Stephen was one of the 54 people nominated to become a national Face of Mental Illness as part of MIAW.
Religion or Delusion?
I understand the difficulty in drawing the line between religion and delusion. I have had a hard time with delusions that are a part of my psychosis, and I have experienced the benefits of religion that are a part of my faith. Unfortunately for us, there is sometimes a murky zone where the two overlap.
Navigating through this confused area, we are guided by the desire to keep the best parts of our faith while avoiding the worst parts of our illness.
The question becomes "How can you tell if a particular belief is born of your faith or your psychosis?"
First of all, some type of treatment regime is necessary to treat the psychosis. Often, I have found that I leave my delusions behind me as my mind responds to treatment.
Part of my treatment plan has included at times - in addition to medications and support from health care professionals - supportive discussions with priests and nuns (I am Catholic).
But I have something shocking to say. Would you believe that my experience with schizophrenia has brought me to a deeper understanding of God?
In the midst of one psychotic episode, while living within so many delusions, and beneath their paranoia, one Sister spoke gently to me. I was in the midst of fear, engaged in behaviours because I believed that if I didn't, something horrible would happen, believing that God was saying "Do this, or else!"
I do not remember her name, but I remember what she said.
"God's Spirit does not sound like that..."
She was asking me to abandon my delusions and the behaviours they forced from me, and with them, those religious beliefs that intimidate me and force me to comply.
I now see a God who possesses great humility, and comes not as an intimidating force over us, but, instead, comes as the nurturing power within us.
And when I see that I am loved, and that there is something within me that is worth loving, I hold onto it.
I pray that you will too.