By: Katie Dale
Growing up in an evangelical church, I was encouraged to know some key scriptures. By the time I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder at 16, much of my theology was established. But not all of it. When in my manic psychosis that year I heard demon-like voices chanting Jesus’ name in my head, it gave me pause to question the likelihood of being possessed as a born-again believer. Thus, I searched my memory bank of verses and in that moment found comfort in two: “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4 ESV) and “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit…”. (Ephesians 1:13 ESV)
Even after being diagnosed, I questioned my illness, a common attribute known as Anosognosia, of those suffering with mood disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Again, my second time in the inpatient unit after going off my psych meds, I still questioned and wondered the connection between demonic activity and mental illness. I felt and sensed a spiritual warfare zone in the behavioral hospital that seemed almost tangible.
Within that episode, I believed the idea that I needed a priest to come exorcise me based on losing control over my body and experiencing auditory and visual hallucinations, delusions, fear and confusion. I wanted relief for these strange expressions of my insanity. Until I stopped refusing medication for my mind, the symptoms only worsened.
I came back to reality when I returned to the medicinal dosage I’d been on prior to the hospitalization. Over time, the spiritual preoccupation and thoughts of demonic causes to my mental and emotional anguish dissipated. Sounder, more reasonable judgement replaced them. My battle made me vulnerable in the spiritual realm, threatening my ability to discern my Father’s voice in the storm. But God’s will presided in that I found just the right dosage to help me get back to normal and stabilize my moods and mental state.
In some churches today where there is mental illness, demonic activity seems to be inferred. According to Dr. Matthew Stanford in his book Grace for the Afflicted, he proposes that demonic possession was a rare thing even in Jesus’ day, and mental illness wasn’t attributed outright in the Bible because it was considered common illness. If we go with this theory, we see that there are more cases of mental illness at the root of delirious behaviors than demonic causes.
Just last night I read a Facebook post of someone sharing how depressed and distraught they felt but were afraid that going to church was not the answer they wanted. The replies to this post were encouraging the person that her sad thoughts were lies of the enemy’s and that she shouldn’t feed into them. On one hand I can see that the approach to a depressed state when the situation is tragic, or the person has been beating themselves up and listening to negative self-talk (yes, Satan’s lies). But on the other hand, if the case is clinical depression, prayer and just “choosing joy” are not going to be the answers in and of themselves. Instead, the church should recognize mental illness as a legitimate form of illness. Recognizing this truth can be a comfort to her members. Sharing that medication and mental healthcare is valid and can help those suffering with mental illness will help lessen the stigma associated with it.
While there are still satanic forces at work in the world today, the church needs to shine a light on the reality that mental illness is not demonic in nature. For reasons I have not yet found answers to, being in a state of deep depression and psychosis seemed to make me more vulnerable to spiritual attack, but I was not outside the reach of God’s grace through medicine. Next time you are tempted to assign a spiritual or demonic influence to someone’s mental state, rethink your response. They could very well be within a skewed mental and emotional place that with medication and counseling can become sound of mind and find healing. How do I know? I was one of them.
Katie Dale is the mind behind BipolarBrave.com and GAMEPLAN: Mental Health Resource Guide. She enjoys her long runs and long naps to keep her bipolar in remission and resides in central Missouri with her husband and cat. You can follow her activity on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
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