In 2016, I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. It was relieving to receive an official diagnosis because it put a name to all of the chaos in my brain. However, it was also terrifying because affirmed the lies I already believed about myself.
One of the most disheartening things that I struggle with is the balance of trying to cling to Jesus while the church either tells me to “try harder” or completely dismisses the topic of mental health altogether.
I have made it my mission to tear down every stigma that says I do not love Jesus just because I cannot fix my brain.
I could sum up my journey of living with a mental illness as a big “EVEN IF”
Even if depression tells me I am worthless, His redemption is irreversible
Even if I feel damaged and disposable, He still calls me friend
Even if I choose to isolate, His hand still reaches
Even if it gets hard to breathe, He is always near
When it seems hard to cling to Jesus (even when you know it is the very thing you need), it is okay. When scripture memory is out of the question because the simplest task of getting out of bed feels impossible, you are not alone. When your days go from the absolute best to feeling like it cannot get any worse, keep fighting to see more of those good days. They will come.
My scores on the GAD scale fluctuated for two years between severe and moderate-severe. In December, I finally scored mild. I cried the entire way home. I cannot tell you that it was not hard, but I will tell you that it was all worth it. Again, fight for those good days. This is nor to say that I will never be above the mild range again, but I am confident in the tools I have to keep me grounded. Open those blinds and windows. Meal prep for those rough weeks. Have a friend ask those hard, but necessary questions.
Learn to know more than just the faces you see on Sunday mornings. From the pulpit to the back row, there are people suffering from depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, PTSD, panic disorders, and so much more.
“Just seek help!”
I agree; however, it is not as easy as it sounds. It takes courage to reach out and ask for help, but to also remain committed to the work of seeing healing take place. From personal experience, **trauma counseling gave me nightmares and made me sensitive to certain topics and situations. There were times where my depression and anxiety both spiked at the same time. So yes, I did seek help, but it did not excuse me from the realities of the healing journey.
**Please note this is not the case for all people!**
Know that there are people who may not show up consistently each week to Sunday Service or small group for these exact reasons. Rather than assuming Sunday mornings and small groups are the answer for all of life’s difficulties, learn to lean in and ask questions.
Reach out with a simple, “hey, we missed seeing you last week. If you’re willing, I’d love to catch up with you and talk or listen!”
Follow through. Then, do it again and again and again.
I have no doubt that Jesus would go through hell and high water for those who cannot do it for themselves. My hope is to see the church begin to rise up and do the same for all who suffer in silence.
Psalm 42 (ESV)
“As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God
My tears have been my food
day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”
These things I remember,
as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
a multitude keeping festival.
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.
My soul is cast down within me;
therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
from Mount Mizar.Deep calls to deep
at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.”