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Faith & Mental Illness

trevor72694

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I am interested in the experiences of OC.net folks who deal with mental illness, and how it relates to their faith. 

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder (type 2) a few months ago.  It helped me to understand a lot of what I was going through.  (A priest had lead me to believe it was a demon, but thankfully I didn't take his advice very far!) 

In my experience, when I am in a hypo-manic state, I can be almost obsessed with religion.  So much so that all I read are religious books and all I can think about is giving my life to religion.  It's like "convertitis" over and over again.  When I'm depressed, I think the whole thing is stupid and I give it up.  I was living in this cycle for quite a while, and it really was very painful for me.  My hypo-mania also manifested in the desire to go to new churches and of different denominations - always wanting something new, and something more.  I could never sit still.  The Jesus Prayer, the Rosary, and other meditative practices are very difficult when hypo-manic, as my mind goes about 1,000mph. 

At this point, I don't have any religious belief.  My therapist thinks I should pick it up again, however for now I can't really handle it.  But I am on medication - I was on lithium carbonate for a while, and it really helped me.  I felt balance inside my mind.  It wasn't until I started feeling better that I realized I've been pretty bad for at least the last four years, if not a couple more.  The lithium is messing with my kidneys too much, however, so I am going to go on something else.

I am wondering if anyone else with mental illness has dealt with things like this?  How has it impacted your relationship with your God?  Your Church communities?  How has your experience of religion changed as a result?

P.S. it's been a while - I hope you all are well.  :)  Happy Easter, to those who celebrated it yesterday. 
 

wgw

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The only "mental illness" I have had amounts to PTSD and very low grade depression resulting from the death of my father and the events leading up to it.  And my religion has been a primary source of relief from the pain.
 

LenInSebastopol

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My sister in law is very bipolar and the consistent thing that helps her is going to church, up/down/in/out...she is very much committed to that discipline. I know of 4 others in my congregation that are bi-polar and with their meds they are doing fine. WE also have others in our church that have varying permutations of chemistry issues which include PTSD, ADD/HD, Aspergers, and two outright schizophrenics.
It appears that you are accepting your meds well and I congratulate you for that. Please keep that first, after The Eucharist that is, as the rest of your beloved as well as the congregation as a whole, can appreciate that.
As to the priest thinking of demons, forgive him and pray for him, as it is evident he is fighting a demon of pride in him.
 

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I suffer from quite severe anxiety. I have medication for it, which helps most of the time (but certainly not always). I feel like my faith in God helps me to stay calm, though. When I am having a bit of an 'episode', it's hard to focus on God but I try.
 

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I don't know if I am allowed to reply in this section or not but I wanted to tell an account of a lady at work who I observe...

I work in a dementia unit in a residential care home and this particular mobile, physically strong lady, has complications of schizophrenia as well.

She is Romanian and Orthodox. Reason I know this is her priest comes in once a month to see her and serve her. After he is gone, she is at her happiest and most coherent. You can't reverse dementia, it's permanent damage and progressive. I don't know much about schizophrenia but the symptoms I observe in her usually are not present for hours after her priest has left. She laughs, dances, helps others and makes conversational sense. The following days also, her symptoms are at their lowest and she remembers odd portions of the scriptures that she will smile and quote. As the month progresses she disappears more into her conditions and becomes sullen, unresponsive, confused, aggressive and sad. Her family visit and leave, her friends visit and leave, no change......Then her priest arrives again and she emerges from her pain and is full of light, bright and happy.

That's not just the priest's visit that does that for her.....it's way more than that.
 

Eruvande

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I'm bipolar and on a cocktail of meds to keep it in check. I did come across psychiatrists and professionals who viewed my faith with suspicion and as part of my illness, which was hard going, especially when I began to take Orthodoxy more seriously, but I know my faith is a common thread, rather than a symptom of mania. There's a difference, to me at least, between wanting to pray the full prayers for the day and believing you can jump off tall buildings and fly. I suppose I feel.it most keenly in a dip in mood, when everything becomes too much to handle- those are the times I have to dig in and press forward. But I dare to imagine that most people experience times of feast or famine in faith, just not quite as pronounced as those with bipolar. Much peace to you and prayers as you work it all out.
 

TheTrisagion

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I've dealt with bouts of depression in the past, but most significantly, I have an anxiety disorder. Medication seems to keep it in check, although faith also plays an integral role in it. I'm not really sure which is more effective, faith or the medication, but any time I go off either of them, I get very out of sorts. I've never had the re-occurring "convertitis" thing. For me, as I suspect most people are, it is very hard for me to stay motivated in my faith, but when I minimize it and focus on other things, I become very discontent with my life. I know how you feel about meditative practices. My attention span is about is about nil. I can barely make it through the Creed without my mind wandering. I don't know if that is a mental condition or just the fact that I spend too much time on the internet which has a tendency to cause me to bounce from thing to thing in rapid succession. I used to be able to read books and such, but I have found that to be very difficult because of my attention span.
 

LenInSebastopol

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Poppy said:
I don't know if I am allowed to reply in this section or not but I wanted to tell an account of a lady at work who I observe...

I work in a dementia unit in a residential care home and this particular mobile, physically strong lady, has complications of schizophrenia as well.

She is Romanian and Orthodox. Reason I know this is her priest comes in once a month to see her and serve her. After he is gone, she is at her happiest and most coherent. You can't reverse dementia, it's permanent damage and progressive. I don't know much about schizophrenia but the symptoms I observe in her usually are not present for hours after her priest has left. She laughs, dances, helps others and makes conversational sense. The following days also, her symptoms are at their lowest and she remembers odd portions of the scriptures that she will smile and quote. As the month progresses she disappears more into her conditions and becomes sullen, unresponsive, confused, aggressive and sad. Her family visit and leave, her friends visit and leave, no change......Then her priest arrives again and she emerges from her pain and is full of light, bright and happy.

That's not just the priest's visit that does that for her.....it's way more than that.
She is a stranger in a strange land. Being from Romania she left an insane country during an insane time. Familiarity with God, his helpers and messengers brings comfort to us all.  Consider it "just the priest's visit" and leave it at that. You see how complicated things are.
 

DeniseDenise

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LenInSebastopol said:
Poppy said:
I don't know if I am allowed to reply in this section or not but I wanted to tell an account of a lady at work who I observe...

I work in a dementia unit in a residential care home and this particular mobile, physically strong lady, has complications of schizophrenia as well.

She is Romanian and Orthodox. Reason I know this is her priest comes in once a month to see her and serve her. After he is gone, she is at her happiest and most coherent. You can't reverse dementia, it's permanent damage and progressive. I don't know much about schizophrenia but the symptoms I observe in her usually are not present for hours after her priest has left. She laughs, dances, helps others and makes conversational sense. The following days also, her symptoms are at their lowest and she remembers odd portions of the scriptures that she will smile and quote. As the month progresses she disappears more into her conditions and becomes sullen, unresponsive, confused, aggressive and sad. Her family visit and leave, her friends visit and leave, no change......Then her priest arrives again and she emerges from her pain and is full of light, bright and happy.

That's not just the priest's visit that does that for her.....it's way more than that.
She is a stranger in a strange land. Being from Romania she left an insane country during an insane time. Familiarity with God, his helpers and messengers brings comfort to us all.  Consider it "just the priest's visit" and leave it at that. You see how complicated things are.
I would disagree with this 'just the visit' and say rather that it is likely the effect of 'May the communion of Thy Holy Mysteries be neither to my judgment, nor to my condemnation, 0 Lord, but to the healing of soul and body.'  That for a time, her soul and body are healed, bringing her comfort and giving the viewer a glimpse into how her soul and body will be healed in Heaven.
 

LenInSebastopol

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DeniseDenise said:
LenInSebastopol said:
Poppy said:
I don't know if I am allowed to reply in this section or not but I wanted to tell an account of a lady at work who I observe...

I work in a dementia unit in a residential care home and this particular mobile, physically strong lady, has complications of schizophrenia as well.

She is Romanian and Orthodox. Reason I know this is her priest comes in once a month to see her and serve her. After he is gone, she is at her happiest and most coherent. You can't reverse dementia, it's permanent damage and progressive. I don't know much about schizophrenia but the symptoms I observe in her usually are not present for hours after her priest has left. She laughs, dances, helps others and makes conversational sense. The following days also, her symptoms are at their lowest and she remembers odd portions of the scriptures that she will smile and quote. As the month progresses she disappears more into her conditions and becomes sullen, unresponsive, confused, aggressive and sad. Her family visit and leave, her friends visit and leave, no change......Then her priest arrives again and she emerges from her pain and is full of light, bright and happy.

That's not just the priest's visit that does that for her.....it's way more than that.
She is a stranger in a strange land. Being from Romania she left an insane country during an insane time. Familiarity with God, his helpers and messengers brings comfort to us all.  Consider it "just the priest's visit" and leave it at that. You see how complicated things are.
I would disagree with this 'just the visit' and say rather that it is likely the effect of 'May the communion of Thy Holy Mysteries be neither to my judgment, nor to my condemnation, 0 Lord, but to the healing of soul and body.'  That for a time, her soul and body are healed, bringing her comfort and giving the viewer a glimpse into how her soul and body will be healed in Heaven.
You make a better point than I.
Mine post was cautionary as many or most folks try to ascribe cause & effect poorly and in dealings with those in medical situations....well, I would not want a shoe maker to set a broken arm...
 

trevor72694

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I'm getting the sense that for most of you who have or know someone who has a mental illness, faith helps (and even alleviates symptoms, in some cases.)  I think that in many ways, I didn't take the time to develop a mature faith.  Rather than constructing a sturdy ark for my spirituality, I found a couple of tawdry pieces of wood, strung them together, and expected to be safe on the sea of life with just that.  I don't know why I find it impossible to actually believe at this point, but I'm sure if I could (and if I could have the faith you all have), I would only improve. 

I'm just really not sure where to go from here, and I have the feeling I'm blaming things that are my fault on my bipolar disorder (though that certainly didn't help me in my religious walk.)

I know that when my family's situation became worse and worse (which is probably well documented on OC.net!  ::) ), my faith was the only thing that kept me alive (quite literally) during those times.  I would just love to have that again.
 

LizaSymonenko

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LenInSebastopol said:
Poppy said:
I don't know if I am allowed to reply in this section or not but I wanted to tell an account of a lady at work who I observe...

I work in a dementia unit in a residential care home and this particular mobile, physically strong lady, has complications of schizophrenia as well.

She is Romanian and Orthodox. Reason I know this is her priest comes in once a month to see her and serve her. After he is gone, she is at her happiest and most coherent. You can't reverse dementia, it's permanent damage and progressive. I don't know much about schizophrenia but the symptoms I observe in her usually are not present for hours after her priest has left. She laughs, dances, helps others and makes conversational sense. The following days also, her symptoms are at their lowest and she remembers odd portions of the scriptures that she will smile and quote. As the month progresses she disappears more into her conditions and becomes sullen, unresponsive, confused, aggressive and sad. Her family visit and leave, her friends visit and leave, no change......Then her priest arrives again and she emerges from her pain and is full of light, bright and happy.

That's not just the priest's visit that does that for her.....it's way more than that.
She is a stranger in a strange land. Being from Romania she left an insane country during an insane time. Familiarity with God, his helpers and messengers brings comfort to us all.  Consider it "just the priest's visit" and leave it at that. You see how complicated things are.
Why?  Don't be so fast to take God out of the equation.

Remember, her kids come and go...she's familiar with them as well....probably more than with the priest...and they don't have this effect on her.
 

TheTrisagion

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Tikhon.of.Colorado said:
I'm getting the sense that for most of you who have or know someone who has a mental illness, faith helps (and even alleviates symptoms, in some cases.)  I think that in many ways, I didn't take the time to develop a mature faith.  Rather than constructing a sturdy ark for my spirituality, I found a couple of tawdry pieces of wood, strung them together, and expected to be safe on the sea of life with just that.  I don't know why I find it impossible to actually believe at this point, but I'm sure if I could (and if I could have the faith you all have), I would only improve. 

I'm just really not sure where to go from here, and I have the feeling I'm blaming things that are my fault on my bipolar disorder (though that certainly didn't help me in my religious walk.)

I know that when my family's situation became worse and worse (which is probably well documented on OC.net!  ::) ), my faith was the only thing that kept me alive (quite literally) during those times.  I would just love to have that again.
I hope that you can find peace in your journey. It isn't my place to proselytize or promise rainbows and roses if you just come back to Jesus.  The only thing I will say is that people jump into lots of stuff full force and when it is different than what they expected, they become disillusioned. Perhaps slowly wading back into the pool and force yourself to be more cautious would be beneficial. I myself have an addictive personality. When I find something I am interested in, I can easily go way overboard on it. My wife is a good counterbalance for that because she will caution me if she sees me getting too overzealous. Perhaps finding someone you trust who can help moderate you would be beneficial.
 

rakovsky

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Hello, Eurvande!

I appreciate you writing on the forum and like your search for the early church.
You wrote:
Eruvande said:
I'm bipolar and on a cocktail of meds to keep it in check. I did come across psychiatrists and professionals who viewed my faith with suspicion and as part of my illness, which was hard going, especially when I began to take Orthodoxy more seriously,
Really though, Orthodoxy is much more mentally calming, self-aware, reliable, discerning than some other forms of Christianity. The music is soothing and people do not have mental outbursts. It follows a reasonable pattern with books and educated, informed sermons from clergy who have studied seriously and academically at seminary, based on the literature of educated, deep thinkers like Sts. Jerome, Augustine, John Chrysostom, Eusebius.

So for example, you mentioned elsewhere about speaking in tongues:
Eruvande said:
they've gone in for this in a mild form in every Charismatic church I've ever attended, including the Anglican one I currently attend. They mean well, completely, but I think they're way out of line.
Eruvande said:
it's not as lively or overt as a Pentecostal setting. You can be prayed for in the service, and the pray-er will likely speak in tongues
Speaking in tongues and having vivid supposedly paranormal visions when awake is not an ordinary part of Orthodox church experience, although on rare occasion someone may claim a vision in their lives.

If in the future someone psychologically suggests to you for mental health reasons that Orthodoxy is greater concern, you can just easily draw the contrast between the experiences in Neo-Pentecostal movements and in Orthodoxy, the latter being calm, educated, orderly, basically without tongues that people don't understand.

I am not saying this to hurt Charismatics' feelings, but just that going in a direction of Orthodoxy I find to be more mentally stable.
 

IXOYE

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DeniseDenise said:
LenInSebastopol said:
Poppy said:
I don't know if I am allowed to reply in this section or not but I wanted to tell an account of a lady at work who I observe...

I work in a dementia unit in a residential care home and this particular mobile, physically strong lady, has complications of schizophrenia as well.

She is Romanian and Orthodox. Reason I know this is her priest comes in once a month to see her and serve her. After he is gone, she is at her happiest and most coherent. You can't reverse dementia, it's permanent damage and progressive. I don't know much about schizophrenia but the symptoms I observe in her usually are not present for hours after her priest has left. She laughs, dances, helps others and makes conversational sense. The following days also, her symptoms are at their lowest and she remembers odd portions of the scriptures that she will smile and quote. As the month progresses she disappears more into her conditions and becomes sullen, unresponsive, confused, aggressive and sad. Her family visit and leave, her friends visit and leave, no change......Then her priest arrives again and she emerges from her pain and is full of light, bright and happy.

That's not just the priest's visit that does that for her.....it's way more than that.
She is a stranger in a strange land. Being from Romania she left an insane country during an insane time. Familiarity with God, his helpers and messengers brings comfort to us all.  Consider it "just the priest's visit" and leave it at that. You see how complicated things are.
I would disagree with this 'just the visit' and say rather that it is likely the effect of 'May the communion of Thy Holy Mysteries be neither to my judgment, nor to my condemnation, 0 Lord, but to the healing of soul and body.'  That for a time, her soul and body are healed, bringing her comfort and giving the viewer a glimpse into how her soul and body will be healed in Heaven.
Well put, DeniseDenise!
 

Poppy

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LenInSebastopol said:
DeniseDenise said:
LenInSebastopol said:
Poppy said:
I don't know if I am allowed to reply in this section or not but I wanted to tell an account of a lady at work who I observe...

I work in a dementia unit in a residential care home and this particular mobile, physically strong lady, has complications of schizophrenia as well.

She is Romanian and Orthodox. Reason I know this is her priest comes in once a month to see her and serve her. After he is gone, she is at her happiest and most coherent. You can't reverse dementia, it's permanent damage and progressive. I don't know much about schizophrenia but the symptoms I observe in her usually are not present for hours after her priest has left. She laughs, dances, helps others and makes conversational sense. The following days also, her symptoms are at their lowest and she remembers odd portions of the scriptures that she will smile and quote. As the month progresses she disappears more into her conditions and becomes sullen, unresponsive, confused, aggressive and sad. Her family visit and leave, her friends visit and leave, no change......Then her priest arrives again and she emerges from her pain and is full of light, bright and happy.

That's not just the priest's visit that does that for her.....it's way more than that.
She is a stranger in a strange land. Being from Romania she left an insane country during an insane time. Familiarity with God, his helpers and messengers brings comfort to us all.  Consider it "just the priest's visit" and leave it at that. You see how complicated things are.
I would disagree with this 'just the visit' and say rather that it is likely the effect of 'May the communion of Thy Holy Mysteries be neither to my judgment, nor to my condemnation, 0 Lord, but to the healing of soul and body.'  That for a time, her soul and body are healed, bringing her comfort and giving the viewer a glimpse into how her soul and body will be healed in Heaven.
You make a better point than I.
Mine post was cautionary as many or most folks try to ascribe cause & effect poorly and in dealings with those in medical situations....well, I would not want a shoe maker to set a broken arm...
I agree with you generally. People do mix it up a bit too much and I am cautious too. I am very pragmatic and logical but I am also very good at my job and my obs. That's why I mentioned her family visits because I would have expected those to have an effect....and they don't.

It's def something 'other'. I see it every time I am on duty and it is 'fascinating' is a bad word because I'm not an observer of a show, but I can't think of another one.

Maybe 'beautiful' is a better word.
 

WPM

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Is some kind of a god made out of a fallible man.
 

LenInSebastopol

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LizaSymonenko said:
LenInSebastopol said:
Poppy said:
I don't know if I am allowed to reply in this section or not but I wanted to tell an account of a lady at work who I observe...

I work in a dementia unit in a residential care home and this particular mobile, physically strong lady, has complications of schizophrenia as well.

She is Romanian and Orthodox. Reason I know this is her priest comes in once a month to see her and serve her. After he is gone, she is at her happiest and most coherent. You can't reverse dementia, it's permanent damage and progressive. I don't know much about schizophrenia but the symptoms I observe in her usually are not present for hours after her priest has left. She laughs, dances, helps others and makes conversational sense. The following days also, her symptoms are at their lowest and she remembers odd portions of the scriptures that she will smile and quote. As the month progresses she disappears more into her conditions and becomes sullen, unresponsive, confused, aggressive and sad. Her family visit and leave, her friends visit and leave, no change......Then her priest arrives again and she emerges from her pain and is full of light, bright and happy.

That's not just the priest's visit that does that for her.....it's way more than that.
She is a stranger in a strange land. Being from Romania she left an insane country during an insane time. Familiarity with God, his helpers and messengers brings comfort to us all.  Consider it "just the priest's visit" and leave it at that. You see how complicated things are.
Why?  Don't be so fast to take God out of the equation.
Remember, her kids come and go...she's familiar with them as well....probably more than with the priest...and they don't have this effect on her.
Sorry. I think you are right and I don't disparage God at all in this, just humans and we know why.
As for family.......sometimes they do not make things "better" (to often not).
The Priest, he brings God, a familiarity with Him and it IS Divine....no questioning Him on the deal. Just the rest of us.
Sorry for the misimpression.
 

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One psychiatrist I saw a long time ago also claimed my faith was due to probably having bipolar disorder but my eeg showed adhd. I was never diagnosed with bipolar. I don't think I have it because in a manic state you can achieve things no one else can achieve. Like write a whole book in 1 day. I have never had that
I also struggle to sit down and read for a long time but maybe because I do not have enough free time. I can't work all the time and then use my free time for also something not pleasant. But my next free day I am going to read the book beginning to pray mina soliman suggested
But even just to sit one hour to read the bible I get distracted by cares and thinking I am wasting my time and sadness that I am just making my life harder than it needs to be. I havent even read it for 20 minutes for a long time. I just want to get quick results from the bible I get discouraged when I sin again or I am not applying the bible like being faithful over talents and when I am not prospering in the world because I feel it makes Christianity look bad as if it is the cause of my failure
I want to go out and help the poor not just pray for them
 

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Poppy said:
I don't know if I am allowed to reply in this section or not but I wanted to tell an account of a lady at work who I observe...

I work in a dementia unit in a residential care home and this particular mobile, physically strong lady, has complications of schizophrenia as well.

She is Romanian and Orthodox. Reason I know this is her priest comes in once a month to see her and serve her. After he is gone, she is at her happiest and most coherent. You can't reverse dementia, it's permanent damage and progressive. I don't know much about schizophrenia but the symptoms I observe in her usually are not present for hours after her priest has left. She laughs, dances, helps others and makes conversational sense. The following days also, her symptoms are at their lowest and she remembers odd portions of the scriptures that she will smile and quote. As the month progresses she disappears more into her conditions and becomes sullen, unresponsive, confused, aggressive and sad. Her family visit and leave, her friends visit and leave, no change......Then her priest arrives again and she emerges from her pain and is full of light, bright and happy.

That's not just the priest's visit that does that for her.....it's way more than that.
That is so beautiful... God is good.
 

LenInSebastopol

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mikeforjesus said:
One psychiatrist I saw a long time ago also claimed my faith was due to probably having bipolar disorder but my eeg showed adhd. I was never diagnosed with bipolar. I don't think I have it because in a manic state you can achieve things no one else can achieve. Like write a whole book in 1 day. I have never had that
I also struggle to sit down and read for a long time but maybe because I do not have enough free time. I can't work all the time and then use my free time for also something not pleasant. But my next free day I am going to read the book beginning to pray mina soliman suggested
But even just to sit one hour to read the bible I get distracted by cares and thinking I am wasting my time and sadness that I am just making my life harder than it needs to be. I havent even read it for 20 minutes for a long time. I just want to get quick results from the bible I get discouraged when I sin again or I am not applying the bible like being faithful over talents and when I am not prospering in the world because I feel it makes Christianity look bad as if it is the cause of my failure
I want to go out and help the poor not just pray for them
Mike, take a deep breath slowly and do not be so hard on yourself.
Some days I can read The Bible for no more than a minute, if that long....other days longer than that. It is SO full of meaning; for example the Orthodox hymns have only phrases of some of the Books, like "He fills our desires with good things" or "In the Name of The Lord" and a hundred others. So don't fret over time spent in The Book as there is no number-of-words-read count or such. Let go of that. Just open and read what you may on any given time of the day and do it daily That will be good.
In your free time please, do something pleasant; God Created a whole universe and found it pleasant, "He saw that its was good and He blessed it", so do as He does.
I see you too want "quick results" from God and His Works, but since God has infinite time (from our point of view) He will do as He will and we have only His slice of time, so seek His Will and enjoy.
Prayers are said for you this day, Mike
 
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