Archive for the ‘Religion: Adding Another Layer of Depression?’ Category

Religion: Adding Another Layer of Depression?   Leave a comment

This past weekend the world’s Christians celebrated Easter, or the resurrection of Christ from the dead.  Every September Jews fast for an entire day while they pray in synagogues from sun up to sundown so they can be inscribed in the book of life.  Last year some people were draining their bank accounts because after the impending rapture money and worldly possessions would be useless.  And all religions warn  if we do not accept god into our lives, we are going to experience some sort of awful discomfort upon death for all eternity.

I’m not here to comment on the validity of people’s beliefs.  I just want to comment on religion’s side effects.  And in my opinion, it causes depression and anxiety in many people with bipolar illness.  Depression if you are not living up to your religion’s expectations and anxiety if you are trying to but tangible things in your life are taking precedent; Like work, therapy, getting enough sleep, exercising, etc.  However if you’re lucky enough to be OCD, religion does provide a constant diet of repetition.

When someone is bipolar they need to keep a constant vigil making sure they balance the right medications in accordance with their sometimes unpredictable mood swings.  At the same time, they have to navigate interpersonal relationships, school, employment, family, friends, bills and all of the daily sagas life throws at them.  It’s delicate work.

Now tell this person in addition to everything else, they have to make it to confession, church, the synagogue or the carpet remnant facing east five times a day or they will be smote down where they stand and/or spend eternity in hell.  (To me eternity in hell is spending all day in Yum Kippur services with an empty stomach listening to my father hum the prayers to which he doesn’t know the words.)  If they believe it,  it’s another hundred pounds of weight dropped onto their already heavy bipolar bench press they have to find a way  to lift.  If they don’t believe it, they are treated to the guilt imposed on them by family and friends of faith labeling them “in need of saving.”  Just one more burden to bear for the already over-extended bipolar mind.

I don’t know if there is a solution.  As long as there is fear of the unknown, there will always be religion.  And some bipolar people will believe, and some won’t.  For those who believe, I urge you to not allow it to take precedent over your bipolar treatment.  Because, if you lose control of your illness, you will not be able to be of service to your religion.  And I don’t believe anyone’s god wants them to suffer physically or mentally.

If you are bipolar and a non-believer, remember that guilt is a feeling you create, not someone else.  People have a right to their beliefs and concerns for your soul.  But don’t take on the burden of someone else’s religion because you feel you should be religious.  Or, because it will keep the family peace.  Focus on yourself and your bipolar treatment regiment.  You are your own first priority.  Sitting in church with your family out of guilt isn’t going to replace missing the group therapy sessions you find so helpful. Or the workout routine that seems to really cut through your depression.  And you should be able to do these things without feeling like your are mortally wounding your family members.

Religious beliefs are a spiritual decision.   But how you deal with bipolar illness is a life and death decision.  You have the right to prioritize your life in order of urgency without penalty.   Then, whatever you religious beliefs, do good works on earth and random acts of kindness and you’re bound to end up in a good place.

Advertisements