Depression: Why religious counseling didn’t work for me

We are all feeling some type of way about the recent suicide incidents on the news lately. It’s nothing short of disturbing but perhaps, inevitably, it’s finally opening conversations about how much we really know about mental health, the stigmatization and general reception to its causes.
I have read many comments like “ What could possibly cause someone to take her life?” “How can one kill themselves over a boy or school work?”
There are also the ones who say “Only God can really protect his “own” from tragedies like this; That when we really begin to understand the things of God, it is then that we will have peace of mind.” Perhaps.

Pause.
There’s also a lot of us who know what a low point is, where nothing makes sense anymore and you’re pretty sure everyone is better off without you around. When finding peace of mind is like using your bare hands to dig in beach sand for gold.

In other words, we can relate.

It’s always easier to throw the God factor in there especially when you cannot reconcile the suicide victim’s reasoning with yours.
But we still must ask, where do you go when you feel you have reached your lowest point? Who do you seek help from? The church, family, or friends?

I can only infer from my own experiences. The church failed me.

In January, I was going to experience what most girls would consider their happiest day. For many reasons, that did not happen. I will reserve the details for another post. Needless to say, for weeks on end, I went through waves of emotion that hit me concurrently. I didn’t know it was possible to feel fear, anger, shame, embarrassment, despair, heartbreak, and loss at the same time. There were days I stared at the walls all day, blank and lost.
I distinctly remember driving on the N1 highway and having a powerful urge to leave the steering wheel and letting the car do it’s worst.
Social Media did a number on me too. My constant question was “ When do I get to be celebrated? When do I get to matter? I was broken.
I can tell you my family were on a call with various men of God, who kept prayer with me and tried to counsel me.
The one thing I kept hearing was to stay strong, cast my burdens on to Jesus and stay strong.
But you see when you are going through a crisis, you know deep inside, you must stay strong, you know whatever the outcome is, that’s the way to go.  But please tell me how I do that? Why deny or refuse to deal with the feelings that are taking over you?
Because the truth was I did not want to stay strong because I did not know how to do that.

If there was a plug I could use to stop my tears every 3 am in the morning, I’d have bought them.
I didn’t feel better when a verse was thrown at me. I couldn’t pray because there were simply no words. I couldn’t get angry because guess what: The Battle is the Lord’s.

What I am trying to say is while my Christian principles teach me ideas that ensure that my life, my purpose is orchestrated by God, that he is the author and finisher of my faith, (I still believe that.)  when I really needed an outlet, when I was second-guessing my worth, and wondering what the fuck just happened? I didn’t get that.
Even in my turmoil, I felt pressured to be proper, to comfort, to behave acceptably. No one was asking me to feel through things, no one was telling me that it is ok to feel angry or frustrated. “I just needed to calm down and have faith.”

How do you that?
“I was told to ask for forgiveness for all my sins and then i would be free”
“ I was told that some curses live after us and until they were broken, i would not be free”
“ I was told my problems had already happened to someone else, this one is even small, just pray pray pray. Yeah, that didn’t help either.
It moved nothing forward. I was still stuck in the same place I was weeks after.

In the attempt to help me, i felt labelled as someone with a problem. An albatross hanging over my head. I was doomed until the spiritual air was cleared.
I felt left with no purpose, and no out.

How could i move on? No answer. What could i do to find new meaning to my life and to my dreams? Do not get me wrong, I have long realized that, you can only find the resolve to alter your circumstances within you. Human as we are, sometimes, however, we all need someone to hold our hands properly on that journey to breakthrough.  I didn’t find it with spiritual or religious advice. It was either the wrong things to say or not enough said.The highest form of shame and despair by association came from My Church or rather the people. Whatever.
What i am trying to say is that my faith is powerful, I try to show my love for Christ in most things i do. But the systems of the church is too entrenched in ideas which make it hard to break away, roll up sleeves and really help a person. The intent may be right but the approach is horribly wrong and sometimes, costly.

People are looking to be saved everyday. People call on their faith because they believe no matter the trial, there is hope, joy and peace someday. There are the days where hope can sustain and even rejuvenate.

But how do the people of faith reach to out to hold me up when my hope is gone?
At the core, people are looking for someone they can talk to without judgement or prejudice. People do not want to be strong all the time and they need someone to say that’s ok. People need to know sometimes you simply cannot have a quick turnaround and get back on the horse. It does not make you weak. People do not need belittling, condescension, or even hard and fast religious rules to get past their problems. NOTHING is ever black and white.


When she becomes ready to let out her biggest fears, “mistakes” {I put this in quotation marks because sometimes, there aren’t mistakes at all}, who will be there to really listen?
Anyway, It’s been two months and counting, since that low point. I left my church and nobody really asked. But that's really ok.  I have actually felt lighter than i have in a long time. Some days are harder than some. But I have a new perspective and new drive. My walk with God is ever-evolving and i am happy I could remove myself to think independently about what i needed for myself.

At the end, the strength came from people. Mother, sisters and new-found friends who never fail to hold my hand, with no questions asked.
I truly believe that, that was the way God showed up.