With yesterday being Easter and all, it seems an appropriate time to talk with a little more detail about faith and the role it has played in my mental health battles. After all, I refer to the demons of my mental illnesses, perhaps I should also talk about my angels?
Faith has been essential in my recovery. In fact, has been a true Godsend. When I was younger my parents took me to church regularly, but as I grew up I drifted away from my faith. To be perfectly honest, it seemed like the only times I ever talked to God was in anger, blaming Him for the struggles I’ve had. Yet, several years ago I found myself returning to church. The reasons for my return are personal, and involve other people’s stories, stories that aren’t mine to repeat. Yet why I returned is less important to this story than what happened when I went back.
The pastor was giving a sermon about forgiveness. It has stuck with me all the years since. He compared forgiveness to a healing balm, placed over a festering wound. This was the exact message I needed to hear, because forgiveness was something I was struggling with, both for myself and towards someone else.
Forgiving myself has always been an uphill battle for me. Yet, there have been moments I feel God’s presence in my life, and if He can forgive me for my sins, if He can forgive me for the anger I showed him for so many years, there is no reason I can’t forgive myself. In the darkest moments, the moments when the depression is particularly bad or my anxiety drives my pulse rate up, and I am kicking myself for being so weak, that faith, that feeling, shines through and I remember that it isn’t weakness, and it isn’t a failure of faith. I may not know why I have this struggle, but I know it isn’t my fault. And that’s something.
It isn’t just the faith itself that helps though. Going to church gives me a sense of community. Church offers people who are welcoming to me and who can help me believe that I matter. Maybe that is why it is so hard for my demons to follow me into a church.
This isn’t the moment where I start to preach about how you should find your faith too if you are struggling. Faith, like mental illness, is deeply personal. No two journeys are the same. Faith works for me and my brand of mental illnesses, but it isn’t for everyone. And even with faith I still need counseling and medication to manage my symptoms, so it definitely isn’t a cure. However, if you are a person of faith who is struggling, who doesn’t feel like your faith is helping, know that it is not a failure, it is not your fault. And with or without God, know that you are not alone.