Cloudy with a chance of mental illness

January 25, 2010 at 1:31 pm (general life, Mental illness)

On Sunday I had a religious experience. It was very strange and happiness-inducing and rather awkward to fit into the middle of life’s usual mundanity. It’s frightening how much God means to me, while also being reassuring (partly because God is the only possible constant in life, and partly because much of my self-identity is tied to Him).

It’s creepy because. . . because I felt (and still feel) so darn happy. I’ve got nowhere much to go but down. (So you see my sunny optimism lasted the experience.) I’m also aware the happiness is a side effect of seeing God (however briefly – fear is another common side effect, but that’s a topic for another day). It’s not the main effect. So am I really completely changed? Or is this as real as a change in meds? And am I going to crash and burn? How badly?

I spent two years searching for God at about the same time as I hit puberty (my family is Christian, but I realised quite clearly that if I was going to be Christian, I needed to meet God for myself). Those were by far the worst two years of my life, even though I was pretty sure I’d eventually find Him. Searching for God really highlights how horrible life is without at least the occasional glimpse of him. It’s much worse than unrequited love, and much worse than being mentally ill.

But when I was twelve, suddenly He was there, and He was obvious, and He’d been there all along. He was so OBVIOUS, and a lot of the time He still is (even if I hate his guts).

Those two years of pain are precious to me, because if God gets silent for long periods, I now know it’s not forever. But I still think of that age (I found Him at about twelve) as when I was at my spiritual best. I wanted to become a full-time aid worker to Indonesia, and nothing – really nothing; I thought boys were a foolish distraction from what really mattered – meant anything to me if it didn’t have anything to do with major world-changing God stuff.

For the last six months, I’ve been unable to read the Bible aloud or pray aloud or go to church, because I’ve been too angry at God. I’d just cry with rage every time. It was sort of okay; I knew it was an emotional place, not a real one, and that when I was able to see clearly God would be there and the relief would be exquisite.

I haven’t fundamentally changed since my days as a God-obsessed twelve-year old. While being concerned about not becoming one of those deeply irritating “Christian” types (you know exactly what I mean), I’m so pleased that God is still everything to me. Maybe that was the main point of Sunday’s experience. All the badness of the last few years happened without making a dent in who I am.

If I could internalise the concept that I’m everything to Him – then I’d REALLY be getting somewhere.


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