Monday, May 1, 2006

The trouble with a broken mind

This world is not compatible with heaven. Its imperfection, lies, and deceit tempt and drive us away from God. It is a simple quote, and often used, but the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist. We cannot be holy men and women and try to live as we choose. We are imperfect and cannot distinguish right from wrong without help from God. Through His grace and mercy, our imperfection is destroyed and overcome with the glory of salvation and life everlasting.

I think about what it means to suffer from PTSD, severe depression, insomnia, night terrors, intense anxiety, and emotional uncontrol, and I cannot figure why it is so hard to help others understand or accept the harsh reality of mental illness. When your mind and emotions are broken like mine are, there is no normal. You do not think like other people. You cannot feel like other people. You want to be normal again, fixed, whole, but it can take a lifetime to rebuild what is in little pieces. Sometimes it is a bit like, 'All the kings horses and all the kinds men...'

When mental illness breaks you, your reality is different. You do not respond to other people or situations like most of society. In the real world, red means stop and green means go. In the world of a broken mind, red and green could mean anything, could prompt or provoke the most unlikely responses. Simple things like talking on a phone, or even the thought of a conversation could mean unshakable misery and irrational anxiety for the mentally ill. It might mean that you even think about killing yourself or that there is no hope.

That harsh and stark reality of mental illness is so hard to convey to others. Family, friends, and loved ones can have such a hard time understanding that the emotions and actions we experience when mentally ill do not represent or mean what we really feel or think when not suffering. It is unfair when we are held accountable for the struggles we experience when mentally ill. Menal illness is not an option. It's not something that you choose to undergo or hold onto during the day for comfort. Mental illness is a part of who you are. Some people have ADD. Some have autism. Some have anorexia, or drug addictions. Some of us have impaired ability to think, feel, work, and express ourslves because of mental illness.

If I could wave a magic wand, I would change the way people judge and think about those of us with mentalillness. I would make them understand that we cannot simply choose how we think, feel, and behave. If a car's engine was broken, you wouldn't expect it to run like a new car off the lot, would you? When our brains are broken, would you expect us to operate like a normal person? Not if I could wave my magic wand.

That's why being Catholic gives me so much comfort - God doesn't need a magic wand. He knows what I'm going through, he knows what it's like, and he loves me for who I am and the struggles I face. He won't judge me in my lowest moments because by turning to him, he'll pick me up and carry me instead.

I found this in John, 16: 29-33:

His disciples said, "Now you are talking plainly, and not in any figure of speech. Now we realize that you know everything and that you do not need to have anyone question you. Because of this we believe that you came from God." Jesus answered them, "Do you believe now? Behold, the hour is coming and has arrived when each of you will be scattered to his own home and you will leave me alone. But I am not alone, because the Father is with me. I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.

Nothing is impossible with God.