Conversations about mental health are becoming more and more common in the church, and it’s beautiful. It’s beautiful to here people exposing their own secrets and finding themselves greeted with warm welcomes into the light, and a quiet but affirming, “me too.” But as we have these conversations there’s something that I can’t help but think.
You are more than your depression. You are more than your anxiety. You are not your mental illness. Please, know this. Please.
There will be days when you feel consumed by the darkness of depression, lost in the tight knots that anxiety form within you, but don’t believe the lie that all you are is what you feel in that moment. You are more than what you feel. You are more than your illness.
When our conversations speak of people as defined by their illness, we fall into the trap of despair. When we speak only of how we can care for those with mental illness, and not how we love them beyond their illness, then we believe that they are what they have. And they are not.
I’ve got a friend who loves tea and colours and beauty. She’s beautiful and vibrant and has a sense of humour that is akin to my own and we seem to speak the same language of life – a hesitant stepping into what God would have for us, with worry of what could come next, and hope that it will be better than other things we have known. I do not look at my friend and see her illness. I look at her and see my friend, who is sometimes gripped by anxiety, but even when she is, she is still my friend and I love her like my friend, not like an illness. There are ways to love her when she is in the midst of her anxiety, but those ways are determined not simply by her illness but by our friendship and by what she loves and needs.
I do not love the illness she has. I do not love my own illness. We live with our illness and we learn to treat our illness like that black dog you hear spoken off – something to tame and live with – and sometimes it is all you can see but it is not what you are. It is something other than you. It is.
And so when all you know is what you feel and what you feel is caused by your illness and your illness seems to have become you, remember this…
You are loved. You are known. You are brave. You are talented. Your smile brightens someone’s day. Your voice is a welcome addition to conversations. Your eyes have a spark that will not die out so easily. Your heart holds hope for a better tomorrow. Your hands are capable of changing this world, in ways big and small. Your feet will carry you into the sunshine and into the world when you’re ready to face it. You are loved. You are so loved.
You are not your depression. You are not your anxiety. You are not your mental illness.
You are you.
And you are precious in His sight. And you are precious in ours too.