When my symptoms of schizophrenia started affecting my emotions, outlook on life, and my ability to function, I did not understand what was happening to me. Consequently, I relied on my religion for understanding of myself and for the strange experiences I had.
I am able to discuss the many symptoms I endured now, because it happened in my past, and I am coping with my illness well through medication, support, and faith. Some of my symptoms I experienced included: seeing and hearing things that others did not experience, having false beliefs, extreme suspiciousness and distrust in people I usually trusted, short-term memory loss, confusion, isolation, etc.
Religion interfered with my illness through its dominance and extremity. My religion demanded routines, several hours of study, and rationalization of my bizarre symptoms. At one point, my strange beliefs took over my mind, I thought God was communicating the actual date through milk cartons, and I did not believe other people when they told me the date. On the flip side I believed the devil communicated with me through the television and radio to commit suicide, even though I never attempted suicide.
My false beliefs went to the extent that I once believed I was a prophet of God on His mission, and then eventually Jesus Christ being persecuted all over again. Though I thought these beliefs were strange, I justified them through my faith. Schizophrenia caused me to think I could communicate with others by reading their mind, and sometimes they could read my mind too, it was all very weird, but possible through my faith.
I think religion can be a symptom for many of my peers with schizophrenia and other serious mental illnesses. The extreme examples of my experience with religion and my symptoms is my personal account, religion may affect my peers differently and sometimes not at all.
Now, I label my faith as my spirituality and not as religious practices. I still hold my faith with the understanding that the impossible is possible, however, my personal encounters were a byproduct of my undiagnosed/untreated mental illness.
* I appreciate your insight and sharing personal stories, please continue to comment to let me and our peers know what you think about this topic- thank you!
To learn more about schizophrenia visit the following websites: Embracing My Mind, Inc, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Choices in Recovery, and Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia (Canada).