Pills in Bowl

On loving Jesus and taking anti-depressants.

My therapist tells me that she believes it probably won’t be long until there is a test, a blood test or something, that will tell what is chemically happening in your brain. To ascertain that something isn’t right, some chemical or hormone isn’t being released correctly or in the right amount (forgive me – I am no scientist).

This would distinguish between mental illnesses that requires chemical intervention and those mental illnesses that can be alleviated by environmental changes and talking therapies, without the need for the pills.

And although we shouldn’t have to prove it, we shouldn’t need that validation, it would make life a lot simpler.

It would answer the critics who think that those of us who suffer just need to pull ourselves together.


When I was first prescribed anti-depressants nearly seven years ago, I went through (what I now know as) a fairly normal emotional cycle. Relief, to have a potential solution. Fear they wouldn’t work. Shame, I needed to take the drugs in the first place.

Relief. Fear. Shame.

Relief. Fear. Shame.

These three ideas, on a loop.

And when I stopped taking the anti-depressants a year and a half later I was nervous, but quietly confident. I knew I had come a long way, learnt a great deal, and was, to a large degree, healed.

There was a certain pride in having stopped taking them. I had battled and done the hard work (changed my lifestyle, done many hours of therapy, and learnt new techniques for relaxation). I felt it was a new day, an opportunity for a new start.

(Although you have to wonder if there is a pride in not taking them anymore then maybe the shame that comes with being prescribed them in the first place isn’t that unexpected, I digress…)

I truly thought I was one of those people who had one slump, one period of depression which needed medication. I believed I was one of those people who would have the story of the illness, followed by learning, then recovery, then health. I thought the illness would be a thing that had happened, that could be boxed away separately, not a part of who I was.

I knew I wasn’t perfect, and I had a lot to learn, but from a chemical point of view… well, I thought that bit was done.

This year, in January, in conversation with my therapist we decided that I needed chemical support again. I have written extensively about this decision, it was a hard one, but ultimately one I am very glad I made. You can read about it here.

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I am sure that most people who read this blog are lovely and non-judgemental about those of us who take the drugs, but I have a feeling this is not a universal response.

In fact, I know it isn’t.

In Christian circles we seem to have a problem with antidepressants, maybe more so than outside of the church. We don’t talk about it much. And when we do, we like to talk about it in a ‘they used to but thank God they don’t need them any more’ capacity. It is easier, cleaner, less messy. It chimes in with the version of the gospel we like to tell, of healing and health and resurrection.

But, you see, I love Jesus and I am sure he is fine with my drugs.

In the morning, almost as a joke, as I take my pill (citalopram*, as you asked) I say ‘thank you Jesus for the drugs’. I look at my husband and we laugh.

We laugh because of the distance we have travelled.

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I used to find it hard to reconcile my anti-depressants with what I knew of scripture. I would remember what it said in the Bible about having a ‘mind like Christ’, and about how we were being ‘transformed by the renewing of our minds’. There was a lot of talk about taking every thought captive, and the power of positive declaration.

And there is good in all these ideas. But when your mind is a constant stream of anxious thoughts, so much so that you cease to function, it is impossible to take every thought captive. Even with all my energy, the best will in the world and a strong wind behind me, I couldn’t do it.

And there were times, in the last few years, where I felt so angry with myself. So frustrated that I was not able to just get past this. So cross that I wasn’t able to reconcile the truth I knew in my soul with the 100mph anxiety train in my brain.

It was easy to feel like a failure, because surely Jesus should have been enough for me? If he was transforming my mind, then why did I need the drugs?

But there is a difference between knowing the truth in your heart and soul, and being able to translate those truths to the working of your brain.

I can’t categorically say why I have ended up in this position, where I am daily medicating because of a mental illness (because let us be honest, that is what I am doing).

I think it probably has a lot to do with many, many years of abuse.

I am not talking about substance abuse, or alcoholism,

…but being addicted to proving I was worthy.

This was the emotional abuse I put myself through.

My self-worth was based on how other people saw me. I wanted my work colleagues to think I was hard working, creative and intelligent, my parents and peers to think I was a good person, Godly Mum and a loyal friend, my husband to think I was fun, committed and sexy, and my kids to find me available, emotionally intuitive, and energetic.

I was desperate to be seen as a woman who had it together.

And I pushed myself harder and harder to try and prove it.

Until I pushed too far, and something short-circuited in my brain. Something snapped.

I wonder if the surplus adrenalin and cortisol I produce is my brains way of trying to enable me to work at the pace I had set. A pace that was and is totally unsustainable. A pace that had me on my knees, barely leaving the house, tied up with guilt and feeling like a failure.

I’m no medical professional but this is my best guess.

All I know is my brain isn’t working like it should and I can’t fix it on my own.

The antidepressants help. They give me the volition to live well.

Since taking them my adrenalin and cortisol surge in the morning has calmed and I am far, far less anxious. When I suggest going out for dinner, or taking a trip somewhere my husband frequently asks, “Who are you?” because it has been so many years since I have behaved like this. For me, the drugs are part of my solution to being able to live well and I am grateful for them.

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I often wonder how much easier it would be for those around me in church if I could stand up and give a testimony of healing. If I could point to a certain scripture and reveal that declaring it over my mind consistently, or finally understanding the truth changed everything.

I wonder if some people would find it easier if I could stop writing about mental illness as though it is part of my identity.

But it is.

This is my brokenness.

And I’m (mostly**) okay with that. Because I firmly believe it is my brokenness that makes me beautiful. Vulnerable, messy, complicated and imperfect, for sure. But beautiful.

 

I am a recovering people-pleaser and responsibility addict. I am a recovering restless soul, who didn’t know how or when to stop.

And part of my recovery is daily understanding what grace means.

And part of my recovery is true connection and vulnerability with people who love me.

And part of my recovery is taking the pills.

I need all three.

I need Jesus and my people and my drugs.

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* Other antidepressants are available! But seriously, it can be a complicated process to discover which antidepressant is the right one for you, it is most definitely not a ‘one size fits all’ situation. If you are in the process of trying to figure this out – good luck. X

**Mostly… well, hey, I’m human, who doesn’t have days when they wish everything was perfect and they were completely well.

The photo of me above is by no means perfect, it is a little blurry which frustrates me. I can’t remember which one of the kids took it, but I like it. It shows me as I feel a lot of the time now: windswept, in my rain coat with no make-up, vulnerable but present, and pretty good.


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22 Comments
  • Learne
    Posted at 04:36h, 22 September Reply

    I am an anglican vicar and applaud you for your writing. Honesty and grace fill your words. I say to people “you wouldn’t tell a diabetic to just get over it or just try it without the medication and see how you go. In the same way we shouldn’t speak like that to those who need medication for their brains.” God bless you

  • Alun
    Posted at 14:07h, 22 September Reply

    Thanks for this article. It is refreshingly honest and respectful of the emotional and physical challenges that so many people face in this day and age. It is so unfortunate that so many Christians do not seek to benefit from the many skills and gifts given to those who can help those of us who engage with depression on a daily basis. I am convinced, and have experienced personally, that there is much benefit to the roles of both pastoral and medical skills.

  • Jan
    Posted at 09:18h, 23 September Reply

    Thank you for this article, I too have taken anti depressants for years, and have encountered the Jesus’s not drugs attitude many times. It is those drugs that have given me the ability to work through my ‘be perfect’ and ‘please people’ personality drivers to find a measure of peace. However because of my regular periods of depression my doctor had said stay on a low dose for the rest of your days, as he is convinced that I do not make sufficient seratonin to function “normally“ without it. I am thankful to God that he gave people the brains to discover these things!

    • thehippochronicles
      Posted at 08:38h, 24 September Reply

      Quite! I am frequently thankful for my therapists and the doctors! Xx

  • Joy
    Posted at 06:29h, 24 September Reply

    Brilliant article. Thank you for sharing you and your journey with us.
    Something I learned recently (which at first I thought was selfish but am now seeing what it means) was that God wants us to look after ourselves so we can then look after others – we can’t look after others fully until we look after ourselves.
    I’ve just had a change in my medication and someone commented to me that I should try to come off them as soon as possible – they didn’t understand that I don’t wish to be on them but that I know I need to be on them. Looking after me.
    Bless you

    • thehippochronicles
      Posted at 08:37h, 24 September Reply

      Good for you Joy. Looking after yourself is essential. Much love xx

  • Lyn Fitzpatrick
    Posted at 16:54h, 24 September Reply

    As a mental health nurse and a Christian I have witnessed first hand how medication and ECT can bring people back from the despair of depression. However on talking to several friends who take antidepressant medication I have come to realise how it can ‘deaden’ a persons emotional reaction to stress making that person unable to see when they have too much stress in their lives and so they continue to keep on going without thinking of resting-which we are all called to do. This is my reason for being cautious about taking these medications without first considering whether our own bodies are telling us to take a step back and be kind to ourselves-difficult in a society which we feel pressured to be everything to everyone-however God continuously tells us to rest and put our anxieties on to Him which he is more than capable to take on.

  • Ben H
    Posted at 11:24h, 26 September Reply

    Great article. God heals through the hands of doctors, therapists, and other medical professionals! Thanks for your honesty about your mental health and feelings.

  • Hannah
    Posted at 12:59h, 26 September Reply

    Thanks for your honestly. Great writing as always.

  • Dorothy Hawkins
    Posted at 23:16h, 26 September Reply

    Goodness me, this could be me writing, though maybe not so well! An Anglican minister, I tell anyone this part of my history if I think it will help. I am not ashamed but proud. But I have only fairly recently embraced self care and dropped the need to please people constantly, and I am now 60yrs old, I hope you haven’t suffered so long. I wish you love and a long life, and the knowledge that your writing truly inspires and helps others.

  • angelalahunt
    Posted at 05:06h, 27 September Reply

    This is a stunning article and as if you’ve just spoken words of my own. I’ve just written my own post about my depression on nauticulture.com (WordPress blog too). I’m also on Citalopram – 9 years on and off but firmly on for the last 5 years. I’m dipping at the moment but it will pass. Can’t wait for that blood test. Be blessed and thanks again xxx

  • Sarah
    Posted at 08:11h, 27 September Reply

    What a beautiful heart expression. What a beautiful success you are. Made in God’s image and living life. He must be smiling a huge smile over you. Keep pressing on and being real xxx

  • mattersofdepression
    Posted at 08:23h, 27 September Reply

    Thanks for this. I too take anti depressants and felt like a massive failure for doing so. I always thought I wouldn’t need them because I had Jesus. I thought that by taking them I had failed as a person and as a Christian. As if somehow taking them meant I was less of a Christian. It’s refreshing to hear others in the same boat and encouraging to see how others get through it. Thank you

  • Imogen
    Posted at 11:35h, 28 September Reply

    Thank you for your article. I have a query though. 2013 was a very tough year for me: I lost two loved ones, as well as having other stresses such as health problems, so I went onto Citalopram, which I am still on and wouldn’t be without. However, in the last 15 months I have had two more bereavements. Sometimes I think that the medication helped me to cope, because I haven’t been nearly as low as I might have expected. The question is, Is the bereavement just being deadened and waiting to catch up? Because sometimes that is what I feel, as if there is grief trapped in there waiting to come out. Any ideas? Thanks!

  • meredith mcdaniel
    Posted at 02:00h, 01 October Reply

    Thank you for sharing your story. I am sharing it now on my counseling FB page so that other Christian women will feel freed up to takes meds if/when they need to do so to find some light in the dark. You are brave. xo

  • Kate Laymon
    Posted at 02:59h, 01 October Reply

    Thank you for this post. I relate to so much of how you think about antidepressants… the love-hate relationship… I recently got off of them, but it’s been a bumpy ride and I’m having the same sense of shame come up at the possibility of having to go back on them. Its helpful to remember all these things.

  • hellomynameisjoni
    Posted at 06:33h, 02 October Reply

    Love this! Thanks for your beautiful, honest words. I totally relate. xxx

  • Lisa Pryce
    Posted at 10:44h, 04 October Reply

    Thank God – for you and anti-depressants!

  • Pingback:Fridays are for Favorites #47
    Posted at 11:07h, 07 October Reply

    […] “In Christian circles we seem to have a problem with antidepressants, maybe more so than outside of the church. We don’t talk about it much. And when we do, we like to talk about it in a ‘they used to but thank God they don’t need them any more’ capacity. It is easier, cleaner, less messy. It chimes in with the version of the gospel we like to tell, of healing and health and resurrection…But, you see, I love Jesus and I am sure he is fine with my drugs.” As a nurse, I feel strongly about mental health and wellness, but as a Christian I’ve seen tragedies happen due to misguided beliefs about that same topic — therefore I loved hope*writer Elli Johnson’s post On Loving Jesus and Taking Anti-Depressants  […]

  • Jana Snyder
    Posted at 02:05h, 10 November Reply

    Wish I’d read your blog before we met in NC at HW! We share this in common. I love that you’re writing about this, and how you’re writing about this!

    Comedienne Chonda Pierce has a funny bit about medication in her routine where she talks about her own depression: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2twMznJHc3E

    • ElliJohnson
      Posted at 08:52h, 10 November Reply

      I’ll have to give it a watch, thanks Jana. Thanks for the encouragement xx

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