I have found that many in the church do not understand depression or mental health problems. Most of you know that I have suffered from depression for years.
When someone suffers from depression, it is important that we come alongside one another and help them as best we can.
One friend came up to me after my hospitalization and admitted that "I had no idea what you were going through. People often say that we are depressed, just when we are down and having an off day."
There was something comforting in the fact that she was willing to admit that she missed it. But more than that, even when she didn't understand, she was willing to reach out every week and ask me how I am really doing, and wait for an answer. She would ask about my moods, and how I was dealing with things. Freeing me to share what most didn't want to hear. Now I did keep it to a minimum, and not share over many details, because I knew she didn't totally understand. But it made me feel less alone.
I honestly feel that it is important that we become willing to stand beside others, not afraid to get dirty, not afraid that bad luck with rub off on us. But honestly, genuinely caring about those around us. Those that have been there, reach back and help somebody else. Those of you that have never experienced it, spend some time learning about mental illness and just be present and listen, truly listening to others. Don't answer with your "christian sayings" that mean nothing and harm more than they heal. Instead be honest that you don't understand, but willing to show that you care.
Trust me, it means more to someone to know that they are not alone and while you don't "get it", that you want to help and offer support. Christians especially have a struggle with depression and even having the thoughts and feelings, I speak from experience. I struggled because I felt that being a christian that it was wrong to feel this way. Other Christians attempted to make me feel like it was a sin problem, or that I didn't have enough faith in God. One person even told me I was being Satan's whipping post.
Someone depressed has enough struggles just doing the simple things and then to have people that they look up to say such things, well it only adds to the depression. Now I don't want to leave you with the impression that I have hard feelings, those I have reconciled. I just want to make people aware that there is a better way of handling things.
Those that really helped me, were those who didn't have the answers, whether they understood depression or not, but simply came alongside me. Most of those people who blessed my life then, are not a current part of my life, but I will be forever grateful to them. All we really need to do is love on one another and be willing to help out, without trying to fix everything.
I, too, have mental health issues and have found the church lacking in empathy for most of its clients. For over 30 years some have treated these illnesses as sin, yet generally most Christians have compassion for them. Thank you for a well-written discussion about this "secret" subject in the church.