Faith & Depression: Why the Hate?

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There have been several posts Facebook about Christians and depression this week, and to be honest, they hurt. Why? Because I’ve dealt with it, and I honestly will for the rest of my life due to the fact that mine is clinical, meaning that it is due to a chemical imbalance.

There are a couple of reasons this bothers me:

Some believe that this is a spiritual attack. For one, a chemical imbalance is about as equal to having diabetes or a heart attack. It’s physical, not an emotion that I can “just control”. I do go to therapy on a regular basis, see a psychiatrist who monitors and maintains my medication monthly, and I follow various coping skills along with taking my medications as prescribed.

My favorite form of coping is “mindfulness”, which is just a matter of being aware of myself, my surroundings, my thoughts, my feelings/emotions, and physical well-being. I also pray and stay in God’s word on a daily basis. And now that my back is no longer hindering me from it, I’m back to physical activity to help “relieve” some of the built up/pent up pressure, as well. And journaling is the most important. These things help me, but they don’t always do their job. But they can lessen the effects.

Many believe that people who have a mental illness are un-date-able and should be avoided at all costs. Yes, many of you have stated that, and believe it or not, that is a knife wound if anyone were to ever feel one. How would you like to hear it if someone were to say “I’ll never date someone who takes a beta-blocker ever again”? Not fun, is it? Yes, taking these medications is a roller coaster ride, but I will tell you this, it would be a whole lot worse if I didn’t. When I first started feeling that things were getting too hard for me to handle, I went to my general practitioner, who put me on Celexa.

What I found out was this: anyone who has clinical depression should not be treated by a general practitioner, but should see professional psychiatric help. The reason I say that is that those reports of side-effects that state “may increase suicidal tendencies” are true. I’ve been there, done that, have the t-shirt. While hospitalized, they did find the correct balance of medications for me, and I was placed on those for over a decade. The only reason I was taken off of those was because the efficacy only lasts so long before it is time to find a new cocktail. It took a year before the right one was found, and I’m back to being stable again.

But people also have to realize that life happens. We go through tough times, and sometimes those emotions can cripple even the strongest. I lost the person I was the closest to, was going through a financial mess, struggling to find a job, and dealing with the pain and frustration of that nagging back injury all at once. I did get depressed, and it turned out to not be the clinical depression, but actually situational. Those around me acknowledged that I handled that time in my life better than expected. But it was because I had a support system in place. A lot of people don’t get through those, because they don’t have support systems.

One of the things I hate more than anything in the world is when people use sin as an excuse for clinical depression or mental health. It is a misunderstanding, and very dangerous one at that. It is like telling a heart attack victim that they had a heart attack because they didn’t pray enough. We need to stop that thought process. There are forms of situational depression that are a heart problem, but we have to recognize that clinical depression and other forms of mental illness are not. And they can be seen in children as well (which that statement made my blood boil, as I have watched a young child struggle with schizophrenia).

The church can be one of the most ignorant sources for people who struggle with mental illness, and the reason I write my blog is to provide hope and education. I don’t want people to do the wrong thing in their trying to become stable or to get healthy (which is possible). And for those of you who have people in your life who struggle with it, how do you react or act toward them? Do you shun them? Do you get angry with them? How are you showing God to them? How are you supporting them? There are groups out there that can help teach you to be a better support for them, rather than drag them down deeper, along with you, too. A friend’s husband is a true testament for that one. He’s phenomenal with her.

We need to stop saying these negatives, because when you do, you are saying “I hate you” to someone you may not even know. And your words are just like murder, and we are told “thou shalt not murder”.

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