Darkness Is My Only Companion, Revised and Expanded Edition

A Christian Response to Mental Illness

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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 to mental illness? In this brave and compassionate book, theologian and priest Kathryn Greene-McCreight confronts these difficult questions raised by her own mental illness--bipolar disorder. With brutal honesty, she tackles often avoided topics such as suicide, mental hospitals, and electroconvulsive therapy. Greene-McCreight offers the reader everything from poignant and raw glimpses into the mind of a mentally ill person to practical and forthright advice for their friends, family, and clergy.

The first edition has been recognized as one of the finest books on the subject. This thoroughly revised edition incorporates updated research and adds anecdotal and pastoral commentary. It also includes a new foreword by the current Archbishop of Canterbury and a new afterword by the author.


Foreword to the Second Edition--Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury
Preface to the First Edition
Part One: Facing Mental Illness
1. Darkness
2. Mental Illness
3. Temptation to Suicide
4. Mania
5. Darkness, Again
6. Hospital
Part Two: Faith and Mental Illness
7. Feeling, Memory, and Personality
8. Brain, Mind, and Soul
9. Sin, Suffering, and Despair
10. Dark Night, Discipline, and the Hiddenness of God
11. Health and Prayer
Part Three: Living with Mental Illness
12. How Clergy, Friends, and Family Can Help
13. Choosing Therapy
Afterword to the Second Edition
Appendix I: Why and How I Use Scripture
Appendix II: A Brief Checklist of Symptoms and Resources
Appendix III: Discussion Questions


"I am often asked by people who have read Hannah's Child, my memoir wherein I tell the story of what it meant to live with someone suffering with bipolar disorder, how to go on in the face of such an illness. I simply recommend Greene-McCreight's Darkness Is My Only Companion. I do so because the story she tells is shaped by her profound Christological commitments and wisdom, making this a book that we simply cannot live without."

Stanley Hauerwas, professor emeritus of divinity and law, Duke Divinity School

"In Darkness Is My Only Companion Kathryn Greene-McCreight takes the reader on her private journey through the hidden world of mental illness. Personal, painful, and informative, this experience is shared so that others may be healed. Weaving Scripture throughout her story Kathryn shows us that the engine of hope that drives recovery is faith in a loving God who hears. This book is a must read for every person struggling with a mental health problem, every pastor that ministers to those in distress, and every family member whose loved one has been taken away from them by a mental disorder."

Matthew S. Stanford, author of Grace for the Afflicted: A Clinical and Biblical Perspective on Mental Illness

"In this honest and poignant reflection Kathryn Greene-McCreight seeks to 'witness to the working of the triune God in the pain of one mentally ill Christian.' She does so beautifully, graciously guiding readers through the depths of depression and the cacophony of mania to the hard road of 'reconstruction'--always relying on Scripture and the prayers and hymns of the church to give voice to her experience. This 'extended prayer' of a book is a gift to the church and to anyone who seeks to walk faithfully alongside someone with mental illness."

Warren Kinghorn, Duke University Medical Center and Duke Divinity School

Praise for the First Edition

"This book is a real gem. While brutally honest about the darkest experiences a human can suffer, it is nonetheless both hopeful and encouraging for anyone who either suffers from a serious mental illness or seeks to help someone who does. I heartily recommend it and expect it will have a long and fruitful life as a book for all of us who seek to discern where God is in the midst of darkness."

David G. Benner, author of Presence and Encounter

"Kathryn Greene-McCreight gives to us a rare gift: a glimpse of God at work intimately in a human life, powerfully in the church, and mysteriously in the world. Her remarkable reflections are both theologically astute and self-consciously framed within the Great Tradition of the church. This book will be of conceptual and detailed practical help to those [facing mental illness], while offering understanding to the many of us whose lives are interconnected with these dear friends and family members."

Edith M. Humphrey, author of Ecstasy and Intimacy: When the Holy Spirit Meets the Human Spirit

The Author

  1. Kathryn Greene-McCreight

    Kathryn Greene-McCreight

    Kathryn Greene-McCreight (PhD, Yale University) is a priest affiliate at Christ Church New Haven, a spiritual director with Berkeley Divinity School at Yale, and the author of several books, including Darkness Is My Only Companion: A Christian Response to...

    Continue reading about Kathryn Greene-McCreight


"[The second edition] incorporates updated research and adds anecdotal and pastoral commentary as well as a foreword by the current Archbishop of Canterbury. . . . I would recommend this book to any Christian touched in any way by mental illness. Given that one in five Americans has a mental health problem, it is likely that all Christians should read this book. It is time to end the stigmatizing misconception that mental illness does not exist in the Church and that a Christian's mental illness is a sign of their distance from God. In addressing the stigma, God's people can get help in their pain. A strength of Darkness is Greene-McCreight's commitment to make sense of her mental illness in the light of the truth of Scripture and to wrestle as a person of faith with bipolar disorder."

Karen Mason,

Africanus Journal

"Darkness Is My Only Companion is an academic dream text. Authored by Kathryn Greene-McCreight, a three-time Yale grad, this often-heady text is colored with the retelling of her manic-depressive episodes in an incredibly intimate, down-to-earth way. In this expanded edition, Greene-McCreight mixes her two polar opposite writing styles into one fascinating academic argument about God's interpretation of the illnesses of the mind. . . . Priceless in its description, often shocking in its bold reality, and brave beyond most self-help authors' ability. . . . . Darkness Is My Only Companion should be mandatory reading for theologians across the board as well as students of the mind. This book might change your ideas about mental illness."

Michelle Lovato,

CBA Retailers + Resources

"A new 'Afterword' is particularly helpful, as the author reflects on the book, her own story, and feedback from readers. . . . Readers who have experienced mental illness will resonate with her story. . . . Readers who love those who struggle and do not know how to help will find her story illuminating. . . . Readers who enjoy biblical and theological exegesis and application will appreciate the profundity of her insights into the biblical text. . . . Readers who have no experience with those who struggle with mental illness should read this book to develop compassion for those who do. . . . This book is highly recommended. The author's pain and struggle are made palpable to the reader, which builds sympathy and compassion for the ill. Her faith and endurance are a model to follow, her honesty and vulnerability are humbling, her love for God and his people are encouraging, her love for Scripture is moving, and her relationship with her family and the church are quite clearly deep and passionate. Thank you, Kathryn, for having the courage to tell your story and to allow readers to walk with you in the darkness in hope of the resurrection."

Glenn R. Kreider,

Bibliothea Sacra

"This is a deeply thoughtful book. Practical theology at its best. . . . I appreciate Greene-McCreight's advice on how to walk alongside those who suffer (and when to enlist more help!). I think this should be required reading for anyone doing pastoral work. I give this four stars."

James Matichuk,

Thoughts, Prayers, and Songs blog

Praise for the First Edition

One of Publishers Weekly's Top Ten Religion Books of the Year for 2006

"By means of personal story, theological reflection and practical suggestions for caregivers, Greene-McCreight takes readers into her mind as she plunges from frantic ecstasy . . . to profound despair. . . . With firm but never facile faith, she offers hope to Christians with mental illness and understanding to those who live and work with them."

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Theologically sound and medically astute, this is a safe guide for those who battle the darkness of mental illness and for those who care about them. As a bonus blessing, the book is deeply moving and wrapped in a package of delightful prose. Greene-McCreight, an Episcopal priest, does what is so desperately needed in our therapeutic society--she practices psychotherapy under the authority of Scripture. A careful theologian, fully committed to the authority of Scripture, yet the beneficiary of healing therapy with an astonishingly wide and deep understanding of the field, the author weds the two convincingly. This is not a mere academic treatise, however. The author invites us to join her in a journey through her own darkness, opening every shadowed corner of her soul, yet without a trace of the maudlin."

Robertson McQuilkin,

Christianity Today

"This thoughtful and engaging book addresses the fissure between medical and theological responses to mental illness. . . . The style remains simple and accessible to lay people and clergy, even though the questions raise perennially challenging theological puzzles. . . . Greene-McCreight draws connections well worth further consideration by theologians, pastoral care providers, and those in the midst of despair. . . . Readers who know, directly or indirectly, the desperation of mental illness will be grateful for both the useful information and the demonstration that questions about God and therapy can fit together in one conversation. . . . Greene-McCreight offers the church a generous gift with this book of facts and faith, pain and hope, and powerful witness to the presence of God, even and especially in the depths of darkness."

Margaret B. Adam,

Anglican Theological Review

"[A] sensitive and profound work. . . . Interweaving her account with apt quotations from Scripture and Christian classics, [Greene-McCreight] candidly describes her illness, her brushes with suicide, her treatment (successful at last), and her family's support throughout the ordeal. The specificity and honesty of her narrative are remarkable. . . . Greene-McCreight speaks from deep experience as she describes ways in which worship, the sacraments, healing prayer, and the Christian community supported her when she was paralyzed with mental pain. But she is most eloquent when she simply describes the times when nothing at all seemed to help, and acknowledges that Christians suffer these times and need to talk about them honestly. The last two chapters offer sensitive advice to people who want to help--family, friends, and pastors in particular. . . . All of her observations are grounded in Scripture and the Christian tradition, and offer hope and help to the increasing number of Christians who recognize that her story is theirs as well."

L. P. Fairfield,


"[The author] writes for all of us. All of us either experience firsthand mental illness (major depression, bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorder, schizophrenia, dementia, and so forth) or know of someone who does. . . . The author powerfully and knowledgeably weaves strands of Scripture and prayers throughout her writing . . . . Part 3, Living with Mental Illness . . . by itself deserves a place on the pastor's library shelf."

Rozanne Meyer Bruins,

Calvin Theological Journal

"[Greene-McCreight's] book is a blast of cool water on a hot day. Bursting with wisdom, experience, learning, holiness, lament, mystery--there are riches aplenty. A fine piece of pastoral theology, this book is immersed in Scripture. We find a deeply Christian woman facing difficult existential questions with honesty and courage. . . . This book is accessible to lay readers and should be read carefully, meditatively, and prayerfully."

Hans Madueme,

Trinity Journal

"Using accessible and at times poetic language, Greene-McCreight renders both the pain of depression and the highs of mania exquisitely real. For that reason alone, this book is to be recommended. An additional reason is the ample use of Scripture, particularly the Psalms, as well as the Book of Common Prayer and the writings of classical Christian thinkers, interspersed throughout the text. . . . [Greene-McCreight] addresses timely and relevant issues for the depressed Christian such as the dark night of the soul, the relation of health and prayer, and the relation of brain, mind, and soul. . . . [The book] giv[es] great insight into a believer's struggle with mental illness."

Susan J. Dunlap,


"[Greene-McCreight] has done Christians a service by telling her story of clinical depression. . . . [She] gives good reasons to pursue therapy and not to hesitate to gain help from secular counselors, since God may certainly use them as He does Christian therapists. This book is highly recommended for pastors, Christian counselors, and laypeople alike. It is a reawakening for those who think that Christianity is a shield from problems and especially those difficulties brought on by mental illness. Reading it will assist those who minister to people who suffer from depression (and other mental illnesses) with greater understanding and compassion."

Jason Neill with Glenn R. Kreider,

Bibliotheca Sacra

"[Greene-McCreight] has produced a resource helpful both for pastoral and personal use. Weighted with much challenging perception, the book plunges deeply into theological, philosophical, and practical territory, and so can serve in bringing Scripture to bear on the psychological and psychiatric realities encountered in North American pastoral ministry. . . . Drawing from her journals, Greene-McCreight convincingly leads the reader into the darkness she experienced. . . . She pauses to illumine the current terminology and pharmacology of treatment, a helpful 'crash course' for the pastor or other reader interested in helping the mentally ill. . . . This is an articulate guidebook to one person's descent into mental illness and her eventual hope of stability."

Lon Gregg,

Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society