There are approximately 51 million people world wide that live with the brain disease schizophrenia. All schizophrenia is classified as a serious mental illness according to the NIMH. Schizophrenia is twice as prevalent in the US as Alzheimer’s, yet so little is spoken about its effect on those living with it, it remains shrouded in this mysterious stigma. Society has used it to label serial killers, sell tickets to haunted houses and songs. Those afflicted by it have been demonized for so long, just the word “schizophrenia”, invokes negative images and thoughts.
It’s used as an adjective, as an insult. It has become a synonym to say someone is “crazy” or “uncontrollable”.
My unique vantage point on the subject comes from my theological studies. Because of my social circle, when my son got sick, I was instantly bombarded by ignorance from my brothers and sisters in Christ. “He’s possessed”…. “He needs an exorcist”…”He is that way because he wore that hat”… yes…someone blamed his hat. I don’t blame them, no one understands schizophrenia until it shows up in someone they love, till you must understand it.
What does schizophrenia mean to me? Schizophrenia means that my son is often suicidal if he doesn’t take his medicine. It means my son tries to hang himself, will punch his own face until he fractures his facial bones, and stabs himself in the temples with sharp objects like pencils. Why? Because to him this seems the logical end to his life while unmedicated and delusional, somehow suicide seems like a good idea. He lives in a body he cannot trust, controlled by a mind that is even less trustworthy at times. He smells, sees and hears things that no one else can. He also believes there is a plot against all humanity that he understands, yet I cannot. He has even said he wishes he could give me glasses that made me see what he sees, then I would understand.
Schizophrenia means my son can’t be in the electronics section of stores where TVs are on because this produces extreme paranoia, and gives him what he calls “dark thoughts.” Schizophrenia means to me that a routine telephone conversation will go from “How was the beach today?” to a 15 minute tangent about million year old beings living on the earth who created the different countries just so they could construct different styles of government to see which ones produced the “superior chosen ones.” They also used the video game Fallout Four to find the chosen ones, this is how they find the ones they want to keep alive after the nuclear bombs go off. My son wants to be a chosen one. Everyone else is going to die, according to my son, the apocalypse is drawing near. These ancient beings will kill us all through nuclear war….
and then he will sit in silence for a moment…
….and conclude with “But think about the chicken and the egg mom. That means there is a God. I believe in God. Think about it there has to be a God, the chicken and the egg mom.”
Some people believe schizophrenia means “hearing voices” – this can be true. But the auditory hallucinations are but a small part of the overall disease manifesting itself. It’s a collective of symptoms; positive, negative, and cognitive. So as the person is dealing with negative symptoms like social withdraw, lack of interest in life, as well as cognitive symptoms like loss of memory, word salad, and trouble keeping a train of thought, there is a soundtrack superimposed over all of this. A soundtrack full of voices that range from a running commentary on everything you are doing, to telling you that everything is poisoned, and unfortunately at times that you should kill yourself. And if that isn’t hard enough, visual hallucinations will appear that coincide with your delusional thoughts. For Elliott he would see deep scratches in the hospital walls and dead people whenever he closed his eyes. How do you see when your eyes are closed?
This is schizophrenic logic at its best. Their whole world no longer makes sense.
It would be maddening on its own, to not even be able to trust ones own mind. Then to learn that this is your diagnosis for life, there is no cure only treatments that make life “livable”. I can’t imagine what that is like from the inside, actually being the person with schizophrenia. I think instead of being ostracized and demonized, those that do successfully deal with this disease, deserve a metal for bravery & strength. I believe my son to be the bravest young man I know. This disease has only solidified those beliefs. For almost three months my son continually tried to kill himself during his first psychotic break. It was a race between the antipsychotic medication kicking in and him succeeding. Antipsychotic medication can take 4-8 weeks to stabilize a person with schizophrenia. I do praise God that today my son is stabilized. He still has thoughts of suicide, but he no longer acts on them, and he openly discusses them with his psychiatrist. He is learning to cope with the disease and that takes bravery.
So in the evangelical circle, I have seen my son labeled demon possessed and have cringed listening to my son being compared to the Demoniac called Legion. Is schizophrenia from Satan? Is it demon possession? Well the Bible tells us the devil comes to kill, steal and destroy. That would definitely describe what schizophrenia does….but it also describes leukemia, melanoma, tuberculosis, polio, bone cancer, lung cancer, sclerosis of the liver, and every other disease that befalls human being since the fall of man in the Garden. Other diseases and disorders exist that produce similar symptoms to schizophrenia such as concussions, tumors & even syphilis. In fact any discrepancy in the brain due to injury or swelling can cause similar symptoms; disorganized speech, trouble concentrating, memory loss, hallucinations & delusional thoughts. Yet schizophrenia is somehow singled out as being “demonic or from Satan” while Alzheimer’s (very similar) is viewed with grace and mercy. This is a biological disease.
I also, literally cringe, when I see evangelical preachers selling snake oil in the form of healings for mental illnesses that continue to demonize these diseases. I run a Peer Support Group through my church for those that live with different serious mental illnesses. It saddens me to see that ALL of them have been told they were demon possessed at one point or the other by a church pastor. The same church pastor that will make an hour drive to visit an elderly member of the congregation in a nursing home who suffers from dementia, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease will also break out the olive oil and crucifix and label the schizophrenic as possessed. The church needs to wake up to the fact that 25% of the people in our congregations live with some sort of mental illness, and they need the love and support of Jesus just to survive these illnesses.
Can Jesus heal any disease? YES! Does everyone get healed? No. That is up to God, if it be his will for Elliott to be healed I am all for that! I do believe in faith healings, I have had one myself! God removed a black mole from my neck, it just went away after I anointed it and prayed for it. I pray everyday for my sons mind to return. I also thank God for the doctors and the medicines that have brought him this far. We are GUARANTEED a healing, it will either be here (right now), there (in the future), or in the air (in our glorified bodies with Christ)! I believe in that wholeheartedly. I continue to share Elliott’s story so that awareness can grow, schizophrenia is terrible life altering disease. Living with it is hard enough, living with it without Christ, would be torturous. But the church and its ignorant archaic beliefs is turning off and away people who desperately need the hope and divine intervention of Jesus Christ. Think before you speak. If you don’t understand Schizophrenia or Bipolar Disorders PLEASE EDUCATE YOURSELF before you counsel those afflicted by these BRAIN DISEASES.
Ignorance in this situation can kill! Don’t play the devil here. You can be used to steal a mentally ill persons faith or love for Christ by demonizing them for only being ill. You can be used to kill a mentally ill persons desire to serve Christ or worse to advise them to do things like stop medications that can lead to suicide. You can by ignorance, be used to destroy their faith in God all together. You need to take the time to educate yourself, especially if you hold any office of authority in the church. The seriously mentally ill are the new lepers. They are societal outcasts. They fill the streets as the homeless and they are tucked deep within the jails of America. Medicare and Medicaid exclude their care and they are often ostracized by many. THEY NEED THE CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY TO EMBRACE THEM IN THE LOVE OF CHRIST.
Elliott’s Back Story :