I have a mental illness. Now, up until a few years ago I was afraid to admit this, even to myself. The term “mental illness” to so many, has been likened to the word “crazy”. Even I used to hear the word and automatically picture someone running around with wild eyes and hair, screaming for no reason. Of course, I know this way of thinking is sheer ignorance. Now I know better. But, back then I was ashamed to admit that like 40 million people in the United States, I suffer from depression and an anxiety disorder (Anxiety and Depression Association of America).
Nowadays, awareness of the disease has increased with the help of celebrities like Alyssa Milano and Kelly Roland. People have become more understanding. Even the Christian community has slowly started to come out of the shadows when it comes to understanding depression and anxiety disorders. But, the stigma still hovers in many Christian communities.
When I was younger, I tried to get some relief from my suffering. I turned to my church and to my family. The responses I received made things worse. I heard “stop trying to play victim”, “just pray, you have to believe”, “just stop making things up in your head” and finally the solution: “Just suck it up.”
“It’s all in your head,” they said.
And I say to them, yeah, it is all in my head. The mind is also part of the body. Each body part is susceptible to illness. And where does the enemy attack first? The mind. So, while you let that sink in, I’ll continue.
I tried to suck it up but none of their advice helped. It wasn’t until a near successful suicide attempt that my family and friends saw that I was really in pain. They finally knew that my smile was a lie.
How It Started
At first, I didn’t realize that something was off balance. Everything seemed normal. I went about my days same as usual. Then, I started to notice failure after failure. I magnified every little thing that happened. Things that most people would just shrug off, I couldn’t let go. I wasn’t feeling like myself. I self-medicated with positive thinking memes on social media. I added a few more daily devotional subscriptions to my inbox. I tried to stay positive. I continued to attend church, Bible study groups, and my volunteer work. After all, helping others is the best way to forget about my own issues, right?
But the self-help was starting to feel moot. I started going to bed earlier, sometimes with the aid of Nyquil. I would read the memes and think “meh”, then delete. I read some of the devotional scripture, but that uplifted feeling was gone once I closed my email. So, I decided to get busier doing more things. I took on extra projects, hoping the distraction will jolt me back to my old self.
Then, I started to have that overwhelming feeling that everything I had done and was doing was just a never-ending cycle of nothing. Nothing mattered. It was all pointless. I was pointless. And coupled with these creeping thoughts of despair were feelings of sheer anxiety. The “what ifs” plagued my mind.
What if I don’t get this bill paid off?
What if he has been using me all this time?
What if I can’t get this long list of things done?
I can’t do anything right! I always do this to myself! I am worthless!
And the depression had finally arrived. The stress of it all made me feel physically, mentally and emotionally drained. My only desire was to sleep. Sleep, until it all went away.
I wanted help. But, I was a Christian, a leader in my church. Christians don’t believe in depression. If I confessed my illness, everyone would think that I had lost my faith or never had it. Everyone would think I am not saved and there is no Holy Spirit within me.
This fear intensified the problem. Having lived under the credence that Christians don’t suffer depression, I started to question my own faith.
There Is Hope
So, what do you do when the spirit of hopelessness comes over you? You are saved. The Holy Spirit lives in you but still hopelessness does not escape you. In fact, you are more at risk because, the enemy, Lucifer, knows you have promise.
What do you do?
The reality is that there is really no instant cure for depression. Like any treatment, it takes time to fix. But, the great comfort comes in knowing that those conflicting thoughts invading your psyche are a complete lie, a failed trick of the devil. You are saved. You have the hope of glory. And God wants you to live in that peace. That is what we must look forward to.
Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church: Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:
My dear brothers and sisters in love, do not allow anyone to deny you the peace that our Father and Savior, Jesus Christ, has for you. Think on this, He loved you, your sweet soul, so much that He was willing and did die for you! Mental illness like any other illness of the body sometimes requires medical attention. A sickness of the mind does not mean that you have failed as a child of God. It does not mean that you can just “shake it off”. It does not mean that you can just pray it away (James 2:26). Even Paul, in the book of Timothy he advised to “…use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities” (1 Timothy 5:23).
So, beloved do not let anyone judge you as you seek the Godly peace you deserve. We do not suffer alone. I did get the help I needed through counseling and yes, for a while, medication. Fortunately, my circle has evolved and now understand my depression a little more now. A few have even admitted to have suffered from it as well. In this, we rejoice because we should not be alone. As Christians, we uplift and encourage each other. We try to be sympathetic to the needs of others.
For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.
And as we fight the good fight, whether it is within ourselves or the evil of the world, we take one of the last gifts Jesus gave his disciples before He was crucified for us: peace.
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. –Jesus