As a Christian that fights mental health issues, I find myself walking a thin line often.
I’ve struggled with depression to some degree since having children.
I come from a Christian tradition that believes miracles still happen and prayer is often the first suggestion when a brother or sister is struggling.
When my first child was about six months old, I asked our church elders to lay their hands on me and pray for healing. As they prayed I felt the depression lifting. I had been miraculously healed.
With my second child, I begged God to lift the depression. I went to the altar multiple times, trusting that if God had lifted the depression before, He could do it again.
But He didn’t.
I started exploring naturopathy and found a doctor that was able to help shift my body back into alignment when my daughter was 9 months old.
I remember walking into a meeting with the realization that I felt ‘normal’ again. The heavy cloud had dissipated.
I believed that instead of a miracle, God had used the naturopath to heal me this time around.
With my third child, the side effects of an anti-nausea medication gave me crippling anxiety and depression. My child was barely the size of a plum and I found myself wishing I could join my best friend in heaven instead of facing depression again.
This time however, the well meaning phrases like ‘I’m praying for you.’, ‘God is working all things out for your good, trials lead to growth.’, ‘It will be worth it in the end.’, just seemed like weak cliche lines that made the speaker feel they had said the right thing.
I didn’t pray for God to lift the depression this time around. I really felt that I was supposed to persevere. For nearly a year, I didn’t feel God’s presence. But I pushed forward, trusting that He was indeed working all things out.
And when I shared that with people, I had many tell me that was simply a lack of faith. Surely God would not want me to suffer this depression. I needed to pray more, ask others to pray, I needed to trust God for a miracle.
Instead, I went to therapy, and it was life changing.
With my therapist’s help, I went from not wanting to be pregnant to bonding with my child, even naming him before he was born.
In spectacular fashion, when they lifted him out of me, the depression lifted. I bonded with my child and felt light.
But that was not the end of the story. When he was about three months old, the depression came back.
And it came back with a vengeance.
I struggled to get out of bed. I struggled to feed my family, do laundry, all the things that a ‘good mom’ is supposed to do.
Nine months postpartum, I was in my therapist’s office crying about my lack of functioning and she said ‘I think it’s time to start exploring medication’.
Let me tell you, medication changed my life. That little orange pill took me from struggling to do basic care tasks, to tidying up after the kids had gone to sleep within a week.
For the first time in what felt like forever, I was functioning – taking care of my family. And I started to get glimpses of enjoying it too.
And herein lays the catch 22, I struggled and still have hard days, and yet I have never stopped praying, reading the Bible or meeting with fellow believers. All the things I had been encouraged to do to find healing.
I wrestled for a long time with that not being enough. Did I not have enough faith? Did God need me to learn something?
But here’s the truth, my brain struggles to make the nutrients that come so naturally to most people. And there is no amount of meditation, prayer and church that can fix that. What can fix it is a little orange pill.
I’ve spent the last few years studying mental health and striving to live well. And walk that line of faith and science.
So many studies reference meditation, prayer, being in a healthy community, as being helpful when tackling depression. I don’t refute that at all.
But I am asking you to consider that maybe depression is like diabetes or a broken arm, and some of our brains need help to function well.
So the next time someone shares their struggle with you, let them know that you are praying for them, absolutely, and then perhaps encourage them to book that appointment with their doctor as well.