By Jessica Brodie
As I write this month’s editorial, I’ve just come back from the doctor with my teenage daughter, who is experiencing a strange hurricane of emotional, mental and physical health issues that are culminating both in chronic pain and in debilitating depression and anxiety. It’s nothing new—she’s been going through this for a while and under the care of a lot of doctors, and she’s seeing slow but steady progress. She’s working hard, and as her family, we are coming alongside her in support and love.
But I share this as one more example of the truth contained in two of the front-page articles of this month’s edition. Both in the article on the Summit on the Black Church and the article on the Rev. Telley Gadson’s health journey, the point is clear. We cannot ignore these issues anymore in our society, in ourselves or in our families. The effects spill over, and like a virus begin to affect every ounce of our lives—our churches, our relationships and our souls.
We know that as Christians, we are a connected body with Christ as our head. We know that when one part is hurting, we are all hurting (1 Corinthians 12:26). And yet so many of us continue to hurt in silence, paralyzed by shame or fear or pride or some other reason that makes it difficult to speak it aloud or get help.
This must change. So much is at stake, and we have been silent about these issues for far too long.
It does not make a person “weak” to have mental illness, emotional disorders or physical ailments. Sometimes it takes naming the issue and bringing it to light to drive out the darkness. Other times that is just the beginning, and it sets us on a course of seeking proper care, whether that’s medication or therapy or something else.
No amount of praying can get rid of depression or bipolar, Dr. Michael Bowie said during his plenary at the Summit on the Black Church, and God can’t heal what you don’t reveal.
For a year or more, I’ve been collecting stories from people about their mental illness struggles and how they have experienced or found God in the midst of them; when finished, these will become a book published by the Advocate Press tentatively titled “Darkness to Light.” Because of the struggles going on with my daughter, it is taking some time to finish the collection, but my hope is it will be ready in the spring. When it is, I hope it will be one more tool to help us talk about these things.
In the meantime, I invite you to share your story with others, to be willing to get vulnerable so healing can happen within you and awareness can be shared. (And if you’d like to contribute something to the book-in-progress, please email me at [email protected].)
Remember: We are all in this together.