Does spirituality prevent or cure mental illness?

I have been spiritual since I was fourteen, so almost half of my life. Praying, meditating, visiting the temple, reading scriptures alone and with friends all made up a significant part of my life. Slowly and steadily, spirituality went on the back burner starting almost three years ago. I completely stopped spiritual things about six months ago. I did not find the time for spirituality. I want to get back to spiritual activities but at the back of my mind I really wonder if it is worth it.

I have had depression on and off since I was fifteen or sixteen. I had my first major anxiety attack a little over a year ago. I have had two more since then and countless bouts of anxiety and depression over the past decade. Despite reading so much about self-control, hope, selflessness, perseverance, generosity, humility, surrendering to a god and all such ‘positive’ ideologies I find myself empty. I feel like God or whatever you want to call it has abandoned me, if such a being even exists.

I made the choices I did because they seemed right at the time. I see people around me who are not that much smarter and not nearly as hard-working living more comfortable, peaceful lives.

I am almost 28. I am poor, work 60 hours a week, still in school, making less than minimum wage hourly, my graduation is not in sight, I am judged almost on a daily basis, I have a sore back and neck, I don’t have publications to my name yet, my project is not giving concrete results, the job market sucks, the lab I am working in does not have any money left, I have to teach part-time to support myself but face getting fired from that, my wife still has thousands of dollars in debt and she doesn’t make much more than me, I have few friends and almost no social life.

Just reading that last paragraph is humiliating. This is not where I pictured myself when I was fourteen, the year that I decided to embark upon spirituality. I wanted a steady, decent paying job with a nice group of friends. And a fancy car. OK, I don’t really care about the car anymore. But is a steady, decent paying job with a loyal friend circle too much to ask? By the time I turned 30, I wanted a family of my own and a place that I could call my home that I owned. Those are also distant dreams.

Perhaps I was never really spiritual at all. Perhaps I had these desires and each one was never granted to me. No job, no family, no house, no friends and no peace of mind. I am living just like a monk. But the monk does supposedly have the peace of mind part. In fact, I have considered becoming a monk, but apparently that is a taboo desire. The odd thing is society is OK with anyone who lives like a monk, but not with someone who is a monk! It’s a crazy world… Go to hell, world.

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One thought on “Does spirituality prevent or cure mental illness?

  1. I am 28 and have a similar story to yours minus a wife, so I feel your pain. Depression and extreme anxiety have plagued me for a long time. And in the midst of it, it is really hard to find meaning or God. I know it’s very easy to dwell on “why me”. While I used to, I don’t think spirituality is a cure or investment (I pray, I get blessed, healed, etc). Once I realized I was going at it all wrong, things have gotten much better. Are all the feelings I hate gone? Not necessarily, but God is now my shield…my rock. He is no longer someone I’m pissed off at or someone who I think is abandoning me, but someone who wants to fight alongside me in my daily battles. Spirituality may not be a cure, but I hate to think what life would be like without it.

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