Schizophrenia : Demon, Devil or Disease? An Evangelical Perspective

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.

My beautiful boy before his illness

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 :

Elliotts Story : A Living Nightmare Of First Psychosis (Part 1)

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His Greatest Fear Came True : The Government Stole Him (Part Two)

17 thoughts on “Schizophrenia : Demon, Devil or Disease? An Evangelical Perspective

  1. Dear Mother, Elliott is so fortunate to have you. And your life, though hard, abounds in Truth, Love, and Wisdom. I just notice those words are all words for Jesus Christ. Truly he is at work in you and many are blessed by you. I am amazed at the grace you are giving to the circumstance you are in. You are so right about the stigma attached to some mental illnesses. Elliott also sounds like an amazing young man. “Chicken or the egg, mom? That proves there is a God.” Out of the mouths of babes…. May God bless you story for the good of many people!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I truly believe in Romans 8:28 that God works ALL things for the good of those who believe and love him…I stand on that scripture…and I see the Lord using this experience to comfort others…and only He can see the future ripples this will cause…but I can trust his Word…that even schizophrenia is included in that “all” of Romans 8:28 – if you would – lift us up in prayer from time to time we definitely appreciate those prayers 🙏🏻❤️

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Really good stuff! I’m so pleased to hear things are beginning to stabilize for him. One of the tragedies of this disease is that it tends to hit a lot of young people before they have the emotional and mental skills to even cope. Obviously it’s a devastating disease for anyone, but trying to understand what is happening to you and sort it all out when you haven’t got any life experience to fall back on, leaves you really defenseless. Those who come through it are certainly brave. It is one of the most courageous things I’ve ever seen.

    I want to offer you some hope, there are no guarantees, but often the first psychotic break is the worst, and it really can get better from there on out.

    People who deal with schizophrenia really need Jesus, too! If we can help to keep them spiritually and emotionally healthy, the physical aspects of this disease will have a lot less power. I often dream of this treatment center, this place where people can go and be treated as if they were mind, body, and spirit, with all of those needs being addressed at once. I dream of physical therapy and spiritual therapy and lots of socialization. The quality of people’s lives could be made so much better and a great deal of suffering prevented.

    Keep the faith and remember, there are a whole lot of incredible schizophrenia success stories, people really overcoming, adapting, and thriving.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! I try to focus on all the positive aspects of what can happen….I know that with Jesus Christ all things are definitely possible. I also know that he is faithful to keep my son regardless of these circumstances. I feel lead to educate the evangelical community, ironically, it is the only group that has been “ugly” towards him. I hold the fact that before my own son became ill that I had no idea either as a token of solace…perhaps it’s just a case of not understanding. Maybe Elliott can put a face on this disease for all that know him (especially since he grew up in the church) and they can see that it is real. It’s effects can be devastating and as a church we can’t forget to pray for ALL the Elliott’s in this world.

      The Lord has also used this experience to bring many beautiful people into my life that I never would have met otherwise. So many kind, compassionate, people that like I found a cross to bare in this cause. Each one of trying to make the future treatment of those living with SMI kinder, brighter, more hopeful. But I have the inside scoop, the fast lane solution, I have brought Jesus into this mess. I KNOW he wants to bring his love into this suffering and this pathetic broken mess we call “mental health in America” 🙏🏻❤️ and HE IS ABLE TO FIX IT ALL FROM TOP TO BOTTOM!

      I’m loving my son, and letting my little light shine, just as bright as I can to help those like him.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m so sorry that your son must endure this. It breaks my heart. But I am thanking God that you are with him every step of the way… that your faith and compassion are strong. I thank God for the wisdom that He has given you, and that you are making others aware of just how difficult the journey can be without genuine and compassionate support from the body of Christ. I’m so glad you wrote this beautiful and thorough post! God bless you big time! Love and prayers!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for your kind words. I have leaned into Jesus hard these past few months and he has been faithful to protect and provide. I have felt the Holy Spirits presence comforting me in so many ways…it is a day by day journey.

      Some days better than others…the days and circumstances may change but I KNOW God never does. He never has a bad day…he is always the same faithful loving Father who sees us through the storms. 🙏🏻❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Excellent post. At one time all disease was attributed to demons. As a sufferer I realize we have some control over this disorder. I believe much of this is bio but chemicals do assist in treatment for most of the time. Yet, the disorder is not constant and changes over the period of life with ups and downs depending on the person. Thank you for your insistence in educating and for those who have been hurt through the ignorance of the church. Thank you again. No, the church does not hurt intentionally, but it hurts all the same. It really comes down to fear as they really don’t know how to cope with it. Hang in there, brave woman. You are doing good.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know, I keep telling myself they do not know. So I guess if I can be kind and compassionate and educate them, I will. And great point you made about it changing over a lifespan this is so true. I have a gentleman in my group who says his body builds up tolerances to his medications and will find it coming back with a vengeance and then his doctors have to go a new route. Another point this raises is how tailor made and unique each individuals experience with the disease is. One works for one will not help another. But I think education on the matter for all can’t be a bad thing! Thank you for your kind words as well, we just keep on, keepin on. One foot in front of the other ❤️🙏🏻

      Liked by 1 person

  5. ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ I truly hope people who do not understand gain the blessing of understanding from this. Thank you for sharing and thank you for continuing the ministry of helping others who cannot speak for themselves.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow, coming from a family with a variety of mental illnesses, and having dealt with depression most of my life, I read with great interest your words about your son. Thank you for speaking so honestly and openly. It helps me understand those in my family who are still struggling a little better.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I guess I have some good news and some bad news for you: 1) Elliott is sane and 2) everyone who doesn’t believe him is crazy. I know, this might sound odd to you because everything that he suggests seems so far-fetched. “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.” Okay, so what if he’s right? For better or worse, I believe that telepathy is real. This is my “diagnosis” for so many “ailments” that the world of medicine doesn’t understand. Think about it for a moment: what is a silent prayer that you issue in your head? It’s an outbound expression of telepathy and you hope/trust that someone angelic will hear your prayer. So if you believe this then you can believe that there are likewise inbound telepathic responses and that we can receive them. I would suggest that Elliott is being targeted in some way or another. Either he is being given information to warn the rest of us or he’s being tormented; it’s difficult to say. — I remember reading a FEMA document several years ago entitle something like “FEMA End-Game 2012” which suggested that a national program was in place to ultimately deport illegal aliens from the country, detailing distributed camps, transportation and such. I’ve seen the work order for 111,000 train cars which were built and delivered, each equipped with something like 430 pairs of shackles inside each. I’ve heard the story by a National Guardsman who indicated that 3,000 guillotines were ordered and distributed throughout the U.S. and that he was trained in their use. I’ve seen photos of piles of thousands of plastic coffins. I’ve seen a mass burial site in Texas which extends to the horizon. Elliott’s not crazy. He’s just informed and frustrated that nobody will believe him.

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