A lot of people will say depression is like a big, black dog. I think it’s more like a stain that can’t be removed, or one that’s been left for too long that it stays permanent in between the fibres of your clothes.
What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of a Christian? Is it irrelevant, boring, untrue? If so, better get yourself to do an Alpha course at your nearest church. Have a great Sunday and God bless you!
Joking! But seriously, what word describes that stereotypical Christian characteristic that we’re supposed to have? (Yes I’m a Christian, if you didn’t know) Are we really that boring? Are our religious scriptures irrelevant? Did God even create the world? It’s funny that all these questions are still being asked since the day that Adam and Eve entered the earth and it seems that nothing is being answered or we’re doing something wrong not convincing you unbelievers to at least get what our faith means to us. If that’s the case, please tell me. I do have to mention that we’re not here to force anything on you or is it our job to convince you into converting but we just love to talk about Christianity without all the crap that a lot of people think it is. So if you do come across a really, really desperate fellow believer who wants to tell you what God has done for him, either you have time to let him ramble or you don’t. Saying yes for the LOLs doesn’t really count, sorry.
That leads me into thinking that maybe it’s slowly been building up to the point where Christians are being perceived as the happy-go-“lucky”, optimistic , enthusiastic, cheerful and all-smiling old people (apparently, young people are too young and immature to be of faith). We look super excited at the opportunity to give our testimonies to friends and inviting them to Christian events, baptisms, Christmas carols and services so yes, we’re absolutely thrilled to let you in into our passion. But that doesn’t mean we’re happy all the time. Do you think those people getting martyred and suffering because of what they believe can smile all the time? Probably not. However, contentment is perhaps the better word to use. But why is it that we’re being looked at like this? Is there no space for our other emotions to be portrayed?
This is where I come in, after exactly 409 words later (I tend to waffle). We are emotional human beings, whether that comes with the monthly period or not, and guys cry too (shocking!) Every day we’re fuelled with emotions that can rush or wait, that appear at the moment of joyful news or shocking disaster, that are repressed because we’re ashamed to feel that way, that are hidden because of our reputation and that can go out of control because we’re clinically diagnosed with that condition. I’d like to write about the latter. Let’s talk about mental health; let’s talk about depression (oh happy day…)
Mental illnesses suck. Ones like Alzheimer’s and dementia have to be left on their own as there’s nothing to cure them and you can’t tell the person to get better. You can’t tell a mentally ill person to get better (you’ve just given them a big slap on the face). As someone who’s a Christian and going through depression, it’s difficult to tell myself that it’s going to be a good day, that it’s going to be better when we’ve mentally boxed our internal thoughts to automatically think it’s going to get worse. I get tired due to insomnia that’s due to over-thinking that’s due to my negative thoughts that’s due to depression. It’s a vicious circle every day. It strains all the energy that I have and the physicality of my body deteriorates as less sleep is being consumed.
Bible verses jump out all at once (yes, I know these by heart):
Do not be anxious about anything but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV)
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:7 NIV)
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5 NIV)
and the most infamous saying of all, Jesus loves you. They’re all true and I do live by them but my depression is not the result of my doubts and disbeliefs. I am not, and I choose not to be, defined by my depression – it doesn’t describe who I am as a person.
When people acknowledge what’s wrong with you, they suddenly tag you as aliens who should be carefully dealt with when they go near you. Look, we can’t be avoided and if you know me well enough, you’ll know for sure I won’t avoid you (I do the occasionally annoying play of metaphorical poking on the internet). We’re just like you, with less positivity and more of wanting to be with ourselves than in crowds. We take in your opinions seriously, maybe too seriously, and take judgement heavily. We’re just sensitive to what people say, especially when it’s towards us. The thing that aggravates me the most about mental illness is that it isn’t being discussed enough in churches and so what do our brothers and sisters do when another brother in Christ falls into that category? We pray (duh). And we don’t know what the heck to say because either, we have not gone through the same experience or we just haven’t educated ourselves and been given advice on how to react. I appreciate that we are doing our best to support each other but I can’t reiterate this enough that mental illnesses are something that can’t only be dealt with through prayer. It takes more than just the well-wisher to say it will get better and giving us pity is probably the worst gift to bring.
So before you whip out that Bible verse and start putting your praying hand over our shoulder, first listen to the words that only courage enabled our mouths to open and voice to resonate. And maybe, just be silent in the tears and cry of someone who knows not what they are feeling and going through.
Or this will do too:
Photography by Edward Honaker. The photos document his experiences with depresson and anxiety. You can check out the full series here