Mental Health Stigma

pill, capsule, medicine

I sat in my make-shift office at the house and stared at my counselor through my computer screen, with tears swelling behind my eyes, as she said “I think it’s time you start taking medication.”

Why did I feel like crying? I believe in medication. I know it can help… So why did I feel like a failure?

All of the patients I worked with have a mental health disorder, ranging from anxiety to bipolar disorders to schizophrenia. I’ve seen it first hand be just as much, or probably more debilitating, than any medical diagnosis my patients face. Usually, the mental health disorder is the driving force behind why they can’t heal the physical ailments they have. 

Did you know that 1 in 4 people are affected by a mental health disorder at some point in their lives?

I never understood it was so common until I had this job. And really, I never understood that I was dealing with it myself until this job made me slow down and admit it (Only took me three years).

I grew up in the church, and mental illness wasn’t something that was discussed very often. You always knew it was there, but there was this unspoken idea that if you have a good relationship with God, you can just pray and he’ll take it away. And if you have a mental illness, it’s your fault for not praying enough, reading the bible enough, or not believing enough that God will take it away. I’ve learned that this kind of thinking quickly opens the door to feelings of shame, failure, and silence. 

I do believe that God can choose to take away any mental (or physical) illness he chooses. It’s just, I also believe that God doesn’t choose to do this sometimes. For me, I’ve prayed that God would take away my anxiety- but He hasn’t yet. And that’s okay. It doesn’t mean that I’m a bad Christian, and it sure as heck doesn’t mean that God isn’t stronger than my anxiety. 

It means that this is how it is right now, and I need to make the conscious choice every day to give my anxieties to God. I’ll keep praying, I’ll keep studying, I’ll keep believing that it’s possible, but I’ll also consider taking medication, because I understand that this is an illness, and not just a feeling. And just like people take lasix when they have congestive heart failure to take away that extra fluid, I can take an SSRI to balance my hormones, and help take away that extra anxiety. 

So if you’re in the Church, and you’re suffering from a mental illness, please, don’t let stigma, pride, or shame keep you from getting the help you need. Those words aren’t words from the God I know. 

So what did I do? I wiped my tears, said a little prayer, and called a doctor. And I believe that you can too. 

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