Mental Illness and Sin: My Thoughts

I don't think there is anything sinful in experiencing or saying that I experience mental illness. I am just admitting to others and to myself what appears to be true, according to the knowledge we have right now. It's a medical condition.

Now, does sin come into play at all here? Well, yes, sin comes into play everywhere, but it's not in the way that is often assumed.

I think people like me are always sensitive to being labelled faithless because of a weakness like bipolar disorder. Have you prayed? It feels like being misunderstood and uncared-for. This sensitivity can keep us guarded -- choosing not to hear any cautionary words concerning sin and our illness(es).

Disease is not sin and is not usually due to particular sin. Instead, it is the outworking of original sin that brought a universal curse to our world. Our weakness and distress shows everywhere -- from diabetes and cancer to the dandelions that grow in place of our roses. The personal fault arrises in our attempts to mitigate our mental instability. Fault comes in our methods of coping.

Earlier today, I was thinking back on the beginning of my counseling journey a couple of years ago. It's been just under three years now. I had no way of knowing how devastating the next year or so would be. I was concerned about how things would go when I started, but I had no idea.

I have used what I call stories to live out my emotions for as long as I can remember. Making up complex characters and dialogue, a conflict and a resolution, were simple things I had always done for pleasure and for comfort. Through fictional people I could know and control I could carefully experience a full range of feelings that I would never subject myself to in normal life -- even exercising the ability to rewind and redo a scene or conversation. I was everyone and no one, and this was my preferred method for working out how I felt, though without actually working out how I felt.

There's nothing necessarily wrong with this way of coping. In moderation it could be a good tool for understanding one's own emotional struggles. For me, moderation went from somewhat difficult to an impossibility. Full-fledged dissociation became compulsive and increasingly morbid.

When the stories were removed, I was able to fully feel again. It was awful. I was inundated with so much feeling. Constantly. Love and severe longing and despair and hope and hate and pleasure and regret and disgust and what felt like every emotion known to man. Finally, I was left with deep deep sadness, darkness. I remember saying to my pastor something like "if this is what the stories were covering up -- if depression is what's under it -- than I'd rather have them back. That was better than this."

That, of course, is sin. That grabbing for a cover, any cover, instead of going to our true hiding place. That turning inward for relief instead of reaching out, even reaching out to God, is the problem.