I Am Our Faith, As Is Everyone

By Henry Katzman, Unitarian Universalist Mental Health Network Board Member

The divinity of my experience is inarguable, as it is inarguable in all. To deny the “Worth and Dignity” of anyone based on the divergence of mind, is sacrilegious to our faith. Unitarian Universalism is a faith of devotional welcoming, claiming inclusivity of “All Creeds.” But I ask, can radical inclusivity exist when those we deem mentally ill are wrapped in a blanket of savior-like protection.

Within our congregations some feel the need to save, heal and ultimately perpetuate an idealism of health so undefinable we categorize it by what it is not. My illness (a word I’ve beginning to reject), has indisputably brought suffering in my life; changing my concurrent perspective. My “illness” although not all my conception of self, is part of who and why I am.

To be “cured” of my chronic condition is admittedly impossible and after years within the medical realm of invasive treatment, the consensus that this is true stands. So, I ask, how can I be faithful in a world where I am told my reality is one that is delusional, in contrast to what I experience? How can I be faithful, when those who, deemed sane, fix me and tell me what my faith ought to be.

Naturally I believe in my own divinity “created in their image” and as a theist, I believe that to hold true for all creation. To try to save me from my own divinity seems to defeat the purpose of acknowledging such. Marginalizing differential experience in the Unitarian Universalist faith must be looked upon and fought as if it is (and it very well may be) antithetical to the seven Principles and the six Sources.

I spread this condemnation of saviorhood to all peoples that are asked to assimilate to the “just and logical.” I have witnessed this in our siblings of faith facing other marginalizations. Often our community asks, “Change so we, may be feel at ease, unchallenged in our sense of self.” When directing this at those who are neurodivergent, not only is this adjustment asked, but an impossible task of moral consideration and reconciliation is imposed. For the “healthy” assume the experience of the unhealthy by knowing what it is not.

The divinity of my experience is inarguable. Truly I find myself challenged by my faithful communities, but because of my faith in right relations and the intrinsic power of systemic change, I stay. The divinity of my experience is inarguable, as is the divinity of others, knowing that intention to protect comes from an intention to progress towards what others see as “health”.

Along my journey I have learned that intention cannot always be trusted. Instead I trust in the divine source of creation, asking them for trust. Trust that I am human, not a patient who must be eradicated or a sad story to weep for. I trust that I am created in their image; that although I suffer, uniquely, I have been exposed to unique lessons that transcend the marginalization of staying in community that asks for me to colonize my experience.

I once thought that I was too ill to live and now I think I am too ill to die. The faith of Unitarian Universalism is mine; I claim a spot in the circle of life, with dignity afforded to my fellow worshipers. I love our faith; I feel anger towards our faith; I feel everything towards our faith. The dialectics flow, but what I do know is this: I am our faith, as is everyone.

I am Severely Mentally Ill, and I am Unitarian Universalist.