How I Combatted the Guilt I Felt as a Christian With Depression
I experienced depression for a period of about five years (though it was probably several years earlier but went undiagnosed). I felt the deep darkness and sorrow of depression, I experienced the classical “drowning” symptoms. I had chronic insomnia, lost my appetite and became withdrawn; at its worst, I was suicidal and wanted out.
I found healing through my faith and belief in God and even if I did have the odd day here and there, I found true comfort in His Love. However, recently I experienced an episode of depression which was of the more severe form. Though I did find relief in my faith which enabled me to overcome the depression, there was one major difference between the episodes, and that was guilt.
I had experienced guilt previously whilst struggling with depression, I felt guilty for feeling so sad when my life was good and I had nothing to be sad about. I had equated my feelings of depression to being ungrateful, which I now realize is completely incorrect. Experiencing depression does not necessarily mean you’re ungrateful and the two feelings do not have to be placed in the same bracket.
Experiencing depression as a Christian left me feeling even more guilty. I felt guilty that I was feeling so sad when I believe in a God who is all loving. I felt guilty that I couldn’t seem to “move on” from how I was feeling. I felt guilty that I was “allowing” an illness to overtake me so much. I felt guilty that I wasn’t praying as much as I usually did, and even when I did, it would mostly be ramblings about the depth of pain I was feeling. I felt guilty for stagnation – I felt as if I’d taken a thousand steps backward after moving forwards so radically. I felt guilty for the doubts and essentially “lack of faith” I thought I was experiencing.
I got to a point whereby the guilt was preventing me from reaching out for help and dealing with the depression. I really believed I needed to “suck it up” and get on with it. I believed that, as a Christian, I should be strong enough to deal with it on my own.
However, this was all not true. One thing I have learned from dealing with depression as a Christian is a crucial need for vulnerability, both with God and people. Vulnerability is a place of exposure and being honest without holding back. Being vulnerable is not an easy thing at all; you never really know how someone will react and you could possibly be hurt by their response. However, from my experience, I found that being vulnerable and allowing people in helped a great deal.
Through being vulnerable, I learned I wasn’t alone and I didn’t have to deal with everything on my own. I found love, encouragement and support through friends where I was expecting judgment and misunderstandings. I was able to accept the severity of the problem and confront it in order to overcome it. I was able to seek help from friends through praying together, which personally helped me to learn how to pray again for myself. I learned I didn’t have to “move on” but instead get better.
Guilt is such a heavy feeling which can be attached to anyone struggling with depression, not just Christians. It’s important to talk to someone about how you’re feeling; don’t let guilt stop you from reaching out. It is not your fault that you are struggling with an illness and therefore there is no need to feel guilty about it. Reach out to someone today and work on beating depression.
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. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.
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Unsplash photo via Ben White.