Why I suffer with a call to community

 
Am I an introvert or an extrovert? Do those categories affect how my mental illness shows? I say yes, inevitably. Problem is, I fall between those two poles. When I'm with people and I need to swallow an opinion – to gulp a pain, and bury my wounds, then I get disconnected from my integrity. I become the black sheep. Am I an introvert or an extrovert?

I love people. I thrive on being around them. But. My load is heavier by the day. I am a little bit different.

I don't know why. I was born like it. And then I chose that path because I felt it would have rewards for me down the road. I took my valued direction. Suffering is when you carry weights around before your muscles can cope with the responsibility.

Can you be lonely for Christ? I was not ready for the spiritual desert of mental illness. There is ignorance around it in the church, a reluctance to get involved in a fix. I was told once, by a retired clergyman, that I was the only person who could change my anxiety.

This was in comparison to a physical illness. That did not feel good.

When I am in the right context, I do what I wish I could. I perform. I'm curious about people around me and what they need. What the public don't see is what's behind my closed doors. Hurt, anxiety, and depression.

A genuine practical lack of hope that I will be helped, based off of years and years and years of asking, and vulnerability.

Nonconforming is isolating. And confirmation is hyperlocal if you live in a rural area.

People wonder why you do it, grow so different and you want to tell them it's because you can't help it. Sometimes in life, it's impossible to follow the crowd, especially if that crowd unwittingly use stigma around mental illnesses and I have one.

I was also desensitised to good things for a long time due to being bullied as an adult by a church. My batteries were flat. Patriarchy has infinite meanings. Good and not as godly. Abraham was our patriarch. But male entitlement is alive and kicking in the church. It kicked me out.

I get asked fairly often if I'm born again. Yes I am. When I was around eight I asked Jesus into my life. I don't believe he ever left me.

I swore off Him for a while.

But not through abuse in the church. I knew Jesus in that hiatus. I communed with the Trinity. I found it hard to trust their sons, daughters, their friends, their hosts on earth.

So perhaps I wasn't saved?

I feel sad that the Church wears blinkers sometimes. I don't want to be a victim. I want to find freedom in Christ. But the only sums you can do when you have mental illness, which is deficit-based, are inequalities. I needed a yolk then to get me walking forward again, and I needed an easy one.

I used online church.

Sensuality gets a bad rap in Christian circles. But if you're depressed, self-care can be a boon to feeling. I am recovering quicker in a church where I can hear the worship, say the prayers, feel the touches. I tried all denominations of church in the interim between illness and finding my brick-and-mortar Pentecostal.

I sang in the choir of a High Anglican church for nearly two years. It wasn't for me. I dearly loved the music. But I can't deny my chasm. Because there is an extrovert in me, waiting to get out. If you don't have a community in life that will bear your shield as you fight the good fight, routines get extremely lonely, even spiritual, inspired ones.

Showing up for myself sounds terribly American. I believe we Brits are resistant to internal vibrations. Feelings are energy in motion. And the best of us -- those with the stiffest lips -- turn to friends to validate how we feel. We need to be on the same team.

Naturally, I want to pass on my emotion too. And for my community to join me in a big game of Rounders. The lovely thing about sports is everybody knows the rules. Confessing my feelings were valid regardless of the outcome of the Christian game, that felt extraordinarily courageous to me. I was hurt, and I hurt alone.

Christ stated my value on the cross. I was not an exception.

Without tending to myself very carefully, I get fog. That's like when I can't even see Golgotha. I know then I'm not functioning right. Sometimes, in spite of my best efforts, the fog still comes, up to 80% of the time I'm alone.

And yes, I do devotions, I listen to worship music, I pray.

Imagine considering myself with this level of detail forever. It would be exhausting. I'm mid-thirties and I don't believe I could cope with motherhood. I often wonder what would've happened had the church showed up differently for me. Christian's will say 'God has a plan.' Why should that mean they needn't interact productively with you? Or is it me projecting my loneliness again.

Because we - me, and I, myself and my illnesses: we create an ideology. The crusade by which we will change our world. Except how will we enrol the people in this enterprise? I can't afford new shoes or a shoe rack.The floor is littered by footwear.

What does this have to do with my illnesses? It's for when people ask for evidence.

They want to know what happened that made me distressed. What was the narrative? Just a glimpse of it. And then I've got to decide how to take the gamble. How deep the information that will seduce them into belief. To get them on my side. To induct them in my world. The victim's charm.

But the data is trivial. Banal. I feel as if I'm reading people the dictionary. There's a sense I'm using my 'Yellow Pages' when the world has moved on. It's the reaction: What do we do with this?

How do we recycle it into something good? Where is the blessing that's unclaimed in her bank account? It's like I'm waiting for a Godly PPI Insurance Repayment.

Perhaps the world is as baffled as I am.

I find it hard to hold my roles together. I find it taxing to remember what I told to who. It's like being caught in a lie that's your deepest truth.
My Grandma saved her best china for her priest. I get mine out, one chinked cup at a time.

The Church is like an orange that clings together in juicy segments, though Jesus has peeled off and ascended to eternity.

The pith is bitter. The flesh is sweet. The pips sew new life. The whole experience is marvellous. The church is there for eating. We should feed on it because it helps us grow. A fertile ground will birth a new orange tree. Somewhere.

It's just a metaphor. You know what I'm saying? Don't let yourself be too exotic to hang with the other oranges. That's a message to myself.

It's easy to believe that Jesus is happening elsewhere.

Bethany Bennett, 12/12/2016