I am not a psychiatrist, psychologist, or a licensed counselor of any description, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express once. I also know what happened to me. So I’m speaking from personal experience which is altogether subjective and means I have a bias about this particular topic. Therefore you can take the following paragraphs with the whole box of salt or you may just find it strikes a chord. Either way this is my disclaimer that these are my own personal feelings and observations – not that I even remotely think I’m an expert nor have I done any research on the topic. Here goes:
I was completely convinced as I wrestled with my personal demons about divorce that I was undergoing spiritual warfare. I obsessed about the wrongs I had done according to God’s Word and as I did I went deeper and deeper into fundamentalism; believing I needed God’s forgiveness and becoming more and more indebted to Jesus for rescuing me. The farther I went down that rabbit hole the more oppressed, depressed, and stressed I became. I began praying incessantly, having panic attacks, strange dreams and obsessing over scripture. I began searching out exactly what a woman’s role was supposed to be according to the Bible and trying in every way to be that; even to the point that I almost went back to my ex-husband to escape the guilt. I honestly believed the devil (who I believed to be a literal being) was roaming around and he had found me to devour – that he was sifting me like wheat. I often repeated scripture to myself and prayed those scriptures to God reminding him of his promises to prosper me and not to harm me. I was, metaphorically speaking, right on the edge of the cliff and a feather could have tipped me right on over. The more I obsessed over scripture and God the crazier things got.
Then one morning I woke up and thought to myself, “this is insane, you are acting like a crazy person – get a grip, girl”. I decided that obsessing over scripture was the source of my angst, that spiritual warfare was a lie, and that there was no devil trying to devour me. The only demon was my compulsion over all things spiritual. I needed to not think about it for a while. I put away the Bible, stopped the obsessive prayers, and stopped going to church. I made an appointment with a counselor and started my journey back to sanity. Thankfully I did. Thankfully I could. That is also when I started to research the claims of Christianity.
Many Christians would say that my relief came because I gave in to Satan. I’ve gone over to the dark side so he no longer needs to “sift” me. I’ve been devoured. I now believe that notion to be ridiculous – utter nonsense. I’ve done a lot of soul-searching and believe the source of my anxiety was fundamentalist Christianity. My relief came because I woke up and realized that all of this was making me completely bat crazy. My relief came because there was something inside me that said enough is enough.
Having gone through that, though, I can see where holding the coats of the mob and cheering them on as they murdered Stephen would lead to guild-ridden angst. I can see how being so zealous in your religion that you would go around searching out insurrectionists to have them arrested and killed could lead a person to enough anxiety that they would have a psychotic break. Maybe Paul’s encounter on the road to Damascus was a guilt-ridden hallucination. The mind does all sorts of things to the rest of a person’s body when under such a tremendous burden. He needed relief. Maybe his mind provided it. I think that maybe that kind of obsession, that kind of zealousness might make a person wackadoodle.