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Darkness Is My Only Companion: A Christian Response to Mental Illness

3.96  ·  Rating Details ·  249 Ratings  ·  41 Reviews
Where is God in the suffering of a mentally ill person? What happens to the soul when the mind is ill? How are Christians to respond to mental illness? In this brave and compassionate book, theologian and priest Kathryn Greene-McCreight confronts these difficult questions raised by her own mental illness—bipolar disorder. With brutal honesty, she tackles often avoided topi ...more
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Published April 1st 2006 by Brazos Press (first published 2006)
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I'm not a big fan of this book (the author purposely uses masculine language for God and generally feels more theologically conservative than I am; and it didn't teach me much I didn't already know about dealing with mental illness) but I do really appreciate the bits about stigma (because my mentally ill best friend and I have had conversations recently about how we live in a culture of shame).

[WARNINGS for problematic theology, discussions of suicide, self-injury, mental illness, and stigma th
Marcus Lynn
Christians have historically responded terribly to mental illness. It has been the toughest issue for me to reconcile with my faith. This book does a great job doing it because the author has dealt with it in her own life. Every pastor needs to read this book.

Erin Beall
Oct 27, 2015 Erin Beall rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: important
Absolutely fantastic. A must-read for all clergy, and a must-recommend for all parishioners/congregations dealing with mental illness or the fallout from suicide. Really, really wonderful.
Aug 21, 2009 Paul rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For Christians who struggle with clinical depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia this book will be a godsend. The author is a trained theologian and Anglican priest who has experienced these forms of mental illness and anguish first-hand. The title comes from a translation of the last verse of Psalm 88. Subtitled, "A Christian Response to Mental Illness", the book is not so much a chronicle of her experience as it is one of her effort to find meaning in that experience through her Christ ...more
Desiree Woodland
This is one of the best books on taboo subjects... especially in the church. Mental illness affects one in five people at some point in their lives and we don't offer any support except to say... read your Bible more, pray in faith, try harder. Mental illnesses like depression and anxiety are only two of many brain disorders that happen to Christians and non Christians alike. They are illnesses, not weaknesses. This book gives the Christian response because the author herself has struggled with ...more
Katy Sammons
Aug 03, 2014 Katy Sammons rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a "bookish" follower of Jesus Christ who has struggled with depression for years, this book was a blessing to me. The author provides a candid testimony of her illness and recovery, the spiritual lessons she has learned from her experience, guidance for seeking treatment, and suggestions for ministering to those with mental illness. I appreciated her emphasis on the Psalms as well as the poetry and hymns she shared that speak to depression. If you are complementation, do not let the fact that ...more
Dec 25, 2010 Doug rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A powerful, moving, and very insightful book- one of a kind, really.

This is the book I encourage anyone to read who wants to understand mental illness better from a Christian faith perspective. The author herself an Episcopal priest, theologian, wife and mother, shares poignantly of her own struggle with bipolar illness and of the resources available from the Christian faith.
Carter West
I finally quit reading this three-quarters of the way through. Partly this was due to theological differences; partly to literary style; partly out the sense that I could get more out of other reading. Mostly, though, it comes down to a stand of mine as a man living with depression: Any author with a mental illness who cannot forthrightly give an account of their experience *on no other terms than her/his own as an individual*, without leaning on outside authorities theological, medical, or soci ...more
Michele Morin
Aug 08, 2014 Michele Morin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In putting forth “A Christian Response to Mental Illness” (the book’s sub-title), Kathryn Greene-McCreight has skillfully woven theological reflections on mental illness with the account of her own struggle with bipolar disorder. The result is a seamless consideration of everything from diagnosis and medication to vivid recollections of how it feels to be the body that houses a manic brain.

McCreight faced very real challenges during her years of intense struggle. Chapter 12 (How Clergy, Friends
Katelyn Beaty
May 21, 2007 Katelyn Beaty rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who suffer from mental illness and lack a robust theological framework to understand it
Shelves: theology, memoir
Recommended to me by a coworker, Darkness Is My Only Companion is the first book I've come across that offers a thoughtful and truthful interpretation of mental illness from an orthodox theological framework. It avoids both extremes of the two standard approaches that rely on a neo-platonic understanding of personhood: That people are either completely spiritual beings and thus need to pray harder to make their depression go away; Or that people suffering from mental illness are biochemical fact ...more
Kate Scott
Darkness Is My Only Companion is a a short book divided into three parts and thirteen chapters. In part one (chapters 1-6) Greene-McCreight recounts some of what she went through during the worst days of her illness including her experiences with mania and depression, thoughts of suicide, and her time as an inpatient at Yale Psychiatric Institute, which included undergoing electroconvulsive therapy. Though the entire narrative is sprinkled with theological reflections, part two (chapters 7-11) e ...more
Dwight Penas
Jun 23, 2011 Dwight Penas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I know the author slightly, so this may not be fair. But this book is profound in its own way. Kathryn writes beautifully, and that in itself, given the issue in the book, would make it worthy. But what makes the book powerful for me -- and will turn off a lot of people who are looking for something else -- is the natural way she integrates her orthodox Christian faith (you can't say that of all priests!) and the practices of that faith (daily prayer, reading of the Psalms, integrating the stori ...more
Nov 01, 2015 Shari rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is very good for working with someone with bi-polar. This book is written by a theologian who also experiences the manic/depressive mood cycles and she writes about what faith looks like in the midst of that cycle. She writes realistically and with tremendous faith.
Debora Smith
Jun 10, 2011 Debora Smith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a powerful and honest look at mental illness--a great book for anyone suffering from depression or other mental illness or who loves someone who is.
Todd Hains
Feb 09, 2016 Todd Hains rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A helpful introduction to the difficult topic of mental illness. I enjoyed her use of Scripture and the tradition, especially her appendix on how and why she uses Scripture.
I have not personally suffered from mental illness, but I have loved ones who have. It is hard to understand their pain. In the face of their struggle, I have no words. And the church hasn't always responded well to mentally ill people. Sometimes this is due to a mistrust of psychology for its secular underpinning. Other times, profound emotional struggle is seen as evidence for a lack of faith. The result has been a good deal of isolation of and insensitivity toward the mentally-ill. Come Lord ...more
Jun 01, 2013 Phil rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: christian
This is one of the few theological attempts to understand mental illness in light of Christianity. That, in itself, makes this book potentially controversial because it is all too common for both Christians and mental health professionals to misunderstand each other pretty profoundly. Religious belief makes many mental health professionals uncomfortable, partly because of the fact that religious imagery is one of the more potent symbolism out in the world, so they see so many people with religio ...more
Mar 24, 2016 Scott rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In 2015 our congregation became the third in our denomination to adopt a WISE (Welcoming, inclusive, supportive, and engaged) for mental health. Mental health issues had long been something we talked about, received training in, included in worship and educational forums, and advocated for. Yet we always felt we needed to do more. Then, in the summer of 2015 a young man who was a beloved member of our congregation killed himself. He lived with a schizo-affective disorder. His husband desired tha ...more
Jul 29, 2016 Spencer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Part autobiography of her painful journey with mental illness, part theological treatise charting the spiritual contours involved with mental illness, part chaplain's "how-to" guide, Kathyrn Greene-McCreight offers from all aspects a powerful "Christian response" to mental illness.

She offers narratives of her experiences that are so pointedly written you are drawn into her experiences. At several points I found myself pausing, overwhelmed by her vivid descriptions. Her meditations on Scriptures
Brittany Bettger
I thought it was a little chaotic and disorganized. It seemed one sentence it was memoir, the next theological discussion, the next narrative and the next her thoughts playing back and forth inside of her. Hard to follow, but maybe not unlike her mind (and the minds of a lot of us!)

I really liked all her Scriptures and quotes from a variety of places!

I especially liked her discussion of the soul and how, no matter how out of control our mind is, if we have given our lives to Christ, he holds our
I appreciate the author's attempt to give an inside view into mental illness in general and depression/hypomania more specifically. The author ventured into territory that has been considered off-limits by Christian believers for far too long and that gesture, in and of itself, is worthy of support. I understand first-hand the darkness associated with depression but I was supported by my church family which is not the case for many. Overall, the book was a challenge to read as it jumped between ...more
I just revisited this book several years after having read it during my Master's program. It's difficult for me to review objectively since the author is someone who's dear to me. I have great respect for her theological mind. I did find that, this time, I had a more difficult time tracing the thread of certain arguments, and I wanted more clarity. In other places, I found the nature of her own experience to be somewhat opaque, but I wonder if that isn't intentional (and appropriate). I still re ...more
Two and a half stars. I had such high expectations for this book, and absolutely adore many of the author's references (Jamison, psalms, etc), themes, and passions. But I couldn't get into this at all -- the writing quality just wasn't there, many sections were incredibly repetitive and overly studded with quotations, and I didn't always feel the personal struggle woven in throughout each chapter. I very much respect Greene-mcCreight's difficult experiences and theological knowledge, but I didn' ...more
Terry Clees
I struggled how to rate this book--I even struggled how to read the book. Is it a biography, is it a theological argument, is it a guide book, etc...? After much thought I concluded it is a theology of mental illness. Much like we have Feminist theology or African American theology this is a mental illness theology. It is choppy and at times difficult to read and certainly there will be points when you disagree theologically with the author; however, it is theology being done by a mentally ill p ...more
Mar 31, 2016 Mar rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book is divided into three sections. The first outlines her journey with bipolar disorder and her various treatments over the years. The second gives her thoughts on how faith, specifically Christian belief, may be impacted and interpreted by those dealing with mental illness and those around them who seek to offer support and treatment. The third section outlines how individuals may seek to "live" with mental illness.

This 2nd Edition updates her story a bit and is more current in terms of m
Oct 29, 2009 Holly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There aren't many resources on mental illness for people of Christian faith, but this little gem is well worth reading. An Episcopal priest who suffers from bipolar disorder, Greene-McCreight details her own journey and a meaty bit on the theology of how to care for those diagnosed with severe mental illness like her own. Helped me see things more clearly as a family member who wants to be supportive, and as a Christian who wants to integrate this sort of compassion into the fabric of my day.
Oct 25, 2011 Abby rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion
A compelling and moving account of a Christian struggle with mental illness. Kathryn Greene-McCreight, an Episcopal priest with a PhD from Yale, is a trustworthy, gentle, and heartbreakingly honest narrator. This is an essential book for anyone in the church who knows someone struggling from depression or other forms of mental illness--or is that person themselves.
Lincoln Forlong
Jul 18, 2015 Lincoln Forlong rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kathryn writes an insightful review of her own mental health pathway, both the lows, the highs and everything in between.
While this is not a comfortable read, it is profitable for personal understanding and for growing wisdom for helping others.
This read is an eye opener as to how God interacts with those suffering mental health issues.
Mar 25, 2016 Josiah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: theologians, ministers, healthcare workers, chronically ill
Plot: B
Writing: B
Vocabulary: A
Level: Intermediate
Rating: PG-13 (mental illnesses including schizoaffective disorders, depression, addiction, etc)
Worldview: No matter how ill or despairing a Christian may be, we can have hope because God's love is strong and constant.
Mar 12, 2011 Poetreehugger rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hard to read because of the difficulty implicit in the very existence of such suffering conditions as mental illness, or any unearned suffering, but a rewarding read in that it is a beautiful confirmation that a life of faith in a God of love can be a reasonable choice in this world.
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Kathryn Greene-McCreight (PhD, Yale University) has become a champion of responsible Christian attitudes toward mental illness. She is priest associate at The Episcopal Church at Yale in New Haven, Connecticut, and the author of several books. She also serves on the board of the Elm City Chapter of NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness) and on the Patient and Advisory Council of Yale Psychiat ...more
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“Of course, to speak of the dark night of the soul is anathema to many in the psychiatric field. I was told by one of my psychiatrists over the years not to equate depression with any religious experience such as the dark night of the soul. I never asked him why; I just assumed that he didn't want religious language to be mixed with medical. I did try to tell him, however, that religious language covers all and every aspect of being, that I could not simply separate it from his profession's language and concepts. He looked disgusted.” 1 likes
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