I find it difficult writing a post about religion. I think it’s at least partly because religion was such a controversial topic between my mother and me that it’s always been a discussion best avoided, other than when tackled in a purely philosophical, non-personal and non-emotive sense.
However, I have come across a number of mental health bloggers with a strong faith, which I have both envied and admired. And which, I have to say, made me very conscious of the fact that it’s a subject that has so far never figured in my posts. Which is itself indicative of the fact that it’s a subject that has figured very little in my life over the last few years. But it’s time I tackled it, at least in overview, both in the spirit of my commitment to self-disclosure and being open about all aspects of my BPD; and also in the hope that others might identify with these feelings, and that what I say might be helpful, at least to some. I hope it is of general interest – for those with a belief in God, for those without, and for those who are not sure. I think that BPD can make having faith in anything very hard – and as such, I hope that this post speaks to all those who struggle to keep faith with anyone or anything that used to be important to them.
I have always had a faith – apart from when I almost lost it during my final year of school. In that year, I went to bed every night not caring whether I lived or died, but counter-intuitively, I seemed to care very much, whether my faith lived or died. That faith has had different types of ‘flavours’, at least partly dependent on who I was with, or the major influences in my life at the time – but it has always been there. However, I have noticed that time and time again, my worst times as regards my BPD and my depression, have coincided with crises of faith of one kind or another. At the times when conceivably, I needed it the most, it has either abandoned me, or I it. It has either left me in agonising doubt, or I have left it on the scrapheap.
I think it’s true to say, that for the last few years, I have been ‘keeping God on the back burner’. I’m a little worried that He might not like to be put in that position, but I’m hoping that, under the circumstances, He might make allowances. The unfortunate reality of mental illness is that it can be so all-consuming, that it leaves little room for anything else. For me, self-absorption increases, my attention turns inward, and more and more of my life starts to be lived in my head. Relationships suffer – including spiritual ones. It’s not that I no longer believe – it’s that belief, in anything, simply does not feel relevant.
Like my husband, God has also suffered from me putting him, inadvertently, in the ‘parent box’. ‘The parent box’ is a very bad place for anybody to be. If you are in the ‘parent box’, it means that I transfer all of the negative feelings I have towards my parents, onto you. It means that things that you do that remind me of things that they do, or did, trigger disproportionate and excessive reactions. If you are in the ‘parent box’, you will not be allowed within a light-year of my emotions, and my communication with you will be at best monosyllabic. My communication with God is not even monosyllabic – I haven’t been able to pray in almost two years. In a way of thinking that is typical of my own BPD, I feel as though I have to give God everything or nothing. I don’t feel that I can pray while there are areas of my life I’m not yet prepared to be challenged on – self-harm, for example.
It’s unfortunate that my BPD is currently aligning the image of God as a ‘parent figure’ with my own experience of parental figures, rather than holding Him up as the ‘perfect parent’. Perhaps this is partly because I find it hard to relate to the concept of a ‘perfect parent’ – unlike my husband and a number of friends that I have spoken to about this, I don’t remember a time when I thought my parents were perfect. In particular, I am extremely sensitive to issues of control, and to the threat of engulfment. My two most recent therapists have called my mother ‘intrusive’ – she believed that nothing should be private between parent and child and has always failed to understand how we could ever be anything other than ‘of like mind’ with each other. It’s partly that same fear of being controlled and of being taken over, that is holding me back at the moment from trying to re-engage with my faith.
But there are other reasons for my being wary of ‘throwing myself back into religion’. I am aware that pursuing my faith more actively, will in all likelihood help me. It has done so before, and every temporary ‘recovery’ has been associated with a period of revitalised connection with God, with some periods lasting longer than others. But none of those has prevented a re-occurrence of old problems, or a relapse and flaring up of BPD symptoms again. I’m not blaming religion for this and I’m not saying that I adhere to the idea that religion is some sort of panacea. But for me, I think it has acted as part of a reinvention of self and a taking on of a new identity. That process, and that ‘escape route’, has in the past placed a temporary sticking plaster over a very deep seated and enduring problem. And that is precisely what I would like, this time, to avoid.
That is precisely why I am putting myself through the very painful process of therapy, at a time in my life when I feel that it is costly. When I feel as though I should be spending more mental energy on my children while they are still young, rather than expending so much of it in the therapy chair and being absorbed both in the process of therapy, and in my relationships with my therapists. However, part of me suspects that it is vital to do it now, because the next big life-change or emotional challenge, particularly if it concerns my parents as they get older, could be the one that precipitates an even more significant crisis for me, and therefore for my children too.
When all of this is over (or at least, when my life is more under control), I would very much like to come back to God – if He will have me. But I would like to come back because I have found myself, and not because I want to lose myself again. And if he’s guiding me behind the scenes; if I’m being held by an invisible thread, then I’m very grateful, really I am. Getting Him out of the ‘parent box’ might feel nigh-on impossible sometimes – but luckily He’s known for the odd miracle or two.
August 10, 2014 at 12:13 am
You have a lot going on… with the risk of being cheesy… “keep the faith!”
August 10, 2014 at 9:37 pm
Thank you so much for reading, and for commenting! There’s nothing wrong with a bit of cheesiness now and again 🙂 And I will most certainly try and ‘keep the faith’ – I want to find my way back…..
August 10, 2014 at 2:59 pm
Thank you for this insight. It’s given me a lot to think about with regards to my faith and why it seems stalled
August 10, 2014 at 9:44 pm
Thank you so much – comments like this mean a lot. I know how important it’s been to me in the past, to read other bloggers’ posts that have given me insight or ideas to think about, and that have illuminated parts of my own thinking or diagnosis, and it’s humbling for me to be able to do something similar. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment…
August 10, 2014 at 3:02 pm
Reblogged this on The Red Spotty Bug and commented:
I’ve re blogged this post as it articulates a lot of the black hole I feel towards faith. My head sticks to the idea of having faith, but my heart gets reluctant. It’s cool to have a window into why
August 10, 2014 at 9:45 pm
Thank you so much for re-blogging 🙂
August 10, 2014 at 4:42 pm
Thank you for being open about this, particularly when it’s regarding a tricky/potentially controversial topic. It encourages me to try and be more honest with myself (and perhaps blogging), and to really think through things than deal with it as my 6 year old self tried to deal with things. (By hiding in a quiet part of my head and staying there)
August 10, 2014 at 9:56 pm
Hi, thank you so much for the comment! I was definitely nervous about writing the post, precisely for the reasons you’ve mentioned, but I’m glad that I did, as it shows another part of me, and has brought me into contact with others who may have similar or related views. A big part of blogging for me, is about connection, and the more pieces of the compartmentalised ‘me’ that I write about, the more I can connect with others, and can try and bring the various parts of me together (if that makes any sense!). I do understand what you’re saying though, and there are a number of areas where I too need to be much more honest with myself. There are also many things/aspects of me hiding in a quiet part of my head – I’ve been in therapy for two years and have not touched on some things I _know_ to be very significant, but which are also too scary. I’m so glad that something I have written, or the fact that I have written, is encouraging. Even if you don’t write about it, or write only for yourself, honesty and self-awareness are extremely difficult, but can be vital and rewarding, and it’s always one step at a time (and sometimes several steps back!). I think it’s a bit like parenting – there’s some things you think are a good idea and you know you need to do, but you can’t do them until you’re good and ready, and have accepted going down a particular route! Thank you again for reading and commenting, it’s good to hear from you again 🙂
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December 29, 2021 at 7:03 pm
First off, thank you so much for being a sensitive and honest writer.
I may be late to arrive in the comments division, but I am here because I stumbled upon your post when looking at material regarding healing my inner teen. Very grateful for your honest writing and very proud of your achievements in working on your self! Your work has been helping me since yesterday (the day I chanced upon it).
I went through a period of depression and needed help. I, naturally, looked for psychologists online (as that was all I could do as a teenager) and found one who has helped me greatly. Perhaps it is of interest, perhaps not…but here is the link to the gentleman’s two webpages, one is faith-based and the other is clinical: http://www.chastitysf.com/
I thought it might be worth sharing because I completely understand how parents’ lack of love causes children to develop false beliefs. How painful it is that people believe that all parents love unconditionally when even well-meaning parents can falter when they havent looked deep into their unconscious. It is not surprising, then, if a child ascribes the same traits (that a parent shows) to God. However, they can be different (and I believe that they are…that God can show us how to be more like Him, the perfect parent). Of course, I do not want to impose anything, not in the least! Because I received so much, I thought it might be worth sharing, if you’d like to peruse it. Thank you, again, and wishing you the best in your journey.