Today’s Faith Notes’ guest post comes from midcoast Maine writer and editor Carlene Hill Byron, a valued friend who writes about the church and mental illness. Let us listen as we learn to love each other well:
You know you’ve lost your mind when you can’t believe what you know is true.
For several years, doctors in a new city had been trying to manage my bipolar disorder with new medicines. In my old hometown, I’d taken one medicine “as needed” for a dozen years. Now, they were testing one drug on top of another, with generally awful results.
One pill made my hair fall out, almost as if I were on chemotherapy. One skewed my appetite, so I was always ravenous no matter how much I ate. One created overwhelming impulses to throw myself in front of trains.
On this particular Sunday morning, on the direction of yet another medication, my brain was telling me: “God is evil. The Bible only says God as good because God wrote the Bible. God is trying to trick you by presenting himself in a good light.”
In spite of what my brain was saying, I went to Bible study. I had gone to Bible study every week for more than twenty years. Habits die hard. I wish I could say that gathering with women of like precious faith returned me to my right mind. Instead, the lesson presented a different spiritual test. According to the lesson, healing comes when we thank God for difficult circumstances.
Ephesians 5:20 says we should be “always giving thanks for all things. But this leader taught we should give thanks for difficulties, rather than in difficulties. The example was a young woman who was relieved of depression after she thanked God for her fiancé’s death at the hands of a drunk driver.
Some part of me couldn’t believe I should thank a good God for the evil in this fallen world. It doubted that I should give God credit for a psychosis that made me believe God is evil. So over the next weeks, I just kept doing things I had done from the beginnings of my faith journey. I couldn’t pray to a God I “knew” was evil. I couldn’t read the Bible because I was “sure” it was lies. But I attended church and Bible studies. I met with my prayer partner. She assured me over and over that I had not always believed these things about God, and would remember God again.
Eventually, the psychosis departed, and I began to remember the God I had always known. Were it not for those gatherings – in particular, with the dear prayer partner – I wonder how long I would have remained lost in that psychosis. Sometimes we need someone else to remember the truth for us.
When part of the Body is injured, it finds encouragement from the care and protection of other parts nearby. We discover we are not alone. And when we ourselves are holding on to God’s love by the barest thread of memory, the love of God’s people keeps us connected to the greatest love of all.
Carlene Hill Byron has served as editor of The New England Christian and New England Church Life. Her professional writing has included grant applications, marketing materials, and web content for businesses and nonprofit organizations.