Monday 20 May 2019

Dear Mary: Sin turned my purity to ashes

Image: Getty
Image: Getty

I used to be part of a chastity group when I was in college. I firmly believed in no sex before marriage then. I organised chastity talks and brought a lot of volunteers with me to spread the word. However, as I turned 25, I found out I have bipolar disorder.

Everything became dull and grey. I thought no one wanted me any more because I am mentally ill. I thought I was no longer worth pursuing. One night, I was so manic I downloaded a dating app. At first I really wanted to try it to find someone interesting. But then the experience took a different turn. I started hooking up and my purity went to ashes.

Then one day I decided to take a 180 degree turn away from the sin I was committing but now I feel very dirty. How do I regain my chastity after this huge setback? How do I keep on turning away from promiscuity? I don't want to use my illness as an excuse. A sin is a sin. No matter how manic I get, the decision to sin is still there.

Mary replies: It must have been quite a shock to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but at the same time, good that you were then under medical supervision and on the correct medication. As you are no doubt aware, it is terribly important you adhere to your medication, because sometimes people with this condition decide they no longer require medication, which can have disastrous results.

As well as getting medical attention, I hope you are also seeing a psychotherapist in order to talk through how all of this is affecting you, because a combination of medication and talking therapy is preferable to pure medication.

You are being extremely hard on yourself talking about sinning and promiscuity and feeling dirty. You went from being sure no sex before marriage was the only way to go to having indiscriminate sex with almost strangers. This was as a result of your mental state at the time but you then decided this was not how you wanted to live your life and you are back to believing in chastity.

Almost everybody has something in their lives they regret but that doesn't mean they are going to do it again and again.

You have the additional worry that you may revert to this behaviour and so this is something you will have to discuss with your therapist and your doctor in order to see how best to ensure that you don't.

You can also speak with your pastor or priest if you are part of a church body and seek their help in trying to forgive yourself, because my simply telling you to look forward rather than back will not be enough to assuage your guilt.

You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting www.dearmary.ie or email her at dearmary@independent.ie or write c/o 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.

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