Depression, Anxiety, and the Church

I’m exhausted by the thread of Christianity that says you aren’t worth our time and you must be held at arms length when you are angry at God and you are fighting and wrestling with every aspect of your faith. In the midst of the struggle, this is when people need held the most. This is when the unspoken “I know, I’ve been there, but He showed up and came through in time” are so needed… by our love, by our support, and by our physical presence.

 

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My father committed suicide because nobody was there.  Because the church stimgatized him.  He was looking for Jesus.  He was reading, and asking, and trying to understand, but his struggle was seen as something to keep at arms length, and he is in hell today thanks to the many who thought he wasn’t worth their time.  That could be me someday.  The reality that I’ve struggled with suicidal thoughts myself for years is a new thing to many.  And when people you leaned on and depended on no longer have time for you or choose to shut a door, depression lets you know it’s all your fault.  It’s even better when the people involved actually say that (not to your face mind you, to others who share the news of what they are saying, which compounds it).

 

We should be ashamed of ourselves. 

 

And thinking of them as something that must be “counteracted by positivity” shows them you’d rather filter them, and yell back louder, than to listen and truly care (because that takes real effort). Your screaming pictures of happiness actually just adds to the depression because we don’t have those pictures. Often we are labeled, negative, troublemakers, drama queens, stuck in a mindset… when it’s our bodies fighting us. We already know the right mindsets, we already know the “positive” things to say, think, etc… but we wake up with a hurting body, and a hurting mind and heart and are told to snap out of it. And in the church, to repent and stop being sinful. (Wow, that worked for David, Jeremiah, and Elijah, and Job)… You act like we WANT to feel this way and have a CHOICE to be different.  I wish it was that easy.

This idea that we stay put and expect them to come to us and “well you know where we are” isn’t even remotely biblical. It’s damning, it’s selfish, and it’s close minded. How often did Jesus GO to someone? How many times did he (and his apostles) sit and wait for someone to come to them? (It was very rare). Even an email in this day and age, or a FB message, is a reaching… it’s a “going”. Those who truly “pastor” and “reach” and love deeply… GO.

When your physical body takes hold of your mental capacity, and shakes it like a snowglobe, you need people to sit with you and speak life while you wait for the storm to settle. This has been a very long storm, and it’s not over. I appreciate the very few who have cared enough to reach out. I know who my true, deep friends are now. Maybe that was my lesson in all of this season. Time will tell.

 

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Regardless if you remotely care, read this. Because MY DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY is NOT a SIN. It’s NOT a choice. It’s NOT a character defect (as many have told me it is), and it’s NOT demonic. (Again, as many has said it was, which only ADDS to the battle).

A quote from this article that opened my eyes:

Depression is the only physical illness with spiritual symptoms.

History records strong Christians who experienced depression:
Martin Luther
Charles Spurgeon
John Bunyan
Abraham Lincoln
C.S. Lewis
Buzz Aldrin
Rick Warren
Mother Teresa

WOW. Some names we didn’t realize there. I know a few pastors personally that struggle with it (and can’t verbalize it due to the stigma). They have to always “say” the right things or it could be misconstrued…. I know what that’s like!!!

Today I had an email from someone show back up in my face (thanks timehop).  It was pretty much them telling me to try harder.  That the thoughts I was battling and the depression I faced was my responsibility and to counteract them with the “truth” of the Word of God.  I get that.  I seriously do, and I’ve spent months using 80% of my capacity for the day battling.  Thing is, what does that leave me for the day?

I was told to “stay focused” and fully believe.  Here is the thing… I do believe.  Fully.  But you can’t understand what it’s like to have faith shaken in that snowglobe along with everything else.  You can’t see the good in everything immediately when your eyes are unable to focus.  You can’t “not waiver” when your body and emotions are being shaken and thrown in multiple directions.

 

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I have a few diseases that mess with my hormones, my thyroid levels, and now I’m possibly a cancer patient for the 4th time.  Thyroid cancer.  Which just exacerbates the mental illness in the midst of all of this.

 

Church we aren’t getting this right.  I have friends still within your walls that battle the same stuff but don’t feel like they can be open or honest because of their struggles.  Our culturally popular mottos of “acceptance, authenticity” are lies because those of us being honest with our struggles are pushed aside and pushed out.  We didn’t play by the rules, we didn’t speak the truth in the correct tone or in a way that was culturally acceptable.

 

Those who need the truth and the church the most aren’t going to be culturally acceptable and speak in correct tones.  I’m one of them.  I need my church, but I don’t feel safe there anymore.  Stigma doesn’t help.  It hurts and we are already hurting.  We need healing and you don’t know how to provide it.  It’s not a sunday show and a lesson.  It’s time spent and hugs and knowing that if we need to talk or just have a warm body near us when we have to go to a very fearful appointment, you will be there.  But we are often left to this journey alone.

 

It’s  probably too late for me, but it’s not too late for those still in the church.   It’s not too late for the depressed teenager who got pregnant but was so scared, she got an abortion instead of talking to her youth minister and letting a community surround her.  (I grew up in a church that happened, and then another young girl, who was 14 did have the guts to do it, and the church WAS the church and it was a beautiful thing… and so much healing happened!).  It’s not too late for the mom who is battling sleep depravation and post partum at the same time and feels more judged than helped because she can’t seem to get her kids picture perfect on a sunday morning.  It’s not too late for the father who has another one coming who feels overwhelmed and is too scared to say anything.  It’s not too late for the leader who feels as tho they need to isolate themselves because they are battling so hard and they don’t feel that anyone around them can truly know or they will lose face and lose sheep.  It’s not too late.  It’s not.

 

 

Then pray about how you have responded and change things accordingly.

 

I guarantee there are people in your life that need you to reach out.  They might not know how to respond to that at first, I”m sorry if we bite a bit… we have reason to.  But try again.  Know that love is persistent, it doesn’t hide, it doesn’t judge, and it keeps believing when others have stopped.

 

Now GO.

Depression/Anxiety/Mental Illness needs to lose the stigma.  The humans it affects need to be treated with respect and understanding.  The church needs to stop being so black and white and treating it as though it was sin.

I’m not a victim.  I’m not demonic.  I’m sick, and I’m depressed, suicidal at times, and fight anxiety.  Will you still love me? Or will you back away and draw the line?  Which is love?

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