I knew I was in trouble when I was sleeping poorly and my usually sunny nature gave way to a cloudy, stormy self.
In 2009 a series of things converged in my life and I was diagnosed with depression.
The triggers included being very tired because we lived next to a major road, I was away more than 100 nights per year, I was nudging 50 so my body was preparing for menopause and I was experiencing some frustrations fulfilling the functions of presbytery minister. Sometimes people in churches don’t behave very well and there can be a lot of mopping up to do.
My husband encouraged me to talk to the doctor about how I was feeling. A twelve-month course of anti-depressants, chatting with my professional supervisor and adjusting my routines to make sure I had plenty of exercise and proper time off meant that I was eventually back in good shape.
It was difficult for me to admit that I needed help.
I am usually the helper.
Ministers who suffer illness, burnout or depression can feel ashamed, inadequate or feel like we are “letting God down”, but Christians, even ministers, can find themselves battling depression or in a family where there are mental health issues.
For people affected by severe mental illness, life can be confusing and distressing. Sometimes it is nearly impossible for family members to offer support, and relationships can be fractured and broken. Yet for others the condition is able to be managed and medication and other support enables a normal life.
Congregations can be places where families receive support in their caring roles and those affected by mental illness can gain acceptance and belonging. A Nouwen Network is an excellent resource for congregations.
That can be one way that Christians put the theory of loving generously into practice. It is 50 years since our Church began providing anonymous telephone counselling through Lifeline. That has provided one line of support for those affected by mental illness and their relatives.
As a young minister I benefitted from training which helped me understand mental illness and gave me insight when I was depressed.
My own experience gave me a tiny insight into what some people live with every day. In worship on Sunday 13 October I invite you to pray for those affected by mental illness, carers and their families.
Rev Kaye Ronalds
Queensland Synod Moderator
If you need crisis support call Lifeline on 13 11 14