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

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  363 ratings  ·  58 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 in the face of mental illness? In Darkness Is My Only Companion, Kathryn Greene-McCreight confronts these difficult questions raised by her own mental illness--bi-polar disorder.

With brutal honesty, she tackles often avoided topics such as s
Paperback, 176 pages
Published April 1st 2006 by Brazos Press (first published 2006)
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4.02  · 
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 ·  363 ratings  ·  58 reviews

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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
John Anders
Apr 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A theology professor recommended this to me after I lost my sister to bipolar disorder. It took me a few weeks to come to a place where I felt it would be helpful to read anything on the subject. This was definitely the right book for me, both in facing my own health issues and in dealing with the loss.

The author herself was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and this allows her to provide readers with invaluable insight into the mind of the mentally ill. Organized into three parts, the first may
Erin *Help I’m Reading and I Can’t Get Up*
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 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Truly an excellent book on the nature of suffering with a mental illness in the context of faith. It can be more broadly applied to the conversation of faith and suffering in general. I found it to be an extended prayer to, or conversation with, the Lord.

Greene-McCreight has written a work that shows how the Lord truly can work redemption in our stories. As she states on page 129, "Luther said we suffer because of the grace of God. I have a hard time believing this. I think we suffer because of
Aug 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Katy Sammons
Aug 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Desiree Woodland
Sep 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 29, 2015 rated it it was ok
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
Rachael Smith
Refreshingly real perspective on a Christian struggling with mental health. This book offered insights that I wasn't able to find anywhere else. The book was organized really well so it made for an easy-read.
Feb 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
I read this book quite some time ago and remember it quite excellently expressed the author's own challenges with mental illness and powerfully spoke to how the church ought to help such persons. She comes from the Episcopalian tradition, if memory serves. A good resource for Christians trying to work through mental illness or helping those with mental illness.
Feb 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
In "Darkness Is My Only Companion", Kathryn Greene-McCreight shares insights from living with mental illness as a person of faith. In the afterward, she writes that it is not a memoir, nor a manual on pastoral care. Rather, she classifies it as a Theodicy. Indeed, some parts read like Augustine's Confessions. For me, it provided a helpful framework for beginning to understand mental illness from a Christian perspective.
Michele Morin
Aug 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Shelly Hart
Mar 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Candid, transparent, gritty, yet somehow hopeful, McCreight allows readers an inside look into the struggles of fighting mental illness. Her bravery in sharing her story will help others with mental illness, the friends and family members who love them, and clinicians who want to provide the best care possible.
Katelyn Beaty
May 21, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it it was amazing
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.
Todd Hains
Feb 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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.
Debora Smith
Jun 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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.
J.K. Turner
Feb 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017-challenge
My Rating - If you are looking for something

Level - Moderate read, short book but reads longer, but too much 'philosophizing'

The best summary of this book comes from the subtitle - A Christian Response to Mental Illness. However, even that is quite all encompassing enough, the book is part autobiography, part pastoral guidance, and part education on what mental health can actually look like. Greene-McCreight's insights do not come from counseling or academic study of psychology, but her o
I was assigned to this book to read. It was interesting. The biggest issue is that it’s not really clear what the function of the book is or what is its identity. The author actually addresses this in a helpful afterward to the second edition.

It’s not really a memoir, although it kind of is. It’s not really a pastoral guide, although it touches on that. And it is definitely not a robust theology of mental illness, although it provides some interesting ideas there as well.

I think it would be part
ben adam
Mar 24, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: the-logy
This was a disappointing book. While there is a lot to be learned from it, the author is very beholden to prescription medication, psychiatry, and the medical model of mental health. She has found hope in this, which is nice for her, but she is either unaware of or unwilling to recognize that people have had their lives ruined by psychiatry, ECT, and all the ridiculous absurdity of psychiatry which is based on nothing more than the opinions of "authorities" rather than real science. She states s ...more
Rachel Ogden
Nov 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
McCreight writes, “[This book] is not a roadmap. [...] It simply asks questions about the specific kind of suffering of mental illness in light of faith in a merciful God. This book is not about me, you, the church, the world, or even mental illness. This book is about the triune God and how we are to live faithfully in the light of his presence even as we suffer.”

As a Christian living with a mental illness, this book made me feel understood like nothing else I have ever read. The author gracef
Baumgartner Lisa
Mar 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
I was moved, impressed, pleased & (self) prodded in this book. Having grown up in the Episcopal Church & a graduate degree member of the clergy, I found her use of both Bible & BCP (79) absolutely speaking in her own words, my inner thoughts & ramblings; she & I speak the same language. My only disappointment was the traditional use of scripture & Christian theology. I lean quite a bit further to the left from her theological framework but I also pray the Daily Office, wa ...more
Mar 02, 2018 rated it it was ok
I knew it wasn't from my vein of Christianity but wanted to read it nonetheless for its popular reception. While we disagree on many things theologically, I do see KGM's work as potentially helpful for a conservative Protestant audience, particularly those who still view mental illness with high levels of stigma.
Robert Heckner
Sep 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A deeply honest, personal, and real account of mental illness that is simultaneously an informed, insightful, scholarly, and wide ranging assessment of the theological aspects of mental illness and how Christians ought to respond to mental illness in their theology and practice. I believe that every Christian should read this book.
Jan 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Excellent description of mental illness, how we as Christians should think about mental illness, and how we can care for our friends with mental illness. I do not entirely agree with all her theology. I also wish she talked more about the role of therapy preventatively and not just in response to symptoms
Yeranouhi Էնդրյուս
Apr 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A beautifully written journey inside the struggles of a Christian living with a mental illness, that can provide the believers with more insight on the role of the Bible, of prayer and community for such persons and make the church a place of healing and warm welcome for them.
Felix Loo
Aug 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Kathryn's first person account from a clergy or pastoral perspective was both valuable and insightful. I was in Kathryn's class when she taught at Regent in Vancouver. This book provides a good first step for those interested to explore and study the issue of mental illness in the faith community.
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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
“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
“I learned that we must always pray, even and especially when we don’t feel like it or when it feels compulsory and rote and dry.” 0 likes
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