I’ve been invited, millions of people have been invited, to participate in a Synchroblog on mental illness, family and the church. But to be a part of it tomorrow, I have to post by midnight (who knows what timezone???) tonight. So I ask my readers a grace day on my story of how I found out I had bipolar depression. Today I need to talk about my experience with it and family and church.
My home church never talked about it as I grew up. God (and I use that term on purpose), God, I needed it then, both for my experiences and the experiences of family members that I didn’t have a name for, not even words to discuss it/them, had that been safe. I was lucky in Seminary. I was in a welcoming United Methodist Seminary that was more than willing to work with me when i needed a quarter off: they even gave me an “independent study” of enough credit to keep my scholarship and enrollment. My friends there were warm and supportive, But would I find that when I came out into the real world?
I have been incredibly blessed, Just when I dropped out of seminary because of a horrible depressive cycle (I just walked away from the school and never went back. I don’t recommend that technique.) I found a group that was organizing for mutual support, They were women who had been denied church positions in an old boys network and LGBT folk and supporters who had been deeply wounded when our denomination (not the United Methodist) stripped an ordained Lesbian clergywoman of her standing and others who had just been wounded by the church for one reason or another. Long story short, what started out as a supportive potluck twenty years ago is now a successful Home Church meeting in homes around the Metro Denver area twice a month in the late afternoons, leaving mornings free for those of us who are also involved or employed in traditional churches. They were the first Open and Affirming congregation in our denomination, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), open and affirming of LGBT people and others as well. They have seen me for twenty years on my journey, which included a year affected by a summer of 26 ECTs (electro-convulsive treatments, that used to be called electro shock.) They have supported me and challenged me and cradled me in their love and the love of God. I am not the only person in the church who has spoken of their mental illness and their struggles. Just knowing you are not alone in a church is a HUGE difference from any other church I have ever been in. I have been open…but I have been open by myself. Others might come out to me as mentally ill in secret, but they couldn’t take the risk.
I don’t know how to end this blog about mental illness, family and church. It doesn’t end. It is a story that goes on and on and on. I wish you the supportive church that I have found. I cry with you when you have not found it, and I know that is most of you. All I can say is keep looking. Be safe, but keep looking. They exist. You may have to educate them on your particular issues, but they do exist and if they don’t where you are, you can help create one! Blessed are the ‘Crazy’ for they shall be called the children of God. #BlessedAreTheCrazy