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Life Taught Me That I Can Have Faith And Still Struggle With Depression

photo by whcoles
When I was 16 years old I made the decision to submit my life to Jesus and follow his will. I became saved. And after that moment my life changed tremendously.

While exploring my new found faith, I was also going through the emotional wreckage of struggling with suicidal tendencies (self-injury) and depression. I spent a lot of my time face down in the bible trying to grasp every word that was god-breathened, and looking for some sense of healing over me and my depression diagnosis.

I was heavily involved in church and had a great sense of community there. But outside of the church walls I felt like I lived in my own mini hell. My mind plagued me with so many horrendous thoughts, and I struggled with trying to understand why I was worth living. My depression became overwhelming, and because I desperately needed someone to share my thoughts with, I found myself in counseling.

I completed counseling while in High School and some years later I found myself a private therapist who I built a great relationship with for 5 years. My therapist was a licensed clinical social worker and she was also a christian, those two things made my heart happy. I knew she was someone who would understand my faith, but she would also understand my depression, and because knowledge goes a long way, I felt secure in her ability to guide me through my struggles and help me process a lot of my experiences that caused my bouts of sadness and overwhelming sorrow.

As a Christian I have had too many run ins with other christians who don't understand anything about depression–people who want to give me insights on how to heal from a pain they have never experienced. In the midst of all the advice giving nothing ever provided me comfort. It was clear that people just assumed that I lacked a deep relationship with God and if I prayed hard enough (whatever that means) then my depression would be healed.

It is this kind of black-and-white thinking that makes mental illness a silent topic in a lot of households and communities. The supposition that faith is the only cure to our illnesses is killing people. We are quick to grieve those who commit suicide but we also quick to judge those struggling with depression. How can this be?

Most people fail to recognize that you can have faith and still struggle with a mental illness, the two are not mutually exclusive. Having a mental illness does not make you less of a servant or a disciple running after Jesus' heart. We are all susceptible to great pain, don't think your faith will exclude you from that.

The faith community should be based on solidarity, yet the lack of education around mental health, mental illnesses and seeking treatment is hurting us and adding to the stereotypes and stigmas that surround those walking the earth with a diagnosis.

Whatever happened to compassion? If a person of the congregation was suffering from cancer or diabetes, would you tell them not to consider any form of chemotherapy or tell the diabetic not to take their insulin? Of course not. So why do many people of faith believe that prayer is the only cure to a mental illness? The same way you seek first aid for a physical ailment, emotional first aid is also a necessity when tending to ones psychological and emotional wellbeing.

In a given year more than 15 million adults in the US suffer from a major depressive disorder and only half of that number seeks treatment in a given year. About 30-70% of the people who attempt suicide have an underlying depression diagnosis. The statistics make it clear that a lot of us are navigating through a lot of hurt, pain, shame, guilt, loss, trauma and other complex issues that can result in a depression diagnosis.

I'm not saying that Jesus can't heal. I fully acknowledge his works and his miracles. But what I also know is that for me in my personal life I know that my God wants to see my excel through works and action. He wants me to be fully aware of my thought patterns and behaviors, and he placed me in a position to seek treatment from a therapist who he blessed with wisdom and knowledge on how to help people like me, who struggle with this mental issue.

God is a crucial part of my wellness plan. Prayer and reading my word is another form of therapy for me. But taking medication and choosing to see a therapist is also a form of healing for me.

Don't judge what you don't know, instead, offer others compassion and a willingness to understand their struggles. The same way we can pick up our bible to get to know God on a deeper level, Christians and believers can also make a choose to obtain knowledge and information on mental health diagnoses and how to treat them.

The more we know, the better we can serve one another.

Written by,
Minaa B.

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