Today is World Mental Health Day, and I am speaking up about my depression. I come from a subculture where depression and anxiety are considered spiritual problems, and the cure is more faith, or more Bible study, or more prayer. There is a stigma associated with mental health issues, and while my speaking up probably won't erase the stigma, I hope that being open about both my faith and my mental illness will help future generations.
My depression is a chemical imbalance in my brain. How do I know? Usually it takes some time for an antidepressant to work, but within one hour of taking the first dose, I was no longer depressed. Now, if I miss a dose or take one late, I'm a mess - sobbing and ready to die. That kind of sensitivity to the medication indicates a physiological problem, not a spiritual or emotional one.
For someone with depression like that, faith is no disincentive to suicide. I know where I'm going when I die. I have stood at the edge of that abyss, knowing that my choices are to end it and go straight to heaven, to be with my Lord forever, or turn away and face an unknown length of time on this earth suffering and full of pain.
I haven't leaped into the abyss because I've seen what suicide does to the survivors. I saw what it did to a former colleague when his pre-teen son ended his life. I saw what it did to my family when my uncle shot himself. I can't do that to the people I love.
My point is, my faith is strong. I have been immersed in the Bible since before I was born. I've studied and read it for over 40 years. Faith is part of my soul's construction and Jesus Christ is my constant companion. Yet I also have depression and anxiety.
Please don't tell a person with depression or anxiety that they don't have enough faith, or that they need to change their attitude, or worst of all, that they're sinning. The two are unrelated. Instead, ask how you can help. Ask specifically what the person wants you to pray for. Offer them unconditional, unwavering love.
Depression is more common than you think. Be kind, be supportive, and be loving.
OK, I'll climb off my soapbox now.