Mental Illness, My Dad and Sin

EPISODE – The most personal episode so far. My family talks about my Dad’s mental illness.
To kick things off, we listen in as my Dad rants at police officers who have come to take him to the hospital.
** Audio of my Dad taken in his front yard early one morning **
My sister’s kids are almost as noisy as their mother…
My brother makes an important point that Dad is not under the influence of drugs or alcohol. There are no chemical substances in his body.
Bonnie doesn’t remember as many specifics about Dad as the rest of us because she was pretty little.  She does remember Dad’s idea that the kids should buy their own groceries.
Dad has never liked being wrong. He’s always thought he was smarter than everyone else too.
** Audio of my Dad admitting that he is ‘The Lord’ **
Over the years my faith in psychology and psychotherapy has disappeared. I think mental illness is a spiritual problem.
Mom suggests that we perform an exorcism. (I don’t know how to do those…maybe there’s a tutorial on YouTube?)
David says demons aren’t the whole problem.
Darkness and depravity are things Christians talk about a lot without thinking about what they might look like when we actually see them.
Mom talks about stuff that Dad did when he was younger. (She sort of says that science made him crazy but that’s not what she meant so I let it slide.)
Lucid dreaming, bending spoons and other weird stuff.
Sometimes mental illness excuses bad behavior.
Bonnie kills a fly and almost knocks out the lights.
We ponder the question, “How do we know when we’re ‘normal’?”
…and we don’t ever answer it.
Bonnie discovers that she is out of Zebra cakes. We’re shocked.
We get nervous whenever anyone suggests that they completely understand the will of the Lord.
Bonnie makes no carb pizza.  Maybe because there are no Zebra cakes…?
Personal preferences thankfully, don’t define Christianity. Bonnie accuses my Turbo of open hostility toward guitar players. We know that’s not true but we pretend we don’t.
We end up the podcast with our favorite stories of Dad’s crazy exploits.

Check out this episode!

6 thoughts on “Mental Illness, My Dad and Sin

  1. Very interesting post. I don’t know whether this is something you should have shared or not. Mental illness is still something that baffles and frightens people. With respect to mental illness, we still don’t separate superstition and science well.

    I am certainly not an expert. Just seen someone suffering with this sort of problem. Whether demon possession occurs I don’t know. Well, the Bible says it does, but what that means for us I don’t know. I do believe mental illness is real. I have seen it, and I have seen properly administered drugs help a mentally ill person. Since that person was a follower of Christ, I am certain they were not demon possessed, but that maniac high is scary.

    Our bodies have chemical reactions going on in them, that includes chemical reactions that support our mental processes. When someone takes psychoactive drugs or alcohol, we can easily see evidence of that.

    Because we are fallen, the chemical processes that support our mental processes don’t always work well. When the chemical processes that support our mental processes don’t work the way they are supposed to work, we become mentally ill.

    Can we fix mental illness? Sometimes. One headache is that we have trouble diagnosing mental illness correctly. We also don’t know much about how the drugs we administer work. In addition, even if the chemical processes that support our mental processes are working well, we can behave irrationally. Therefore, a mentally ill person can be treated for mental illness and still not benefit much. Even if a mentally ill person is diagnosed correctly and given a drug that might other otherwise work, they may lack the spiritual strength to live well. Here is a simple example. Sometimes, because they enjoy the maniac high, mentally ill people are not rational enough to understand the danger. So they refuse to take drugs that might otherwise help them.

    Anyway, I can sympathize with your desire to understand the problem you father has, but I would be careful about judging him. Only God has the capacity to do it. We cannot judge souls. We cannot read minds. We don’t understand mental illness well enough to separate sin from mental illness. As your own doubts indicated, we only know enough to speculate.

    • mrsmcmommy says:

      Thanks for the honest critique, CT.

      It’s hard–because the things we’re saying about “Mental Illness” NOW are precisely the same things that were said about “Demon Possession” back THEN. There have been some term changes, but I’m not convinced there’s much progress. I know many people who’ve been helped by chemical-balancing drugs also, including myself for brief periods at a time…but I have no doubt there are people who have found relief with holy water and an exorcism, too. So…at the end of the day, I’m not sure what we’ve gained, now that the socially-acceptable terminology is “chemical imbalance” rather than “an evil spirit.” They both refer to the same erratic behavior, and both seem to be treated with the same level of effectiveness (or ineffectiveness). I was on a website for exorcisms earlier today, and the disclaimer looked exactly like every bottle of prescription medicine: “It may take a few weeks to notice the effects…you may need a combination of several treatments…in rare cases, some evil spirits CAN’T be removed…” etc. etc. Americans with mental illnesses are very familiar with that warning!

      Anyway, I found a New York Times article a few months ago that barely made a splash. But I think it’s important for the overall, cultural conversation about mental illness: In a nutshell, American assumptions about mental illness actually shape the way we experience our symptoms. And now, Western influence is changing the way people in other countries experience their mental illnesses. It’s fascinating.

      As you’ve said, we live in a fallen world where sometimes the body fails. Various types of mental illnesses are well documented throughout history. But it’s important to note that cultures where mental illnesses are still heavily tied to spiritualism have BETTER patient outcomes than here in the U.S., where we’re only really comfortable treating the brain.

  2. Will have to study that link. Thanks.

    Getting ready to head off on today’s errands, but I thought you might be amused by this.

    To the folks at Scientific American, hatred is a neurological response that they can study. Can you imagine why “professionals” feel driven to drug us to control our emotions? Why they overdo it.

    Of course I don’t have answer. We are spiritual beings housed in imperfect physical bodies, and we have to maintain those bodies as best we can. Unfortunately, we don’t understand ourselves. Sometimes we have to take medicines to soothe sufferings of failing bodies because we don’t know what else to do.

    When the Bible was written, wine was just about the only drug the ancients had that affected the mind. For the most part, the Bible warns about its abuse. Still there are verses buried in there that advise wine for medicinal purposes (Timothy 5:23) and to soothe the sorrows of someone in great suffering (Proverbs 31:7).

    There is a middle ground where we should stand. I suppose prayer is the only way we have of finding it.

  3. Gene says:

    Hey there! This is the first episode I’ve gotten to listen to in a long time (I picked this one because it sounded quite interesting…it is!). Thank you for sharing this, it did take a lot of guts. I am praying for your dad…that the light would shine in the darkness, that he would believe and accept the real Lord Jesus, that HE would visit him in the recesses of his mind and soul where all the junk has accumulated, clean him out and fill him with Holy Spirit so that there’s not any place for the junkyard dogs to rest and they have to get out… in Jesus’ name. So, I don’t know you or your family personally, but I deeply care about you guys. I hope to meet your dad in heaven one day.

    Some of these stories are incredible…Wow!

    Thanks again. It brought new perspective to some of the experiences in my own family that I’ve often pondered.

  4. Jeff Lane says:

    This was a very interesting podcast and not to get to deep into the mental illness/possession debate but I found it interesting that even before that was mentioned on the podcast I was thinking about Jesus’ interaction with possessed man of the Gadarenes. The description seemed familiar to an extent and I would pray one day he would be similar in that the crowd found him dressed and seated in his right mind. I do appreciate the courage to share such a personal story.

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