I hold some anger towards God for my adolescent and teenage years. As if they aren’t bad enough I had a mental illness on top of it. It wasn’t easy to navigate those murky waters while my boat had a giant hole in it. I spent many nights crying and asking what I did so wrong to God to deserve what I was going through. I hear that wounded part sobs and it just crushes me that my 16 year old self thought that God was punishing her with a mental illness.
It is partly because of those feelings that I don’t talk about my mental health struggles to often. There is still a part of me that feels deep shame, mostly from outside sources.
I became a Christian when I was pregnant with Abigail and I have often spoken about how fast things changed.
I was medicated, pregnant and full of Jesus Freak-ness. I thought I was better, that God had fixed my depression and PTSD. It was assumed that he did because the change seemed like it happened overnight.
Now I see that it was because I left an extremely abusive relationship and was free from all the toxicity that went along with it.
Towards the end of my pregnancy I started to get comments about my medication. Things like “When are you going to get off that medication” and “It doesn’t seem like you are really trusting God” Those messages would be repeated to me for the next three years at the church I started going to upon moving home.
The message was very clear: “Christians who take medication and go to secular therapists are not trusting God”
The underlying mentality was the suffering is beautiful thought. Often compared to Paul and the thorn in his side people would tell me “Pray for healing” “Trust God” and “Medication really is bad for you and you shouldn’t take it because so and so did and such and such happened” I was anointed with oil as much as I could be, I got saved like every weekend and that third baptism was thrown in for good measure. I didn’t want to fail God in any way.
I was in a relationship with a guy from that church who said to me; after I had just told him that I was suicidal tell me that “We need to pray for three months before talking about medication again”
I wanted to be the dutiful, submissive girlfriend I thought I was supposed to be and said ok, that I would wait.
It was an incredibly difficult time in my life. I was struggling in so many areas and trying so hard to keep up with the people around me. I wanted them to really see the joy (that I thought was there) radiate from my smile. In reality I was depressed, suicidal and ready to walk away. I didn’t because I wanted to remain a people pleaser and a good Christian woman.
I was being mentored by a woman who said to my face that mental illness doesn’t exist and that psychiatrists and therapist are tools of satan. As much as I wanted to stick around and be mentored, keeping up my appearance I couldn’t after that. I struggled with my mental health and the church’s response. When she said those words to me I was done.
Thankfully the boyfriend and I broke up a few weeks later and the first thing I did was call a psychiatrist so that I could get back on my medication.
I have been medicated since then and started in therapy, with a surprisingly fantastic therapist. It’s been three years and I have faced several demons (not literal) in that time. The layers of wounding keep peeling back allowing more pain to see the light and be healed. I believe that I was put with this particular therapist for a reason. She does happen to be a believer and that has strengthened my growth tenfold. She has been an integral part of why I am able to stay with Jesus.
I cannot ascribe to the “suffering is beautiful” or “suffering is because of sin” mentality. Life is fucking hard and because abuse happens often it’s victims are left with broken pieces of life. There is no beauty in feeling so suicidal one would do anything to die. I have been there, thankfully I am not anymore. That kind of pain is gruesome. To tell someone in this situation that they need to trust God and pray more is just asinine. The people that I know that have been in that place have said that they blame God for where they are.
I know that the more I heal the more I will grow in my faith. There is a part of me that has to work through my anger at God for those years I was tormented by crazy mood swings, uncontrollable anxiety and fear. The years I spent in and out (mostly in) different psychiatric hospitals in several different states. The deeply entrenched suicidal thoughts and self hate; those years were terrifying. There is no beauty in that.
It should not be this hard. I know many who have left the church because of their mental health struggles.
Even when a big name evangelical loses someone to suicide it still comes back around to trusting God and His plans for our lives.
I doubt that is how God wants it to be. I believe that science and medication and therapists (in whatever form) were given to us by God to use for our good. This is why I don’t struggle with balancing a strung out brain and wanting to please God anymore.
I ache for how many times the “Just trust God” message has been pushed through into my friends ears.
I long for Jesus to whisper to 16 year old me that it wasn’t her fault nor was it God’s. I had no chance in this world given what I was born into. God didn’t cause nor did he turn away from my abusive childhood. Do I have another answer, no I don’t at least not right now.
However I am learning balance and boundaries, safety and compassion for myself and for those around me, especially where there is deep hurt.
I also know the truth about medication and therapy for me. I have learned what I need to be a whole person, not balancing mental health Bethany and Faithful Jesus follower Bethany.
It has taken a long time for me to get to this place. I am comfortable where I am at, both in my healing and in my faith.