What I Wish Christians Knew About Mental Illness
Years ago, I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). It means that I struggle with depression regularly over an extended period of time. Along with depression came anxiety and dread.
For as long as I remember, it’s been a struggle for me. And for as long as I remember, it’s been a source of embarrassment and fear as the stigma of my illness is too much for some to handle. Even for Christians.
Here I Am
Those of us who struggle with mental illness face this stigma every day. From friends and close family members — Christians, even.
I struggle with a disease. Just because I suffer with a disease like MDD does not mean I’m crazy. It does not mean that I am incapable of understanding your opinions or life events.
If I disagree with your opinion that does not mean that I’m not thinking clearly, or that my medication is not working. It means that I disagree with your opinion. I am always going to be me — opinionated, strong, loving and loyal — but I’m also just going to be sad from time to time.
I wish Christian brothers and sisters knew that, even though I struggle with MDD, God made me as I am, with a specific personality and specific life path. I will always be me.
Here are the things I wish Christians knew about mental illness.
I’m capable. Yes, I have to fight harder than most to get things done because of MDD. However, I am highly functional. God has blessed me even through the dark times with a hefty dose of determination. Even through all the difficulty, I’ve handled things fairly well. I work full time, I’m married, I have a two-year-old, I have a home to keep up and I am halfway through my Ph.D. program.
I can handle my life as God allows. It’s not easy, but God has given me grace over and over — and things get done. I wish Christians knew that they shouldn’t be afraid to hire someone with a mental illness. They can be quite capable and have incredible drive.
I have faith in a just, loving, merciful God who gives me strength and grace daily. I’m knowledgeable with Scripture and love the Lord. He and I talk a lot. I grasp salvation and what it means for my future.
Christians who suffer from mental illness have to rely on the Lord even more than those who don’t in some ways. I wish Christians knew that mental illness does not block our ability to love and serve the Lord with all of our hearts.
I Don’t Know Why
I don’t understand why God allowed me to have MDD. I don’t know its purpose in my life. Paul said he was given a “thorn” in his side to keep him from being conceited (2 Cor. 12:7). He prayed for this thorn to be removed but it was not.
Some of us have thorns in our side. Only God knows why, but I do know that I would not have cried out to Him to the extent that I have done without MDD. If MDD brings me closer to the Lord or gives me the opportunity to have a stronger faith, then bring it on.
Don’t Be Afraid
I wish Christians knew that they don’t have to be afraid to know and love me. Shake my hand at church, have a cup of coffee with me, laugh and cry with me. Let’s share this amazing life as Christian brothers and sisters, upholding one another in prayer and furthering His purpose for His kingdom.
God made me as I am, just like He made you as you are. I may have an extra struggle or two, but I’m good. I’m blessed. And God loves each one of His children incredibly — even those with mental illness. His people should love them too.
“What I Wish Christians Knew About Mental Illness” is the first in a 4-part series. My next article in the series will address mental illness in the United States among Christians.