No More Shame

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M_Claire2Last year was a doozy for me. It was the worst my marriage has seen and I certainly wouldn’t win Mother of the Year Award 2013.

I’ve talked about it in this space before —how I suffered through a long period of depression, feeling isolated, lonely and empty, despite being surrounded by great friends and many blessings.

Depression can be that way. It clouds your judgment to the extent that seeing those blessings and having hope can be next to impossible.

It wasn’t my first bout of depression; in fact I’ve struggled with it for as long as I can remember, as did my mother and grandmother.

As a child I was the target of common British phrases such as, “Smile, it may never happen,” or “Take a chill pill.”

As a child I had no idea what I was dealing with.

Shame

One of the hardest things for me about depression has been feeling completely desolate when there is so much goodness in my life.

How can I feel depressed when I have so much? A beautiful, healthy family; financial security, a comfortable home and a husband who supports my writing passions. The continual message to myself has always been, “What do you have to feel depressed about?”

It’s a vicious cycle: the depression enacts the shame and the shame intensifies the depression.

I think when a tragedy happens to a person, when a loved one is taken from them, or any other devastating life experience, we are able to grieve with them—we see a cause and an effect. But when we can’t see the cause, when we only see the great life a person seems to have, we struggle to understand and empathize.

The Journey

Last year I tried everything to drag myself out of the darkness. Really I did.

I prayed and went to church. But God felt so far away.

I wrote. But my words were parched—I’ve have never felt so disconnected from them.

I journaled. Occasionally. But depression is a funny thing; when you’re in it, it’s the last thing you feel like talking or writing about.

I knew that the only things that could haul me out were God, medication, and counseling.

But it seemed God was otherwise occupied and medication wasn’t an option.

So I found a Christian counselor, thinking if I could just figure out what was wrong in my life I would be okay. We talked about my fear of taking anti-depressants. How I felt as though my faith alone should be enough—that God would heal me if I just tried a little harder. Had a little more faith.

Try a little harder, Claire.

And my counselor told me this: Depression isn’t about failing as a Christian; it’s about mental illness.

Yes, God may heal us. But he may not.

He also shared with me that at a weekend retreat he recently facilitated for pastors, some 30 percent of them admitted to suffering from depression. Of that 30 percent only a few were taking medication—the rest were vehemently against it because they wanted to lean on God alone to carry them through.

I wanted to lean on God alone too. But I wonder, if I had a serious physical illness, would I refuse medication?

Mental illness is so different. We can’t see it; it’s socially unacceptable.

And so we suffer in silence.

Despite the counseling, the positive attitude and the multitude of self-help books that have graced my life, last year I made that final decision to take medication.

I could no longer justify suffering when there was something that would help me feel alive again.

Within weeks of taking the medicine I felt one hundred percent better, despite the circumstances in my life and my attitude remaining exactly the same.

I didn’t choose this illness and I need medicine to help me live life to the fullest.

And yet there is still shame.

Truth: I follow and love Jesus but I have depression.

Truth: Millions of people in the church have depression.

My heart aches for the many people in this world who suffer silently with this illness. They feel embarrassment, hopelessness and isolation, and they feel these emotions more intensely if they are believers.

My experience of teachings in the church is that if we just turn to God and place our hope in Him, think positive thoughts and count our blessings, we won’t suffer.

Yet still we suffer. And so we feel ashamed. Like we aren’t good enough Christians.

Gratitude

I am thankful for my depression.

God has taken my past and is using it for good. He has a purpose for everything I have been through.

I am tired of running from mental illness and of watching others do the same. We hide behind walls in denial, often finding another name for this struggle.

It’s time to bring it into the light.

Through my work with journaling and self-growth, it is my goal to change lives. To use my experience to empower others and be a guiding light that leads them into a place of hope and purpose.

And my prayer is that one day there will be no more shame.

_________________

Image credit: waferboard

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Claire De Boer
Hi, I’m Claire and though you may only see my words here once a month I’m part of the wonderful sisterhood of women who edit, upload and brainstorm behind the scenes of SheLoves. I was born and raised in England but pretty much see myself as a fully fledged Canadian. I spend just about all of my spare time blogging, editing and creating stories. I’ve also ventured into the world of teaching and mentor students in using writing as a tool for personal growth. My passion is to help others find the value and beauty in their stories and to find healing or self-awareness via journaling, memoir, or just "soul writing", as I like to call it. To learn more about my journey and the work I'm doing visit The Gift of Writing
Claire De Boer
Claire De Boer

Latest posts by Claire De Boer (see all)

Claire De Boer
  • Amy Hunt

    YES! God will, indeed, use this for His glory. (already, there’s something profound that He just revealed to me about my own life story growing up . . . how shame led to depression for so much of my growing up years and how I just couldn’t shake it, or chill enough, or learn enough, or whatever . . . )

    This project He’s having me lead . . . (the one you’re probably wanting to know where it stands so far . . . ) . . . yep, this might be one of those exact ways He will use you!

    {hugs}, sweet Claire.

    • cjdeboer

      Thanks so much Amy! Yes, I believe God is turning all my experiences into something beautiful and using them for good. How incredible is that?!
      Hugs right back at ya! xo

      • Amy Hunt

        This is the revelation of His glory . . . this is where hope blooms from the wastelands . . . this is the beauty from the dark . . . and your telling of it is your worship . . . it’s your offering of thanks that gives Him more praise than anything else. Amen.

  • Bev Murrill

    Hey eClaire, I often wonder why Christians are ok with medicating when they’ve broken their leg or got pneumonia or psoriasis, but thing somehow that fixing emotional issues can be done .. emotionally! So glad you changed your mind about the meds… makes all the difference. And even though you may not have got the Good Wife or Mummery award for the year, you’ll get it in life because your husband and kids see that you will go the distance even though life is crap.

    I think you’re awesome… so open and honest… God loves that too.

    • cjdeboer

      Dearest Bev – you make my heart sing. Copious amounts of love to you. xo

  • Helen

    Wow! Thank you so much for bravely sharing this. As a person who loves someone who suffers from depression and the shame and silence that brings, it is so helpful to hear these words. They inspire a response that stands alongside the pain in the midst of the silence. I am thankful you have found a pathway that works for you and for your call to step out of shame and towards openness, care and life.

    • cjdeboer

      Helen I’m so glad this post spoke to you and inspires you to stand alongside the pain. It’s a message I pray many will hear.

  • Thank you for writing this Claire. It is one of the biggest regrets of my life that I damaged members of my family because I refused to admit to being depressed. This was largely as a result of well intentioned but utterly misguided Christian teaching. It is so important that people like you stand up and tell your story – thank you again!

    • cjdeboer

      Hi Joanna – I do believe that if more people speak out we can squash the shame attached to mental illness, especially in the church. Thank you for your support!

  • BRAVE! So glad you decided to take medicine…and that it helped! What a gift the medical community has given us. Thank God for science!

    • cjdeboer

      Yes! Thank GOD for science!!!

  • Stefanie

    thank you claire for this powerful post. i see so many clients who come for counselling and are set against taking medication for depression, even though it might be the thing that helps them. you expressed it perfectly – if it was a physical illness would meds be resisted? i sometimes find that such questioning helps people to see it differently (e.g. if you had asthma, would you not use an inhaler for relief?). so glad to hear you are feeling better. i know what you’ve shared here will help many readers. you are brave and beautiful!

    • cjdeboer

      Thanks Stefanie. This is a great question to ask – it certainly helped me. And I do hope this message will help many people suffering in silence. Love to you! xo

  • Caiobhe

    The title of your piece caught my eye, as saying no to shame has been my new practise in recent weeks. I even wrote ‘found poetry’ about it ! I too have had depression and it is not something that we need to have any shame about. Here’s what I wrote http://wp.me/p4fT8v-bV . thank you for your writing too.

    • cjdeboer

      Thank you for your words and for reaffirming that shame need never be attached to this illness.

  • Karen

    Claire. I have been on medication for depression on and off for nearly 20 years since I had my eldest son. Prior too that I had periods of unexplained illness. Every time I’ve weaned myself off them I’ve needed them again within two years. And part of that time I’ve usually been battling it and fighting it because I didn’t want to admit I’ve ‘failed again’. No more! I’m done struggling when I didn’t have to.
    Having said that, I don’t think my medication completely solves the problem. I still have periods of intense darkness. Sometimes it feels like the dementors have sucked the very light out of me. When that happens I rest, and try to be kind to myself.
    I have depression, which is a chronic illness. Sometimes I can manage it. Sometimes I can’t. That’s life.
    Much love from a fellow-traveller. And thank you x

    • cjdeboer

      HI Karen – I agree completely. I think medication only addresses part of the problem and there are many other things we need to do to help ourselves. Being kind to ourselves is one of them. Big hugs to you as you walk this often turbulent path. xo

  • Rachel ‘Pieh’ Jones

    Thank you, Claire. For your honesty and humility and wisdom.

    • cjdeboer

      Thanks Rachel! xo

  • sandyhay

    I was just today watching a rerun of Brene Brown on the Oprah Super Soul Sunday. They were talking about shame. Vulnerability takes bravery. Bravo Claire 🙂

    • cjdeboer

      Thank you, Sandy. I was certainly very nervous about revealing something so personal. But if I can take the hand of many others in the same place and help them feel just a little less shame, it’s worth being in that place of discomfort. xo

      • sandyhay

        My small group leader has been on depression meds for several years. She still quakes whenever she talks about, but talk about she does.

  • Alyssa Santos

    Claire, this little piece on the internet will give permission to find freedom for many who come across it. There is a secret society of shame dwellers who battle mental illness and as Christians feel like utter failures (adding to their shame). Thank you for being one who will bring it into the light and make the secret society a little less secret and more like a community of encouragers.

    • cjdeboer

      Hi Alyssa – yes, I pray that those who need to find this piece will find it and be able to hold their head a little higher. And I hope that secret society stands together as one very loud voice in the near future!

  • this is pure permission. this is so brave and so honest and raw. thank you for speaking in the silence, love.

    • cjdeboer

      Thank you for your support, Lovely! xo

  • pastordt

    I will say a hearty amen to that prayer, Claire. I wonder why we hone in on the first part of the disease, the word ‘mental,’ instead of the word ‘illness?’ That’s what it is – an illness, yet another way in which human beings can be mis-wired and broken. I take pills for high blood pressure and GERD. If I suffered from clinical depression, I would take meds for that, too. Yet the church has put such a box around those meds, separating them out from all the others that we view as benign and necessary. Thanks for shining the light on this important issue. I’ve lost friends to depression – it kills people, just like any other life-threatening illness. I’m so glad you are taking the meds and that they have helped that fog to lift.

    • cjdeboer

      You’re so right Diana – many (not all) churches have put a box around those meds and I have yet to understand why. It makes no sense to me. But I think this extends beyond the church. There is still stigma attached to taking anti-depressants no matter what our beliefs and social circles. The judgement has to stop. Thank you for your supportive words. xo

  • Helen Burns

    Beautiful Claire… I can’t begin to tell you just how proud I am of you for bravely sharing your journey here. I’m so sorry that I didn’t know the depth of your struggle and offer to be more helpful in helping you process and walk through it, but your bravery here to express it is a very generous invitation to walk forward together. We need your truth as it not only liberates you but also others…. ‘I am tired of running from mental illness and of watching others do the same. We hide behind walls in denial, often finding another name for this struggle.It’s time to bring it into the light.’

    I love brave, stunning YOU…

    Helen xo

    • cjdeboer

      Phew, thank you Helen. It’s a hard one to articulate with grace and love but I hope I did that. I’d love for there to be more conversations around this issue in the church. Love you! xo

      • Helen Burns

        You did articulate it gracefully and powerfully. I agree strongly that we need conversations to bring awareness and freedom. Let’s talk about how we can best do this well… I love and appreciate you, xoxo

  • Angela Wynans

    Yes yes!! Amen, sister. I am so grateful for your honesty about your struggle. One of my greatest desires is that this would be more and more acknowledged and talked about. Struggling with depression as a believer shouldn’t cause us to feel shame, yet it inevitably does. We are in this broken, fallen world and that is the core issue. The illnesses we struggle with as a result should not be cause for shame. I truly think the more the people of the church understand depression and other mental illnesses, the more we, as a whole, might begin to learn how to approach the struggles and love the people as Christ does. I am so grateful that you were willing to share your journey on this platform where so many can read it and not only be encouraged by it, but also maybe understand what we are dealing with a little more. I am so encouraged by the words and the truth you’ve written. Feel free to check out my little blog that is dedicated solely to the lessons and truths I’ve learned through 10 years of depression and that there is hope in the midst of it (hopefortheshaken.wordpress.com).
    So so grateful for this post!!

    • cjdeboer

      Thank you Angela and yes yes yes to every word! Let there be a big bright light shone upon this issue!

  • this is so brave Claire. it really opened my eyes to an area that is unknown to me. so well written and expressed.

    • cjdeboer

      Thank you Michaela 🙂 Love you. xoxox

  • Robin Reister

    Claire! Beautiful words… Through sharing your story you are releasing other women form the same shame… I am one of those. Thank you!

    • cjdeboer

      Robin, thank you for telling me that – it means a lot 🙂

      • So funny! I just downloaded your free e-book, soul writing, a couple of weeks ago and just made the connection! So excited to begin this journey!

        • cjdeboer

          Yaaaay! Welcome to the community! 🙂

  • Heather Caliri

    Thanks for sharing this, Claire. Shame us such a powerful chain that binds us. Thank you for speaking truth to free us!

    • cjdeboer

      Thank you for always supporting me my friend! xo

  • Megan Gahan

    So proud of you for busting open the super secret side of Claire this month – that secret shame-filled hidden side we ALL have, and typically try to bury far far away from the light. Your bravery in sharing will break the chains of silence for so many and the shame will fall away as we realize there is NO shame. So beautiful. You have courage for days my friend. Thank you

    • cjdeboer

      Thank you dear Megs – I love how we all stand in this space and carry one another. This is truly a community of amazing people – and you are one of them 🙂 xo

  • Nicole A. Joshua

    You are so brave Claire. I can’t wait to hug you for being honest about your journey with depression. And I’ll be praying with you that shame will be no more 🙂

    • cjdeboer

      I think some of us have to stand up and speak for the rest of us who can’t or who may be afraid. It’s hard but necessary. Thank you for your love dear friend. xoxox

  • Sherry Naron

    Oh sweet Claire, why do we do this to ourselves. Someone who was born with Type 1 Diabetes can not survive without insulin.The body has to have it. And God gave some amazing scientists the gift of knowledge and creativity about the body and helping develop this drug – it’s their gift to the world. And so many people in the world take it on a daily basis and manage happy lives. I’m not sure why we feel any different about mental illnesses, but so many of us do. We treat any body part that is ill and breaks, except for the brain. I often feel the enemy uses the shame to render us useless. I’m glad you aren’t silent about it, I think when others speak up it helps those who are also suffering. Thank you for being brave!

    • cjdeboer

      I’m not sure why we feel differently about mental illness either, but there’s a lot of fear and misunderstanding around the issue. Thank you for reading and standing with me!

  • It’s funny how the thing that wants to tell us we should be ashamed–when we bring it to the light–actually rallies others around us. Sharing your story, makes me feel so proud of you! The total opposite of what shame tries to tell us.

    Way to go, friend. Thankful we get to walk it out together.

    • cjdeboer

      Your support and words mean the world to me my friend. Thank you SO much for this space, this community and for the way you carry ALL of us. xoxxo

  • I’ll pray that prayer with you Claire…”no more shame.” Heart-breaking that mental illness is still so misunderstood.

    • cjdeboer

      Thank you for your prayers, Susan!

  • Thank you for speaking your truth, Claire. As I approach this new season of motherhood I’m keenly aware about the potential for postpartum depression in my future. I know mothers have felt/feel tremendous shame about feeling disconnected from their gorgeous healthy babes. I, for one, am so grateful for the moms who have come forward and addressed the depression for what it is, an illness. Not lack of gratitude, or lack of faith, but something that can be treated!!!

    Telling your story is giving somebody else permission to shake off their shame and find the help they need. And for that, you’re my hero!

    Keep on keepin’ on sister,
    Teen
    P.S. I know 2013 was a tough year for you, but can I just say friend, you bowled me over with your grit and tenacity last year. You are one of the strongest women I know. I mean that.

    • cjdeboer

      Okie dokie – I’ll keep on keepin’ on Teenbug! It’s easier with great friends like you by my side 🙂 Thank you for your lovely words. xo

  • Sarah Joslyn

    I love this, brave friend. I love that you are STANDING UP and SPEAKING OUT. I love YOU.

    • cjdeboer

      I love you too, Sars! Thank you for standing with me!!! xoxox

  • Daniela

    You are so brave. And so awesome. Love you to the moon. Yes, we need to stop the shame. So thankful for your voice. xoxo

    • cjdeboer

      And I yours, Lovely. Seems like sharing from the hardest places is our thing right now 😉 xoxo

  • Roos Woller

    Well said, you are an amazing strong woman! If one of us hurts the whole body hurts and we all hurt sometimes. I vote for complete love and no more shame 🙂

    • Thanks Roos 🙂 Love you! xo

    • cjdeboer

      Amen to that vote, Roos! Love you! xo

  • Erin Wilson

    Your post made me remember when I finally went to the doctor after a deep struggle with depression. I had worked with many folks with mental illness, and always encouraged them to see their doctor and use meds if they would be . But I totally failed to give myself the same advice. For so long I berated myself for not being able to pull myself out of it. Picturing myself now, sitting in the doctor’s office trying to explain what was wrong, crying as I had been doing for 8 days straight at that point, and telling the doctor that I thought I was probably okay and wouldn’t need meds. Ha! Oh my…laughing so hard right now. Those pills saved my life. Oy.

    Thank you for telling your story, Claire. And thank you for giving me the chance to revisit my younger self. xoxo

    • cjdeboer

      Isn’t it amazing how much more grace we have for others than we do for ourselves? Thanks for sharing, Erin — it’s so comforting to know others have wrestled with the same doubts.

  • makeda

    Aww Claire, this is such brave writing. Your courage will no doubt be a gift to the countless many who are suffering silently feeling bad that they aren’t “better Christians”. Shame is from the enemy and it breaks my heart that so many in the church sit under the weight of shame that we Christians put them under. Thank you for boldly sharing your story. I know it was probably not easy but you have given a gift to so many with your words. Thank you!

    • cjdeboer

      Thank you Makeda. Not easy, indeed – but very necessary. I pray that this story will reach those people in desperate need of it right now.

  • Amen from a fellow sufferer.

    I refuse to silently suffer and write frequently about my own struggle with depression.

    Glad to hear medicine has helped.

    Melody

  • Anonymous

    I’ve had the opposite problem. After wrestling with depression for a long time I finally got up the courage to talk to my normally wonderful doctor about it. Perhaps because I was still feeling embarrassed, I linked it to some recent circumstances (which had indeed exacerbated it but not caused it), and so she apparently thought it was a recent phenomenon and just recommended things like more Vitamin D. A therapist I had seen a few years beforehand had recommended a supplement that I’ve been taking since and so I upped my dosage, and that seems to have been helping (a part of it I think is also SAD, so the fact that we’re finally getting more daylight is making it better). But it was frustrating that she didn’t take it as seriously as I think it needs to be taken, given how long it’s been an issue (and the doctor’s visit was quite expensive even with insurance, so I can’t afford to go back until my finances have recovered from the hit). On the other hand, some of my Christian friends have been great at encouraging me to try to seek treatment, and have nagged at me about it when I didn’t want to listen (although part of my fear isn’t just the stigma with depression, but also the fact that I’ve had strong reactions to meds in the past, so I’m concerned about doing something that will tweak my brain). So not sure where to go from here, other than hoping that the supplement keeps working.