Dear LisaAugust 5th, 2012
I hope you don’t mind me writing an open letter to you. Since you’ve given me the privilege of being a guest contributor on your blog, I’m just going to leave it here as a draft for you to either publish or delete. When you decide what to do with it, please let me know right away so that I know whether to publish or delete it on my blog.
I’ve chosen to make it an open letter so that all your readers, most notably the ones that are causing you some grief, see that I am standing with you.
I’ve known you for over a decade now. You were one of my first, if not my first, cyber friend. I met you around a year after my discharge from my second hospitalization in the spring of 1999 in which I received the diagnosis schizoaffective disorder. We met on a now defunct forum for Catholics with mental illnesses.
If I remember correctly, most of the people on this forum, like you, had the diagnosis of bipolar disorder, and I think I was the only one with a schizo-type disorder. Nonetheless, we all had mental illnesses and we were all trying to grow in our identities in Christ as Catholics. I wouldn’t have phrased it that way a couple of months ago, but I’ve been reading what you write and have been learning. (The title “sacraMENTAL” was brilliant. I wish you’d use it again.)
I’ve learned much from you. Some of which has been very helpful in understanding myself and my own mental disorder. Such an understanding, along with a good psychiatrist and countless medication trials, has given me a great deal of growing mental stability the past few years. Of course, the greatest factor in my improved mental health has been the constant improvement in my relationship with God.
It’s been well over two years since I’ve had any suicidal ideation and a number of other years since I’ve been disturbed by my suicidal ideation. I’ve been so used to thoughts of suicide, that such thoughts don’t really bother me much. They did get too much for me to handle a couple of times, which is why I ended up in the hospital, but for the most part, most thoughts of suicide seem normal for me, so I don’t get worried about them. However, I much prefer these last few years where I haven’t had them.
Thoughts of suicide are “normal” for PERSONS with mental disorders like schizoaffective disorder, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and same sex attraction disorder. This last disorder, doesn’t belong with the others because it is not a mental illness with a genetic factor, but is an emotional disorder caused by environment.
Unfortunately, a great deal of ignorance is denying persons with this disorder from getting any compassionate help because other find it easier to accept them “as is” and not enCOURAGE them to become healthier, which is the whole goal of Catholicism: spiritual, mental and bodily health. A true Catholic will not be satisfied until he is a saint gazing at the face of Christ in heaven with all his body, mind (soul) and spirit. Nothing is healthier.
Your current mental health troubles seem to be attributed to caring a great deal (maybe too much) about the use of words. There’s nothing wrong with this. People have died because of the use of words. People have died over the use of a single letter (the Greek letter iota to be exact).
I can’t fault your for this. However, I can offer you some advice. It’s some advice I wish I could have given to myself a number of years ago, but I know I wouldn’t have accepted it at the time. I hope you do accept it, but if you can’t, that’s not your fault but the nature of your illness. Actually, many people wouldn’t be able to accept it even without a mental illness.
This is my advice: Don’t save the world. Save yourself, and you’ll be helping Christ save the world.
A number of years ago, I was making myself sick trying to correcting all the errors in the world. The more I corrected, the more errors I found, so the more correcting I had to do. I had more and more work to do. I don’t remember how I stopped doing this, but I did (maybe too much). However, I did final focus on what was most important for me to focus on: me.
This focusing on oneself has to be in the correct context. I had to focus on being as healthy as I could be: body, mind and spirit. Of course, this entails my relationship with God, my family, my community and all creation.
When you’re focused on being as healthy as you can be, you can help others do the same. You can’t force others to do be healthy. You encourage them to be healthy. If they don’t accept that encouragement, you’re not responsible for their lack of health.
Do what you can, but don’t make yourself sick over it.
Yours in Christ,
P.S. Just for the record: those that identify or confirm themselves or others as “gay” as commonly defined in modern western culture are identifying or confirming themselves or others in an unhealthy, disordered and sinful lifestyle. This is not acceptable for any Christian. In fact, to do so and still maintain that one is a Christian is either hypocritical or foolish and naive.