Out of the Closet, At Last

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.

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19 Comments on “Out of the Closet, At Last”

  1. Karen Butler Says:

    Challies posted an excerpt from Martin Lloyd Jones’ “Spiritual Depression”, and I also commented on the great help John Piper was to me in the struggle for joy, in particular his book, “When I Don’t Desire God.” Read it all here:

    http://www.challies.com/quotes/talk-to-yourself

    • Karen Butler Says:

      I wrote this on Challies, three years ago, and the truth of it still thrills me:

      John Piper wrote a corollary to hos book,” Desiring Go”d called, “When I Don’t Desire God–The Fight For Joy”–and it was very helpful to me in my struggle against depression.

      Just the title was liberating for me six years ago when I first got hold of it. I thought joy was some some manifestation of the Spirit I was denied. I felt like a failure and the offscouring of the world because Istruggled so much with depression and anxiety–no victorious testimony,ever. Always a struggle.

      With Piper I discovered the simplicity of the gospel. The sufficiency of it. I finally had hope because the book only pointed to Jesus, and the Scriptures, not to some necessary experience that was always denied me. The theme of the book is summed up here, “That is the mystery: We must obey the command to rejoice in the Lord, and we cannot, because of our willful and culpable corruption. Therefore obedience, when ithappens, is a gift…” And he quotes Augustine,“Give me the grace to do as you command, and command me to do what you will! O holy God…when your commands are obeyed, it is from you that we receive the power to obey them.”

      Piper says the fight for joy is the fight to see. We use the Word, and prayer, and even the good world God created in that battle. We hate sin, and every lie that clouds that view.

  2. redeemedhippiesplace Says:

    Hello Karen. Happy anniversary! I too have been delivered of similar things. Which I can’t go into detail right now. However, my husband and I have a friend right now we are trying to help. He has schyzoid affective disorder and he had decided to come off his meds because it made him obese. It is hard trying to talk/reason with him. He does not live in the same town as we do, so that makes it even harder. Very sad situation. He wants to be free of the drugs… he’s been on them for decades. I don’t understand why some people seem to need them more than others, but God does. Not being on the drugs makes him so very paranoid. AND hard to talk to. He talks scripture a lot, but it goes in directions I can not follow, it makes my head spin. I’m not even sure if he knows what he is talking about at times. Very bizarre. anyway, he is our friend and if you feel led to pray for him, please do. His name is Ben.

    • Karen Butler Says:

      Hello, RH! so good to talk to you again!

      I remember a conversation we had on the phone when I first started writing here, when you were trying to reassure yourself of my identity, and you related your own testimony. Praise God for the good work He has done!

      I totally relate to your situation with Ben. I am discipling someone rather like that now, who has come off the drugs, but is angry at God because although their mind is so much more lucid, they are still hearing voices–this one probably could be diagnosed ‘schizoid disorder’ as well. But I am believing God for Him to give this one a completely sound mind, because they have Jesus as their Savior, and He Has Not Given Them A Spirit Of Fear, But A Spirit of Love, Power and a SOUND MIND!

      So I will definitely pray for a breakthrough for Ben. Do you read him the Bible?–sometimes these ones cannot focus on the Word, but they like to hear it out loud, because it shuts up the voices. And perhaps it might be good to find out more about his testimony. I led my friend in the Sinner’s prayer for a second time because they had no memory of the first time they cried out to the Lord in terrible distress–which He immediately quelled, and which was such a testimony to them. And the change in them has been dramatic and real.

      But the sanctifying work is not yet finished, and this one is getting very troubled by it’s lack of progress. They long for a “normal life” and wax nostalgic over the happiness and freedom they felt before in their manic states–not remembering as well the suicidal depression. that would soon follow.

      I am going to go apart for a season of prayer and fasting next week, asking God to smash the remaining chains that bind this one. i will seek God on Ben’s behalf as well, RH.

      Thank you for being a friend to him. I hear over and over as I read online stories like his, and that for those struggling with mental disorders, outreach like what you are doing is meaningful, and makes a real difference. So do not grow weary in doing well!

      • Katie Says:

        Karen,

        Your blog was very refreshing for me to read this morning as we have been dealing with similar situations in my own family. I very much enjoyed your honesty in sharing your struggles and dealing with such a difficult, stigmatized subject in a loving and biblical way. I hope you have time to read all of this – sorry it is so long. I would love to know your thoughts about it.

        A member of my family has been diagnosed as paranoid/delusional or schizophrenic (depending on the docs), and has been on psychotropic drugs for over 20 years. She is not under our authority or I would suggest stopping the medications and trying other approaches. The meds have not “fixed” the issues, only covered them up. I totally agree with your assessment that it denudes the soul and medicates it into a constant state of fog and confusion. This family member is not a believer and I have often wondered if God has special favor on the severely mentally ill, or the mentally challenged, who are unable to comprehend life in what I would consider a “normal” way. I am not thinking of those who have a child-like understanding of life (like a dear member of our congregation who has Down’s Syndrome), but those who appear to have NO understanding and cannot think about the Gospel, their sin, and Christ’s Atonement, in a clear and rational way and thus make a decision about it (as far as I can tell). I would very much like to know your thoughts on this.

        I would also like to comment about your question to Ben’s friend above: “Do you read him the Bible? …..because it shuts up the voices.” Wow! We have just experienced that in our own family!

        I do not believe that all people who hear voices are suffering from mental illness – I believe a lot of the time (probably more often that we realize) it is spiritual. I know this view is uncomfortable for most people, and, unfortunately, for a lot of Christians, but I believe that Satan and his demons are alive and well on planet Earth, and that nothing delights them more than to mess with the heads and hearts of believers. (Eph. 6:12, Col. 1:13, 2 Cor. 10:3-5, 1Peter 5:8-9). I believe that hearing voices, and even acting on what is heard, is sometimes a product of being harassed by demons. As believers, we cannot be possessed by demons, but we can certainly be oppressed and harassed by them. I speak from very personal, recent experience. One of our children (who is a believer, but is currently very far from God), recently began hearing voices, seeing “beings” who talked to him encouraging him to commit suicide, and not surprisingly, having a very difficult time thinking clearly or concentrating on anything.

        Because of our experience with the other family member, this child assumed that he was “crazy”. His father and I did not agree with his “diagnosis” and took him to a counselor who has experience in spiritual warfare instead of to a psychiatrist. We knew that medication was not the correct route for this child (not saying that medication is never needed), but weren’t sure what we needed to do.

        This counselor was not at all surprised by what our child was seeing and hearing (some of which was very disturbing), and he promised us that if we would read Scripture OUT LOUD in our house daily, as well as praying OUT LOUD against demonic influences, that we would see a change in our son. (James 4:7) He told us that Satan and his demons hate to hear God’s Word, and to be reminded that they are already defeated and have no authority over us, as believers, unless we give it to them. He also told us that since this child is still under our authority, we have the authority to come against Satan in his place, especially as it concerns our home and other children. We were somewhat skeptical, but willing to try it if it would help our son.

        It took about 1-2 weeks of this reading and praying, before we began to see a definite change in him, and in the “feeling” of our home. We have been reading and praying like this for about 2 months now, and he has had no more “episodes” of hearing voices or seeing these beings. Praise the Lord! NOTHING has changed except that we have been reading the Scriptures out loud (instead of just silently) and have prayed ALOUD. I have also anointed his room and our house with prayer and oil (something else that was totally out of my comfort zone that I often associated with “over the top” Christians – but it is definitely Scriptural to do so). He has received absolutely no psychotropic drugs that would have changed his brain chemistry, etc. I do not believe this is a permanent “fix”, however, as this child (who is nearing adulthood) still needs to deal with his anger at God in order to again experience God’s peace, healing, forgiveness, etc. I believe he opened the door to demonic harassment through his anger and unforgiveness about situations in his life, and by turning away from God. 2 Corinthians 2: 10-11 speaks to this.

        I find it ironic that I am a Bible-believing Christian who believes in the power of prayer, but did not realize the power of the SPOKEN Word of God. Jesus spoke the Word often in his answers to skeptics, and in response to Satan’s temptations, and he did so aloud. Not sure why I never picked up on that.

        This experience has totally rejuvenated and changed my prayer life and the way I read Scripture! I have shared with several friends (some of whom have had similar experiences) but sadly, I find myself being cautious about sharing this with many Christians because they are so uncomfortable talking about the spiritual world, and Satan and his demons specifically. I am reading several books at the moment to try to educate myself about spiritual warfare since it is really not taught adequately in the church anymore. I always compare them to Scripture and discuss them with friends I know will do likewise. A few I would recommend to you are The Seduction of Our Children, by Neil T.Anderson and Steve Russo; The Bondage Breaker, also by Neil Anderson; and Deliverance from Evil Spirits by Francis MacNutt.

        Thanks for your insights and for writing this blog. I am grateful to have a place to discuss such important, life-changing issues!

      • Karen Butler Says:

        Katie,

        Thank you for your gracious comment. I would like to respond quickly now to say that you are certainly on the right track in the way you are pursuing spiritual healing for your son,but I would like to respond at length with some concerns as I have time today or perhaps tommorrow. I did not want to leave you hanging, so I thought I’d quickly approve your comment.

      • Katie Says:

        Karen,
        Thank you for your quick response! I look forward to reading the rest of your thoughts soon.

      • Karen Butler Says:

        Katie,

        Because of its seriousness, I wanted to think carefully about your son and his situation. I will be praying for him — I identify completely with your spiritual battle, even the ‘hearing voices’ issue. I think you might have read my testimony about hearing voices, and that some were demonic, and one voice was the Lord’s. The trick for some is discerning which is which. This is where some believers are led astray with their enthusiasms. I am a refugee from charismania. I do not want to be deceived by false spirits ever again. We must not believe every spirit. We must test the spirits, and we test them by the word of God.

        This is why I prefer the ministry of Mark Bubek, who has vast experience and wisdom in this matter of spiritual warfare, and deliverance than the work of Neil Anderson, and especially Francis McNutt. And I avoid anything related to “Healing Rooms” or Sozo for this reason also. Bubek tests the spirits better, and is so firmly grounded in Scripture. There is only one place in his writings that I discerned some unsoundness, and that was when he was talking about generational spirits, and he related information about a person’s genealogy that the spirit told him. Demons are liars. Never in the Scriptures did Jesus interview an unclean spirit, except once for Legion’s name, and even then that case was an outlier.

        But all in all, Bubek’s writing is solid — although I must say I have only the dog-eared copy of his original book, The Adversary, and have not viewed his later work. I found a website that is linkded to him, although he has retired from active ministry, and I hope they have not strayed from his original emphasis that the Word of God alone and Doctrine is the only essential tool for the battle against demonic influence, and not our faulty experiences. Here is the website:http://www.deeperwalkinternational.com/

        Here also is a pdf with a nice layout of some of the Bubek’s prayers, that I have found edifying and extremely effective for spiritual warfare. http://crupressgreen.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Spiritual_Warfare_Prayer.pdf They are simply meditations on Scripture, and I prayed them everyday in the thick of my battles, and Bubek is right. The enemy hates these prayers. Sometimes I could barely make it through speaking them. They are a sample of the fruitful ministry you will find in “The Adversary” , and there are many such model prayers laced through it.

        Again, my prayers are with you and your family. I hope to hear some good reports from you in the future! I would love to share your burden. Here is my e-mail if you need to privately correspond. (restinthee@yahoo.com.)

  3. mkayla Says:

    Hi Karen. Thanks for writing ton this. We have similar abandonment issues, fear, etc. altho the circumstances are not even close. Still, the outcome is the same as we continue to struggle with those issues and the emotions that come. I fully understand the let down or the feeling of guilt that comes when we are not “delivered”. But God’s ways are not ours, right. It is enough that He loves us every minute of every day and chose to give His precious son to cover our unlimited sin!

    Glad to read this from you – anything from you!!! No matter what, I don’t believe GLBT is the same as mental disorder. However, unbridled sin can cause the mind to do unspeakable things.

    Blessings to you dear. 🙂

  4. Karen Butler Says:

    What a happy day! Connecting with two old online friends at once! I have missed chatting with you all. But since the Loughner incident, and now Breivik, I fear that because of unfounded fears there will be a renewed call for forced treatment of those struggling with mental disorders–that they will be coerced into a system that is itself the definition of insanity. So I have been educating myself, and seeking especially to help those whose struggles are so much like my own. I think this is going to be the special focus of this blog, Lord willing.

    I agree, with this, Mkayla–“But God’s ways are not ours, right. It is enough that He loves us every minute of every day and chose to give His precious son to cover our unlimited sin!” How I long that the one I am ministering to would understand that His love is enough, that Jesus’ atoning death is enough, that they would have the fear of the Lord that would be the beginning of this wisdom. He is so good.

    Yet I do believe His will is for the full and complete restoration of this one’s mind, no matter how long it takes. He has given me great faith for it.

    “I don’t believe GLBT is the same as mental disorder. However, unbridled sin can cause the mind to do unspeakable things.”

    I agree that they are not the same, but for those who are not freed at from that orientation, like Wesley Hill and this gentleman Evan, there may be a biological factor at work–born eunuchs, if you will. I believe we must be armed with gospel answers for the arguments the culture offers, like genetics or neurochemicals or even brain damage, as one writer in the Atlantic proposes.

    We can “own the science” as Douglas Wilson says, and offer a gospel answer–that we are all under the curse of original sin, and abominations to God–but in Jesus we are given freedom from the curse of sin, we are justified before a wrathful God, and in our sufferings we are being sanctified from sin’s outworkings through the cleansing work of the Holy Spirit. Hallelujah! Who is afraid of that bogeyman, “Born that Way?”

  5. Mattie Says:

    Hi Karen,

    I’m the daughter of an old friend–I was halfway between your first and second in age and we three kept in touch for a long time before going our separate ways.

    Your blog brought me so much joy when I found it–you and your family are dear to my heart and I have often wondered how you all were doing and what God was up to in your lives. This is a sweet discovery for me, and I feel so glad to rediscover you with adult eyes and find that I have even more respect for you from this new perspective. Thanks for writing and for your unconditional love for your family and for the broken. Thank you for your hard-hitting thirst for truth and your willingness to revise and repent when you see yourself deceived by popular theories and teachings.

    You’re a breath of fresh air.

    Peace.
    Mattie

    • Karen Butler Says:

      Mattie,

      Please excuse the length of days before I responded to your lovely comment. If you read my disclaimer in Eight Salient Facts About Me you imight understand the reasons for the delay, but really, nearly two weeks is a new record for me! I have been away on vacation, and coming back have been trying to get the new homeschool year in order. But I wanted to reply before we leave on a camping trip again–a month would be really too much!

      Your gracious comment meant so much to me. I did read it and savor it for some days. I give God all the glory for what He has done in taking this broken vessel, mending me and making my testimony into a means of grace and comfort to to others.

      • Karen Butler Says:

        Also, I attempted to e-mail you yesterday, but sadly I am worse at e-mail than I am updating comments–I forgot my password! I’ll try again when we get back next week. Sorry!

  6. Sylvia Says:

    Hi Karen, I always so love your honesty and openness about subjects like this one, that often get swept under the carpet rather than faced with integrity.
    My daughter has daily medication which wonderfully keeps depression at bay. She lives and works with the children in Brazil and is totally fulfilled in all that God has called her to do. She has learnt to ignore the nonsense that surrounds her particular problem and gives thanks for the appropriate help the medication affords her. We all still ask for the miracle of course, but trust God’s will for her life and His perfect timing.
    This life is just passing through to the glorious ‘eternal life’ which is to come offering no pain, no sorrow, no tears, no darkness…..WOW can’t wait 🙂

    Blessings to you my dear sister,

    • Karen Butler Says:

      Sylvia,

      Thank you so much for your comment. It was this exchange with Evan, and those series of articles on the current state of mental health care in America that reminded me I have a story to tell, that must be said in order to encourage other believers to trust God in their struggles with mental disorders.

      I hope you will come back soon, as I am writing a page/post tentatively titled “Unhappy Pills and Unhinged Doctors: The Definition of Insanity, Not According to the DSM-IV.”

      What I have been discovering in my research is that psychoactive drugs do no better than placebos in research trials that have not been suppressed by drug companies, and that
      they may actually do real and lasting harm to brain structures and function.

      I urge you and your daughter to read the articles by the former Chief Editor for the NEJM, Marcia Angell first, and then the eye-opening three books she reviews for this series. She is no crackpot–she currently lectures at Harvard on the issues of Public Health, and has written a widely respected expose of Big Pharma. She knows of what she speaks.

  7. Sylvia Says:

    I will be back to be sure, with great interest Karen.

  8. katherine bryan Says:

    well dear sis, I have found you at last. Since I am the number one sissie in your blood family who has ptsd and borderline personality disorder and my own abandonment and depression(probably some manic too)issues, it is interesting to read of yours. I am sorry you do not know me, as we coulda probably helped each other a bit. I had to deal with Mother a lot(Dad too) esp during those teen yrs. That’s when I started cutting my face. I can’t wait to be in heaven with all you all. That’s when our true life will begin. Just passing thru here. It’ll all be alright soon. Love you, Katherine

    • Karen Butler Says:

      Katherine, I am so glad you commented!

      It is sad how separate we were growing up, and how little we really knew of each other back then. But I do remember vividly your suffering especially as a teen, and it moves me to think about it even now.

      I remember how I rolled my eyes at you when you tried to talk about your PTSD, and shut you down. I didn’t understand then, and I had no idea what the syndrome really involved, and how it exactly described my struggles too. I am so sorry about that, for my lack of compassion toward you. I hope you can forgive me, and that we can be resources for each other in the coming years.

      I am so thankful to have experienced His healing and know a peace that passes all understanding. Only when I am an unfaithful servant do I experience the discipline of anxiety now. Praise be to God!


  9. […] as a result of the Fall, or that its orderly working suffers as a result of our own sin? When I came out of the closet, at last about my own  history of  ‘mental illness’   I wrote this to a struggling friend […]


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