It’s so easy to talk about WHAT God has done for me in life, how he’s protected me from myself, and made miracles happen in my life. These things are concrete, black and white. I can feel good about pointing them out, almost validated but certainly not crazy. Yet when it comes to the subtler ways God influences and impacts my every day life, I am silent, unable to express to someone outside of an intimate relationship with God exactly how He is a part of my everyday life.
One of the things you will often encounter as a patient in the offices and wards of a mental health facility is the same repetitive question, “Do you hear voices.” It is not so direct a question to answer, especially being a person of faith I could easily to get tripped up by this line of questioning. You see, it’s not just about blatantly hearing voices or seeing things that are not there, its also all those other subtler ways these things might be manifesting themselves in the mind of one not so stable. But let me explain further.
Early in my quest for stability I openly talked about how God has talked to me, how I’ve heard him speak my name and heard him clearly tell me things. As well as how I’ve seen angels and demons. Yes, this all did not go over well will my practitioners. When you are admittedly suffering from bipolar and you tell your psychiatrist that you talk to God and He talks back…. well, lets just say “schizoaffective” gets written down pretty damn fast!!!
So eventually I stopped talking about God and my faith with my doctors, and with everyone else outside of a circle of trusted Christians and friends. I especially stopped talking about things God revealed to me in prayer or in visions. At first it was out of fear, eventually it became a habit. I began to separate the medical side of my mental illness with the spiritual side of my faith. God wasn’t allowed to come to the doctors with me.
Western medicine doesn’t allow for what it can’t see, for the unknown. Obvious diseases and physical ailments can be studied and easily identified. Unseen illnesses are not given the same priority in research and understand for the fact that they are unseen. We do live in an exciting age, as stigma is being torn down and the medical field is increasing in its understanding of these unseen illnesses, but we have a long way to go.
This makes it difficult for a mental health sufferer like me to speak about things that are unseen to a doctor of Western medicine. As a Christian we are to proclaim the gospel, so taking this stance has been very difficult on my beliefs and on my relationship with God. I sometimes feel like I leave Him sitting on the chair in the waiting room for me, and I don’t like how it feels. But I have learned there is a game to treatment, and for optimal stability I play the game.
To say God revealed something to me in prayer is not something I can just come out and say to a mental health professional. I can talk about feelings, or that I just “know” something, but to say out loud that God has revealed something, shared something with me, is beyond my comfort zone. There is still fear there. I am slowly conquering this fear and I will continue to work on boldness for the sake of Christ. I am far from perfect still. Thankfully God doesn’t ask me to be perfect!
The stigma of bipolar disorder, and other mental illnesses, reaches into the halls of medicine just as veraciously as it does in the rest of the world. The prejudice of atheism can also be just as strong amongst doctors. To protect myself, I keep my faith close and share very little beyond maybe that I attend church and participate in bible study, as well as read a lot of religious books. Beyond this I fear to tread, especially with doctors and health care professional I do not see on a regular basis.
Has anyone else had any negative experiences talking about your faith with mental health professionals and doctors? I would love to hear from you, and to learn how you navigate this tricky side of medicine.