THERE'S NO PRETTY BOW FOR MENTAL HEALTH

CULTURE | 7 mins

I spent a lot of time praying for God to heal me. It didn’t work.

My teenage years and early twenties were really hard. Depressed seems too gentle of a word to describe the way I felt. If you’ve struggled with mental illness in any way, you probably know what I mean. I spent most of my time and energy hiding the fact that I was pretty sick. I’ve dealt with depression, anxiety, and addiction since about 12-years-old. I was totally ashamed of my struggles. I grew up in and around the church, and we didn’t talk about mental illness outside of two occasions:

1) Someone had a friend or family member who struggled. That person usually remained unnamed, and there was a loose association of “crazy” attached to the story.
2) Someone was sharing their story of how they were healed and never dealt with it again.

Needless to say, I was terrified to share anything along those lines. I didn’t want to be judged, but I was desperate for healing. I wanted to get up on the stage and loudly proclaim my own story. I wanted to be free of this porn addiction. I wanted to be filled with joy. I wanted to never deal with anxiety. I prayed, and I prayed, and I prayed. Nothing changed. I was able to muster up courage to invite some people into the pit with me. They prayed for me too. Again, nothing changed. Years passed, and I was still praying and still struggling with the same darkness, plus some. I was so tired. I hated the person I had become. I began to believe that I wasn’t good enough for healing. Maybe God didn’t love me like he loved those other people. I believed I was alone. I believed I would be facing this darkness for the rest of my life.

I started attending a church called Crossroads when I was in college. I began to hear the story of God in a more realistic and relatable way. People were still sharing their stories about healing and freedom, but they actually included the process. “Wait, what? There are steps in between struggle and healing?” I’m embarrassed by how surprised I was by that reality. Nonetheless, my perspective began to change. I started receiving hope in little and big ways. I started to believe I could be free. Today I write this article as a healed and free woman.

Here’s the really short story of how that happened: I started seeing a counselor. Things got better. Then things got worse. Then things got even worse. I started seeing my counselor twice a week. Then I officially broke down and ended up at a residential treatment center because I needed constant supervision. Then I went to an outpatient program. Then I started seeing my counselor again, twice a week. This time my parents came with me. When I wasn’t in counseling, I was actively pursuing mental health in other ways. I worked hard for a long time. I kept on praying. I continued seeing my counselor. I still do. Moral of the story? Holy crap, it was hard! And holy crap, I needed Jesus to give me grace and strength for every moment.

Here’s the hard truth. God clearly communicates to us that life will be riddled with suffering. When I decided to follow Jesus, he didn’t just take my problems away. But He did fill me with hope. He filled me with his Spirit, and he climbed into that nasty pit with me. He totally carried me through. And at the same time, He strengthened me to use my own legs. He hasn’t left me in that process. Not one time. It’s only ever been His grace that propels me forward.

Now here’s the crazy truth. I’m so glad it happened. I wouldn’t change a single thing. How can I say that? Because God brings beauty from ashes. I don’t believe He was happy that I was miserable. I do believe He knew the good that would come.

Important to mention: I still struggle. Sometimes I’m faced with the same challenges. That doesn’t mean I’m not free. That just means I’m a human, and He is still healing me. But I’m glad it happened because now I see my strength. After walking through that darkness, I am absolutely certain that I can walk through the rest of life (as long as that promise remains that God’s going to stay with me—which he does). Oh, and God uses my story all the time. I am frequently presented with opportunities to climb down into the pit with other people so that I can share hope. I love sharing hope!

I do have a pet peeve. It’s that pretty bow that most people want to tie around stories about mental illness. In my experience, our stories don’t just end in some neat or tidy way. I believe there are times when God brings instant healing. I don’t know how or why He chooses to do certain miracles but I think instant healing is the exception and not the rule. Life is both messy and beautiful. If you struggle, there is hope. It’s not an easy journey. It rarely looks the way we want. Your journey will be different than mine. The work you need to do will be different, but you will need to work.

I really understand how overwhelming it may be to hear the words work and effort when it comes to your mental health. When I was in the pit, I didn’t have the headspace to think about all the things that needed to happen between chains and freedom. I rarely wanted to get up in the morning, let alone design my perfect life. If that’s you, I get it. You’re not alone in this fight, but you can’t stop fighting. You are worth the blood, sweat and tears. Make it simple. Take just one action step at a time. Do it today.

Need help coming up with that one thing? I have some suggestions:

  • Reach out to the Concierge Team at the church I’m a part of, because it’s an amazing team. You can live chat at crossroads.net or e-mail Hello@crossroads.net. Wherever you live, whatever you’re looking for, they can recommend resources to help.
  • Go to crossroads.net/mentalhealth, and pick one of the options for help.
  • Call a trusted friend or family member and let them into the pit with you. Then let them help you with this next action step.

Even though our stories or next steps may be different, Jesus is always the same. Prayer alone didn’t save me, but God gave me the strength to fight. Whether you believe in Him or not, ask him to show up for you. He is good even in our darkest days. He won’t leave you. He will strengthen you. I believe you can be healed. I believe that with Him, you are capable of the effort it will take to be free.

Pretty words won’t change your life. This might:

  • Share this broadly or with a friend to start a conversation.
  • Want to talk, but not sure where to start? Call 513-731-7400 or email us to find a next step. It’s free, totally confidential, and zero judgments.
  • Take something in this article and actually do it.