An attractive twenty year old keeps cutting herself to stop the emotional pain she doesn't want to talk about. A mom of two elementary school children runs on three hours of sleep driving her children to countless activities, keeping up with housework, and helping complete school assignments way after midnight to avoid nightmares of past abuse. A professional business women is neatly dressed sitting in her spotless office. She repetitively follows her routine making sure everything is in its proper place, every lunch is at the same sandwich shop, and she continually washes her hands until they are raw and bleeding. A fifty year old mom is finally an empty nester. Her muscles ache so much, she can't get out of bed; she doesn't care about seeing her friends, she stops answering the phone, and is certain she is going to die of some horrible disease.
All four of these woman are very different in age, profession, circumstance, and crisis, but they all share a common thread. They need to see a doctor to talk about getting professional medical help.
If the twenty year old had diabetes, the mom had hyperthyroidism, the business woman had high blood pressure, and the older mom had arthritis, you would expect each of these women to begin taking the proper medicine to help with her illness. If they were your friends, you would support treatments including dietary consultation, fitness coaching, and group therapy to learn how to live with their illnesses.
I am curious...would you wonder what unconfessed sin they had committed to cause their illness? Would you think they had weak faith in God's ability to heal their body without medication? Would you suggest that they talk with their pastor for advice before taking any medication? My guess is you would probably not. More than likely you would let them know you were sorry to hear about their disease and would be praying for them to recover.
What if the same four women underwent extensive blood work, x-rays, MRI, bone density, neurological, and rheumatoid testing with no physical diagnosis. Each woman's family practice doctor referred her to a psychiatrist for evaluation seeking the best medication and private psychological counseling. The doctor realized the young lady never came to terms with her parents divorce, the mom was struggling with her abusive childhood, the professional woman was traumatized by a date rape, and the older mother suffered with severe depression.
I am still wondering....how would you respond to the news that your friend was going to a psychiatrist. Would you wonder if she needed to deal with sin in her life or if she doubted God's ability to heal her without medication? Would you suggest to her holding off on medication until she got counseling with a pastor or a friend who had a similar situation? Some of you would encourage your friend to get the prescribed help, but unfortunately many Christians would be leery of a friend seeking psychiatric medical help.
It is amazing to me that there is still a stigma of weak faith for women who take medication for emotional and mental illness. I am going to be tilling into clay-hard soil posted with a 'Do Not Disturb - Private Property' sign . People often have strong views about psychiatric medication, so be prepared to get a little dirt on your shoes as you walk into this article. The view of medication as a sign of unrepentant sin or weak faith in God's ability to help and heal one's being is going to be dug up and examined.
Women frequently struggle over the decision of whether to start a medication such as an anti-depressant. The most common fear is that once a person starts she can not live without it. Another major concern is the uncertainty of the side effects. Moms wonder if they will be able to parent, drive, and take care of their home while on medication.
Many women are willing to keep struggling hoping that God will take away the pain and symptoms. They are ashamed or embarrassed to take medication. Many women feel guilty about the cost of going to therapy or taking psychiatric medication, like it should be something they can put off or do without.
Over the past twenty years I have privately been told by pastors, minister's wives, friends, and relatives that they or a love one had to take psychiatric medication. The fact is shared as a secret and often followed by "but she doesn't take it any more" or "I only used it for a year" as if it would be dreadful to still be taking medication.
Silly commercials with women dancing in a fluttering twirl because she was on a medication don't help. After seeing several, I assumed that people took these medications to numb emotional pain and remove the ability to take responsibility for their actions. I thought it was a "happy" pill that controlled their mind and made them only feel like dancing around because they no longer had to deal with problems.
People don't want to be depressed, anxious, compulsive, agitated, or easily angered. They want help to cope and to find a friend who will listen. They are willing to make excuses for their lack of involvement but they don't want to admit they need 'emotional or mental' support, especially if it is psychiatric medication. Often a person with a mental illness will try counseling but they resist trying medication. Just as harmful, some women will over-medicate and refuse any type of counseling.
I understand. I used to believe that psychiatric medication and most of its talk therapy was a tool of Satan. God had to teach me a lesson the hard way. I had to experience numerous counselors (clinical social workers, psychologist, etc) , group therapy, 'self-help' Bible studies, demonic deliverance and psychiatric doctors first hand.
About 10 years ago I was so feeble I could barely walk up the stairs or fold a load of laundry without needing to lay down. I remember waking up every morning with aching muscles. It felt like someone had been hitting me all night with a two-by-four. Every part of my body was so heavy. The weakness and unstable emotions came on slowly over several years following the birth of my first son.
Some mornings I walked out of my bedroom and dropped like a rag doll in the middle of the hallway. Desperately clinging to God, I would start to cry. How could I take care of three children under the age of five when I was so weak? I was certain I had some dreadful illness, like cancer. I knew I needed help, but didn't know where to turn.
I had three close friends share with me, within a few weeks, that either they took or had taken anti-depressants or other types of medication to help during difficult times of their life. I thought it was really strange that friends were sharing this information because, until this time, I had only heard of women taking medication in a hushed whisper... "Well, you know she had been on Prozac." This was news to me because I didn't know people in the church took "those type" of medications, but I loved my friends and wanted to be caring and supportive.
God is always so good and He does have a sense of humor. Little did I know God was having my friends confide their secret information with me because He was trying to prepare my heart to accept the fact that I would be taking medication soon. He knew how hard this information would be for me to hear from the doctor. He wanted me to have knowledge of some godly women that had used or were currently using this medication.
A dear friend told me about a tender-hearted family practice doctor. I knew I needed to go see him. I couldn't keep living so depleted. On my first appointment, he ordered blood work and a lot of testing for many diseases during this initial exam. On my return visit he gently explained to me that everything physically checked out great. Then he dropped the message I never wanted to hear: I was severely depressed and he wanted me to try an anti-depressant.
As tears streamed down my face I told him my deepest fear, I didn't want to be a schizophrenic like my father. He assured me over and over that I did not have this illness. To ease my fears, he told me his family history. He explained that he had a schizophrenic mother and that his sister constantly worried she would become ill like her mother. This doctor told me that a child only had a 25% chance of becoming schizophrenic if their parent was, but he reassured me again that I was not schizophrenic.
This amazing, caring doctor spent forty-five minutes with me while his waiting room was overflowing with patients. He was not going to leave me until I was calm. God was so good to me to give me such an incredible doctor. Nurses came to the door asking questions and taking messages but he never stepped out of the room. After several tissues and his caring explanations of how my body was drained of its chemical balance, I decided that I would try the medication. I desperately wanted help and finally agreed to try the medication.
By the second week on the medication I almost had my full strength back. Everything was not rosy, but I was no longer physically depressed. Over the years, I had worked my body tirelessly by nursing my three children around the clock until they were each about eighteen-months old. I also had not had a period cycle in five years. I was either pregnant or nursing. My children didn't take good naps and were not good nighttime sleepers. I was up and down every night about every two hours for years.
We had no relatives living within several hundred miles. Neighborhoods nowadays are transient, so I had no friendly neighbor help. And although we were a member of a church, we lived about forty-five minutes away from the city in a home that we could afford on one income. I had no breaks. No one was available to take the children for a few hours or a night. No one helped me cook meals, clean, or shop. No one gave me a hand if a child was sick or needed to go to the doctor. Everywhere I went my children had to come. We couldn't afford a mother's day out program, so I couldn't use this popular resource for moms.
In a year or so, God led me to a wonderful Christian psychiatrist, who I teasingly call "Bible Man" because he knows so much Scripture. He helped me see that the medication was not a replacement for God, but just something to help my body as I went through counseling. I was terrified the first time I entered his office. I was so scared that he would diagnosis me with some kind of psychotic illness or find out that I needed to be institutionalized.
In later visits I found it wonderful to talk with him because I could ask him any "God-question" I had and he would always provided a biblical reason or answer. He helped me understand why God was leading me through the trials of my past by facing them head-on, accepting the painful truth of what really happened, and learning how to deal with the coping mechanisms that were so well developed through the years of abuse, but were no longer needed in my present life.
Over the years I have become pretty good friends with this doctor. He knows I take my medication as prescribed and that I would never use it as a spiritual crutch. He has allowed me to try to come off of some medicine when I felt I was ready and he has also helped me pick up the pieces when I had become an emotional basket case when trying to cope without the medicine.
There came a point in my healing a few years back when I had a heart-to-heart talk with God about taking the medication. I agreed with God that I would take the medication as long as I needed it to be the stable loving mother and wife my family deserved.
Now I take the medication not only for my family but I take it for myself. I want to be the best I can be, and if it means I may be on medication the rest of my life here on earth then so be it. If God chooses to completely remove my need for medication I would rejoice, but I now rejoice that He has given me medication that enables me to grow day by day to be more like Christ.
You see, medication is a sin if we have faith in it to heal us and not in God using it to help us. It can also be a sin if we take too much, to the point we are doped up and useless for God to work in and through us. Scripture tells us to be controlled by the Holy Spirit and not any other substance like drugs or alcohol. Medication could also be a sin if it is used for an excuse to not deal with the root causes of emotional pain or just to numb the pain.
But as long as "For me to live is Christ and to die for Him is gain" (Philippians 1:21 NKJV) is the way you prioritize your thoughts and plans, God is glorified by your life. I learned that my dear body that God created can still bring Him wonderful glory even if I have to take medication until I take my last breath. I trust God as I live by this verse: "Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." (1Corinthians 10:31b)
So, if you have been wondering if it is OK, if you have heard that it is ungodly, if you are scared that you might get "hooked," or if you have to continue using it for life, stop beating yourself up or worrying about what might happen in the future. God is the answer, not the medication.
God can use medication to help you emotionally stabilize if you have a chemical disorder. It can benefit your body and it doesn't control your spirit or soul (mind, will and emotions). When you finally find the right combination or dose, don't treat your body like a yo-yo by going on and off the medication. Stopping your medication just because you start to feel better can be as harmful as never starting or as taking too much.
Medication will not remove your free will. You must be able to get godly counsel to heal your emotional scars. As a matter of fact, the medication can help keep you emotionally stabilized so you can face the trauma in counseling while remaining an active and functioning woman.
I can testify from my own life that I am so grateful to be on medication because it has enabled me to do incredibly deep, hard emotional work in counseling. James 1:2-4 says, "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete lacking nothing" (NKJV). God didn't need me to pretend I wasn't abused while struggling to do the best I could. He needed me to persevere through the tri als of my past so that He could use them to perfect Christ in me.
He also needed me to be a loving, capable mom and wife to three active children and a wonderful husband. I will confess that my husband, family, and friends were not always supportive, but I was determined to be obedient to God and get the help I needed. I would not be the person I am today without the medication I take, and I am not ashamed. I am totally thankful to God for using it to help me.
I sometimes wonder how different my childhood would have been if my parents would have acknowledged their need for medication. My father was diagnosed with a mental illness and given medication but he refused it. Instead he put us through the terror of having an emotionally and mentally unstable parent, to the point of being violently dangerous toward us. In total fear, my mother was pushed deep into denial. She never helped us because she lived detached with a dissociative personality disorder.
Sometimes it takes a lot of humility to admit you need medication. You have to accept that something is not right with you. Some people can't bring themselves to that point. Love and encourage the people in your life that need medication. And, if you need medication, love yourself enough to get the treatment you need. If you can't do it for yourself, do it for your family until God helps you to learn to love yourself enough to do it for you.