How My Depression and PTSD Make Me Question My Faith
Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.
The current thing my doctor is insisting I work on is finding it within myself to believe I am worth loving — by myself, by others, even by God. It seems to be a simple task, right? Not too much to ask of someone. The fact faith and religion has been a huge part of my life for as long as I have been able to remember should even make it an easy thing to do. Correct? After all, what kind of Christian doesn’t have faith that at the very least God loves them? It is the explanation of Christianity in its most basic of forms — “God loves you!”
Yet for me, there is a deep sense of guilt and shame I am feeling right now, the hypocrisy of myself — admitting to myself, to others, that for the 32 years I have been raised in faith, and made it my own, I have never once felt God could love me. Others, yes. Me? No. I feel too worthless, too broken, too sinful, too unlovable. I do not feel God wants me, yet I personally share my faith with others because I am so convinced God can indeed love them, to forgive them for their sins, to help them to endure their trials, to bless them with a hope for a joyous life beyond what the world of today can offer them. Deep in my heart, there is nothing that shakes my faith in the love of God for other people.
There is an illustration in the Gospels of the Bible that talks about sparrows; they were regarded by the people of the day as being of the most little of value. In fact, they were almost worthless. Jesus was telling those he was speaking to that not even a sparrow drops to the ground without his Heavenly Father seeing it, and that as humans, we are more valuable than even many sparrows to God. It is to show that a life, any life — but especially that of a human — is valuable to God, that He cherishes it. No matter who we are, we are worthwhile.
I do not feel I am valuable, though, and when I think of the future I struggle to place myself in it; it is easy to imagine a world where I am not there. While many people fear being replaced or forgotten, one of my wishes is I could be, because then there would be no obligation for me to exist anymore. No one would sad because instead of having died, I would simply not have ever existed. A world without me would not be better or worse off — it would just be.
There are very few people who I truly feel have loved me unconditionally, and I sadly admit there is even a fear I try to hide deep down. I fear my husband — a man who has stood faithfully and tirelessly by my side for more than 15 years, through all the hard times — will one day realize I am not worth it. I fear even he will wake up one day, see me how I see myself and leave. He has never for one second given me the impression he will stop loving me; in fact, he tells me multiple times each and every day that he loves and cherishes me, but I cannot believe I deserve his enduring love. In fact, there are even times when I feel guilt I have him to love me because there are other women out there who deserved to have a man like him fall in love with them more than I ever did.
Flawed. I have made terrible mistakes that led to horrible consequences. I’ve hidden sickening secrets for the greater part of my life. I feel lost and broken, and I don’t know how it is possible for anyone in this world or even (especially) in Heaven could look through my thoughts and feelings and still love me. It seems impossible to ask, impossible to believe in, selfish to expect or to hope for.
The Psalms are full of heart-wrenching poems about feelings of lowliness, guilt, worthlessness, depression, emotional pain, distress and self-loathing, tempered with assurances God loves us no matter what we have done if we are determined to repent. Assurances that he loves us no matter what has happened to us, appreciating, even more, the faith of those that love him despite extra trials they endure. All he wants is to be able to find even just a small bit of good within us.
I am a good person. I can say that with assurance because I know it is true. I have a gift of empathy and compassion; the emotions of others are deeply interesting to me. Helping and healing them is something that is of the deepest importance. There is one thing I know for sure; I am determined to make the lives of others as good as I can. I have an ability to love even those who have hurt me or let me down, and this is something that makes me feel both blessed and cursed at the same time. There is not even anger or hatred towards those who have hurt me physically in the past; I cannot hold a grudge because I do not know what happened to them to make them like they were. Maybe they are just bad people, or maybe bad events turned them that way? I forgive them for their actions to me.
How do I apply this forgiving spirit to myself? I don’t. I feel I can’t. It feels selfish to say that because I am “good” I am worthy of love. I am good because I don’t ever want anyone to feel like I have — like I do. People need someone to care for them unconditionally, they deserve to be loved for who they are. But in saying that I am a good person, I assign that to the logic of my actions. I try my best to behave in a good manner towards others. But I do not feel my soul is good; I cannot believe my worth extends beyond what I can do to try and make the world a better place for others.
And while I know that the Bible assures us time and time again God loves each of us, I question how can God love someone who has no thanks for her life? Who even at times feels ashamed or resentful of her “gifts” of love and compassion? Who has battled with suicidal thoughts since she was 12? Someone who has tried to take her life? Who has self-harmed, showing so little respect for the gift of being a living soul? How can He love someone who tells him she doesn’t believe He loves her? How could even He forgive the things I have done wrong, the secrets I have kept that I fear maybe have caused endless pain to others?
I don’t really know where I am going right now, or how I am going to work on feeling worthy of being loved. Reflecting on how I personally feel when my children say, “You don’t love me,” maybe gives a little insight into how I think God himself feels when I am unwilling to believe that His love is greater than my own heart’s lowliness. The Bible itself even says to remember, “God’s love is greater than our hearts which condemn us” in John I, but my heart condemns me with such insistence it feels unlikely to ever be silenced enough to believe anything else.
If someone else were telling me this, that these rambling emotions were their thoughts and feelings, I would be heartbroken for them. I am heartbroken for myself in some ways, but I am so scared of trying to mend this. I am terrified of becoming selfish or feeling worthy. I am so frightened by the thought I could become self-centered and hedonistic, thinking of myself more than others, expecting more than I deserve.
So can God love me? Am I worthy of being loved by Him, or even by others? That is what I need to try and figure out. But until I learn to love myself, just a little, I feel there is probably no hope I will ever believe truly that anyone can truly love me.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.
Image via contributor.