First of all, I’m going to come up with something to call these people other than the church. Because, in honesty, it’s not the whole church. So, let’s call them, certain people. You know the ones I’m talking about. The ones that think they know best even though they know very little. This is not meant to offend or bash anyone, these are just my personal thoughts on mental illness and Christianity.
When it comes to mental health, I believe certain people can be very quick to judge and very quick to have all the right answers. This is because not a lot of people are educated on mental health, and they should be. Why are they not educated? Because of the stigma surrounding mental illness, the stigma still being built up by certain people.
Today, in a conversation with a friend, she wanted to share what she had learned at a Southern Baptist Convention. Let’s take a moment to be grateful that this pants wearing to church, strong woman was not in that room! I respect y’all as much as the next person, but are we really still concerned about the fact that women can wear pants? Sorry, this is a whole other rant.
Anyway, she shared that a guest speaker had said that self help books are useless. That we can not help ourselves. This irritates me to no end! As a Christian, I agree that we can not help ourselves. I’ve tried. I found myself deep in a dark pit of despair and isolation. I know I can’t do this alone, and I’m aware no one can fix it for me. However, we can not expect things to just suddenly and magically be okay.
Things take time, things take work. It’s like the saying, “you can’t pray for an A and study for a C.” Just like you can’t pray for healing, and then not do a damn thing about it. Your actions have to match your prayers. Yes, I believe if God wanted to instantly heal someone that He could, but a lot of the time He’s giving us resources to help us.
God put on this earth a man. This man began to study psychology one day. And then, this man fell into depression. Out of it, he wrote a book, The Cognitive Behavioral Workbook for Depression. I’m currently reading this to help overcome my depression. God also put on the earth the person or people who invented the very medication I take to help with my mental health.
Yes, healing comes through prayer. But the way He answers those prayers are always unique. He may heal you in an instant, if so, then that’s awe inspiring! But if He doesn’t, it’s not because He doesn’t care about you, it’s because He knows you need a different experience. God knows that if He were to heal me instantly, I’d learn nothing. And I love learning from life’s lessons. So, He put me on the path to find healing.
God answered my prayers by giving me the opportunity to take medication that is readily available to help me with my mental illnesses. They are not a cure all, but they make it easier to manage. God answered my prayers by giving me a passion and dedication to figuring out how to overcome these things. Because of that, I picked up books to not only help myself, but to educate myself. These are not cure alls either, but again, they do help. God has placed things in my life to help me through letting me have faith in Him while actively working on my issues.
Another way to put it, I could pray endlessly for healing. But, if I continue to drink and self harm and live in this state of negativity, how far do you think I’ll get in the healing process? As compared to praying, quitting drinking, turning to God for comfort when in times of self harm, and actively seeking help? I could easily stay in that negative place either way, but at least I can say that with seeking help, I was trying.
Another thing to irritate me to no end, “your faith just isn’t strong enough, you need to choose to believe and be happy.” Like, are you freaking kidding me? You think I’m actively turning down the chance at being happy? You think I don’t sit here all day and think of everything I should be grateful for? And my faith? Somehow you know how strong my faith is? Can you read my mind? No? Okay, then. Move along, please.
I hate it when certain people blame an Anxiety Disorder or Depressive Disorder on lack of faith. Because usually, surviving these things requires the exact opposite! I’m sure it takes so much faith to be sure that your $60 yoga pants arrive on time and fit you. But for me? I need my faith to keep me alive. It’s the only way I can survive. It’s the only thing that keeps me going! Even those of us struggling who are not Christian, they rely on faith as well. Faith that one day, maybe, things will get better.
I have an illness that is literally trying to convince me to kill myself. It tells me over and over how worthless I am. It makes me feel as though I don’t deserve a damn thing. How do you keep going through that without faith?! It’s impossible. If you’re feeling worthless and do not have faith, what reason is there to keep living? When I feel worthless, I have faith that my God will take away these thoughts, will comfort my soul, and one day I won’t struggle anymore. I have faith that God has not made me suffer for nothing, that I am going through this so that maybe, just maybe one day I can help at least one person who feels the way I do. My FAITH is what keeps me going.
I’m not even gonna get started on this whole “choose happiness” bullshit. Not gonna do it. People with depression, y’all understand.
Also, you know I’m passionate when I start saying y’all.
One last thing before I go ahead and publish my thoughts. One time, I was told a church’s, I guess, saying? Anyway, this church’s saying is that, “depression doesn’t belong here.” Oh, okay. I’ll just go then.
I’m sure they had all the best intentions, but it needed to be thought out more. Those without depression, they don’t realize that it follows you around. It’s everywhere you go. Even in you’re happy, it’s there. Depression isn’t welcome? Well, then, where do I go?
Those of us with depression understand that we are NOT depression, yet we HAVE depression. It’s like having a dog, you’ve got to take care of it and nurture it. If you ignore it, it gets mad and chews up your pretty high heels. Sorry, still a little upset about that one. But, nonetheless, you can’t just say depression isn’t welcome there. I don’t want to go to a church where part of my mental illness is not welcome. And it totally sucks, I was beginning to like that church. But I’m not welcome.
I want to go to a church that welcomes Anxiety and Depression with open arms! Where it’s okay to have a mental illness. Do I have to say it again? Mental. Freaking. Illness. It’s not something I can control, it’s not something I can just decide, “oh I’m going to be normal today.” No, it’s an actual illness caused by chemical imbalances or traumatic life experiences. Or both. It’s in the ways that we were raised, it’s in the lives we have lived.
So, when someone can show me a church that will stand there and say, “oh, you’re depressed? Great! You’re strong for dealing with this, here, come in.” Then I will return to church. Until then, my faith lies between me and my God. Not with anyone else, but between the One that matters.
I’m a Christian woman, with tattoos, that smokes, and cusses. I’m Im not flawless. I love all my flaws. And I am not mad at certain people, just passionate that they educate themselves. Please, help us end the stigma around mental illness so that any untreated person will feel confident enough to seek help as if they were seeking help for a broken bone. It would save lives.