Seeing Mental Illness as a Spiritual Illness

Catherine Duclos
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6740

I am a simple woman, 47, single mother of two beautiful children, diagnosed bipolar 10 years ago, and I want more from the way I’ve been living since that diagnosis.  I have been medicated, several different kinds, for different reasons, because some didn’t work, and some still don’t, and some probably won’t, and still I am not well.  A few years ago I began to read about alternative ways of thinking about mental health, not just eating differently, or other ways of healthful living, which all help, most definitely, but I’m talking about radically thinking about the origin of mental illness in a different way.  The conclusion I’ve come to is that mental illness is a spiritual illness, and if you’ll indulge me, I’ll attempt to describe why.

When I was six years old, I was looking at a photo album my mother had put together of our family, and I was crying; crying because I knew someday that everyone in that photo album was going to die.  I felt their mortality, and mine with it and I was overwhelmed by a profound sense of loss and loneliness that I had no words for, no expression for, no way of talking about to my parents, or to anyone else.  I thought there was something wrong with me.  It was a milestone in my early childhood and growth as an existential being.

Years later, I had an equally profound, yet different experience.  Somewhere around age twelve, I was walking with my family on a warm spring afternoon, right after the rain had subsided.  My sister and I were ahead of my parents, running and splashing around in the puddles, laughing and having so much fun.  Suddenly the sun came out, streaming through the trees; I turned around to look at my parents and I was overcome by a penetrating sense of joy, even beyond joy; it was something like ecstasy.  I felt beyond myself, as if I was looking at my family from a distance and seeing them as they were from the inside out.  I felt full of love for them…they were beautiful; everything was beautiful and I felt connected to all that was around me, at one with the world that surrounded me, that was beside me, inside of me, part of me. Energy was coursing through my body and I felt truly alive – I was trembling with electricity; the light was brilliant and there were rainbow colors hovering around me. The feelings were real, more real than anything I had ever felt.  I felt whole; I was connected to my self, my family, to nature, to all of my surroundings in a way I had never experienced before.  I was free and full and deep and open and full of beauty and joy.  That lasted for what seemed hours, but it was only minutes and then it dissipated and I felt bereft, as if I’d lost something precious, essential to my being.  I felt confused and lost and lonely again.  It was the first time I’d experienced a kind of depression that came from the disconnection from joy and beauty and wholeness.  Even this depression was part of the spiritual experience.

As I realized later in my life, all of those experiences I’d had were spiritual openings or as Christina & Stanislav Grof describe in their book The Stormy Search for the Self, it was the beginning of a “spiritual emergence” for me:  “In the most general terms, spiritual emergence can be defined as the movement of an individual to a more expanded way of being that involves enhanced emotional and psychosomatic health, greater freedom of personal choices, and a sense of deeper connection with other people, nature and the cosmos.  An important part of this development is an increasing awareness of the spiritual dimension in one’s life and in the universal scheme of things.” (Grof and Grof, 1990, p.34)

What happened to me, however, is that part of this spiritual emergence became a spiritual emergency as Grof and Grof describes in their 1989 publication entitled, Spiritual Emergency, When Personal Transformation Becomes a Crisis:

Feelings of oneness with the entire universe.  Visions and images of distant times and places.  Sensations of vibrant currents of energy coursing through the body, accompanied by spasms and violent trembling.  Visions of deities, demigods, and demons.  Vivid flashes of brilliant light and rainbow colors.  Fears of impending insanity, even death.

Anyone experiencing such extreme mental and physical phenomena would instantly be labeled psychotic by most modern Westerners.  Yet increasing numbers of people seem to be having unusual experiences similar to those described above, and instead of plunging irrevocably into insanity, they often emerge from these extraordinary states of mind with an increased sense of well-being, and a higher level of functioning in daily life.  In many cases, long-standing emotional, mental, and physical problems are healed in the process.

We find many parallels for such incidences in the life stories of saints, yogis, mystics, and shamans.  In fact, spiritual literature and traditions the world over validate the healing and transformative power of such extraordinary states for those who undergo them.  Why, then, are people who have such experiences in today’s world almost invariably dismissed as mentally ill?

                                                                     (Grof and Grof, 1989, p.2)

That is the million-dollar question, and brings me back to the beginning:  seeing mental illness as a spiritual illness.  Grof and Grof describe it as a spiritual emergency – a crisis of the evolution of consciousness – a time when I experienced the highs of spiritual awareness and the lows of spiritual disconnection.  Why am I dismissed as simply mentally ill and not treated as a whole human being who is going through one of the most difficult transitions of my life, as going through an “evolution of consciousness”?  Where can I find guides who will help me and not pathologize me and simply medicate me to stop the “symptoms?”

I have another way of looking at this process of spiritual transformation, from my own experience, that I’d like to offer as well:  In essence, I believe that when we are born into this world, into this human body, we immediately begin the process of spiritual transformation that lasts our entire lifetime.  Being born in itself is a disorientation that forces us to deal with a whole host of elements of living – figuring out how to use our bodies, trying to make sense of the physical world we live in, creating meaning for ourselves so that we can move out into the world in some semblance of a functioning person.  In other words, I don’t think we have a choice about the transformation – that is the condition of our existence as living beings – it then remains HOW we deal with this in our individual lives that is the question and the challenge.

I am convinced, by a whole host of experiences in my own life, but perhaps most obviously, outside of myself, by watching my children as they’ve come into this world, struggling with their bodies and basically getting used to being alive, and then being with my mother as she died, that there is something beyond our purely human experience.   How it is manifest to me is in a wholeness (wisdom traditions have named it in various ways:  nirvana, god, a place of complete and total love and compassion) that must come through this narrow door of a human being, physically and in narrow consciousness and it’s a very uncomfortable entry and a difficult process of working out what to do once we’re here.  I think every spiritual tradition has described this wholeness that becomes a part in the form of a human being, yet contains the wholeness within them.  It is like this poem by Thich Nhat Hahn:

What is the home of a wave?  The home of the

       wave is all the other waves, and the home of the wave

          is water.  If the wave is capable of touching himself

            and the other waves very deeply, he will realize

  that he is made of water.  Being aware that he is water, he

           transcends all discrimination, sorrows, and fears.

 

You see, as each of the waves is separate, an individual wave, yet it too is part of the water.  We are all a part of the wholeness from which we come and as such, we feel both the separation of being a part and the connection of being the whole.

Because of this paradox, there is set up a tension that plays out throughout our lives and experience of living.  As human beings, I think there is a part of us that senses, experiences, yearns for this wholeness, this feeling of complete connection.  When we experience the world in this way, it becomes obvious that we are “home.”  Then as we slip from this True Reality of connection back into the world as we know it in our everyday existence, we experience a deep sense of dis-ease that involves feelings of fear, separation, disconnection, and alienation – essentially feeling lost.  This is where spiritual emergency entered my life.  Because I had been “home,” I found I yearned to be in that place of wholeness all the time, and when I found I couldn’t, because it was nearly impossible, I became terribly depressed and disconnected.

I think in some cases we can name this process of completely connecting, then disconnecting and understand it for what it is, other times we simply react, especially when we are children.  Paulo Freire talks about this experience as being a semiconscious exile in one of his Letters to Christina.  As he is describing a time in his life when he had to move from his childhood home he says this:  “More than anything else, I felt like I was being expelled, thrown out of my sense of security.  I experienced a fear that I had not felt before.  It was as if I were dying a little.  Today I know that I was feeling, in those instances of fear, a second experience of semiconscious exile.  The first was my arrival into the world after leaving the security of my mother’s uterus.” (Freire, 1996, p.36)

Every time we face a potential change, a possibility of spiritual transformation, this paradox of connection/disconnection, wholeness and part is echoed, mirrored in the specific situation.   What then can rise up in us is a form of profound fear and insecurity, which may become the barrier to transformation. However, I think everyone experiences this reality differently.  Perhaps how it could be explained is to say that there is a spectrum of how people react to evolving and change – in its specific form and in its deep reality.  For some, evolving and spiritual transformation come more easily, with less fear.  For others, making a choice to evolve and grow spiritually is such a significant show of courage that it is humbling to even imagine what it took for that particular person to attempt the movement from where they were.

For people with a mental illness, I think we are particularly sensitive to these changes and shifts in movements in life, to this deep separation from wholeness, and that is why we suffer so intensely from depression – the depression is the darkness of disconnection, the times when we feel only a part of what we could feel and we have no way to escape from the despair of being apart.  And also for those who are bipolar, in the manic phase, when we are briefly connected again with that wholeness, we are so ecstatic with the joy of that connection that it is almost too much to bear and it overrides our circuits so to say.  These are spiritual matters, not medical matters, at least for many of us they are.  Everyone has a different experience of their illness and what measures it takes to heal.  What is needed is an acknowledgment from someone that this process of connection and disconnection is going on constantly within the context of mental illness and these movements of soul cannot simply be reduced to a medical explanation and then medicated away.  There is a matter of balance that is happening here and the balance is never quite right with mental illness; this is what I have found; this is what I have lived.

Being in this profound relationship to wholeness and disconnection is not necessarily a pathology, or an illness or something for us to be labeled and stigmatized about.  For me, I see it as a gift, a visionary sensitivity to life that I need help navigating from people who understand this journey.  I don’t want to be medicated into submission and have my joy and my pain taken away.  That’s what life is about; it’s about the ups and downs, sometimes the extremes of the roller coaster, but if I had a support group of people who understood my sensitivities, my openness to life’s transformations, and I used the coping skills and other tools I’ve learned over the years, why is that I couldn’t survive in this way?  But this is not what the medical establishment is telling me right now, and not what my own fear is convincing me right now.  I want to believe in myself, in my instincts and advocate for myself.  I want to gather my support team together, including my psychiatrist, and therapist, my friends and family, to support my decision to make different choices, to have the courage to live my life as I am meant to live it, to live the spiritual path I know I have always been destined to live, ever since I was a child. Is that so “crazy?”  Tell me, I’d like to know what you think, and what you might want to do with your life if any of this resonates with you?

 

Bibliography

Freire, P (1996).  Letters to Christina.  New York, NY:  Routledge

Grof S. & Grof C. (1990).  Stormy Search for the Self.  New York, NY:  Penguin

Grof, S.  & Grof C. Eds. (1989).  Spiritual Emergency When Personal Transformation Becomes a Crisis.  New York, NY:  Penguin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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22 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Cathy,
    This all rings true.
    I am 45 and at a similar place in life. I experienced the “profound fear and insecurity” that you describe off and on as a child, then most of the time as an adolescent and adult, with brief interludes of feeling free. I remember, 7 or 8 years old, watching a dance at my older brother’s school, done by some older kids, and they did it so well, and were so wonderful that at the end I was clapping and screaming with joy. Then I happened to see my older brother, with his friends, across the room. They were looking at me, and I guess they did not feel what I had felt, ’cause they were laughing in a finger pointing kinda way. I died inside, and that part of me was frightened away by their ugliness. I have been working for ever so long to coax that part of me out of it’s safe retreat deep inside. But it does not trust this outer world, and only comes out every now and then.
    But. But. But now at 46, this spiritual journey you refer to is like a wave I am riding, and every day is another chance for that inside life-lover to come out and see if things are safe. And guess what? During the past year and 4 months, ever since the big earthquake and tsunami here in Japan, that scared soul, which loves music and humor and people and life, and knowing, and understanding, is finding more and more chances to come out.
    I felt love of life so strong last fall, briefly, that it came out as a poem, which is this:
    Oh life,
    I love you .
    What joy, what pain,
    what sorrow, what misery,
    what glory,
    I love you
    How do we stand something so dull, so intense?
    I’m overwhelmed by you. I love you so.
    But why are you so hard?
    Oh life,
    never let me go.
    Never let me go.

    Thanks for sharing your experience with the world. It helps to know that other people are trying to surf the same wave…

  2. Hi Catherine. Thank you for sharing your story with us. It’s invigorating to hear from others who have survived a biomedical model of find alternate ways of conceptualizing their “mental illness”

    You mention you are on meds, and question their effectiveness. If you’re looking for support, or to check in with people who have gone through the withdrawl process after years of being on meds, you can email [email protected]. We’ve got a google group going and a couple of psych survivors and I are organizing a reducing or coming off meds support group. If you’re in the Boston Area (by any small chance), join us!

  3. Catherine,

    I agree with the others who have written here. Thanks for your great email. It’s good to hear from another escapee from the medical model.

    For the foreseeable future, it looks like us escapees are going to have to be our own support team. I’m happy to say there are several organizations these days for people who are not satisfied with medicating their meaningful states of altered consciousness out of existence. He’s a sample of what’s available:

    1) International Association for Near-Death Studies (IANDS):
    Endorsed by Raymond Moody, author of “Life after Life,” this was one of the first groups founded (in 1978) to study and offer support for profound spiritual experiences that do not fit the medical model. It will hold its 31st annual conference Aug 31-Sept 2, 2012 in Scottsdale, AZ. A Spiritual Retreat for Near-Death Experiencers will be held May 16-19, 2013 in St Louis, MO. Local meetings to talk about and share near-death experiences are held in several states in the US and in other countries. See:
    http://iands.org/home.html

    2) American Center for the Integration of Spiritually Transformative Experiences (ACISTE):
    Organized recently by IANDS members to study and offer support for experiences variously called numinous, noetic, transcendent, transpersonal, mystical, anomalous, religious, paranormal, parapsychological or ecstatic experience resulting in a permanent and complete paradigm shift in one’s views or accustomed perspective on life. ACISTE will hold its 2012 conference Oct 18-28 in San Mateo, CA. See:
    http://www.aciste.org/
    For a $25 yearly fee, the private Aciste Experiencer Forum is open to members only at:
    http://aciste.ning.com/

    3) psychosisspirituality (Yahoo group):
    A free Yahoo discussion group on the connections between psychosis and spiritual experience. following on from a conference in England in Sept 2000 (see http://www.isabelclarke.org/psychosis_spirituality/ for the approach). Of interest to mental health professionals, teachers in spirituality, and all following a path which honors their own experience. New members are asked to write a few sentences about why they are interested in this subject, which is circulated to the group as an introduction. See:
    http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/psychosisspirituality/

    4) Beyond Meds:
    Great info on how to get off meds, physical problems, alternatives, recovery stories, political and spiritual issues. Wide-ranging blog by Gianna Kali, a social worker in recovery who weaned herself from a damaging cocktail of meds. Sign up for free newsletter. See:
    http://beyondmeds.com/

    itual issues. Wide-ranging blog by Gianna Kali, a social worker in recovery who weaned herself from a damaging cocktail of meds. Sign up for free newsletter

    This would be a great opportunity to swap advice on other helpful websites or resources that you know of. If you have any suggestions, do tell us about them!

    Warm regards,
    Mary Newton

  4. Thank you so much for writing with such clarity re: the sudden joy of realizing connection and the struggle that occurs when connection wavers, gets broken. The mental image of a child looking back in the sudden sun to see her family and feel wholly loved and alive…well, it was a gift. Thank you for writing!
    Really beautiful!

    With Appreciation,
    Faith

  5. Catherine,

    Thank you for sharing this. After reading what you shared I would say that you’re anything but simple and you’re certainly not ill. I too believe that all of this is a struggle to come to terms with the true reality of life with the crazy stuff going on around us in the world. You’ve probably already discovered them, but you might enjoy Joseph Campbell, the great authority on myth, and Alan Watts, a British philosopher and authority on comparative religions. Once again, you are anything but simple and you certainly are not ill!

  6. The thing is that life is really hard enough. Then we you want to have hope that things will be alright or you believe in anything different than what is typical they seek to destroy you. Basically unoriginal people who just do whatever for society without any regard for ethics and integrity in this day in age are normal. Even when you have integrity, you are pure from substance abuse, you are scraping by and they still want to take away your spirit,your hope, your values. It is purely disturbing how heartless society is and judgemental to boot. Sometimes we have nervous breakdowns, moments of difficulty and weakness. I just hope that if you have been diagnosed with a mental disorder do not allow them to dictate who you are. Do not let them steal your soul and disgrace you. I am going to keep on doing my best but I hope that nobody out there loses hope. Believe what you want but just do not give up!

  7. Hi. There is nothing wrong with you. The labels are nonsense. Psychiatry is based on an atheistic worldview that regards all spiritual beliefs and experiences as delusions & hallucinations. they are not imaginary; angels, demons etc are REAL. I had a court psychologists say I was mentally ill for beleiveing in the bible. This is how most of them are. 95% of psychiatrists & psychologists are atheists. Freud the atheist father of psychiatry, said “i consider myself to be the greatest danger to religion.”
    The Nazis killed mental patients with psych drugs in the t4 euthenasia program. This genocide has continued worldwide using mental health as a cover. Their targets include blacks, Jews, Christians, the poor, mentally ill & others. The drugs are deadly BY DESIGN. Get off them. You can stop taking them and pray in Jesus name to have no side effects or withdrawal – I have done it repeatedly, whenever I got out of a hospital. I spent 7 years in psych hospitals as a witness against the system. 95% of the patients were not ill, they were Christians. The drugs cause brain, kidney, liver damage, obesity, diabet- etc.
    I was sent into the system AFTER becoming a Christian to be a witness against it & write a book FREE on my website MANUAL FOR TRANSFORMATIONAL HEALING-GOD’S ANSWER TO PSYCHIATRY.
    The court clinician who sent me actually said to me, ‘if you believ e in the bible, you’re mentally ill”.
    The drugs ruin our spiritual and creative abilities. I am a lifelong composer, on them I heard no music, and could not pray.
    They are openings for unclean demonic lying spirits, as are ALL drugs which affect the mind, including caffeine,nicotine, alcohol, pot, lsd etc. Mania is caused by the caffeine. Depress-, from alco-.
    The spirits jump around thru verb al and physical contact. I have picked up spirits of depress- just from being in earshot of people talking who were drinking beer. I have picked up a spirit of depress- from others who had it – I rebuked it in Jesus name & it left.
    Jesus had authority over all illnesses, all of which are caused by spirits whose ‘assignments’ are the names of those diseases. H e rebuked them & gave his followers authority to do it. I have rebuked canc-, asthma-, depress. I was healed of a sexual disease when I repented of sexual sin. Sin is an opening for depress-. God said to me “don’t do it again or it will return”. Jesus said the same thing; “go and sin no more:” when he healed people. John 5:14.
    Jesus healed people as a testimony that he WAS the savior, and God heals today for the same purpose.
    See my website homepage, and the articles & free books/minibooks.
    http://www.1prophetspeaks.com
    Also the site Churchof schizophrenia.com has a similar view of how psychiatry is basically being used to destroy people’s spirituality. He is speaking the truth also.
    My articles include:
    Message to families of Mental Patients
    BEING AUTHENTIC-Returning home to our Calling
    A foolproof test that proves God exists
    WHAT KIND OF MUSICIAN ARE YOU GOING TO BE? GOD’s CALL TO MUSICIANS
    Play piano in half an hour
    How to be healed, saved & born Again
    Illuminati Mind Control in Psych drugs music & education
    I lived in a church for 2 years worshipping God and being filled with His love as I sang to Jesus. That experience has carried me thru the valleys of being in other spiritual places in the spiritually polluted world. Only when we are in heaven will that joy and rapture be continual. The world is polluted spiritually, it is why we experience negative emotions, thoughts etc.
    Also other openings for demonic spirits which can cause mental & physical illness are music, books, art. Whatever spirit ‘inspires them” will be transmitted thru them & by having them near us When we remove it, the spiritual oppression leaves.
    My minibook SPIRITUAL WISDOM also talks about this.
    See article Illuminati Mind Control in Psych Drugs Music & Education
    The music business is run by people into witchcraft who pray demons onto the masters of the records, since the 70s; hence anyone listening to this stuff is being spiritually poisoned. It causes depress-, all negative emotions, thoughts.
    I pray WASH ME JESUS to remove the spiritual contamination after existing a store where they play this trash. See my article WASH ME JESUS & cleansing prayers.
    http://www.1prophetspeaks.com

  8. Also see articles
    QUOTES SHOWING THE REAL AGENDAS BEHIND MENTAL HEALTH & EDUCATION
    they are: mind control, genocide, atheism, world government

    The Mental Health System is a FRONT for Nazi Genocide

    I knew someone on lithium who was singing on the worship team of my church. When ever I went there, I felt woozy. The fog around her was transmitting to the whole church when she sang. Whatever is around us spiritually transmits to others verbally & physically. God stopped me from using caffeine for this reason.
    It is an opening for spirits of confus-, mani-, agita-.

    I was interviewed 1 time by a shrink who had a cup of coffee. I was talking fast. He thought I was manic, not realizing I was picking it up from HIM!

    1prophetspeaks.com

  9. Hi Catherine,
    I just came across your very eloquent article here. I agree with you completely. You may have come across some of my books–I’m a dissident or renegade psychologist. My most recent book came out a few months ago, The Spiritual Gift of Madness: The Failure of Psychiatry and the Rise of the Mad Pride Movement. http://www.amazon.com/Spiritual-Gift-Madness-Psychiatry-Movement/dp/159477448X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1349596251&sr=1-1&keywords=farber+gifts
    Just earlier in what I think was a moment of inspiration I wrote that the mad were the third eye of humanity. I wrote a piece for this website that Kermit will be posting soon–on why I think the Mad Pride movement should base itself upon a Laingian model of madness. This is, to affirm Szasz (he wrote the Foreword to my first book in 1993) but to move beyond the Saszian reduction of mad persons to victims of psychiatry. Not to reject it but to shift the focus.
    Thanks for your piece, Seth [email protected]
    wwww.sethHfarber.com

  10. Oh Catherine,
    I do want to make one criticism. There is no need to use the term spiritual illness. Szasz’s critique of “mental illness” was correct and would apply here also. I am not going to recapitulate it. But what you describe is a spiritual crisis, a spiritual breakthrough, and then a phase of spiritual dis–ease. But the world is not the home it should be, could be, ought to be–our society is at war with nature and God, the Divine.. There is nothing wrong with you, with your mind,your spirit, psyche. So to call any of your experience symptoms of an illness is to denigrate them. Rather it is the world that is insane–and that causes your discouragement. But that is far better than to be oblivious to the destruction. So I hope you will substitute spiritual crisis or trial for “spiritual illness.” SF

  11. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spiritual_crisis

    “Because of the gaining recognition of the overlap of spiritual/mystical experiences and mental health problems, in the early 1990s authors Lukoff, Lu, & Turner (Turner et al., 1995, p. 435) made a proposal for a new diagnostic category entitled “Religious or Spiritual Problems”. The category was approved by the DSM-IV Task Force in 1993 (Turner et al., 1995, p. 436) and is included in the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) (American Psychiatric Association, 1994). The inclusion marks increasing professional acceptance of spiritual issues in the assessment of mental health problems.”

  12. Catherine,

    I completely agree with your post! I have never been “diagnosed” myself, but have struggled with profound depression all my life. I have often thought that I was born depressed, because my mother – not yet 18 when pregnant with me in 1963 Germany – was VERY depressed during her pregnancy with me, having been abandoned by my father and then sent to a home for unwed mothers in shame and disgrace!
    When I was about six years old I was standing at the gate of a friend’s yard and this old man with a cane walked up to me to say hello. He lightly tapped his cane on my foot and I felt a surge of energy rush up my entire body. I have never forgotten that experience. Much later I thought that he was some kind of “angel” who had showed me something very powerful.
    At age 8 I was placed in front of a judge to basically choose if I wanted to go live with my mother or stay with my grandmother; it’s complicated how I ended up in that little court room and too much to go into here now. What I know is that shortly after that event I told my grandmother that I did not want to live any longer. She just dismissed me with something like “oh don’t be silly!”
    I have been on a SEARCH all my life that I can remember. I used cry myself to sleep as a teenager thinking about all the suffering in the world.
    I have had several experiences of feeling as if I had come “home” and can relate so very much to all the experiences you have described.
    My mother was at some point diagnosed with “schizophrenia” and/or “borderline personality disorder”; I have a sister who shows all the symptoms of so-called “paranoid schizophrenia”.
    I am just rambling a bit here, but felt moved to let you know that there are people our here, like myself, who agree with your perspective!
    ~ Nicoletta

  13. Hi Catherine! I can see this is a fairly older post, but it looks like it there has still been some activity this year. I just wanted to say that you wrote exactly what I have come to think and feel. I am 2 years into recovering from a divorce and my daughter growing up and moving away. I also have faced the bipolar diagnosis that I was given over 10 years ago, but failed to believe it. I have spent several months studying and coming to understand it. At the same time, I have been undergoing a spiritual transition that I could never quite get a grip on before. I made this connection a few days ago between my spiritual disconnectedness and the bipolar. After an extensive meditation today, I finally get it. I have a deep understanding of the relationship.

    I am currently on medication, which is my choice for now, because it was the only way I saw to pull myself out of the deep turmoil that I was drowning in. It has been revealed to me that I will learn to understand and manage the symptoms and learn to live my life without medication.

    I am currently in my last year in obtaining my BA in Psychology. I have realized Spiritual Psychology as my career path. I am so glad to have found this site to utilize in my journey. I appreciate all the insight that I have read thus far, and look forward to reading more in the future.

    Love and blessings to all!
    ~Paula

  14. I very much enjoyed reading your article.The story catapulted me back to memories in my childhood.As a young girl I was often off by myself away from my family lost in such activities as staring up at the clouds.Fascinated at the moving shapes in the sky, but also coupled with a sadness and longing.But I could not define or did not know what the feeling meant as a child.Once while sitting with my mother on our front porch and hearing the sound of an ambulance going by at the young age of 7 I intuitively felt an immediate anxiety and realization that life was not an endless movie we all partook in but it was fragile & vulnerable and could fail.And I then became a mix of dark and light in myself .Excited & curious about life but also a sadness of its impermanence.A sensitive child I took it all in.I struggled with depression and anxiety most of my life and then several years ago was thrust in a very deep depression and spiritual breakdown.And it seemed that all my life I was holding down my joy.And something inside no longer would allow me to be at the helm .While in the grip of a subsequent severe mental breakdown my doctor asked ” Do you try to control things” .I answered yes.And after my drs visit I later reflected on a coworker who once in commenting on my chronic low level depression said to me very matter of factly ” God is moving through you”.I did not comprehend her comment at the time.But later in the throes of the distress of my breakdown I felt she may have been right. I was always suppressing my spiritual side with my head.My heart and ego were at war.I was given an anti depressant.But I still struggled with reconciling my spiritual energy that resided in me with the fear I carried within & holding onto the control of trying not to let go.I was terrified of letting my heart & soul open.My old reality (ego) would no longer be there to hold me.And going into the unknown was scary.There is no one who teaches you what the Divine is.That it lies inside of yourself.And it is part of who you are.I believe the longing I felt as a child when I stared up at the clouds is the longing for the Divine in myself.And so for myself.That I longed to come home and my depression and anxiety were the signals alerting me that I had buried it or lost my way.I am still struggling to find my way.But I am a bit less terrified.And trying to surrender.I’m trying to just be.But I feel the label now of mental illness also.Your article was so helpful to understand that(ones spirituality) is an ongoing process.Part of being a human being.Always spiritually evolving.Thank you for sharing your thoughts.It was comforting to read.(While stumbling toward Bethlehem.) Thank you.

  15. I enjoyed reading your article. I have never been diagnosed with a mental disorder, but I’ve always known I was different. I, too, would stare at the clouds, trees, sky, etc in wonderment. I began developing a relationship with God from as early as I can remember. Like one commenter on here stated, I am highly sensitive and as I child I would become sad whenever I encountered anyone who appeared to be hurting. I have always been drawn to people in pain and in some ways I’ve known my own painful experiences were designed to expose me to various levels of pain, so I could identify and help others move through their pain. I guess this explains why I’ve never suffered much. Today, I work as a psychotherapist. My clients are intriguing. I listen when they speak. I remember saying to a woman I met whose son has autism that there was nothing wrong with her son. I stated, “The difference between mental illness and a spiritual gift is one’s ability to embrace it as such. We only become ill when we lose the ability to nurture and care for ourselves, so I understand what you meant by “spiritual illness”. Unfortunately, we live in a place where most are in a deep slumber and dark forces within our universe want it to remain this way. I’d argue it’s the primary reason those with a certain knowing, a keen awareness, are convinced they are ill and (more often than not), medicated into silence. I say embrace your gift.
    I love reading articles like your’s because it validates thoughts I’ve always had from as far back as I can remember and feelings I innately know to be true. We are blessed.

  16. Hi Catherine. I know you wrote this 3 years ago, but nevertheless you have written a beautiful article. I also have bipolar, but I don’t actually see it as an illness anymore. I really wanted to share your article on Facebook, but I don’t feel comfortable sharing it due to your use of the word “illness” twice in the title. If you ever decide to re-post it with a different title, please let me know. Because I will share it for sure! I am getting more and more comfortable telling people I have bipolar now BECAUSE I just don’t see it as an illness AT ALL. I know I have been unwell with it in the past, but like you said in your article, it is a GIFT. And it has been my TEACHER and so much more. I don’t have to explain to you 🙂 Thanks again. And I hope you are well at present 🙂 Kind Regards, Lisa.