Category: Mental Health and the Church

Indiscretion, Comfort and Strength

“The Lord comforts the afflicted and strengthens those in trouble.” – Psalms (paraphrased).

It has become increasingly difficult for me to perform my work here on Heart of Flesh. The Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ should be a source of comfort and joy to all who trust in Him. If there be no comfort or consolation then we should be seeking to address that according to Biblical principles. (see St. Paul’s writings to, I believe, the Romans of ancient times.)

I have been severely indiscrete in my words, especially online, and I have made confession of this to the churches. Many have been harmed by my words, behaviours and discussions. Yet I truly believe, in Christ, that many have been comforted, though I myself am now lacking in many respects. (Often I have come to resent that, yet joy returns and now, increasingly, peace, and the love of the Spirit is growing again within me.)

Music and Magic

Many in the world now place a lot of trust in music. Music is, indeed, beautiful if used correctly. It can calm, comfort and bring relief from pain, especially the emotional sort we see in mental health problems. Yet it can also cause untold harm.

Some, such as a few from my own family and neighbourhood, have suffered enormously from loud music of an abhorrent nature. Yet those days are long past, though my connection with the distressed (both mentally, emotionally and physically) means both they and I feel great pain when the wrong music, substances or spiritualities are mixed.

A confusion can arise when words are misinterpreted. For example, in the Book of Revelation, St. John writes about repenting of “sorcery” (KJV) or “magic” (NIV). I will make little further comment on that here (that is a teaching for elsewhere) but suffice to say that these practices can cause intense hardship for many, especially the vulnerable. (And I myself have had very recent experiences of both.) Music and ungodly spiritualities, as well as violence and substance misuse, all play a part in magic and/or sorcery.

Repentance and the Church

The Church contains secrets. “The secret of the LORD belongs to the LORD.”

Not all are willing or able to be a full part of church life. I know some (very few, though) who struggle at church due to demonic possession, whether presently or in the past. As I have stated repeatedly and verbally, I know those I love in both the church, the World and amongst the mentally ill community. (And I say sorry here to those I have been unable to in person regarding any harms, temporary or permanent, caused by me.)

Many who suffer from mental illness do so due to mental turmoil (often treatable through such practices as mindfulness, meditation or medication, not all of which I agree with) yet some do, indeed, suffer from demonic possession. Thankfully, according to my belief and the belief of many others (in my experience), we are in a time of great healing.

Yet it remains true that the words of Jesus Christ the Righteous Messiah are constant, and He states that “None come to the Father except by Me.” [God is present in Three Persons; Father, Son and Holy Spirit, an Eternal Co-Existence of the Godhead, with Jesus being the fullness of the Godhead in bodily form.]

Moya Brennan and Enya, formerly of Clannad. The theme of Robin of Sherwood, a favourite TV programme of mine own.

Healing and Salvation

The word of God is vital. Yet many now confuse matters by conflating healing with the good news (Gospel) of Jesus Christ. Healing comes through Jesus Christ if it be true. Medications (such as cannabis, properly prepared, valerian, taken correctly, and certain other herbal medicines) can help, as can many spiritual practices.

Others, however, are harmful. I myself have made my repentances and keep to that which I need. Others also have their coping mechanisms. The Truth of God’s Word, the Bible, must endure, yet I personally believe that many should be allowed their own ways of coping.

Demonic Possession and Healing

There are two primary methods of healing (apart from the Teaching of the Word) in the Church: the laying on of hands (corrupted in the past into “faith healing”, an erroneous and dangerous practice carried out by spiritualists) to heal physical ailments, and the casting out of demons. I am untrained and little gifted in either, yet I have practiced “deliverance ministry” to varying degrees of success.”

May the Lord of all Creation; Father, Son and Holy Ghost, bless you and keep you this Day. – Mark H. (of a Heart of Flesh in Truth.)

Warning: Message For US Residents Only

Dear fellow mental health sufferers who dwell in the US, especially those remaining in California.

Please do read my blog but first this warning to you.

According to the ancient wisdom of the Bible where there is bitter envy and strife there is confusion and ever evil work. It also states in the Bible that Jesus Christ cast our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.

The flat earth theory, whether true or not, teaches that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. London and very near to my own residence, along with my current place of both retreat and forbidden work, lies upon or near to the Greenwich Meridian.

I have read yesterdays newspaper reports about the rise of anxiety in Britain of those who are young and use social media. Britain uses a mix of communication methods, many Old World, Some New World (increasingly) whilst those who trust in nature resort to the Eastern philosophies and meditations. These cannot be mixed without dangerous side-effects.

Prescription medications almost invariably mix the two (east and west) through synthesising. This may or may not be safe (see previous testimonies) yet to outlaw and persecute a person for their beliefs and spirituality causes great harm.

The Bible is clear: salvation belongs to Christ alone. It cannot be bought (e.g. through sale of adulterated coffee to young teenagers in the UK) or sold (e.g. through purchasing of additives to tobacco from the east.)

Every person needs comforts and strengths. Blesséd are those who rely solely upon the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God, through the gist of the Father through the sacrifice of the Son. (The Blesséd Trinity.)

Few, if any, of the mentally unwell can so access such refuge in times such as these, however. That is why I am working after a very stressful night of writing poems, making notes and stealing a little water and the available, yet to me harmful, milk.

I have made promises to return to my earthly home before the weekend yet due to the nature of my host on this short spiritual retreat promises have been made for my return earlier (note, please, that I speak in terms of a fleshly journey by car, not an appearing in heaven).

I have used forbidden knowledge, as my initial testimony shared with a psychiatric nurse confirms, to gain insight into the causes of this dangerous “healing.”

(I saw the TV yesterday. I know who is editing their speeches. I know who is protecting me. I know those who will have access to this message will in some way benefit.)

REPORT OF MY REVELATION, for the benefit of the mentally unwell who dwell in the US. The NHS is a blessed institution and private healthcare damages and destroys those who love life more than money and possessions.

Spiritual Attack or Godly Discipline?

Image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/sea-sailing-vessel-ocean-sunset-1101168/

The Apostle Paul speaks in his letters about coming under spiritual attack. He speaks in Ephesians about taking on the whole armour of God: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the helmet of salvation, the feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith and the sword of the spirit. (ref: Ephesians 6:13-17)

Sometimes our trials and tribulations come from this. And yes, we should do battle, not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual wickedness. At other times our distresses come from a discipline for our own sins or weaknesses which need correction, as the Apostle Peter relates in one of his own letters. (I was told on the journey back from evening fellowship/teaching/prayer that this is likely 2 Peter.)

How do we discern between the two? I suspect that the truth is that they both run alongside each other. Every rod of discipline can be taken too far and received beyond its intended measure. This is an attack from the enemy. Not from people – though the wicked shall love to persecute the believers, especially those who are weak and isolated.

If at all possible seek fellowship at these times. Face to face is by far best, though sometimes a phone call or text is sufficient. If worst comes to worst then online communication is still a recourse of action for those with internet access.

Seek out the brethren, seek God in prayer, however faltering your own prayer life may be, seek to read Scripture, even if you are far from an expert in theological matter and Bible study. It can be quite astounding where help coms from if we prayerfully wait for it and remember the words of Jesus and the saints, especially the words of the Apostles recorded in the New Testament.

(Written on the afternoon of the First Sunday of February, edited during the night the first day and the second day.)

Misty Moon

[This is the first of the Misty stories. Come on children, let’s make this a team effort!]

Misty was a silly cat, really. Never the mind, as Orinoco would say, we love him, for he lives with the Berry’s now. Everyone agreed, apart from Smokie. Well, Smokie, otherwise known as Great Uncle Bulgaria, often disagreed when people didn’t agree with him.

Smokie accused people, but this isn’t a story about Smokie. This is about Misty and Orinoco on a particular date. (I know, Fern, one of the treatment centre cats, often said silly things in front of children. “For their own good!” Big Nanny would say. But Greenfeather would shake his head and sit under Fern.

Well, Orinoco knew better, for he had spent the night with Misty and said with a giggle, “Sick people need treatments, what we need is a good roast dinner!” Everyone agreed. Agreed is good, but a greed is not. The Fruit Bat had told him that one, one night when they had prayed in the bedroom together with Smokie’s stuff whilst Elfin played around with the apple.

Misty had seen it all, except for the Sea of Love, which was the beginnings of The Mission. That night she was busy with the Fruit Bat as well.

Greenfeather always provided, even for himself. You see, Greenfeather was a good elf.

“He’s not a good elf!” said Smokie as he was burning the oven. And quite right he was, too.

“Let us forgive and forget!” said Elfin, but Orinoco and Misty couldn’t forget, for they had had guilty pleasures. “And a good job they did!” was Greenfeather’s response, but it was the first time any of them had seen Big Nanny cry.

“It’s okay, Nanny, I love you,” said Elfin.

“I love you too, very much!” said Big Nanny, and they all gave three big Hurrah’s to the Wise Men.

Demons – Identification and Casting Out

The matter of demonic possession of persons is a dangerous topic. Even the mentioning of the possibility that someone is demon possessed can bring about judgementalism and condemnation from Christians and non-Christians alike. On the other hand, some parts of the Church revel in their “demon bashing parties” where they verbally and sometimes, though rarely in the UK, physically beat up the suffering and afflicted person so suspected of being possessed. Both approaches are grave errors.

Image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/winter-coach-castle-cold-surreal-589600/

As previously stated, the mentally ill should be treated with compassion where at all possible. In addition, the Orthodox Church – the church branch most experienced and successful in treating the mentally unstable – suggest an extremely gentle approach when it comes to the casting out of demons.

The denial of demonic possession at all is in direct contradiction of the vast majority of the Four Gospels. Those who say demon possession doesn’t exist; that it’s merely a chemical imbalance or a physical disease, are in direct contradiction to the teachings and deeds of Jesus the Messiah.

Identification of Demonic Possession

Discerning if someone is possessed by a demon is fraught with danger. A mistaken identification can cause untold harm to the sufferer of some other condition, even to the destruction of their faith or of a church. 

A non-Christian, or a Christian with their own unresolved issues, might end up being badly beaten or even killed by the demon, which the legal system would them blame on the demon possessed victim rather than dark spiritual forces. Again, untold harm.

The primary thing to bear in mind is that spiritual matters are spiritually discerned. It is this same reason why some think the Bible is full of contradictions: the fleshly mind cannot comprehend the spiritual.

I can, however, point to some signs which may well indicate demonic possession rather than a physical cause or a more benign form of mental illness.

“Illuminati signs” from a person, if they clearly appear to be involuntary, are telling. Such signs are the “devils horns” (the two outside fingers raised with the two middle fingers folded.) The “AOK” or the “6” sign can also be telling if involuntary. The “pyramid” sign also is another as it indicates allegiance to the Evil Eye. 

Other manifestations may be guttural or childish voices (the “Simple” which some mental health professionals actually encourage vulnerable people to connect with!) especially if intermittent; twitches; rolling of the head, especially rolling the head to look with an evil eye and then rolling away again. 

All of these may indicate demonic possession. Certainty, however, can come form only two methods of which I am aware.

  • The Use of the Gift of Discerning of Spirits – A rare spiritual gift these days. Speaking in tongues and prophecy are well known, but the discerning of spirits often goes under the radar even of charismatic churches and is thus not encouraged nowadays, despite its great benefits to church and society.
  • The Testing of the Spirits – Simple tests. Ask the spirit who its Lord is. Ask it where it comes from. Ask it to say “Jesus is Lord.” This must be done with care. Remember, Satan is a deceiver. He is an expert at it and he can make you think he is a sheep when he is a wolf and he can make you think he is calling Jesus Lord when he is really denying him.

Gentleness in Deliverance

Compassion. That is our watchword. Another is gentleness. That is key to driving out demons because we are not only talking to a demon but talking to a suffering person at the same time or, more commonly, we are talking to a demon one moment and a suffering person the next, and then we are talking to a demon again, and so on.

I quoted from Mother Melania in my previous post. Here I quote again:

“The Fathers in general pitied the mentally ill and possessed – and even at times admired them. St. Augustine speaks of the compassion of those who minister to “those whom they greatly love as if they were their children, or some very dear friends in sickness, or little children, or insane persons, at whose hands they often endure many things; and if their welfare demand it, they even show themselves ready to endure more …” (St. Augustine, 1980, p. 25). St. John Chrysostom says, “Physicians, when they are kicked, and shamefully handled by the insane, then most of all pity them, and take measures for their perfect cure, knowing that the insult comes of the extremity of their disease …. If we see persons possessed by devils, we weep for them; we do not seek to be ourselves also possessed” (St. John Chrysostom, 1978, p. 127).

“Chrysostom admires at least some of the possessed because “the demon makes men humble. … Great is the admiration it calls for, and many the praises, when struggling against such a spirit, they bear all thankfully …” (St. John Chrysostom, 1979a, p. 254).

“The Orthodox prayers of exorcism are remarkably gentle towards the possessed person. The prayers are directed to God, or they sternly command the demons; there are no harsh words for the demoniac. In one place, they even refer to the possessed as the Theotokos’s “faithful servant” (St. Tikhon’s Monastery 1999, p. 17).

“This is not to say that all the mentally ill were admirable. In various cases, the godless and the persecutors of the righteous became mentally ill as a result of their evil deeds. However, at least a few of them benefited from their mental illness. Nebuchadnezzar lost his mind because of his pride, but was restored to his senses and gave thanks to God. King Tiridates of Armenia became mentally ill as a result of persecuting martyrs, but later repented and became a saint (commemorated on November 29). In many other stories, though, the persecutors who became mentally ill never showed any repentance. In looking at these stories, though, we have to remember that they are from the “Lives” of saints; the writers were extolling the saints, not talking about mental illness.

“In short, the Fathers did not generally look on the mentally ill and possessed as the worst of sinners, but rather with compassion. At least some of these people seem to have developed great humility and thankfulness to God through their afflictions, and they are to be admired.”

Each case shall be unique. Every person is unique; every demon is a particular case. No single approach will work in every instance. In order to perform deliverance ministry one must be extremely in-tune with the Holy Spirit. Even the Twelve Apostles, all in unison, were unable to deliver one person from a demon and had to wait until Jesus came down from the mountain to do the work, for in that instance, “this kind comes out only through prayer and fasting.” 

Every instance will be a unique spiritual battle where compassion and gentleness are paramount. Few are those who are so equipped to do this in this present day. And if you attempt it blindly or foolishly you may destroy a person’s soul, his body, the church, yourself or those around you. Be warned!

Mental Health And The Church

[This is a post which orginally appeared as a two-part post on the blog A New Name run by Emma Scrivener. It is by a dear Christian lady named Sharon Hastings who trained as a doctor before developing schizoaffective disorder. She lives in Northern Ireland. I am presenting it here with the permission of both Emma and Sharon, along with my comment on her second part. I am not presenting it in all its fullness but rather the majority of part one plus the entirety of part two. I am missing out the definitions of the severe mental illnesses as I disagree with these labels, these boxes psychiatrists place us in. The originals can be seen here: Part One  Part Two]

Mental Health and the Church
“On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honourable we treat with special honour.”

Severe Mental Illness and the Church – Part One – Sarah’s Story

“But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.” 

1 Corinthians 12:18

Sarah is sitting alone in a back corner of the sanctuary. The service is over but she hasn’t gone for coffee. She’s wearing her sweater with the hood up over her head and she is covering her ears with her hands. Sarah is hearing voices. A scratchy whisper is repeating over and over again; “We’re going to get you. We’re going to get you…” She is also afraid to go home. She’s convinced that her living room has been bugged by secret police who know that she is going to commit a crime.

What is wrong with Sarah, and how would you help her?

The chances are that you’ve no idea. Maybe you haven’t encountered someone with this kind of problem before – Sarah has schizophrenia – and the idea of getting involved is actually a bit scary. Didn’t a paranoid schizophrenic commit that murder that was in the news last week?

Sadly, severe mental illness is rarely spoken of in our churches. We are quite comfortable talking about depression and anxiety, and – increasingly – about eating disorders and self-harm, and this is great. But I know that I have never heard a sermon which mentioned bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder. These are sometimes known as the ‘severe and enduring’ mental illnesses: they have a life-changing and lifelong effect on people who suffer from them, and they are more common than you might think – a congregation of 200 members will, on average, have four to five people in it who have one of these diagnoses…people like Sarah, people like me.

Severe Mental Illness and the Church – Part Two – The Vital Place of Those with Severe Mental Health Issues Within the Church

When Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, he referred to it as the ‘body of Christ’, which had ‘many parts’ (1 Corinthians 12:27,12). He emphasised that every part – or person – in the church body was important:

“On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honourable we treat with special honour.”

1 Corinthians 12:22-23

This means a lot to me. I have schizoaffective disorder – I am ‘weaker’, and schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are often stigmatised conditions – ‘less honourable’ in some people’s eyes, but Paul tells me that I am ‘indispensable’ in the church and have ‘special honour’.

Yet church can be hard and at times I feel far from indispensable and honoured.

I can be forgotten: I have spells in hospital when I am too ill to go to church for months. My behaviour at church can be a little strange: I may be over-excitable if I manic, I leave meetings early when I am feeling paranoid, and I withdraw from people if I am overwhelmed by depression. And I do feel stigmatised. It’s hard to tell someone that I have schizoaffective disorder. After all, people have commonly heard news stories about psychotic individuals who have committed crimes. This is understandably frightening, but people with psychosis are actually much more likely to be victims of crime than to be responsible for it.

I believe that I have found an important role in my church, however. I have seen that my openness about my condition and my testimony of God-inspired hope in the midst of severe mental illness has begun to help reduce stigma. It is my prayer that this will make a difference for others who also suffer.

So what about Sarah – how can you help?

Today, Sarah is clearly frightened and acutely unwell. She is suffering from hallucinations and delusions and is in need of professional support. Approach her calmly and gently, ask her if she is okay and what she is experiencing, and find out if she has someone to contact in an emergency. On a Sunday, this is likely to be her GP Out of Hours Service. Offer to help her to get in touch.

This will be easier if you already know Sarah. She is probably usually not so obvious, but – although her hood may be down – she is still likely to be on the margins of church life. Try to be aware of those who have severe mental illness in your congregation (remember that there might be five or six if you have 200 people) and reach out to them when they are not in crisis. Let them tell their stories and help them to stay involved in church activities, for example, by sitting with them or giving a lift to an event.

Pray for Sarah. Be careful if you are praying with her. Using ‘spiritual’ language such as asking God for ‘deliverance’ or to help overcome this ‘stronghold’ in her life may feed into her delusions and make her feel like she is demon-possessed rather than a sick and hurting daughter of the King. Keep it simple and she will appreciate your sensitivity.

Look after her carers. You may know Sarah’s family or other close connections. At a time of crisis like this – when Sarah may well have to be admitted to hospital – they will be feeling the strain. If you can offer a hot meal or to walk their dogs, it will mean a lot. Pray for them too.

Stay in touch during the week. If Sarah is in hospital, her days will be long, and a short visit will break the monotony and remind her that she is loved. If she is at home, she might have visiting nurses, but Christian fellowship is still important, and she will probably be glad to see a familiar face. Perhaps you could share a scripture you have found helpful when you’ve been struggling too (we all have in some way!) – perhaps a lament from Job or David (“How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?” Psalm 13:2), or encouragement to think of ‘what is noble…right…pure…(and) lovely,’ from Paul (Philippians 8:8).

Learn about mental illness. You are doing this right now! Armed with some understanding, you will be better equipped to help when things get difficult for Sarah or others. For example, the Royal College of Psychiatrists (UK) has excellent online resources to inform you.

When you know more about illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, you can help to dispel the stigma. Share your knowledge with others and suggest that your pastor or minister runs a special service close to World Mental Health Day (10th October).

If one part is honoured, we all rejoice.

Paul tells us that, “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it.” (1 Corinthian 12:26)

Thank you for reading this blog and showing that you care about people like Sarah. I hope that you feel enabled to go forward in your journey towards helping those who suffer from severe mental illness. By encouraging them as they grow in Christ, you can foster their unique gifts in ministering to others. I know that I am indebted to those who have done this for me, and that my church body now rejoices in my good times.

An “Insane” Man’s Comment

[This is the comment I made on the second part of Sharon’s post as it appeared on A New Name.]

Dear Sharon,

As a fellow “freak,” as a fellow “weirdo,” I want to address this comment to the hero of your post and I hope that you may pass on my thoughts as appropriate.

Sarah,

Thank you! The stigma surrounding severe mental health issues remains huge and is, sadly, prevalent far beyond its proper measure in the church. The only way this stigma can be broken is through people like you – the “highly honoured” and “indispensable” members of the Body.

Thank you for presenting from a Christian perspective the story of Vincent Van Gogh, of Joan of Arc, of Nostramdamus, of King James I of England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and France, of Rasputin and so so many more.

Although I differ greatly in my views on the role of health professionals I do agree so much with the approach outlined here that the Church should take. Can anyone who has not experienced schizophrenia, bipolar or schizoaffective disorder understand? No. People can try. They can sympathise. They can care, they can support and most of all they can love. But truly understand? No. How can you explain to someone that you are currently battling the host of demonic forces in your bedroom so cannot spare the time for dinner tonight? How can you explain that Jesus has just spoken to you and that you must spend the night on a hilltop to see if He will come back tonight and then go back to your family for breakfast as you try to figure out why He didn’t come when you thought He had told you that he was at the door?

I have just, this past week, been discharged from a brief stay at the local nuthouse. I was taken from the streets shortly after nightfall and bundled into the back of an unmarked police car. I was taken to the hospital and kept in a secluded room with no clear windows, no visitors and no means of contact with anyone except my captors. I was forced face down upon my bed and painfully injected with chemicals at least twice. I think I was in that seclusion for two days, though I am unsure, and then I was transferred to a proper psychiatric ward.

Speaking with nurses during my “calming down” phase I was informed that I was the most unwell patient in that seclusion room that they had ever come across. That was two weeks ago. During my week and a half in hospital the doctors, nurses and myself discussed my treatment and medication on a mutual respect basis. I made it clear that I would not be treated any other way and after 25 years of diagnosed mental disorders and extensive research I have a very good understanding of the treatments, medications and laws applicable to mental health patients.

I am now on 7.5mg daily of Olanzapine. (Prior to my admittance to hospital I had come off completely, and prior to my weaning off the medication I was on 20mg daily of escitalopram and 17.5mg daily of Olanzapine. I have now returned to a semblance of sanity.) I regard that brief stay in the DOP as a necessary “rebalancing” which has enabled me once more to survive in the world, feed myself and care for those around me. But what is sanity?

Was Peter sane when, as he was told by the Way, the Truth and the Life that he would deny the Son of God his response was that though everyone else may deny Him he would never do so! And then some 24 hours later denied Him three times and then went outside to sob uncontrollably and inconsolably!

Those with serious mental illness are gifted. Gifted beyond measure of understanding by others. An Orthodox friend of mine told me that I had been blessed with a curse and said that “the words ‘blessing’ and ‘curse’ are actually insufficient in these situations.” Yes, we feel such pain, sometimes torment. And yes, often, too often, we end up bringing others into our circle of pain. Yet we also have an insight, a gift, which the Church ignores at its peril.

Thank you, Sarah! Thank you! And thank you, Sharon, for bringing Sarah’s story to my eyes and heart.