Some lean on faith to cope with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder. My schizophrenic and schizoaffective symptoms brought me to the emergency room recently and to other places of crisis. The last time this happened, my faith in God helped me get through the tough time (A Conversation with God). But, as I got better, I didn’t have an immediate need for faith and my spirituality fell to the wayside. This time, I’ve decided to stay in the present with my faith as a way to cope with my schizophrenia and schizoaffective symptoms.
Faith Helps Me Cope with Schizophrenia, Not Cure It
I know there’s a lot of baggage in suggesting that faith can help with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder, so let me address those issues. First and foremost, I’m not suggesting that faith is a substitute for medical treatment. I’m not suggesting that people can “believe” their way out of depression, for example. But everyone has a toolbox of self-care options they can use to boost themselves through hard times with an illness. One of my tools happens to be faith in God.
I think any belief in a higher power works. I, personally, am a Catholic, so I find a lot of solace in prayer to Mother Mary or thinking about her life. I was a very devout Catholic when I was little. I know it’s hard to picture a little kid being devout, but that’s how I felt. Adolescence made me rebellious, though, especially about Catholicism and Christianity. My middle school years were spiced up with weekly arguments with the priest who taught our religion class at my Catholic grade school. By the time I was 17, I had pretty much completely fallen away from the church.
I Rediscovered That Faith Helps Me Cope
Fast-forward two years. I was 19 years old and away at college majoring in fine arts. I had my first schizophrenic psychotic episode. I came home and one of the first things I did — something I hadn’t done in a long time— was attend a church service. After that, I always called myself a Catholic even if I wasn’t always regularly going to church or praying.
After turning to God multiple times during crises in my life, faith became an important part of my mental health toolbox and I started to work to keep up with my faith when I’m not in a crisis. Part of the reason I fell away from faith is that, in my artsy circles, Christianity isn’t cool. I did experiment with different religions during my time away from the church, but I always felt like an outsider. One thing my forays into different belief systems taught me, though, is that faith is faith, whether you’re Jewish, Muslim, Christian, etc. That’s why I say any belief in a higher power works.
I also acknowledge that the higher power concept isn’t for everyone. Different people are going to have different strategies in their toolboxes, hopefully lots of them. An added strategy in my toolbox is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). That doesn’t work for everyone, either. The important thing is finding what works for you to put in your toolbox. Faith is one thing for me – a source of comfort, healing, and connection to the wonders all around us.