A long time ago—before modern medications existed: One person’s experiences:

I suspected there had been something strange going on with my mind for months—thoughts and experiences I wasn’t able to understand. I was confused, couldn’t make sense of what was happening around me or within me. Found myself doing bizarre things I couldn’t help.

A series of old Shirley Temple movies was run on TV at the time and, because I had always loved her, I believed they were being played especially for me. I watched each one. Patiently, but squirming, unable to sit still or stay in one place.

I imagined a radio show in a foreign language was broadcast with special messages for me. Falsely believed that I could understand what was being said. These are the kinds of tricks my mind was playing. I was extremely frightened by it all. When my distress was at its worst I banged my head against a wall in an effort to stop the torment.

I got worse. Finally, when my screaming became unbearable, my parents called a cab and took me to the hospital. In the emergency room I shouted obscenities at the staff, something much out of character for a person who had always been quiet and reserved. They gave me a shot in my rear and I began to settle down.

A kind doctor came and talked to me. He noticed the poetry book I had brought along. Leafing through the pages he found If by Rudyard Kipling and asked me to read it out loud for him. I read slowly, absorbing every word. Reading that poem did wonders for me. It gave me hope. It encouraged me. I realized I could find a good life.

After reading the poem I fell asleep.

Rudyard Kipling’s poem became an inspiration for her that has lasted all her life. She often wished she could find that doctor to thank him for introducing her to it.

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

but make allowance for their doubting too.

 There are many ways a person in crisis can be helped. It takes a calm approach by a caring caregiver who understands that the distraught person they see in front of them is only going through a temporary crisis. A person who simply needs time, some good medical care, and compassion.

Here’s a story from the Bible about a man who suffered much like the person in the story above.

They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasene’s. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones. (Mark 5:1-5)

This wild, crazed man was believed by all the townspeople to be possessed by demons—a condition often confused with mental illness. But Jesus cared for the man, not judging him by what ailed him but seeing the man for the person he was. He was not afraid of him, but drew close and commanded the demons to leave him. Jesus healed him as he had healed others.

Uneducated people often consider mentally ill individuals spiritually unwell, or “not right with God.” This is a dangerous diagnosis to give to otherwise God-loving people. Those living with mental illness have bona-fide medical problems beyond their control yet are left feeling shame, thought badly of by their community. The damaging effect on their lives can have enormous proportions, often leading to hopelessness that makes ending their life preferable to the emotional pain they experience.

People like this tortured man are often considered evil. But I believe much greater evil is committed when a sane man treats such a person unkindly or in a hurtful way. Are we doing that?

The man was greatly relieved when Jesus freed him from the turmoil that had possessed him. In its place he found the great gift of choosing to be possessed by God, whose possession he already was. He wasn’t left empty that day.

The man begged Jesus to let him follow Him. But Jesus, who so often said “Follow me”, now said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” (vs 19)

So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed. (vs 20)

This homeless, crazed, bleeding and frightening man made a valuable contribution to Jesus’ ministry. He became one of the best witnesses possible—one who had suffered greatly but found healing. If this is possible for a person such as him, what’s possible for us?


This has been Part 19 of the series In the Name of Jesus. God to Part 20 – The leprosy of mental illness.