I went to a women’s meeting of my church a couple of nights ago. (In my church, the women’s group is called Relief Society. Find out more about it here.) It was on anxiety and depression and while I was excited (mental illness is something that needs to be talked about more, in my opinion) I was slightly worried. Sometimes in a religious setting, it often seems the suggestions for dealing with mental illness is to trust in God and He will heal you. Now I’m not saying that He won’t. I know He can. However, when you’re trying to do so and the problem doesn’t go away, it’s discouraging and having someone tell you that is all you need to do makes it worse.
I needn’t have worried. The presenter had anxiety and depression and was very upfront and honest about his struggles and how it caused him to doubt God and even hate Him. He began the presentation by using a visual to describe what’s it’s like to have depression. He had a member of the audience wear sunglasses smeared with Vaseline to show how depression distorts your worldview. They wore a backpack filled with rocks showing how depression weighs you down and wears you out. They wore headphones that represented how depression feeds you false and negative views about the world and yourself. Then they wore gloves to represent how depression can cut you off from the very human touch and love you need. I thought it was a powerful way to show what depression can do to you. Throughout the entire presentation I kept nodding my head— yep, I’ve felt that. That’s right on. Exactly!
He went on to discuss the different types of anxiety and what it’s like to have that. Then he went into the application section— if you have either of these, what should you do? Who should you talk to?
I was so appreciative of one of the bishops (a volunteer lay minister who leads a congregation) who said, “Talk to your doctor.” The presenter agreed whole-heartedly. I shared something that had helped me when I was considering going on medication for my depression: you wouldn’t look down on someone for taking insulin for diabetes. You would in fact encourage them to. Medication for mental illness is the same way. It’s an illness and you need to treat it. The presenter expanded on what I’d said for another five minutes or more. I really appreciated that. As I said earlier, too often getting treatment and help for mental illness is pushed aside when talking about mental illness in a religious setting or is lightly touched on. I hope it helped others in the audience remove a little of the stigma of mental illness or being on meds for it.
The rest of the presentation was more focused on the spiritual side of things. He presented it as mental illness not only damages you physically, emotionally, and mentally, but also spiritually, so here are things you can do to repair your relationship with God and your spirituality. It will also help you as you heal from your mental illness. Not in the idea that you will never have to deal with them again, but that you’ll be able to function again and God will heal the damage done to you by your illness. His suggestions were excellent, and deserve a post of their own.
All in all, it was a wonderful evening. It was nice to hear from someone else of my faith talk about their experiences in dealing with depression. Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one dealing with this, so it’s wonderful to hear from someone else and know I’m not alone and to hear it from a spiritual side instead of just the medical or worldly side of things. My relationship with God is incredibly important to me and a large part of why I never even flirted with considering suicide. I have no doubt that without my faith in God; I would have been much, much closer at times to considering that. It scares me to think about where I would be (or possibly NOT be) without my Savior in my life.
Next week I’ll do a post on his suggestions for spiritual healing and repair.