People the world over discover religion daily. However, if as I
did, that person has a psychiatric history, how is their faith
interpreted by those around them or indeed themselves? I was first
diagnosed as having manic depression in 1991. I had fought against
this internally and tried to cover up this episode in my life. I
dismissed it as a one-off psychotic period, which would never be
In 1997 it became evident to those around me that something was
amiss. I went from one bout of psychosis to deep depression to
another needing many hospitalisations. I became suicidal as my life
shifted from what was once routine to the chaotic life of being
mentally ill. Within me I knew something deep inside had to change,
something I felt the psychiatric system was overlooking, something
they were not equipped to help me with.
I began to go to church, something I had never considered before
except for weddings, christenings and funerals. I also began to
read the Bible and tentatively to believe in God and His love for
me and was baptised.
For some people to begin to believe in God was a relatively
straightforward transition. Not me. I had very little self-worth,
believing I was unlovable and could not love and did not believe in
the concept of trust. So could I really trust God? My transition to
becoming a Christian was a major ordeal, I constantly tested God
and His word and in turn I believe He tested me.
While I was in hospital I believe God regularly revealed to me
areas of my life and together we would work to help me to deal with
thoughts, feelings and emotions relating to them. Those around me
misunderstood my actions, although I was in a state of perpetual
flux. Although I felt my inner spirit knew how and why I was doing
certain things, I was unable to articulate this to others so that
we could come to a mutual understanding. I was spiritually aware
but confused by what was happening. My faith, limited as it was to
begin with, was dismissed by professionals as delusions and this
contributed to more confusion on my part.
Today, I am clear in my own mind regarding my faith and how this
has influenced my life. I no longer try to convince those around me
that what I believe is true and also try to accept that they too
have their own beliefs. I have asked for the words “religious
ideation” to be removed from the symptoms of relapse on the back of
my enhanced care programme approach document. My care team and I
have also come to an agreement about what other “symptoms” may
appear when I am in distress.
During 2000-1 I wrote over 60 poems. They are about my experience
of mental health, the influence of God in my life and my childhood
experiences. They are brutally honest yet tinged with hope.
Chipmunkapublishing, which aims to reduce stigma and discrimination
on mental health grounds, recently published my work.
Sue Holt is a mental health service user