When Prayer Isn’t Enough

Screams escaped me like a steaming kettle. There was no way to turn down the burner, no hand to pull it off of the heat. My mom was at a loss as to how to help me. She showed me my face in a mirror but I didn’t recognize that girl. For the longest time I thought she did this to show me how bad I was being. Now I realize that she was trying to show me how broken I was. She was showing me how badly I needed help. I looked at the mirror and wondered who that broken helpless girl was.

I was 16 and my social support was collapsing around me. My friend had just told me that her boyfriend, a mutual friend, was suicidal and was staying up to all hours of the night to talk him down. She hadn’t informed an adult, so I did. He got help. I tried to hold onto my friendship with her, but it was over. Where was my happy little high school life?

Events like this trigger my mental illness. This event triggered my first major episode. I was deeply depressed and highly anxious. 

I lay on the kitchen floor in a pool of mess. My dad was out of town. Mom didn’t know what to do. It was late. She wanted me to get help. I refused. I was ashamed.

For the next ten years I lived in shame. I pleaded to God to take it from me. I poured myself into the Word. I let people pray for me and over me. I repented. I let others cast demons out of me. It just seemed to get worse! My faith just wasn’t big enough. I was failing as a Christian.

To this day Christians echo in my ear, “Just pray more and read the scriptures more. God can heal you if you have faith.”

I don’t believe my mental illness got worse because of the prayer and Bible study. I believe it got worse in spite of it.

When I was 26 I was happily in full-time ministry walking alongside teenagers and leading them to Christ. This job was threatened after another event triggered my mental illness. This time when help was offered, I took it. I was diagnosed with depression and chronic anxiety. I was given medication. I started therapy with a Christian counselor. I started to get better.

Things were going so great after a while (I was getting married!!!) that I weaned off of my medication. The road was up and down after that but more up than down.

At 33, my son was born but that happy moment turned nearly tragic. I have suffered from PTSD ever since. I also experienced the inevitable postpartum depression given my mental health history. I was really struggling.

When I turned 36, I found myself in a broken puddle under the desk of my husband’s and my business just like that 16 year old girl in my parent’s kitchen. This time it was BAD. I had already been struggling from the birth of my son and this new trigger took me to places I never knew could be so dark. 

I was re-diagnosed as manic-depressive. Now it all made sense! Looking back at 16, 26, and 36 (not sure why these cycles happen in decades), I see the common thread. I see the events in-between and realize how important a correct diagnosis could be. We made for sure for sure that this was really the illness I had.

Manic-depression (aka bipolar) is a very complex illness. You are not just down. You are not just up. You are not just east. You are not just west. Manic-depression is not a linear illness. It’s an all over the map illness. It took a year after the first warning sign to find the right combination of medications. Almost two years later, the dosages are still being tweaked.

Keep in mind, I still have PTSD. At the time of writing this, the anniversary of the event of being rushed to the hospital in an ambulance, two emergency surgeries and three weeks in and out of the ICU has my PTSD on speed dial.

Like prayer and Bible study, medication isn’t everything. I still need prayer and Bible study to bind me to the One True Physician. I also engage in a prayer focused therapy that reminds me a lot of the EMDR therapy I got soon after I developed PTSD. Medication, spiritual grounding, and developing healthy coping mechanisms work hand in hand.

7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

2 Corinthians 12:7-9

Could God heal me? Yes, He could. But I think God has me in this for a greater purpose. I have been called by Him to reach out to those who are ashamed in their mental illness. Those who think they aren’t good enough Christians because prayer and Bible study aren’t healing them. Those who need help but are afraid. Those who are hanging on by a thread because they feel so incredibly alone and they have given up hope that it will get any better.

Just because God can heal, doesn’t mean He should heal. Sometimes there is a deeper reason for the struggle. Sometimes God gives us a thorn in our flesh so we can better draw others to Christ.

10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:10