4. If I take medication for emotional distress I will be judged.
This final belief, unfortunately, is all too common in the Christian community. Much like the previous belief, this assumption has a lack of biblical foundation and a high cultural stigma attached to it. Having worked in ministry and in the mental health field for [nine] years collectively, I have seen the pain this belief inflicts on clients and friends.
Here is the problem: People judge because they do not understand. The Christian community likes to throw down the faith card, asking those who are seeking medication management to overcome their crippling emotions with Christian practices alone. That is the equivalent of saying, “fight cancer without receiving medical treatment”. We are not dismissing prayer and God’s power by obtaining additional support through medical advancements but utilizing all the supports available to us.
It may help to clarify the function and intent of medication in regards to mental health. First, emotional distress is not singularly a “brain chemical” issue. In addition to individual biology, adverse experiences significantly affect the brain and overall emotional functioning. Thus, emotional distress is complex, with several contributing factors such as one’s environment, genetics, family system, interpersonal interactions, and individual experiences (UNWS- Sydney, 2018).
Medication management is a form of treatment to support an individual’s coping abilities. Brain science teaches us that increased amounts of stress in the brain decrease the brain’s ability to regulate emotions effectively and in some cases changes the brain’s structure. The Treatment and Advocacy Center (2016) explains that opponents of certain medications misunderstand such research. They argue that brain changes prove mental health drugs are dangerous.
On the contrary, structural brain changes result from medications for many brain disorders and are associated with their effectiveness. Ultimately, I hope the Church can begin to learn the function and purpose of mental health medications so that members of the body may better support and encourage one another in seeking wellness and balance within their lives. Taking prescribed medication is not a moral issue and I think it is safe to say those who do, need to be better informed.
Here is what we know: Our feelings matter to God, we can have faith despite fears, and support is available to us through God’s work in and through the lives of helping professionals and our Church community. My hope is that we, as a generation of believers, can step out and start talking about how we actually feel, without fear of rejection or judgment.
I pray that we will continue to dispute the lies our culture has adopted, learn to listen well, acknowledging the pain experienced by those around us; and press on, heavenward, reminding each other, “It’s okay to not be okay!”