“It’s not your fault,” my dad said in his wise, loving voice, as we drove to the pharmacy for my first prescription of Prozac.
“Yes, it is,” I said with assurance. “This is my fault. I’m a bad person.”
I was eighteen years old and had just been discharged from the behavioral health partition of the hospital and diagnosed with severe depression. Deep-seeded insecurity, stress, perfectionism, and grave hormonal and physiological imbalances collided, shattering my picture perfect world into bits of broken pieces.
I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t talk. My body was alive. But there was no life within me.
My parents did their best to help me understand the diagnosis I had been given, which they too were just coming to grips with. I wasn’t buying it—I didn’t believe I was depressed, just that I was a horrible person who deserved to die and there was absolutely no hope for me.
Mental illness has been misunderstood and mistreated for so long because of its relative obscurity. An x-ray can show the exact fracture point of a broken bone, but without brain scans, which are expensive and difficult to do, you cannot see the physiology of a brain struggling with depression or anxiety. This leaves at least part of mental illness as somewhat intangible. And because we cannot see the source of the brokenness, we believe as a whole we are broken. We judge our character, when our chemistry, circumstances, or a number of other factors may be the problem.
Depression and mental illness remains a part of my story as it does for so many people, many of whom suffer in silence out of shame. Shame of being labeled, Shame of being ostracized. Shame of being misunderstood. Of being abandoned by friends.
If you are a church going person the shame factor is often magnified. You feel like if only you prayed harder, sinned less, read your Bible more, memorized scripture more your mental challenges would diminish. But that’s often not the case because they’re often not a spiritual issue. I personally liken my depression to an onion that had many layers: physiological and chemical, spiritual, and hormonal. As each layer was accurately addressed, so was my depression.
I believe God heals but sometimes it looks like doctors and medicine to get our brain chemistry right and we have to be okay with that. Clinical depression and mental illness is not a sin. It’s not your fault. You are wholly and dearly loved by God. Turn to Him. There is hope for you.