Faith and mental wellness are inseparable. My faith is not in my medicine. My hope is not in my therapist or doctor but in Christ who placed them in my path.
Does God still miraculously heal people? Does He take away their illnesses? Can He lift the stronghold of depression? Can God calm the anxiety-riddled brain? Absolutely! He healed me. He fully restored my health after a three-year mental health battle. My restoration includes daily medicine and an occasional doctor's visit. Two little white pills in the morning and two in the evening have been my regimen for four years. And in those 1,460 days, I have lived a beautiful life.
There are Many Misconceptions in the Church and Society
I can now hear the gasps and uncomfortable shuffling sounds from the church pews. "If only she were living and praying in the full power and authority of Christ, she wouldn't need medicine," some well-meaning Christian might comment. "If only she prayed harder and had more faith, God would heal her," another person might chide in. "If only she would repent of her sinful ways, God would lift her affliction," says the Old Testament scholar on the front row.
Fortunately, I haven't endured comments like the ones above. But having formed friendships with many other Christian mental health advocates, I understand these hurtful words are common. Statements like these have the power to shame and discourage anyone living with mental illness and hinder them from seeking necessary care. The person struggling with mental illness has already considered these "if only" scenarios more than once. And she has whispered countless prayers of healing, deliverance, and freedom from the dark crevices of her mind.
The mentally afflicted Christian has also doubted her faith, trust, and worth a few hundred times and wondered what she did wrong to deserve this thorn (2 Corinthians 12:6-10). Maybe she has even apologized profusely to the Lord for not overcoming her weakness quicker, fearing disappointing God, who is often her only source of comfort.
Although we can be a presumptuous bunch at times, you can't blame the church alone, as mental illness is largely misunderstood and stigmatized by the general society. I thought I knew what the face of mental illness looked like until the only face I saw was the one reflected in the mirror. My shame didn't come from the church. Instead, shame came from my uneducated assumptions, pride, and stereotypes.
"Strong people don't need help."
"Mind over matter. It's that simple."
"This doesn't happen to people like me."
"You can snap out of this."
My prideful mindset led to the postponement of my healing. I leaned on my own knowledge and strength instead of trusting the Lord and found myself at the bottom of the rabbit hole. I relentlessly fought to treat my mental illness naturally and then reluctantly with therapy. And this type of treatment does work well for many people, but it wasn't the path of healing Jesus laid out for me.
For well over a year, I thought I had won. I took vitamins and amino acids specifically compounded and prescribed by medical doctors for my condition. And as Hank Williams says, "I saw the light." The suffocating depression lost its grip on me. I overcame insomnia. My anxious heart calmed, and my days became "normal" again. It was blissful until I woke up in the hospital again due to psychosis one random day a year later. Then I had to start over again.
Why Do We Treat the Invisible Disease Differently?
A question that begs to be answered is why we treat mental illness differently from physical illness. Why is there a stigma attached to an anti-depressant or anti-anxiety med, but not with high blood pressure medicine? Can't God regulate blood pressure without medication just as easily as He can restore mental health without a prescription? Yes, He certainly can! The answer to why He heals some people and not others is not for us to understand (Isaiah 55:8-9).
There has been a church history that encourages people with physical illnesses to seek medical professional care. The church prays and praises the ultimate Healer for working through health care providers to treat physical conditions while simultaneously ignoring that God will also use therapists and psychiatric treatments to treat the invisible diseases.
As Christians, we miserably fail when we equate treatment of mental disorders as a lack of faith or view depression or anxiety simply as a result of sin one must repent of to achieve miraculous healing. There are many testimonies of miraculous healing and deliverance from the depths of depression, anxious thoughts, and other mental disorders. I love hearing these testimonies! And there are many more testimonies, like mine, where Jesus used modern medicine, science, and doctors to restore health.
However, many haven't been gifted the reprieve from their disorders or the associated rooted trauma because they are ashamed to seek professional help due to their religion and the antiquated ideation that mental illness is always a spiritual disorder.
Thankfully, there is a sizeable movement between the church and mental health professionals to better understand and treat the complexity of brain and mood disorders. Hope Made Strong, an organization working to equip and train the church, states, "Approximately 43.8 million people per year experience some kind of mental health concern. Mental illness is not biased and can affect anyone—our neighbors, friends, and even the person you sit beside in church. However, 49% of pastors say they rarely (if ever) speak to their congregation about mental health."
Is Mental Health Medication Always the Answer?
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to mental health treatment. Treating a mental disorder is often a combination of therapy, counseling, physicians, medicines, and faith. One psychiatrist told me that diagnosing and treating mental illness is like throwing a dart at a dartboard. I found him to be one of the honest physicians, so I kept him.
There is still so much unknown about diagnosing and treating the most complex organ in the body. There is a trial-and-error aspect of mental health medicine to achieve the correct levels. Having gone through failed treatments, I can attest to the trial and error of medicine that treats brain and mood disorders.
I do not diminish the challenges associated with finding the proper treatment supervised by licensed medical professionals. While titrating off an incompatible medicine, I had to stand over the sink to eat because the nausea was overwhelming. I don't say this to frighten but to give an honest account. It’s not an easy process. Every prescription comes with a ten-page pamphlet of potential side effects, even vitamins. But all of the adverse side effects subsided once I found the proper treatment prescribed by a doctor who had more experience with my disorder. This doctor was an answer to many of the feverish prayers prayed around the clock.
I always tell people I'm not pro-medicine or against medicine – I am pro-treatment. Finding the best treatment for you or a loved one can take time, but don't give up and do not be burdened by shame. Pray, trust, and surrender to the One who will lead you to a path of healing.
Treating your mental health disorder will not make Jesus love you any less. His love for you is unconditional. You can have a beautiful, intimate relationship with Christ through every season of your life.
Faith and Mental Health are Symbiotic
Various medical professionals who treated me directly, and others who barely know my history, have called me a "success story." Sadly, the "success stories" are not as prevalent as the alternative, from what I gather. I will not downplay my family and friends' role in my healing or the access to good, quality healthcare and the insurance to pay for it. However, without hesitation, I will tell you Christ is the one who saved me. He is the reason my story is considered a success. He is the One who met me in the dark and picked me up off a cold concrete floor one night. Jesus is the ultimate Healer and I have promised to tell my story despite wanting to hide those years in a closet.
Faith and mental wellness are inseparable. My faith is not in my medicine. My hope is not in my therapist or doctor but in Christ who placed them in my path. I know at any moment, my treatment can fail. I can do my part to maintain health, but, ultimately, I have no control. So I place my trust in the One who is in control.
There is Always a Story
I thought my story was rare until I started to write and speak about it. Then I heard a lot of "me too's." Know this friend – you are not alone in your struggle. One of the greatest lessons I've learned through my trial is to lean on the side of comfort and compassion instead of assumption or judgment. We, believers, are together in our sufferings, just as Christ suffered for us and is always with us. We are to strengthen our sisterhood and brotherhood, console, and encourage each other through the hardships (1 Peter 5:9).
Charles Spurgeon preached the lesson of empathy over judgment well. He was a renowned preacher who also battled depression, and his life is perhaps one of the best cases against the view of mental illness as a spiritual disorder. He preached it well when he wrote these words, "Especially judge not the sons and daughters of sorrow. Allow no ungenerous suspicions of the afflicted, the poor, and the despondent. Do not hastily say they ought to be more brave, and exhibit a greater faith. Ask not 'why are they so nervous and so absurdly fearful?' No… I beseech you, remember that you understand not your fellow man."
Going through a mental health crisis broke me from my prideful expectations and ignorance and gave me the gift of freedom to live according to His will. If God had healed me instantly, I wouldn't have heard the stories of fellow patients who forever changed me, opening my eyes and ransacking my soul with humility. I wouldn't have felt the strong pull of conviction and empathy tug on my fragile heartstrings. And I wouldn't have a beautiful, genuine story of God's faithfulness, redemption, and restoration to share with you.
So is Mental Health Medication a Miracle or Mirage?
Like all medicines, it's not a miracle in itself, but it does help some people (like me) cope with and process things better so they can live the life and purpose Jesus has set for them. And there is no shame in wanting to live a full life of glorifying God!
Photo Credit: © Unsplash/Jude Beck
Darcie Fuqua is a Business Analyst, Auburn Grad (War Eagle!), Christian blogger & podcast host, and mental health advocate. She is from the deep south of Alabama, where she currently resides with her husband, two energetic fun-loving boys, and a dog named Charlie. She loves sinking her toes in the sand, cuddling with her boys, and having great conversations over a table of good food. You can read more of her writing on her website www.leightonlane.com and connect with her on Facebook and Instagram. Check out Darcie’s latest project as cohost of Therapy in 10.