At this point I think it’s time I tell you about my greatest source of pain. It was only one of many, but contributed more to later suffering and emotional damage than any other single event. I’m sharing this to illustrate how great and cruel stigma can be and how dehumanizing it is to the victim.

For many years I had longed to be part of a small group as I had been years before. I had loved the fellowship, the learning together, the friendships that developed. But that group folded and I had never stopped wishing for another one like it.

I had been leading a Living Room group for nine years, but that wasn’t the same thing. There my role was to minister to members’ needs – emotional and spiritual. But I wanted to be a participant for a change. I wanted to study the Bible on an equal footing with others, not as a leader.

At that time I badly needed friends to spend time with. I had only one in the church, a person I had learned to know at Living Room and had given support to. I badly needed Christian friends.

A group was forming – a place where one could “develop deeper relationships.” This excited me. It was exactly what I had been looking for all these years. I eagerly signed up.

But a couple of days before the first meeting I got a call saying I would not be included. I was told that two others from Living Room were already in the group. There would be a danger of it becoming a support group. To include me would be unhealthy.

I became very upset. Angry. Deeply hurt. After nine years of giving myself to serving God by helping people with mental health issues I, as a person with mental health issues, was being denied something she needed for herself! Something she had been needing for a long time.

What made things worse, was that I was the only person excluded. A person who had contributed so much to a church ministry, the person responsible for creating that innovative ministry, left out.

You can imagine the many thoughts going through my head. Why? What makes me so different? What have I done wrong? Not worthy enough to sit together with others? Inferior? What on earth made me so bad a person? I had always thought of myself as a good person, serving God in the best way I could. Caring for troubled people with a godly spirit. Up to that point I had effectively carried out my ministry. So why is this happening to me?

I’m not ashamed to tell you that I yelled and screamed, needing to express my outrage. I told the organizers several times that what they were doing was wrong. The next day I gave them an opportunity to change their minds. But they would not budge.

Soon after, I called someone who had worked with me and who I had considered a friend. I believed that she would surely show the compassion I needed so badly. But when I told her, her immediate response was, “You could go to another church.”

Not one of those who had supported me would admit that a wrong had been committed.

I started receiving counseling. When I told my counselor about the ways in which I had been hurt, he assured me that I had done nothing wrong. He was to repeat that statement many times in the work we did together.

So what’s going on? Lord, where were you in all this?