I take medication for my mental health.
There, now we've gotten that out of the way. In fact, I've been on ADHD medication for a few years and although I don't currently, I have taken anti-depressants.
I mention this because I've talked to what seems like an increasingly large amount of people recently who believe that taking medication for your brain is somehow anti-Jesus or anti-Christian.
And, of course, I believe Jesus has the power to heal a mental illness.
But, I also believe He has the power to cure a headache. Or diabetes. Or cancer. So why is it we don't see people billing those as purely spiritual problems and refusing to take medication?
I know, mental health is unfamiliar and uncomfortable and plenty of the time just downright scary.
But I would argue that's because in large part, we refuse to talk about it, which contributes to the stigma and shame surrounding it. We can't learn about things we don't talk about.
And I understand that the medicinal routes for mental illnesses aren't 100% foolproof. But neither are cancer treatments or headache medication or anything else. (Have you seen the side effects list on most medications?)
Speaking of headaches: I get them a lot. I go through months where I get at least one headache a day. This obviously isn't ideal, and I end up taking a fair amount of medication during these times. Like, the 'several headache pills per day' amount.
Another medication that's on my mind currently: medication for allergies. For the past month or so, when I don't take allergy medication in the morning, I spend the rest of the day sneezing, my throat hurting, and my head feeling foggy. In fact, last week I was at a party with some friends and we were outside most of the time. The allergy medication I had taken that morning was starting to wear off, so I felt miserable for the last hour or so I was there.
What these things both have in common is that I can't function very well when my head is pounding or when I'm constantly sneezing. I couldn't enjoy myself at the party, I can't hold very long conversation; honestly, I can't do much of anything.
Which brings me to this point: when my head is hurting or my allergies are killing me, I'm not fully me. I'm not at my best. I can't talk to people or build relationships or love them well. I can't do the things I believe God has created me to do when I'm in pain. As a result, I believe that God would approve of me using the miracle of modern medicine to help resolve those issues.
But I've never heard anyone claim that headaches or allergies are solely a Spiritual problem. I've never heard someone refuse to take Advil or Claritin or any other number of things because 'that would mean trusting God less.' I've known people that hated taking all medicines for various reasons, but I've never heard it justified in the name of Jesus.
But for some reason, mental health is different.
Here's what I know: as bad as headaches and allergies make me at doing the things I believe God has created me for, they've got nothing on my mental health. When I don't take my ADHD medication, I can't focus on the conversation we're having. Does that sound like a relationship that shows love? When I'm in the deepest depths of depression, I am apathetic about everything, no matter what. It's not that I don't care, it's that I just can't. Does that sound like someone who's loving others the way Jesus asks us to?
When I don't take medication for my mental health, I cannot be who I believe God wants me to be.
So I don't think medication is a slap in the face of God, I think it's trusting Him more. If you and I can believe that God works through surgeons and physicians and nurses to help heal us, why are psychiatrists and counselors off-limits? Why is the field of psychopharmacology somehow out of His range? My God is bigger than that. My God can use miracles and love and community and yes, medication to help me.
So for all the reasons I can think of to avoid taking medication, I have bigger and better reasons to embrace it.
I'm not suggesting everyone take medication forever, but there are times when it's necessary. I'll keep taking headache medicine until I can figure out what's causing them and then I'll work to learn how to avoid them. The same applies for mental health medication.
I once heard it described like this: if counseling is a journey from Point A to Point B (where the journey is learning how to better handle your emotions and avoid situations that are unhealthy for you), then when your brain chemistry isn't working the way is should be, you're starting in a hole. It's impossible to walk anywhere while you're stuck in a hole, so you need a ladder to get on the level ground. Only once you're there can you start the journey.
And I believe in a God that wants us to be healthy and whole, a God who wants us to live our lives fully and free. He works through miracles, He works through medical professionals, and He works through medication.