MENTAL ILLNESS – NO TABOO, ONLY LOVE
“God doesn’t want you to live like this. He wants to heal you.” uttered the priest as I walked out of a therapy session one day.
The news of being diagnosed with a mental illness in 2021 has been both daunting and freeing. For one, I finally found an answer to the many questions that tormented me for years; questions that created ripples and resulted in deep seated wounds in my personal and spiritual life. These sessions with the therapist were eye opening, allowing me to freely unpack the baggage I had been carrying for a long time. I felt the weight lifted off and found assurance that I was on my journey towards healing, not just of body but also of heart and mind.
After a round of medications, my health improved. I was calmer and was able to think clearly. I was able to see. It was here that I encountered Christ. I experienced Jesus’ healing touch through medications and therapy. I saw the Lord work through science. I found Him in people who came forward to help. I discovered Him in the mundane ordinariness of my day and through simple moments in prayer.
As I pursued Jesus, I felt my chains break lose even as I discovered a God who wasn’t just Healer of my physical ailments, but One who desired to heal my mind too.
Christ’s healing went beyond superficial boundaries and ran deep into my interior. “Mental illness” something I was afraid of and hid from, became something that I could carry to the altar, without fear and without taboo.
No More Taboos
Do you know that according to the Lancet Journal, in 2017, 197·3 million people suffered mental disorders in India? If that were not enough, some 45·7 million suffered depressive disorders and the numbers are rising every year. Living in a traditional cultural society like India, it is quite common for something like mental illness to get a lot of attention but not always for the right reasons. Traditional homes keep things secret and our patriarchal societies pose incredible barriers for women to seek help.
On the other hand, due to some childhood experiences, I had challenges with faith too. I viewed religion as a rule book and my fear did not allow me to see the merciful side of Christ. Just like the culture that offered no respite, I struggled to comprehend Jesus’ compassion towards me. Would Jesus accept someone like me? Could he use someone like me?
My journey to freedom took a lot of unlearning and relearning. But between that empty space of living with mental illness and finding freedom in Christ, something remarkable happened. I discovered the beauty and mystery of the Catholic Church. I read about the suffering church and discovered a church suffering just like me, a church on its journey towards sanctity and grace, just like mine. As I continued to pursue truth, the goodness, beauty and mystery of faith unfolded in rich ways. My physical mind may have been challenged but my spiritual mind was awakened. I could taste Christ’ love, richer than wine, coming with open arms to welcome me. I was beautiful, just the way I am. No more taboos – only Love.
Jesus was inviting me into a relationship with him and He was okay with my baby steps.
There were no conditions or boundaries. I focused my time on prayer and soaking in the Presence of Jesus. I began looking at the Word as Christ’s love letter to me. I invested in friendships that allowed me to see the light of Christ. With small but firm steps, I surrendered my mind to Jesus and resolved to follow Him, no matter the cost. I was determined to live for Him, determined for my life to be based on the foundation of His love.
The Joy Of Sisterhood
While on my own course of healing, I came across a Catholic women community hosted by Michelle Karen D’Silva. This sisterhood was a safe haven and an antidote to my pain. These women, from different walks of life showed me the beauty of living as a disciple of Christ. They allowed me to be vulnerable yet strong and their encouraging words reflected the warm embrace of the Father. I am indebted to this sisterhood in so many ways. Though we’ve not met each other physically, our virtual interactions seal the work of Christ. We laugh, we cry, and we build each other. There is Joy!
Dear reader, if you or a loved one is struggling with any kind of mental illness at this time, I would like to remind you that your struggles are seen and they are important to God.
Nothing is taboo to God. He is still your healer and He can use anything – even a weak mind and weary heart to bring forth power and change.
For all times you feel hopeless, trust that Jesus does not leave the desolate. His grace is sufficient and in His Presence there is no shame, no taboo, only Love.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alinka Dias hails from Mumbai, India. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Media and Journalism and loves pouring her heart out through poetry. She enjoys baking, especially if it means treating herself to a batch of chocolate brownies. Standing just under 5 feet and being the youngest of all her cousins, Alinka relates closely with the ‘Little Flower’ aka St Therese de Lisieux, who inspires her to pursue God in her own ‘little’ ways. Connect with her on Instagram @poetic.praise