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"The Myth of the Mental Illness"

Updated: Aug 30, 2019


You have a roof over your head, clothes on your back, food in your stomach and money in the bank. You have friends and family around you. Even simpler, you're breathing. You have a beating heart and a working mind. You were able to see another morning today. Therefore, if someone were to ask, "What do you have to be depressed about?" you should say nothing. 


...Right?


Or, could it be that depression doesn't discriminate? Could it be that all of your possessions, your health, your friends and family, your success doesn't make you immune to depression? Could it be that good circumstances don't protect you? When you laugh, does that mean you're alright? Could it be that depression isn't just "having a bad week"? Or perhaps depression isn't a sign of ungratefulness? 


These questions challenge the myths of mental illnesses—in this case: depression—as we know it—the idea that living comfortably means your healthy mentally. It's a myth that many people believe. Even worse, a myth that a lot of people teach. Yet, we turn on the news and see some of the most successful, wealthiest people alive resort to suicide because of how unhappy they were. It's a tragic thing in Hollywood to see celebrities give themselves away to a handful of pills, a rope, a gun, a jump—not wanting to speak up before because "What do they have to be depressed about?" 


Right?


Then there's the stories that we don't hear about. A kid in Washington committing suicide because of bullying. A teen in Idaho ending their life because they didn't think they were good enough. An adult in Maine who works 9-5 taking their life because they've had enough. People everywhere—crying out for help. People with scholarships, promotions at work, football jerseys, gold medals, diamond earrings. Others looking at their lives with prejudice and jealousy, thinking, "What do they have to be depressed about?"


The truth is that depression doesn't care if you're living the most luxurious life. Nor does depression care if you're living the poorest. It doesn't care if you're the healthiest in the world or lying in your death bed, if you have the best clothes or none at all. Anyone can struggle. Depression shows no oppression. 


And this includes Christians. 


Because of my faith, I am compelled to mention that depression will take anyone under its power, regardless of whether or not they wear a cross around their neck. Many wonder if believers of Christ can have the joy of the Lord and still end up in a fight against depression, or have the peace of God and struggle with anxiety. Is it true that Christians can't struggle with this, or is that just a myth too?


Well, let's see. 


When I hear the question, "What do you have to be depressed about?" I am reminded of a woman in the Bible named Hannah. She had a closed womb, couldn't have children, and fell into a deep, bitter depression. 


"In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the Lord." (1 Samuel 1:10 NIV) "I am a woman who is deeply troubled." ... "I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief." (1 Samuel 1:15-16 NIV)  


And, in her weeping, her husband asked—in my opinion—a very insensitive question. He asks in 1 Samuel 1:8, "'Why are you crying, Hannah? Why aren't you eating? Why be downhearted just because you have no children? You have me—isn't that better than having ten sons?'" (NLT). 


Sounds like "What do you have to be depressed about?", doesn't it?


Even further, this story disproves the myth of the mental illness. Hannah's husband recognized her depression, considered it ungrateful as he was her husband, and yet the Bible shows us that she was still in deep anguish. It didn't matter who or what Hannah had. She still struggled. She had a husband, but she still wept. She prayed, but only out of the bitterness of her soul. 


And so it is with us. 


We may have plenty of friends, a loving family, a big house, a full wallet. And still, we can struggle—not because of what we have but because depression has no preference. Rich, poor, White, Black, young or old.  It doesn't matter. 


What matters is that we keep fighting—even if that only means getting out of bed in the morning. Despite the long days and the dark nights, what matters is that we keep pushing through and endure to the end. And, whenever you feel that you're alone, know that I am one who has to fight my own battle too. Not to mention the millions that are too afraid to admit their own war. We all struggle. It may not be with depression, but perhaps another mental disorder, an addiction, a struggle with finding out who they are. Yet, I believe in the same way we all struggle, I believe we all will win too.

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