Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Is it okay to be SAD?

Gooseberry Falls, MN, frozen solid.
Sometimes I get SAD. In fact, every year for the past four or five. You see, I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. It arrives in mid-to-late November, and it departs in mid-April. My SAD takes the form of lethargy, disinterest, sleep interruptions, and mood swings.

Here is a clinical definition of Seasonal Affective Disorder from The Mayo Clinic. (You can read more about SAD by clicking HERE)

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that's related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you're like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. Less often, SAD causes depression in the spring or early summer.
Treatment for SAD may include light therapy (phototherapy), psychotherapy and medications.

My doctor is aware of my struggles, and he's very understanding. I'm also blessed with a literary agent who understands and encourages me. My family also helps tremendously.

One place I wish understood more about mental illness in all its forms though is the Church. "You just need to pray more." "You need to read your Bible more and claim its promises." "You need to examine your life for sin and repent." "You don't need a doctor, you need a pastor's counsel." These are all things I've heard said in church, or written by pastors, or blogged about by Christians.

I know I need to pray more. I know I need to read my Bible more and claim its promises. I know I need to examine my life and repent of my sin. For my spiritual health, first and foremost. But telling me that I need to be more spiritual to conquer mental illness is the same as telling someone who is blind that if they just prayed more, they'd be able to see, or someone who has cancer would be cured if they just repented of their sins.

Sigh. I don't know how many of these people have suffered from mental illness or had a close family member who has suffered from mental illness. I do know this kind of thinking has hurt many people, causing them to leave the church and seek out a place where they are understood and cared for.

There are a few things I wish believers would understand about mental illness.

1. Just because it isn't physical doesn't mean it doesn't hurt.
2. Just because you can't operate on it doesn't mean it isn't a sickness.
3. Mental illness isn't a character flaw or a spiritual failing.
4. Taking medication for an illness, mental or otherwise, isn't a sin.
5. People with mental illnesses aren't loved less by God.

Mental illness is a scary thing for most people. They don't know what to say, what to do, how to act. Everyone's experience is different, but it's always all right to ask how someone is doing and give them a word of encouragement.

Gooseberry Falls, MN




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14 comments:

  1. Great article Erica! Wonderful words of wisdom. :) Hugs.

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    1. Thanks! It's taken me awhile to be able to even talk about it.

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  2. Lovely. There is a lady in my bible study group that suffers from depression. She said it would be an accomplishment to pay her bills for the day. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Your friend is telling the truth. Some days it's an accomplishment just to get out of bed. Anything after that is a bonus. :)

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  3. Wonderfully written! I have a friend who suffers from it also. It IS real. I will keep you in my prayers!

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    1. Thanks so much, Susan. I appreciate your prayers, and I know your friend does, too.

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  4. preach it, Erica!!!!

    I had someone tell me that if my mom prayed harder, her deafness would go away.

    But ohhh, the church and mental health issues. Wow. I hear ya.

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    1. It's a tough subject. People are afraid to talk about it for fear of offending maybe? Or because of stereotypes? Or maybe because they have heard it said from the pulpit that mental health is a character flaw?

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  5. I enjoyed your post Erica. You are in my prayers. Mental illness in its many forms is not a character flaw. Some folks simply aren't ready or informed to accept that fact. I have experience with depression in my family. Medication and counseling makes a huge difference in living with the symptoms. Thank you for sharing your story Erica. I am proud of you for telling it. That takes courage. God bless you.

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  6. You said many things that needed saying. Hopefully, it helped others. Mental illness is misunderstood and too many are afraid to admit to themselves or others that they have a problem. Although prayer is important, it isn't the solution for everything. Those who suggest it as such should pray for understanding within their own hearts.

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  8. Thanks for this post, Erica - so glad to learn more about SAD. My father has suffered from chronic depression since he was very young, and his mother - also. One of my childhood memories is of going with my mother to take my grandmother to her shock treatments. Mental illness has been a part of my entire life and it definitely is a sickness, just as physical problems are, and should be recognized as such by everyone. The suffering and effects are just as great. Saying a prayer for you, Erica!!

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