Schizoaffective Disorder and Spirituality
A couple of years ago, after I had been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder for some time, I had a very intense mystical experience while praying to Mother Mary. I was kneeling in front of a statue of her when, all of a sudden, it seemed she was radiating rays of white and golden light through my body. The experience lasted for a few minutes. Since I have schizoaffective disorder, the skeptic in me chalked the experience up to my illness but it did get my thinking about schizoaffective disorder and spirituality.
Schizoaffective Disorder and Spirituality
It turns out that my skepticism was misguided. Father Rich Jakubik, a psychologist and priest at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Wilmette, says the spiritual epiphanies or transcendent experiences of people with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder should be taken seriously. Even though there may be a mental health aspect to the experience, the meaning the individual connects with that experience is what is most important, he says. It’s not so much about is it real or imaginary.
Colleen Ambrose, spiritual director at St. Francis Xavier Parish, agrees. She says we shouldn’t dismiss people’s experiences. As a spiritual director, she meets with people one on one to help them reflect on their lives and their relationship with God.
Schizoaffective Disorder, Spirituality, and the Imagination
“Spirituality involves the use of our imagination,” says Father Jakubik. He notes that imagination and art are often important links to having a spiritual experience. He says that spirituality involves our creative side. In a lot of meditation and prayer, he says, we’re using our imaginations.
When I asked him about indigenous cultures who regard schizophrenics and people with schizoaffective disorder as shamans, Father Jakubik says that is definitely plausible. He points out that many saints in the Catholic tradition had a mental illness. God (The Heart of God's Love), he explained, can work through our mental and emotional challenges and, in some ways, those challenges can be a strength. “People with mental illness are more open to connecting with a higher power,” he says. We hear about such experiences from just about every culture and religion across time.
Schizoaffective Disorder, Faith, and Healing
Ambrose says faith (Eight Tips to Boost Faith and Bust Fear) helps us cope with illness. “It helps us be with whatever is in a way that is life-giving for us . . . we change in how we are with it,” she says. The diagnosis—whatever it is—may not change but people change in terms of their relationship with the diagnosis. She also references research involving the benefits of meditation to the brain. As far as miracles go, she says, “We’re often surprised by God if we let ourselves be.”
“I think there are many different kinds of miracles,” Father Jakubik explains. “Miracles can be any type of encounter where we feel love . . . or get a sense of something greater than ourselves.”
As far as healing, that isn’t necessarily a miracle; Father Jakubik says that “faith and spirituality are great tools to help manage mental health issues” such as schizoaffective disorder in that they provide people with a structure in which they connect to other people, connect to something greater than themselves, and connect to a source of love and compassion in which they can express their thoughts and feelings.
I certainly learned a lot from talking to Colleen Ambrose and Father Rich Jakubik. Let me leave you with a nugget of wisdom from Ambrose that I think can help us all find our way through whatever we have to get through in a day or in a lifetime. “There is a basic goodness in life . . . trust in life.”
Photo by Elizabeth Caudy.
Caudy, E. (2015, February 24). Schizoaffective Disorder and Spirituality, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 17 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/creativeschizophrenia/2015/02/schizoaffective-disorder-and-spirituality
Author: Elizabeth Caudy
It sounds like you might be experiencing psychosis where you're misunderstanding reality. This does _not_ mean you are crazy. This means you are experiencing part of an illness.
You should reach out for help immediately. See a doctor or walk into a hospital and talk to someone.
You can also call a helpline. (You don't have to be suicidal to call. They will help anyone.) https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
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