One day in the early fall of 1992 I simply couldn’t fight anymore. I was co-host of “The 700 Club with Dr. Pat Robertson” but on the inside I was falling apart. I stood at the edge of the ocean in Virginia Beach and all I wanted to do was to keep on walking until the waves were over my head. The only thing that stopped me was the thought of my mother receiving a call to tell her that once more she had lost someone she loved under the water. Instead I ended up in a psychiatric hospital for a month, diagnosed with severe clinical depression. For me, I felt as if I had gone to hell. I had been running from that place all my life. I had yet to understand that sometimes God will take you to a prison to set you free. In the ashes of my former life I discovered a life worth living, based on nothing I brought to the table, but on the fiery relentless love of God.
I still take medication. I take it each day with a prayer of thanksgiving that God had made this help available to those of us who need it but I see so much that grieves me.
We, as the Church, do not handle mental illness well. Because it doesn’t show up on an X-Ray we doubt its validity and make those who are already suffering, suffer more. We accuse them of secret sin or lack of faith. One of the saddest conversations I’ve ever had was with a mother who showed me a picture of her beautiful twenty-five year old daughter.
“My daughter has struggled for years with depression but she started to work with a church that doesn’t believe Christians should take medication. My daughter took her own life.”
Are there situations where people are depressed by circumstances or sin or the weather, of course there are but mental illness is a real disease that for many can be treated so that they are able to live meaningful, beautiful lives.
Mental illness has very little curb appeal in the Church but it’s time to talk, to be open, to be loving and supportive, to stop shaming those who suffer in ways too deep for words.Although we continue to mourn with Rick and Kay Warren, God is bring good from their tragedy with all the discussions about mental illness, depression and suicidal thoughts on Christian websites. The church has got to learn how to handle this better.