessed, it suddenly makes me into a threat. Actually, I am just a person who happens to have mental illnesses and I am coping the best I can.

I also have often been told, “I didn’t believe in mental illness until I met you.” I’m not sure whether to feel flattered or insulted. Today I choose to be encouraged by these words. If I, through sharing my story, can show others that mental illness is a legitimate condition and not due to a lack of faith, maybe I can help others of my faith who have mental illness be recognized for their experience. Maybe if I keep sharing my story — both my difficult days as well as how much I’ve overcome — then more and more people will start to believe in mental illness. I believe in mental illness, and I believe our stories are important to share.

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