A Christian Perspective on Mental Health

So, it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything, yeah? That means that what I’m posting now is something that I personally consider to be vitally important for everyone, but also Christians in particular. What prompted all of this, you may ask?

 

My Story

Well, I did. Since the age of six, I have been struggling with various manifestations of OCD, or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. It was probably at its worse when I was younger, and I haven’t struggled with obsessions or compulsions since, but it still comes up in different forms from time to time. This tends to happen when I: 1) Don’t take my medication regularly, 2) Enter abruptly into a period of inactivity. So the reason I’m writing this now is because of those two things. I was incredibly busy and had a structured environment when I was in college, and coming home to total freedom and lack of activity triggered my depression and anxiety. You may be thinking “What the heck? That’s the best part of summer!” That may be true for you, but for me it’s very dangerous. I’m the kind of person that thrives on schedules and activity. So the abrupt change and the lack of medicine resulted in my eventual collapse.

And here’s where I open up to you about my dealings with this disease. First, I’d like you all to remember that it is a disease. I have no control over how my brain functions and it is not my fault if I feel or act depressed or anxious. It’s all in the brain chemistry. Let me introduce you to someone:

Serotonin

This is my good friend, serotonin (AKA the “happy” molecule). Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is connected to feelings of happiness and contentment. Sadly, my body doesn’t produce enough of it, and the little bit that it does produce gets used up abnormally fast.

 

Theological Confusions

I can’t help the way I feel because I cannot, with my own willpower, produce more serotonin. And this, my dear friends is why I abhor anyone that either denies that someone has a problem or tells them not to seek help. The reason I bring this is up is because I tend to see it in many Christians, both my peers and even in those older than me.

There’s this strange notion going around some Christian circles that tries to make us feel bad for seeking mental help. If we’re depressed, it’s because we haven’t found “joy in Lord,” making us bad Christians. If we feel anxious it’s because we haven’t “cast our burdens on Jesus,” also making us bad Christians. If you can’t fix your problems with prayer and your own willpower, then you’re made to feel that you’re just not trying hard enough. Maybe even that you have unconfessed sins driving a wedge between you and God.

All of these things only serve to injure the mentally unstable, even with the best of intentions. The worst thing for anyone with a mental disease to do is convince themselves or let others convince them that there’s nothing wrong and that they can fix it. But as I mentioned before, with something like depression, you cannot fix it yourself. Mental disorders are uncontrollable by nature, so seeking to control them with willpower will always be a fool’s venture. Always.

 

Solutions

So, what can you do? Tell someone who you trust how you’re feeling. Look for a psychologist that is sympathetic to those with mental disorders (not all are, especially counselors). Be open about all of your emotions, even if they seem irrational. Don’t be afraid to embrace medication. Sometimes, people like me simply cannot benefit from counseling alone. We need antidepressants to get us to a place where we can live comfortably. I take Prozac, which is classed as a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor. Basically, what it does is keep my brain from using up its serotonin reserves too quickly, leaving me more content overall. I am not weak because I take this medication, and no one that takes medication for mental reasons is. I consider it to be incredibly foolish not to take medication if it can significantly benefit you.

If you’re still struggling with the question of how God fits in, the answer is everywhere. If you believe (as I do) that all good things come from God, mental healing counts. Taking care of yourself because you are made in God’s image and therefore are infinitely valuable counts. Psychologists and medication exist to assist us in living and functioning well. Denying their value and worth is denying a possible way for God to work in your life through healing.

So, that’s my spiel. It’s probably not very well-written or organized, but I felt that it was necessary to stomp out the idea of self-medicating through willpower and prayer. Those things are important, but if you’re like me, they are not enough.

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