For most of my life growing up I struggled with depression and mental health related issues. At the age of sixteen I became frustrated with my life and my depression began to overpower my faith. I began to engage in self-mutilating behaviors and I became more enticed by the idea of death by suicide.
I could never understand why this other half of me existed and I felt shameful and dirty for being what some would call mentally unfit. Being raised in the church, depression and mental health is not a topic I ever heard most pastors preach about or folks within the church talk about. All I ever heard was have more faith, read your bible and trust and believe that God can heal you. Now I don’t want to sound like a lukewarm Christian, but a little more faith and a sprinkle of Jesus is not a means for correcting or relieving a person who is stuck in a mentally dysfunctional state… at least for me it wasn’t.
I was told to do more of everything, more scripture reading, have more alone time with God, worship more, lift my hands more and believe more. But no matter how much I physically did, it never changed where I was mentally. Because when a person suffers from depression it is less about what you know and more about how you feel. And despite knowing God’s word, what I felt was lost, I felt worthless, and I always felt disconnected from the world. My depression caused me to isolate, I ate less and I became uninterested in social gatherings or being around my peers. I was always sad and irritable and I was none of these things by choice.
Depression steals your joy and it drains your energy, it doesn’t remind you of how fearfully and wonderfully made you are because it makes you think you were an error within creation. Depression does not show you grace nor does it have mercy on your soul.
These words written by King David, a man after God’s own heart, reminds me of my own battle with severe depression. David starts off by acknowledging all that God has done for him in Psalm 39:8 “You have not given me into the hands of the enemy, but have set my feet in a spacious place”. But as he moves onto the next verse he talks less about what he knows and expresses to God how he feels, v.9 “Be merciful to me Lord, for I am in distress, my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and body with grief. My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction and my bones grow weak”.
I am not sure what mental state David was in when he wrote this, but what I see is a man who no matter how much he runs after God’s heart is susceptible to great sadness and emotional dejection because like the rest of us, he is human and if there is anything that God understands, it’s the human heart.
David has no shame when it comes to sharing his truths with the Lord, and I want the church to know that you too do not have to be ashamed for being a Christian who struggles with depression, anxiety or mental health issues. Depression is real and seeking professional help for your struggles does not make you a less faithful servant or less of a believer in God’s word.
We need to make room for depression and mental health within the church and it all starts with having a conversation about it and learning to understand it, not “fix it” or “rebuke it” as if this issue is demonic or an emotional defect. We need to encourage the body of Christ to get help if help is needed and support their decisions around therapy and other forms of treatment.
I am proud to say that I am no longer suicidal, I am no longer self-mutilating and I no longer question my existence here on earth. Depression no longer has a hold on me and I believe my life is worthy of its best chance. Me being in the place that I am today came not solely from searching for God but also searching for help from support groups and extensive counseling with a trained mental health therapist.
I am not ashamed of what I came from because in the midst of my turmoil and distress, one thing I can say is although depression is my story so is hope. Hope is real, help is real, it can be found on the cross and it can be found within community.
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression and mental health related issues but you are not sure where to turn, here are a few helpful resources.