The Danger of Spiritualizing Mental Illness

It’s 2018 and I’m already dealing with misinformed people who refuse be open-minded, or acknowledge the error of their ways and wish to place judgement on others because of preconceived notions and prejudices.

An old friend of mine and I got into a fight/disagreement last night because of some of my blog posts, or namely, the category under which certain posts appear, namely the ones about trauma and PTSD. I had a category called “Mental Illness and Recovery,” which may be a bit misleading as I don’t consider myself mentally ill; rather, I just have thorns in my flesh that keep me from boasting in my strength and cause me to rely on God like the Apostle Paul (I just changed the category this morning to reflect my desired thought process). This friend expressed that he doesn’t want to date someone who admits to having mental health issues (I’m paraphrasing). He has a stigma concerning people using the term “mental health” as it implies that one is mentally ill. Also, it troubles him because many people he has come across often self-diagnosis themselves with all kinds of ailments and won’t take responsibility for their minds and/or lives because of “mental illnesses.” I get that. It’s annoying and wrong for those who have genuine issues. In addition to ostracizing them, it makes it much harder to ask for help if/when needed. I was sexually traumatized 3 years ago. And even though I’ve been with my therapist for 1.5 years, I can’t just “get over it” or will it to not affect me, especially when I’ve been actually diagnosed with PTSD and generalized anxiety by a professional psychiatrist.
When he finished explaining his stance last night, the first thought in my head was “Screw you. You’re just like certain members of my family and 50% of the Christian population who think mental issues can be resolved by prayer, Scripture, and positive thinking.” Take note: The danger with treating mental issues as if they were nothing more than symptoms of a spiritual problem, lack of faith, or an influence of demonic oppression (though that does has its place in certain situations) is that the one who suffers is left feeling more broken and distanced not just by society, but other Christians and God himself. When one is bashed for having depression, anxiety, bipolar, or OCD, or treated like his ailment is the only thing by which he is defined, that does not, in any way help the body of Christ strengthen. My friend is judging and treating me like a second-class, attention-seeking, and lazy person based on an admitted stigma that he holds which is not only wrong but detrimental and hurtful as well. He’s acting like a Pharisee. He even confessed that he doesn’t understand what I went through and the thing that saddens me is that he, like many others, doesn’t want to understand.
Yes, I am a new creation in Christ and, yes, God could miraculously heal me now if he wanted to, though that view is not found anywhere in Scripture. Contrary to popular belief, most often, God chooses to heal through people and relationships, and I’m okay with that. Nonetheless, healing takes time. As a beloved professor-friend often tells me, healing is not a one-time event, but continuous. Grace needs to be given. Prayer and Scripture alone is not enough for PTSD and other mental issues. It’s just not. I can’t will myself to just get over it or pretend it’s not affecting me when symptoms arise. That’s not walking in faith. That’s desensitization. All I can do is trust God in the midst and remember to apply my coping methods. Though I have things I have to contend with, until God completely heals me, my trauma does not define me or make me less of a Christian.

4 thoughts on “The Danger of Spiritualizing Mental Illness

  1. Dylan, you are brave to reveal your trauma and pursue your faith in spite of persecution. You are absolutely right, God can and does care for those of us with mental illness. God heals us in many ways. Sometimes it is by coming to recognize that his grace is sufficient, and sharing this testimony with others.

    Keep spreading the Word! I look forward to reading more.

    Liked by 1 person

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