Thursday, October 12, 2006

The ultimate long-term antidote for depression

Harold G. Koenig, M.D., in New Light on Depression, the book he co-wrote with David B. Biebel, states that "Love - unconditional love - is the ultimate long-term antidote for depression, for at its core love is connected with faith and hope."

It's too bad that so many Christians have forgotten the example Jesus set for us. He loved everyone, but especially the outcasts, the stigmatized: the prostitutes, tax collectors, people with leprosy. Followers of Christ are called to do the same thing. It is this kind of love that needs to be shown to individuals who suffer from mental illness. Yet, even in churches, we are all too often snubbed, kept at a distance, and judged.

I have been fortunate in being part of a congregation that has been open to learning about mental illness. They have done their best in supporting me and people like me. I know from experience what it means to have the love of godly people. My church friends pray for me, check up on me, mother me when I need mothering. This has encouraged my faith in God, because I see him revealed to me through these friends. Non-judgmental love like this has been hugely helpful for me. I can relax better; I know I'm not alone; I know someone cares.

But not only do they give their love to me. I am not simply a "victim". They've learned that I am someone who can support others as well, when they go through rough times. This may be how I've gained my strength more than anything. When I am well, there are many things I can do to be helpful in the church. So, not only do I receive love, I have many opportunities to give love as well. Support should always go two ways. We give and we accept.

I have talked about Living Room, the faith-based mood disorders support group I've headed up at my church. Tomorrow we have another meeting. This is a place where we can remind each other of God's love and share our God-given love with each other. We'll have a place to talk about how our lives are going. We'll find out that we're not alone in our struggles. I'm looking forward to it. We have no idea who will be coming or how many will be coming, but we'll be ready.

With this church's support and encouragement, my faith has become stronger than it ever has been in the past. I have learned to pray better and to walk closer to God. Through God's love I have become more courageous, more hopeful, and more healthy, mentally.

Unconditional, non-judgmental love - Christian love - is indeed the best medicine of all. And I've found that, the more I give it to others, the more I receive it.


Dobro said...

I tend to agree with you. However, for me, when Christians aren't available or willing, I believe that God sends other people to show some compassion (to me).
I'm glad you are in a church where you get what you need.

Bleeding Heart said...

I am glad that you have found such peace, such support within your community - that is wonderful!

People are too quick to judge and people need to look within themselves and judge themselves before judging others.

Anonymous said...

I have sworn off churches, but if I were ever to go to one (not that I don't want to) yours is exactly the kind I would go to.
I ALWAYS feel condemned by Christians because so many think "if you just gave your life to jesus you wouldn't be mentally ill", which is a bunch of bs.
I agree that you most likely draw your strength from those around you. The only place I've found that kind of support is via blogging. I'm glad you get it in person.

jumpinginpuddles said...

sounds awesome and helpful for those who attend

marja said...

Thank you all for your comments.

dobro: You're right, there are a lot of places to find God - not only within your church friends.

jane: It's for the reasons you state exactly, why I want to work to help educate church people about mental health issues. I've forwarded your comment to my pastor - proof of how valuable our church's openness is.