When my freshman year roommate in medical school confided in me that she suffered from depression and had once attempted suicide, I remember feeling apprehensive. We often fear what we do not understand, and even today, some 40 years later, we still don’t completely understand depression; there is still a lot of uneasiness among people when mental illness is spoken of or experienced.
Some years later, I experienced some of what my roommate had suffered. I know the Lord presented this to me to teach me several things. I knew I wasn’t “crazy,” but I also knew I could not overcome the deep despondency I was experiencing. Through this I learned to not fear mental illness so much and also gained empathy with others experiencing the same. God showed me how smug and judgmental my attitude had been toward those I had deemed to be “crazy people.”
It also helped me reach out to my patients (I was an OB/GYN for 25 years, now retired) who were suffering depression or other forms of mental dysfunction. It gave me more credibility with my patients and enabled me to help them realize that there should be no stigma to treating such disorders. I would tell them, “If you had pneumonia, you wouldn’t hesitate to take an antibiotic. If you have a chemical imbalance in your brain, don’t hesitate to take an appropriately-prescribed treatment.”
The Lord used doctors and medication to relieve my depression, but it was a process. I remember yearning to feel “normal” again and relating to Ezekiel and the valley of the dry bones (Ezekiel 37:1-14). I remember a conversation with God in prayer, “Oh, Lord, my life and even my worship have become nothing but dry bones!” Ezekiel 37:3 reads “[The Lord] asked me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’ I said, ‘O Sovereign Lord, you alone know.’ “
The Lord spoke to me through His words to Ezekiel in verses 5-6: “This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.”
I took this as a promise from God, and it kept me looking up while the healing proceeded. Yes, he made my dry bones live again by breathing His breath into me. Moreover, He used my experience to help others. Yes, He is the Lord, indeed!
For more on the struggles with our thought life and mental health issues, check out the eight part series entitled ‘Captive‘ based on 2 Corinthians 10:4-5
Marilyn is a retired OB/GYN and member of the Study With Friends Ministries advisory board.