[Guest Post by Amy Schaffner – This post is for anyone, like Amy, who has ever felt trapped in the pit of depression. Be encouraged.]
There is a pit of depression that I sometimes desire to fall into.
The lure can sometimes be so overwhelming that I don’t know how to combat it. The days that nothing seems to go my way, when I my body feels like an 80 year old woman, when the kids just won’t stop yelling, my bed calls to me. Tears call to me.
Do I like this?
Is it my personality to battle this daily?
For the longest time I thought struggling with depression meant that I was not a true follower of Christ.
I would drag myself down over and over with the thought that it MUST be my faith, I MUST be weak somehow. How could I truly love Jesus if I dealt with feelings of inadequacy, guilt and depression on a regular basis?
Why doesn’t prayer, fasting and scripture memory help these things?
Why does everyone around me seem to be dealing with life just fine, when I can barely paste on a smile?
Why do I feel so alone, even in the church?
Lately I’ve learned that I am far from alone. I have met so many people with the same problems I have, and many with much worse, sitting in our pews every Sunday. They are exactly where they should be to get love and encouragement, so why is it that we don’t feel it?
I mean, really, let’s imagine at a prayer meeting in the midst of petitions for Aunt Suzy’s toe and someone’s neighbor’s cancer I stood up and said ,
“I know you all think I’m okay, but I’m not. I deal with depression, anxiety, panic attacks and hopelessness on a regular basis. It takes all I’ve got to get to church, and then I just feel like I’m putting on a happy face for all of you. I need real prayer.”
Would Mr. Deacon fall off his pew?
Would the preacher stare back with utter amazement?
Or would we finally open our hearts to each other, just a little.
Would this open a floodgate of reality that could bring real health and healing for so many?
Our habit of hiding the real issues in our hearts from each other reminds me of a certain group of people in the Bible constantly being rebuked by Jesus, the Pharisees. I think the Pharisee’s would have been those that asked for prayer for everyone but themselves. Jesus didn’t hang around them; He hung out with the people begging him for just a touch.
And yet–we sit in church smiling and pretending all is well when sometimes our lives are coming apart at the seams.
It literally took me hitting rock bottom.
It had gotten so bad that my husband’s mentor (who did not know me outside of my husband) noticed it and commented that I needed to see a doctor. I respected this man a lot, so when my husband came home and told me that he had suggested seeing a doctor, and that his wife dealt with the same issues and had a great doctor–I let down my walls.
It was time.
I didn’t want to live like that anymore.
The little pill that I had dreaded so much, the one I thought meant that I didn’t have enough faith, completely changed my life. Two weeks into my medication journey I felt like me again.
God used that medicine to show me that I have an illness, not a lack of faith.
In fact, it took a lot of faith for me to reach out to that doctor. If using medication was against God’s will for our life, would Paul have suggested it for Timothy?
In 1 Timothy 5:23, Paul tells Timothy “Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.”
Did Paul say, “Timothy, your frequent illnesses are evidence of your lack of faith in Christ. Pray more fervently, have the elders lay hands on you, believe you will be well”?
No, he told him to take their equivalent of medicine.
Just because someone was a hero in the faith did not insulate him from illness, and did not keep him from seeking medical attention.
So, why should I?
Mental issues are medical as well. We should stop looking down on people for seeking medical attention for it. Our brain is sick, it needs medicine. It’s as simple as that. Why is it that we can accept our heart being sick, our stomach being sick, even our arms and legs–but not our brain?
Now, before you say it, I will concede that some mental illness is spiritual. That is evident from scripture and sometimes just from the evil we see in every day life. The problem with making a blanket statement that ALL mental illness is spiritual is that it keeps people like me from getting help. Just like Type 1 Diabetes and Type 2 Diabetes are completely separate diseases and should be treated in different ways, so we should think of mental illness.
Medication changed my life. Not once, but twice.
My family is thankful for it.
My faith is thankful for it.
I am thankful for it.
Let’s stop causing each other to hurt, let’s be encouragers to each other! So how do we let down those masks? How do we step out of this comfort zone of familiarity that we’ve created for so long? I think it takes just one person at your church.
It takes you, standing up and being real.
Believe me, people are waiting for it. Dying for it. You could open a floodgate of hope and healing at your church. Will you be the first?
Amy is a new west Texan and loving life where there isn’t so much humidity she has to wear her hair curly. She blogs about the messiness of life and living with depression and anxiety in an authentic way and with a little humor sprinkled in. Come visit at www.piecesofamy.net.
[Photo: Ben Bunch, Creative Commons]