Thursday, February 17, 2011

Mental Illness and Demonology © Megan Snider

"The tendency to turn human judgements into divine commands makes religion one of the most dangerous forces in the world."

--Georgia Harkness

To begin with, let me fully state that I do have religion and believe in my own personal God. However, I do disagree with the church's inability to recognize and ease mental illness. The Bible commands us to care for widows, tells us lepers were healed and the blind made to see, but little is broached on the subject of mental illness. We see demon possession in the Bible and many pastors and church goers wrongly turn a case of mental illness into a case of demonic possession.

Let me emphatically say that mental illness is both a serious physical and mental condition. It should be given the same consideration, care and empathy that cancer, moral wounds and traumatic injuries are given. It is just as grievous to live with a mental handicap as it is to live with a physical handicap.

There are a lot of people that say to me that if I have enough faith, I will be delivered. The problem then becomes my heart and not my brain. Would someone be as so cold as to suggest to a cancer patient that they are withering away and dying because they simply do not have enough faith? I believe in miracles and divine intervention, of course, but I also believe in science and methodical thought. If you were ill with a disease which there was a medication for would you go to the pharmacy and retrieve the medicine or would you pray away your fever? I think a combination of both would be sufficient.

I do not believe people with mental illnesses are inhabited by the devil no more than I believe someone with any other disease is inhabited by him. This is a tragic mistake to make that further stigmatizes the mentally ill and causes them to lose what frail hope they grasp on to in their lives.

I will say that it does certainly feel like your life has been taken over by some demonic force if you battle with mental illness. The blow of the diagnosis, the struggle of each day that goes by, the suffering, the loss of function, the loss of joy and stability and pride all work together to crush your spirit. It feels like you no longer may exert control over your life, but rather it is being sabotaged by some unseen agent and every time you try to remedy your dire situation you are sent reeling backwards, deeper into a pit that you could never hope to climb out of.

The light for those of us with mental illness is already sufficiently dim. Do not lower its level even more by suggesting that we are of demon seed or devil spawn. This is inaccurate, untrue, ignorant and simply cruel. Do not cast the blame for the disease on the one that is suffering. Do not make us search ourselves with any more anxiety and fear wondering if we perhaps have been not only cast of by the "normal" perimeters of the world and of those of heaven as well.

Keep your faith, if you have it and keep it even closer if you are mentally ill. Seek all the treatment you are able to. Supply yourself with enough courage to get through each day and do not be ashamed of your failures. Each victory, no matter how small, should be celebrated as a milestone. Even if one day you are well and the next day you are sick again, do not blame yourself. You are not evil. If you truly believe the human being was created in God's own image, then how can you be?

© Megan Snider