Why "71º & Sunny?"

I consider 71º to be the perfect temperature. Not too cold and not too hot. I also love perfect sunny days. The vast majority of days are not 71º & Sunny and yet, all days were created by God's hand and they are still gifts, even if they don't fit my ridiculous definition of perfection. My struggle with OCD has at times imprisoned me in an impossible attempt to achieve perfection. I'm now learning to love all kinds of days that don't even come close to 71º & Sunny.

Please leave me a comment below. I really want to know what you are thinking!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Character Flaw vs. Mental Illness

"Evangelical, fundamentalist, or born-again Christians (48 percent) agree prayer and Scripture study alone can overcome mental illness. Only 27 percent of other Americans agree." (Emphasis mine.) Ed Stetzer, the president of LifeWay Research, which is the company that conducted this study, shared this disturbing information in an article he wrote for Christianity Today on September 17, 2013.

Big 'ole sigh. These statistics shocked even me.

Please, please hear me. I am a firm believer in God, the power of prayer, and the healing balm of the Bible. I believe that ALL failing of the human body is a spiritual issue, whether it be physical or emotional. I also believe that though God is able to instantaneously heal anything He so chooses to, it seems that very often He allows human interventions to play a part in physical and emotional healing.

When sharing about my struggles with anxiety, I have in the past (but not in my present church family-thank goodness!), heard, "Read your Bible more, pray more, etc. . ." I've never heard that when sharing about a physical issue. Never.

My recent diagnosis of anemia is a perfect example. I told several friends and ministry co-workers about it. Not one of them said anything to me about my failure to pray enough or read my Bible enough. In fact, I heard things like, "Oh, I hope the doctor can figure out your fatigue issues, or, I hope the iron pills work, etc." I heard offers of prayer for me, but nothing was said about my possible "spiritual failings" as the cause of my troubles. Ironically, I eat a pretty crummy diet, so in reality, I should definitely take part of the blame for my physical issues.

So . . . why does society view an illness of the brain so much differently than an illness of the body? One type of illness engenders compassion and sympathy; the other, scorn.

I love what Stetzer says in the article. "Medicine is not the answer to everything, and we live in an overmedicated world, but we need to treat character problems like character problems-and illnesses like illness." Amen to that.

Here is my anemia recovery plan: I'm going to pray about my anemia, I will read Bible verses that pertain to physical suffering in order to receive comfort (and wisdom) from my Lord, AND I will *try* to eat a healthier diet, take my iron pills, and proceed with any follow up treatment recommended by my family physician. Sounds like a pretty well rounded treatment plan to me.

Mental illness is not a character flaw. It's time we stop treating it as such.

18 comments:

  1. I read most of this to my husband last night and it sparked a discussion. (We both agree.) I did get excited while I was talking about it and he said he wasn't disagreeing with me. I said I know!

    I have and do pray about my anxiety. But my overall anxiousness has not gone away. There are other things I do as well. There are plenty of things in life in which we need different types of help.

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    1. Hey Kristina! I really love that this sparked a conversation for you and your husband. We definitely need to be having a public discussion about this.

      Absolutely - I'm grateful God created different types of help, and I'm not afraid to use it!

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    2. Hope that was clear that my husband I agreed with each other...not that we are in agreement with what the percentage of people in the survey think.

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    3. Yep, totally knew what you meant Kristina!

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  2. That study result is disturbing. I don't understand why God's hand can be seen in the healing of physical illness through medication, health care professionals, surgery, etc. but not so much with mental illness. There's just a completely different attitude about mental illness, and it's hard to know how to counteract it. Posts like this help, though. Thank you for bringing this study/article to our attention.

    I hope your treatment plan works soon! I've been thinking about you and hoping and praying that you are doing well. Take care of yourself.

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    1. Aw, thanks for thinking about me, Tina! So sweet.

      I too struggle with how to fight this type of stigma. I guess we can only do it one person at a time? That sure seems like really slow progress to me though. I'm very impatient!

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  3. Thank you for this post, Sunny.

    This makes me so angry as a Christian and as an OCD patient. I TRULY hope that the 48% percentile claim is dead wrong and that there was something wrong with that study. I grew up and live in the Bible Belt and to think that a select group of Christians believe that mental illness can be overcome ONLY with scripture reading and prayer makes me upset. That is an overwhelming amount of people who claim that belief. God allowed medicine to BE created--he also allowed the profession of "healers" aka, psychologists, M.D.s,D.P.T.s to exist to help people...including people with OCD.

    What about the people who don't have a mental illness--how would they know that these are the only two things that will help? Doesn't this encourage Christians NOT to get help in ways other than their scripture reading and prayer?

    From a Christian viewpoint, I feel like when things like this become public--that almost half of this type of Christian--truly believes that medicine, professional help, and anything else is not how one can treat a mental illness, turns people away who might be interested in seeking God. It just paints an even broader picture of closed-minded Christians that people with any type of mental illness cannot relate to easily. If I wasn't a Christian and I read these statistics, I would be seriously skeptical about why God would allow only the people who read scripture and prayed to God (both parts of the lifestyle of a Christian) to help their illness, while leaving everyone else by the wayside. So does this sub-type believe that those who aren't Christians just don't have a chance at all of being healthier since they are obviously not praying or reading scripture? And how would that make someone want to seek God, if this sub-type told them that the doctors God PROVIDED for them could never help them unless they followed this fundamentalist prescription?

    Stepping off my soapbox now. Sunny, I hope those iron pills are working and you are eating plenty of salmon and spinach for that iron. :)


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    1. Ha ha ha, well no need to step off the soap box, C! That's the whole point of this little blog!

      Yes, as a Christian, this makes me angry too. Honestly, I'm just so shocked at the statistics, that I kind of have a hard time believing it. I sure hope it's not very accurate.

      I do know a fellow Christian who struggles mightily with mental illness and has sought treatment, but this person is very torn about getting this treatment because other Christians have insinuated that it was not Biblical. So frustrating.

      I think you make a really good point too. It's really easy to make a judgment about how something *should* be treated, if you've never suffered with it yourself. I wouldn't wish OCD on ANYONE. But I sure resent someone who hasn't lived with it telling me that I just don't count on a God enough, and that's why I'm sick.

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    2. Count on God enough, NOT count on "a God enough"! Ha! Big difference there!

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  4. I'm a Christian and a strong supporter of psychiatric medication. And I'm pretty sure I read in a book somewhere that potentially, the bigger problem is under/nonmedication, not over medication. I mean, sure, probably some people take OTC medications too often. Probably sometimes doctors prescribe the wrong medication or a medication when none is needed. But how about all the people suffering who are afraid to go in for treatment?

    Actually, though, the fraction of "all American" believing prayer and Bible study can solve mental illness is pretty big, too.

    I think a secondary issue is the definition of mental illness. Because it is so hard to see and pin down, people misjudge it. Like when I was a teenager, and because I wasn't scrubbing the road with a toothbrush, I didn't have serious OCD (and yes, that is about what I was compared to and found different from). People who scrub the road with toothbrushes were permitted to take medication in the eyes of a certain person whose opinion was very influential in my life. But I was okay, because my issues to a large extent weren't visible. Even suicidal thinking is generally pretty invisible. A person could be barely hanging on inside while the world thinks they have it pretty well together. Then, if the world hears that they started taking medication for feeling "depressed" (because, really, who of us wants to tell the world how really terrible we feel, especially if we don't even trust ourselves to accurately know our issues, and if we don't want them worrying every other minute that we might hurt ourselves), they might think the doctors are handing out antidepressants carelessly.

    In other words, I agree with you. And with pretty strong feelings. :)

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    1. Oh, I was also completely shocked about the "rest of Americans" statistic. Really!? Wow! Like, just, wow.

      I think you summed up the problem of mental illness: so much of it is unseen! Someone with anxiety can be in complete and utter torment and no one around may even notice that anything is wrong. I had struggled with severe OCD for YEARS before Jim really understood the extent of it. One night he was shocked to learn that I had spent the entire evening (while we were watching a movie) just worrying and obsessing about stuff. Until that point, he did not understand that severe anxiety is pretty much a 24/7 thing. He just thought it came and went. He had no clue that it was something that tormented my every waking hour. And he lived with me, knew I had OCD, and I was in therapy at that point!

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    2. I also hope the "rest of Americans" statistic is wrong and someone just got sleepy and typed it into the computer incorrectly.

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    3. I am really hoping that the "rest of Americans" statistic accidentally got typed into the computer incorrectly because someone was falling asleep.

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  5. I agree with everything you say Sunny. I just don't get why there has to be any distinction between physical and mental illness.To me, an illness of the brain IS an illness of the body........aren't our brains part of our bodies?

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    1. Absolutely right Janet! And the thing is, from recent studies, it's really starting to look like mental illness is very much biologically based. So that being the case, it sure gets a lot harder to make the "spiritual failing" argument. Because we do not fully understand the complex organ that is our brain, it's that much more important to not make assumptions, cause we probably don't even know what we are talking about!

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  6. That's the stigma of mental illness...others believe we can "pull ourselves up by the bootstraps." If they don't suffer from it (lucky them!) they just don't "get" it. Not all people are like that, of course, but too many are.

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    1. So true, Jean, but because so many people like you are speaking out, I believe the stigma is less and less all the time. Imagine what those statistics must have been like 20 years ago! I shudder to think about it.

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