Talking About Anxiety and Depression in Families and Church

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The list of things we must teach our children before they leave the family nest is short but important:

We must teach them to load a dishwasher properly. Like their mother. Their father is loading it entirely wrong.

We must teach them that all new music on the radio is just terrible, terrible, terrible. And then we must introduce them to what we listened to in high school and college, naturally.

We must teach them to identify truth, beauty, and God in their lives.

And we must teach them to cope.

I’m not always a great parent. My children and their particular challenges have taken me off guard more than I’d like to admit. But when one of my kids comes to me and says, “Mom, I’m having an anxiety attack. What do I do again?” I feel like I’m succeeding on some level and moving forward in a way that wasn’t possible for my some of my ancestors. I wish identifying and coping with anxiety better were skills someone could have taught my sweet grandmother as an adolescent. She was a wonderful woman. She deserved that power and that peace.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s talk “Like a Broken Vessel” is deservedly referred to as groundbreaking. It is groundbreaking. It’s also inspired, personal, and wise. I daresay it might be the perfect starting point for Christians looking for help or hope while coping with anxiety or depression. It doesn’t have all the answers… but I believe it does a good job pointing seekers to them.

The answers outlined are sometimes one, but more likely a combination, of these things. (And here I speak not as a professional, but as a sufferer of anxiety, in endorsing Elder Holland’s words.)

  •         God’s grace
  •         Support of family and friends
  •         The maintaining of personal devotional practices
  •         Watching for stress indicators
  •         Seeking professional help
  •         Not believing that the answer is to square your shoulders and think positively

The answers for friends, family and caregivers include

  •         Taking care of yourself too
  •         Showing mercy
  •         Not being judgmental
  •         Showing kindness
  •         Not believing that the answer is to square your shoulders and think positively

When preparing to publish Megan’s article I started to become apprehensive and unexpectedly protective. I’ve known Megan since she was a child and I began to feel overwhelmed with a desire to shield her from the world’s… and even church members’… judgments. But Megan was without apprehension. She was fearless in the desire to share her story. I prayed about it and then I too believed. We are moving forward in a way my children, and someday Megan’s children too, will appreciate, I hope. We are talking openly about depression and anxiety and how to cope. Because it’s a power we deserve. And it’s a peace we need.

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