A Depressed and Anxious Christian
“Christians can’t suffer from anxiety or depression…That’s like an oxymoron.”
“God would never give a follower of his a mental disorder like depression that they would need medicine to overcome.”
“Anxiety and depression aren’t real mental disorders. They are just a lack of faith, trust in God, and prayer.”
These are direct quotes that I have heard from Cairn students. As a Christian who suffers from both anxiety and depression, I can attest that these diseases are real and valid.
I get so frustrated when people diminish the reality of anxiety and depression. These are not the results of needing to acknowledge God, but are legitimate medical conditions.
Sure, I can pray and ask God to remove my diseases altogether or to alleviate the symptoms. And he can. But he doesn’t have to. And continuing to suffer with them does not deter from the reality of my salvation. In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, Paul talks about his “thorn in the flesh” that he asks God to remove from him. I have always related to this passage, and can understand Paul’s frustration in wanting his ailment to be removed. His response of thankfulness when God chooses not to remove his suffering inspires me. Part of our growth includes accepting our struggles and allowing our weaknesses to showcase Christ’s strength. I want to be more like Paul and allow my anxiety and depression to point to Christ.
What is it like to be a Cairn student who struggles with anxiety and depression? Being a student in general is very difficult undertaking for someone with these medical conditions. You desperately want to put your academics first, but sometimes your body needs to come first. It can be frustrating to feel misunderstood and judged by fellow staff and students, particularly those I mentioned before that don’t acknowledge the reality of these diseases. I think this judgment is why the majority of Cairn students who have these difficulties (and others, such as ADD, ADHD, bipolar disorder, etc.) neglect to be more open with their struggles.
Some days, getting out of bed is nearly impossible. While most sleep-deprived students understand this struggle, the desire to avoid the day can be crippling to a depressed or anxious student. Being stressed or tired is nothing compared to having clinical depression or anxiety. Using those terms interchangeably shows a lack of understanding of what these diseases are actually like, and can bring about resentment for those who suffer from these medical conditions. The amount of times I’ve thought, “No one here understands me” is unreal. Being an adult and being a student are difficult enough on their own without having to deal with the realities of mental disorders in addition.
There is a stigma innately connected with anxiety and depression. When I have shared my struggles with these mental disorders with people (including Cairn students) in the past, I have been met with negative reactions in most cases. The person tends to either think I am being dramatic, making it up, or feel uncomfortable interacting with me in the future. These reactions are not the proper way to interact with a person with these struggles. A person with these diseases is not a lesser person, nor are they broken. These individuals should not be judged, nor should they be ignored for fear of causing an outburst for them. This stigma could be eliminated with simple education to those who have misconceptions about these diseases and gentle interaction with grace and love.
People overuse the terms “anxious” or “depressed” to describe everyday emotions and issues. When studying for a midterm, preparing for a presentation, or going to a job interview, people utter, “I am so anxious!” Feeling anxious is not equal to having anxiety. Anxiousness is a feeling; anxiety is a disease. Likewise, difficult circumstances like breakups, family deaths, or financial struggles are trying on a person, but these emotions aroused are not the same as what a person with clinical depression struggle with.
How can we make a Cairn student who has a mental disorder feel more comfortable and welcomed into the body of Christ on campus? First of all, there is a severe lack of awareness on campus to what these diseases are, what they look like, and how they affect a person/student. I desire to see judgment replaced with love. Anxiety or depression and Christianity are not incompatible. Taking medications for a mental disorder is not a sin. I desire to see a deeper understanding of how a Christian can be depressed and anxious and yet still intimate with God. For those students who share these struggles with me, I challenge you, as I myself try to do, to look forward to our resurrected bodies where we will be free of these hindrances. Never trick yourself into thinking you are alone. I am standing by your side, and I hope other Cairn students band together to support these medical conditions.