Mental Illness and Church Leadership- Responding to Dale Partridge

Recently, a pastor by the name of Jarrid Wilson committed suicide. Admittedly I knew of his name until I saw a post on social media that spoke of this tragic event. As a phycology major, a lover of the mind and as one of has a soft spot in his heart for people who suffer with the beast of depression. My heart ached. It ached even more, when I saw a blog from the Christian post that had as a headline:

People struggling With Mental Illness Shouldn’t Be In Church Leadership https://www.christianpost.com/news/people-struggling-with-mental-illness-shouldnt-be-in-church-leadership-jarrid-wilsons-friend-says.html?fbclid=IwAR3cW6bcPkMpaFWqxE1q6AypIFoYXPI2SUkROzOxx1_thJgcORpCuD0o_po

Now to be fair, I can see the authors intent, pastors are very often over worked, hardly ever get any time off and tend to be everyone’s go to when they have a problem. However, it is extremely troubling to me to say  that it is “reckless” and “unbiblical” for churches to put someone in a position of leadership, if they are having struggles with mental illness or doubt.

Okay, I can kind of see the doubt part. But to say that people who struggle with mental illness shouldn’t be in church leadership, is in its self a very stupid and ignorant thing to say. That would eliminate a huge majority of the Christian community serving the body of Christ.

            Moreover the passages used to support the authors position are 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, The author focuses on the concept of being “sober minded” as its states in 1 Timothy 3, along with self- controlled. There in a huge danger, I believe in applying these passages to people who suffer with mental illness. Because we first have to have a clear understanding of what “sober minded” actually is in this context. If we are talking about someone that is still on the recovery road due to recovery, okay I can deal with that. If we are talking about someone who isn’t very rooted in their faith, and is easily influenced by others, I can see that too.

Sober minded and dealing with a chemical imbalance is something utterly different, yes, depression can sometimes can get very dark, and we can lose our way. But to say that a person is not sober minded is a grave insult. I think that a person can depressed, and be sober minded in that they cling to Christ like a weighted blanket rests on the body. Those of us who suffer, might need a gentle reminder of who we are in Christ. But to suggest that it is automatically removes us from church leadership is dangerous and unrealistic. Think about the amount of people that have anxiety, or having a rough day and their thoughts are not the best. OOPS! I guess there goes their ability to serve Gods people!

            …. And for the record, have we ever thought about how Jesus himself might respond to this? Have we even considered all the problems his own disciples had? Let me tell you, they were many. I don’t ever recall Jesus saying “Hey Peter, you got too many problems, you can’t be my disciple anymore!” Nor, did he ever say to Thomas “Gee Thomas, I can’t accept you for your doubts, good bye!”

So what gives some Christians today, the right to act differently? Jesus didn’t give his disciples the boot right away, why should we? Now, I firmly believe that there is reason, as to why a fellow believer wouldn’t be inclined to a position of leadership within the church. And I don’t think that mental illness is one of them. We very well need  to institute better care for our pastors, but simply disqualifying then is utter nonsense. If you’re a Christian and struggle with mental illness in any form. It’s okay to talk about it, you are not weak or less then because your battle is different than the next person. Having this struggle does not in any way negate how the Father see’s you in his son Jesus.          

Why I Quit Leaning on Anxiety Meds

If you know anything about my personal history, you would know that anxiety and depression have been present in my life, since the age of seventeen. I have cycled through various medications, seen different counselors. And hell, I’ve even spent a few days in a psych ward. For the simple fact that I hated my life and simply wanted things to be over.

To this day, I hold in high regard and esteem, anyone who goes to a doctor, knowing full well that they need help. That is the single bravest thing a human can do. It takes a lot of guts to say “I’m not well right now, and the thoughts in my mind are far too much to cope with on my own.”

Again, thats a beautiful and brave thing to admit. Within my own journey in learning to cope with anxiety and depression have almost always been a part of it. I have tried several times to slowly get off of whatever drug I was on. But the side effects were too great for me. So I’d hop back on the given medication.

To be clear, I have always wanted to be off them, because I have always hated how they made me feel. Tired, slow, and sometimes more hopeless than I was at the start. To be blunt, most of the counselors I saw sucked, they were filled with pat answers and didn’t grasp the pain that was inside me.

The more depressed and anxiety ridden I felt, the healthier I ate and focused more on trying to fight back against the anxiety and depression on the Jiujitsu mats or with the weights. Eating cleaning, saying no to a lot of carbs and sugar and saying yes to more protein and water worked. Making my workouts more challenging and taxing worked.

Yet, this lingering depression and random panic attacks through out the week would hit me still. I didn’t know what to do, I was tired of feeling this way, and I wanted it to stop. Fast forward to seeing my girlfriend for to weeks (she lives in NY) I was so happy to see her, that thinking about taking my medication was the furthest thing from my mind.

I even told her a few days into my trip “Babe, I haven’t taken my anxiety meds in a few days.” And you know what, I felt fairly good. Apart from the slumps that I would have mid day, when the depression would come slamming into reality again. I would have moments, where I would sit on my girlfriends bed and cry. Being the amazing woman that she is, she held me and waited until I was done crying. She also would gently remind me that everything would be okay, because God loved me and she loved me too.

It was in these moments, when I realized that, I’d rather feel the weight of my depression and anxiety. Knowing that I was mentally stronger than I gave myself credit for. I’d rather face the pain and darkness head on, knowing with a hundred percent fact that this darkness couldn’t beat me.

I did as David Goggins talks about in his book “Can’t Hurt Me” and started to harden my mind, not in the sense of being angry or bitter. I started hardening my mind to be strong in battle, I would speak to the negative thoughts in my mind.

“Is that the best you got!?”

“Your wasting your time, because you have no authority or power over me”

I would ask myself, “do you know who you are? You are warrior, a child of God and one bad mother F’er.”

The more I began to allow, embrace and feel the mental and emotional pain, the more I allowed myself to accept it, and started using it as more of driving force, to push forward. I often would use anxiety meds to cope with sadness, despair, shame and my perceived failures in life.

At this moment in my life, I have a deeper understanding that, allowing the darkness to swallow me up is never the answer. Wanting to not wake up anymore is not the answer. Being able to go to the root of your pain is the answer.

Once again, if you are in counseling and on medication, I’m not telling you to get off them cold turkey as I did. And as of now in my life I feel fine. But I am telling you, that you are loved, by God and people in your life. I am telling you that you are warrior and a bad mother f’er and I am telling you that the darkness has no authority over your life.

Remembering Chester Bennington

I’ll never forget being a teenager, lying there in my bed watching MTV, when MTV was actually MTV. Meaning that they actually played good music videos. It must have been early morning I remember seeing Linkin’s Parks video for the song One Step Closer.  I was hooked from the first sound of the guitar, the break down and the perfect hybrid rap Rock vocals. The lyrics hooked me as an angsty teen. The lyrics were speaking to me in a way nothing else could.

I was a fan and will always will be. There was not a LP album that I was not a fan of. To be quite honest though, it was the lyrical depth that drew me in. The fact that the band was armed with a great live show was even better. I had never gotten the chance to see the band live, but I remember seeing them live on a show called Reverb Nation. There was so much emotional connectivity with the crowd, it was all so intriguing and inspiring to me.

To think that someone like Chester, or any member of the band could command such attention. When ever I was sad, depressed or angry it would be linkin park that I went to the most. The interesting thing is though, even through Chesters heavy, dark and even hopeful lyrics. I never truly connected that fact that he struggled with depression or mental illness. In my young mind at the time, I thought he was only telling stories of people that he knew.

There was no way he could be depressed right? I mean he was a world wide celebrity and had everything it seemed. That the was the younger, less wise part of myself. Now that I am bit older, I realize that it is truly possible to have everything and feel like you have nothing at the same time.

In my own journey with depression and anxiety, it was the lyrics of Chester B that gave me the room I needed to give voice to what I was feeling on the inside. I was never blessed with the chance to meet Chester, and tell him thank you for his words. And that I in some ways considered him a friend.

On a personal level, I often feel so up and down. Happy one moment and either want to scream or cry the next. I have had a handful of psych professors tell me that life, for most is very up and down or much like scribbling on a piece of paper. But thats never been a soothing or satisfying response for me.

The more I listen to the lyrics of Chester, the more I sense that he was truly crying out. Duh right? As a psychology major though, I have learned to pay more attention and see more deeply into a person. Are they truly happy when they smile or is there more going on below the surface?

Better yet, are we happy in a public setting and then fall apart behind closed doors? It’s almost been a year since his passing, and I honestly cannot believe that he is gone. I keep waiting for some FB article to pop up saying that he is alive and well, much like 2 pac. ..

But I guess that a big part of me is still in denial, that he is truly gone. All I know is that, we cannot afford to keep losing people this way. Regardless of what we believe about life. We must be willing to ask and have uncomfortable conversations, about how and where we are at in life.

We have to be willing to say **** the stigma behind talking about depression and suicide, for it is the only way to break free. We have to be willing to say enough is enough.

images

A Letter To My Panic Ridden Self

The other day, I began the journey of seeing a new mental health professional. There was a period of time where I felt as though my life was manageable without counseling. And maybe to an extent it was, but sooner or later the depression would slowly start moving back in. Much like a person who, over time starts leaving all their stuff at your house.

The anxiety became worse then I have previously experienced. I’ve been having two or three attacks a week. Mixed in with horrible nightmares. So enough was enough. I decided to tell my family doctor exactly what I was experiencing.

Tight chest

Shortness of breath

Sweaty Palms

frantic and irrational thoughts thoughts.

During my fist session with this psychologist, he gathered some standard information. But what shocked me is that it didn’t take him long to profess that there were all the signs of a severe panic disorder. While there is much more treatment ahead, its good to put a name, some words a face even to what has been holding onto me so tightly. That being said, the following paragraphs will be a letter to my panic ridden self, perhaps as you read this you can find some hope and healing as well. Maybe even consider doing this exercise as well.

Dear  panic ridden self,

I don’t know when you first became as you are, but if I could trace time back to its root. I would tell you that’s it’s okay. Life was meant to be a joy and not a burden. There is a much greater king in charge of the universe then ourselves. I know you have had to endure such hardship at a young age, but you weren’t the only one that had to endure it.

There were people beside you, a family that endured it a long side you. Who hurt with you. I know that you felt like an outcast in such colorful world. I know you just wanted to be like everyone else, that you would occasionally gaze up to the sky and wonder why the way things were as they are.

I know that you only wanted to experience life the way everyone else did, but instead felt like you were guarded from the world around you. It’s okay, life is actually being molded into something beautiful and there is more to come.

I know you wanted to feel loved, and so you sought out people and anything to make you feel alive and whole. The truth is, we all do this. There is a king and father of the universe that can make you more alive then any earthly manifestation this world can produce.

You must learn to trust this heavenly king, for when life seems to fall apart in ways we would not desire, he is putting things back together in ways that will only be of greater benefit to us.

You can learn to breath, and enjoy. You don’t have to hold on so tightly. I know life will knock you down, and people will hurt you. But don’t let that darken your understanding of life and who you are.

You will be tempted to bring your defenses up, but sometimes you have to let the most unlikely people love you (whoever they may be).  Your going to make mistakes, say things you don’t mean, do things you never thought you would do.

But above all else, accept forgiveness, from the Lord, others, please try to be kind to yourself. You’ll have a habit of wanting to kick your own ass a lot. Just know that that won’t help anything. Keep chasing your dreams and pushing your limits.

Everything will be just fine.

images