A Liturgy of Madness, led by Sue Rostron and Fionnaigh McKenzie
We began this service with everyone gathered at the entrance to the church, and gradually made our way forward towards the cross and the altar.
CALL TO WORSHIP
Christ be with you
And also with you.
Our God is a God who longs to be with us
Who reaches into our darkest places
who weeps within our tears.
Our God is a God who holds us
in the womb-space of compassion
labouring to bring us to birth
in the new life of freedom,
tasting the blood of our pain.
Our God is like a rock
unmoved from love
unshaken by anger
firm beneath our feet
in the eternal creating of our holy ground.
TIMELINE - ATTITUDES TO MADNESS
At this point we had lots of pieces of paper with facts about attitudes to mental illness. Participants were invited to take one, and stand in a timeline, based on when they think their fact occurred.
Let us recall the struggles of the journey
We come bearing the burdens
of ignorance and ill-treatment.
READINGS: BIBLICAL MADNESS
1 Samuel 16:14-23
THE LABELS WE BEAR
At this point we handed out post-it notes, and participants were invited to write down all of the names, taunts and insults they could think of for mentally ill people. We stuck these onto a cutout paper person.
Let us recall the pain of the journey
We come bearing the weight of prejudice
humiliation and dehumanization.
EXPERIENCES OF BROKENNESS
READING: I HAVE BEEN BROKEN - David Coleman & Zam Walker Wales
I have been broken
In ways you won't speak of
But you are my people
So I too am silenced
Open your eyes and
cry with my cries
in my anger and pain
So we can go forward together
in justice and love
In Jesus' name.
READING: SOMEONE IS CRYING - Suzanne Tocher
Someone is crying, "I want to go home, I want to go home," just like me.
Someone is receiving shock treatment behind a closed door.
Someone is walking straight and rigid and talking in a robot voice.
Someone is lying in bed. Her hands are moving in front of her face.
Someone is slitting her wrists and having them bandaged up again.
Someone is saying I'm just like her stepmother.
Someone is in a drugged sleep state. A nurse sits by her.
Someone is screaming as she is carried into the shower.
Someone is smashing a cup against the wall in the dining room. Pieces lie on the floor.
Someone is brushing her teeth, reciting, "Cleanliness is next to godliness," over and over again.
Someone has run out of the ward and jumped in front of a train. I watcher her husband slowly walking away with her black bag.
The nurse says I'm to stay and get well here.
READING: PULL - Fionnaigh McKenzie
You tell me to pull myself together.
My emotions are intense and destructive.
The highs are precarious, the lows unbearable.
I talk to eleven counselors and nine psychiatrists.
I go to a naturopath a homeopath, I have art therapy
and acupuncture, swallow herbs, minerals cut out sugar,
eat more bananas and nuts, get up early, exercise more.
I meditate, I pray, plant trees, paint pictures, write poems.
I am handed a box of pills after a five minute interview
I am told: You’ll feel better soon.
I do not feel better.
The only difference I notice is that I cannot sleep
and orgasm (my remedy for insomnia)
My mother takes me to another doctor
who make me sign my name to say I will not
kill myself. She forgets to tell me what I should
I get locked up (for my own safety)
The nurses check on me every 10 minutes, day or night.
I am treated like a child, an animal, and I hate myself.
I dig my nails into my arms to drown out the screaming...
They cut my nails and threaten me with isolation.
The screaming does not stop
the pain grows louder and sharper
until part of my mind collapses into darkness.
You tell me to pull myself together. You say I need
professional help you say I am selfish, manipulative
fucked up, an emotional screwball. You say I am possessed.
You pray over me, at me, (not with me).
You say I could get better
if I wanted to.
I stop crying.
I stop cutting my arms
because someone tells me I must
pull myself together.
I take white pills, yellow pills, green and purple pills.
I suffer minimal side effects: nausea, sleeplessness, anxiety dry skin, sexual dysfunction, weight gain and dizziness. I take pink and white pills
to counteract the side effects.
I live on waiting lists for weeks, months,
only to be referred to another doctor
and another waiting list, and another...
Then I get referred back to the first doctor.
I feel dizzy, I feel like I’ve been going
round in circles.
than I can remember
I have dragged myself out of despair
I have watched my life torn to shreds
screamed, raged, wept and then
knelt down, to gather up the pieces.
have not gone away, the screaming
has not stopped. For eight years now
the pain has been with me
but I am tired now.
You tell me to
I give up, I say
why the fuck
Let us taste the tears of this journey
(a bowl of salty water is passed around to represent tears. People can dip their fingers in it if they wish and the pain is honoured in silence).
LITANY OF HEALING
Where we feel fear
help us to live courage
courage to ask the right questions.
Where we feel weak
help us to live strength
strength enough to hear answers.
Where we feel pity
help us to live community
community that cherishes all people
Where we feel tired
help us to live rest
rest that nourishes us to give freely.
Where we feel despair
help us live hope
hope that reminds us
beauty grows from darkness.
Where we feel grief
help us live solace
solace as we have gained
more than we have lost.
God, help us to be at peace with our feelings
and use them to live creative change.
We had a ball of string, and the first person held the ball and shared something that contributed to their own wellness. Then they held onto the end of the string and threw the ball to the next person. As the ball was passed around people kept holding onto the string so that it formed a web connecting us to each other.
goes well beyond our understanding
and God’s love for us
is never measured by our love for ourselves.
Even as we walk a hard journey
we will claim together
this great hope.
Here we had we shared some examples of famous (brilliant) people who have had mental illnesses.
Abraham Lincoln (US president, depression), Virginia Woolf (writer, bipolar), Ludwig van Beethoven (composor, bipolar), Tennessee Williams (playwright, depression), Vincent Van Gogh (artist, bipolar), Isaac Newton (scientist, bipolar), Ernest Hemingway (writer, depression), Sylvia Plath (poet, depression), Winston Churchill (UK PM, bipolar), Charles Dickens (writer, depresion), John Forbes Nash Jr. (mathematician, schizophrenia), Syd Barrett (Pink Floyd, schizophrenia), Peter Green (Fleetwood Mac, schizophrenia), Buzz Aldrin (astronaut, depression), Drew Barrymore (actor, depression), Lionel Aldridge (Super Bowl, depression), Drew Carey (comedian, depression), Jim Carrey (actor, depression), Karen Carpenter (musician, anorexia), Eric Clapton (musician, depression), Leonard Cohen (musician, depression), Charles Darwin (naturalist, panic disorder), Vaslov Nijinsky (dancer, schizophrenia), Dorothy Day (social reformer, depression), Sir Anthony Hopkins (actor, depression), Axl Rose (musician, bipolar), Roseanne (comedian, Dissociative Identity Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), John Kirwan (All Black, depression), Denise L’Estrange-Corbet (fashion designer, depression), Mahinarangi Tocker (musician, depression), Mike King (comedian, depression).
A CHRISTIAN RESPONSE
We had a discussion about how we could respond, as Christians, to issues of mental health, and how we could support those who are struggling. Those of us with personal experience of mental illness talked about what was most helpful for us.
READING: Psalm 145:8-9, 14
READING: Keeping Company with the Fallen
A child who was late in returning from an errand explained to her worried parents that she had come across a friend who had dropped her beloved china doll and it had smashed to pieces on the sidewalk. 'Oh,' her father said, 'you stopped to help her pick up the pieces.' 'No,' the child answered, 'I stopped to help her cry.'
- Quoted in High-Flying Geese by Browne Barr
READING: Case Notes
The following was excerpted from the psychiatric case notes of a friend of ours...
Patient X was referred following increasing community concern about his behaviour and its effect on those around him.
Patient X exhibits signs of co-morbidity that have profoundly disrupted his life. Patient displays the following:
1. Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviours as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest.
2. Volunteers repeatedly to do things that are unpleasant.
3. Shows theatricality and exaggerated expression of emotion.
4. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance, expects to be recognised as superior.
5. is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
6. Believes that he is "special" and unique and can only be understood by other special people.
7. Is over conscientious, scrupulous, and inflexible about matters of morality, ethics, or values. Shows rigidity and stubbornness.
8. Suspects that others are exploiting, harming, or deceiving him. Is preoccupied with doubts about the loyalty or trustworthiness of friends or associates.
9. Has little, if any, interest in having sexual experiences.
10. Displays odd beliefs or magical thinking that influences behaviour.
11. Admits to unusual perceptual experiences, including bodily and auditory illusions.
12. Exhibits odd thinking and speech (eg has a style of speech that is excessively impressionistic, vague, or metaphorical)
13. Displays behaviour or appearance that is odd, eccentric, or peculiar.
14. Fasts excessively at times.
15. Exhibits messianic ideation & delusions of grandeur
Despite exhibiting many symptoms that are listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (including manic, anti-social, and schizotypal tendencies) our friend managed his "illness" and lived well. So well that we are still learning from the stories of his life, 2000 years later
READING Matthew 25:35-40
THE FOOD OF MADNESS
By this time we had journeyed all the way to the front of the church, and we gathered around the altar. We had a selection of “mad food” such as fruitcakes, nuts, fruit loops, crackers, all names for mad people. These foods were placed on the altar to show that mad people are accepted at God’s table. As we ate we had a debrief and chat. I think this was really important, as the service stirred up things for a lot of people. I was really glad that our minister was there for the service and to talk to people afterwards.
I Have Been Broken is from Courage to Love; Liturgies for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community, compiled by Geoffrey Duncan, The Pilgrim Press, Ohio, 2002.
Someone is Crying is from Well Connected; Journey to mental health, by Suzanne Tocher, Philip Garside Publishing Ltd, Wellington, 2001.
Keeping company with the fallen is from No Empty Phrases; An anthology based on The Lord's Prayer, compiled by Donald Hilton, National Christian Education Council, Birmingham, 1999.
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