I saw the headlines, “Pastor Rick Warren Asks for Prayer Following Son’s Suicide.” I read the articles detailing the struggles of the 27 year old son who had battled depression most of his life. I was grateful to see that Pastor Warren expressed such love and understanding of the tremendous battle this young man fought and finally lost. I read nothing of blame nor lack of faith. Sadly, it is a common theme. You can overcome depression or any other form of mental illness simply by prayer, self will, and choosing to be strong. Some will go so far as to say that mental illness is the work of Satan taking over because your faith was not strong enough to fight.
I kept my own mental illness a secret for a very long time. It was an example I learned at a young age. We didn’t talk about my great grandmother’s “problem.” They sent her to a state mental hospital and lied to everyone. My grandmother felt that mental illness was a weakness. Prayer and just the right amount of church services and tithing could fix it. We never talked about my grandfather’s alcoholism to anyone. Our Pastor was the only one that knew. He came once a year to “talk” to my grandfather and pray for him. He only did it because my grandmother insisted. When I showed signs of depression and anxiety disorders as a child my grandmother became angry. I learned quickly to hide and lie. I found ways to cope that had to be unlearned as an adult.
I am grateful to two amazing therapists who helped me learn to manage my life and my illness. They both helped me find my way back to my faith. I am grateful for the medications that keep me in balance. I am grateful for friends and family that allow me to share my world with them. I have bad days just like everyone else. No one in my circle of family and friends comes running in to ask if I am taking my meds or if I need to see my psychiatrist. The amazing thing is that they would do that if they truly were concerned. I talk about these things because there is no need to be ashamed. Yet, many people still talk in hushed tones about mental illness.
I read a blog post today and I wanted to share a part of it here. Here is the link if you want to read it in full. What Christians Need to Know About Mental Health by Ann Voskamp
“There are some who take communion and anti-depressants and there are those who think both are a crutch.
Come in close — I’d rather walk tall with a crutch than crawl around insisting like a proud and bloody fool that I didn’t need one.
I once heard a pastor tell the whole congregation that he had lived next to the loonie bin and I looked at the floor when everyone laughed and they didn’t know how I loved my mama. I looked to the floor when they laughed, when I wanted them to stand up and reach through the pain of the flames and say:
Our Bible says Jesus said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a doctor, but those who are sick.” Jesus came for the sick, not for the smug. Jesus came as doctor and He makes miracles happen through medicine and when the church isn’t for the suffering, then the Church isn’t for Christ.
I wanted them to say it all together, like one Body, for us to say it all together to each other because there’s not one of us who hasn’t lost something, who doesn’t fear something, who doesn’t ache with something. I wanted us to turn to the hurting, to each other, and promise it till we’re hoarse:
We won’t give you some cliche – but something to cling to — and that will mean our hands.
We won’t give you some platitudes — but someplace for your pain — and that will mean our time.
We won’t give you some excuses — but we’ll be some example — and that will mean bending down and washing your wounds. Wounds that we don’t understand, wounds that keep festering, that don’t heal, that down right stink — wounds that can never make us turn away.
Because we are the Body of the Wounded Healer and we are the people who believe the impossible — that wounds can be openings to the beauty in us.
We’re the people who say: there’s no shame saying that your heart and head are broken because there’s a Doctor in the house. It’s the wisest and the bravest who cry for help when lost.
There’s no stigma in saying you’re sick because there’s a wounded Healer who uses nails to buy freedom and crosses to resurrect hope and medicine to make miracles.
There’s no guilt in mental illness because depression is a kind of cancer that attacks the mind. You don’t shame cancer, you treat cancer. You don’t treat those with hurting insides as less than. You get them the most treatment.
I wanted the brave to speak Truth and Love:
Shame is a bully and Grace is a shield. You are safe here.
To write it on walls and arms and wounds:
Always safe for the suffering here.
You can be different and you can struggle and you can wrestle and you can hurt and we will be here. Because a fallen world keeps falling apart and even though we the Body can’t make things turn out — we can turn up. Just keep turning up, showing up, looking up.”