Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness (c)2015 Nancy Virden
Callie* had been feeling low. She couldn’t shake a sense of discouragement and lack of purpose. Tomorrow seemed too much; she thought it would be okay to not wake up in the morning. Remembering that exercise is rumored to restore a good mood, off Callie went to the gym. On her way home, she sang along with her favorite CD.
Carl* had lost his job, and his wife was threatening to leave. He grew listless and said he felt as if he had something heavy on his chest. One day he decided to check out the vitamin section at the local drugstore. There he found Ginseng, tried it, and as time passed began to experience his spirits lift.
Janice* had been reprimanded by her boss. She felt angry, and humiliated. Worse though, was the fear of losing her job. With little children to raise as a single mother, she already had an uphill battle. This was too much. For days her feet dragged as if tied to bricks. At work, she did her best to appear as if everything was normal. Her heavy feelings faded within a few weeks.
Sharon* didn’t believe she had any reason to continue her life. She figured her small children would be better off without her. Everything she had tried to make life work had failed. Failure and loser pierced her thoughts. For months, Sharon had been fighting depression and now was ready to end the struggle permanently.
I am not a mental health professional. I have no diagnostic skills. These stories are people I know or have heard about. None of these scenarios can represent the scope of depression, nor are they intended as a type of self-diagnosis or plan of treatment.
People can experience depression at varying levels and throughout a lifetime. One man I knew who felt he maybe had SAD (Seasonal Affect Disorder), criticized those who take antidepressants due to his ability to overcome negative emotions each spring. Judgments like that are unfair.
We’ve heard the controversies – vitamins, exercise, “natural” remedies, positive thinking, faith, theories, and so on. A voice is loud one moment, and the next an opposing opinion screams from the headlines. As long as we assume all depression = all depression, hurting people may be discouraged from finding help. What if Samuel told Janice to “just get a good night’s sleep”? Is Ginseng going to protect Sharon from a suicide attempt?
God has, in his graciousness, given us options for healing. Therapy, doctors, hospitals, medications, exercise, prayer, diet… all have helped individuals with differing conditions gain a foothold against depression.
It is unhelpful at best to apply a one-size-fits-all solution to depression. At worst, it is dangerous to try.
NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.
*not real names; some stories are composites
*picture from qualitystockphotos.com