Photo via Lightstock. Used with permission.

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I have hesitated to write on this topic before today because I don’t personally have an ongoing battle with depression or mental illness. I prefer to let those who have walked that road speak up and then simply share their wisdom. But some of the people whom I love deeply struggle with those issues. And so today I feel compelled to stake a small flag here in the sand on their behalf.

Since the tragic death of Robin Williams, I have seen some terrible, misinformed, and abusive bullsh*t online about depression and mental illness. This normally wouldn’t be enough to make me type as passionately as I am right now but this stuff is coming from a few vocal and influential Christians. I see it being shared around on social media like candy. And it makes my blood boil and my heart ache.

I hate to think of my beloved people reading that kind of damaging stuff. Heaping condemnation and guilt and fear on the heads of the suffering is akin to tying a millstone around someone’s neck. This is a heinous and evil thing to do.

Where is our compassion for the suffering? I know that the Church has, on average, done a pretty terrible job at understanding and supporting those who struggle with mental illness. We should be the FIRST ones to walk alongside those who are suffering with hope and gentleness, compassion and love. I am so thankful for people in influential positions – like Rick and Kay Warren – who openly write and share about these issues with such compassion.

This post is a small thing, I know. I’m under no illusions. I won’t repeat all the stuff that you already know about seeking help and intimacy, about courage and shame, about medication and qualified counselling.

I’ll just say a couple of things simply because I must say them to you. I wish I could spare you from the toxic comments of the willfully ignorant.

It is not your fault.

Depression is not a sin. Mental illness is not a sin.

And you are so loved.

It is not your fault.

Depression is not a sin. Mental illness is not a sin.

And you are so loved.

It is not your fault.

Depression is not a sin. Mental illness is not a sin.

And you are so loved.

I believe that the Lord is particularly close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18 NIV).

In the meantime, I’ll continue to highlight a few responses here that may encourage you or, at the least, remind you that YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

And so many of us know that you do not suffer out of choice. We are carrying you in prayer and in our hearts always.

The Depressed Christian: Why the Dark Night is No Measure of Your Soul by my dear friend Megan Tietz at SortaCrunchy

I see myself laying in my bathtub, staring out the window, choking back sobs of prayer, begging God to please, please lift this darkness I could not shake.

I remember staggering down the basement stairs with a load of laundry, standing over my washing machine and whispering against the noise of the tub filling with water, “God, if you are real, please heal me.”

I think of the time I burst into tears in the grocery store when a well-meaning elderly woman stopped me with my double stroller full of twins and groceries and proclaimed how blessed I was and all I could think was “then why do I hate my life?”

In that season, I went back to my roots: reading the Bible, praying, singing songs of praise, trying to keep gratitude lists. No matter what I did, no matter how hard I prayed, no matter how often I cried out, I couldn’t force my mind to course-correct. I was acutely aware of how broken my brain was but felt absolutely powerless to fix it.

And yet in the midst of that dark time, my heart absolutely thrilled with joy. Watching the boys sleep next to each other, tucked into each other because that’s how you sleep when that’s all you know – it made my heart crack wide open with joy. Silly conversations and long hugs from my girls, giggly text messages from my husband … yes, there was light and joy and love and moments of clarity in the midst of those hard, hard days.

And then like a troll from the old children’s stories, Depression would be on the scene to gobble my joy right up.

What the Church and Christians Need to Know About Suicide and Mental Health by my dearly loved Ann Voskamp

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 some place 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.

Thoughts on Depression, Suicide, and Being a Christian by one of my best friends Nish Weiseth

But there’s another kind of evil lurking around the halls of the depressed, and it’s the belief that those who are stricken with depression (or any mental illness) are suffering because of their lack of faith in Jesus. “If only you’d pray for more joy,” people say. “If only you’d ask God to take the pain.”  Or, “Is there unresolved sin in your life?” Or how about this one, “If you’d just meditate more on God’s Word…”

Folks, saying someone is depressed or suicidal because they aren’t praying enough, are self-absorbed, sinful, or don’t have a deep enough faith? It’s abusive. And it needs to stop. Now.

God does heal, absolutely He does. But sometimes, healing happens through good doctors, counselors, practitioners, and yes, medicine. God’s grace can look like a sliver of light on the bathroom floor, but it can also look like a life-changing counseling session or the right combination of drugs to regulate your brain chemistry.

When Existence Becomes Seemingly Impossible by Alan Noble at Christ & Pop Culture

What I want to say is that life is harder than most of us will let on, and probably the deepest struggles we’ll face will be silent and petty — things like choosing to get out of bed and get dressed. Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof, but so too is Christ’s Grace. So, get up, when you can, and carry on. Rest your burdens on He who loves you, and turn to the pilgrims alongside you. Some days, rising out of bed is a great act of worship. And when you can’t get up, let those around you bear you up as Christ’s body, always remembering that you are loved. And then, carry that mercy and grace to your neighbor, who needs it no less.

Depression, Robin Williams, and You by Bethany Bassett at A Deeper Story

Here is what I learned about depression during my year-and-a-half-long battle: It is not a place for self-help.

I could not shoo away the darkness by starting a new workout routine. I could not slip into peace by praying. I could not diagnose myself within the maze of WebMD. I could not summon the energy to pick myself off the bathroom floor some days, much less pick up the phone and ask for help. The few friends I reached out to over the months all answered the same way: “What can I do to help?” And my answer was always, unfailingly, “I don’t know.”

NOTE: I’ll be updating this post over the next few days as I find links that will make you feel less alone. Keep checking back or let me know in the comments if you have come across anything particularly helpful. I want to boost the signal as much as I possibly can on this issue.

With you always,

S.

Updated to add:

Coping with Suicide and Loss by Rachel King Batson – on how she coped after her father’s suicide.

Robin Williams’ Death: A Reminder that Suicide and Depression are Not Selfish by Dean Burnett for The Guardian

Robin Williams and Why Funny People Kill Themselves by David Wong at Cracked (Warning: some language may be offensive)

When the Illness You Live With Becomes Breaking News by Molly Pohlig for Slate

 

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