Growing up fundamentalist, we didn't believe in mental illness. We believed in trusting the Lord. Period.
I think a lot of Christians have trouble admitting they struggle with depression because we know it's not the image we want projected to the world. A depressed Christian isn't exactly good marketing material, right? Joy! Peace! Love! Now, that sells.
But depression? Yeah, not so much.
So, lotsa Christians feel this obligation to REPRESENT, y'know? Like "put on a good show for the sake of the Lord." Because depression? Who wants to get saved for that? But nobody, that's who!
A depressed Christian is sorta an embarrassment to the cause. I know this because I used to think it was impossible to be a Christian and be depressed. I had this simplistic view that depression was the result of only two things: unconfessed sin or simply not "trusting the Lord" enough.
To make matters worse, I also believed that Christians shouldn't go to therapy. Like a lot of fundamentalists, I thought counselors were full of "Psychoheresy".
But dude! No wonder it's hard for Christians to admit they're depressed. It's because we'll be asked questions like: "Have you been reading your Bible? Have you been praying?"
The subtext of those questions is nothing short of an accusation. The accusation, of course, is that if the depressed person would just get right with God, their minds would instantly heal. It was all so simple, really.
ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING!
For the record, I think that's just crap. Attitude is important. But it's not everything.
There's this deeply embedded idea that Christians can just pray away the depression. And maybe some can. (How awesome for them!)
I wish to God it was that easy for me. But it's not. Praying helps, yes. But I need rest, nutrition and exercise, too. And maybe even medication.
I have discovered that there is compassion and remarkable grace outside of fundamentalism (surprise, surprise). I found it in liturgical churches. There just seems to be a broader acceptance and understanding for the frailty of our humanity. Maybe being spiritually safe has finally freed me to take a closer, more honest look at myself.
It's become increasingly clear to me that it takes MORE humility to admit I have a problem than to keep pretending I don't. I could easily spend the rest of my life putting on a great show for everyone to see. In fact, I would PREFER to do that.
But I won't.
My therapist used to tell me that I'm such a survivor that I fight and fight until I've guaranteed a safe spot for myself and my loved ones. Only when all is well do I finally break down.
What this means is: I'm a good friend to have on the battlefield. I know how to fight, baby. I know how to kick them bastards down.
But it also means that it took me SEVEN years of silence before I finally started writing about my fundamentalist past. Yep. That's because I was busy re-building a new life for myself and making sure my children were safe and free before I ever started dealing with my own issues.
I don't say that to brag or to say that it was superior to going straight into therapy. It was just how I dealt with it. The only comparison I can think of is battle-worn soldiers who come home from war and refuse to talk about it. That's how it was for me. I went silent for awhile. OK, for years.
Here's the thing: most people have no idea what it's like to be raised in a crazy, abusive church. Maybe it's a bad analogy, but it really is like a soldier trying to explain to a civilian what combat warfare is like. There's just no way for people to understand the reality of it because it's so outside their frame of reference.
So, for the most part, I just shut up. I really wanted to be normal. To build a fresh life for ourselves.
Looking back, going silent probably was not my best idea. I would probably be farther along if I'd been less afraid of looking squarely in the eye of my issues. But it is what it is. My journey out of that mindset was on its own timeline. And anyway, I'm here now.
My point is, I'm finally at a place in my life where I have nothing left to lose. I'm safe and I'm free. I know the love of God.
Maybe that's why I'm finally willing to look this grim beast called Depression in the eye and acknowledge him. I'm willing to root out the causes. I'm willing to be weak.
I'm even willing to write about it.