Today I have the privilege of sharing the story of Erin’s personal experience with bipolar disorder, psychosis, and religious delusions.
The thing that is interesting about Erin’s story is the connection between her Christian faith and the delusions she experienced during her psychotic episodes.
According to an article about religious delusions in bipolar disorder from VeryWell Mind, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University, Harold G. Koenig, stated in his 2007 review of literature on the subject that “Persons with severe and persistent mental illness often come for treatment with religious delusions. In the United States, approximately 25%–39% of patients with schizophrenia and 15%–22% of those with mania/bipolar have religious delusions.”
For Erin, her faith in Jesus Christ not only played a critical role in her illness but also continues to be a crucial part of her recovery.
So, without further ado, let’s look at the world of bipolar disorder, psychosis, religious delusions, and faith through Erin’s eyes.
Hi, I’m Erin. I’m a mom of a sweet seven-year-old girl, and my hunky bearded husband and I have been together for 23 years and married for 18. One of my favorite things to do in my spare time is to spend time with my daughter, husband, and parents.
I LOVE to talk with others about Jesus and tell them how He’s impacted my life and been there for me during the good and the bad.
God rescued me out of the New Age about four years ago, revealed Himself to me, and opened my eyes to the truth of Jesus Christ. I’m so happy to say that I am now an adopted child of God and love serving Jesus every day! Click here if you want to hear more about my testimony.
Identifying a Problem
I knew I needed professional help after I had my second psychotic episode. After my first psychotic break, the psychiatrist said, “I fell off my rocker,” and it was just a nervous breakdown.
But two-and-a-half years later I had another similar episode, and I knew that after the second hospitalization, I needed professional help.
My symptoms presented themselves with mania and extreme psychosis. Both of my episodes were very similar in that I thought I was the “new Eve” and was going to be God’s exclusive wife and His only chosen bride. I thought I was going to be raptured while in the hospital to be a part of our elaborate wedding.
While in the hospital, I shared the gospel and handed out Bibles to everyone. Once out of the hospital, my doctors took me off the antipsychotic too soon, and I went back into psychosis.
While driving to hang out with a friend, and without my daughter, thankfully, I thought God wanted me to take my hands off the wheel and to trust He would direct the car. My delusion made me think that God and His angels would protect me from crashing.
I took my hands off the wheel, ran a red light, and ran over a median. Thankfully, it jerked me out, and I went back on the road. I live in a busy city with lots of traffic, so it is an absolute miracle I didn’t harm myself or someone else.
My friend was following me and saw the whole thing. I tell this story to make people aware of how scary psychosis and delusions can really be.
So many other things happened during both hospitalizations. I could fill an entire book with the stories. It is something I never want to experience again.
Erin’s Diagnosis and Reaction
My official diagnoses are bipolar 1 disorder with generalized anxiety disorder.
Honestly, I was not happy about my diagnosis, but I knew something was wrong and trusted God and the doctors to care for me. I was willing to do anything, so a psychotic break would never happen again.
Erin’s Treatment Protocol
Finding the right medication was really difficult. One of the first antipsychotics they put me on made me gain over 50 pounds and caused me to be lethargic, exacerbated my anxiety and made me feel detached.
I was depressed and had a hard time doing simple tasks like laundry and grocery shopping. My supportive husband took over a lot of duties during that first year. I know it affected my daughter as well, especially when she saw me crying from feeling so hopeless.
After a year on this medication, I found an awesome doctor that switched me to a mood stabilizer, a better antipsychotic, and an anti-anxiety medication. He also prescribed me benzodiazepines for emergencies when my anxiety is extreme.
Thankfully, I’ve lost all the weight and feel like myself again. Besides my medication, I also read the Bible every day, pray, meditate on God’s word, walk for exercise, and eat a low-carbohydrate diet.
The Impact of Faith
My first hospitalization happened three days after my baptism. Rather than run from God and denounce Christianity, I drew closer to Him.
While they were getting my medications figured out after the second hospitalization, I really questioned why God was allowing me to go through this and had moments when I doubted He was there for me or loved me. But I continued to depend on Him and asked Him daily to keep me close.
In time, God has shown me He has always been there and will use my testimony for His glory. I feel embarrassed to talk to some people about my mental illness, not only in the Christian community but elsewhere because of the stigma that is associated with it.
The world needs people who understand mental illness everywhere, particularly within the church. The church can be such a helpful resource and support system for those struggling with mental disorders. In despair, we can always count on our creator to be there for us, and people struggling with mental illness need to know that.
Erin’s Life Today
My life is so much better now that I’m on the right medication. However, I do still struggle with anxiety daily. It seems like whatever I try, whether it be prayer, reading the Bible, or talking to people, it doesn’t help it go away. But I continue to trust God through it.
I wish people knew that those living with bipolar disorder are normal people with a chemical imbalance. So many people living with bipolar disorder live stable and productive lives.
Living in victory is really possible with mental illness thanks to modern medicine and the power of God.
Erin’s Favorite Resources
The Bible has been such a blessing for me with my recovery since it’s God’s word and the source of all truth.
I also enjoyed the book Grace for the Afflicted by Matthew Stanford. I love his ministry, Gateway to Hope, which is out of Texas.
The Bipolar Christian Support Group on Facebook is a valuable resource for those struggling with bipolar, and other disorders, that are on this journey with Jesus.
What I love about Erin is her candor about how her journey affected her walk with God. After her diagnosis, she grappled with her faith—as many of us with bipolar disorder do. But instead of distancing herself from the love of Jesus Christ, she clung to her faith, and it has helped carry her through.
Erin’s story is a reminder that psychosis and religious delusions are nothing to be ashamed of. They are a common symptom in both bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
While psychosis and religious delusions can be frightening, with the proper medication, they are highly treatable.
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Maria Black says
Such a powerful and brave account, thank you for telling your story Erin! I think it’s pretty natural to question faith when bad things happen but I’m very impressed with how you never lost faith in your beliefs and they’ve been a big part of your recovery! Thanks for sharing <3
Maria, you are so right. Erin was so brave to share her story. I am so glad you enjoyed reading it.
James M says
Erin, your story is truly enlightening and based on what many of us experiences.
I’m happy for you that you found support in the church.
I haven’t been to church in over 15 years – that was when I was told that I was possessed by demons.
Well, I suffer from Bipolar II, Borderline Personality Disorder and also PTSD due to military service.
It’s a disgrace that a Christian church would say this.
I have lost faith in the church and won’t go back.
I am so glad that Erin’s story resonated with you. It’s unfortunate that your church treated you so badly. In this day and age, it is appalling that there are Christians who still believe that mental illness is a faith issue. I can totally understand you losing faith in the church, but I pray you haven’t lost faith in God because He accepts you exactly as you are, and your mental illness diagnoses are not a surprise to Him! I have a Christ-centered bipolar disorder support group on Facebook called The Light Brigade. I believe that bipolar disorder is a medical condition, not a faith issue. I also believe that God created science and medicine, so we should embrace the treatments available so we can have a healthy mind. Ultimately, it is only with a healthy mind that we can do the kingdom work that God has for us. If you would like to join The Light Brigade, click https://www.facebook.com/groups/thelightbrigade1.
Andrea, thank you for your kind response, I appreciate it and have found some comfort in what you said. Unfortunately I am not on Facebook.
You are probably smarter than the rest of us for not falling down the Facebook rabbit hole. Sometimes, social media does more harm than good. Feel free to reach out to me any time if you need someone to talk to. My email is email@example.com. Also, you may want to consider signing up for my email list. I send out a weekly devotional every Wednesday that you might find encouraging.
James M says
Thanks Andrea, how do I sign up for your email list?
You can find a sign-up form for my email list at the end of any of my blog posts or on my home page. You will just have to scroll a little. I can also add your email address to my email list tmanually if that would be easier for you.
Thank you for sharing your story. I’ve honestly experienced something similar and am figuring out a new possibility of bipolar disorder. My hypomanic/manic episodes never required hospitalization but I can relate to what you share. I’m currently struggling with faith. I find it hard to trust what’s God and what’s my mind playing tricks on me now. This is a new space for me as I’ve always had a concrete faith in God.
I am so happy that you found Erin’s story helpful. I am sorry that you are struggling with your faith, but I understand your struggles! I have been there myself. When our symptoms overlap with our relationship with God, it is hard to know and trust what is God and what is bipolar. Know this: God is bigger than your trust issues and your doubts. It is when we wrestle with our faith that it grows deeper, wider, and stronger. I will be praying for you.