Yes, depression and anxiety can be gifts.
1) My Brokenness is Beautiful
I used to live in an I-have-it-together allusion. Finally, I had no choice but to admit that I suffer from mental illness, specifically depression and anxiety. I had to admit I am broken. I now embrace it.
All my life, I’ve heard that brokenness is a trait required by God, and therefore we must spend our lives working toward brokenness. Perhaps the greater reality of brokenness is this: We are all broken, and as a result, equally imperfect. To come to God broken is to embrace faith knowing that we are equal in His eyes.
Mental illness, in some ways, made it easier to embrace my faith. I can hide my arrogance, my sin, my greed, my insecurity, and my false humility, but I can’t hide my illness. I am loved, not in spite of being broken, but because of it.
2) My Faith is More Authentic
When I knew I wasn’t going to attempt suicide again, that I wanted help, and to live, everything changed. I had lived in fear of anyone knowing about my illness. Pre-recovery, I was a performance-based Christian, masking my pain and faults with smiles. As a result, I was also judgmental, using religion as a measuring stick. Now, I use my faith, along with my illness, as a support for others with similar struggles. No one is without faults.
I did not find God when I performed for Him (and others). I found Him when I was down. I tried to serve men and rules and ideals, but it didn’t save me; it almost killed me. It was in my failure that I found Him. In the changing, and in the daily living.
I had worn myself out in striving for perfection. I couldn’t please everyone any more. I felt empty, isolated, and like a failure. There’s a lie in the church that calls depression demonic. This is not true. Depression is human. It is an illness like any other and needs healing, doctors, and often medication not a laying on of hands by a preacher and a parishioner’s prayer of faith.
3) I Parent With More Patience
The other side of my mental illness, anxiety, has taught me to view the tantrums of my children with more patience. I’m not perfect and I lose my patience with my kids at times, but I am honest and ask for forgiveness.
Because I have triggers no one can comprehend, it helps to see those of my kids. Instead of telling them to calm down, now I actually listen to them and help them find words for their frustrations.
4) Facing it Doesn’t Mean I Have to Fix it
Many men are “fixers.” I always have been one. Now, when it comes to mental illness, I do less fixing and more facing. When depression or anxiety wash over me, I try to name my emotions. I face what I feel, but that doesn’t mean I can or try to fix it. I don’t always have to be happy.
I also don’t have to fix others. Mental illness has given me the gift of quiet. We have all been guilty of trying to comfort a friend going through a hard time. “God is in control” may not be the most appropriate response at certain times. Sometimes a hug or “I’m sorry you’re hurting,” is all anyone needs to hear.
5) I Am an Advocate
I have been called a mental health advocate, which I embrace, but more than that I want to be an advocate of grace. Some people think grace is reserved for Sunday sermons. I disagree. Grace and second chances are something we all deserve.
Mental illness has given me more empathy for my fellow man. I am now driven by the one thing on which Christianity was actually founded: love without condition. Through my experiences with reaching bottom, I am able to inspire others and cheer them on.
6) I Now Have Boundaries
I had no boundaries before my suicide attempt. I was a “yes man” to any person or project willing to stroke my ego. Blogs, ministries, a radio show, a full-time job, a part-time job, and holding down the fort at home. After my suicide attempt, I accepted my limitations and my need to say “no.” Now, I decline more projects than I accept, and I am happier. I have learned to do only those things that add value to my life, my marriage, or my family, instead of feeling like I owe something to everyone.
7) I’m Learning to Make Every Word Count
As a writer, this is our mantra. Editors repeat it and we pour over our articles for excess. My faith of choice is Christianity, whose language often sounds good but means nothing. As a more authentic person now, I work to make every word count. I want to spark dreams, plant seeds of hope, and lead others toward healing.
I am grateful for my mental illness because of these gifts, and the growth in myself and my family since I faced my illness, and became more open and honest about who I am.
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