by Katie Dale
One Sunday when I was 16, I wore a hat to church, resolute in my misunderstanding of 1 Corinthians 11:6 (NIV): “For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head.”
Bipolar disorder had ravaged my young mind, and I clutched at another misinterpretation of Scripture: “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:16a). In the middle of the 500-person service, I cried out during the pastor’s prayer: “Father, forgive me. I’m sorry.”
My parents held me tightly, quite embarrassed in the moment and apprehensive, not knowing what I’d say or do next. I remember speaking to the pastor afterward. Maybe I had asked my parents if I could apologize to him for my outburst, or perhaps my parents wanted me to give a sort of explanation. Either way, he forgave me, and we left it at that. But why didn’t anyone do anything? Couldn’t they see I was struggling with mania or even borderline insanity?
It’s been 13 years since my first hospitalization and five since the last. Both times, part of what sent me into the tailspin of mental illness were misunderstandings and false information. In our journey with this illness, my family has been misled by lies we were told or truths withheld. These lies continue to mislead the church and keep people from properly viewing mental illness as what it is.
Lie No. 1: You’re just going through a rough time. Pray, give it to God and give it time.
The reality is, if you are clinically depressed or you have bipolar disorder, it is not good to forego seeing a mental health professional. Therapists and psychiatrists are qualified experts on the care and keeping of your mind. If you are in a chemically imbalanced state of mind, chances are, no amount of praying or time is going to help, unless God is answering your prayers for a good psychiatrist or psychotherapist.
Lie No. 2: You’re simply in the middle of a spiritual battle. Just renounce and resist the devil, and he will flee.
You may be in the middle of a spiritual battle, but there’s more going on here, too. Don’t waste time renouncing Satan or anyone else, especially considering how vulnerable the psyche is in a mentally unstable state. Seek a medical professional’s help immediately. You can seek spiritual support and seek God through prayer and at the same time, receive professional health care.
Lie No. 3: You’re depressed? Pray it out.
Depression, if clinical, means your brain does not have the means to get out of the slump it’s in. If you’re relying on just praying it out, you’re fighting an uphill battle. Though prayer has been shown to alleviate symptoms, being in a clinically depressive state is more than just a prayer away from wellness.
Katie Dale is the mind behind BipolarBrave.com and the e-book GAMEPLAN: A Mental Health Resource Guide. She works full-time at a behavioral outpatient clinic, ministering to those with mental illness. She can be found on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.