Episode 1 – Mental Health
Join hosts Patrick and Eric as they discuss mental health struggles and the challenges they bring with Lydia.
Join hosts Patrick and Eric as they discuss mental health struggles and the challenges they bring with Lydia.
You will hear about:
– Raising puppies vs. raising humans
– Highlights and sacrifices of parenting
– Navigating depression in different life seasons, including childhood
– Complexities of taking medication
– The role of Christian community
– Journeying with friends who have depression
Resources mentioned during the episode:
– Inside Out movie
– The Lord of the Rings movie
Pat: Hello and welcome to Undiscussed, a podcast where we talk about the things Christians SHOULD talk about, or that, we THINK Christians should talk about. My name is Pat.
Eric: And I’m Eric. And, uh, we’re gonna be hosting this conversation – uh, with, today we’ve got Lydia.
Eric: And, this episode is going to be talking about Mental Health – something that the church and Christians don’t often talk about but they really should. And uh it’s something that’s been a part of my life, so I’m excited to talk to Lydia about this as well. I don’t know that she knew that, even.
Lydia: I think that I did. Yeah, in passing. We’ve had a few conversations.
Eric: Oh. There you go.
Pat: So we’ve talked about it a little bit but uh, we could still talk about it a little bit more, I guess.
Eric: So, um, before we get started in getting to the meat of the episode, maybe, can you tell us a little bit about yourself, so our listeners get to know you a little bit?
Lydia: Yeah, um, I used to do graphic design for a Christian non-profit student organization. And in the past few years, I’ve just been at home on mat leave with two kids. Um…
Pat: What are their names?
Lydia: Elliott and Elias. And we have a dog, too. Her name’s Moose. She’s like a … half-kid.
Eric: Half-kid. And what are the ages?
Lydia: Elliott is 2. And Elias is, oh how old is he? He’s almost 11 months. Um, and the dog, I don’t know, she’s like 56 or something, in dog years.
Eric: So she pre-dates the kids.
Lydia: She does, yes.
Pat: By decades even!
Eric: By decades.
Lydia: She was our first child.
Eric: Yeah, and, uh, like, the starter – the starter kid; to know whether, you know, parenting was gonna fit you?
Lydia: Yeah, like I feel like if you can pick up your dog’s crap, you can probably pick up your kid’s crap. Yeah.
Pat: I mean, hope so!
Lydia: I don’t know. It’s hard sometimes!
Eric: The first tweetable quote from this episode.
Pat: If you can pick up your dog’s poop, you can pick up your kid’s poop. That is true. You sound like you have your hands full these days?
Lydia: Yeah, well, full of poop, I guess. Literally, sometimes! Yeah.
Pat: So what would you say is like, your biggest difference in your life now with like, 2 kids and a puppy, versus, you know, before that?
Lydia: Um….the biggest difference…
Pat: Yeah, like, what’s an exciting day for you these days?
Lydia: I don’t know. An exciting day is when everyone poops. When the dog poops, when both children ….no one’s constipated, no one’s pooping too much. I don’t know…
Pat: Preferably not at the same time. If everyone’s pooping at the same time, then that’s a disaster.
Lydia: That’s true. That has happened also before.
Eric: I’m sure it has.
Lydia: Life is hard sometimes. It’s ok.
Eric: Yeah, I remember when we had our first child, my wife and I, I feel like I officially became a parent when I like, while changing a diaper, purposefully stuck my hand in a stream of urine to prevent it from, you know, getting all over the place, and it didn’t gross me out. I’m like, oh, I just stuck my hand in pee. On purpose.
Pat: That’s love.
Lydia: Yeah, it is. Like, one time I thought about calling 911 cause of my child’s poop. And so, I was like, I AM a parent!
Pat: So what would you say the biggest difference between raising a puppy is, and raising, ah, humans? Cause I now have a puppy that I pick up it’s poop and I just spend all day telling it not to eat things it shouldn’t. And I feel like I can kinda relate to parents now, but probably not totally, so like, what’s the gap there?
Lydia: I think you can. I don’t know. Uh, right now the puppy seems a lot smarter.
Pat: Than the kids?
Lydia: Than the humans. Although the human is catching up. The older human. Yeah, she’s, like, less of a lump, and so she’s catching up slowly but surely.
Pat: What’s the most ingenious thing that she’s done, that you couldn’t believe, like, that she was that smart?
Lydia: Oh. I don’t even know. We were at IKEA when she was like, a year old, and I shared an ice cream cone with her, and then she asked for more, and I told her I didn’t have anymore – I showed her the hand sign for “no more” – and then she looked at the cash and pointed to the cash and she said, “buy more, buy more!” And so….
Lydia: Yeah, that was funny.
Pat: That’s awesome. That’s a great way to use her newly developed brain, to get as much ice cream as possible.
Lydia: Oh gosh. We don’t get ice cream at IKEA anymore.
Eric: What’s – you kinda talk about kind of the crazy parts of about being a parent….what’s maybe, a highlight, uh, for you?
Lydia: Um….I don’t know. A highlight …I guess, when I come home. Like, when I come home from the gym, or come home from ballet. And, they both see me, and their eyes kind of light up. And I’m like, oh you like me. Like, yeah. I don’t know. There’s so much sacrifice I guess, in parenthood, that you see them and their eyes light up and there just so happy to see you that you’re like, you do like me! I’m glad. I know it won’t last forever, so…
Pat: Honestly. It feels so dirty to say this, but I feel the same way about my puppy. I just really, when you talk, it doesn’t sound like there’s a difference.
Eric: Oh, Pat, get over your dog.
Pat: But you’re, you know, little Zoe, her ears perk up her eyes light up…
Lydia: They kind of bound towards you, right?
Pat: And she pees while she runs towards you cause she’s so excited. It’s amazing.
Lydia: Yeah, I don’t think my children do that, but…
Pat: Yeah, I’m hoping Zoe grows out of it too. But, yeah, this week we’re gonna be talking to you about Mental Health cause you’ve had your own journey with that and you’ve had a lot of experiences that I think would be really beneficial for other people to learn about – certainly myself, um and I think and Eric as well, so it would be pretty cool to talk through that journey of yours so where would you say that story begins for you? When’s the first time you interacted with that aspect of your life?
Lydia: Um I think depression has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. She’s kind of been like – I like to call her a her – she’s kind of like, that Aunt, that you don’t really like, that kind of comes around every so often and then overstays her welcome. And then, hopefully she leaves, sometimes she stays for a really long time. And so I think, growing up, it wasn’t even something that I ever thought to label, it was just like, my normal. Like, this Aunt that came around, and um…
Eric: You were like, everyone is like this.
Lydia: Yeah, kind of…
Pat: Everyone’s got an aunt like this.
Lydia: Like, everyone doesn’t seem like this, but they must.
Pat: So how did that manifest itself when you were, like, younger, like in your grade school years?
Lydia: Yeah, I mean, I think my earliest memory was when I was in grade 2 or grade 3. Just feeling really sad all the time and not feeling like I connected with anyone. And I remember just sitting on top of the monkey bars writing sad emo poems like a little like 7-year old Lydia, writing sad poems and it was kind of like, my normal. But that’s the earliest memory that I have of ever just feeling like there was this shroud – kind of like this cloud that was over me. And everywhere I walked it would follow me. And it didn’t seem to be raining on anyone else, but I just remember being this little girl and feeling like this cloud was always raining.
Pat: Do you think there were, like, external factors that like, contributed to that, or was it something that was like, an internal thing?
Lydia: I think definitely. Depression is so interesting because it’s so multifaceted, right? I think there were definitely familial pressures that played into that; I think genetics is definitely a huge thing, just having multiple people in my family with undiagnosed mental health issues. Um….probably just other factors as well. Just personality and things like that. So yeah, it’s kind of just always been there and who knows why.
Eric: You kind of mentioned that it felt normal to you. At what point in your life do you feel like you became aware of it as, oh, this is something I need to deal with, or this is something outside of me?
Lydia: I think in University I thought to myself, hey I don’t think this is really normal, the way I feel. Um. None of my friends seemed to feel this way. And it was more pronounced, I guess, because I had moved to a new city, a new province, um to go to school. So I think it was one of the first times I thought to myself , this isn’t normal; I wish I didn’t feel this way. But…she was that Aunt that was just always there, so I …I think I was scared to acknowledge that maybe it wasn’t normal.
Eric: What did it feel like? I know that depression manifests itself differently for different people. How did it show up for you?
Lydia: Yeah, I always like to think of it, kind of like if my life was a painting. It’s never actually a vibrant painting, it’s usually pretty I don’t know, boring, pretty subtle, like subdued tones. But whenever depression would come around – it usually would, she’d usually come around every 2 years – it’s like all of a sudden the painting would become black and white. Kind of like, slowly it would progress from, you know, pastel colours to um, black and white. It would always feel like I was kind of trying to swim through molasses. There were a lot of like, physical aspects, where I was just tired. All the time. But there were also a lot of emotional aspects where either, I didn’t feel at all – like you could get me to watch the happiest movie out there and I just wouldn’t feel and sometimes I would look around and think like, maybe I should laugh. Um, or you could make me watch the saddest movie, and I just wouldn’t even…
Eric: So kind of numb.
Lydia: Yeah.Yeah, and maybe also that I was too sad to feel sad in those movies. I remember like, the Passion of the Christ came out I think when I was in University – no, it was definitely when I was in University. And I was with two guy friends on either side of me, and they were just sobbing. And I remember just sitting there thinking, well, this is sad, but like I don’t know I’m looking at these guys and I’m thinking, I don’t feel that. I don’t know ff that makes sense.
Pat: Yeah, totally. Looking back at that time, uh, would you say that there were certain like behaviours that were kind of, maybe, could have been maybe, warning signs to other people that you were dealing with this so deeply?
Lydia: Until 2007 it was pretty minor. I mean, I think…were there warning signs? Probably, just even, not wanting to really connect with people or not feeling understood. But it was always kind of stable. Like, I knew, that she would come to visit every 2 years and that she would kind of go away and I would be tired for a while. I would be ….cranky’s not the right word ….but I would be kind of affectless. Then, she would leave and things would go back to normal. And then 2007 happened. And, you know, that colour picture faded into grey tones again into black and white. And I thought, oh she’ll go away. But then she didn’t. 2007 became 2008. 2008 became 2009. And I had terrible insomnia like I couldn’t sleep at night at all. But then I didn’t want to wake up in the mornings either. And I was tired all day and so awake at night. I became super fearful of going out. Just didn’t want to go into public. Just had a lot of anxiety about even going to the grocery store. But at the same time, I was really scared to be alone.
Pat: Sounds like no escape from that.
Lydia: Yeah, there was just nothing — there was no relief. Nothing good enough.
Eric: How did your faith play into how you were feeling, like, in general, but also during this time? Like, did it complicate things? Did it help things?
Lydia: Um. I think in some ways it really complicated things. Because I was like, God, you’ve given me these senses, and I can’t really sense anything and I can’t sense you. And I know intellectually that you are real. But you don’t feel real; you don’t seem to answer my prayers. Before, it used to be, before 2007 when it was just every 2 years, I used to think, oh I’ll pray. And I would pray and she would leave and she would go away. And I would think “oh” and I would pat myself on the back and think “I prayed enough and she left” but then when it became 2009, 2010 she wasn’t going away. And I was praying. A lot. Like, when you can’t sleep at night, you just, what do you do? You end up praying or you just end up talking to yourself. I don’t know, but, just, the things that I did, didn’t seem to work. Yeah. It was just really, like the easiest things just became so debilitating. And I think that’s a really key sign. Like when you notice that your friends started – you start cutting off your friends, or you look at people and you’re like, you just don’t understand how I’m feeling. Like it’s maybe a sign….I don’t know. It’s not necessarily depression, but a sign that something needs to change.
Pat:Yeah – that you’re close. Yeah.
Eric: You know, you’ve been talking about depression – or your Aunt/Auntie – in the past tense. What would you say marked the turning point for you? You know, I can mark some of the turning points for me in my mental health journey, but for you, what was the turning point that started your road to better health?
Lydia: Yeah – I think that black and white picture became a picture that was painted over with tar. It’s like someone just came and took a huge paint roller and rolled tar all over the picture. And, it was just so debilitating that I didn’t want to go out at all. Like I couldn’t function. And my boyfriend, now husband, but my boyfriend at the time, told me, “you know, this isn’t normal. You need to do something about this and I’m going to take you…”
Eric: So it was outside, an outside help.
Pat: How did you take that, when he said it? Were you resistant to it, did you kind of push back?
Lydia: I was pretty upset. Because I was like, “you just think I’m not doing the right things, but I know I’m doing all the right things.” Ya know, I was seeing a Christian counsellor, I was praying. I don’t know what else I was doing; I really wasn’t doing anything else really. But I kind of felt offended that he thought I wasn’t doing enough. Or I felt like he thought that I wasn’t doing enough.
Eric: Because “good” Christians aren’t depressed.
Lydia: Yeah. And that wasn’t the case at all. It’s not like he ever said that to me
Pat: Would you say he went about it, or used the right language, um, when he addressed it with you? Are you glad he did it the way he did it?
Lydia: I think he had to. I don’t think anything else would have – like I don’t think I would’ve listened. Other people told me that I had to deal with it and I would always give them an answer, like “Oh I am. I’m seeing a counsellor. It’s helping.” And so I think he just had to shock me out of it. By saying, “hey we need to take you to the hospital.”
Eric: Well I know like, knowing you for 7 or 8 years, you are such a highly competent person; you’re really intelligent. You’re articulate. You were like – I know that you were pre-law, on your way to being a very high-powered lawyer person and so I can imagine that you’re like, “oh I can pull up my bootstraps and figure this out” because you always probably could do that in areas in your life.
Lydia: Yeah, I was like, if I can just MUSCLEricmy way out of this. And I couldn’t. But, that’s what I told myself. I told myself I don’t need medication. I don’t need help. I don’t need to go to the hospital. Because all of this will just go away if I just work harder.
Pat: Did you already have a preconceived understanding of even what counselling was supposed to look like or what you should be doing in terms of getting the right help?
Lydia: Yeah. I definitely had preconceived notions. I don’t think anyone ever told me. It wasn’t like Christians came up to me and said, hey, you shouldn’t go on medication. Because actually most of the Christians I knew were very pro-things like medication or seeing a psychiatrist. But I had these preconceived notions that if I took medication maybe it would make me into a different person. That all of a sudden, I’d be this happy, really happy person. And who am I when I’m happy? I don’t know. Like maybe I’d become this optimist that was like, life is good.
Pat: It’s so interesting. It’s almost like you developed this kind of, Stockholm syndrome with your depression.
Lydia: Yeah, kind of. That I was like, “oh just stay”.
Pat: Yeah like, I am familiar with you.
Eric: Well this is safe, because I know this.
Pat: It sucks, but at least I know what to expect.
Pat: So, when you went into the hospital, were there anything, any events that happened there, any realizations you came to, when you were actually IN the hospital getting the help you needed?
Lydia: I mean, one was just having a label for my depression.
Eric: Was it hard to own that label?
Lydia: A bit. Because I, like you said, I’d always been really competent in life, and it just seemed like it was this weakness I guess, um…and again, I don’t think anyone ever told me that. People actually probably told me the opposite. Like when someone has cancer, you don’t say, oh you’re weak! But it was just in my mind. Like, oh, if I actually suffer from this and I need outside help, then I am weak. And I wish that someone had just told me, hey it’s ok to be weak. That we’re not actually asked to be strong.
Eric: I know for me, in my mental health journey, I really struggle with anxiety – maybe depression too, I don’t know. Still on the journey. But, that uh, was a real turning point for me, when I was able to own the word “anxiety”. Cause I don’t have anxiety attacks. Like, I’m a social person. I’m not intimidated by people or events or things. But it was just like this constant state of anxiousness. It’s almost like someone just turned my adrenal glands on full blast and I was just in fight or flight syndrome since I was like 10. So it just – that’s normal. I remember when my counsellor said the word “anxiety – you’re anxious”. Like, “no I’m not!” And it took going home and my wife being like, “she’s right,” for me to even consider it. So I can totally relate to like, Sam, coming in, and being that outside help.
Pat: And in terms of outside help, too, there’s something that you mentioned last time that we were talking about this that really blew my mind, um, what you said to me is that it is not just Christians that God gives wisdom to. And that seems like a very obvious thing, but when you said that, I was like, wow, that’s a pretty deep thought that I don’t think I spend enough time on. Can you unpack that a little bit?
Lydia: Yeah. I mean, I think sometimes, I don’t know where it comes from, and maybe it’s just me and my idiosyncrasies, but like, I think sometimes I think to myself, oh, the “good” Christian goes to see the Christian counsellor. The “good” Christian goes to the Christian doctor. The “good” Christian watches Christian movies. Even though we know that all Christian movies are terrible, let’s be honest, come on, like, I don’t know. They’re bad. We think to ourselves sometimes that Christians should patronize other Christians.
Pat: It’s like an unwritten checklist, that we all appeal to for no reason whatsoever.
Lydia: Yeah. And maybe we think, that the Christian has wisdom from God so they’re smarter, but that’s like not actually true, right?
Eric: Anymore than the non-Christian automatically has an agenda to like, steer you away from your faith.
Pat: Yeah or invalidate any Christian thing…
Lydia: Yeah – even when it’s not related to your faith at all. You go to the doctor – like I brought my children to the doctor for constipation. Like am I gonna find a Christian doctor for that? No, I’m just gonna find a doctor. I think we think sometimes that Christians are smarter but an aspect, an element of common grace, is that God has made some people so smart and often it’s the non-Christians that are so proficient in their field, so why wouldn’t we go to seek help from them?
Eric: Yeah, poop is really on the forefront of your mind.
Lydia: It really is.
Pat: So…there were probably some things that you learned while you were at the hospital from these professionals, these crazy, heretical, non-Christian professionals with all this wisdom. What were some of those pieces of wisdom that you got from there that helped you on your journey forward?
Lydia: Um. I think. One thing was that I was okay. I mean, everyone had told me that already but just even when I talked to the psychiatrist about the genetic factors, it was like, “oh maybe I can’t muscle my way out of this” just like someone can’t necessarily muscle their way out of cancer. That sometimes your sick and you need help to get better and that’s ok. Like I would never withhold medication like tylenol, from my children, if I knew that it would help them. So why would I withhold medication for myself in this case? So even just talking about the genetics and physical aspects was really helpful. And I think, just having that label, again, to say, okay this is something I’m dealing with and now that we have a name we can actually work towards …. Um, not necessarily finding a solution, like I don’t think mental health is just like that easy – do this, and all of a sudden, you’ll be cured. But just being able to work towards putting structures in place that can actually help instead of harm. I think things like that was really helpful.
Eric: I think, for me, with my anxiety, one of the helpful things also was like having language to talk to my wife and to say this is why this situation isn’t good, or I need help in this way. It helped me to be able to understand what was happening to me and give language to it, whereas it was normal – I was experiencing it all along, but I couldn’t explain it.
Lydia: Yeah. Like, I knew that there were some things that were weird about me – but those are just “Lydia things” and then I realized Hey, these aren’t actually just Lydia things. There’s a lot of people out there who deal with these same issues and why wouldn’t I learn from these other people? Why wouldn’t I look at their lives and say hey, these are structures that they’ve put in place, or these are things that they’ve done in their lives.
Eric: So what would you say has been your experience and your journey with medication and the depression?
Lydia: Yeah. Um, medication was great. I think once I started taking medication, it also helped me realize that I dealt with anxiety and I didn’t know before until I didn’t feel anxious! And I was like, wow, this is good! But I think even more than that, medication helped me feel more ME. Than I had felt before. I think I was so worried about it just changing my personality and making me into someone that I wasn’t at all. That all of a sudden, I would kind of be like, what’s-her-face in the Sound of Music? Where you’re just singing all the time….
Eric: Julie Andrews
Lydia: Yes that’s it. Life is just happy and you’re walking through like, a field of flowers, just singing. But actually, medication has just made me feel more me. Like it removed that tar, so I could actually work on the issues that I needed to work on. Like it enabled me to wake up in the mornings and fall asleep at night. So that I could just face another day. And it didn’t solve ALL the issues I had. Like, it’s not like I woke up one morning and felt like wow, everything is miraculous and everything is solved! But it made room. So that I could work on things.
Eric: Oh, precious sleep.
Lydia: Sleep is GOOD.
Eric: If you ever wonder if sleep is important, ask a new parent!
Pat: You could ask me. I’m somewhat of a new parent. And uh, I can tell you it’s very important. Totally relate to you parents.
Lydia: The Bible says the Lord gives to His beloved sleep.
Pat: So, uh, how long were you on these medications?
Lydia: I was on medication for 5 years. And I felt like it just – after the 5 years, with the structures that I had in place, um, just I actually really talked to my doctor, and I really didn’t need it anymore and I wouldn’t recommend this for everyone and it’s definitely something you need to go through with your primary care physician. But for myself, I think it just, the 5 years helped me put really good structures in place to become healthy, not only mentally but physically and spiritually as well. So after those 5 years, I weaned off the medication slowly. Also – that’s the thing, some people just quit cold turkey. But doing things the right way, with smart doctors I think…
Pat: And during this time, did you continue to pursue any sort of counselling? Did you do the Christian versus non-Christian thing? Where did you land on that?
Lydia: Yeah, I mean I want to be careful to say that, it’s really easy to go to the opposite end of the spectrum and say, wow, Christians are all dumb. I should go just get help from a non-Christian.
Eric: Really easy to swing that direction.
Lydia: You know what I mean? So at this time I also saw a Christian counsellor pretty regularly. Even now, I actually, I’m very pro-counselling. I think if you look at your life, and you’re like, I don’t have any issues, I don’t suffer from any mental health things, go see a counsellor anyways, because it’s good!
Pat: You probably need it more, then. That’s crazy.
Lydia: We’re all kind of crazy inside.
Eric: Dawn and I have built – my wife – My wife and I have just said, once a month, we’re going to have someone who is professional at asking good questions and guiding us to build into our lives, be that a counsellor, be that a doctor,or a trusted friend, a pastor, we are intentionally going to have someone building into us and asking us tough questions. ‘Cause left on our own devices, you’ll just stay the same.
Lydia: Yeah. The Bible is really clear. We are all messed up. Like, there is no one out there who is not messed up. Some of us deal with mental health issues more at the forefront of our lives, but I think counselling is just good either way. So, yes, during the 5 years, I went for counselling and eventually spaced that out a bit more as I needed, and now it’s just kind of on an as-needed basis. Counselling even until now and this is, I don’t know, since 2007, it’s like a decade – more than a decade later.
Eric: Still doing it.
Pat: Yeah, I — there was a point in my life where I realized, I really need a counsellor and I don’t even think that I – I’m not aware of any ways in which I struggle in particular with mental health, but you know, during my yearly watching of Lord of the Rings, just seeing these little hobbits make their way through Middle Earth and they have a Gandalf there to give them wisdom and wise counsel, and I’m like, “man, who DOESN’T need a Gandalf in their life?” and they’re like people PAID to be Gandalf for you. I want a Gandalf! I want a counsellor, man!
Lydia: I have to admit I’ve never seen Lord of the Rings.
Pat: Oh, Lydia.
Eric: I know this about you and it grieves me.
Pat: You know what? I’m at a point where I’m ok with you having not seen it…
Lydia: Thank you.
Pat: It’s an obstacle for me to say that, but I’m there, and like it’s ok for people to have not seen it.
Eric: Ok. I’m there too, Pat, but I ….it’s like, I’ve experienced this wonderful thing, and I want to share it with you.
Lydia: You know what? And that is like counselling! I’ve experienced this wonderful thing and I
would like to share it with all of you.
Eric: Oh and before you went off on your Gandalf thing I was going to say, that I am amazed
at the POWER of a good question. So like, the counsellor I see – I’ll name drop, Sharon, she’s amazing – she has the ability to listen to all of my ramblings and then she just asks one question that drops it in there that like, illuminates the path and helps me to see things so clearly.
Pat: You know who she sounds like?
Pat: Yeah. Amazing.
Lydia: I’m nodding my head like I understand.
Pat: Everyone can hear you nodding your head, probably.
Lydia: Yes. Yes.
Eric: Gandalf is awesome. That’s all you have to know. And the same way, my experience with medication … so I’m not a painter or designer like you, so my picture was more like, there was, like, static on the TV, and it was covering the image that you’re trying to watch. And medication just kind of like, turned down the static and allowed me to see what I was supposed to be seeing or hear what I was supposed to be hearing.
Pat: I just feel like static is kind of like an “old school” term. I feel like nowadays you’re talking, it’s really pixelated and unclear…
Eric: But I’m just like…..static is even potentially before my time. But I have that image in my head of just like, there’s noise. There’s just so much noise blocking out what I’m trying to see. Or what I’m trying to hear. And medication just turned the volume down so that I could … “oh”. And I discovered I have emotions. I can feel things. I’m not just like angry or not angry. Those were the two emotions I had for a while and now I’ve got at least 5.
Lydia: You’re like that Inside Out movie.
Pat: All anger.
Lydia: Sadness is my bff, man. It’s like, Joy, get outta here!
Eric: I remember watching that movie with my kids in the theatre and I was weeping at one part – when Bing Bong sacrifices himself and…
Lydia: Oh yes. And you’re like, “It’s Jesus!”
Eric: And my kids just like look over at me and were just like shaking their heads…
Pat:You’ll understand Bing Bong one day, children. He gave himself up for you!
Eric: It just like, it gets me everytime.
Lydia: Yeah see, medication has not diminished my love for Sadness and my hatred for Joy. She just needs to get out of here! She’s no annoying. Anyways, it’s like a crappy car that goes through the car wash. Like the crappy car is still there, but it removes all the mud so you can actually drive, like you can actually go somewhere.
Eric: Wow. Lydia is like a Master of Analogy.
Lydia: Haha. I don’t know about that.
Eric: One thing I would like to talk to you about is like, your church community. Like, what part did your church community play at this part of your life or during this season of your life? So maybe we’ll talk about the helpful parts first and then we’ll get into some not helpful parts too? Maybe there weren’t any.
Lydia: Yeah, um. Church community. Oh man. Church was great. Christians, I don’t know, just people around me loved me so much. They would bring me small gifts – they would bring me bubble tea and write a note on that bubble tea, just to cheer me up. Or they would ask me if they wanted me to walk – if they wanted to have someone to walk with to go to get groceries. So there was a lot of, I think the most helpful aspect of it was that they were actually community, they were actually loving, that they CARED. And I think back then it wasn’t – mental health wasn’t something that we talked about as much. I don’t know, I feel like I’m aging myself; this was only a decade ago! But it was just…
Pat: It’s okay. Eric talked about static so you’re….
Lydia: Yeah it’s true. It was before kind of like the rise, the huge rise of social media. So there weren’t things like “Bell, Let’s Talk” and so I think a lot of people just didn’t know HOW to help, but in ways that they did, they were so helpful. Just making me meals. And never giving up on inviting me out. And always saying “hey do you want to hang out?” even though I would most likely say “no” they never stopped asking and so I think that was really helpful. You kind of see – it sounds cliche – but you kind of see the love of Christ when people are actually pursuing you intentionally. So that was something that was just really great.
Pat: Yeah, it’s funny that it’s like even surprising that a Christian community would act that way cause I mean in my experience it would also be pretty similar, by my friends, my small group or whatever would do a very similar thing, I think, but there is an overarching narrative that Christians like don’t talk about mental health. I don’t know, maybe there is and maybe we just made it up. So on our blog on our website, there was an article written about ‘I wish Christians talk more about mental health’ and it got insane traffic, relative to our other stuff, in the States it trended; everyone commented “yes”, “agreed”, “totally”, “sure”. I’m interested to see why the perception is there, if it matches reality.
Eric: Well, even as we were planning for the show, and we talked to people and said what are the topics we that have to discuss?
Pat: It was top 5 every time.
Eric: Almost everyone said “mental health”.
Pat: I guess like, I don’t know, it IS interesting, because like maybe we’re just in a really lucky environment? And we have a lot of good experiences? But, um, maybe we could talk about – even in this experience where you were surrounded by a lot of great Christian friends and maybe coworkers who did do the right thing, what were some HARD things about being in that Christian community?
Lydia: Sometimes it’s like the elephant in the room. Right? Everyone knows that it’s there. And it’s not like they didn’t love me – they did – because they showed me through like sacrificial acts that they did – but it was like, oh, we don’t really talk about this. And you do have some random people that are like, “have you prayed?” Right? So there are the people that you’re just like, “yeah, that’s ALL I DO at nighttime when I can’t sleep.” So I think, it’s kind of like an Elephant in the Room. At least in my experience, it’s kind of like people just did everything that they could to help me, without actually talking about it.
Pat: Were there like, particularly unhelpful things that people did, like anything that just GRATED on you during those times that it was like, “man, what are you doing?”
Lydia: Well, definitely the people who were like, pray it away, name it and claim it. Like, ok, tried that. Been there done that. Like was probably like my biggest pet peeve.
Eric: What about people like being overly happy around you to try and like…
Pat: compensate? Yeah.
Eric: Have it rub off on you or something?
Lydia: You know what? I think….maybe it’s just my personality, but I kind of attract other depressed people. So I feel like, most of my friends aren’t like usually unnaturally happy.
Pat: Pity parties?
Lydia: Maybe sometimes. I don’t know. And maybe that’s just like a God thing that He allowed me to go through this so I could journey with other people as well. But there are the people who really you can tell that they’re trying to steer the conversation away so that it doesn’t become awkward, it’s not like they’re unnaturally happy or um, but you can tell that they’re like, oh this is an awkward thing. Or you can kind of sometimes tell when someone is like, “Oh, I think Lydia needs help, but I don’t want to say it and I don’t know, so maybe I’ll just hint towards it.” Like, “oh, one time I saw a good counsellor and she was so helpful” and in your mind you’re like you’re telling me this cause you want me to see a counsellor, but you don’t know I’m already seeing one.
Eric: Two. Haha
Lydia: Like a million! So I think, yeah, when people try to avoid it or when people gospelize you and they’re like, “Jesus is so good, right? If you believe in Jesus enough, He will help you through this.” And it’s like, “Yes. Maybe He will. Maybe He won’t.” Um, yeah so things like that. Just being gospelized by friends constantly is kind of annoying too. I don’t know. It’s a fine line, because I think there’s people who do it really well, right, and there’s people that come alongside you and point truth to you and I think truth always sets us free. Like having a label for depression. It sets you free.
Eric: This is just a curiosity question….you probably need to come along here. Was there like friends that were like, ok, enough already!? So not the Elephant in the Room but the opposite. Like, I’m tired of your Elephant.
Lydia: Yeah! Like, this Aunt has stayed a long time, you just need to kick her out! Like, I’m tired of you talking about this.
Eric: It’s like….yeah, I brought you a meal, I helped you, like it’s getting on in the year; there are other people in the world that need help.
Lydia: Yeah, I mean, it’s hard because when you’re depressed sometimes, everything is so distorted. That like, I became really paranoid of people and now that I’m kind of out of that fog, I look back and I think well maybe I didn’t need to be as paranoid of people as I was. So it’s hard to tell, right? Like I think sometimes I definitely found that people were impatient with me. But looking back, it’s hard to know were they actually impatient with me or was I impatient with myself and kind of projecting it on them? And I don’t think I had anyone who approached me and said “Hey, snap out of it!” There were definitely people who over time, just left. They didn’t stick around. They asked one or two times do you wanna hang out and then after you say no those two times, they kind of phase themselves out. But, yeah. I don’t know. Sometimes I think I need to give more grace to the people who were in my life at that point. Because I think they did what they could and everything was so distorted anyways that you could’ve been the nicest person to me and I could’ve been like, wow, that person is like totally …..
Pat: …clueless or totally a jerk. I know I’m probably an offender to many depressed people. I feel like when someone is sad, I think my natural tendency is to distract them from the thing. Like whatever that is, like let’s go see a movie, or have a conversation that tries to get you to talk about something else; I have no idea if that’s the right thing but I think that’s just my natural tendency and I think probably bugs some people maybe it’s helpful to some…
Lydia: I mean, sometimes that’s helpful. Sometimes you need that distraction. Where you’re like, I don’t want to feel sad. I just need to….you know? But it really depends on the person I think.
Eric: I remember my best friend now, coming up to me, he was like, oh I’m so glad that you’re feeling better. And I was like, what are you talking about? He’s like, well, for a year or so, you were kind of morose. And I was like, what on earth does that word mean?
Pat: Pulling out the dictionary words here – morose.
Eric: And uh, he’s like, well, your spirit animal is Eeyore.
Eric: I was like, oh, that hurts.
Lydia: Yeah, see, but I had friends like that too, and I was like, why didn’t you say anything?
Pat: Yeah, like after the year like, thanks for claiming Eeyore before.
Lydia: Yeah, like, I don’t know, maybe I didn’t make room for that either? So there’s so much in there.
Eric: I don’t think I would’ve listened to him.
Lydia: Yeah yeah.
Pat: I mean it’s complicated, right? People try the best they can.
Eric: Can you move us to “How can we be better?” and “Final Thoughts?”
Pat: Yes we can. We’ll edit that out, probably. I guess.
Eric: Yeah, obviously. It was silent. I figured I could just ask. We all know each other.
Pat: So yeah, maybe we could talk about – a little bit about um….I’m gonna start that again. I got really distracted and this mic, apparently, is horrible.
Eric: It is. You’ve gotta be right up there.
Pat: So as I’ve think about ways that I’ve probably failed or you know, done, maybe done well unconsciously with my friends who’ve been struggling depression or mental health issues… How do you think we, maybe as a Christian body of believers, we as a society, could do better in walking with our friends who struggle with mental health and depression?
Lydia: I think there’s a few things. One thing kind of along the lines that we were already talking about: just to keep on pursuing. I think sometimes we give up really easily, you know, one or two times we’ll ask our friends to hang out and then they say no, and then we’re like, well, this friend just doesn’t want to hang out with me, so I’m gonna stop asking. Um, but I think sometimes you kind of need to be that annoying friend who is like, I’m just gonna keep asking you. Every Friday I’m gonna ask you if you want to hang out, every Tuesday I’m gonna ask you if you want to come over for dinner and you might say no, but I’m gonna ask anyways. So that intentional pursuit I think is really…I mean it’s really what Christ models to us everyday. Most days, I’m like, Jesus I don’t want to spend time with you. I don’t want to have lunch with you. And He’s still like nope, I’m just gonna like, chill here, until you say yes. And so I think that we need to be like that with our friends as well. Because inevitably, all of us will go through a hard time and I think most people just give up during those hard times. So it’s actually saying, you know, it’s not a personal thing, if someone rejects my request to hang out or have dinner together, so I’m just gonna keep on asking because I love this person and yeah, I’m having an impact whether I know it or not. So I think that’s one thing. I think another thing is…I wish the church prioritized physical health more. Um, do you notice that things like gluttony or things like indulgence are widely accepted?
Pat: Oh yeah. Totally fine. Encouraged, sometimes! We do like, Youth Group things that are like, eat as much as you can faster…or whatever.
Eric: But don’t you dare smoke.
Pat: A weird line. This is all okay..
Lydia: It’s like a really weird line because it’s like, you can go to Theology on Tap every night, but don’t drink by yourself. I don’t know, anyways. There’s like indulgence and like gluttony is this … thing.
Pat: Pollute your body with every horrible form imaginable but don’t have a cigarette.
Lydia: Yeah, or like, fill your body with all this crap, but then you shouldn’t feel bad. Your body shouldn’t feel bad. Like you shouldn’t have any mental health issues after like not taking care of yourself for like…. Anyways, so I think I wish that the church prioritized physical health more. Because depression is very physical. Um, yeah we often will address – nowadays especially we’ll address the kind of the cerebral aspect – like are you seeing a psychiatrist? Are you seeing a Christian counsellor? We address the spiritual aspect – by saying like hey, have you worked through these gospel issues in your life? Have you like de-rooted idols in your life? Then we don’t talk about the physical aspect at all. Like, hey, are you being obedient to God by going to the gym, and being healthy, and eating right? And taking care of your body? Because you know that if you take care of your body – like your mind is part of your body like your brain is actually like … it’s a physical thing, it’s not just like this random….
Eric: Love the Lord your God with all your strength and your mind….
Lydia: Yeah. And Paul says he beats his body into submission and so I think that there’s an aspect where the church needs to…
Eric: Starting beating people?
Lydia: Yes, flogging them. No – just like yeah, prioritizing that aspect of health. I think it would go a long way in helping our mental health as well. And then I think the last thing that I think the church could do better is emphasizing that what all of us feel – whether we struggle with mental health or not – that what we see isn’t actually reality and so I think someone who’s depressed kind of knows that intuitively, right? You know that what you are feeling when you’re really down and everything’s just like molasses you know intuitively that this just can’t be reality for everyone. That was me. I was like, oh, this doesn’t feel right. But I wish that the church emphasized more that all of us, we are all broken, and so we don’t see reality like it is.
Eric: Are you saying that MY perception of your intentions or my perception of like, people’s motivations or things like that, are probably skewed? Or like the lenses through which I view the world have a tint to them?
Lydia: Yeah. And some maybe have like a greater tint. But all of us have like this tint…. I think that the story I think of in the Bible that most closely relates to this is in 2 Kings, chapter 6. The King of Syria is warring against Israel. And Elisha keeps actually warning the King of Israel and so they keep evading the Syrian plans and the Syrian King is like, what the heck? How are you always evading me? And it comes back to him that Elisha is the one that is ….he’s warning the King of Israel. So the Syrian King sends out his army to seize Elisha. And the servant, Elisha’s servant, wakes up one morning and sees the Syrian army in the distance and they’re all around. They’re surrounding them. And the servant is terrified. He’s like, oh my gosh, I don’t know what we’re gonna do. And Elisha replies that there are more with the two of them than with the Syrian army. And I’m pretty sure that the servant is like, What?! You are cray….Um, but Elisha actually prays that the servants eyes would be opened then the servants eyes are opened and he sees that the mountain is full of horses and chariots of fire. And they’re surrounding, surrounding them, and they’re so much greater than the Syrian army. And I think that’s true in our own lives as well. Like there are things that we don’t see and that we can’t perceive that God is doing. And sometimes we won’t even know – like maybe He won’t open our eyes until the very end. I mean I think I’m so grateful to be out of that like fog of depression. I don’t know…maybe she’ll come back and visit sometime. But I know that there’s other people who will struggle with this for their lifetime and who will say “I can’t see what reality actually is” and I think the church needs to say, “Hey none of us see what reality is.” We cling to something that is – to someone who is invisible. Trusting that He is actually good. And that even when we can’t feel Him, even when we can’t see Him, we know that we aren’t defeated. And I think that’s a big thing for the church to emphasize, whether we struggle with mental health or not. Like all of us don’t actually see reality as what it is.
Eric: I think that’s a prayer that I’m gonna start praying myself. That the eyes of the people that I’m trying to minister to or love would be open to see, you know, what God is doing in their life more. I got chills as you relaying the story of Elisha and the army cause I wish I could be there to see that. Lo and behold, I probably can in this, in my life and the reality right now.
Pat: Yeah. That’s a great analogy I think. And it’s really humbling too. It’s like, really democratizing. It’s like, oh it’s not just people who struggle with mental health that, like, have a fog that obscures their view of reality; there’s actually a much greater, a much more beautiful picture that God is painting that we’re all blind to because we’re all broken and we all need to rely on the grace of God to be able to see that – that beautiful painting.
Lydia: Like it’s not just the depressed person who really needs Christ; like, oh you really need Jesus. It’s like, no, we ALL really need Jesus to see reality.
Eric: Well, and we’re all so broken. Um, it is our common practice to give our guests the final word. And so I wonder if there’s a final thought that you have on the topic of mental health and Christians?
Lydia: Um, I think that you aren’t alone. Like even the God of universe – He was depressed that He sweat blood. Like, that’s like, I don’t know, like isn’t that just – sorry, I’m gonna cry. Isn’t that such a beautiful picture? That you are not alone. That even no one understands what you’re going through; even if you don’t understand what you’re going through; even if you don’t want to wake up in the morning, there is someone who has crawled up beside you in bed, who says, “I love you; I know what you’re going through because I too went through it.” And I think that’s a really beautiful picture of the gospel like He doesn’t make everything okay right now. But there will be a day when He makes everything perfect. And I think that gives us so much hope to wait to be healed. I have a friend who is visually impaired and he once told me – he’s been visually impaired since a child – and he said, the first person that he ever sees clearly will be Christ. And I loved that picture. Because in the fog of depression, the first person that I’ll ever see clearly, the first person I’ll ever feel fully is Jesus. And so, yeah, I think that’s really encouraging.
Pat: Wow that’s a beautiful picture of hope. I don’t want to say anymore words to dilute that cause that was absolutely amazing. Thank you so much for opening up and for sharing all of that. I think it’s going to be an amazing thing for people to experience the fact that they’re not alone and to have that beautiful message of hope as well.
Eric: We’ll be with all of our listeners next time, on our next episode of Undiscussed.