*Full disclosure – I wrote this post MONTHS ago. I just looked to see if I could find the exact date, but I do not see it without clicking out of this screen. I think it was last semester while I was doing research for a couple of papers that I wrote on similar topics. It is a topic I have been wrestling with for a long time and am very passionate about so I’ve come back to this draft.
I have been thinking a lot about mental health again lately. I know that is not uncommon for me. I’ve written about mental health many times. It affects so many people I love and these days we all know someone who struggles with some aspect of severe mental health whether we know about it or not.
Not too long ago I was talking to someone who mentioned how difficult it is to fake it sometimes. That pretending that you are “feeling normal” is easy over short periods of time, but if someone comes to stay with you, and you are around them for longer periods of time it becomes a lot harder to hide that you are struggling. This makes them dread long visits.
This has been prickling my mind ever since.
Why do we feel the need to pretend we feel well when we do not?
When I have a migraine and someone asks how I am feeling I don’t even consider hiding how I truly feel. I don’t see it as a sign of weakness, I don’t worry that they will think any less of me for having a headache. In fact, this past Sunday just after we finished worship practice I got the aura that signals the beginning of a migraine and right away I mentioned it to a couple team-mates. One person offered me ibuprofen and the other laid hands on me and prayed. I made it through the music at the beginning of the service and then had to go find a dark room and lay on the floor until Caleb could drive me home. I felt a little bit weird laying on the floor in the church but I wasn’t ashamed or worried that I needed to hide what was happening.
When I am feeling anxious or down or am just having a bad day, however, there is a voice that whispers “People will think you have no faith if you let them see this side of you.” “You aren’t trusting God.” “You must not be relying on his strength.” All the “helpful” Christianisms that have done so much damage to so many people.
It is so not true!
When someone shares their struggles with depression or anxiety it fills me with love for them. It shows me that they are more like me than I thought. It breaks down the lie that I am the only one who struggles. I am fully convinced that one of Satan’s greatest tool against believers is the story that others will turn away and abandon us if they knew the truth about what we struggle with.
I don’t know about you, but I am FAR from perfect and I don’t really love being around perfect people. I cannot relate to perfect people. I like other flawed people. A person who has never struggled cannot teach me anything about trusting God through times of anxiety. You know who can? The person who has battled anxiety for 20 something years and continues to fight it.
A person who has never struggled cannot walk with me through depression because they cannot even fathom what it is like, but someone who has felt those same hopeless feelings can. These are the people who show me that I can make it through whatever I am struggling with. These are the people who encourage me to persevere.
When someone shares their struggles it opens up a chance for me to bear some of that burden with them through prayer. It allows me to be more intentional about asking questions and really listening. It endears them to me in a way that nothing else can. It draws us together as brothers and sisters in Christ because family walks through that hard stuff together. When that happens God is glorified.
It isn’t an easy thing that I am asking, I realize that. I am asking that we admit something really scary. I am asking that we try to be open about our fears even when we know they are irrational. I am asking that we share our feeling of hopelessness. If we never do these things it is very difficult to bear one another’s burdens.
Would you consider trying it? Would you also consider how best to respond if someone was this open when you ask the question “how are you”? Let’s do our best to break the stigma that is still so strong and rob Satan of a little more power.