Christians get depressed, don't they?

Back in 1988 when I was living and working in Edinburgh I attended a large and lively church. I remember one Sunday feeling very depressed and suicidal. I went to church and afterwards met up with the person responsible for looking after me.I told her how I was feeling.She went off and came back with one of the church elders. After I repeated to him how I was feeling he turned to me and said, "You can't be a proper Christian because Christians don't get depressed." I left the church feeling confused and worse than when I went in.Back home I took an overdose.I didn't know then, but I know now, that this should never have happened.

What is a 'proper' Christian anyway? There is no such thing. God's love is so big that it encompasses everyone. All are equal in the sight of God.He made us all in His image,and that includes those who suffer from mental illness. This experience is not mine alone; I know of others who have been treated in the same way by the church and their Christian brothers and sisters.It is sad and disturbing that this is continuing to happen. Although the churches preach that God loves everyone equally,there seems to be an unspoken exclusion clause regarding mental illness. As sufferers,we already have to cope with the stigma out there. We should not have to endure it as well in the place where all are supposedly equal in the eyes of God.We deserve, and need, to be loved just as much as anyone else.

I have not been to church for many years now.I felt that I was not welcome and I received little help or support. People I thought I could trust turned their back on me and walked away when things got difficult and confusing for me. Fortunately,I have a few special friends who give me so much support and encouragement with my faith that, despite being away from the church, it is still strong and healthy. I am constantly in their prayers and they will answer every question I need to ask,no matter how many times. Their patience and love is a constant in my life, as is the Lord's.

I do not rule out the possibility that one day I will set foot in a church again. For now, my service and worship is in writing poetry,songs and music for the Lord. However, I believe the time has now come for me to do more and reach out to those who are suffering and struggling as I am. If, like me,you are a Christian struggling to reconcile your faith in a God who loves you unconditionally, just as you are, with a mental illness, I would like to hear from you. I live in Newark, Nottinghamshire, and I would like to set up a support group and network so that we can all help and encourage each other.

Please get in touch, whether you are a fellow sufferer, carer, relative or friend. If you have had a positive experience in the church I would like to hear from you too. You may help to provide the hope that many of us need. [The author's name has been changed. Please contact Pepper at CrackedBizkit@aol.com].

[This article first appeared in OpenMind Magazine in Issue 147 in Sept/Oct 2007 and is reproduced with permission]

Pepper, 01/04/2008