Turning Mental Illness Into Beauty – Dr Christopher Pitt

A doctor’s struggle with depression on the autism spectrum

“Mental illness really makes you feel broken and worthless. But it’s amazing that God takes us in our brokenness and He puts us back together.”

“When He puts us back together and having come through that experience He gives us that extra special layer of gold, so that we’re stronger and more powerful because of what God does.”

“In my recovery I love the idea that God has put me back together, and not just left me as I was but made me stronger and having a deeper faith because if it.”

“My life experience having battled through a mental illness has made me a different person. Stronger in some ways but fighting the battle in others,” Christopher confessed.

These statements from doctor and author of four books, Christopher Pitt whose latest book Kintsukuroi Christians is about turning mental brokenness into beauty.

Kintsukuroi

For more than 400 years the Japanese people have practiced ‘kint soo koo ree’

It is the art of repairing broken pottery with gold or silver lacquer and the deep understanding that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken.

The edges of the broken fragments are coated with the glue made from Japanese lacquer resin and are bonded back into place.

The joints are rubbed with an adhesive until the surface is perfectly smooth again.

After drying, more lacquer is applied. This process is repeated many times, and gold dust is also applied.

In Kintsukuroi  (kint soo koo ree) the gold lacquer accentuates the fracture lines, and the breakage is honoured as part of that piece’s history.

Prior to discovering Kintsukuroi Dr Christopher Pitt told Vision listeners he’d been trying to get the concept of being broken.

‘A powerful analogy for mental health’

Then came what Christopher called his Eureka moment. A woman posted the Kintsukuroi story on his Facebook. That analogy described what he was looking for with regard to mental health.Image result for Kintsukuroi pottery images pics

But what is it that makes Kintsukuroi so powerful in Japanese culture?

“It’s a beautiful art form in and of itself with the philosophy underlying it that something broken is put back together to look even more beautiful than what it was before, but to actually accentuate the parts of it that were broken.”

“That is a very powerful analogy for mental health,” Christopher declared.

Vision’s 20Twenty host Neil Johnson was curious to know how Christopher, as a practicing GP, determines whether a patient has a mental health problem when the purpose for the consultation may have been for another ailment.

Dr Pitt said some people may have a level of mental illness that just needs time and space and some talking.

‘You can be broken in many ways’

“And that talking doesn’t necessarily need to be talking with a professional. It might be talking to your partner or friends. But as you get deeper and deeper into mental illness then you do require some more in depth discussion with a professional,” was Christopher’s analysis.

The words psychologist and pastor came into the discussion, also medication and hospitalization.

Rest and recuperation were the words Neil Johnson offered to the conversation. But both agreed there were different levels, but at what level does the Kintsukuroi model fit best was Neil’s question.

Dr Pitt said it applies to most levels. “you can be broken in many ways. You can have a little crack. One of my favourite cups had a chip then had a break before finally succumbing in the dishwasher,” Christopher said, saying the Kintsukuroi bowls and pots are the ones with cracks all the way through.

“So how you want to think of that, everyone can think of in their own mind.”

Then there’s the Christian who understands what redemption means, of God taking those things that are broken and repairing them.

‘He puts us back together’

“There’s a quote in the book that says, ‘Whilst everything has the capacity to be broken everything also has the capacity for redemption.”

“Mental illness really makes you feel broken and worthless. But it’s amazing that God takes us in our brokenness and He puts us back together.”

“When He puts us back together and having come through that experience He gives us that extra special layer of gold, so that we’re stronger and more powerful because of what God does,” Christopher commented.

But those who’ve gone through the ordeal and are the mend should not ignore what they’ve been through

“My life experience having battled through a mental illness has made me a different person. Stronger in some ways but fighting the battle in others,” Christopher confessed.

“In my recovery I love the idea that God has put me back together, and not just left me as I was but made me stronger and having a deeper faith because if it.”

‘My battle with mental illness’

It’s Dr Christopher Pitt’s broad experience in mental health that sees him to be more than adequately qualified.

“I’m a father to children who have some mental health problems and have suffered mental health problems at different times of my life,” Christopher admitted, saying he’s seen mental health issues from both personal and professional aspects.

He also mentioned that it’s at a different level to have experience it as a Christian.

“It’s something that’s hard to reconcile; having a mental illness and being a Christian. It’s a battle and that’s why I wrote the book.”

It sometimes needs a different perspective when you look at it from a faith point of view,” Christopher remarked.

‘I questioned whether God even existed’

Christopher’s personal experience has been at those different levels of mental illness, issues that have been woven through his life.

Kintsukuroi Christians : Turning Mental Brokenness Into Beauty - Dr C Edward Pitt

“These included anxiety and depression. I’m also on the autism spectrum. So there’s an undercurrent of developmental difficulties. And those times when I was very anxious and very depressed, those were very difficult times and you certainly feel very broken and very worthless,” Christopher shared saying he was overwhelmed by the darkness.

“I questioned whether God even existed. Coming back out the other side you can see the classic footprints. God has been carrying you through.”

He said the hard part is putting the pieces back together and seeing that is what God who was doing that.

“I can see that God loves me and I can see His grace abounding through those times in my life.”

‘We rely on God’

Neil Johnson acknowledged Christopher’s heart-wrenching personal testimony and the genuineness of his own personal experience with mental health challenges that have befallen him.

There was a light of hope in Neil’s final acclamation for Christopher’s future recognizing his professional expertise in this field as a practicing GP.

“You’re a doctor. It is hopeful for parents who might be despairing for their own children who are struggling with these things,” Neil said, before asking how Christopher’s parents coped with his short-comings.

He had only praise for his parents saying they were amazing.

“Mental illness is a real challenge in many different ways in our lives. My parents certainly had a lot to put up with when they were raising me and we got through.”

“It’s the same with my kids. It’s a struggle some days. We rely on God and we give our lives to Him. He makes it so we can through each day with His strength.”

If you would like to listen to the full audio interview click play below

Mental illness can be challenging. Sometimes learning about mental illness can bring up difficult feelings or emotions, either things that you’ve been through yourself, or because you develop a better understanding of what a loved one is going through or has been through. Sometimes old issues that have been suppressed or not properly dealt with can bubble up to the surface. If at any point you feel distressed, I strongly encourage you to talk to your local doctor, psychologist, or pastor. If the feelings are so overwhelming that you need to talk to someone quickly, then please don’t delay, but reach out to a crisis service in your country

In Australia
Lifeline 13 11 14, or
BeyondBlue
Call 1300 22 4636
Daily web chat (between 3pm–12am) and email (with a response provided within 24 hours)  https://www.beyondblue.org.au/about-us/contact-us.


Footnote:

Image result for Dr C Edward Pitt pics images

Dr Christopher Pitt

Dr C. Edward Pitt MBBS FRACGP is a full time GP and spare-time writer. He lives and works in the northern suburbs of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

He has been studying and working in the medical profession since 1992. He spent a number of years in hospital paediatrics before moving into general practice.

His written work has been broadly published in a number of different spheres. In the early 2000’s, he was a regular writer for the national Christian magazine, “Alive”. He published his first book in 2009, “Stress Out”, now in its second edition. In 2013, he published “Hold That Thought: Reappraising The Work of Dr Caroline Leaf”, and in 2015, he published “Fats and Figures”, a short book on heart health. In early 2016 his article, “Cutting through the Paleo hype: The evidence for the Palaeolithic diet” was published by the peer reviewed medical journal Australian Family Physician.

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