Religious faith, to a person with a mental illness, can be a source of hope and comfort, but it can also be the opposite.  Sometimes a person’s religious preoccupations become a part of the pathology of mental illness.

When I am severely depressed, for example, I feel as though my spirit has died and I find it hard to imagine that God still loves me.  I am tortured with guilt, sunk in darkness and feel unable to love God or anyone.  Worst of all, I have what I would describe as a sense of my soul crumbling. It is an all-consuming and terrifying experience, which seems to be how psychosis manifests itself for me.

I have heard of people who are mentally ill believing themselves to be the second coming of Christ or being convinced they are receiving messages from God or the devil. I myself at one time believed I was becoming immortal and could put my thoughts in other people’s heads, and heal them.  It seems that many of the experiences a person has while they are mentally ill are defined by the spiritual beliefs and dilemmas they hold or struggle with when they are healthy.

While I am in recovery from mental illness, my relationship with religion and faith is a little more subdued, less intense, more balanced.  Exploring my religious beliefs while I am well, figuring out what I believe, being part of a religious community and talking to some of its members that I am close to about my illness,  are things I can do to help my spiritual health. And most importantly, learning to care for and accept myself, as I am, will hopefully shore up my courage and my ability to cope with my spiritual issues  should I find myself acutely mentally ill in future.

I think, however, I may go through it all again.  I may get sucked into the darkness, and then there’s nothing I can do except know that the medication will bring me to a point where I can at least tolerate my own existence. Then it’s a waiting game to slowly get better.  And I know now that I will get better, with time and gentle support, and with the help of the healing energy of the universe- an aspect of the merciful God I believe in.

About Anna Quon

Anna is an accomplished freelance/creative writer and writing workshop facilitator. She lives in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.  She is passionate about many things, especially writing. It is through her writing, and her volunteer work with community organizations, that Anna honours the lives of people who, like her, are living with mental illness.

In 2008, Anna received the Inspiring Lives Award from the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia. In 2009, Anna published her first novel titled Migration Songs which was shortlisted for the Dartmouth Book Award.

Visit Anna's website.