Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Stigma, Apologizing, and Chronic Depression

Photo Courtesy of  FrameAngel

“’You were born a total sinner!’ they answered.  ‘Are you trying to teach us?”  And they threw him out of the synagogue.’”  John 9:34 NLT

When the blind man came to the synagogue and told them he was healed they responded with the above passage.  They threw him out.  My guess is he wasn’t expecting that.  Stigma’s been around as long as there’s been time on this Earth.  When our diagnosis is trivialized, looked down on, or even seen as sin in our life how do we deal with that?  And why do we apologize for our mental illness?  Read on. 

Does this sound familiar?  You are talking with one of your church friends and you tell them that you deal with depression on a regular basis.  Instantly you are viewed as less of a Christian or you must have some unrepentant sin going on or you’re not really practicing your faith very well right now.  That happens more often than we as fellow Christians want to admit.  Because of this, I think those that regularly struggle with depression diminish their diagnosis to the trivial.  They minimize it because that’s all they hear. 

I can’t even tell you how many people I know live with chronic depression.  I was recently talking with a friend and she started apologizing that she just had a diagnosis of depression instead of bipolar, as if to say her diagnosis was not as legitimate or difficult to live with as someone with what she felt had a more difficult diagnosis.  It was like saying, if you are going to get a mental health diagnosis, depression is the easy one, and the others are so much more severe. 

It’s true that straight depression is different, but let’s stop comparing it in terms of dealing with it on a day to day basis.  Ask anyone that has chronic depression, and it is anything but easy.  On top of that, it is the one that many people don’t think is legitimate.  They think you can eat different, pray more, get closer to God, or exercise more and presto, the depression is gone.  I’m not saying that those things don’t help.  What I am saying is that chronic depression has a biological component to it that all of those things won’t cure barring a miracle from above.

I got a taste of chronic depression, which is defined as depression that last more than 6 months, when David passed away.  It helped me understand what it is like to live with it on a daily basis.  I am extremely thankful that I didn’t have to live with it the rest of my life.  If that was the case, I am confident I would have needed regular treatment of therapy and/or medication.  So whenever I hear a friend say they just have depression, I instinctively correct them.  Walking about a year or so in their shoes has taught me at least that. 

So, if you live with chronic depression, I beg you stop apologizing for it and in place, educate others about it.  If your child lives with chronic depression, keep in mind that this is a difficult walk for them. 

Let’s be part of the solution instead of perpetuating the misconceptions. 

PRAY: Lord, Help me to understand and/or educate others.  Give me genuine compassion to others that live with chronic depression every day of their lives and when I am depressed use it to glorify you.

Ann Gapinski

To read Ann's other posts click on her name under the labels section.


  1. Thank you Ann. This is exactly why I no longer go to church. Too hard to explain to people who jump to those conclusions right away. Thank you for writing this.

  2. Sorry to hear about your church experience. Hopefully you'll be able to return someday.

  3. The church should be a place of forgiveness and love and acceptance. I'm sad to hear news about people turning their back from faith because of people who are not welcoming and forgiving enough.