Sunday, May 8, 2011

Depression, Suicide and Religion


I know of a Jehovah's Witness woman who is currently in the psychiatric ward because she tried to commit suicide. She is not alone. Other women in this religion have also tried that exit route, including me back in 1996.

Looking back, what could I say to someone like her? I might say, "One of the first things I learned about suicide is that it is a cry for help. Depression is not your fault. Depression is indicative of a set of circumstances present in your life."

A patriarchal way of life is very often abusive toward women. Jehovah's witnesses call their god "The Great Patriarch."—Insight vol 2, under Law, p. 212, subheading: Laws to Noah; Patriarchal Law. How can men who choose a god like Jehovah be anything but "just like him"?

This wounded soul might not like to know that religion does not have the answers. I know now that the instruction from the elders to "read your Bible more" is a diversionary tactic to stop people from living life by actively using their "free will." In religion, women are not allowed to just "be." Religions teach that women must be performers and producers. If they are stay-at-home moms, they are unpaid laborors and, as a result of societal pressure, often feel devalued and under-appreciated. Unfortunately, there is such a thing as trying too hard to please other people. It is important to know that some patriarchs are in fact "un-pleasable." Women are never allowed to "please themselves" as that would be considered selfish. To that I would say, "it is important and imperative to take time to nurture yourself and make sure your OWN needs are met. There is even a scripture to support that view, found at Matthew 5:6 which says, "Happy are those hungering and thirsting for righteousness, since they will be filled." What religion fails to explain is it is not possible to help others from an empty cup. If you are hungering and thirsting, please take the time to fill your own cup first. Then you will be in a position to help others. Take for example, when on an airplane and you hear the spiel about what to do in an emergency. The instructions are to put the oxygen mask over your own face first; then you will be able to help your child or someone else in need. If you are the one without the oxygen mask, you will die. We cannot serve another if our own cup is empty. If, on the other hand, your cup is filled to overflowing, then you will not deplete yourself when extending a hand to help another." To religious patriarchs I would ask the question, "Why did I NEVER hear this little-known explanation when I was a member of your flock?"

Most Jehovah's Witnesses do not believe in obtaining psychiatric help. Elders quote a scripture to support their view. "All scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight. . ."—2 Timothy 3:16 New World Translation (NWT). I hope her being in the hospital will enable her to get the help she needs to become healthy and well. If she is anything like me, and if her husband allows, she will go into group therapy with barely a voice to express herself. Nevertheless, group therapy will help her to see the depths of suffering other people endure. Perhaps she can relate to some of it. Perhaps she will be able to identify some abuse to which she has been subjected. Perhaps she will identify where the healthy boundaries have been crossed to produce the poor health she now experiences.

I hope she knows that other women have suffered similarly and are here to support her if she reaches out for help. I know from experience she will not receive help from the congregation. Instead she will hear scriptures such as one I heard quoted from Luke 9:62 (NWT) which says, ". . . No man that has put his hand to a plow and looks at the things behind is well fitted for the kingdom of God." Here is a sad example of how religion suppresses women's ability to feel, by not validating their feelings. Elders and friends tell women, "You shouldn't feel that way!" Religion suppresses women's sense of intuition, their inner guidance system.

Dear sister, ultimately you are the one who knows what is best for you. Suicide attempts are a cry for help. Reach out to other women who have experienced what you are now experiencing. I encourage you to seek medical and psychiatric help in such circumstances. Give yourself permission to embrace the help available within your community and allow yourself to benefit from it. And know that you are loved unconditionally, no matter what.

Most of all, know that you have within you the ability to heal.

I received this poem early in my journey to freedom. I'd like to share it here:

The Courage to be Myself

by Sue Patton Toele     
I have the courage to...
Embrace my strengths
Get excited about life
Enjoy giving and receiving love
Face and transform my fears
Ask for help and support when I need it
Spring free of the Superwoman trap
Trust myself
Make my own decisions and choices
Befriend myself
Complete unfinished business
Realize that I have emotional and practical rights
Honor my own needs
Give myself credit for my accomplishments
Love the little girl within me
Overcome my addiction to approval sponge
Feel all my feelings and act on them appropriately
Nurture others because I want to, not because I have to
Choose what is right for me
Insist on being paid fairly for what I do
Get limits and boundaries and stick by them
Say "yes" only when I mean it
Have realistic expectations
Take risks and accept challenges
Be totally honest with myself
Correct erroneous beliefs and assumptions
Respect my vulnerabilities
Heal old and current wounds
Savor the mystery of spirit
Wave good-bye to guilt
Plant "Flower" not "Weed" thoughts in my mind
Treat myself with respect and teach others to do the same
Fill my own cup first; then nourish others from the overflow
Own my own excellence
Plan for the future but live in the present
Value my intuition and wisdom
Know that I am lovable
Celebrate the differences between men and women
Develop healthy supportive relationships
Make forgiveness a priority
Accept myself just as I am now

Visit website "Phoenix of Faith" the memoir. Follow on Twitter: _Phoenixoffaith Copyright © 2011. Permission is granted to copy and re-distribute this transmission on the condition that it is distributed freely.

3 comments:

  1. I like how you quote Bible scriptures to support your argument - it leads to scripture interpretation debates, which is, to my mind, a very needed thing these days. Psychotherapy can be a very beneficial thing, but caveat emptor. Not all therapists are created equal, and not all schools of psychotherapy would be effective in a particular situation. I hope the person you write about will rebuild her life.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I like how you quote Bible scriptures to support your argument - it leads to scripture interpretation debates, which is, to my mind, a very needed thing these days. Psychotherapy can be a very beneficial thing, but caveat emptor. Not all therapists are created equal, and not all schools of psychotherapy would be effective in a particular situation. I hope the person you write about will rebuild her life.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Anon... yes, I agree with you on the therapy. The therapist would need to understand how cults operate. More and more I am seeing that a cult expert who has "been there done that" would be a great asset to those with shattered lives due to religious indoctrination. Religion seems to negate "free will" since people think they are saying "no" to God when they would like to say "no" to some religious rules. As a result, the word "No" is not in their vocabulary and they don't know why they feel so bad... But their soul knows they have been abused. Thanks for your comment.

    ReplyDelete