Depression ≠ no faith

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I’m going to try to write about a frustration, a double standard and a serious personal issue all in one post, less than 1,000 words. So bear with me.

If you’re not brand spanking new to my blog you know that my mother took her life last year after a 30 year battle with depression and anxiety. Well I haven’t shared much about this but depression is a battle I’ve fought in my life too. I’ve been medicated and I was committed once, about 15 years ago. Today I’m pretty healthy, I have my ups and downs, my moods, but sometimes I feel blue, thick, heavy, and I worry.

I don’t have the same diagnosis as she did, my depression is a tad more situational and much less clinical. But I am her daughter, and I have inherited a piece of her struggle.

I’m not saying that I spend a lot of time fretting that I’ll share her fate, but I would be lying if I said it doesn’t cross my mind sometimes, especially when I find myself feeling gray and hopeless. But doing that to my children, my family, oh God forbid, God FORBID.

It’s not always easy to be a Christian with depression, because there are still some people in the church that really don’t understand. And sometimes those people have hurt me with their lack of knowledge. When I’ve tried to talk about my struggle in church world I’ve been told:

1) Not to confess or talk about it, that doing so would give the devil a foothold.
2) To pray it out, that increased faith would get rid of it and that time in the word will give me strength and cheer me up about God’s faithfulness.
3) That taking medication for it invalidates God’s power to heal me.

My friend recently wrote me and said: “All I know is the more a depressed person hears that it’s their own fault, the more depressed they become. It’s like when parents say, “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.” It just makes the child cry harder. “

Now, don’t get me wrong, there is some depression that is spiritual and situational (it’s in the bible – Job and David to be specific) and then there is some that is chemical and genetic. The second kind can be inherited and recurrent, it’s the sort that can relapse and will leave a person always on their guard when the blues set in.

You have to understand depression before you speak into it, otherwise your words may have the exact opposite effect than what you’re going for. It’s simpler to understand cancer, we know that there’s a tumor and that a doctor can throw chemo at it.

But depression can’t be seen on a screen or radiated away. It takes patience, medication, and a tenacious resolve to climb out of the pit. And the cruelest thing of all is that it can rob you of almost everything you need to fight it. You need to exercise but you can barely get through the work day awake. You need to eat well but the ability to cook is beyond you. You need to work aggressively through counseling but it’s so much easier not to talk about it. It’s an evil thing depression, straight evil.

I may have recurrent and genetic depression, I may not, I’m not entirely sure yet. However, I pray that everyone in the church begins to understand that my depression doesn’t make my faith any less strong than your eczema, diabetes or whatever genetic disease you’ve inherited.

If you lost a parent to breast cancer or liver failure, no one would ever fault you for being on your guard against those diseases. If you expressed concerns that you might share in your parents fate, people would understand and encourage testing. If you found out you had cancer or needed dialysis no one would ever insinuate that this happened because of your lack of faith.

But people with a family history of depression don’t always get that same courtesy. I can tell you first hand that I’ve been told that my faith will deliver me from any of my mother’s problems with depression. Yet depression can be genetic, so what gives? There’s a double standard here, it’s understandable to inherit genetic cancer, but genetic depression might indicate a weak relationship with God.

We have to put a stop to this, it’s not the love of Christ, it’s… disease-ism? (like racism but with illnesses)

I’m not writing this to hurt anyone’s feelings. If you’ve said something out of your lack of knowledge, I give you ample grace because I believe your intent was lovely. Depression isn’t one of those things that you learn about until you have to, until it’s happening to you or around you. But as a church, a BIG C Church, we need to understand that some forms of depression are chemical and very real and difficult to understand and diagnose.

The brain, the mind, is in many ways the final frontier of the medical community. Less than 100 years ago people with mental illness were cast out, committed or worse, given lobotomies or had part of their brain removed. So, to say the least, we’ve improved.

I have prayed over this post, it’s not been easy to write, but on my heart I feel a call to bring light to those with deep faith, who still struggle with depression. My brothers, my sisters, if you are fighting along side me, you are brave, never stop fighting, never stop running, confessing and climbing. Just because depression is real and clinical doesn’t mean God won’t bring healing. It only means that if he doesn’t, our faith is still justified.

I hope I’ve brought a light, I hope I’ve encouraged truth.

And all the people said, amen?