Isaiah 43:2 When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. (NLT)
“I was in service…I became paranoid thinking that the minister’s wife was trying to jump me. That she had people waiting outside to jump me… erratic talking to myself thinking that everybody was talking about me… it’s so important to have people be aware in one another’s life…the sisters were there to pray for me, who didn’t judge me. Oh Ariana you’re talking crazy… I was there to have that support. .. I was able to sit outside cause I couldn’t be in service…Them out there with me helped me a whole bunch… I was screaming…I was embarrassed, I didn’t want to go back. ”-A manic episode as self-disclosed by Ariana
Like Ariana, millions of people recurrently struggle with mental illness while following God. Such as myself who struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) aka seasonal depression. It’s true since the fall of man humans were opened to physical and mental illness among other imperfections. Although God is able to give or take away anything, Jesus’ grace for the believer through faith must be sufficient. For though there is yet no cure, from ADHD to Voyeuristic Disorders, mental illness does not have to be a curse. As Paul says in 2 Cor 12:7 about a “thorn in his flesh”, it can be looked at in a wider spectrum as a glorious way to keep reliant on Him, letting his power shine in you and to help strengthen others experiencing similar situations.
One in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. Around 450 million people currently suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide. http://www.who.int/whr/2001/media_centre/press_release/en/
Being diagnosed with Bipolar 1 disorder at age 18, Ariana a wife, mother and college student, feels that mental illness affects her spiritual walk about 90% of the time. “There is a biological component but it is also very much spiritual warfare”. She ascribes mental illness as having a quality of demonic possession. As in the case of Legion in Mark 5, a man with an impure spirit, he cut himself with stones and was unable to be stabilized. The demons eventually left him and their result drove them to volatile, suicidal and even murderous ends. Ariana states this is what some mental illnesses look like, though there was no medical classification for it in earlier/biblical times. Yet in admitting she has a challenge, she does not let the illness define her or determine her outcome. Ariana allows God’s mercy and grace to direct her actions with this condition. Through much prayer, help and a viable self-care process–she manages to control it.
“It’s a good day,” Ariana says of recent times. Meaning that she has had a reduction of triggers due to being acutely self-aware of her past triggers. “Every episode is triggered”. So to be effective for God, Ariana has a wellness plan for her triggers during manic and depressive episodes. She also was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (which we did not discuss in this article). Therefore, depending on what piece of illness she is facing, she decides how to remedy symptoms. She mainly practices talk therapy as she continues to take medication.
Talk therapy/ psychotherapy is based on the core idea that mental disorders are largely based on reactions to one’s environment so treatment on what’s bothersome through talking can be clarified, resulting in changes in behavior and resolution of conflicts. *
Ariana’s plan contains a clear list of what she is experiencing and how her family can identify and assist her through it. For example, during mania, her worst episode could include cutting, hitting people and throwing things; likewise during depression, disorderly eating in bed, overwhelming sadness is displayed. But her worst episode involved being with their son and hearing him say, “Mommy be happy”. In both circumstances, she cannot stop the behaviors. Describing it as being on the outside of a two-way mirror, you can see in but can’t stop what’s happening inside. One of her treatment options has been for her husband to provide protective guardianship for their son and take Ariana outside for a stroll.
Great transparency and greater love was Ariana’s main ground plan in finding herself through these diagnoses and what worked. Her “everyone around” support system is there on the dime, her team includes: husband, mom, grandmother, church friends, college professors, etc. Though she also credits her current successful maintenance on talk therapy and medication, she greatly recommends and has found help in formal support groups, professional therapists and treatment programs. While acquiring her Bachelors degree she states the latter methods are less of a fit right now, but encourages them for others. Overall, she believes being vulnerable and open with your own life is a good approach. If there is something dangerous, destructive, deviant and undesirable in your regular behavior/thinking patterns get help. If you sense something in others, approach with humility. “I sense/ feel that…”, “Correct me if I’m wrong..” are great starters. Share your story, “You don’t have to have a mental illness to relate..we all go through things”, Ariana remarks. Look for cues, you might just save someone’s life!
In final thoughts, Ariana says, “God doesn’t love us any different… A) you are not alone. Satan likes to put that in our ear. B) God still has a plan for you even in the messiness… So hold on”. Thank you greatly Ariana for sharing your inspiring and victorious story-many blessings to you, your family, friends and those you will touch. We wish you to congratulate you on your graduation next month and much success in continuing your educational pursuits to obtain a Doctorate in Psychology. To God be the Glory!
Concern: Sister, Do you have a plan for self-control and self-care? Are you a slave to food, money, lust, gossip, etc. You lack self-control. Are you a type of superwoman always doing for others than herself, being stressed out and suffering in silence. You lack self-care. You can’t function efficiently if you are not ok. You cannot afford (in time, money, all types of waste) to not be okay. Be Devoted to You Too.
Encouragement: Stop! Do not participate in the precariousness of your spiritual, mental, emotional and physical health. 2 Tim 1:7 For the Spirit of God does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. Titus 1:8 Be one who “loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright and holy.” The Holy Spirit gives us self-control and discipline. As someone baptized into Christ –you have the Power! Remember Jesus gave his life and time for others but he always had his time with God first. He also got his rest in. This is how he practiced self-care by having self-control and adding things that are praiseworthy. Matt 12:30-31
Act: Pray to God for help. Trust in the Lord and do good casting your anxieties on Him. Fellowship with his body of believers for help with your burdens and for empowering Encouragement. As you practice Confession, Repentance, Daily Reading the word of God and maintaining a regular healthy spiritual and yes even physical walk with Christ- achieving self care and self control. Sister, you are so worth every effort!
SIDENOTE: If one suffers from pathological mental illness it may be difficult for them to be regular in Christian activities. For example it’s hard to pray when you/others hear voices in your head. Be empathetic. Don’t write off/judge people as being nonspiritual. Scrap the stigma & Ask questions. Join/start a support group at church, find/revisit a therapist, share with someone, look for cues and be proactive to help!
For more info on Mental Health: