38th DBC Entry: Our thoughts on Disability and Spirituality

May 13, 2008

Once again we have a very fascinating topic to work with and write about for this next installation of the awesome Disability Blog Carnival. I (Ivan) will try to elaborate on all of our thoughts on the subject. 

We are all Eastern Orthodox Christian. Athena’s significant other/friend and mentor to myself and The Integral is Eastern Orthodox, and Athena and the rest of us had been investigating that religion for some time. The fact that D was born into it, and it requires that all of its adherents marry other Christians, prompted us to accelerate our learning and understanding, for eventual conversion and baptism. Athena met D at a very dark time in our lives; we were under a misdiagnosis of bipolar disorder and had to take several heavy medications, including lithium and depakote. (there’s my topic for whenever I host a dbc edition.) We were exhausted, physically and psychologically, on a near-daily basis. At some point Athena was convinced that we were all dying of cancer, because our body was just so damned run down and worn out all the time. We weren’t DOING much physical activity to speak of, and so we were all flummoxed (utterly confused) as to why we were so tired. We later discovered that our tiredness was a side effect of our medication. We slept lightly and fitfully at best, and our sleep was rarely the restful kind. We could lie in bed with our eyes closed for hours but never really get our quota of needed “rest and relaxation” that would keep us from being so tired all the time. Medication can mess with many different body systems. 

What does this all have to do with disability and spirituality? Well, during that very dark time in our lives, we prayed a lot. I mean, every day, several times a day, hoping that we would be heard at some point. We needed SOMEONE to hear our despair and desperation, and we found solace in Jesus Christ. Our lot didn’t improve drastically, but our prayer and private time with Christ made life possible. Eventually I (Ivan) gave the others an ultimatum: we could either quit our meds and stop the bullshitting around with our life and leave our parents’ home to figure ourselves out, or we could all die and take the rest of the family with us. I tend to be somewhat of a militant, hence the two drastic options. Needless to say, since we’re all still living, we chose the first option. I believe that prayer led to our finding that particular solution to our problem. It was not a perfect solution, but it was the only viable, ecclesiastically legal solution we had. It was the one solution we came up with that would allow us to be free of the pharmacological thieves that were robbing us of our minds, our body’s physical strength, and the very essences of who we were. The Integral had been living in suspended animation, not dead yet not alive. In fact, we didn’t realise how separate our identities were (me-Ivan, Athena, and The Integral). We were only focused on living by the minute, passing the time, and most nights going to sleep and praying that we wouldn’t wake up the next morning. 

So spirituality and religion has a very, very important function in our lives. We although think that our disability -(now correctly diagnosed, might we add. well, as correctly as possible. autism and asperger’s, what’s the bloody difference?)- has a major role in how we interact with our Lord. 

Most of our prayers are silent, in that we do not outwardly vocalise, but allow God to listen to our thoughts. We aren’t gifted orators when it comes to prayer, so what’s in our minds has to suffice at the moment. 

We dealt with the dark era of our existence in a very autistic fashion, even though we were not diagnosed as such at the time, we were interested in analysing every little detail of our feelings throughout the days and months spanning those three years, to the fullest extent that we were able. Spirituality, as I said before, helped us, nay, allowed us, to survive that time of chaos and destruction to our minds and body. 

I hope this is along the lines of what the topic is supposed to be about. 


with input from The Integral and Athena



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