As a person with bad mental health this is mostly from the perspective of mental health, but could hopefully be off some help to those with bad physical health too.
I suffer from primarily depression and anxiety. I have been suffering from depression for quite a long while but more and more anxiety has becoming more and more prominent.
This blog has been prompted by a facebook PM I received which I have taken great exception to. I have yet to respond to the PM, as every time I look at it I get very angry.
Paraphrasing it was saying that faith is no help to my problems and therapy was the only way.
I shall point out that everyone should always consult a GP or other health professional as a first port of call in any health problem.
As of yet the only therapy I had been offered, apart from medication of which is only effective for me in the short term, made my anxiety worse not better. I was offered a series of group CBT sessions on anxiety. First of all the sessions were held in a back room of a Costa coffee (it was a NHS service), and the only thing it did for me was make me realise that some things I was doing were in fact ways I was showing anxiety. Which in turn has made me more anxious.
When I explained this to my GP, they shrugged and said would you like anything else, which I said yes to and was told they would let me know….. that was quite a while ago and I have heard nothing yet. Yes I could chase them up, but again with anxiety my main fear is being a pain in the ass…..so I have not chased them up.
In some ways I feel I have been let down by the health service, but my logical mind tells me that with the current circumstances the NHS is seriously stretched I cannot blame it for me disappearing in the cracks…. I do blame myself for not chasing…. then anxiety kicks in again.
I do know that therapy does work for and for some people it has been a very positive experience for some people. I have yet to experience it personally.
But as is this blog is on faith and spirituality in mental health lets define a few terms:
Faith is described as:
In the context of religion, one can define faith as confidence or trust in a particular system of religious belief, within which faith may equate to confidence based on some perceived degree of warrant.
1. Complete trust or confidence in someone or something.
2. Strong belief in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual conviction rather than proof.
2.1. A particular religion.
2.2. A strongly held belief.
Spirituality is described as:
Traditionally, spirituality refers to a religious process of re-formation which “aims to recover the original shape of man,” oriented at “the image of God” as exemplified by the founders and sacred texts of the religions of the world. In modern times the emphasis is on subjective experience of a sacred dimension and the “deepest values and meanings by which people live,” often in a context separate from organized religious institutions. Modern systems of spirituality may include a belief in a supernatural (beyond the known and observable) realm, personal growth, a quest for an ultimate or sacred meaning, religious experience, or an encounter with one’s own “inner dimension.”
The quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.
Mental Health is described as:
Mental health is a level of psychological well-being, or an absence of mental illness. It is the “psychological state of someone who is functioning at a satisfactory level of emotional and behavioural adjustment”.
A person’s condition with regard to their psychological and emotional well-being.
So what has that got to do with the price of fish.
So to sum up faith and spirituality could be defined as a belief of something that is not of the body. Mental health is of the body…..
From a personal point of view; my body is not well, though I find comfort and trust in something that isn’t of my body. Possibly its a form of escapism or a focus beyond my capacity. Or its placebo effect my be having an effect in not making me seek a more permanent way of ending my problems.
Maybe the trust of non corporeal form mirrors sometimes the lack of confidence I have or my trust of others I sometime have.
Yes I acknowledge that faith could be a placebo… But whatever the source, something that you can gather strength from, regardless of whether they are real or not, is a positive. When everyday you struggle to even sometimes get out of bed because you don’t want to face anything at all, being able to draw upon something to enable you to do anything cannot be dismissed.
It has been acknowledged amongst all the faith communities that they need to take steps to help their own communities as they are a magnet for all those with health problems (for example Christian pilgrimages to Lourdes etc.). And all of them are taking steps to address the situation. The Pagan Federation itself has a dedicated team to offer advice and support to those facing physical or mental health problems.
But why do I turn to my faith and spiritual practices for help with my problems?
In my shamanic practices I have been going through some very strong and significant journeys.
My main guide at the moment is someone I have had to battle for a long time now. I have even had a sword fight with him whilst in journey, which ended with him slashing my chest from my left shoulder to the base of my sternum.
But through him I have attained something that has a significant impact of my own spiritual development. One aspect of which has also provided me with another spiritual duty I have to uphold, which at this time I am unwilling to publicly go in to at this time.
But part of this practice has a real world significance as well. As it does allow me to explore myself from a outside point of view. It has enabled me to identify some of my own problems and issues, though at the moment I have not yet divine a solution but at least I know when I get into a bad place I know what the cause is.
To sum up. Faith for me could be the biggest sugar pill I am taking, but its providing me with some of the strength and direction I am severely lacking at the moment. I know I need more than that.
But the biggest part of it is something I haven’t touched on yet.
Earlier I touched on the role faith communities are now acknowledging and tackling in helping those whom are having health problems. One thing that seeking faith and spirituality in trying to overcome health problems is that you come into contact with others whom are also suffering with bad health.
And that also can be a huge benefit. In just being in contact with those people can be empowering and strength can be gained in numbers……
For me personally, I feel a lot better when I am helping others to get through their problems. Though I cannot sort myself out, knowing I have been of help to someone does lift me.