Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘psychotherapy’

I know this isn’t an original topic, but since I’m having struggles in this area like never before, I figured I might as well put it “out there.” You never know who God might reach if you’re willing to let Him use all of you, even the parts you don’t particularly want exposed.

As Christians, we have this treasure in jars of clay. I know that when I was born again, the old Sandy was crucified with Christ, and she no longer lives. The “new me”, spiritually redeemed and free, is still housed in a cracked pot. Of late that has become glaringly obvious.

The past few months have been an agony of deep despair, hopelessness, mental confusion and emotional pain. I’ve always tended towards the melancholy – it’s just my personality – but this has been different. My sense of worth and value has crashed down around me. Most of my days have been spent alone, looking forward to sleep, dreading the morning. I have thought about suicide repeatedly. I could see no other way out of what has felt like a bottomless pit of pain and despair.

I’m not writing this to elicit pity – I’m truly not. Actually, this morning was the first time in months that I’ve woken up feeling somewhat hopeful. It was such a relief, and I thank God for it. But the past months have challenged my own assumptions and prejudices about what mental illness is – and what mental health is.

Assuming I’m fairly average in this area, I would venture to say that there’s still quite a bit of stigma surrounding mental illness. That’s surprising considering the record numbers of people who are apparently being treated for depression, bipolar disorder, and so on. I think there’s often an extra dimension to the stigma in Christian circles.

There was a time when I vowed I would never take antidepressants, because I was a woman of faith, familiar with the scripture from Isaiah 53 – “by His stripes we are healed.” I’ve heard people at church voice this attitude recently. One woman told me about how she was depressed and her doctor prescribed Paxil, but she refused to take it – and God healed her. On the one hand, I think it’s awesome when God heals someone of their illness, mental or otherwise. On the other, there can be a subtle pride underlying this attitude. It’s not so much an expression of faith in God, as it’s faith in our faith in God.

I’ve come to realize that mental illness and mental health are not so much polar opposites as they are gradations on a continuum. None of us can claim that our thoughts are completely healthy. But most of us are able to tell the difference between thoughts that are rational and can/should be acted upon, and those that aren’t. So, here are some of the things I’ve gleaned from my experience so far:

  • Thinking that killing oneself is a reasonable, viable (no pun intended) solution is a good sign that your mental state is not healthy, and you need help. I needed help, badly. Thankfully help is available, and I have had the support needed to access it.
  • Mental health and isolation are never found together, at least not for long. It’s a conundrum, because the worse I felt about myself, the more I wanted to beĀ alone. This is typical in depression.
  • It’s probably a good idea not to disparage psychiatric drugs or counselling in Christian circles, because chances are, someone within earshot is availing themselves of one or both.
  • Similarly, don’t think that because you’ve had a few rough patches, you understand what clinical depression is. I really didn’t understand until recently. As well-meaning as your suggestions might be, telling a depressed person to pray & read the scriptures more can just add to their sense of shame, failure and aloneness.

Next time, I’ll explore how the church can help people who struggle with mental illness. Hint: Churches who are “real” from the top down foster mental, emotional and spiritual health.

Read Full Post »