What’s Next? Revealing Voices

I've been almost maniacally exuberant about a project that is a natural extension of our Delight in Disorder mission. I want to share it with you. But first, a story... In January of 2013, I had fallen into a deep depression. It wasn't the first time, but it was the first time it happened when I was living alone.  I had moved from Rochester, NY to Indianapolis, IN. Out of loneliness, I became involved in a toxic relationship. Within a few months, I broke it off. Now, I was alone in the dead of winter in a sterile apartment. I was miserable. My sister sensed it and encouraged me to move in with my family. I felt relieved. On the one hand, I thought it was pathetic for a 48-year old man to move back home. On the other hand, living alone was doing me in. So the other [...]

What’s Next? Revealing Voices 2017-11-10T11:31:58+00:00

Worshiping with a Mental Illness

It is in the nature of all humanity to worship. Worship lies at the core of human beings, written into our DNA. The question is not do we worship but who we worship.Many of my friends with mental illness claim to reject God. As I dig further into their stories, however, I discover that it is not so much God they reject as those who claim to represent God. In my Christian faith family, we have many who fail to understand the nature of mental illness and who have made very wrong and damning statements about the subject. Mental illness has been described within the church as demon possession, as a lack of faith, as an attention-seeking illusion. It is little wonder folks with mental illness would feel shunned by the church and be discouraged from worshiping God in Jesus Christ.So, where does one who feels shunned turn to for [...]

Worshiping with a Mental Illness 2017-10-31T11:47:28+00:00

Prophet for People with Mental Illness

True prophets speak the truth no matter what the cost. The Word of God burns inside them until they have no choice but to speak and to act. Through stories, dreams, visions, God speaks through prophets that others may hear and hold onto the promise or heed the warning. In the Bible, true prophets are a mixed breed. Some are royal advisers. Some are outlaws, opposing unjust rule. Some are simple farmers, or shepherds, like the prophet Amos. The credential for becoming a prophet is not wealth or intelligence or popularity. For each prophetic occasion, God hand-picks the prophet who will deliver the authentic message from God to the people. At times this was a message of hope, reminding the exiled community of God's covenant promise. This message was encouraging, uplifting words like: "Keep moving forward. God is with you." Other times it was a word of warning: "Change [...]

Prophet for People with Mental Illness 2017-10-26T14:02:31+00:00

Does Suicide Destroy Faith?

I just received word today that a family member died by suicide. I didn't personally know this young man, but each time I hear of someone who has suffered greatly and lost hope for this life, I feel sick to my stomach. I didn't used to feel this way. I used to feel angry. I used to believe suicide was a terrible act of cruelty against one's self. I used to believe it was horribly selfish against one's loved ones. I used to believe it was an ultimate act of ingratitude against God. I used to believe this. No more. Suicide is not the unforgivable sin named in the Bible as "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit."  It is more a symptom of our human condition than a sinful action. It is far from a selfish act. Instead, it is more a desire to unburden loved ones of the suffering [...]

Does Suicide Destroy Faith? 2017-10-23T14:50:53+00:00

Mental Illness: Explanation or Excuse

This is not something I want to write. It's something I feel compelled to write. First, an explanation. Mental illness is a serious problem, both for those of us who have it and for our loved ones impacted by it. It is a also a major societal issue. How we care for those who are most vulnerable is a reflection of who we are and what we believe. If we let "the least of these" fall through the cracks, we will be judged by our consciences and by our faith convictions. God does not look lightly at those abusing His children. Mental illness is a medical condition stemming from faulty brain chemistry which current medical science can treat, but not cure. My own bipolar disorder is considered a serious mental illness (SMI). SMIs are disabling conditions that are chronic. You can't just take a pill and make them go [...]

Mental Illness: Explanation or Excuse 2017-10-19T14:49:19+00:00

How We Talk When We Talk About Faith and Mental Illness

“But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.” ― George Orwell, 1984 "... speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ." (Ephesians 4.13) Language can build up. It can also tear down. Language can reveal truth or it can perpetuate lies. An inspired Word creates the world. A death-dealing sentence can go a long way to destroying it. When I studied for ministry, I became keenly aware of how language impacts people.  It was 1989, the year the  New Revised Standard Version of the Bible came out. This version, among other things, changed the male pronouns referring to humanity to more gender-neutral ones. It was quite awkward for me at first, but I got used to it and the more I studied the original languages and the evolution of the English language, I could appreciate why the changes were made. Yet, there are other [...]

How We Talk When We Talk About Faith and Mental Illness 2017-10-10T12:37:27+00:00

Does Mental Illness Lead to Violence?

I read a news story today about the mass killings in Las Vegas. The report said the killer had no known political or religious affiliation, and there was "no history of a psychological diagnosis." On the one hand, I can appreciate why such a point be made. There have been many high-profile cases of violent events involving persons with mental illness who were not under proper treatment. I know first hand how psychotic episodes can escalate to aggressive behavior. This is one crucial factor contributing to the need for better mental health care. On the other hand, reporting on a condition that has not been confirmed is a misleading, irresponsible practice that perpetuates social stigma toward those who do have a diagnosis. Can you imagine an article that read, "the killer is not known to have diabetes," or "leukemia," or "herpes." Mental illness is a medical condition, not a [...]

Does Mental Illness Lead to Violence? 2017-10-06T14:59:30+00:00

Christians Under Treatment

A couple of weeks ago I spoke to a group of nursing students about my life with faith and mental illness. I shared stories about having episodes, working through mental disorder, receiving support from friends and family. At the end of the session, one student asked a very thoughtful question: "Has your faith influenced your choice of mental health care providers?" I thought, what a great question! One I have given much thought to and never been able to talk about it in a group of this kind. When I talk to many of my Christian friends who are in need of professional mental health care, they are often reluctant to pursue it. In large part, because they want to find providers who share their faith, their worldview. I can appreciate their hesitation. When it comes to something as crucial to our identity as our minds, we don't want [...]

Christians Under Treatment 2017-10-02T20:27:44+00:00

Nurse Ratched Now

{from Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest} [Nurse Ratched] reached in the basket for the log book. "Must we go over past history?" That triggered something, some acoustic device in the walls, rigged to turn on at just the sound of those words coming from her mouth. The Acutes stiffened. Their mouths opened in unison. Her sweeping eyes stopped on the first man along the wall. His mouth worked. "I robbed a cash register in a service station." She moved to the next man. "I tried to take my little sister to bed." Her eyes clicked to the next man; each one jumped like a shooting-gallery target. "I—one time—wanted to take my brother to bed." "I killed my cat when I was six. Oh, God forgive me, I stoned her to death and said my neighbor did it." "I lied about trying. I did take my sister!" [...]

Nurse Ratched Now 2017-09-25T17:22:35+00:00

Good Boundaries

{excerpt from Delight in Disorder: Ministry, Madness, Mission} "The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;  surely I have a delightful inheritance." (Psalm 16.6) One thing I have experienced in the time I've spent at psychiatric hospitals is that there are many rules. Rules about toiletries, belt buckles, shoes with strings, and other personal effects. Rules about visits and contact with others. Rules about schedules -- time to sleep and meet and eat and rest. Since I am one who generally functions best with good, clear boundaries, these rules haven't bothered me so much. I've benefited quite well from them and have come to appreciate their value. There's a part of us all, though, that constantly tries to get around the rules. Like the man who found a staff person willing to bring him Starbuck's coffee (for a steep tip, no doubt) to replace the lukewarm dishwater [...]

Good Boundaries 2017-09-18T13:15:51+00:00