Faith, Mental Illness and Me

Mental illness affects many people across the globe as does physical illness. However, mental ill health is often seen in a completely different light to physical ill health – speaking more so for faith communities. I do not believe that people CHOOSE to suffer from a mental illness in the same way someone does not choose to be physically unwell. Why then is the pain and suffering of mental illness minimised and people are made to be seen as ‘weak’ and ‘lacking in faith’?

My personal journey with mental illness started early in my teenage years. A struggle with negative thoughts, heaviness, low mood and anxiety became prominent in that time. Initially, I believed that everyone must feel the same way that I did but in conversation with friends, I soon realised that it was not normal to feel like wanting ‘out’ of the world. This soon followed a diagnosis of anxiety and depression. However, as I write this today, I am in a completely different place to what I was then. Though, I do occasionally get the odd moment, day or season where I struggle with the heavy feeling – generally, this has been overcome. When I say overcome, I mean that it no longer controls me – I know how to fight and win.

I was diagnosed as having depression and anxiety. This wasn’t just a ‘sad’ feeling I had here and there, I was clinically depressed and no amount of ‘snap out of it’ could help me to overcome it. Depression and anxiety are definitely more spoken about in the current world we live in but, in that speaking, are we seeing it as an illness or temporary feeling? Whilst many people may have moments in life where they feel depressed or anxious, this does not necessarily mean they have a mental illness. When we minimise serious depressive and anxious illnesses to a ‘feeling’, we risk those suffering from truly walking into full recovery.

Any individual person could feel breathless in a moment but this does not automatically mean they have a full blown asthmatic condition.. likewise, any individual person could feel sadness in a moment without having a diagnosable depressive disorder.

I believe that we have minimised the pain of those suffering from mental ill health in the name of ‘let’s talk’. Yes, let’s talk about our feelings, emotions and problems but no, let’s not then label everything as mental illness at the detriment of those suffering from such.

Speaking from the point of faith.. how does this all come together? I am a Bible believing, Holy Spirit filled believer. I believe in the supernatural healing power of God but I also believe in His grace. Too often as a believer, I have been told by others that I do not pray enough, fast enough, read enough and that is the reason I find myself in seasons of depression. Whilst I truly believe, and have written in other posts, that all these contribute to and aid the process to overcoming, I do not think it is fair to belittle the suffering of another.

How many times do you hear it said that someone’s diabetic condition is due to their lack of faith?

Perhaps if we didn’t throw around words like, ‘that is so depressing’, ‘the weather is so bipolar’, ‘I’m so OCD’ maybe then mental illness would be taken a little more seriously. In turn, the church would educate itself and be in the best position to aid the recovery process of it’s people.

As Christians, we have been called to love one another and extend grace to each other. My heart’s desire is for more understanding to come to our faith communities, rather than shutting someone down and out – listen to them and hear what they have to say.. understand the origins of their illness and be a part of their process to overcome.

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