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The Rhino

Through The Shadow...

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Hi everyone. Long time.

 

For a number of years I have been on a personal journey, which involved mental illness questioning my faith, realising my professional path. Getting married. It has been a long and painful transformation but I feel much better for it. More at peace. The problem is, much of my suffering has had a huge impact on my wife.

 

Much of my illness was centred around faith. The upshot of it all was that I feel more secure in my beliefs now. But I'm worried I have shaken hers to the core.

I feel well enough now to start seeing the damage that I have done to others, especially my wife. She is far more anxious and prone to stress and depressive episodes. Yesterday I said I wanted to go to church (Something we have never done on a regular basis together, but something she used to love doing) she said she did not think she could as it would be hypocritical as much of what is said she no longer agrees with. I don't know if she still believes or not.

 

I'm concerned that my illness has damaged her faith. Mine is important to me, and it is important to me that she too has faith. Her beliefs got me through some tough times. I don't know if this makes sense. It's a hurried post I'm afraid. I guess I'm looking for some direction as I can't really talk to her too much, as she is reminded of my illness when I start talking too deeply about the importance of faith.

 

Thoughts?

Edited by The Rhino

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Hi Rhino. Thanks for your post. Don't worry about your what you wrote -- it makes perfect sense. I don't know if we can help you here, but you took a risk in reaching out, and I hope you'll at least feel safe here.

 

I don't have any fast, easy answers for you because the situation you describe is complex (as you know). I very much hope you're able to connect with a health care professional you trust. I know this can be difficult if you need to talk about questions of faith but your health care provider isn't interested. I know it can also be difficult if you need to talk about mental health care issues with a pastor but the pastor isn't interested. What I'm trying to say is . . . I hope you're getting the one-on-one care you're probably needing right now.

 

I don't know what your context is, so it's difficult for me to say anything too specific about your faith concerns. If your background is evangelical, fundamentalist, or conservative, and you're trying to move away from that, you'll find a lot of sympathetic ears here. Maybe that's not your context, though. Maybe it's something else that's eating away at you.

 

Do you think you'd find it helpful to talk to a counsellor about why you feel so guilty about your wife's experience of faith? I know you love her and want what's best for her. But maybe it's enough for you both to quietly support each other as you both heal your relationship with God. Maybe it's okay with God if you and your wife have some different needs and therefore some different ways of doing things on the journey of healing.

 

I think it would be okay for you to go to church by yourself if you feel drawn to this experience. I don't think God will be upset if you go by yourself. Some of your fellow parishioners may be upset and judgmental, but, you know, that's their problem.

 

Healing any relationship is a complex process that takes time, and healing our relationship with God is no different. So be kind to yourself. Let God show you how to heal yourself. God knows what your wife is thinking and feeling, and God will care for her as God cares for you. Your paths won't be identical, but that's okay. Part of loving another person is to find the courage to honour those differences. Hold each other's hands, but allow your steps on the path to be your own.

 

God loves you both very much.

 

Jen

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Hi Rhino,

 

I can understand that much of what is heard in traditional churches is difficult to agree with as your wife has claimed. I see it the same way and i do not attend church on a regular basis. Attending church and faith in my view do not necessarily make a connection . Be patient with your wife as she goes through a most difficult time. As Jen says healing is a process that takes time.

 

Good to have you back.

Joseph

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Rhino I like your enthusiasm and sincerity. I can't give you any advice, but when I married my wife 34 years ago she was a very conservtive Christian. I on the other hand just left an Ashram where I meditated 4 hours a day. I never talked to her about changing or alering her life style as I loved her the way she was that is why I married her, but over the years I have observed she and I have both changed without the philisophical discourses which I like or preaching of any kind. I respected where she was in the moment and the next moment and the ones that came after that and she did the same letting me meditate and even watching over my meditation time so I am not disturbed. I realized that we are human beings, the hard part just being and not messing things up, accepting what the Lord gives us so we can enjoy the game. Good luck with your endeavors, I am sure they will bring you closer together.

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Thank you everyone. I am so appreciative of your kind and non-judgemental words. They really helped me a lot. I have not yet gone to church as I am still trying to work through a few things but I hope the soon I will be able to.

 

My upbringing incidentally way never very strictly fundamentalist, though the context of my intrusive thoughts caused by my mental illness certainly was at times. I want to be able to experience a spiritual community without judgement and fear and so far this forum is the only place I have been able to experience this, but I would like to hope that there is a way of having this in a more geographically close way.

 

As far as my wife is concerned, I am particularly worried because I think she needs some spiritual support as she has always had particular difficulty coming to terms with the idea of death and the fear of never being able to see her loved ones again. Which at times can cause her to have moments of sever panic.

 

I am sure that this will all work out, it’s just a frightening time as thinking of going to church holds a lot of opportunities to dredge up some scary experiences for both of us. I think I will try out the local Methodist church in a week or two when I or we feel ready.

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Hello, Rhino,

 

It's good to hear your thoughts. I think your honesty about your feelings is an important part of the healing journey. Your need to experience a spiritual community without judgment or fear shows how much healing you've already accomplished. All you can really do is add to that bit by bit, step by step, each day. It's extraordinary how much all the little bits add up when one has the courage to go slowly and carefully. You've already shown you have that courage.

 

I think many people can relate to your wife's questions about death and whether she'll see her loved ones again. It's interesting to note that sometimes the Christian Church, in its formal positions on the nature of humankind and on last things, can be more of a hindrance than a help in showing Christians how to deal with the pain of these questions. (I'm speaking here of formal church doctrines adopted over the centuries within Western Christian orthodoxies, not of grassroots support and concern along the way.) I tackled the history of doctrines of the soul for a recent graduate degree, and believe me . . . it's a big, knotty, thorny, ugly mess that doesn't do much to help people get through the grief they struggle with.

 

In recent years, some books written by credible authors have appeared on the question of life after death. One book, written by a Christian physician named Mary Neal, describes her near death experience. Your wife may find her website -- http://drmaryneal.com/about-to-heaven-and-back.html-- helpful because of the large number of experiences posted by readers on the "Share Your Miracles" page.

 

There are certainly some unscrupulous people out there who are eager to take advantage of the many who long to know what happens when we die. So it's good to be cautious when looking for answers. But there are also a lot of people who've had experiences they can't explain by using simple classical physics. So go slowly, take it step by step, and always hang onto your logic and common sense when exploring questions about death and the afterlife. It's okay with God if you have a "thinking faith" rather than a "blind faith." It's what Jesus taught.

 

Take care,

Jen

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