By Nancy Virden (c)2020
In two weeks my dream comes true. One could say it’s been a dream since I was sixteen, however in its present form, I have been chasing it for nine years.
My parents divorced emotionally before I was born. What survived of their 24 years together was violent and loud. The year I turned sixteen, the long-dead marriage was given an official death certificate. No one holds a funeral or sends flowers for a divorce. Back then in the 70s, although it is probably still true, no one bothered to discuss anything with the children.
I hurt, and immediately began dreaming of running a group meeting of some kind, where kids could come and talk about how it feels when your parents divorce. The term support group was foreign to me, and I had no idea of therapy for teenagers or that anyone existed who would want to hear how I felt. It just did not seem fair that other kids should experience that too.
Fast forward 3 decades. Having existed in emotional survival mode up to that time, my spirit gave out. Major depression led to a suicide attempt ten years ago this January.
Even as I was in the hospital, wanting very much to be dead, my heart was stirred toward the people I met on the ward. I was angry that the Christian churches in my experience were not ready to truly minister to and support such people. It bothered me that so few patients had friends and family who knew what to say. The stories I heard were pathetic.
As I fought my battle, my ears were open. Families disowning hurting children, religious centers supporting abuse, people insulting and punishing suicidal friends with silence – all of it, the sad state of stigma and fear, hit me hard.
One’s needs are great when depressed, and I was no exception, demanding more than anyone could give. There was not enough therapy, not enough support; I was trying to breathe while being dunked under water day after day. All the while, a familiar dream was growing.
I wanted to make it easier for other people to find the positive support we all need. I questioned, What if the church-at-large knew, really knew, how to support persons who are suffering emotionally and mentally? What if, after all these years of denial, the church understood the desperate need for realness in its midst? Could it ever be possible for Christians in the pews to embrace those who are not presently in their right minds or on their best behavior?
My motives were not completely pure- after all I was in deep pain, too. Yet since 2011, some of my efforts have been successful. I have little idea if my words have led any Christian leaders to think deeply on this. Instead, it has been the hurting people, as desperate as I was, who have come out of the woodwork to talk to me when they find out I am one of them.
In two weeks, what I could not find for myself is becoming a reality. I and a co-leader, a clinical counselor, are starting a depression and anxiety support group in our church. The sign-up sheet filled-up quickly, as I knew it would. More want to come who cannot. My gears are still spinning, and hopefully, this will turn into a regular ministry, available to all in the area who need it. The next step is to train supports how to love best those who have depression or anxiety, and to take care of themselves too.
If only I or someone could shake every American Pastor and tell them to wise-up already, to see the obvious, and move yesterday to stop the inevitable today. Meanwhile, my heart hurts for Christians who are ashamed and do not have other Christians to talk to about their secret struggle.
Today’s Helpful Word
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the blind… to comfort all who mourn… to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. -a prophecy about Jesus
Always the Fight Ministries (ATFM) has been displaying compassion for those fighting mental illness, addiction, or abuse since 2012. Nancy is the founder and voice of ATFM and openly shares her emotional resurrection from despair.
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NOTE: I am not a doctor or a mental health professional, and speak only from personal experiences and observations. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.
If you are feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here.
If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S. or go to your nearest emergency room. In the EU call 112. (For other international emergency numbers, go here ). Hope and help are yours!