CHOICES II-11 - Is Schizophrenia a Question of Faith?
In recent blogs we have discussed impediments arising from a variety of sources that can discourage consumers from accepting the fact that they have a serious mental illness, thereby resulting in dangerous delays in their receipt of effective treatment. In these discussions we've found that many of the impediments originate with well-meaning others and are the products of stigma born of fear and ignorance concerning mental illness. In this blog, I will again draw upon my own experience and present an abridged excerpt from my memoir that illustrates this point.
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Reverend Schroeder reminded me of the demons pictured in my grandmother's old German Bible. He was tall, thin and boney, with big ears and a small patch of long, graying hair that never stayed in place. Deep wrinkles twisted his face, giving it an evil, snarling look, like an angry dog. I had always suspected he was a hiding some terrible secret.
"Your mother tells me you're hearing voices. Is that true?"
"Not exactly," I said.
"Then, what are you hearing?"
"I'm not hearing anything. Someone is putting thoughts into my mind."
"So you think someone is talking to you?"
"No one is talking to me. Someone is putting thoughts into my mind, trying to make God think these my own."
"And no one else can hear this voice, is that right?"
"It's not a voice. Someone is making me think thoughts that are not my own."
"Is this person putting thoughts into your mind now?"
I couldn't tell Reverend Schroeder about the blasphemous thoughts that terrified me. He might conclude these were my own.
Reverend Schroeder leaned forward in his chair.
"Can you tell me who is doing this?"
I hesitated, but then decided I had to tell the truth if I expected him to help me.
Schroeder sat bolt upright.
"Are you trying to tell me that the Devil is putting thoughts directly into your mind?"
He spat the words at me.
"Yes sir. And these thoughts are in my own voice."
"Well, son, I'm sure you just don't realize what you are saying. You know, don't you, that Satan can be in only one place at a time?"
"Yes sir. I learned that from you."
"Remember, Satan is at war with God. He is most certainly quite busy with his diabolical schemes. Do you really think he can afford to spend with you? Keep in mind that I've been devoted to God's service for thirty-five years and Satan has never found time to spend with me."
Reverand Schroeder doesn't believe me. God help me!
"You know, Robin, your teacher tells me you're a good Christian, that you're intelligent and you take your religious instruction quite seriously. He says you're well-behaved and respectful of your elders. He even told me you're a good softball player, that you play second base on the church's junior league team. Is that right?"
"I guess so, some of it anyway."
"What I don't understand is why a good boy like you, one with your background, would suddenly make up such a ridiculous story."
"It's not ridiculous," I cried out. "Satan is putting thoughts into my mind right now. I need help and you're not listening!"
"Now you listen here, young man! This charade is not going to work. I don't know what you're after, but don't take me for a fool."
"It's not an act. I'm not making it up. Please, I need your help."
Reverend Schroeder glared at me in the most ferocious way.
"I think we should pray," he finally said. "You need to ask for God's help."
"Dear God Almighty, please help your son, Robin. His faith is weak. He is unruly and he tests the patience of his elders. Send him the trials he needs to strengthen his faith. Give him guidance in how to conduct himself and the strength of character to follow it. And please forgive him for his prodigal ways. Amen."
Reverend Schroeder thinks I'm faking it! Why doesn't he believe me?
"Now, Robin, you know that you must repent if you are to receive God's forgiveness. You must stop this nonsense about Satan attacking you. As I've taught you, repentance involves not only asking for God's forgiveness but also mending your ways. Without this, there can be no forgiveness."
Having made these comments, Reverand Schroeder quickly herded me out of his office.
The last hope for assistance in my struggle had just failed me completely. Facing Satan, the most powerful of all antagonists, I now stood entirely alone.
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Please remember, this writing reflects my own experience and opinions. If you, or a loved one, are experiencing the symptoms of schizophrenia, or any other mental illness, you should seek professional assistance.