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To the Psychiatric Nurse Who Said I Couldn't Be a Christian

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Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

Dear Psychiatric Nurse,

I came to you terrified, scared out of my mind. I had just been sent from residential treatment to a psychiatric hospital in a nearby city; because of threats I had made, even residential treatment decided they didn’t know how to keep me safe. I felt abandoned, alone, completely hopeless — after all, from my point of view, the “last resort” couldn’t even help. I had tried to hurt myself in the ambulance on the ride there. I had tried to hurt myself in the room waiting to come up to the fourth floor. And then they sent me to you to check in. I was in so much mental and physical pain. And one of the first questions you asked struck me to the core.

“Do you have any spiritual beliefs that would impact your treatment?” she asked.

“Umm… I’m a Christian,” I stammered.

Bluntly she responded, “No you can’t be. It says on your paperwork you are suicidal.”

I wasn’t sure how to respond.

After all, does my faith dictate what I do or don’t struggle with? Is this nurse right? Could this constant temptation mean I’m not allowed to believe in God? I mean, I absolutely struggle with my faith at times. Grace and love, forgiveness and hope… they are hard topics for myself and many others to fully understand, and significantly harder when mental illness is a daily part of my life.

But the question is — could this nurse be right? Does my will to stop living mean more than my desire to know and love God? And if she is right and I can’t have faith, where does that leave me now? With no hope at all, alone in this hospital, where do I turn and where can I find a new will to keep living?

Fast forward a year and a half. I’m still shocked a nurse would tell me that; I personally don’t think that is anyone’s judgment to make. I spent that week in the hospital confused and scared. I left that hospital on more meds but with less hope.

Truthfully, I don’t have an easy answer. Faith is still hard for me at times. However, I do believe the promises God has made matter more than a comment from a nurse. My mental health doesn’t define me. My diagnoses don’t define me. My temptations and unhealthy patterns don’t define me either. The world has some pretty mean stuff to say, and when I get hurt like I did with that nurse, I have to remind myself that so many of those comments come from a place of brokenness. Maybe she had struggled with mental health, or someone she loved. Maybe she was having her own questions about faith. It’s something I will never know. What I can control is how I choose to move forward. And I choose life.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

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Thinkstock photo via Marjan_Apostolovic

Originally published: August 6, 2017
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