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Prayer Habits, Hallucinations, Etc.


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As I've read more at this forum, I'm beginning to realize I may not quite fit - because I've never been a committed Christian.  But maybe I'll get some good advice if I ask this question:

 

When I was a college student in the late 80's I gave up on Christianity because it seemed like nothing was there.  I was never a serious Christian, but I never bothered to question it until college.  So that was a fairly easy transition.  I became an apathetic atheist.

 

But sometimes in my life unlikely things have happened that make me question atheism.  A few years ago I met an old friend for a weekend and lots of weird things happened.  One key thing was meeting a lady who spontaneously gave me the Bhagavad Gita.  Finally as I was getting off the airplane after the trip, a passenger said something in conversation about worshipping the devil and that was the straw that broke the camel's back.  I instantly became convinced that a huge percentage of the population was secretly zombies or satanists and they were all spying on me, trying to brainwash me in my sleep, etc.  So I confided this to my mother, and she took me to her priest.  He performed an exorcism (just some prayers - it wasn't like the movies but it was an embarrassing waste of time :) ).  He made me promise to start going to church, so I started going to church.  Gradually my delusions changed from being harassed by humans to being harassed by demons and that made me feel better.  It was hard to sleep for several weeks because I thought they were trying to brainwash me in my sleep.  But my sister is an MD and she got me a prescription for sleeping pills.

 

So after a few weeks I started feeling normal, but I thought I finally had evidence for Christianity.  So I went to church every week and tried to read books about monks.  Every few months I would have a strange religious experience (like seeing Jesus in church or seeing a cross vanish and then drop on the floor after I apologized to God ...).  For some reason the cross incident bothered me, and I started suspecting that God and Satan might actually be reversed.  Mostly I felt like my religious experiences didn't make any sense.  It seemed like something was trying to tell me things, but I was unwilling to learn.

 

Then finally I quit going to church after two years.  I had decided the priest didn't believe in God and was only interested in swindling money from his sheep.  And of course Christianity didn't make any sense at all.  In fact the more I learned the less sense it made.  I had all those religious experiences, but they didn't make sense either.  So I gave up on church again.

 

A year ago I happened to mention these things to a therapist and she told me it was psychosis.  At first I didn't accept that explanation, but gradually I'm coming around, and intellectually I am back to being an atheist.

 

SO... here is the question: I'm really mixed up.  I know Christianity is B.S., but if I think back to these experiences I become depressed because none of it makes sense.  I often pray unconsciously, but I wonder if I need to break myself of all my religious habits.  I wish I had never heard of religion.  (Sorry for the long post.)

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I think you'll fit in just fine here. People will support you in your desire to leave religion behind and will help you find other perspectives.  Many here struggle with similar delusional thinking... I hate to say it, but it sounds like you might have some psychiatric condition that makes you think these things are real even while you know they are not.   Maybe a trip to a counselor and psychiatrist is in order?   Some meds can help the delusional thinking a lot.  :)  it is common for people with disorders that cause delusions and hallucinations to find comfort in religion so don't feel bad...

 

 Welcome to the site!  

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My guess about your experiences was that you had some sort of weirdness going on in your brain (either a chemical imbalance or stress that you weren't dealing with), and your brain used the symbolism it was most familiar with to translate the experience. I've heard some theories about dreams, that when we sleep there's a part of our brain just making random noise, and our dreams are the rest of our brain trying to translate that nonsense into something meaningful.

 

My advice to you wouldn't be to try to make the weird feelings stop, but rather to try to reinterpret them. If you're pretty sure you're "making things up" instead of having supernatural experiences, then learn about how our bodies/brains work, and when the feelings come up you can interpret them through that framework instead. Or, as I've learned from Budhist ideas, sometimes it's best to try to just step back and watch your thoughts. Don't label them as religious or demons or any of that; just try to see what the original trigger is, and see it as it is, apart from the story you're creating around it. Maybe you really are trying to tell yourself something. Maybe your brain chemistry doesn't work right. But it'll be hard to figure that out until you look at what's going on without all the assumptions that you picked up from christianity. I also find that sometimes my brain just does weird things, and if I just shrug and go on with life it'll wear off. If I turn it into something dramatic and make a big deal out of it, I'll get stuck in those ideas and have a harder time getting over it.

 

My other advice is to keep seeing a good therapist. Some forms of talk therapy are great at giving you tools to break habits (like CBT, which is about paying attention to your thoughts and dismantling habits starting with the thought triggers instead of waiting until it gets to the action stage). A good therapist can also help you figure out if something's enough of a medical issues that drugs could help. Really, the main point of getting an official diagnosis is so that it's easier to find a treatment that works for you. The label itself isn't going to do much to fix things.

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Guest Babylonian Dream

We who used to be strong believers aren't the only ones, we have people who didn't seriously believe as well. I actually am glad for you, its hell to have to have your entire worldview come crumbling down on you. It's seriously like waking up tomorrow and being told that not only is gravity not real, but the place you live in is diffferent.

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Thanks for those ideas.  I did discuss this with a therapist over several sessions about a year ago.  She thought I might have some type of delusional disorder but she seemed to be mainly interested in minimizing her exposure to liability in case I might harm myself or others.  That hurt my feelings, so I quit going to her.  More recently I went to another therapist, but I had an anxiety attack after the first visit and had to cancel any further.

 

In the back of my mind, I don't buy the psychiatric diagnosis.  But I don't know what to believe.  I'm not even sure about the boundaries of the hallucinations.  I know some things had to be hallucinations, but apparently I also hallucinated ordinary experiences.  It makes me tired to try to sort it out.

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You should seek appropriate medical treatment, and stick with it.  Brain chemistry imbalances are a likely cause of your perceived disorders.

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What most of us have come to realize around here is that Christianity can exacerbate or even trigger mental illness in one form or another. However, we are not mental health professionals. I can still say that dabbling in religion can't help.

 

Certainly, if hallucinations - religious or otherwise - are a symptom, there is a serious problem. Perhaps your sister can recommend a trustworthy psychiatrist. This isn't something you can get treated over the Internet.

 

All the best.

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Thanks for those suggestions.  Most people that experience psychosis have a serious mental illness like schizophrenia and are not able to function without medication.  I actually recovered in just a few weeks without medication.  Therapists I've talked to have instinctively encouraged me to take anti-psychotic medication, but I see no reason to take medicine several years after I recovered.

 

My current problem is that I remember lots crazy things that seemed totally real.  So deep down, my sense of what is plausible and implausible is distorted.  That's not psychosis, but it is a result of psychosis.

 

BTW: I had an insight on the prayer issue.  Christian theology has so many problems that it simply can't be true.  It's doesn't matter if God appears to you and tells you Christianity is true, Christianity is to messed-up to be true.  So if a real God exists, he might prefer that we not pretend to know things about him that we don't know.  IMO

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How are you sure you are "recovered"?

 

IMO, psychiatrists in the US are far too eager to medicate people.  Have you heard the expression? - "If the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail."

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Not all delusional disorders are as dramatic as schizophrenia.   Some forms of bipolar have episodes like you describe, and often happen under stress.   If you don't have any delusions anymore, that is great!   It could have just been youthful hormonal thing.   A lot of people have severe psychiatric symptoms in their teens and twenties, never to have the same symptoms again.   Just be on the lookout for the tendency for whatever chemical imbalance it is to manifest in other ways, like believing someone is out to get you in some way, that there is some conspiracy to help or hurt you, etc... these kinds of delusions are not always as colorful as religious delusions, but they are still delusions.   A lot of people have a subclinical tendency to have mild delusions, and do not require medication for them until the delusions affect their daily lives... like suddenly believing a spouse or a boss is doing something to hurt them, that a sign on the street or a TV commercial is speaking to them personally, or going from religion to religion based on whatever their flavor of psychosis tells them is the "right" belief at the moment.   If you don't notice any beliefs currently that cause you to behave differently than if you did not have these beliefs (apart from what is reasonable, like the belief that smoking will put you at an increased risk of cancer and COPD), than I wouldn't let it worry you today.  

 

I used to have an obsession with having to figure out everything.   It literally made me crazy.  I have learned that a lot of things in life can't be figured out or require more effort than it is worth to figure out.   Sometimes my serenity is more important than finding out the whys of everything that happen in the world.  I've become a much more content person since I've learned to let my brain rest. :)  I hope you can just accept your experiences for what they were and not try so hard to label it.   You could very well send yourself into another psychotic episode just by ruminating on your past ones!  I should know, I've been there. ;)

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Not all delusional disorders are as dramatic as schizophrenia.   Some forms of bipolar have episodes like you describe, and often happen under stress.   If you don't have any delusions anymore, that is great!   It could have just been youthful hormonal thing.   A lot of people have severe psychiatric symptoms in their teens and twenties, never to have the same symptoms again.   Just be on the lookout for the tendency for whatever chemical imbalance it is to manifest in other ways, like believing someone is out to get you in some way, that there is some conspiracy to help or hurt you, etc... these kinds of delusions are not always as colorful as religious delusions, but they are still delusions.   A lot of people have a subclinical tendency to have mild delusions, and do not require medication for them until the delusions affect their daily lives... like suddenly believing a spouse or a boss is doing something to hurt them, that a sign on the street or a TV commercial is speaking to them personally, or going from religion to religion based on whatever their flavor of psychosis tells them is the "right" belief at the moment.   If you don't notice any beliefs currently that cause you to behave differently than if you did not have these beliefs (apart from what is reasonable, like the belief that smoking will put you at an increased risk of cancer and COPD), than I wouldn't let it worry you today.  

 

I used to have an obsession with having to figure out everything.   It literally made me crazy.  I have learned that a lot of things in life can't be figured out or require more effort than it is worth to figure out.   Sometimes my serenity is more important than finding out the whys of everything that happen in the world.  I've become a much more content person since I've learned to let my brain rest. smile.png  I hope you can just accept your experiences for what they were and not try so hard to label it.   You could very well send yourself into another psychotic episode just by ruminating on your past ones!  I should know, I've been there. wink.png

 

Thanks, pandora.  I'm glad somebody else one the forum has experienced psychosis.  I actually brought up my mental breakdown to try to explain why I went back to Christianity in my 40s after having decided Christianity was nonsense in my 20s.  And also I wanted to explain why I have subconscious fears about religion and spirituality now.  But it seems like that is hard to explain to people unless they have had similar experiences.

 

I'm mostly o.k. now.  Sometimes I become suspicious about coincidences and my mind wanders off trying to make sense of my life.  I think your advice is good to try not to think about it. :)

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I've only had two full-blown psychotic episodes.  They were drug induced and after I left Christianity, but I have always had a tendency to believe that events in life had some meaning, that in a general sense somehow someone or something was watching out for me.   They never became specific all-out psychotic delusions until I started using marijuana and Spice (don't do drugs, kids... drugs don't cause delusions and schizophrenia, but they certainly exacerbate or bring to the surface the condition in those already prone).   I think the positive nature of my delusions was due to the fact I lost my dad at a young age and I subconsciously wanted something to watch out for me.  

 

When I was a Christian, the religion perpetuated and encouraged that line of thinking and I had no idea how unhealthy it was to believe those things.  Now that I am out of religion, it is easier to ditch these kind of thoughts and recognize them as crazy-making, even though they aren't harmful thoughts or specific ideas that change the way I live my life.   Life happens, coincidences occur every day, and the one with the most power to change my life is ME, not some vague force that aligns events in my favor.   If I keep that in mind, I stay happy and sane.  I haven't struggled with any delusions since I've remained sober and I'm glad that my problem was that simple.  Apparently, my natural state teeters on that line but is mostly in the "sane" category.   Substances send me over the edge...  a fact that makes me sad. ;)   Others have these chemical imbalances without the use of any substance and I am sure that is much more difficult to escape.  I do not take any psychiatric medication anymore and I've been fine.   I just needed them to get my brain back to normal after using threw my brain out of whack.

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I just wanted to add a few things... people who have never had a clinical delusion have no idea how frightening they can be.  You realize that what you believe in the moment is wrong, but your brain won't allow you stop believing it.   Those are are more self aware can get very confused and depressed by this paradox... some people who have delusions go all out and never question themselves because the brain chemistry is so extreme that they are unable to, but people like us have a constant inner battle when the delusions aren't full-blown.

 

Since my problem was mainly present only when I was using, I was able to get things under control... but if you notice these things still affecting you, some therapy may help you learn to ignore intrusive thoughts like that, and a low dose of an antispychotic may put those kinds of thoughts permanently to rest.  Just something to think about... I would only recommend pharmaceuticals if you find yourself unable to sleep at night trying to "figure it all out" or racked with anxiety when you attempt to counteract those thoughts.   A lot more people struggle with delusional thinking than they care to admit... otherwise how would there be so many Christians? :)

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I just wanted to add a few things... people who have never had a clinical delusion have no idea how frightening they can be.  You realize that what you believe in the moment is wrong, but your brain won't allow you stop believing it.   Those are are more self aware can get very confused and depressed by this paradox... some people who have delusions go all out and never question themselves because the brain chemistry is so extreme that they are unable to, but people like us have a constant inner battle when the delusions aren't full-blown.

 

Since my problem was mainly present only when I was using, I was able to get things under control... but if you notice these things still affecting you, some therapy may help you learn to ignore intrusive thoughts like that, and a low dose of an antispychotic may put those kinds of thoughts permanently to rest.  Just something to think about... I would only recommend pharmaceuticals if you find yourself unable to sleep at night trying to "figure it all out" or racked with anxiety when you attempt to counteract those thoughts.   A lot more people struggle with delusional thinking than they care to admit... otherwise how would there be so many Christians? smile.png

 

Thanks, pandora.  I suspect my brain chemistry tends towards psychosis like you mentioned.  So far I've only had that one brief psychotic episode a few years ago.  I don't know what triggered the breakdown.  I've done a lot of stupid things over my life due to depression, and they pile-up.

 

Here are some examples of my problems lately.  I was reading a book and somebody was named "Friendly" and a couple of other people had names that seemed to be significant.  So I started wondering if it was a clue from something outside telling me that this "reality" is actually a facade.  Or I misplaced a book about Hinduism and I started worrying that somebody teleported the book someplace because I shouldn't be reading about Hinduism.  Then I found the book and still wondered if it had been teleported back to confuse me.  Or I often see bugs and think they might be spying on me.  I know these ideas are unlikely, but I keep worrying that they might be true.

 

The other problem I have is difficulty concentrating.  Often I start staring and think the same thoughts over and over.  I've had chronic depression all my life, but this seems a little different.  Actually this spacing out is more of problem than the delusional worries, because I can't get much done.

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Also, I don't want to exaggerate my problems.   People reading those descriptions (especially the delusions) would think I am in very bad shape, but they are more like nagging worries instead of beliefs.  The problems with concentration and motivation are fairly frequent, but it's hard to know how much of that is simply depression.

 

Thanks again.  It helps me to get other perspectives and commonality, etc. :)

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As long as you know that these ideas are not true, then you're okay for the most part, IMO.  I've not had specific delusions like that since I was using.   If I continued to have thoughts like that, I would have stayed on my meds just to avoid the constant confusion and anxiety.  I did not have side effects with the medicines I was prescribed... not all of the new antipsychotics are as harsh as the old-school drugs.   It sounds like you could still benefit from some sort of psychiatric attention, whether counseling, meds, or both.   The extreme dissociation you describe is a part of many other disorders, not just depression and the nature of your continued delusions seem to be affecting your daily life, even if they aren't affecting your ability to function in general.  I wonder if your depression would get better if you didn't have to deal with the confusing fantasies of your dopamine-saturated brain. :)

 

It is up to you to pursue treatment. The trick is finding someone you trust, especially while still being stuck in the paranoid mindset.  I wish you luck on your journey. 

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As long as you know that these ideas are not true, then you're okay for the most part, IMO.  I've not had specific delusions like that since I was using.   If I continued to have thoughts like that, I would have stayed on my meds just to avoid the constant confusion and anxiety.  I did not have side effects with the medicines I was prescribed... not all of the new antipsychotics are as harsh as the old-school drugs.   It sounds like you could still benefit from some sort of psychiatric attention, whether counseling, meds, or both.   The extreme dissociation you describe is a part of many other disorders, not just depression and the nature of your continued delusions seem to be affecting your daily life, even if they aren't affecting your ability to function in general.  I wonder if your depression would get better if you didn't have to deal with the confusing fantasies of your dopamine-saturated brain. smile.png

 

It is up to you to pursue treatment. The trick is finding someone you trust, especially while still being stuck in the paranoid mindset.  I wish you luck on your journey. 

 

Thanks. BTW That's another good insight that the paranoid inclinations make it harder to trust the therapists.  I hadn't realized, but it's true.  I'm beginning to realize that there is more to psychosis than the psychotic episode.  It helps me understand my situation better. :)

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