The one with the thick-framed glasses pulled her eyes away from mine and mumbled, “We just don’t know how to talk to you anymore.” Looking back up at my face, my roommate said, a little braver this time, “We love you, but this isn’t the you we know.” The other two nod in agreement with what their leader has said. Each one of them hold a look of pity that makes my stomach rapidly churn the acid it carries.
For over 10 years, I have struggled with depression. Depression’s determined and skillful hands gripped my life when I was just 12 years old. Even then, I compared the word “depression” to a curse word. Now, at 22, I have discovered that the word depression is often seen as a taboo word. For some reason people view this word as one that should be whispered, if said at all. This concept of ignoring or belittling depression seems to be especially common at small town Christian universities—much Oklahoma Baptist University.
The website of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) provides readers with some alarming facts such as, “Anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental health problems on college campuses” as well as, “Women are twice as likely to have an anxiety disorder as men.” These facts can bring the problem of mental health disorders to light for those of us who may not be aware of how common depression and anxiety can be.
In my time on Bison Hill, I have found many other people, students and faculty alike, who are fighting or have fought depression in their lives. Each person I’ve come across has dealt with it differently. Many tuck their emotions deep within and hope it’ll go away. Others don’t know how to deal with this odd disease; one often consisting of despair, anger, and apathetic behavior.
One thing that each person I’ve encountered as in common is the way they initially speak of their depression or anxiety. Unfortunately, many of the students who have approached me talk about their depression as if it’s something that should bring them shame. It seems that because we are at a Christian university, depression must be related to sinfulness and should be taken care of immediately and quietly. Because we associate mental health disorders with an error in our faith, the common answer to depression is to simply “get right with God”. It’s hard to look at someone with depression and understand that their faith may not be the cause of how they are feeling. If others are like myself, they already feel guilty enough for having told you that they have problems with feeling depressed. So when in conversation with someone about these issues, do your best to just be there for them, rather than make them feel worse than they already do.
Although it is still a very kind gesture, simply telling someone who is struggling with depression or anxiety that you will pray for them, it doesn’t ultimately make them feel better. As a Christian community, doesn’t it make sense to treat those who are hurting as if they, too are a part of that community?
Those who struggle with depression and anxiety don’t simply want to be told that things are going to be okay. When in dark places, it’s often hard to hear or even believe that things can get better. Sometimes, when I am having a particularly difficult time with my depression, it’s oddly sweet when someone tells me that it’s okay for things to suck every once in a while.
As Christians it is our duty to seek out the weary and the downtrodden. Although, sometimes we forget that they can be sitting right next to us in class.
If you or someone you know has feelings of anxiety or depression call this number for help: (405)-585-5260