Mental Illness and Religion
I struggled with depression for a lot of my teenage years unknowingly; falling into silent spells or isolation cycles were “normal” ways I would deal with how I felt. Because of this, depression remained regular. The pain was me.
When I thought about depression or sadness my mind would drift off to what my former pastors would suggest— praying, fasting, and going to church healed all wombs. I often heard, “mental illness was a weakness, ‘the devil’ is consuming your thoughts to keep you from what God has for you. The only way I could be better was to do what God wants me to do. If you’re continuously doing bad, then it’s your fault. You are not trying hard enough. Do not ever claim depression on your life. Don’t say that out loud! If you say it you are manifesting that demon on yourself.” Frightening, right?
Because of those words, I grew up scared of myself, my thoughts, and God punishing me. I felt relief in my good days but tormented on my bad. Maybe if I tried to be “as holy” as I could then maybe I would feel better. The day never came where just praying and fasting relieved my depressive thoughts though.
Here Comes Anxiety…
When first faced with crippling anxiety, I felt ashamed, embarrassed, and discouraged. I isolated myself and talked to no one about my struggles. It wasn’t real. I tried to push harder even when I felt exhausted. Self-care, mental health, or anxiety weren’t words or phrases I knew much about anyway. I just had to pray, right? My relationship with God is not strong enough. I kept pushing myself well past my physical and mental limits until I couldn’t anymore. The more I dismissed my symptoms and repressed my feelings, the more I felt powerless, hopeless, and weak.
In order to feel better, I challenged myself to think deeper. What do I do to move forward? As I constantly struggled to find peace in my mental turmoil, I looked to my writing and voice for refuge. The day I felt most empowered, most liberated, and most peace fell on one day, the day I uttered the words “I have depression and struggle with anxiety.”
While I long left the church because I wanted to find myself aside from religious indoctrination, I started writing, and the words I typed and wrote freed me from my thoughts. Thoughts became tangible. Words became ideas I could look at. I manipulated those words to something positive and uplifting. I began reflecting on and discussing what mental health meant for me, asking critical questions combining my pain with creativity. Excitement filled me again.
My projects now bring me to life, they are my medicine. The words I utter, the words I write are my power. I am new, I feel refreshed. I wage war on my mental health struggles, expectations, and stereotypes that bind me and my progress (hence why my writing space/blog is SparklyWarTanks).
Even though I still struggle, I continue to write and think of new and creative ways to express myself. I’m currently planning and hosting events too! There is power in words, whether it’s saying them, writing them, or thinking them.
Claiming my anxiety and depression was not a downfall manifesting struggle and doom to my life, claiming anxiety and depression gave me the power that helped me to liberate my perspective, relieve my mind, and continue on in the progression of becoming myself.