For the record, I take several medications for assorted mental health issues. I've taken them off and on for the past 30 years.
I have no idea what these drugs do for me. I have noticed the effect they have on other people, though. When I take my meds, they seem to become less annoying. Odd how that works.
I've come to terms with my condition. I'm not even all that embarrassed by it. It's just the cross I drag through life.
Fortunately, I've had the support of some patient and loving people.
Wasn't always that way. I used to think my condition was entirely my fault, that it wasn't a physiological problem like bad eyesight or a missing limb.
Because the problem has no obvious physical manifestation, it makes it difficult for other people to understand it and make allowances.
It's easy to tell when someone is missing a leg. It isn't there. And you can't pretend it is no matter how optimistically giddy you are about it. It's a bit harder to do that with psychological issues.
I do what I can to make my situation better. In addition to remembering to take my meds, I've learned several work-arounds that help me avoid dragging my cross into a no-win situation.
For example, I don't do well in overly regimented environments. Those tend to be filled with people for whom rules and obedience are the solutions to just about everything.
So I avoid them. And I don't blame myself (anymore) for doing that.
Like a guy with no legs, I don't simply assume that a positive mental attitude will make me an NFL quarterback. And neither will prayer.
Recently, one of my friends told me that his missionary son had been counseled to cope with his severe depression by praying more. The Lord would help him through it. Medication was OK if you needed that sort of thing, but wasn't the Lord the best doctor?
This is great logic if you're not similarly afflicted. Hey, it's amazingly easy to think up possible solutions when you don't understand the actual problem.
Nobody would think of telling someone with no legs to just pray for new ones. Maybe that's why you never read of Jesus in the New Testament saying, "Stupid lepers. Just pray and be more obedient."
The scary part is that my friend's son Mike will drag home a load of self-loathing if his depression worsens and he can't finish his mission. He'll come back believing that he's spiritually defective rather than just biologically challenged.
It won't be his fault, but lots of people won't let him think that.
After all, there's nothing really wrong with him other than he won't run fast enough to keep up with God and the rest of us. Right?
Personal trials are an inescapable part of life. They're also relative to the individual. Different people, different crosses.
Nobody drags theirs the same way.
Sometimes the burden is obvious to everyone, including the person doing the lugging. Other times the cross is far less identifiable, not only to the owner but everyone remotely connected to it.
Mental health issues can be tough to figure out, especially in highly judgmental environments where appearances are enormously important.
Mike's cross is severe depression. Your cross might be that you're too dogmatic and ignorant to recognize it. You can't help someone with their burden if your own keeps getting in the way.
Robert Kirby can be reached at email@example.com or facebook.com/notpatbagley.