Archive for July 2011

Out of the Closet, At Last

July 19, 2011

door opened

This is from a dialogue on another blog with a believer named Evan who identifies himself as a “Celibate Homosexual Christian” — as does Wesley Hill, the controversial author of “Washed and Waiting.” This conversation brought clarity to my need to speak more openly about  my own battle with mental disorder. There is a great need for those who have come through to the other side to cast off shame in order to encourage others.  We must de-stigmatize this struggle. It is the anniversary for me of a great deliverance–“He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name!”–so now seems a good day to speak of it.

Evan, you wrote, “Would you ask a Christian who suffers from mental illness to stop acknowledging his mental illness? Or would you suggest that he just exercise more faith to overcome the chemical imbalances in his brain? Or would you ask him to stop identifying himself as mentally ill? of course not.”  As one who identifies herself with that community, I would like to share my experience, I hope it will encourage you.  I think we have much in common.  And much that separates, of course.  I do not seek to  minimize your burden.

When I was a young child of two,  I suffered a deeply traumatic experience.  I was abandoned outside,  in the midst of  a hurricane.  I have  memories of  a deep terror, and so a crippling anxiety  has  plagued me my entire life.  Some would label this PTSD.  I also struggled with periods of lingering depression —  probably biologically linked, as my mother was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, and was in and out of mental hospitals until the advent of Lithium.

I lived almost my entire life with a wrenching tenseness in my gut and a clenched jaw. And an inability to trust anyone–because I was left alone!   Becoming a Christian compounded the problem because I learned my  crippling disorder was now considered sinful.  I also felt defensive because my experience didn’t match other’s victorious stories of complete deliverance and I did not enjoy the feelings of love, joy and peaceful security that they did.   It was always just me, of little faith.

I have not chosen to use psychotropic drugs because my mother was denuded of her soul on Lithium, and made even worse on the experimental course of drugs that followed the  renal failure that is common to those on lithium long-term .  The articles in the New York Review of Books by Marcia Angell,  the former chief editor of the New England Journal of Medicine called The Epidemic of Mental Illness: Why?  and again, The Illusion of Psychiatry   bear out for me the wisdom of this choice.

God has done a tremendous work of deliverance in my life, far too complicated to go into here, but this has not freed me from the daily battle against stinking thinking  and moving towards obeying the Lord and resting in His unfailing love in my struggle against fear.   I know you understand that responsibility well, very intimately, and pray that you feel your

 suffering produces endurance,  and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,  and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.  (Romans 5:1-5)

I do not understand why, in God’s sovereign will, my vulnerable child’s brain, still furiously in development, went through the rush of adrenaline in a fear response, and was washed in those neurochemicals that  altered its structure —  this is current theory, we’ll go with it. I do suspect a similar mechanism  may be at work in those with a homosexual orientation.  That does not mean I believe you were “born that way”, but only that we live in a fallen world and our bodies, minds  and souls suffer its deleterious effects.

When I  identify myself as one who struggles with mental illness to safe brothers and sisters in Christ,  I also testify to the glorious work He has done for me– that now I walk in a consistent  peace and rest that I never dreamed would be mine in the land of the living.

Please know I completely understand that though I share  much of your struggle in its confusion and stigma, yet I cannot share your deepest struggle, that you as yet cannot find  solace in the arms of another in intimate union.  So I can only imagine with the greatest fear, your loneliness.

I only share this  to lift some of the weight of misunderstanding you have suffered here on this thread. -I wish I could give you a warm and completely holy embrace.  Please be assured that  I am praying for you too.