Should I take the medication?
I suffered a nervous breakdown in 2011 caused by severe panic and anxiety disorder. Because my body was in fight or flight mode, and there was a flood of cortisol and adrenaline coursing through me, the fight or flight stress response was active. Long-term activation of this stress response mode is what got me in trouble. Sometimes our bodies can get stuck in this mode for various reasons, but mine was due to lack of rest and overworking. The consequences of my behavior created physical and chemical responses, which triggered panic attacks. At the same time, the happy messengers in my brain, known as Dopamine and Serotonin, were radically out of balance as well. Consequently, my mental health was affected, and I began to experience depression and suicidal thoughts.
I took medication and I am Christian.
It took me a while to discover this, but the way I see it now, medication is a gift from God. James 1:17 notes that “every good a perfect gift is from above.” God allows medication to be a part of our stories here on earth. We live in a fallen and broken world, which means sickness and diseases will be a part of that journey. If medication provides a means to healing, then why wouldn't we take that blessing? No one thinks twice about a cancer patient taking the medication called Chemotherapy or the person with diabetes taking their insulin shots. We know those medications aid in providing a prolonged life or even healing. So why do we struggle to believe anxiety and depression medications won't do the same? Maybe it's because we lack understanding of where faith and mental health medications should intersect?
Taking medication does not mean you lack faith.
I will to write it again for the person abused by a spiritual giant that led you to believe otherwise; taking medication does not mean you lack faith. Now that I have made that abundantly clear, I do have a confession. I think anti-anxiety and depression medications are highly overprescribed. There is a time and a place for these drugs; my story is a prime example of that necessary and meaningful intervention. I couldn't function to complete routine activities. A shower was a task I often struggled to achieve. Without the help of medication, I wouldn't have been able to return to everyday life to work on my physical, spiritual, and mental health. Medicine played a massive role in my wellness and recovery, and for that, I am forever grateful to God.
Medication should not be a Band-Aid to cover up what is happening in your life.
Unfortunately, many people turn to medication to mask pressure and pain instead of dealing with their problems. That approach is not healthy or wise. Dr. Leaf explains in Clean up Your Mental Mess, "Anxiety, depression, burnout, frustration, angst, anger, grief, and so on are emotional and physical warning signals telling us we need to face and deal with something that's happened or is happening in our life. This pain, which is very real, is a sign that there's something wrong: you are in a state of disequilibrium. It's not a sign of a defective brain. Your experience doesn't need to be validated by a medical label. Mental health struggles are not your identity. They're normal and need to be addressed, not suppressed, or things will get worse."[i]
Here is the hard cold truth. Most people don't want to put in the work to dig deep and find out why they are struggling mentally. Digging deep is a painful process. Sometimes you must go back to plow forward. An arrow on a bow needs to be pulled back to find the speed and strength to fly. So does the arrow of your life.
Medicine is not a Band-Aid; it's a tool. Therefore, when anxiety or depression medication is prescribed, I find it to be most effective paired with therapy. After being diagnosed with severe panic and anxiety disorder, I went through eighteen months of intensive Christian therapy. Here is a deeper dive into my journey with Christian therapy.
I break this topic of faith and medication down in much more detail in the book I’m writing that comes out in 2023. Could you do me a favor? Will you pass my blog onto someone you know who deals with anxiety? I would like to reach as many people as possible when the book launches. I believe there is healing on the other side of humility. This is why I share so openly in my blogs.
Does your struggle with anxiety feel overwhelming? I want to share an in-depth look at my journey to freedom and some tips that I use every day. Recently I had the honor to sit with Miranda Carls of the Nurtured Good podcast to share exactly that. We chat more about medication and all things anxiety. Listen to Nurtured Good here.
Finally, if fear is present in your life, it is essential to join in with a community that will encourage you and points you toward Jesus, our true medication! Join us at our next free event on May 17th at 7 pm, online or in person. We will be intentional about connections that night and hope to see you there!
[i] Leaf, Dr. Caroline. Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess (pp. 17-18). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.