Friday, December 12, 2014

More Thoughts on Mental and Physical Illness

The post the other day on mental illness seemed to strike a nerve.  In addition to the comments on the post, I received quite a bit of feedback via phone, email, and private conversations.

Lots to think about and many directions one could go with this.

This is one thing I've concluded, and I don't think I'm alone in this:  I tend to overspiritualize my mental and emotional illnesses, and underspiritualize my physical disorders.

Here's a bit of reverse role-playing to make my point--

Imagine this conversation:
Me: I finally decided to go to a psychiatrist for my depression.  It's really been getting bad.
Solid faithful good-hearted Mennonite: Yeah, it was probably time.   Did he prescribe anything?
Me: Yes, I'm on Prozac.  I can tell a difference already.
SFG-HM: That's good.

Now imagine this:
Me: I finally went to the doctor about my asthma.  I've been coughing constantly.
SFG-HM: Oh. [long pause] You did? [another pause]  Well.....I hope that was wise.  Who did you go to?  Did someone you trust recommend her?  Is she a Christian?  Where did she go to school?  Is she a naturopath, D.O., or M.D.?  So many doctors nowadays are so schooled in humanistic philosophies that they can hardly tell truth from error even if they're Christians.  I don't know.  Why didn't you ask the ministry to pray for you first?  Did she put you on any medication?
Me: Yes, I'm on Advair.  I can tell a difference already.
SFG-HM: Oh my.  I don't know.  Are you sure you need it?  That stuff can really mess with you.  I think you need to really seek the Lord about unconfessed sin in your life, first of all.  I have a feeling you're jealous of Sadie Gingerich and how well she does with her blog compared to you.  And there might be a root of bitterness because the girl you wanted for Matt went and married someone else. And you haven't been coming to sewing circle.  You really need that fellowship, you know.  And you've been so busy, I have a feeling you haven't spent much time in the Word.  Maybe Emily can make breakfast for the family so you can read your Bible in the morning.  You really have to get to the heart of what this asthma is all about.
Me: Yes, well, I have been busy.  And you're probably right about the Advair.  But it IS nice to be able to sleep at night.
SFG-HM: I know people who have had a lot of success with ginger root and sphagnum moss for asthma.  You make a tea and drink it in the evening.  I'd be much more comfortable with that myself, rather than all these chemical things that you have no idea how they'll affect you in the long run and really, they just mask the real issues.  Asthma affects your breathing, and breathing affects every area of your life, you know.  So please just be really careful.

Ok, so I'm exaggerating for emphasis, although I've heard every one of those phrases in some form and so have you.

As I said, I do this as much as anyone--treating physical ailments like they're in a different plane than mental or emotional issues.  The truth is, you could make a good case for my asthma and Seasonal Affective Disorder being equally spiritual in origin, requiring an equally spiritual solution.  On the other hand, maybe they're both entirely physical in nature.  You could make a pretty good case for that, too.  Either way, I should seek help from the Lord first, lest I be like Asa in 2 Chronicles 20.
12 In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was afflicted with a disease in his feet. Though his disease was severe, even in his illness he did not seek help from the Lord, but only from the physicians. 13 Then in the forty-first year of his reign Asa died and rested with his ancestors.

I don't think it's fair to say that the Lord is more likely to heal through a family doctor than a psychiatrist.

I discussed this inconsistency with Emily today and she said, "Yes, but mental illness opens you up to Satan's lies more than anything else."


Such as: "Things will never get better," "Life is too painful to live," "You are all alone," and "What a complete failure you are."

But who of us hasn't heard those same messages in the depths of a long physical illness?

Surely mental issues have a logical physical component, and physical problems have a spiritual/emotional component as well.  Such as: the Christian worker who fell and broke her tailbone recently right at a time of severe spiritual oppression.  The lady I knew who had so much pain she required a complicated regimen of hot baths and therapy every day, and who was instantly cured when she found the son she had given up at birth.  And, a nurse told me, asthma has a definite emotional connection, especially with anger.

 Let's all be consistent, compassionate, and cautious.

Quote of the Day:
"This picture is me and my daughter.  She has my nose, but actually I don't have my nose any more."
--my SIL Loraine, who then explained that her features were altered by an accident and surgery.  If there was a spiritual component to this change, she didn't mention it.


  1. And I continue to say amen. :)

  2. I could not agree more with the reverse role conversation!!!

  3. Some social groups discourage healing hands because they fear usurpation of control. Even when that fear is not well founded.

  4. I cannot speak for others but I know what cured my asthma and bursitis. Asthma was so bad I about suffocated and I promise that is AWFUL. Bursitis pain under my shoulder blades so bad you could cry...

    It was the LORD Jesus...all I did was apply 1Peter 5:7. That is all and to God be the Glory!

    (BTW, tranquilizers was prescribed for asthma but it never cured it...steroids was given for bursitis.)

  5. Becca Martin12/13/2014 8:03 AM

    Thank-you, for your words of wisdom. I deal with major depression. Sometimes I think it is a spiritual problem.

  6. Can't you have both? Pray and read your Bible; and find a Christian doctor to treat the ailment too. I worked in an office with psychologists and psychiatrists and sometimes when new patients called for an appointment they would ask if there was a Christian doctor available.

  7. Thank you for writing about this. We are body, soul and spirit. We are not purely physical or spiritual beings. Spiritual, emotional and physical are all interconnected.