Emotional Health Kids/Family Parenting

Going There — Mental Illness

MENTAL-ILLNESS

May is mental illness month, and I couldn’t be more pleased about that. I’ve been wanting to write this post all month–leave it to me to procrastinate until the very end of the month!

Mental illness has become a subject that I have become passionate about.  I am passionate about awareness.  I am ready to join the brave voices already talking about it.

Where does this passion come from?  I myself have fought an anxiety disorder for years, and for way too long– especially in the evangelical community that I identify myself with– it has been something that is not talked about very openly  Until now.

I see a movement.  I see people getting real with others, opening up about pain and sickness in their lives.  I see people finding hope and healing in these conversations that are taking place, and I want to be a part of that.  I have been part of that at some women’s conferences I have spoken at, and these said moments are some of the most meaningful of my whole life.  Women opening up, exposing their struggle or the struggle of their loved ones, finding hope in each others stories, & trading tried and true ways to get through the many obstacles mental illness creates.

It is about time there is more openness on the subject. Here is why, from Time.com:

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 60 million Americans experience a mental health condition every year – that’s one in four adults and one in ten children. People of every race, age, religion or economic status are affected. Whether we are aware of it or not, we all know someone who is living with some form of mental illness.

My passion also comes from watching some of my closest family and friends suffer.  Some in silence. Some publicly. Some sharing with only the closest of friends. Some too young to even know there is a stigma associated with the label of mental illness– quite frankly–these young ones are the bravest and most inspiring.  A young teen, one so dear to my heart, who in a matter-of-fact way says “I have bi-polar, but I’m learning how to live with it.  It does not define me.”  Words of truth from the mouth of babes.

I will get into my own journey with an anxiety disorder in coming posts, but for today, I want to address those of us who are called the Church.

Pastor Rick Warren, who lost his precious son to the disease of depression & suicide, was recently on The View.  I set my DVR to record it, as I was very interested in what he had to say and I know he shares this passion of mine to help the church see we are missing the boat when it comes to caring well for those who suffer with mental illness.  I hung on ever word of his.

Here is the entire segment from ABC.  Pastor Warren and his wife talk about marriage, which really is priceless {grin–you gotta watch it to get that comment} and towards the end he talks about his son’ mental health, and how the evangelical community needs to do a better job at loving and understanding those who are suffering.

Here are some of my favorite things Rick Warren has said:

“There is no shame in diabetes, there is no shame in high blood pressure, but why is it that if our brains stop working, there is supposed to be shame in that?” said Warren, who said the family kept Matthew’s illness a secret from the public not because of shame, but “because it was his own story to tell.”

“There’s no shame when any other organ in your body fails, so why do we feel shame if our brain is broken?”

“If a bird falls and breaks its wing, we don’t say to it,””read your Bible and pray until you get better”” no, we fix its wing”

‘It’s OK. I’m not OK, you’re not OK, but that’s OK because God’s OK.’”

And these heartbreaking words about their son:

“Our hilariously funny, immensely creative, intensely compassionate son struggled to make sense of his life and the mental pain he was experiencing. His anguish was our anguish,” Rick and Kay Warren wrote in a recent Time op-ed. “On April 5, 2013, impulse met opportunity in a tragic way. Our beautiful son ran into the unforgiving wall of mental illness for the last time.”

Mental illness is a complicated matter, but it is a matter that needs to be talked about.  There are too many suffering, especially our young people, with parents at their wits end not knowing what the best decision is for their children.  An estimated 20 percent of U.S. teenagers have some mental-health irregularity, including 10 percent who have some behavior or conduct disorder, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.  If there is history of mental illness in both sides of the family, the chances of  children suffering is multiplied and extremely high.  Genetics plays a huge part, as does trauma, which means this subject is not going away, and we must keep talking about it.  

Survey results from the Southern Baptist-affiliated nonprofit Lifeway Research, released in September, found that close to half of evangelical, fundamentalist and born-again Christians believe prayer and Bible study alone can solve mental illness. Among Americans as a whole, about one in three shared that view. Nevertheless, 68 percent of Americans said they believed they would be welcome in church if they were mentally ill.

“It’s just not the case that faith or religious belief will inoculate or immunize a person against mental illness,” said Aaron Kheriaty “We want to convince Christians that psychiatrists, religious leaders and mental health advocates, all of us can work hand in hand.”

I personally suffered way too long without the medication I needed due to well-meaning advice from others–  “Have more faith” “Be obedient to Christ, read the Bible more & pray more” ” “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, goodness, & self-control, submit to the spirit” “No meds unless you absolutely cannot get out of bed (I had anxiety, not depression.  I was always able to get out of bed, but walked around sick.)  “The pharmaceutical companies are corrupt, don’t take meds, they don’t work” –all of these things and more were said to me.  I am so thankful I was able to work out details, think clear enough for myself & along with God’s direction (can’t wait to tell you the story of this) of what medication my body needed to make me able to be who God created me to be.  My true self.

I am eager to write more on this topic in coming posts.

What are your thoughts?  Do you know someone with mental illness? How do you feel the church is doing with those who are suffering with mental illness?

 

  • Susan September 10, 2014 at 7:45 pm

    Great post Amy. I agree with you that the topic needs to be talked about more- especially in the church. I’ve struggled with depression my whole life and am very open with people about it. So many people deal with this illness and are keeping it inside due to shame. Keep being authentic and speaking into the lives of women.

    • AmyNewNostalgia September 11, 2014 at 10:14 am

      Thank you Susan. So much. I appreciate you sharing so openly…I know you have touched many people by doing so. Thank you for your encouragement.

  • Molly June 26, 2014 at 9:09 am

    What an excellent conversation to turn up the volume on, and draw more people into! Thank you, Amy!

    My mother, one of my sisters, and a dear friend suffer with bipolar. The church does need to improve. So does our healthcare system – it is sorely lacking, especially for those who have lesser insurance. I could tell many stories of how these three women have been poorly treated over the years while seeking treatment.

    While I am incredibly grateful for the medications available, I absolutely believe that God CAN heal anyone of any disease. Why He chooses to heal some and not others is a mystery. I think a believer should always draw close to Him and ask for healing, wisdom, and comfort. However, I can’t imagine God not wanting someone to take life preserving, healing medications that allow them to function and stay alive.

    I’m eager to read more!

    • AmyNewNostalgia July 1, 2014 at 10:23 am

      Loved your comment. So sorry people you love have been touched by this disease. It is hard to watch others suffer. I completely agree with you–God can heal anyone of any disease, and many times His way of giving healing is leading to the right medication and doctors. I love your balanced opinion on this.

  • New Nostalgia – Mental Illness, PMDD, & Seeking Treatment June 25, 2014 at 12:30 pm

    […] am so grateful for this community and your gracious response to my first post on mental illness.  You confirmed that it is something that needs to be talked about and I so appreciate your […]

  • Katy June 3, 2014 at 3:11 am

    Thank you so much for sharing this! It’s taken me far too long to turn to medication for my anxiety/depression/ocd (yep, lucky enough to have all three!), and as a Christian, I often feel ashamed that perhaps I let God down with my brain, but this phrase really resonated with me:

    ‘It’s OK. I’m not OK, you’re not OK, but that’s OK because God’s OK.’”

    So thank you.

  • Shelli June 2, 2014 at 10:06 pm

    I, too, appreciate the openness here. We have been blessed to encourage those with a variety of mood struggles through Fresh Hope. The focus is on living well despite a mental health diagnosis. The founder is a pastor in NE, who has had struggles and found hope. He wrote one of the few books on this subject that includes emotional, spiritual, and medical components. There are groups that meet in many cities, including the Lincoln Berean Church. The people we met there were very accepting and encouraging.

  • REK981 June 2, 2014 at 1:33 pm

    I too suffer from anxiety. For years decent sleep and meditation were very helpful. But as I have aged and the anxiety grew it became very clear that some medication was needed in order to get me fully functional again. I’ve had to make adjustments to my meds but I am doing really well. Prayer may be a beautiful and fulfilling part of a person life but I personally do not believe it can adjust brain chemicals in such a way as to cure mental illness much like it will not cure cancer. Thank you for sharing this part of your life story.

  • Lacy H June 2, 2014 at 12:58 pm

    Thank you for posting this. I have suffered with panic attacks for half of my life. Like you, never with depression. I’m glad people are speaking more about this in an open setting. Maybe if they did, I wouldn’t have felt ‘crazy’ for so long. I’m a Christian woman who knows that having faith in Him eases the anxiety, definitely, but not enough to where I can function without medication. If you are diabetic, you wouldn’t deprive yourself of insulin….same with mental illness.

  • Kim L June 1, 2014 at 10:47 pm

    I believe the Church is failing in this aspect because people do not truly acknowledge that this is truly an illness vs a life choice or weakness of faith or character. I have watched mental illness turn my outgoing, never knew a stranger mother into a withdrawn, quiet, fragile shell of the person she used to be. We are still trying to find a good balance for her. I truly believe she has always suffered to a certain degree until a series of bad events pushed her past her ability to self-control. I pray daily that God place a calming hand on her head, and part of that is helping her find the right medicines to assist with this.

    I applaud your commitment to bringing this issue out of the shadows.

  • Tina June 1, 2014 at 10:35 pm

    I remember growing up and the word “bitch” was taboo on t.v.– today it is on every soap opera…. The idea of showing a gay couple expressing their affection was also taboo–today there are plenty of shows that focus specifically on gay lifestyle topics….
    My point in this being, that the more attention we bring to things that might not be socially acceptable, or topics that are so misunderstood, the more we build awareness, education, tolerance and most importantly acceptance.
    Thank you Amy for being brave and joining in as well as starting the conversations that will help those of us suffering silently to find our voice without shame! Love to you always and always <3

  • Ellen Davis June 1, 2014 at 8:15 pm

    The reality of mental illness is based on the same science that discovered that leukemia and diabetes are real, something few of us argue with. That does not mean spiritual warfare isn’t real or that we cannot often overcome negative, even paralyzing emotions like fear. In fact, Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones wrote a large volume entitled “Spiritual Depression: its Causes and Cures.” It does not, however, follow that all depression is of the same cause and has the same treatments.

    I find that mental illness is something for which much of the Christian community over spiritualizes both cause and treatment. Many seriously ill people have been driven to helpless desperation by being told to “pray more, have more faith, take God at His Word, or practice spiritual warfare etc.” Some question their faith, their worth, and often even God. Few of us would blame the victim by doing that to someone with cancer or an autoimmune disorder. My doctor told me my anxiety/depression was a chemical issue. No amount of spiritual efforts would have changed the chemistry of my brain. (That doesn’t mean God could not have healed it if He chose, just as He can heal cancer.) The right medication returned me to totally normal function—the abnormal fatigue disappeared, my energy returned, and sleep was refreshing. Interestingly, when my symptoms first appeared, I thought my hypothyroidism had worsened because the symptoms were almost exactly the same. Interestingly, I’ve never heard anyone say they didn’t believe in hypothyroidism. Then there are other—usually even more complicated—mental illnesses like schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

    I talk about my diagnosis openly and freely. I don’t care who knows it. The surprise many people express is primarily surprise that I’m talking about it. Many churches do not understand mental illness, but I’m also grateful to attend a church that is not one of them.

    I would add that we are doing an abominable job of treating serious mental illness in this country, especially in children. The “why” of all that is another major discussion. But, as far as I can remember, every mass murderer in recent years has been someone with serious mental issues.

    • Anonymous June 26, 2014 at 8:13 am

      Well said! I could not agree more!

  • Shiela Halvorson June 1, 2014 at 11:10 am

    Hi….I don’t mean any disrespect, please hear my heart. I don’t believe that mental illness is a disease. As Christians we need to believe what the bible says. It says we are in a war, not against flesh and blood but principalities and powers of the air. Ephesians tells us all about it. The bible tells about spiritual angels, good and bad, from genesis to revelation. The bible says that the unseen realm is more real than what we see with our eyes. I myself have been healed from fear that I had as a child.. There are a lot of spiritual warfare miniatures that are loving and gentle with people and help them get free from demonic spirits please ask God to show you truth.. Look on YouTube and watch some of the Sozo teachings. Jesus left us with the holy spirit in us which is resurrection power. . We are too follow Jesus example just like he taught the disciples. I just felt like I was supposed to share. Bless you

  • Melissa June 1, 2014 at 2:42 am

    I’m Melissa and I’ve been suffering from Anxiety with panic for 19 years! I am a Christian and I know what the bible says about worry and being anxious, but I am still not able to find peace. People tell me I worry and get anxious because I have a lack of faith. I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis 10 years ago when I was 25 years old. By the Grace of God I’ve been able to handle the disease without being anxious and I’ve remained fairly stable. My anxiety stems from the fear of Cancer or not being able to financially provide for my family. Through the years I’ve been in daily anxiety about my fears and for the past 10 months I’ve dealt with Chronic shoulder pain that has not gotten better, My mind instantly fears cancer, I go through the motions of having Lung or a Chest tumor that is causing my pain. I’m sure I’ve got a bit of Hypochondria going.
    I am seeing a Christian counselor and my doctor up’d my Citalopram to 40mg. It’s only been a couple days so I haven’t seen any improvement but I’m praying that one day I can be at peace.

    Thank you for sharing this.

  • AmyT May 31, 2014 at 9:54 pm

    Thank you for opening this discussion. I too suffer from anxiety disorder but also have the depression aspect. I am told I have PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and have had a lot of people tell me to just get over it or on with it or pray thru it or other options where I have found it to be unhelpful. It is a complex problem which has multifaceted needs which IIt has taken most of my adult life to figure out and I am still learning.
    Good luck and I look forward to your posts!!

  • Liz cooper May 31, 2014 at 7:52 pm

    Oh my!! This is soo good and so appropriate. It is very accurate that so many people suffer with mental illness silently. I surely have been touched personally in my family by this. Thanks to our God that our society and our churches are now understanding this better. And thanks that we have improved medical health in physicians, counsellor sand medicine. And thanks Amy for bringing this subject up!!

  • Mari May 31, 2014 at 7:02 pm

    Hello, Amy! Thank you so much for your post! It’s very interesting and informative and very much needed. I am really looking forward to reading more about your story!

    I have been living with depression for a very long time (I do believe it’s actually been there my entire life), with a major episode 15 years ago, and several others since then. I also suffer from anxiety-triggered physical symptoms which can be quite debilitating.

    These days I’m mostly doing well, but I could not have reached this state without treatment and counselling, and most of all doing my best to understand my condition in the context of the grace of God, and the fact that ‘there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus’.

    It’s a great hope of mine to now be of help to people around me who are going through a similar struggle, and as much as possible to be able to encourage them that they are loved and it is indeed possible to go forward, to get to enjoy life, and to enjoy God.

    Thank you once again for your post, and I can’t wait for the sequel! 🙂

  • Melanie Dorsey May 31, 2014 at 6:47 pm

    Thanks for “going there.” I look forward to reading more. It’s an extra burden laid on the backs of those who could benefit from treatment in some form or another to say “have more faith” or quote more scripture. I think that just tends to shut down the conversation. I’ve also dealt with anxiety and have found that by being open with people I felt I could trust, it actually helped somewhat.

  • Lori Alexander May 31, 2014 at 5:54 pm

    One of my good friends lost her son to suicide 2 years ago. He struggled with depression since he hit puberty and they tried EVERYTHING to get him better. My mother-in-law, an amazing godly woman, struggles with severe anxiety and even went on medication {it didn’t help her at all}. But I believe, like anyone suffering with ill-health of the body or mind, you seek solutions. You pray. You research. You try new things until you can find relief. God gave us many tools to try and find healing so we should use them when needed.

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