i might have shared this before, so apologies if I have (I'm always saying sorry for something) but today I wanted to talk about religion and its impact on my mental health.
I was brought up Catholic, I didn't go to Sunday school like at my C of E mates did, I went on Saturday instead, this meant I missed Tizwas and the phantom flan flinger (google it), and then on Sundays when all my mates were being religiously educated I was hanging around the road, having slow bike races on my own, or playing 50:50 or off ground it.
I was baptised, i took first holy communion, I was confirmed (although shamefully and with some associated guilt I can't remember my confirmation name), I got married in a catholic church, my boys were baptised in the same church I was.
I stopped going to church many many years ago, but I still believed, and still believe in some higher power. I find it helps to have some sort of faith, it's reassuring. But last year I reassessed my religious relationship.
The thing is that I used to pray every night before I fell asleep. I stopped this last October. After praying every night from the age of about 5 to 45,
That means (ignoring leap years) I prayed around 14,600 times. If I forgot at night I said my prayers in the morning, it became something of a, um, religion. I had OCD, obsessive catholic disorder.
Now I'm not setting out to criticise religion, or specific religions, but just to talk about how I think my relationship with it affected my mental health, and to explain why I stopped.
So every night I would rattle off an Our Father and a few Hail Mary's, something I'd learnt from the confessional booth, and then I would say a special prayer at the end. It kinda went like this:
"Dear God, please let this person be ok, please let that person be ok, please let this thing go ok, please let that thing go ok, sorry I did this thing, sorry I did that thing. Amen"
If you're an important person in my life you will have featured, maybe a few times, maybe hundreds or thousands and some every single night. You might not realise how important you are to me, you might think you're not important to me (at all or any more) but you'd still be there every night. I might have prayed that you're ok, that you get that job, that you're pregnancy is ok, that your kids are ok - you get the picture.
I realised last year that going to bed every night focussing and apologising for all the things I had done wrong, and seeking spiritual reassurance that others things would go right was probably (definitely) not doing me much good on the old MH Anxiety stakes. I was told I have generalised anxiety, well I'd be bloody surprised if I didn't with the worrying I was doing EVERY SINGLE NIGHT.
Stopping was hard. I've lost an outlet. I think I'll probably reassess this in a while, but not yet. Faith can be really important in helping people cope, but it wasn't working for me, certainly not the way I was doing it. I've ended up leaning on friends and family more to help me out.
George Michael famously sung about Faith, he said he had to (or gotta) have faith.
When asked why he went on in the song to explain "Cause I gotta' have faith, I gotta' have faith, Because I gotta' have faith, faith, faith
I got to have faith, faith, faith"
An interesting insight I'm sure you'll agree.
If faith helps, then that's great. But if you're like me and faith, or your relationship with it, didn't help, then the best thing you can do, which I'm sure any God would agree with is to change your relationship, this might just be a simple change or something more significant like mine. I think I've thrown myself into all relationships in my life and striven to be the perfect partner, and maybe I was trying to do that with this relationship too.
Whatever your relationship is with your own personal jesus, whether they hear your prayers, or is someone who cares or someone who's there, then that cool.
Take Care, Keep the Faith (or don't)
Mr Paul Wyse