Mental Health Recovery Beyond Religiosity

mental-illness

I’ve been absent for a while, had a little setback in my recovery. I realized I was decompensating (losing progress in my recovery and personal development) and quit drinking on October 12th. Well, before you congratulate me, allow me to disclose that I have just traded one bad habit for three more – excessive consumption of caffeine, cigarettes and video gaming. I’m still self-medicating my symptoms. I’ve come to realize through journaling and therapy that I’ve always been fixated with or addicted to something since I was a child. As I was an introverted, melancholy and timid child, I developed no outlets or healthy coping skills for my balled-up emotions.

When I had my salvation experience at age 16, I found a new outlet for coping and personal growth. In ways, it was healthy – definitely healthier than what I had been doing which was mostly trying to appear something I was not so that I might feel accepted. My fixation with trying to feel accepted by others evolved into trying to feel accepted by God and, in my perceived relationship with God over the years, I grew in that feeling of acceptance. As a result, I increased my underdeveloped social intelligence and interpersonal skills.

The problem was, I didn’t stop there.

I was obsessed with being Christ-like and went far beyond healthy measures to improve my “Christian walk.” I was even more zealous than many of my church leaders. I would constantly scour my mind for any thought with impure motive, not to mention how hard I was on myself for any apparent sinful action. Confession, repentance, study of “the Word,” and continual prayer were compulsive behaviors.

I eventually discovered that talking about nothing but God turned off even the most devout Christians and began to self-monitor. I only thought it was that they couldn’t relate to me – not that I was emotionally abusing others. Ever had someone talk your ear off and just keep going on and on, not taking nonverbal cues you are worn out from the one-sided conversation? I had been quiet all my life. When I had something to talk about, I couldn’t shut up!

As I’ve gotten older, my illness has aggressed and my symptoms have required more and stronger treatments. My Christian loved ones have asked me if I’ve thought of the possibility that it’s because I no longer practice the faith. I have, actually, and am convinced my condition would have deteriorated whether or not I continued to practice Christianity. I rather imagine I’d be worse off than I am now seeking supernatural cures for physiological issues.

Now I’m making self-care a priority and taking one challenge at a time in my recovery, which is multifaceted. This is a big step for me – being okay with being imperfect, human. I’m learning to make peace with my imperfection (I’m quite selfish, actually) and just trying to restore some balance (entertain it as long as I’m not causing anyone else too much inconvenience). As for the addictive behaviors, I have resolved to diversify my interests again in other things I enjoy and this is why I am writing now.

Hope to hear from you in comments.