Today, we continue our series Pray A to Z, and D is for Depression & Mental Illness. If you’ve missed a few posts, you can get caught up on the series here.
If you don’t have your printable prayer cards yet, you may download them for free, here.
Many people face their mental health struggles silently and alone for fear of being judged or misunderstood, especially in Christian circles. Today, author Susie Finkbeiner bravely shares her story with us and offers encouragement that we are not alone.
It starts as a dull to my shine, depression does. Inch by inch it tip toes up to me, taking over my emotions all of the sudden. The dull sinks into breathlessness. It steals my energy to do the smallest of things. Breathlessness gives way to thoughts of worthlessness.
“Think positive thoughts,” some say.
But the only thoughts in my brain are of my failings, the ways I hurt people I love, fear that I’ll never be okay again.
Always the fear that, this time, the depression won’t lift. That “mentally ill” will be a name-tag smacked onto my chest.
Depression has been a life-long, on and off struggle for me. When I was a kid, I remember the feelings of it tangling around me and fearing that it was because I didn’t love God enough. The depression bred fear and the fear fed the depression.
Then, as gradually as it attacked, it would recede. The sun seemed brighter, joy returned, my fears eased. Always, though, there was the threat that it could return at any time.
It wasn’t until late into my college career that I put a name to it. I confessed to a friend that I battled depression. The friend, I believe, was well intentioned, but didn’t understand. She asked me why I couldn’t just choose joy. She prayed with me and gave me a hug, expecting my depression to simply lift instantly.
In that moment, I realized that depression, like most other mental health issues, is misunderstood, particularly among faith communities.
According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, one if four adults suffer from some type of mental illness (depression, anxiety disorder, etc.) in the United States. One in seventeen are diagnosed with profound mental illness (such as schizophrenia).
61.5 million Americans have some form of mental illness.
It’s a huge number, isn’t it? When I see a number that large, I feel numb to it.
But when I put a face to the illness, I am able to see it for what it is. A human condition.
Think of it this way, those with mental illness are brothers, neighbors, coworkers, mothers, classmates, best friends. They are raising families and working long hours. They love and are loved. Some of them live in homes to receive the support they need, others function fine. Some are alone and others are treated poorly. Those diagnosed with mental illness exist on a spectrum of lifestyles and beliefs.
We are a creative, intelligent, sensitive bunch. Among us is diversity of thought and capabilities.
We are so many things. But there is one thing we are not.
We are not our illness.
Each person who struggles with depression or anxiety or schizophrenia has a name. Those who live with an eating disorder or neurosis or addictions have identities outside of their illness.
We are not our illness, but there is something we are.
We are made in the image of Creator God. We are precious children of the Heavenly Father.
He sees us, all of us, as we truly are, beyond the illness. Beyond the confusion and pain and helplessness.
He sees us and loves us.
Because of His love, we are not alone.
Susie Finkbeiner is a novelist from West Michigan. Her novels PAINT CHIPS and MY MOTHER’S CHAMOMILE are both available from WhiteFire Publishing. Her third novel CUP OF DUST will release with Kregel Publications at a soon to be determined date.
Susie is a wife, mother of three, and an avid reader. She enjoys time with her family, coffee dates with her close friends, and quiet moments to read and write.
Facebook: Author Susie Finkbeiner
Pull out your D card (download prayer cards here if you haven’t already).
- Write down names of those you know who are struggling with depression, anxiety, and other forms of mental illness.
- Pray they will not feel isolated and alone.
- Pray for greater understanding of this illness and a supportive community.
- Pray for eyes to see those around you who might be silently struggling.
- Ask God to show you how you might encourage and uplift those who are battling mental illness today.
- Pray that Christian communities will be safe places for people to share their mental health struggles.
[tweetherder]We are not our illness. via @SusieFinkbeiner #depression #PrayAtoZ[/tweetherder]
[tweetherder]#Pray for those battling depression and mental health illnesses #PrayAtoZ[/tweetherder]
[tweetherder]Author @SusieFinkbeiner shares her story with us today as we #PrayAtoZ[/tweetherder]
[tweetherder]How can we #pray for those facing #depression? #PrayAtoZ with us.[/tweetherder]
[tweetherder]As we #PrayAtoZ D is for Depression. [/tweetherder]