Perceptions Forum front page //// articles //// personal stories //// site index

Faith or Delusions?

By Sue Holt

In my experience converting to Christianity whilst being diagnosed as having a mental illness was complicated for myself and those around me. My faith was dismissed as delusional, and I believe seen as a trigger for my illness rather than a way for me to deal with life.

I was first diagnosed as having Manic Depression in 1991. I dismissed it as a one off psychotic period which would never be repeated again. In 1997 it became evident to those around me that something was "amiss". I went from one bout of psychosis to deep depression to another needing many hospitalisations. I became more and more suicidal as my life shifted from what was once routine to the chaotic life of being mentally ill.

Within me I knew something had to change, something deep, something that I felt the psychiatric system was overlooking, something they were not equipped to help me with. I knew something fundamental was missing in my life. I was unsure what that was. However, one day I picked up a knife and I knew that I wanted to end my life - I instinctively knew that I would if I didn't change the way I was coping with life.

I knew someone who was a Christian, who talked often about Jesus. I did believe she was crazy, yet I rang her almost pleading to be able to go to church, to find out the truth. I began to go to church, something I had never considered before, except for weddings, christenings and funerals. I began to read the Bible. I began tentatively to believe in God and His love for me. I was baptised.

I thought becoming a Christian would be a relatively simple thing. However, I was a person who had very little self worth, believing I was unlovable and could not love - I did not believe in the concept of trust. So could I really trust God? My transition to becoming a Christian was a major ordeal, I constantly tested God and His word and in turn I believe He tested me. Whilst in hospital I believe God constantly revealed to me areas of my life and together we would work to deal with thoughts, feelings and emotions relating to these.

Those around me misunderstood my actions, although I was in a state of perpetual flux and I feel my inner spirit knew how and why I was doing certain things, I was unable to articulate this to others so that we could come to some mutual understanding. I feel I was spiritually aware - however, I was mentally and emotionally confused by what was happening.

Today, I am clear in my own mind regarding my faith and how this has influenced my life. I no longer try to convince those around that what I believe is true. I also try to accept that they too have their own beliefs. I have asked for the words 'religious ideation' to be removed from the symptoms of relapse on the back of my Enhanced CPA document, and have come to an agreement with my care team as to what other "symptoms" may appear when I am in distress.

During 2000-2001 I wrote over 60 poems. They are about my experience of mental health, the influence of God in my life and also my childhood experiences. I believe they are brutally honest yet tinged with hope.

The book 'Poems of Survival' by Sue Holt is published by Chipmunkapublishing. See review:
Courage of a Lion

A poem from the book can be seen at - Order online for 12 inc p&p, or from bookshops for 10.