An Open Letter to the Church: On Depression and Anxiety

An Open Letter to the Church: On Depression and Anxiety

The serpent spoke, Eve believed it’s lie that we could be like God, she tasted the fruit and we became a fallen people.  Fallen.  It took only one chapter for us to become a scheming and murdering people.   

Fallen.

This is why we need the gospel.  This is why we need grace and mercy.  No matter what we try to tell ourselves, what kind of masquerade we put on, we are a fallen people.  Why is it that we are constantly trying to pretend that we are not?

We dress in our Sunday best (even though every other day of the week we’re in yoga pants with our hair on top of our head), paste that smile on and spend two hours acting like our world is just like the pictures in a magazine.

What does this accomplish?

It makes us feel isolated.  Alone.  Broken.  Like we’re the only ones in the world who can’t get this “Christian” thing right and just be happy already.

Every time I write about my own panic issues I get SO many emails and messages from others out there who are suffering.  Mostly suffering alone, I might add.  Panic/Anxiety/Depression is everywhere, the people of God are not immune.  Our society has become a rushed people, a hurried mass of humanity trying to reach that next thing.  We have left behind silence, solitude, being and replaced it with noise, crowds and doing.

And the church tasted that fruit right along with the rest of the world.

We are a people surrounded by others, completely bombarded with interaction – and alone.

But when that noise, crowds, and doing thing actually starts to mess with our “fight or flight” impulse and we get stuck, then suddenly we are far from God.  We are less of a follower of Christ if we attempt to get help from the outside world.  We are less than those around us who apparently can deal with that impulse in a “healthy” way.

We feel the need to hide the fact that our bodies can’t handle the stress going on in our lives.  We wake in the middle of the night sweating with heart pounding, but get up the next day and pretend all is well in our world.  We fear asking for help from the church because we fear the “labeling” that we feel will come, and then when it gets out of hand, we fear asking for help outside of church because it is evident we must have failed in our prayer life.

I am pregnant.  I have low hormones levels and have to take a pill every night to make sure I don’t miscarry.  Will someone please tell me what the difference is between my progesterone levels and my serotonin levels?  Why doesn’t anyone make me feel like if I were close enough to God I could just pray and ask Him to level out my hormones?  It’s completely acceptable for me to take progesterone.  BUT, when it’s my serotonin levels that have gone whack, well that’s another story.

And yes, it’s completely possible that my *issues* stem from things I did (or did not do).  But you know what?  A lot of the time (not always, no hate emails please..) diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer stems from mistreating our bodies as well and yet the mainstream Church doesn’t seem to demonize the taking of insulin, Lipitor, or chemotherapy.

Can we just agree that we are a fallen people and that it may look different in different people?  Can we stop pretending that some issues are okay and others are not and just be a community who helps each other?  Then maybe those of us with those “unacceptable” issues can stop pasting on the mask, stop pretending, and actually get the help we need?

Some of you reading this have never experienced panic attacks or depression, that makes me so happy for you, truly.  That may cause you to shake your head and say “I’m not sure I’ve ever seen this in the people of God, maybe this is just one woman’s experience”.  Trust me, from years of experience with this and the dozens and dozens of emails and messages I get, it is rampant.  Be thankful you are not there, and give grace to those who are.  Maybe pass this along to someone you know who struggles with this, it’s invaluable to know we’re not alone.

Jesus did not advocate partiality, so let’s put an end to it.  Let’s start being Jesus to everyone who needs Him.

 

15 thoughts on “An Open Letter to the Church: On Depression and Anxiety”

  • As always Amy, an honest & moving blog post that makes one really think about their own lives. And, I continue to look forward to feeling like I'm "right there with you" along your journey into motherhood once again by reading your posts 🙂

  • Well put Amy. It is crazy that those of us who struggle with "mental" issues (as my dear grandma used to call it) have to feel like we need to hide away as we treat them. I do not for one second believe that God would want us to walk away from medicine that would make us more into the mothers, wives, sisters, friends that He designed us to be simply because the broken world is judging.

    I hope you don't mind, but I'm sharing this post with Salt & Light link up, so that others might be able to be encouraged by your honesty.

    Marissa
    http://raysofgraceandjoy.blogspot.com/2014/01/salt-light-4.html

  • I am blessed to be in a church that loves and accepts those with depression and anxiety without laying on guilt, but I know that not all have had that support. I too have thought about the folly in some arguments against psychiatric medication:
    ~It doesn't solve the actual issue but only masks the symptoms. Response: The same can be said of many meds for the common cold or any other virus, headache medication, and many other pain killers. Insulin and blood pressure medication also just control symptoms but don't cure the person of the underlying issue.
    ~If you have the option of solving the actual issue or just masking the symptom, then wouldn't you choose the former? Response 1: If it's possible to speed up recovery by using both, then that seems preferable. I witnessed one case with someone I know well where long-term counseling and other psychotherapy with no meds equalled no results but counseling with meds equalled excellent results, eventually resulting in this person slowly decreasing drug dosages while increasing reliance on tools learned in psychotherapy. This reminds me of physical therapy concepts.
    Response 2: Sometimes, you have to go with second best. I know of quite a few people who could take fewer pills if they simply took care of themselves with proper eating, exercise, and rest (much as you noted above). They know; their doctors have told them this; yet for whatever reason, they don't make the change and so must be on pills. As you stated well in your blog, both need help, so let's get them the help they need. Perhaps that diabetic will change her diet and be able to decrease or even go off her insulin dosage, but in the meantime, give her insulin. Ditto for those with psychiatric issues.

  • Great post! I feel that posts like this will help diminish the stigma that mood and mental disorders should be solved without medicines. But I think many (church) people are just uneducated about it – and often their hesitation to offer help stems from that. They often do not realize what's going on with people and if they do, they often just don't know what to do. It's really good for you to help folks realize these are physical issues that require brain chemical altering medicines for treatment.

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