This month is Mental Health Awareness Month. For many of us, mental health was never on our radar as children. For me, it was. As a young child, I was depressed. I was no stranger to depression because I saw my mother struggle. Her journey with mental illness began in adolescence, when much of mental health was crazy experimentation with the use of horse tranquilizers and things that would now be considered inhumane. The worst of her journey hit when she was in her thirties. It would be something that would change our family forever.
I remember my mother being hospitalized when I was in first grade. If my memory serves me well, she did not return until I was in sixth grade. The visits were very frequent for about two to three years. Repressed memories of sexual abuse resurfaced during this time, and she was facing things that were what I call “hellacious”. I am an only child, and this caused my Dad and I to really lean on each other. I was going through those awkward middle school years during this period, so life was challenging.
I faced my own journey of depression in 2010 when I admitted to my doctor that I was depressed. After two years of being a “guinea pig”, I was referred to a psychiatrist who treated both my depression and the new “resident” of my life also known as General Anxiety Disorder. That began the most stable years of my life.
I am happy to say that my depression and anxiety are, for the most part, under control. My mother is also experiencing her best days. She still has bad days. So do I. But she and I can both testify to how God has used these difficulties to broaden our ability to minister to people.
If you don’t understand mental illness, I encourage you to do some research. The saddest thing I see is that some of the ones who are least educated in this area are those in the church. We want to blame it on demons, sin, and a lack of prayer, Bible reading, and faith. The worst thing we can do is be ignorant on the matter.
To those who struggle, I admire you for waking up to face another day. I know it’s difficult. To those who love someone with mental illness, be understanding. Hang in there. Don’t criticize. Just be present. To those with the right knowledge, share it.