5 Unhelpful Things Fellow Christians Have Said About My Mental Illness (and My Responses)
I am a Christian. I was raised in a Christian household with good parents. Nothing traumatic ever happened to me. I was protected, sheltered, and loved. I went to a Christian school. I chose a Christian college. I have depression and anxiety. I’ve also had suicidal thoughts and thoughts of serious self-harm.
I know the things I’m about to list were said to me with good intentions by Christians, but they did not help me.
Here’s a few:
1. “Your anxiety is caused by your lack of trust in God.”
2. “When I get in a funk, I just start up a new habit.”
3. “The Bible says… *proceeds to rattle off a bunch of verses about depression and anxiety and how I shouldn’t have it*”
4. “Suicide is a selfish thing to do.”
5. “I’m offended that you would even think of taking medication as a Christian. Do you not believe in God’s healing?”
As I sit here reading over what I just typed, I’m trying to keep my cool in thinking of respectable ways to answer these comments I’ve received. *Takes deep breath*
Here we go.
1. My anxiety and depression are not caused by my lack of faith in God. They do not mean I don’t trust Him. They do not mean He is punishing me for something I’ve done. My anxiety and depression are part of being human. I don’t like them. They’re just with me right now. Yes, I want them to go away. Yes, I love Jesus and talk to Him about it and pray to God and read my Bible. If you think for one second that Jesus didn’t feel any anxiety or fear when He knew he had to be nailed to a cross for the whole world to live, then explain to me why He was crying out to God asking if there was another way so that He wouldn’t have to do it (Matthew 26:37-39). Tell me why he was sweating blood as he prayed for this (Luke 22:44) knowing what He was about to
endure. I’m sorry, but Jesus did not skip happily to go be beaten, mocked, have His skin ripped off, thorns pushed into His head, nails hammered into His wrists and feet to be hanged for hours while being suffocated with every breath He tried to take. I believe Jesus felt anxiety and depression because He wanted to connect with me and how I feel. I believe He had to feel those things so I could feel His love. When people experience pain you feel closer and connected to others who understand the same pain you experience. It is not my lack of trust.
2. This is annoying. Yes, there are different activities that can be therapeutic and helpful to people with mental illness. I play sports. Some people do crafts, work more, volunteer, etc. More likely, we are already trying or have tried these things. I have made myself so busy before to try to keep my mind off anxiety and depression that I eventually broke down mentally and physically. I know you read a Yahoo article about the five best tips for being happy, but that doesn’t give you a medical degree. I wish I could snap myself out of it, really, I’ve tried.
3. I know what the Bible says about depression and anxiety. My Bible has a section in the back listing verses under different life issues, including anxiety and depression. I know you think you’re being helpful by listing off these things, but my brain feels like Sméagol and Gollum bantering all the time about how I should feel and why I shouldn’t feel one way. In the end I’m just a big mess on the ground with a bunch of information constantly running through my head.
4. Suicide. Yes, you can be a Christian and have suicidal thoughts. We all have thoughts of things we shouldn’t do or won’t do. Being who I am and believing what I do, I don’t believe anyone has the right to take a life, including their own. I’m a Christian who has had years of suicidal thoughts or thoughts of self-harm. The
thought of going and being in heaven where I believe there is no pain, no suffering, no
tears, no shame… I’ve thought about it, but it is not the right “answer” or the “solution.” It doesn’t seem like a selfish thing when you feel like a burden to everyone. In the moment you may believe the lie that you would spare the world from your own horrible existence. Suicidal thoughts are lies we tell ourselves.
I just want to reiterate here that to the person who is reading this, life is worth living. Yes, it can be really freaking awful at times and painful but when you’re able to find the people you can trust, the day that doesn’t seem as hard, or complete relief from this baggage you’ve been carrying, it will be worth it to live.
5. I do not care if you are offended by my taking medication to get better. I tried years of not asking for help and it dug me into a deeper ditch of depression and anxiety. I’ve been doing therapy on and off for several years hoping and working to get better
without medication and I couldn’t tell what was real and what was me faking it. You can be offended all you want, but I’m going to choose to take all the healthy resources I possibly can to get better. Yes, I do believe in God’s healing, that’s why I’m taking medication… because I’m blessed with enough resources to get help to be healthy again. I understand that some people are able to do just cognitive behavioral therapy and become better or they heard a sermon and *poof* they were healed; I am not that case. Please read Mark 2. I’m not a Pharisee for taking medication as a tool to become healthy again (Mark 2:17).
Keep following the light. There is always hope.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.
We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.
Thinkstock photo by Halfpoint