The Relationship Between Religion and Mental Illness by Psychosis Recoverer Peter McDonnell5 min read

We are all lucky enough to have a brain.  Some are grounded, shaped by experiences of regularity that don’t feel the need to explore anything spiritually interesting or indeed supernatural.  Some people would rather search that kind of thing out. My brain is geared toward the latter, but I have learned that an element of conventionality and being in step with the ordinary world is no less than a necessity.  Kind of like Agent Mulder from ‘The X Files’ who has his sceptical partner, Agent Scully keeping him grounded and ready to consider the more scientific answers to some of this wonderful life’s questions.

 

One of the biggest questions in this life is ‘Is there a God?’  My instinct tells me that yes there is, undoubtedly, based on my observations and experiences, and what I feel in my heart.  Then my more rational side prods me and says ‘hold on, are you sure?’ Just because you can’t explain something and it seems magical, doesn’t mean it is magic.  Perhaps it is just the immense power of your scientifically amazing mind making you simply feel like God is there and works in people’s lives doing things here and there.  Maybe it’s just a feeling. I can tell you right now that I have been considering this sort of thing for the last 15 years, on and off, and I don’t have an answer. I sometimes think that God must want it that way, that he doesn’t want humans to ever see actual proof.  At other times I think that our quite mysterious and little understood brains are simply playing tricks, and the existence of a God seems like a good explanation.

I came down with ‘cannabis induced psychosis with delusions of a grandiose nature’ (how my illness was described on my medical notes from the time) in 2001.  I began thinking that I might be Jesus and that I had special and unique telepathic abilities. I was 19 years old then, with no wisdom about anything really. Not stupid, but I didn’t have very good or helpful life skills.  I spent four years thinking I was the messiah and that God was talking to me through every experience of coincidence. At times it felt very convincing.

I began thinking that I might be Jesus and that I had special and unique telepathic abilities.

I spent time on mental health wards and in 2005 I was finally put on the best medication for me, Clozapine.  I tried a few before that but they didn’t work. At the same time, I also gave up cannabis. It was then that my psychosis began its improvement.  In present day my delusional psychosis is very controlled, but it is still there. Or is it? It manifests itself as God. God is my psychosis. I see strange coincidences sometimes, and I wonder if it is God, or simply psychosis.  The brain can play tricks sometimes, everyone knows this. It happens to me often, and if it is indeed God talking to me then I would say that this means that I don’t have psychosis. If God is not real then I do have psychosis. I am so glad that I have learned to live with my brain.  I don’t overthink things (a great piece of general advice), and I know that I should be very careful about acting on what amazing things my brain sometimes experiences. If I was stopping strangers in the streets and telling them that God is speaking to me, then I would probably be hospitalised quite soon.  

In present day my delusional psychosis is very controlled, but it is still there. Or is it? It manifests itself as God. God is my psychosis.

All those that God chooses to speak to have a similar but different experience of it.  Some people decide that they want to attend mass on Sundays and try and be good people, perhaps becoming interested in reading the Bible.  Other people who feel a particularly strong call become priests perhaps and make a living and a fruitful career out of sharing Gods message with their congregation.  

You might find yourself wondering ‘was that God talking to me just now?  I can’t figure it out!’ But that doesn’t mean you have to dwell on it or even meditate on it.  You have the option of dropping the subject and perhaps coming back to it later. It doesn’t have to befuddle you, and you don’t need to find answers right there and then.  That would be taking on too much. Dismiss it if you want, perhaps that is what your brain would rather do. Or listen to it and let it grow if that’s how your brain wants to work.  But whatever you do, try and stay in step with the rest of the world, and remember that plenty of people have experiences of this sort of thing and you are not alone.

If you would like to read more of my personal stories of psychosis and my recovery from it, as well as my experiences of anxiety and recovery from that too, visit my website.  There is a lot of useful and interesting reading there including book extracts (I have written a memoir of my experiences with mental health), guest posts, several articles I have had published elsewhere and my blog.  

The address is petermcdonnellwriter.com

I am on Facebook as  Peter Edward Mcdonnell

My Twitter account is  @PeterMcDonnell_

2018-06-05T21:35:57+00:00

About the Author:

I am a man with an unquiet mind who delights in the One who delights in me.