I have a mental illness.
To say that is not easy to admit. Admitting mental illness, especially for me, carries a stigma of “crazy,” “psychotic” or “schizophrenic.” Admitting mental illness carries with it the weight of thinking of my father starving himself, obsessively reading the Bible, acting erratic and claiming that people had bugged our house, our car and were watching our home to kidnap me.
Below are my thoughts on common depression myths from “Understanding Depression, Pt. 1.”
- Depression is not a sign of weakness. My experience is that depression has always made me weak. It has inhibited me from accomplishing goals and kept me from achieving my full potential. I have to disagree with this statement in some fashion; depression IS a sign of weakness. It’s a sign that the person is too weak to do things alone – he or she needs help.
- Depression is not a lack of character or courage. This is extremely true. Being able to get up every day while struggling with depression is absolute courage; it’s harder to face life than face death.
- Being depressed is not abnormal. I think I get what the statement is trying to say “most people experience depression” but depression IS abnormal. Depression is not a normal feeling and no one should have to “live” with it.
- Depressed people are not crazy. Are depressed people psychotic? No. Can psychotic people be depressed? Yes. But they’re not one and the same.
- Mental depression is not the same as “feeling blue.” “Feeling blue” is a temporary state of mind that goes away. “Feeling blue” is not severe. It is possible to “feel blue” after a loss, failure or unexpected event. Mental depression is chronic; its state is not temporary, lasts much longer and requires treatment. “Feeling blue” goes away on its own or with minimal professional help.
- Depression is not hopeless; feelings of hopelessness are a symptom of depression. Hopelessness and despair mean that a person is at the end of his or her rope and is ready to do something drastic. This can be a result of depression but it’s also a warning signal that help is not sought, it could turn into something much more drastic.
Does mental illness jive with anything Biblical? I think so. There are instances of mental illness, many forms in fact, but a particular person who suffered from chronic depression was King David of Israel. All throughout the Psalms, he writes about his constant lows, but continues to keep his focus on God. A common example of someone suffering from depression (that was eventually overcome) was the prophet Elijah in I Kings 19. Elijah’s example, however, is not chronic. He was depressed for a period of time because of his circumstances, but it appears that his battle with depression wasn’t lifelong as it was with David. Elijah and David, however, serve as models as to how Christians should deal with depression.