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Anxiety, Depression and the Church

If all were perfect, what should we have to suffer from others for God's sake? But God has so ordained, that we may learn to bear with one another's burdens, for there is no man without fault, no man without burden, no man sufficient to himself nor wise enough. Hence we must support one another, console one another, mutually help, counsel, and advise, for the measure of every man's virtue is best revealed in time of adversity– adversity that does not weaken a man but rather shows what he is.


-Thomas a Kempis


I talked several weeks back about ADHD and anxiety. I laid a bit of a foundation for today’s discussion in a post entitled "Psycho in my head".


I never thought of myself as someone who struggled with mental health until one day my daughter told me that I probably had undiagnosed ADHD… that comment spurred a great deal of research and curiosity that pulled me into a better understanding of myself which I'm still processing even several years later.


I wanted to understand generational anxiety in order to grow and heal myself and perhaps help my kids and grandkids develop their own tools for managing their mental health… I needed to get past the “paralysis of analysis” that consumes many who struggle with mental health.


As you know if you have followed this blog… I’ve been a blue-collar working man much of my life. The last 15 years in management… but years before that I spent most of my young adult life in trades or factory work.


I did a great deal of material handling in my work experience... Anyone who has handled a pallet jack knows how useful they are… they can help a single person lift thousands of pounds in materials and move them around on a level surface with ease... and anyone who has worked with a pallet jacks also know it takes only a tiny pebble to stop them on a dime. As a warehouse worker it can be frustrating when that little zip tie that someone carelessly left on the floor stops the goods we are transporting… nothing further will get done until we clean the floor... only then we can resume tasks unimpeded.


ADHD induced anxiety is like that… it is rarely a big thing that spurs the panic that stops one in their tracks. A person with high anxiety can be incredibly gifted and versatile… able to leverage a great number of tasks and lift far above the capacity they appear to be able to handle. What puzzles those who do not struggle with mental health is how these same people who have such a capacity of strength and self motivation can just “stop on a dime”!


The Pallet jack is not going anywhere! It’s a staple of every warehouse… no one is advocating for not utilizing a pallet jack… we need pallet jacks! Everyone appreciates the capacity of the pallet jack to handle these large loads. The key to providing the atmosphere and conditions for the pallet jack to work well is to keep its surroundings clean and debris free… and when that stone stops the pallet jack in its tracks… to just stop… help create the conditions for the pallet jack to again leverage the high capacity it was designed to handle. 


Most of you are tracking right along with me here…


I manage a large plumbing and heating warehouse with several lead hands and supervisors… I have a fantastic team. Each one has their own unique strengths and weaknesses… they know those things that are pebbles to their coworkers capacities. I likewise am learning what their “stones” are. In order to work efficiently we must work together to help keep the environment “clear and free of debris” so that everyone can function at their best.


Now… it's time get to the point... look at how the Church has learned to handle mental health in the last 100 years… copying it’s mantra from self help books and word-faith teachings it has developed a culture that does nothing to help others function and has created silos where everyone is supposed to function autonomously.

This ”pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” culture has left many who struggle with anxiety and ADHD in a place of isolation and desolation... living apart from the community of the Church. They end up with few friends because they appear to “stop on a dime". The Church gets a group of believers that is a “mile wide and an inch deep.”…. A group of people who have been taught that in order to be a part of the group you must all be "pre-healed" - “four wheel drive all terrain vehicles” that can each work independently and powerfully without backup or support. We don't do heavy lifting in many of todays Churches.


The Church of the New Testament was not this way… nor is the heart of God. Within the story of God and his relationship with man that is called the Holy Bible we see many broken men and women… they are not called out for their anxieties… yes… they are called to overcome those anxieties but many times they are allowed to feel what they feel… until they come to a place where their feelings shifted into a better place. The bible passages that encase these feelings are called laments… and they are a powerful exhausting of feelings that are act like a big dust blower - blowing away the debris in the authors mind and heart.


Imagine a world where people would begin to look out for each other? Where people would not judge the pallet jack for doing what pallet jacks do… carry heavy loads… and instead simply help the pallet jacks clear the way so that they could continue to do what they do?


Imagine the lifting power of the Church if the body of believers begins to help each other overcome their obstacles to healing by cleaning up... so to speak, around those who are struggling with fear and anxiety…


What would this look like?


I remember well being a young teen, I was incessantly teased by a couple of bullies… I really hated school. In grade 7 I looked like a first grader... obviously the small kid who sucks at sports and has allergies and asthma attacks was going to get teased…


We had this program where we had to do laps in the school gymnasium… I ran as hard as I could as long as I could… but my engine was not the little engine that could. In that gym class there were two paradigms… one was the bullies… the other genuinely kind fellow students. The bully? Well one of them one day decided to yank my sweats down… I ran to the dressing room overwhelmed by fear and anxiety… to make things worse the next day the home room teacher said in front of class I had “mooned” the class… I sat there in my chair horrified. Great moments in sports… that of course is middle school. I doubt much has changed today... there are always bullies.


The other side of that class… there was some empathy and compassion. I remember one time I was struggling to make those laps and a couple of girls who were running a few people behind me were saying “keep it up Gord you can do it”… that small bit of encouragement helped me complete the run that day…I overcome my shortness of breath and completed the laps.... maybe not a big accomplishment for some but for me it was huge... someone ran "with me" so to speak.


Now… back to the Church… or we could even take this to our workplace or home... What if we acted in such a way as to encourage those who are struggling instead of weigh them down or even bully them?


A kind word instead of a rebuke or advice. I've been all to often the one who tried to give advice when what was required was a listening ear. Not good for building a strong marriage either.


Helping someone remove that “stone” - maybe the stone is simply taking a small thing off their plate… for a mom - maybe offering to take their kids to school, do their laundry or bring them a meal. For a co-worker… perhaps asking how we can help them clear off their desk or workload slightly?


To a degree... Everyone has stones that stop them… for many they are not paralyzing... but for People with anxiety and ADHD it can be. They have incredible capacity to carry loads and get work done… managing multiple projects at once… and the Church today judges their "perceived" instability instead of leveraging their strengths…

Often those with anxiety have the greatest empathy and capacity to coach and help those who are in that place... they have been through the pit. It is baffling why the church sidelines those who could have the greatest capacity to show compassion because they do not process the same way that others do.


All this is another reason I love reading about Jesus… about how he worked with peoples strengths and weaknesses… when the Gospels describe Jesus I see how he didn’t judge peoples past… not even their present. He was not afraid of getting into the muck and helping people. He was the definition of encouragement to those who genuinely struggled but was fierce with the self righteous and un-empathetic religious people who were more concerned with how things looked on the outside then how they were inside.


It was said of Christ “a bruised Reed he would not break”… “a man acquainted with sorrows”… I highly doubt Jesus would be accepted in many modern Churches that are more concerned with image than substance.

Community... that is what Christ desires for us. "I pray that they be be one as we are one"...


We can be the change!

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