When I did speak to some people about depression I was met with a mixed response; well-meaning people said some non-productive things. One friend, who is a faithful Christian, told me that, “It was a spiritual problem and I didn’t need a diagnosis.” I felt even weaker, “He’s right,” I thought, “If I had a better prayer life and closer relationship with God, I wouldn’t feel the way that I do.” Those feelings were what caused me to stay quiet.
I would panic. I didn’t understand what was going on. My heart would race, my palms would sweat, and my body felt like it belonged to another world, but as a little girl all that I could explain to my mom was “that I felt weird.” Throughout my childhood I experienced situations like this. I lived in fear, but not the type of fear that could be silenced by a calm voice or reason. My mind spun, my brain hurt, and I often felt panicked.
Let's imagine that one day in Phys Ed class you're playing volleyball and you twist your ankle while you dive for a save. Everything feels all right, but you wake up the next morning with a giant bruise, a swollen ankle and a lot of pain. What would you do? Most likely you'd go to the doctor's. In fact, if you didn't go, but kept limping around insisting you were all right, your friends would probably drag you there themselves.
We know when it's important to get professional help with our physical ailments. It just makes sense to us. But as a society we have problem seeking professional help with our mental health. We often label people with mental illnesses as 'crazy,' and think that if we can't take care of issues that affect our mental health (like stress, anger, or loss) then we must be weak.
The problem with the self-help phenomenon is it can gives us the illusion that we can actually fix ourselves without the help of God. Instead of dealing with our hurt, sin, and deep issues, we learn strategies for coping and hiding. We're just putting band-aids over our gaping, oozing wounds.
In high school, I hid my wounded-ness and deep insecurity behind my list of achievements. With three varsity sports, student council, shiny awards and leadership roles galore, I looked like I had my act together. But inside, I never thought I was enough. I was never pretty enough, smart enough, or funny enough. I believed lies about myself that bound me. I thought the shame and pain I carried inside from past hurts could never mend. So I just coped. I kept pushing through and pretending I was okay when I wasn't.