This is a post which discusses religion, penance and mental illness.
I began to practice penance when I was eleven. I would make a small sacrifice.
I feel that these acts did bring me closer to God. I would feel very quiet, and sobered by my sacrifice.
These were small acts, such as denying myself a treat.
At thirteen, I began to experience serious mental health difficulties. My acts of penance became more extreme.
I hoped that God would make me better, and might listen to me if I suffered in this way.
I did not realise it, but I was slipping into self-harming.
I thought that if I punished myself, God might set me free from this illness. I was trying to bargain with God.
This type of penance did not work in any way. I did not feel better, or close to God.
I had crossed the line into self-harm.
When I came out of this period, I avoided penance as I feared slipping into self-harming behaviours.
I still think penance can bring me closer to God, but only small acts, such as praying and reading religious literature instead of watching a movie.
Anything more extreme would not help me in my spiritual life.