Experience has shown me that there are still those within the CRC who believe that those with depression or other mental illnesses should “pray it away” rather than take medication. Nobody in our denomination would dream of saying that to someone with heart disease or arthritis, but if you have a mental illness people feel entitled to make assumptions about your morals or your spiritual life as though they know anything about either.
I’ve been depressed for the past few days because I’m reading a book about the United States, America, The Farewell Tour, written by an American journalist named Chris Hedges, and the picture he paints is pretty gloomy to say the least. The way ordinary Americans are impacted by the state of their country is what depresses me right now. Unfortunately, it’s not something medications can do anything about. I just have to find ways to change my thoughts and take breaks from reading that book.
Unless people know you intimately, they have no business assuming that having a mental illness is synonymous with a moral failure or spiritual wandering away from God. Prayer does not replace medications regardless of people’s conditions, whether they are physical or mental. It is not an either/or issue but both/and. I find that too many people are afflicted with tunnel vision and binary thinking in life, and they should expand their intellectual horizons a good deal more.
In reality things are seldom as cut and dried as people try to make them out to be. Could that be because oversimplifying issues gives them a false sense of security? If so, it’s an illusion, and that illusion moves them to lack of empathy and compassion toward those who suffer from psychiatric disorders. Please do educate yourselves, people. Those who suffer from mental illnesses have enough trouble without having to deal with your assumptions on top of it all.
In a blog I wrote for Disability Concerns, I wrote that chronically normal people make judgments about people living with mental illnesses purely based on appearances. This blog is titled On Chronically Normal People. If you want to check out my other blogs, you can find them here. Most of the blogs are about living with mental illnesses and how they intersect with everyday life. So for those seeking more information, that’s a good place to start.
Another good source of information is www.mentalwellnesstoday.com. This site, if I’m not mistaken, was set up by Bill McPhee, a Christian publisher of three publications about mental illnesses: Anchor magazine, which discusses depression and anxiety disorders; BP magazine about bipolar disorder, and SZ magazine about schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder, which is a cross between schizophrenia and bipolar disorders.
The man himself has schizophrenia and has been in recovery for decades. One thing you have to know about severe mental illnesses is that the medications don’t cure them. All they do is control the “positive” symptoms, so if you stop taking them, those symptoms will start reappearing all over again. That’s why telling people to pray away their illness is such bad advice. God has allowed people to develop mental illnesses for the same reason some people have heart disease or cerebral palsy; it’s a consequence of original sin, and nothing they did.
NOBODY deserves to start hearing voices out of the blue that tell them they’re worthless and they should kill themselves. So we need to stop judging and show compassion to those who live with such disorders.