Shame and Mental Illness

Updated: Sep 10

Mental illness causes a lot of shame in our society. I struggle with anxiety and depression, and I have learned some important lessons. Never, NEVER let people know when you are struggling unless you KNOW that they will listen to and support you. Also, use caution sharing with Christians. Sadly, many can’t handle that kind of reveal and will judge you for your mental health issues. If you do have Christian friends who will love and support you in your mental health struggles, you are truly blessed.

Who is Blind?

Anxiety and depression are documented illnesses. They need treatment like high blood pressure, diabetes, or any other illness. They aren’t the result of not praying enough, not embracing your healing, or any other such nonsense. As a Christian myself, I would like to say that I am so sorry if you have ever heard this from another Christian. It is easy to pray for someone, give them some Bible verses, and proclaim them healed. But when healing doesn’t happen, the sufferer gets blamed. Oh, you still have symptoms? Well, you must want to stay sick.

I can’t help but wonder what Jesus would say. When Jesus healed a man born blind, he was asked whose sin cause the man’s blindness. Jesus replied, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned.” The next part of this passage is somewhat mistranslated. “This happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” So, God made him born blind so that Jesus could heal him? No! But this is how the passage is most often interpreted. In the original Greek, the verb used here actually translates this way… “This man was born blind. Now see the works of God displayed” (in his healing). AND, Jesus healed the man on the Sabbath! He made it clear that people were more important than religion. Jesus was making a statement about religious people who think they see but are really blind. How ironic that we still missed the point.

Not Okay

This weekend I realized that I was definitely NOT okay. I have been functioning at a low level of “not okay” since the quarantine began. Well, the stress of everything finally came to a head over the weekend, and I crossed into a very high level of “not okay”. I was not myself at all. Unfortunately, several friends decided to jump on the bandwagon of “You need to get on medication.” The whole situation was handled very badly. They were talking AT me and not TO me. And they weren’t listening. At least, that’s how it felt to me. I was left feeling hurt, attacked, unheard, and very alone. I also ended up feeling like a shitty human being, because one of the people involved told me that I was. This person also told me that unless I got on medication they would not be around me anymore. Yeah. Great weekend. I went into a huge shame spiral.

After talking with my therapist today, I feel a little better. Yes, I have professional support. And she knows my mental health status a lot better than the people who put me through hell this weekend. I was able to be completely honest with her about everything and we came up with a plan to help me cope better. I learned a hard lesson. Choose carefully with whom you share. Even if people care about you, they often handle these situations very badly. Especially in a time like this, when everyone is so stressed out.

I hope that those relationships can be repaired, but right now I don’t know. I was hurt very badly by people I trusted. As crappy as it is, mental illness is still stigmatized. It still causes many people needless shame. Mental illness is not a sign of personal weakness or lack of faith. It is a treatable disease. But the same treatment doesn't work for everyone.

If you need support, seek out a therapist and only talk to them. Find a support group. Journal. Leave friends out of it. Do your best to put on a happy face around them. I hate to say that, but please learn from my mistakes. For what it’s worth, I care and I understand what you are going through. Take care of yourself, and I pray that you find a good support system.