The intersection of supernatural beliefs and mental health has been a prickly topic for me in the past. When I first moved back to Alabama, I was given a book about how one particular deity could make me happy. It was given to me as a comfort, but it was given to me at a time when I was losing all faith and reliance upon my religion. While I understand the sentiment behind such comforts, they don’t help people who don’t share the same articles of faith or spirituality.
My problem is that sometimes people can get a little pushy when they recommend some kind of treatment plan or self-help. I’ve been told many times that my problem isn’t one of mental health; I need improved spirituality. It’s like people are picking and choosing when to believe me. They get that I might be mentally unstable, but they don’t believe me that my beliefs in the supernatural didn’t do me any favors. Somehow it’s my problem that they couldn’t follow me to my conclusions.
Are they right somehow?
At the outset, this is a broad question. Some people just believe in spirits or in human spirits or in nature spirits. Others believe in eternal spirits connected with religious worship or some belief in a deity. Personally, I just tried out the Lutheran strain of Christianity. Why should I write off any other form of spirituality?
My short answer (that isn’t depressing) is that mental discipline is part of my treatment plan. Over the past few years, I’ve been having to learn coping strategies to deal with depression and the invariable suicidal planning and urges that go along with it. Inherent in this process is some of the mental discipline I learned in law school. I have evidence that some spirituality will interfere with my well-being; I do not have any evidence that spirituality will actually help my well-being.
This distinction can sometimes get lost on people who might consider their brand of spirituality as helpful to others. What I generally try to point out here is that my situation and brain chemistry isn’t the same as anyone else’s. For reasons that are not known, I cannot force myself to adopt something and pretend it is going to just work for me.
The bigger issue here is whether anyone can impose their well-being onto others.
Just because someone believes something doesn’t make it true for everyone else. It’s why I do my best to give people who have had success with spirituality a wide berth. If it helps them get through tough times or personal pain, it obviously must be doing them some kind of favor.
I just wish that I’d get the same benefit of the doubt. As it stands, when people deride my coping strategies, medications, or other help I get, they’re attacking what keeps me from killing myself. It would be dreadfully inappropriate for me to do this to other people. Sadly, some people wear blinders that prevent them from seeing what they’re doing.
It’s on me to diminish the friction this causes for myself.
This might sound rough, but I think of it as a challenge to be overcome. I don’t want incessant demands that I try some new belief system out to get at me. Part of the solution I think is recognizing that I don’t have to go back at all. Nobody can put me at risk like I’ve been in the past. They only get what I give them.
Mental health and well-being doesn’t require spirituality to work. There are plenty of well-adjusted non-spiritual or religious people out there. I might not be one of them, but their success means I can try. Looking at that goal ahead of me is healthier than looking behind.