Are the Mentally Ill in the Image of God Too?

Symbols I'm Pondering: Sleep as Healing Balm

Last week’s rough schedule of oversleeping and churning from therapy continued this week with more oversleep and another therapy appoint that stirred up exhausting tears and emotion. This time the churning is about how many memories of pastoring keep flooding my mind. Each day is an anniversary of something, and there are significant anniversaries of emotional events coming up in August and September. And I don’t want to be so flooded that I end up in the hospital, as happened as Easter approached. I’ll need to be extra nice to myself and need extra support to make it through the next couple months!

Also continuing this week and contributing to the churning mess of me: the chronic pain flare-ups from the last several weeks, mostly brought on by excessive walking to take part in normal life’s special activities (i.e., a parade, a fireworks display, a concert). I think a lot of the sleeping is to help the pain. But each morning, even without sleep meds, I find it hard to wake up at all and feel drugged for hours. “Woe is me,” right? Just another week in the life of a bipolar person, and another issue to talk to my new psychiatrist about next week. (Another worry in my head – a new psychiatrist to meet.)

In the midst of all this struggle to get through each day, I actually read a book! YAY! I haven’t read a book since the fall! This one was for a book group that I ultimately bowed out of since the topics and company would remind me too much of my earlier life as a parish pastor. But the book I read was fabulous, and I highly recommend it to pastors AND parishioners – y’all need to read it! Oh, God, Oh God, Oh God! Young Adults Speak Out About Sexuality and Christian Spirituality, edited by Heather Godsey and Lara Blackwood Pickrel. 

Symbols I'm Pondering: Embodied Life As Holy

One chapter was on body image and the chase we take part in to attain the unattainable perfect body presented to us everyday. The body that will redeem our existence. First we blame the body for not having the perfect life, and then we turn to the body – and endless consumer helps – to fix it. The antidote is the Christian belief that we are all made in the image of the God. And, the author asks us, what’s the point of faith if we do not help one another realize this, and see those around us who desperately need to hear it and believe it, and work toward the beautiful balance within ourselves and with others and with the tangible, embodied world.

I also believe we are all created in the image of God. I believe I am created in the image of God. But are our illnesses part of the image of God, or a sign of the broken world we live in? And when my illness affects my ability to know myself, accept myself, connect with others, relate with others because of mood and emotion disturbances, then am I really in the image of God, or just a life hidden by illness? I don’t believe I am only my illness. But my illness is disguising my image of God. And that frightens me. And I’m turning to caring for my weight and food and exercise in order to have something I can control in order to make myself in the perfect image of God. I’m falling prey to chasing the unattainable body image because I can’t control this inescapable illness that will forever blur my ability to be in the world.


4 responses to “Are the Mentally Ill in the Image of God Too?

  1. I’m always good for a distraction or two, if that’ll help.

    As far as the Imago Dei goes, I think illness is part of this broken world. And it sucks that it is corrupting your sense of your own connection with God. Does it make any sense to listen to others’ vision of you as a child of God? And how they see God in you?

    • I’ll take you up on that, Barb! Been reluctant to call since you’re busy with CPE.
      It helps a little to hear others’ vision yet I still struggle with believing it – those inner voices of doubt are loud!

  2. Glad you enjoyed the book. Mental illness is a disease. You bet you’re a child of God. Love to you.

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