Fighting the Shame of Depression

After my first real battle with depression I was talking to the women’s pastor at my church about it.  She asked me if I would share about it at an upcoming women’s conference. I knew it would be hard but I wasn’t prepared for just how hard it would be to move from the safety of a few close friends and family members knowing about my struggles to a wider group of people that I did not know very well.

ashamed woman

The feeling of vulnerability was overwhelming.  I remember when the women’s pastor announced the conference in church saying, “…and Tracey Metzger is going to share about her recent bout with depression…” I felt all the blood drain from my face. I felt dizzy and found myself wanting to run out the back door.

Now I know what that emotion was.  It was shame.

Shame is similar to being embarrassed but worse.  It does weird things to your body.  Embarrassing – is tripping up the stairs or having toilet paper stuck on your shoe as you come out of the restroom.  But shame is different.

Shame is not momentary; it takes up residence inside your heart.  And you don’t want to hide for a moment – you want the earth to open up and swallow you.

My shame came from the misguided belief that if I was as strong in my faith as I professed to be that I would not suffer from depression.  Somewhere I had bought into the misconception that if I just prayed enough or in the right way with enough conviction that I would be able to conquer it. Depression makes you feel like you are doing something wrong.  I’ve actually heard people in Christian circles say things like, “Depression is pride turned inward” which only contributes to the fallacy that the person suffering has control over it.

Depression, when it is a result of a chemical imbalance or mental illness is debilitating and not something that someone can just snap out of.  I believe that prayer helps but sometimes it helps in the form of God leading you to the right medication or doctor.  There are testimonies of people that have been delivered from depression miraculously just like there are people that have had tumors disappear.  But there are also people who need medication and still have rough days just like all the treatments in the world cannot treat some major illnesses.

We live in a fallen world where illness – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual abound.  What we don’t need are stigmas and judgments that lead to shame.

But where sin abounds (I believe that the all of the ugliness in the world is a result of the fall of man), GRACE abounds much more. Let us pray for more and more grace so that people who are suffering will not feel ashamed and can get the help they need.

This blog was inspired by the various editorials, posts and blogs I have read in response to the passing of Rick and Kay Warren’s son. The only good that can possibly come from this is more conversation and openness about mental illnesses. Praying for abundant grace, peace and comfort for the Warrens and all who are close to them.