I am a Christian and am depressed – do I need a specialist?

About 120 million people worldwide suffer from depression, which means that depression does not choose. It can affect anyone, regardless of their place of residence, material, social status or religion. Depression is a disease of civilization, the causes of which are complex and constantly researched. You can certainly include environmental, genetic, emotional, biological factors and stressful life events.

But depression is not the only disease identified with brain malfunction – the list goes on: borderline, anxiety, addictions, neuroses, dissociative disorders, and so on.

And I would love to say that Christians are free from all of this, but… .. it would be a very harmful statement. Unfortunately, it is repeated with the stubbornness of a maniac by leading representatives of various religious groups and the suffering themselves.

The happiest people in the world

“We are all happy because they trust in Jehovah. No one is depressed, we need psychiatrists less than anyone else, ”Jehovah’s Witnesses proclaim. Meanwhile, Piotr Andryszczak in his blog cites the study of Zenon Marzec’s text on the mental condition of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I am quoting an excerpt:

“In terms of specific diseases, schizophrenia in the United States is 4-6 times more common in Jehovah’s witnesses than in the rest of the population. Depressions are about 6 to 10 times more common. It is worth emphasizing that the severity of this disease in Jehovah’s witnesses is much greater. The most common are depression, lack of purpose and meaning in life. Nervous diseases concern not only rank and file members of the organization, but also functional and even top management. „

(Based on the research of Prof. Jerry R. Bergman – an American psychologist and sociologist. He is a leading expert in this field in the United States, as well as the author of many books and scientific articles. In addition, he provides counseling and psychological care for over 100 cases of mentally ill Jehovah’s Witnesses)

The entire text is extremely interesting and is available in Polish HERE

English-speaking Readers can directly reach the numerous studies by Professor Bergman.

However, the issue of depression and mental illness in Jehovah’s Witnesses is more complex, since the very doctrine and way of life, as well as the pressure under which believers live, have a very large influence on this issue.

Thus, anxiety states, depression MAY be caused by functioning in a specific religious community. From personal experience and observations, I can boldly indicate such incendiary factors as:

– knowing that you will not be able to meet all the requirements of a given community, that you are constantly doing „not enough” = living in constant guilt.

– doubts that you cannot share with anyone, because certain topics are not mentioned (taboo), you cannot count on honesty, friendly atmosphere and understanding.

– constantly externally compounded (eg church authorities) feeling of guilt caused by the „sin” you are struggling with.

– the feeling of> being left behind <instead of being lined up, the feeling that you are failing God Himself.

– pressure to keep an ALWAYS positive image of your church, which almost always means: living under hypocrisy.

A black sheep

What if you are in a mature Christian community where you find all kinds of support, you don’t feel pressured by its members, and you come home from one of these nice gatherings and want to jump out the window? Or when the night brings you incessant insomnia where you struggle with swirling black thoughts? Or are you crying all the time when you should be so happy as a Christian ?!

When I belonged to one of the Protestant denominations, I lived with a girl who was basically nice to everyone all day and always spoke in a soft, high-pitched voice. However, when she returned to our apartment, she devoured the food, devouring everything she had at hand – then disappearing into the bathroom and getting rid of it.

After a while, I realized that this was how she was reacting to something. As a result, she lived in a certain division.

And I was depressed. After a long absence, I returned to the country where I first thought how wonderful it would be to disappear from the face of the earth, that maybe Jesus will come back and end my suffering. What suffering? I couldn’t name it, but when I returned to Poland, every morning (around 10!) I fought with myself to get out of bed at all. I didn’t have the strength; for the morning toilet, for any activity during the day, for talking to people, and above all, for pretending to be a joyful Christian, which was naturally expected of me. And I had the feeling that I was deceiving everyone around me by preaching fiery words of encouragement from behind the pulpit – quite possibly I wanted to encourage myself, convince myself that „it’s not that bad” or something like that.

During these years, I met many people who were severely depressed – all of them were perceived by the environment as extremely sociable, always smiling and helpful people.
I never judge a book by its cover, a man by his expression.
Depression and mental illness do happen – as does this biblical rain that falls on both the righteous and the unjust [1]

When God is not enough

God is always enough – but He often uses people who are ready to help you. They are not only amateur support groups, but also specialists – therapists; psychologists, psychotherapists, psychiatrists.

Is it right? Listen to this story.

About two years ago, I met Kate. On her initiative, we started talking about faith and it turned out that a few months earlier she had met a group of Christian women – the denomination is of little importance here.

They were joined by Anne, who turned out to be a girl with several mental problems. She must have suffered from depression after losing a friend who died in a car accident for which she assumed responsibility. Huge burden, right?

She thought about therapy, but the aforementioned Christian women solemnly advised her against it, claiming that all she needed was prayers, God, that He was the best doctor. This is true, but …

Anne was in worse and worse condition. A few weeks later, she committed suicide.

Kate was shocked and asked me: Is it wrong to use a specialist or even take medication as a believer ?!

In response to this, I will quote the words of St. Paul recorded in Romans 14: 1-12.

„Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. 2 One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. 4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand. 5 One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. 6 Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7

You know this passage, right? It is concerned with food, but it can be symbolically applied to many areas of a Christian’s life. Also for our topic today.

First: it is about a person who is weak in faith.

Second, does Paul consider such a person inferior in any way? Does he ridicule her/him, humiliate her, patronize her?

Paul has a lot of love because he knows that a Christian is someone who will always be on the way.

Anne was only at the beginning of her journey, she did not have enough faith to throw herself into the deep end, stop taking all medications, cancel visits to specialists and stay at home, closed with her thoughts, waiting for a miracle. She was eating vegetables and needed the help of a man who would know how to help her.

There was no need for extra remorse as she is weak in faith – she did not need to prove otherwise. Not for that time.

Perhaps, if she had obtained specialist help, she would have „pulled herself together” much faster and would have approached the person of God differently! Maybe it would be a good psychologist who would lead her to this place, calmly.

I believe that I will wake up on this doomsday with Anne next to me and together we will enter the eternal kingdom of God.

Perhaps it was a life lesson for Christian girls?

How is it that when a person has a burn that requires medical attention or a aching tooth, he without a shadow of a doubt marches to the right doctor, and when such matters as the brain, psyche, emotions are involved – a Christian is referred to a Higher Power, often referring to to his level of faith?

A tooth, stomach, burn can be healed relatively quickly.

The psyche is a delicate matter, and the consequences of neglect can be dire.

I understand the intentions of those girls, I understand them completely – but because of these deplorable results, I feel very sorry for them at the same time.

Because it’s like seeing a man who is choking, or is having a heart attack, and instead of giving him human first aid (and isn’t that what we were created for?), We raise our hands up and pray, invoking all the powers of heaven.

This behavior is only advisable when the person is electrocuted and stands in the water, and the power socket is out of our reach. Indeed, then only two things remain: prayer and dialing the emergency number as soon as possible.

None of the suffering should have any doubts that God wants to get him out of it and that he is ready to move not only heaven but also earth, in search of people who are ready to help others; do you not yet know God and do not know that He often bakes two things with one stone? Do you know how many testimonies I heard, when a Christian went to the doctor with his ailment, the doctor offered him only palliative treatment or surgery … and after the next test results, the same doctor announced a miracle?

The world is a mutual penetration – as Christians we are sent to different places for different purposes.

Sometimes you need to go to the doctor to hear the verdict, which will then turn into a miracle = a testimony for you and the doctor.

Sometimes you need to see a doctor to find out that you are depressed because of a B vitamin deficiency! – forgive me, but as long as we live on Earth in such and not another body, we are subject to the laws of biology and physics.

I believe that the fact that we know that we need certain vitamins and micronutrients in the right amount for proper functioning is God’s giving us a sense of security based on science, human discovery and logic. In this simple way, we can provide ourselves with what we currently need – it’s like drinking water! Who will deny it? Who will talk me out of it? Note, I am revealing a secret: Jesus also had to drink water to survive.

I have some advice:

– If you suffer from depression, low mood, think about whether the denomination you belong to is not the main cause. If so, don’t hesitate to step back, at least temporarily, to gain distance.

– You do not fail God by being sick or suffering.

– Don’t take responsibility for advertising God! He is good all the time, and whoever is to find out about it will find out sooner or later.

– Have at least one person (human) with whom you can humanely share what you are REALLY going through.

Know that a visit to a specialist does not exclude God’s action or leadership in this matter! Let God choose the right person for you to help you. I prayed for a while to „set up” a healthy appetite – I thought that God would just do a miracle and one day I would wake up „transformed”. I woke up and I received God’s word – that I should go… to a dietitian! I went and I am grateful for the experience!

Dear suffering Christian, do not hesitate to use wise help; involve God in your journey, because maybe someday you will be showing the same direction to others; both for those who settle for vegetables and those who eat meat.

Good luck! Or maybe you have such experience and want to share? Don’t hesitate, use the comment.

[1] Matthew 5:45

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