1. It’s your fault.
2. You’ll never get better.
3. Your illness is different than other kinds of diseases.
4. God can’t use you.
It’s easier to talk about mental illness today than it was 50 years ago. The topic is less taboo, there is less stigma attached to it, and there is much greater social awareness and understanding of the human brain and how it functions. However, as far as we’ve come in terms of scientific and collective knowledge of such diseases, there are still many myths associated with mental illness.
I’ve listed four of them above, and the reason I chose these is because they are all thoughts I personally held before I myself went crazy. I was a late bloomer and did not develop the symptoms of mental illness until my late 20s, at which time I was diagnosed as Bipolar II and Bulimic. Those were the worst years of my life, and during that time Satan used these erroneous beliefs to bully me and keep me from the truth.
Without getting into research or jargon, I want to briefly address each of these points in case there may be someone out there who is currently being held captive by these lies. First of all, a person who is mentally ill is not to blame for his or her disease. Mental illness can run in families, making one genetically predisposed. This, in conjunction with the right environmental stressors, creates the perfect set up for the development of disease. Even without a genetic predisposition, the right amount of stress or duress can create symptoms, and that amount is different for different people.
Don’t assume that once you have developed psychiatric problems you’ll never get better. While it’s true that such diseases can get worse over time, it is more likely that with proper treatment you will get better. It is not an easy road, but a combination of therapy and the right medication generally yield great results. The key is to admit there is a problem and address it. You have to be willing to work if you want to be better.
Mental illness is like any other physical disease in the sense that in many cases there are known causes, susceptibilities, and treatments. A person diagnosed with cancer or diabetes finds the problem, treats it with medicines and therapies, and adjusts his or her lifestyle to make the symptoms manageable or go into remission. The same is true of someone with psychiatric issues. You have to make a choice – fight or give in, change lifestyle and environment or remain toxic, be treated or get worse.
For Christians who suffer with mental illness, one of the biggest hurdles to overcome is the feeling that God could never use you because of the disease. But, feeling is not fact. God uses all kinds of people, especially afflicted ones. Paul dealt with a thorn in his flesh, but God used him mightily. I have listened to and learned from speakers who have had addictions, diseases such as muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, and cancer, and several who God has used to teach me have even been unable to speak at all. God uses those who are willing, not those who are perfect.
The Bible is filled with people God used in powerful ways – most of whom had issues. A few examples: David was a murderer and appears to have had some symptoms of a narcissistic personality disorder. Moses was also a murderer, had a major identity crisis, and was full of anxiety and depression. Jonah had a God complex. John the Baptist lived in the wilderness in animal skins, ate bugs, and yelled to the top of his lungs about the Messiah. Crazy? You be the judge.
The point is that we all have issues, and no one is perfect. No one. God uses who He wants to when He wants to, and He doesn’t have to explain or qualify His decisions to anyone. Broken people need other broken people. People need your story. They need the hope of knowing how God has helped you in your life. Don’t write yourself off, let God finish your story. His plans for you are greater than you can ever imagine.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)