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Did you know that there is a DSM-V code for religious or spiritual problems? 

Yep: V-Code 62.89. 

Apparently it is often helpful to put a code in a patient’s clinical documentation when there is no evidence of a mental disorder, but they are presenting with significant clinical distress.*

So basically this means that there have been enough people who have exhibited, talked about, named, and acknowledged religious/spiritual struggle, even harm, that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders sees it as worth mentioning.

It is worth mentioning. And then some. 

I have heard more stories than I can count about the ways in which a person’s religious upbringing has profoundly impacted who they’ve become (and not for the better). Better stated, the ways in which it has, too many times, kept them from becoming all of who they desire; instead, small, silent, and shamed.

It’s heartbreaking. Shouldn’t religion and spirituality be the very things that invite us to healing and wholeness, to freedom and empowerment, to hope and joy? Uh, yes.

What may have once been an ideology or system of beliefs that did, indeed, long to offer us the best of all things, they too-often fall prey to our strong predilection (and history) of f***ing things up. We have this nasty habit of turning something sacred and beautiful into a system, complete with rules and rigidity, exclusivity and shame. Well, maybe not “we.” The patriarchy. 

Right. No wonder the DSM code.

I’m currently watching Medici on Netflix. There are three seasons, spanning the 14th through 16th centuries, chronicling this family of tremendous power. What intrigues me to no end is the intertwining of religion into everything – warm, wealth, corruption. It is so clear, so obvious, and seen/justified over and over again as “God’s will.”

The concept is not new to me. When I was in Seminary I studied the history of Christianity. Even now I am somewhat chagrined to acknowledge just how much I didn’t know and how shocking that history is! Politics, most of it, sadly.

The impact and influence of religion and spirituality – in painful and damaging ways – goes back to the beginning. It’s never not been there.** Which makes it understandable why still today, in our own stories, we bear the brunt of that pain; why we see its now-coding in our clinical files and its encoding in our very psyche. 

I have my own stories, to be sure. None that have been categorized (at least that I know of) with V-Code 62.89. Still, I know how hard it was for me to separate from and deconstruct the religion I grew up with; to have the courage to ask the kinds of questions that dismantled my beliefs; to examine and jettison deeply held doctrines. It has only been within the past few years that I’ve been able to circle back, look again, wonder anew, and maybe, just maybe reclaim the best aspects of what got thrown out with the bathwater.

These days I feel healed and whole, free and empowered, full of both hope and joy. My understanding of the divine, my own devotional practices, my own language, beliefs, and experiences of the sacred are exactly that: my own.

It’s been a long journey. One that continues, to be sure.

In the midst of my own, I wonder (and care) about you: your religious or spiritual struggles, the places and ways in which you’ve known harm, the impact that still has on how you see yourself, how you experience your world, how (or if) you engage with the sacred that is part-and-parcel in our everyday lives. If the DSM code applies to any of this, I am so deeply sorry. These are stories you’ll carry with you for a lifetime, to be sure; every one of them deserves infinite compassion and care. You do.

John O’Donohue said:

“Die Wunden des Geistes heilen, ohne dass Narben bleiben”…”The wounds of the spirit heal and leave no scars.”

Oh, how I hope he is right about this. For you. For me. For so many – past, present, and future. 

He also said this:

As your tears fall over that wounded place,
May they wash away your hurt and free your heart.
May your forgiveness still the hunger of the wound

So that for the first time you can walk away from that place,
Reunited with your banished heart, now healed and freed,
And feel the clear, free air bless your new face.”

May it be so. 

 

*https://www.psychdb.com/teaching/dsm-v-icd-z-codes

** This is not to say that the only impact and influence of religion and spirituality has been pain, damage, and corruption. I understand, know, and have experienced far more. I am aware of and grateful that beauty and truth survive in spite of it all. But to only name the good is to cause more harm. 

[Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash