Question:

I found your website recently and have been uplifted by your responses to the questions under the mental health topic. So I decided to ask you one too. I have been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. I've had severe symptoms for over ten years, starting at the age of 40. At the time that I started having symptoms, I was still going to church. During the last two times I went, I experienced mistreatment from the pastor and some of the congregation, which made me believe that I was being booted out of the church. Because I have a belief that every person knows my thoughts and actions (leaving me mentally unprotected and defenseless), I also see people use that against me. Even though in the real world that is impossible, in my mind it is completely possible and constantly substantiated by the feedback my brain picks up. Because of the perceived mistreatment, I haven't been back to church since a year after I started having problems.

I have had quite a journey with my faith in God and my salvation while going through this mental health disorder. Your response to one question as to whether a schizoaffective can have faith in God supported my own belief. Because when it was darkest, and I believed no one in this world loved me, I chose to believe God loved me and that He wanted me to love what He created. So, I started loving myself and accepting myself the way I was. From there, I chose to believe in God and His Son rather than try and go forward alone. I'm glad of that decision, even though I don't understand what has happened to me and why. So your response, about it being a choice rather than an emotion that we need to feel to be saved, was such a blessing to read.

So my actual question is how can I go back to church when everywhere I go I see people reacting to my thoughts, or using it as an opportunity to hurt me? I've only been on disability the last several years as I was determined to work, but even that became so difficult. I just don't see a path back to church with the paranoia I experience. Can I be seen as a shut-in who watches on T.V.? I go out to the store and see family, but otherwise, I interact with as few people as possible.

Thank you for your time.

Answer:

You touched on the solution. I know people with Schizoaffective Disorder and Schizophrenia. They are difficult illnesses to deal with since they affect your perception of reality. You have a slight advantage because you know what this illness does to your thinking,

We all need people in our lives, even people with Schizoaffective Disorder. I just picked up a friend who has schizophrenia from the mental hospital and took him home. On the way, I pointed out that his distrust of people was hindering people from helping him. I generally know when he is off his medication, but because he didn't allow me to talk to his doctor or his social worker, I had trouble alerting the people who could help him that he needed help. I've figured out some ways around the problems, but he really needed to use his reasoning instead of his feelings. It has been years, but he knows that I work on his behalf and so he should invest some trust that I'm here to help.

It is the same for you. You understand that you feel people are able to know your thoughts, but you should also know that the Bible says that only God can read a person's thoughts. "For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him?" (I Corinthians 2:10). Therefore, while the feeling is strong, the knowledge of the truth should keep you anchored.

I would recommend finding a group of true Christians in your area. Tell the people upfront what your illness is and how it affects your thinking. Then let them also know that you would like to worship with them. They will likely ask how they can best help you feel more comfortable when you are among them. And here you are going to have to choose to trust people. It will be hard, especially at first. But it will do you a lot of good.

Right now, you are letting your illness control your life. You are going along with it, which is isolating you from the people you need to have in your life. This only serves to reinforce the illness. Getting out and making yourself deal with people will reduce the paranoia -- not immediately but gradually over time.

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