Sitting on the cold tile floor of my bathroom, tears streaming down my face, I cried out to God for someone to care, for someone to help me. I held my head in my hands and wondered if anyone would find me, if anyone would truly see the pain that I was experiencing. The tears continued to flow, and I saw no answers, no hope, no way forward for tomorrow.
I’d been here before. In fact, tears had been no stranger to me over the last 2-3 years. It seemed like multiple times every week I had some kind of emotional breakdown, whether it was tears or temper. I so desperately wanted emotional stability, but it just wasn’t there. I could only see the bad in situations, was fraught with anxiety about what might happen, and had very little patience for people who didn’t see things my way. I felt with great certainty that people didn’t like me, were out to get me, and were trying to find a way to rid me from their lives.
I used exercise as a way to vent my inner frustrations. I prayed more than ever for God to release me from this emotional prison. I tried to rely on friends for encouragement, but their words were never enough. My family seemed silent and/or oblivious to what I thought was my quite obvious distress. I wrote page after page in my journal, crying out to God through the written word to send relief. It never came.
I questioned God. Why in the world would He refuse to take away this anxiety and depression? I had dedicated my life to His service. I was existing in a culture that was not my own. It was a culture that I loved, a work that I loved, a life that generally filled me with joy. Being a Christian leader was supposed to bring fulfillment. Instead, for me, it brought only discouragement and angst, fear and loneliness.
One day, finally, two dear Christian sisters approached me with the idea of getting help. Medical help. At first, I was filled with embarrassment and shame. What must they think of me? Surely they believe I’m an incompetent and immature girl who doesn’t know how to run her own life effectively. Thoughts of failure ran through my head at warp speed.
But, miraculously, those thoughts were fleeting. The Holy Spirit overwhelmed me with a sense of security in the idea of getting some help. I saw almost immediately that this might be the answer to my many prayers, the light at the end of my sickeningly dark tunnel. So I agreed. To the doctor I would go.
I saw both a psychiatrist who prescribed some mental health medications for me, as well as a psychologist who began to talk through my struggles with me. I was nervous to take the medications. What would they do to me? Would I be able to function? Would they become an addiction? Would I have an adverse reaction? I can still remember standing over my sink hesitating to take the first pill. I prayed, I reached out to friends for their support, I held that little tablet in my hand for what seemed like an hour. But finally I took the plunge and swallowed it. Of course nothing happened right away. Mental health medications take weeks and months to regulate the chemicals in our bodies in such a way that we can finally find relief. I’m thankful I know that now.
Relief came. Not immediately, but in time. I was so surprised. Not only did I feel better, but I came to the glorious realization that it was okay for me to be treated for a mental health issue. It was okay for me to seek help outside my own self. It was okay to go to the professionals for assistance when I was definitely at the end of my rope. Family and friends couldn’t help me because that’s not what they’re trained to do. There are people God has gifted and trained to be there for those struggling emotionally. It’s their job. It’s their calling. It’s why they were created.
I began to learn quickly that there is no shame for Christian leaders and full-time Christian workers to seek help for their times of mental and emotional struggle. Our jobs for the Kingdom are hard! They are fraught with spiritual battle. We interact with people who like to blame us for their problems. We take on burdens that are not our own in order to lighten the load of others. It’s no wonder so many of us struggle to make it through every day. We need help. And praise God He has created people to lift us up even in the most difficult of times.
Let me challenge you today as a church leader or other vocational ministry servant: If you’re struggling, get help. You can feel better. You can move beyond the battles you’re fighting today. You can find a new way to thrive. But chances are, you can’t do it alone. Find a counselor. Don’t be afraid of mental health medication. Search out coping mechanisms that will serve as the way forward. We can’t face these issues on our own. Get the help you need today. There is no shame, only victory awaits.