What is a person to do when their own body is affecting their mental health? That was my dilemma a few years ago. Due to living with three chronic illnesses for a long time, I began having panic attacks and also experiencing depression. I am not talking about temporarily feeling sad. I am talking about feeling numb, staying in bed, losing all interest in things that normally captivate me, and losing all hope even though I know Jesus.
I had the bottle of medication my doctor prescribed for me. It had been sitting on my desk at home for six months. My depression was getting worse. Finally, in June 2017 I watched a movie-Brain On Fire. It is based on a true story of a woman with a rare autoimmune problem that affected her brain and left her catatonic. Watching that movie helped me accept that my situation was physiological. It is an excellent movie to watch.
The problem? There is stigma in some churches about medication for mental health issues and about mental health issues in general. I will never forget starting the medication and feeling better within a week. That can vary for individuals, so please don’t expect the same. It might be sooner or longer.
I will also never forget sending an email to the pastor of my church who oversaw missions. I let him know the situation and that if he needed me to resign my missions ministry, I would do so. He responding with, “Let’s talk about it at church.” I emailed because I thought he would tell me I needed to resign and then I would just fade away and go elsewhere.
BUT- when I saw him, the first thing he said was, “Matt it is medical. You will not resign.” Huge burden lifted off my shoulders.
I read an excellent post about being a friend for someone with depression. Alathia of alathaihayes.com shared a wonderful post 7 Things You Can Do For Your Friends With Depression. I think they are good tips for whatever a friend struggles with as well.
My hope is that by sharing my experience it can help a little with lessening the unnecessary stigma regarding mental health issues. If we think about it, the brain is a physical organ in the body. It is the most complex of the organs, so there is more to learn. But why stigmatize someone with mental health issues? We would not do that for someone who has other illnesses.
If you suffer with depression, one thing that I want to make clear is that Jesus understands you. He loves you. I say that not as a cliche. I say that as someone who has experienced that love when I was in the depths of the worst of my depression.
I am sharing a song that helped me so much in those dark days.
Thank you for reading. God Bless.