In light of recent events, I am re-posting one of my original blogs. We cannot continue to be silent. We must do something to address and end the stigma associated with mental illness. Too many brothers and sisters are taking their own lives because they feel like it is their only option.
Hey everyone, sorry it has been a few days since I posted a new blog.
Breaking Down The Wall
Today is what I will call “Breaking Down the Wall”. I am always writing about how Millennials are looking for truth and connection and they are not getting it from the church. I have written about how Millennials are truth seekers and how the Church has to let down its guard and be honest about their flaws and insecurities. Well, I am at a point that I cannot continue to write this blog without doing so myself.
For longer than I care to admit or can remember at times I have struggled with depression and anxiety. I was only diagnosed with such after leaving the Army and realizing that this was not something to be ashamed of and seeking treatment.
I was always somewhat of a loner growing up. I had plenty of friends but oftentimes being by myself was just more comfortable. When I was alone, I never had to worry about fitting in or being accepted, it was just me. After school, I left for the Army and spent the next 18 years traveling and making friends all over the world and still had times where being alone was the best option for me. I have always been known as friendly and easy-going but at times putting on the smile was the hardest part of my day because, to be honest, sometimes I just don’t feel like smiling.
During my time in the Army I deployed to Iraq twice and Afghanistan once and each time I feel like you leave a piece of yourself there. Anyone who has been deployed can tell you that you do not come back as the same person. Even for those that did not face direct combat, there are still changes that take place in the mind. Growing up, I never had to put myself in the mindset that if needed I would honestly shoot another human. That changed the day I got on that first plane to go to Kuwait to prepare for the invasion of Iraq. Something changed that day we sat at the border and the radio squelched as our Division Commander called us to our “Rendezvous with Destiny”. As a driver, you closed in on the border with an uneasy apprehension and it only grew worse as the border closed in. For possibly the first time in my life, I truly knew what fearing the unknown meant. I had no idea what awaited us on the other side of that border or what the days, weeks, and months to come would bring. Something about going to that mindset changes who you are.
After leaving the Army I finally started seeking help for these issues and I can honestly say, I truly wish I had been honest with myself earlier. I still have days where I feel down, just had one on Sunday, but they are few and far between. I am still anxious in crowds and unfamiliar spaces but I can manage that as well. I don’t like to sit with my back to a door but my wife knows this and makes sure she sits opposite of where I need to sit in a restaurant. I honestly would be lost without her. She is amazing and has put up with so much more than she should ever have had to endure. Say what you want about us Soldiers but we know that the spouses at home are the heroes keeping our lives together. They are the ones who will help us when we are broken.
Mental Illness and The Church
So what does this have to do with anything you may be asking? Well, I think that in order to bring others to Christ we have to be honest about our own journey. Enough with the negative stigma against mental illness. It is time as a church that we properly address mental well-being and let those who are struggling know that they are safe within our walls. I take 2 different medications for anxiety and depression. So what? It does not mean that I don’t love God or that I don’t trust Him to fix my problems. If you have an infection you take medication to keep it from spreading correct? Does that mean you don’t trust God? If you have a headache, do you take aspirin? Why, do you not believe that God can heal a headache? See how utterly insane that sounds, well saying the same about mental illness sounds just as insane to a person who is struggling. Prayer and God are a huge part of my life but so is the medicine and years of knowledge and study that have gone into making it and I give God all the credit for those things as well.
The church has to stop making people feel unwelcome just because their struggle is more visible than ours. We all struggle, some of us are just better at putting on a smile when we are supposed to. The church is supposed to be the place where sinners go to get right but in today’s world, we operate backward and try to clean them up before introducing them to God. How dare us to be that type of follower to God. We should love everyone who walks in our doors as they are and encourage them on their journey with God. So what if they are a “sinner”, so am I. So what if they struggle, so do I. So what if they have questions, so do I.
The stigma of mental illness being a weakness and it making you less of a person have no place in the church and need to be removed. Too many of our young people are turning to drugs, alcohol, and even suicide because they do not feel accepted. The church is the one place where they should never have to worry about being accepted. The church should be in the business of lifting each other up not tearing each other down.
Call to Action
So what can the church do: (In this section when I say me or I please understand I am speaking about everyone who struggles with mental illness)
· Don’t treat me different
· Don’t accuse me of not praying hard enough. Trust me when I tell you I spend more time praying through my depression than anything else.
· Don’t make me feel left out just because I am different. I might say no to your invitations most of the time but it is not about you keep asking and hopefully one day I will say yes.
· Don’t tell me all I need is more faith
· Don’t tell me that I don’t need medicine
· Pray for me
· Love me
In conclusion, I am a full-time believer of Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and I also struggle with Depression and Anxiety. Neither of those lessens my faith or make me any less of a Christian. Sometimes I feel all alone when I am in a crowded room. That does not mean I have lost my faith in Christ. I take medicine and that does not mean that I don’t trust God. After reading this don’t treat me different just know that although I am smiling I may be having a lousy day. Love me like Christ loved others and I will always return that favor.
A Special thank you to https://www.recklesslyalive.com/ for sharing this on their page as well.