Since becoming a mental health advocate I’ve received a lot of uplifting messages. A very popular message I’ve received is that people are keeping me in their prayers, or they will pray for me.
Although I don’t believe in most of these people’s God, I appreciate it. I used to go to church, but I’ve found another religion that better suits my beliefs. Still, there is comfort in knowing people wish me well, and are praying for me. That’s kind.
There is a thin line with this though…
I cannot stand when people tell me to turn to God instead of medication. I cannot stand when people tell me it’s 'evil' to take medication or listen to my medical professional. And I really get angry when people tell ‘You just haven’t found Jesus yet’.
I don’t like knocking someone’s treatment plan. Everyone needs to do something to keep their mental health in check, whether it’s through big pharma, homeopathic remedies, or a little bit of both. We can incorporate things into our plan that adds some extra comfort to our lives. This could be self-soothing behaviours, animal therapy, sports, and even religion. I use a lot of techniques in my treatment plan, religion is just one piece.
Although I’m not open about what I practice, I don’t believe there is good or evil. I believe the world runs on balance – sometimes you need to own your shadow, sometimes you are covered in light – but the secret is finding that balance in between. Remembering this brings me peace. I know my bad days are simply that, bad days, and there are better days ahead. I can pray and keep in mind my humanity.
That’s what works for me. If you need to pray to Jesus, or Allah, or any God or deity, that’s your business.
As long as it helps you find comfort – and you’re not hurting anyone – then that is awesome.
But like anything else (especially in the mental health field) I’m not a big fan of extremes. Prayer is not always the answer, and Jesus isn’t going to cure me. If you believe that, awesome, but please don’t impose your belief onto others.
Mental health is an extremely delicate issue. It’s hard to understand. Mental health can be a very silent infliction of the mind to outsiders. It’s damaging when people say things like ‘It’s all in your head’, because: (1) no kidding, it’s obviously in my head when it’s an illness of the brain and mind; and (2) it discredits mental illness, which makes people hesitant to seek help.
When people don’t seek help or visit a professional (be it medical/homeopathic) they run a higher risk of hurting themselves or others. Mental health is manageable, but not always alone.
When you send a message saying ‘You just haven’t found Jesus’ or you talk to someone about how their mental illness is associated with demons, that’s terrifying. That discredits mental health. That puts blame on people who are sick.
Truth is it’s not your fault if you experience mental illness (seriously, it’s not your fault!!). You aren’t possessed. You are actually sick.
We wouldn’t go up to someone with a broken bone and say it’s their fault their bones aren’t stronger. When you struggle with mental health you are chronically ill, you need support and there is no shame in that. You aren’t at fault and didn’t ask for this based on your religious preference. You are plain and simple, sick.
Pray for me. Bring my name up in your church. Light a candle for me. Say kind words about me. Whatever you need to do. But don’t shame me based on religious preference, or tell me something is wrong with me. Keep your Gods and Demons out of my diagnosis.
Taylor Jones is a mum, mental health advocate, blogger and author. Her memoir 'Free Tayco' is due for release in 2017. Taylor's blog was originally published by the American fashion/advocacy organisation Schizophrenic.NYC.