Faith and mental health
Gavin T. Murphy reflects on his journey with bipolar disorder, a mental illness known for its severe changes and challenges in mood, in the context of his faith for the British journal Thinking Faith as part of their contribution to Mental Health Awareness Week in Britain. He describes his experience as a Jesuit novice in England where he had found himself withdrawing from his colleagues and believing in thoughts as if they were real voices. He felt as though God was not listening at the time, but now he believes God was reaching out to him in a manner that led him into a different way of being.
He believes through his pain and his willingness to let God transform it that he became more humble in the sense of having a true appreciation of himself. He was able to accept the bad days, for example, when he experienced low mood or hypomania (elation and overactivity) and to look beyond himself when he got caught up in the ‘poor me’ victim state. He called out to God for the grace to touch his heart and noticed when balanced mood returned like the rising sun.
In the British journal, Gavin discusses what has worked for him over the years. This includes spiritual accompaniment in the Ignatian tradition which has given him the psycho-spiritual tools to go against his natural inclinations (as he was often pulled in unhelpful directions) and to stay attuned to consolation. Psychotherapy has enabled him to be more assertive and to experience emotional intimacy in his relationships. And mental health medication has tackled his mood instability and racing thoughts.
Most of all, Gavin has attempted to respond to the invitations to burst out in praise in the midst of pain. He has written a personal prayer entitled The Magnificent Magnificat which is about saying “Yes” to life and “Yes” to bipolar. The full-length article can be found on Thinking Faith. See below for information on the British Jesuits’ contribution to Mental Health Awareness Week.
14-20 May 2018 is Mental Health Awareness Week, an initiative to encourage discussion about and reduce stigma around mental health issues. The Jesuits in Britain want to take this opportunity to help our readers and listeners to pray, think, learn and talk about life’s uphill struggles, whether they are associated with diagnosed mental health conditions or other circumstances.
Across our online platforms, there are a number of different resources about situations in which people struggle to find peace of mind and heart. Our written and audio content will explore some of the causes, effects and manifestations of anxiety, and look particularly at the dynamic between faith and mental health.
We will be considering ideas, offering prayerful support and sharing experiences. However, please seek professional help if you are concerned about yourself or somebody else.