There are many people in my family who at times could be described as crazy.
People I love suffer with depression; the deep and abiding disease that makes you feel alone, unloved, unnecessary and unwanted. People I love suffer with anxiety; some of them unable to walk into a grocery store or complete simple everyday tasks, hold a job, or nurture relationships.
I myself have had multiple periods of depression. The first occurred after someone I loved deeply died suddenly at the age of 21. Soon after I found myself not able to sleep, fearing nightmares that made me think Sam was alive, only to die moments later. I could not focus in class, or on my schoolwork, I didn’t have energy to shower or clean my apartment. I didn’t like being alone, but also felt anxious when around people.
Therapy helped. Medicine helped. Time helped.
My depression got better, but there are times when life’s circumstances have brought me fresh grief and I find myself once again in need of therapy, medication, and time. For some of my loved ones it has not been so easy. Medications didn’t help, it was hard to find therapists they could connect with, and it seemed like it would never get better. Our genetics matter. As my friend Sarah Griffith Lund says in her book, “Blessed Are the Crazy: Breaking the Silence one Mental Illness, Family, and the Church,” sometimes crazy is in the blood. But because crazy is in the blood, we are also able to have more compassion for one another, more understanding when someone is anxious, or depressed, or suffering in other ways.
As we attempt to break the silence, let’s do covenant together to do a few things:
Let’s stop talking about mental illness in hushed tones, or turning red when we mention visiting our therapist. Let’s encourage one another to take care of our mental health, the same way we encourage our loved ones to eat better heart healthy meals order vegetables for the vitamins they provide.
Jesus names a number of groups in his sermon on the mount: the poor, the grieving, the meek, the hungry, the persecuted. He calls all of them Blessed. In doing so, Jesus is telling us where God stands: with them. He is also telling us where we should stand: with them. Those who suffer with mental illnesses belong in this group too. And if Jesus is standing with them, (with us) so should the church. Let’s end the stigma and instead walk with open hearts into the kingdom of God, a place filled with the hungry, the poor, and the crazy. As a church, let’s offer more grace, more safe spaces, more room at the table.