Mental Illness and Spiritual Suffering

“Sitting on your shoulders is the most complicated object known in the universe.” This is the declaration of Dr. Michio Kaku, futurist and physicist as he marvels on the explosive advancements of research in neuroscience, “The human brain has 100 billion neurons, each neuron connected to 10 thousand other neurons.”

Your brain, a frontier of awe and mystery for top researchers is where you hope, think, dream, suffer, feel, communicate, believe, remember, love, forgive, pray, understand, trust, struggle, worship, relate and heal.

What happens when the most complicated organ in the body, let alone “in the known universe” becomes vulnerable like any other body part to illness and injury? It’s more common than many realize. 1 in 5 adults, approximately 43.7 million, experience a mental illness in a given year according to a 2012 survey by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Sadly, your suffering is likely magnified by stigma’s added weight of isolation, shame, guilt and humiliation caused by the fear and ignorance of others.

When a disturbance occurs in the brain, all aspects of life can become severely disrupted and strained including spiritual experience. During a major depression for example, you may experience crippling and absolute distance from your sense of a higher power and purpose. During periods of mania in bipolar disorder, you might have a convincing experience of being God. During an episode of schizophrenia, you might experience hallucinations and delusions that borrow from and contort your spiritual experience into bizarre and strange notions. You might be wrestling with painful feelings because your faith community and source of spiritual support may struggle to know how to support you.

If you are struggling, please know that you don’t have to struggle alone. Our chaplains are on your team and available to listen without judgment respecting your unique spiritual journey whether you consider yourself religious or not. There is hope. Your Chaplain may also be a source of ideas and resources that support what you value spiritually and help in recovery and your treatment goals.