I’ve delt with mental illness issues the majority of my life. It’s something that I think I’ve always been aware of, but I never received official diagnoses until I was in my teen years (when they were at its worst). I’ve had various amounts of anxiety, depression, suicidal ideations, depersonalization/dissociation.
In my current stage in life, my mental health is in a good place. I’ve spent enough time in therapy that I’ve learned techniques to calm myself down when I’m feeling overwhelmed. I’m cautious of things that trigger me. And most days, I feel fairly Intune to my needs. It has taken years to get to this point and I understand that I am very fortunate to be able to get to a point that I feel able to handle my mental health without any addition help or medicine. And If I needed those things yet, that would totally okay as well.
When I was deeply involved in the church, everyone had various views on mental health. From my home congregation, I mostly got advice such as “Reach out when you need help” (which is great and what I needed to hear) but outside of that building I have gotten some terrible wisdom about my brain health.
From Christian school, bible studies, and family members, here is some of the worst advice I’ve gotten about my personal mental health when I was at my lowest. Here are just a few quotes that I’ve been told throughout the years.
“Just give your burdens to Jesus” ~ That’s an idea, but where am I going to get some serotonin from?
“Pray god will take it away” ~ I’ve been praying that since I was 8 years old, and so far, that hasn’t happened.
“You are suicidal because you are dealing with demonic activity” ~ Well that’s spooky
“You are being selfish” ~ I cannot control this. Being unalive felt best because I felt like I was a burden to everyone
“You are made new in Christ, so there’s no need to be depressed” ~ You wouldn’t be telling me this I had a disease in a different part of my body
“PTSD, isn’t that what soldiers get? You’ve never been to war” ~ You don’t know my story. Trauma comes in many forms.
“Just eat! If you continue this way, you will become infertile and I know you want kids” ~ I have crippling anxiety of getting bigger, and I don’t want kids anyways.
“You aren’t in church enough” ~ Between church, chapel, and bible studies, I’m at some sort or religious activities at least 4 days a week.
“You aren’t a good Christian if you see a therapist” ~ My therapist is a bad ass and I wouldn’t be alive without her.
“Your schedule is too busy, you need to learn how to relax” ~ That may be true, but I also need to stay busy and have reasons to stay alive.
“How’s your gut health? Have you tried Kombucha?” ~ I don’t know and Kombucha tastes like vinegar covered in sugar.
“Have you tried essential oils? Lavender helps with anxiety” ~ Lavender smells pretty but you are a part of a pyramid scheme
“Have you tried exercising?” Honey, I barely have the energy to get out of bed
“You don’t medication!” ~ Yes, yes, I do
“Your body is temple! You need to be taking care of it” ~ My body belongs to me, and nobody else.
“How often are you reading scripture?” ~ Honestly, not often. What does that have to do with anything?
“Jesus loves you. Isn’t that an enough reason to live?” Not really. It feels like hell here and heaven kind of sounds nice
“If you are suicidal, just know that god will send you to hell” ~ That’s terrifying but not scripturally correct
These quotes are just the tip of the iceberg. The majority of these were given out of love and my intention is not to blame anyone for the advice that caused harm. There is so much stigma about mental illness within the church. I think that there will never be change until we begin viewing mental health as the same thing as physical health and not as a “Spiritual issue.” You wouldn’t tell someone to pray away something like diabetes, you would tell them to seek medical attention but yet that’s the advice given for mental illnesses.
As Always, feel free to reach out
Photo Credit: Leona Lane Photo