by Eve Wesson
I am on a path to finding my faith/spirituality, and I am so grateful to come across individuals who seem firmly grounded in their spirituality and relationship to a higher power. Talking with those individuals gives me strength and a belief that there is a purpose bigger than myself. These thoughts ground me in times of distress, though it wasn’t always that way.
It took me a long time to feel comfortable being around religion. I would shy away from conversations about religion and spirituality. Since then, I have learned that hiding from that conversation is not helpful for anyone, especially those who struggle with a mental illness. Faith should and can be expressed in many different ways, and the more we talk about it and find community through it, the more opportunities for growth and healing can arise.
I’ve witnessed first hand how powerful and healing faith can be for individuals. It took courage to listen to others struggle with their spirituality and to be open to look inside myself for what it meant to me.
When I went on my birthright trip to Israel, I stumbled upon a Sabbath gathering. Hand in hand, a group of men danced in a circle, each absorbed by the music, their praise to G-d becoming louder and louder. Every word memorized as if etched in their minds. I learned about these celebrations of the Sabbath in Hebrew school when I was young and was delighted to witness their ritual. These swirling dancing men rapturously embodied their songs and teachings. With each step, twist, or jump they gave themselves to G-d. Judaism is their center, and the music becomes their lives. Nothing could dissuade their song. I was consumed by the energy, filled with craving to join the circle. Soon more men surged into the ring, exploding with emotion. One man’s eyes were closed as he bellowed his thanks. All the men had twinkling eyes and a wide encompassing smile as they celebrated the Sabbath. These men were devoted to their religion, while I was left standing, separate.
I think about that feeling of standing apart and being so overwhelmed by their wonderful expression of faith. I so craved that feeling and wondered what it would be like.
Now, I no longer experience being outside of that circle and am on my journey to be part of a faith community. I may not be part of their particular tradition, but I can build and craft my own expression. I have my own spirituality and it grows every day. I have shed the need for it to fit into a box and look a certain way. I am encouraged by others’ steadfastness and embrace talking about it, building connections and bridges that will last a lifetime.
I’ve learned that faith/spirituality looks different for everyone and does not have to be part of something organized. Faith gives hope, provides support and brings comfort to so many. Including me.
The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the submitter. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the board of directors or members of the Interfaith Network on Mental Illness.