by Peggi Tustan
“Lord, keep me in my right mind,” my friend used to pray. Her mother’s mental illness was so severe that her grandmother was forced to step in and raise her. Fearing her mother’s malady, she regularly prayed the right-mind prayer.
After the birth of my second child, I began praying her right-mind prayer as well. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t untie the knot in my stomach. I had no idea it was postpartum depression. After all, I was anxious, not depressed. However, left untreated, my anxiety soon devolved into depression.
What’s happening to me? And why is God allowing it? I once considered myself a hopeless optimist. Depression just left me hopeless. Slowly, I was losing control of my thoughts and emotions. It terrified me. Yet, I resisted seeing a psychiatrist. I thought doing so would just confirm my deepest fear: I was crazy! A psychiatrist might commit me to an institution. Or prescribe shock therapy. Images of a catatonic Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest haunted me.
Twenty-five years ago, when I suffered postpartum depression, the stigma surrounding it was worse than today. I feared telling anyone. No one talked about depression—especially in church. Once, in my Wednesday morning Bible study, I gathered the courage to ask a friend for prayer. “If you just trusted God enough, Peggi, you’d be okay,” she told me. She didn’t get it. I was trusting God with all my might.
And I wasn’t okay.
However, the following week at choir practice I had a different conversation with a friend. “How are you feeling?” Carol asked.
“Fine,” I replied.
“Are you really fine?” she cared enough to press further.
My guard fell. “No! I can barely function . . .” My confession spilled out.
“My sister Stevie can help. Call her. She understands depression.” Carol hugged me and handed me her sister’s number.
The next morning, I called Stevie. She told me about her own battles with anxiety and depression. God helped her find healing. She survived—unscathed! For the first time in months, I felt a glimmer of hope. She advised: Visit a psychiatrist. They specialize in treating mental disorders and can prescribe the correct medication. Then, once you’re thinking clearly, see a Christian counselor to explore other factors which may have contributed to your depression.
I made an appointment with a psychiatrist. He prescribed an antidepressant. Within six months, I felt like myself again. Then, I sought Christian counseling. Through the process, I gained a deeper understanding of myself and my God. Why did God allow it? The reasons are numerous and some complex. But this one is simple. We live in a broken world. It’s not heaven. Here, many of us will suffer with cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and yes even mental illness.
Over the years, I’ve experienced a few more bouts of clinical depression. It no longer terrifies me. I now recognize the symptoms. I can begin taking medication and making lifestyle changes that enable my body, mind, and spirit to heal.
More importantly, God has used depression to help me gain a proper perspective. I once considered myself a strong Christian woman. Like my friend at Bible study, I thought others who struggled with mental illness lacked faith. But depression humbled me. It grew my compassion. It opened my eyes to reality. I’m weak. We’re all weak. We all struggle with something. We all need God’s strength. And needing God is a good thing!
“My grace is all you need.
My power works best in weakness.”
So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses,
so that the power of Christ can work through me.
(1 Corinthians 12:9 NLT)
I’m not alone. Eighteen percent of Americans suffer with mental illnesses. People of faith are not exempt. The prophet Elijah, Martin Luther, Charles Spurgeon, Sheila Walsh, King David, Thomas Nelson, and comedian Chonda Pierce have suffered major depressions.
If you’re seriously depressed, pray. But don’t hesitate to call your doctor. It’s a medical issue. Hope, help, and healing are available. You’re not alone!
Keep us in our right mind.
Meet us in our emotional pain.
Envelope us in your grace and peace.
And direct our paths to healing.
In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
 Clinical depression is more than feeling sad for a few days. It is a depression serious enough to require medical intervention.
Peggi Tustan is an ordinary woman seeking to live an extraordinary Real Life in Christ. She writes, teaches, speaks, and mentors women in Northeast Ohio. Stop by and visit her at www.peggitustan.com.