In 2020, every 40 seconds, someone around the globe will die by suicide. And for every 1 who dies, 25 more attempt. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
I wasn’t supposed to be depressed.
I was raised in the church. I served on youth leadership. I traveled with the Gospel choir in college. My feet had touched the soil of three foreign countries, preaching and spreading the hope of Jesus. I had two years of ministry school under my belt. I was passionate about the unconditional love of God, but I was just as determined to end my secret suffering.
I knew people who had worked through unthinkable trauma. I had seen how Jesus could heal addiction. Those stories made the most inspiring testimonies during a Sunday morning service. But I had never heard a Christian (must less a pastor) stand up and tell the truth about their broken brain.
I believed the lie that my life would never get better. I was convinced things would only get worse. No one would understand my struggle. No one cared. And I was certain I’d used up every ounce of grace Jesus could muster.
I had vegetable oil crosses smeared on my forehead more times than I’d like to admit. I’d been shoved backward by fiery preachers, praying for healing. I’d feigned “falling out” in the Spirit so my friends wouldn’t know what I fake I was. I had done it all, but it seemed that either Benny Hinn was as much of a fake as me, or Jesus was a liar.
I’d soaked my tears with prayers for Jesus to snap His cosmic fingers and fix me, but nothing was happening. The shame was nearly as unbearable as the panic attacks.
Christian or Crazy?
No one, other than my wife, knew that I was hiding my prescriptions in my lunchbox and sneaking into the bathroom stall at church. I would lock the door and take my meds like clockwork, scared to death that someone would catch me. I knew I wasn’t doing anything illegal, and these medications were the only thing keeping me functioning, but where I come from, you can either be Christian or “crazy.” You can’t be both.
When Jesus doesn’t snap his fingers and heal everything in an instant, we get uncomfortable and impatient. Stories like mine don’t fit neatly into our boxes. They aren’t nearly as popular as mud on the eyes and dipping in the river seven times and seeing miracles.
My church culture placed great emphasis on the spiritual life. I was raised in a herd-like mentality that demanded outward performance, to the detriment of genuine faith. Because my brain didn't work like other Christians I knew, I learned to blend in and keep my mouth shut.
For those of us with mental illness, the church can sometimes feel cold and unconcerned. We often hide in the shadows, for fear of being thought of as less-than a full Christian. But we continue to stubbornly white-knuckle our commitment to church, hoping to one day be accepted, just as we are.
As I continue to recover from my suicide attempt, I am learning that life isn’t neatly boxed and bowed. When it comes to church, I'm not asking for my pastor to be my psychiatrist. I don't need my Sunday School teacher to try and fix me, or for any clergy person to have all the answers. I just need people to choose kindness, even when they don't understand.
Mental Health Missionary
After years of intense healing work and recovery, I'd made it my life's work to prevent suicide and open the conversation about mental health in faith communities. This year, I’m partnering with 2 publishers to write important books on mental health. The problem is, I need time to write them.
Will you help me save lives this year?
I’ve recently been accepted to a week-long writer’s residency in France. It’s an opportunity most writers only dream of: quiet time in a beautiful setting to do important, life-changing work. The only problem is I need to raise $2,000 to cover the cost of food and international travel. Would you help me?
To make it a bit more enticing, here are a few rewards for donors:
$25 or more - I’ll give you a personal shoutout on a special edition of the Catching Your Breath Podcast I record during my trip.
$50 or more - I’ll send you a postcard from France.
$100 or more - I’ll FaceTime you from France to say “thanks.”
$250 or more - I’ll include you in a special acknowledgement section of my next book.
$500 or more - I’ll include you in a special acknowledgement section of my next two books.
$1000 or more - You can choose to whom I dedicate my next book.
$2000 or more - You can choose to whom I dedicate my next two books.
If I reach or surpass the goal of $2,000, I will include each of my donors in a special donors-only list, where I’ll update you via video 2-3 times during my trip.
Steve Austin is an author, speaker, and life coach who is passionate about helping overwhelmed people learn to catch their breath. He is the author of two Amazon bestsellers, "Catching Your Breath," and "From Pastor to a Psych Ward." Steve lives with his wife and two children in Birmingham, Alabama.
Church and Mental Illness: How to Stop Failing People
Pastor: Not Sure How to Respond to Suffering? Start Here.
8 Simple Ways to Increase Your Happiness with Self-Care
When You Experience Your Worst Day…Again
17 Simple Ways to Calm Your Anxious Mind
9 Proven Ways to Support Someone with Depression
How to Trust God in the Midst of Adversity
How Falling Asleep at the Wheel Saved My Marriage