Fellow Christians who struggle with mental illness, I get it.
I truly believe you are coming from a place of compassion because you genuinely want to help folks who are suffering with their mental health burden.
Can we please… (Pretty please?)
…stop pointing fingers at “the Church,” like this article does?
“Churches try to up-sell Jesus to the mentally ill…
And while it is certainly possible for people of sound mind to align with Christ in ways that achieve a form of happiness, it is equally impossible to expect the same from people with mental illness. Impossible, and unfair. Some of us are simply handicapped by faulty synapses. You can’t teach a dog to sing the alphabet.”
Again, I get it. People with mental illness are frustrated when Christians oversimplify the problem. We want to help people who’ve never struggled with mental illness better understand how BIG and complex the whole thing is…
But, when you claim that your mental illness is “just faulty synapses” you are making the same mistake. You are oversimplifying your own problem.
I think it’s important to remember that, just because the pastor doesn’t talk about mental illness in a way you would prefer, it doesn’t mean he’s wrong.
Statistically, many of the people in “the Church” (whom you’re wagging fingers at) are struggling with a diagnosed mental disorder of their own. They simply deal with it differently than you do.
And THAT’S why writing blog posts aimed at “the Church” on behalf of “those with Mental Illness” is a problem.
It doesn’t work for all the same reasons identity advocacy doesn’t work for “blacks” or for “gays” or for “women,” either.
Not all black people have the same experience or opinion.
Not all gay people agree with your list of grievances.
Not all women identify as “Feminists.”
Aaaaaand, not everybody who has a mental illness believes there is a serious “stigma” at church.
There are plenty of Christians–struggling with depression/anxiety themselves–who would probably be accused of “sad-shaming” the mentally ill (if they were allowed to speak on this topic without being shushed).
I know, because I am one of them.
First of all, I think it’s unfortunate that I even have to say “I AM ONE OF YOU!” in order to be taken remotely seriously.
It’s almost as though advocates like myself need to flash our Membership Cards, just to get past the bouncers which other advocates have become.
But, that’s how the “conversation” about mental illness looks today. People trying to #endthestigma are unwittingly (but definitely) shutting down the perspectives of everybody on the other side, by accusing them of “shaming” and “judging” and “perpetuating the problem”–even when the people on the other side ALSO HAVE BEEN DIAGNOSED with mental illnesses.
It’s a mistake to assume that one speaks for everyone who has ever suffered similarly.
It’s a mistake to start demanding changes and improvements to church programs that you imagine will help you, when it may be a simple matter of preference instead of right/wrong.
I can honestly say that if I ever go to a church counselor or Mental Health Advocate and hear, “Mental illness is just like a broken bone!” I will turn around and walk away annoyed. (Ditto if he/she says, “You can’t teach a dog to sing the alphabet.”)
That’s one opinion, but it’s not the only one.
During my darkest struggles, I needed to know that others had wrestled with deep, existential questions which deserve to be considered, whether a person has a chemical imbalance or not. I needed to know I had brothers and sisters willing to explore the uncomfortable depths of my crises, rather than deferring to a pharmacist and washing their hands.
Cheap slogans and shallow hashtags only would have frustrated me more.
In short, though it sometimes feels supportive to divide ourselves into teams and speak for all of “us” against “them,” it usually does more harm in the long run.
So, unless one of the universal symptoms of mental illness is “the ability to discern when others are wrong, with 100% accuracy” we need to stop oversimplifying the problem by blaming the big, misogynist, racist, stigmatizing “Church.” (It has become the same nameless, faceless monster which other witch-hunters like to call “Society.” And it’s just as caricatured and silly.)
I am part of the Church.
You are part of the Church.
And just because two people may disagree doesn’t mean one of them understands mental illness better than the other.
Neither can speak for everyone else.