“My problem is, I form friendships but after a while my Christian friends decide that I am, in fact, too much of a burden because my depression never goes away (2.5 years of taking medication which all proved treatment-resistant and now I am out of medications to try.) I have lost friends forever for this specific reason. This is not just my guess – that was the reason they gave me. Now I have lost trust in telling people the truth of my story and the help I may need, I don’t even bother to ask for non-specific prayer.
I’m fighting a losing battle and though I know the Ultimate Winner, I’m exhausted from the years of no relief.”


The church has always been uncomfortable with emotional or mental illness. The first thing God wanted to say to man and have it written down and recorded for ever was “if some is suffering and depressed and even complaining about God, comfort them and don’t suggest that, if they were just as godly as you, they wouldn’t be suffering” ( JOB is the oldest book in the Bible.)

Many of my patients find troubling comfort in listening to christian radio because they find teaching and worship and testimonies from people who have gone through the valley but are now on the mountain top–praise God! So the message is that godly people don’t suffer depression, or if they do it is temporary and leads to better testimonies. What about those who suffer longterm?

When I was a young doctor, our medications were far less helpful. I would look at a young person and tell them that the Elavil had a 40% chance of working and then a 20 % chance of pooping out and a 100% chance of making them fat. We are better now at helping the depression but far worse at supporting those who do not respond and struggle with ongoing depression. If that is true about the medical field, it is even more true about the church! The church does reasonably well at worship, OK at teaching and poor at being real and supporting each other in the struggles of life. Whether pain, depression, job, or family, many struggles are longterm, even lifelong.

So what to suggest?

It is better to walk with the church, screwed up as it is, than to walk alone.

Also I suggest that you consider the ultimate act of worship. Now this act is radical and unreasonable from the world’s perspective,but I have personally witnessed it’s benefit in my own life and that of others.

1.Thank God for the struggle even for  depression.

2.Thank God that the battle is his and ask the Holy Spirit to teach you to rest in him despite the illness of depression.

3. Ask God to use your feeble efforts to bless others.

I recall one person who 1.finally responded to an antidepressant, 2.was discharged from the hospital, and 3. the government promptly pulled the medication off the market and 4.she relapsed and we had tried all the alternatives.—  Finally she said to the Lord, ” You don’t have to take away my depression I am even going to thank you for it, but please use my life to bless others.”— That week she was allowed to lead two friends to salvation and talked another friend out of getting a divorce and go to counseling instead. She called me in a panic. “Does that mean God will never cure me?” I told her that I could not answer that, but at least he was using her.

Another old lady from my church was almost blind, was lame, and constantly hallucinated old revival hymns. She kept asking God to heal her or take her home to heaven. I told her that if she kept that up she would live to 120. Elijah and others have asked God to just kill them and he never obliged. When she said, “Lord you don’t have to heal me but please help me to witness to the caregivers that enter my room-he did! Now with the first one God led us to a new approach that worked and with the second he let her minster for a few weeks then took her home.

It seems to me that when I submit to his sovereignty, telling God that he may fix me or give me grace,and thanking him for the struggle; one of two things will happen   1. God will fix me so that I will have the energy to serve, or   2. He will give me sufficient Grace to please him despite the misery.

He did the former for me when I had my claustrophobia but the latter in regards to my never fitting into the church. I don’t know, but suspect that if he made me so that I fit in then I would no longer fit his plans for me.


  1. Thank you, Dr. Bell. I am so grateful that God does use me m, regularly, to help others. I have very little hope, if any, of ever a time of actual peace in any brain for any more than a few hours, but I do KNOW that my struggle DOES help others when I tell it. I’m afraid of local friends and close people, but I am quite open with the world – ha! My blog, doing Stigma walks, even speaking at Pine Rest. And it is true, normally I have 95% of people be thankful I bared my soul. I need to focus on that and not losing close friends who choose not to try to understand or be there for me.

  2. Wow! I used to be in the last 2 ladies and the first ladies position. I loved being reminded of those last 2 stories, by the way! Now I’m the one in danger of making others feel bad because God has healed me of all my mental disorders, even though I’m going through things that would have defeated and destroyed me in the past. I pray my healing gives others hope; not hopelessness because it hasn’t happened to them yet. I’m not sure I was able to Thank God for my depression before I was healed, but I AM so thankful now for every horrible and hard thing that ever happened to me, because His grace is now allowing it to be used for the good of others and His glory!

    • Hi Rocks,
      I wrote the original quote Dr Bell quoted, from a response to a different blog post he had written once. I also wrote the reply above.
      Your words do not give me hopelessness at all. Hopelessness for me is that there are zero medical or non-medical treatments left that I have no tried, no more doctors with any ideas to help, and going on 3 years of no breaks in depression.
      I totally believe God COULD heal me. I totally believe God is choosing not to heal me at this time, for whatever best reasons He has. Honestly, most days if rather give up and go be with Him that cause any more days of suffering for my family. But here and there I can fake an hour or two of putting on a good face to help others. And that DOES help me, but I’m running out of energy left and praying for it but it isn’t coming. My hope is in the Lord. So much I am just ready to be done and be with Him and not hurt anyone else (emotionally, never physically, and not on purpose, but I’m so depressed and anxious and have a brain injury I honestly cannot make myself think straight) anymore.

      • I am sorry you are still suffering. You had a head injury that is causing this? You’d think people would be even more understanding seeing you can point to a specific cause! I’d be interested in visiting your blog. Thank you for telling me that my mental good health DOESN’T make you feel worse!

      • Danielle – I am in your position. Motor vehicle accident three years ago. Just now found a doctor in Kitchener Ontario who specializes in brain injury. Sending me to Neuro Physio. Check our Vestibular and Orthopaedic Rehabilitation in your area. God bless and guide you! Never give up! We have LASTING VICTORY! Strength and comfort – Psalm 84. In His Love, Angelina

      • Thanks to you both!
        I would never want anyone to suffer depression like this. To know someone who suffered and is in remission is great news and not upsetting to me in any way. A small twinge of envy I think is normal, but not that I would want to take that joy away from you. I am happy you shared and happy you are doing better! My blog is on and off depending on how I am doing, but it is at since you asked 🙂

        Thank you to the second poster about the brain recovery! I did a full 12 weeks of neuro physio in 2012 when it happened and regained balance and all that, but before that my depression meds would work and now nothing does.
        BUT PRAISE BE TO GOD! I finally have received an appointment at the Mayo Clinic for a consultation in July to go over all of this and hopefully with their newer technology and ideas, they may have more options. It is my current hope and prayer.

        Thank you again both for sharing.

      • I checked out your blog and I think we have a lot in common. I love portrait photography also and even get paid for doing it (but I prefer to do them as gifts!) Your children are beautiful and so is your jewelry. You are creative, as am I. It was good to hear from you. In an earlier communication you mention speaking at Pine Rest. Can you tell me more about that? Did I tell you I’ve written a book that came out last year June 17th, called “But I Liked It…and Other Lies.” It was published by 5 Fold Ministries and is memoir about overcoming the shame of sexual abuse and the stigma of mental illness. Dr. Bell wrote the intro. All the proceeds go to KAHTC (Kalamazoo Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition.) They are our local group that prevents, rescues and restores victims of human-trafficking. We are getting laws changed and bringing awareness of the problem to our area. I hope I hear from you again! Roxanne Fawley

      • Thank you again! I will have to look for your book. I am in the middle of writing my life story in hopes it helps me and others as well.
        I speak at some special retreats Pine Rest has for their employees called, “Reigniting the Spirit of Caring.” They have a few former patients speak about our experiences, good and bad, at inpatient or partial, and then they take into account our words and sometimes take action on them. About 2 years ago at one, I said we need more outside time, and one special employee, a Rec Therapist who knows me well from my 10 inpatient stays, brought this to a committee and they implemented a twice daily outside time. I felt so honored when she told me it was because of me!
        Next week I fly to Mayo Clinic to see if they can figure out why my depression has been completely treatment resistant for almost 3 years. My outpatient Pine Rest psych referred me. I’d love prayers that they can figure something out with their more advanced technology and testing.

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