When I talk about mental health, I am speaking as a person who has fought against depression for about 10 years, that’s why I write about it and am so passionate about it. I can’t remember the exact date I was diagnosed with depression, but it was between 16 and 18 years old. I quickly realized that mental illness is one of the most mysterious illnesses out there. It is a very taboo topic so naturally I feared talking to people about it for fear of being stigmatized, stereotyped, or judged. As I listen to the way pop culture talked about therapists and medicine I felt that I would make me less of man to pursue these things. Through my fight against depression, I have had to fight against giving up on the process before I receive the blessing of being mentally healthy. I have had to wrestle through my own pride and ego, through horrible therapists, through misdiagnoses’, and the wrong combination of medication. Receiving a blessing of mental health takes perseverance. Perseverance and treatment for mental illness is the road less traveled, we are quick to give up and easily discouraged. I would like to tell you about my struggles on my journey so that you can know your not alone.
Disclaimer: I’m not a psychiatrist I’m just sharing my personal struggles and realizations God has shown me. My way doesn’t necessarily work for everyone. Part of why I am writing this is because I believe we need to be getting more input from trained professionals when it comes to something so stigmatized.
Struggle #1: Myself
In order to get help, I had to get out of the way of myself. I thought I could just tough it out and it will go away, I treated it like I did all the sports I played, if I worked at it hard enough on my own, I can beat it. I felt like if I got any professional help that meant I was some kind of crazy person and even worse, it would mean I was weak. Mental health is so poorly talked about in our society that I didn’t really want to accept I actually dealt with it, I thought along the lines of some Scientologists ha-ha, I thought psychiatry was all some made up stuff. It wasn’t until I became a Christian and put God ahead of my own ego, that I was able to kill my pride.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
-2 Corinthians 12:9
I just decided that I was going to be proud of my weaknesses so that God can be glorified. I realized that it is actually strong to be weak. I accepted the fact I struggled with depression and I needed help.
Struggle #2: The right therapist
I had a horrible experience with the first psychiatrist I went to. He asked me about my libido (sex drive) and I told him that I am a Christian and do not have pre marital sex anymore. He told me that sex is healthy and that “Jesus never said you couldn’t have pre marital sex” (clearly not true if you read Mark 7:20-23). Needless to say, that was the last time I saw him. My convictions about sin and what it is was non-negotiable, my faith was non-negotiable. Of course, I was open to talking about my faith with my therapist (I actually love talking about it) i just wasn’t willing to compromise. My faith wasn’t a “no fly zone” in my therapy sessions because over the years I realized that I have been wrong about numerous things in regards to my faith and if they could help me, amen. However, I wasn’t open to anything else but Jesus being Lord of my decision-making.
My next psychiatrist told me he was a “Jew for Jesus” once he found out I was Christian. “Finally!” I thought, “we will be speaking the same language”. Unfortunately, we did not speak the same language. He would curse a lot while he was “counseling me” which just made me feel uneasy. Not a judgment thing, just not a good fit for me. He was a friendly guy and I would say that he was even a guy I might have hung out with if I was 30 years older, but I needed a professional.
Naturally I already started to hear Satan trying to convince me to give up on this process, but I decided that I was going to wrestle until I exhaust every resource. I was so tired of being tired. I was sick of the way depression made me feel, and I wasn’t going to stop pursuing help. I believed that this was a path God wanted me to pursue. I trusted that on the other side of this journey i would be another step closer to the full life he promised me. As always, he kept his promise and i ended up finding an amazing therapist who i worked with over two years who helped me grow leaps and bounds.
Struggle #3: The right medication
While going to all of these different psychiatrists and therapists, naturally I was prescribed medication. I made up my mind that I would not count medicine out so easy. After much prayer and bible study, I didn’t find any conflict with God when it comes to taking medication (more on that in my blogs about mental health in the church). My nature is to think of myself as weaker if I have to take medicine and everything in me would fight against “relying on something.” I was actually misdiagnosed by a different doctor as having bi-polar. He prescribed me some lithium based drug which didn’t help my depression. I wanted again to give up on this whole process with all of these discouragements and set backs, but I really believed it was Gods will for me to seek professional help, I just had to find it.
All of these let downs are very common from what I hear from friends who pursue professional help. All of these things on some level or another also happened to my wife as she was seeking help. I am so proud of my wife for the way she stayed open about her discouragements through the process, she constantly went to God to seek guidance, and was able to persevere to find the right combination.
I want to make a plead with you: If you suffer from mental illness or think you do and you have been trying to get better with your own methods and have not had any lasting changes in your mental health, set up an appointment with a psychiatrist. Would you not go to a doctor if you thought your leg was broken? Please learn from my mistakes and ask some people in your church circle or circle of friends for a recommendation for a good psychiatrist and stay open with people and vulnerable with God as you go through it. Your not alone, and you don’t have to go through it alone.
After about two years of consistent prayer, talk therapy, and medication I’m proud to say that God has led me out of the desert of depression, i am no longer my worst enemy and God has showed me how to love, respect, and appreciate the man he made, me! After years of stories from other people, i realized that the road Gods grace led me down is the road less traveled. Not many people are able to persevere and see this process through. I do not say that to indicate i am special in any way, if it wasn’t for God allowing me to get over myself, i would still be just as depressed. I knows its hard, but don’t give up. There is help, no one has to stay depressed or fight it by themselves.
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.