Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.

and blessed are the eating disordered, for they shall inherit the guilt . . .


My title is only meant as a slight mocking of the beatitudes (the whole, “blessed are those who are meek for they shall inherit the earth” section of the Bible).

I’ve noticed a trend in certain sites lately.  Actually, not only lately but all the time, but I’ve only recently felt compelled to write about it now.  The trend is to label an eating disorder as sin, or depression as sin.  Or, and part of me feels this is worse in some ways, that if one would just pray harder, their despondency will leave and they could feel the healing.

My initial response to people who say these things is to ask them if they go into cancer wards and tell five-year-olds to pray harder and that lump of malignancy in their chests will go away.

Am I being melodramatic?  Not really.  Cancer=illness.  Eating disorder=illness.  Depression=illness.  Schizophrenia=illness.

Equating mental illnesses with sin or lack of prayer equates mental illness with blame.  The blame belonging, of course, to the person with the mental illness.  As if we had a choice.  As if we decided one day that we couldn’t stand a happy life, so depression it is.

Picking up a rock and throwing it at someone’s head is a choice.  Me waking up in the morning and not having energy and wanting to cry for no reason is not a choice.

An eating disorder, or any other mental illness, is not the work of satan.  We didn’t “let satan into our lives” or “let satan lead us away from God.”  That implies that someone with an eating disorder is not close to God, that they cannot be close to God.  How insulting to that person.  We are not here to judge one another’s spiritual state, or put conditions on their spiritual state.

I believe in God.  I believed in God before I developed the eating disorder.  And I continued to believe in God and feel close to him.  And I prayed.  People telling me I’m not praying hard enough is like kicking me in the gut.

A) How do you know how often or how hard I’m praying in the first place? and

B) How exactly do you measure how hard someone is praying?  If there are bruises on their knees?  If sweat pours off their brows due to the fervency of their prayers?  By whether or not they still have an eating disorder or depression? And if you use the last example to reason with me, I will once again ask you to tell me that a 5-year-old cancer patient isn’t praying hard enough.

I’m not sure if people realize how guilty things like this make those with mental illness feel.  A lot of us already blame ourselves anyway, and now we’re being blamed for not having enough faith, for not being strong enough in that faith.  So on top of worldly guilt, we get spiritual guilt piled on our shoulders.  And scientists and psychologist have long proven that guilt is not a good motivator.  So I’m not sure why they’d want someone to feel more guilt.  Maybe they need us folk with mental illnesses so that they have someone to proselytize to?

And the whole faith/prayer thing from the Christian camp infuriates me even more because does that mean someone has to change their faith in order to pray harder in order to get over their sin (mental illness)?

Prayer can be very helpful.  It can bring about a peaceful spirit, it can give us something to draw on throughout the day, it can give us strength to continue fighting to stay on solid footing.  But prayer, or any faith, should not be used to induce a good dose of guilt.  That’s warping any faith.

Instead of telling someone they should be praying harder, or telling them that you will pray for the evil to depart, why don’t you tell them you’ll pray for them to have the courage and grace to face another day and to give it their best shot?

The evil is that mental illnesses exist at all, not that I, specifically, someone chose to have one.  I mean, being Bipolar I is just so much fun; I’m not sure why everyone doesn’t choose this.

*****further addition:

In response to the commenter, “I have no problems with god, it’s his followers . . .” comment.

I hope that this post doesn’t come across as I’m smacking religion or faith or prayer.  All can play a very powerful role in recovery.  As can your church or fellowship group and other people praying for you.

My problem comes is when religion is twisted to invoke guilt.  (Okay.  If you murder your parents in a fit of anger (rather than defending yourself in a situation that leaves you no other choice if you want to survive) then maybe you should feel some guilt.)  Having an illness, or being sad, or experiencing any human emotion should not cause you to feel guilty.  Emotions are emotions.  If I’m feeling sad and cry, I don’t believe it’s the devil’s work.  There are situations in life where if you don’t feel sad, I’d question if you were human.  Not do I feel guilty for feeling sad and crying.  Both are healthy.  My God is not here to make me feel guilty–especially for things that are beyond my control.  My God is here to give me strength and courage and peace within the pain.  Things that will help me.  Guilt–not so helpful.

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August 27, 2010 - Posted by | bipolar disorder, depression, Eating Disorders, faith | , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

5 Comments »

  1. (paraphrasing from a source i can’t remember at 5:50 am)
    i have no problem with God. it’s his followers i have trouble with.
    great post, Lexie.

    Comment by michelle | August 27, 2010 | Reply

    • commented upon in an edit to the post

      Comment by surfacingaftersilence | August 28, 2010 | Reply

  2. Couldn’t have agreed more with this post Alexis. I went back to church junior year of HS honestly as my last hope for any sense of support and one of the reasons why I loved my pastors and fell in love with the ELCA Lutheran church was the acceptance. My pastors believe everyone goes to Heaven because there is no hell according to their ideas and the emphasis was on Jesus and God as individuals that are full of love for mankind- a nonjudgemental God.
    I’m not sure what I believe anymore, but I know what I do not believe or agree with and one thing is that guilt aspect. By the way I started a blog again…sort of….
    http://survivelivethrive88.blogspot.com/2010/08/back-to-blogging.html

    Comment by Jessica | August 29, 2010 | Reply

  3. hi again

    Sky

    Comment by weight | September 19, 2010 | Reply

  4. Hey Lexie 🙂

    Something I wanted to share it with you in response to the whole prayer thing…

    I once asked a recovered alcoholic with many years of sobriety to share his experiences with a newcomer who was unable to understand how, after so many years of dependence on alcohol, someone under stress could avoid recourse to drink.

    “It’s simple,” the veteran said. “Every morning when I get up, I ask God to help me stay sober one more day. Every night when I retire, I thank Him for having given me another day of sobriety, and hope that He will do the same for me tomorrow.”

    The novice listened in partial disbelief. “How do you know it was God that gave you the day of sobriety?” he asked.

    The old-timer responded, “How stupid can you get? I hadn’t asked anyone else!”

    You are awesome 🙂 I love your blogposts! Hope you have a great day/night! ❤

    Comment by em es | October 9, 2010 | Reply


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