OK, normally I don’t write about this stuff. But:
If you are depressed, have bipolar illness, schizophrenia, any sort of mental illness–this is not your fault. You are not a bad person. You are not cursed by God, or punished by God, or damned. You are not a bad person.
I’ve seen a psychologist since I was about 17 years old, for anxiety and sometimes depression issues. Yeah. I don’t usually talk about that. It doesn’t make me a bad person. It means that I have a lot of crap that I deal with in my life that I don’t share except with my therapist and I’m super glad I have her and the low dose of anxiety meds I’m on. Without the meds, life is not happy. I’ve tried to scale down my use of them, but it hasn’t worked so far. I’m only on one, and no, I don’t hear voices or see things or imagine that I’m SuperMan.
This did not happen because God hates me, or because I’m cursed, or because I haven’t prayed enough. This is just like physical illness–there’s something wrong, medically, that needs addressed. If you think that illness is caused my the wrath of God, you are wrong. If you think that these things happen because you are not a good enough Christian, you are wrong.
I’ve had people say to me that I must not have issues because I’m “so happy.” You know why I’m happy? Because I have a therapist I talk to and a med I take so I can stay even keeled and happy. Without them, trust me, it’s not happy. It’s no sleep, it’s freaking out about the smallest things, it’s huge waves of self-doubt and questioning self-worth.
Depression and mental illness, in general, affect everyone differently. It can be incredibly hard to regulate brain chemistry, and it’s not just your body–other meds can mess with this. I’ve experienced this first hand.
Find a safe person to talk to–someone who will listen. If someone is talking to you about these things, you are a privileged person–you are trusted. Treat this as a sacred trust. Don’t try to pooh-pooh the illness. LISTEN. If a person seem suicidal, get them help–talk to another person, a medical professional, whatever. But please, please, please do not make it seem like this person “caused” their illness. They did not, no more than they caused epilepsy or CF or cancer or whatever. You wouldn’t–I desperately hope–tell a person with these and other things to “pray away” the illness. Do not do it with depression and mental illness.
There are few things better than a good psychologist. Try to find one. There are multiple kinds of therapy–look for one that works for you. You may need medication. If you do, take it. Do not feel like you are a bad or weak person, because you are not. You are getting help.
Yes, God can help. Prayer helps. Mass helps. Many things help. But sometimes, you will not feel like it’s helping. You could be angry at God. You might yell. You might not want to go to church. If you yell at God, that’s OK. He can handle it. Jesus in the garden of gethsemane was definitely afraid. He felt forsaken on the cross. If Jesus, who is God, can feel that way, so can you.
Do not stigmatize people with mental illness. Do not stereotype them, and do not say that this is their fault. Provide support. Get them help.
If you are a person with mental illness–please take care of yourself. People love you. Find a good therapist, a trusted friend, someone to talk to and who can help you, or lead you to professional help.