What Christians with depression might not tell you
I first had symptoms of depression when I was 13 years old. I can remember the actual day that a heavy weight settled on my mind, and it’s been with me to some degree since then. I’ve learned to deal with depression with the help of qualified physicians, caring Christian counselors, and supportive friends. Depression has taught me a great deal about compassion and extending grace.
That being said, here are a few things that Christians with depression might not tell you.
“Along with depression, I might also be fighting the real or perceived stigma that goes along with mental illness.”
At times during my childhood, I heard adult talking about depression in a heavily negative connotation. The message I heard was that depression was a sign of spiritual weakness, and people who had depression didn’t have enough faith.
Frankly, that’s garbage. And it’s very damaging.
Men of God, like King David, experienced some very dark times. We have window into King David’s soul in beautiful passages like Psalm 23, 31, and 31.
“Depression is often misunderstood, and I sometimes don’t know what’s happening in my own brain.”
The stigma can come from a simple lack of knowledge about mental health, or an unrealistic understanding of human frailty.
The more I learned about my illness, the more equipped I was to handle it. The most helpful information came from others who had the same symptoms – and knowing that I’m not in this alone, men and women who understand brain chemistry, and those who withhold judgement when I needed to talk.
A pastor friend put it like this – our bodies are vulnerable to disease and injury. Why would our brains be any different? Telling a Christian with depression to “snap out of it” is like telling a person with diabetes to “stop being diabetic.” Hearing that set me free.
“During the darkest times, I can be feeling so discouraged and stuck in the greasy pit of depression that any relief from the pain is welcomed.”
Depression, anxiety, and loneliness are difficult and unpleasant. In the worst of times, depression, anxiety, and loneliness are compounded by traumatic experiences, burn-out, or life circumstances. Sometimes, I simply don’t have the strength to “snap out of it.”
In the darkest times, drastic measures are needed. At the end of March, 2015, I found myself in the worst possible place mentally. I drove myself to the ER with suicidal idealizations and ended up in the hospital for a full week. Me? A Christian missionary with an advanced degree? Yes.
If your friend or family member’s actions are a call for help, treat that seriously – like you would an allergic reaction to a bee sting or a heart attack. Get medical attention. Face it, deal with it. Don’t ignore it.
“I want to talk about what I’m experiencing – but I don’t want platitudes or well-intentioned advice that glosses over the issues.”
I want to talk about what I’m deal with. My emotions feel like a roller coaster, I don’t understand my widely fluctuating emotions, and I hate that don’t have energy to do what I want to.
What I need most of all?
Please withhold judgement. Instead, please listen. A great deal of healing and growth has come through caring individuals simply being willing to listen.
Possible online resources for help