It’s hard to admit how awful the throes of mental illness are. It’s easier when recalled; when rationale has been restored.
It makes little sense now, but I remember rushing to the bathroom, stepping into the bathtub and gripping tight to the rails on either end. If I held on tight enough, I told myself, I could keep from getting sucked into the irrational spiral of depression.
I dreaded these. But there was something I dreaded much more.
This was when my illness would make it impossible to access God. I would pray, and my gasping voice would echo back to me.
Help me, I would wail.
Why won’t you help me? I would ask God. Since the depression, prayer was freakishly different. My illness stripped me of the awareness of God’s presence. I wasn’t trying to run from Him, I was just not well.
Christians who are depressed often feel like failed Christians. It can feel like we don’t follow through on our faith. The gospel always seems to be slipping through our hands. We just can’t get a grip on the hope that seems to be within the quick reach of others around us.
Christians who are depressed can also feel ashamed to reveal a true picture of the faith crisis that mental illness can bring on. It’s brutal on the spirit when we feel like we are not only losing our mind but also our faith.
I’ve been there: the physical distress, the swing of prescription side effects, the war in the head, the theft of faith, and ultimately, the breaking point where you believe it would all be better without you in it.
The mysteries of mental illness means that it takes the shapes of many things - from our biologies to our histories.
Sometimes these mysteries are debilitating. And sometimes, they are a display of the beauty of the shapelessness of God, for we cannot box Him into what we know and understand.
The Father has used mental illness to solidify my understanding of what it means for Him to be present with us.
In the thick of it, my mind may not be able to grasp His presence. Every inch of me can feel like there is no way God can possibly make His way into the depths of fragility and illness with me.
But what I've experienced is this - mental illness cannot erase God. He has written Himself into the very centre of my pain. Without doubt, He is there.
In my limitedness, I have seen that God is way beyond my understanding. His presence goes to the very end of our minds and then, surpasses it.
"If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there." Psalm 139:8