God and the Mental Illness

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Religion and Spirituality  |  House: Booksie Classic
Faith is not very happy when her cousin Emma comes to live with her. Emma has depression and she cuts. But maybe, God is behind it all.

Submitted: November 11, 2014

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Submitted: November 11, 2014

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Chapter 1

 

The funeral for my aunt and uncle were over. To me, it was not a very sad occasion. I really did not know either of them. They had both lived in New York City and we rarely saw them.

And even though I barely know my cousin Emma and did not really like her, I still felt really sorry for her. She had just lost both her parents. Plus, it has been mentioned before that Emma has had problems with depression in the last year or so.

“Lord,” I prayed silently, “please help Emma. This has got to be really tough on her. Amen.”

I wondered what was going to happen to Emma. She was only sixteen; the same age as me.

I watched as my parents approached Emma and began talking to her. She listened and then nodded and said a few things back. Then, she walked away.

“Are we ready to go?” I asked my parents as they came up to me.

“We are waiting for Emma,” my mom answered.

“Why are we waiting for Emma?” I asked.

“Faith, Emma is going to come stay with us,” my mom said gently. She knows how I feel about Emma.

“I am not living with an insane girl!” I protested.

“Emma is not insane. And she is human. She deserves to be treated with respect.”

When my parents make a decision, it is final. But that does not mean I have to like it.

Chapter 2

 

Once we got home, Emma went and laid down for awhile and I went to learn more about depression online.

I took some notes on the symptoms and causes of depression and then stuffed the notebook in a desk drawer so that Emma would not see it.

Emma would be staying in my room. We just happened to have an extra bed that was moved into my room and then I was expected to clean out half my dresser and closet.

“Anything more you need?” I asked Emma when I had finished that evening.

She shook her head and did not say anything. Instead, she found a pair of shorts and a t-shirt in her bag and began to change for bed.

That is when I noticed the cuts on her arms.

“Are you a cutter?” I asked her incredulously.

“Do not try to understand me,” she said angrily.

“I am not trying to understand you. In fact, I believe that depression can be taken care of with a positive attitude. I am just interested in why a person would voluntarily cut themselves.”

“So that did not come up in your internet research?” Emma asked.

“How did you know I was researching depression?”

“I may be depressed but I am not stupid. You are trying to learn more about me!”

“Fine. I was curious. And no, I did not research cutting.”

“It is really none of your business why I cut.”

“Do my parents know you are cutting? Does your therapist know?”

“Fine, I will give you one answer. I cut because it helps me feel in control. There, go use that information to your advantage.”

Emma flopped down on the bed and pulled the blankets over her head. Even though it was early, I knew she was going to bed.

I went into the living room where my parents were watching TV.

“Is everything ok in there?” my mom asked.

“Did you know that Emma cuts?” I asked.

“I did not know that. I would not worry too much about her. We are going to have her see a therapist.”

“But you know depressed people can commit suicide, right?” I wanted to make sure my parents knew what they were getting into when they decided to bring Emma back.

“Faith, we are aware of the symptoms of depression. But I do not think we need to worry about suicide.”

I was not so sure. Ever since Emma had arrived, I had noticed several symptoms of depression: Increased need for sleep, loss of appetite, loss of interest in ordinary activities, and sadness.

“Are you sure we are doing the right thing?” I asked.

“Faith, Emma just needs God’s healing touch. Pray for her to bring Jesus into her life.”

I was not sure God would be able to do much for Emma. I believed that with a positive attitude, Emma would be freed from her depression.

“Lord, I really do not know what to say. Maybe just help Emma feel better and find you. And help all of us deal with her. Amen.”

 

Chapter 3

 

Monday, Emma started school. My parents made me promise that I would keep an eye on her as well as help her meet people. I knew this promise would be difficult to keep.

Emma had the exact same schedule as me. As we went to every class, I would introduce Emma to the teacher and then while she was taking her seat, I would privately ask the teacher not to make a big deal about the new student.

The other students tried to get to know Emma but she would not say much to them and eventually, they would walk away.

By lunch time, I was exhausted. I really just wanted to ditch Emma but I knew that I could not do that.

“This is my cousin, Emma,” I told my friends as we took seats at the table. “Emma, this is Margaret and Sarah.”

“Hi, Emma,” Margaret said. “Where are you from?”

“New York City,” Emma answered as she stirred her mashed potatoes.

“Wow! What brought you to Iowa?”

I gently shook my head but Emma saw it.

“What? You do not think I can handle this question, Faith?”

“That is not what I think at all! I just do not think it is something you should have to answer given what happened.”

“I lost my parents,” Emma told my friends before walking off to the restroom.

My friends looked at me in confusion. I knew I owed them an explanation but really, how much could I tell them?

“Emma has problems,” I said. “Please, do not say anything about it though.”

“We will be praying for her,” Sarah said.

“I do not think God can do much for her,” I replied.

“Of course He can. With God, all things are possible.”

“I had better go check on her.”

I went into the restroom and found Emma crying in the corner. Thankfully, the restroom was otherwise deserted.

“You could have at least made an effort with my friends!” I said.

“Sorry,” Emma said. I could tell she did not mean it.

“You are not even trying to fit in!”

“Sorry that I am depressed!”

“Depression is no excuse! Now, you had better get going. We have algebra.”

I waited outside the door for Emma but after a few minutes, I needed to leave to get to class. Emma did not join me the rest of the afternoon.

 

Chapter 4

 

After school, my mom took Emma to see a therapist so I did not have the opportunity to talk to her until that evening while Emma was doing her homework. Or, correction, making little effort towards her homework. She would write down a couple words and then stare into space until she finally came back to Earth to write down a couple more words.

“She is impossible,” I told my mom. “She just ignored everyone that talked to her. Then, at lunch time, she yelled at me and then walked off and spent the rest of the afternoon in the restroom. And now, she is completely unfocused!”

“Are you sure you are not expecting too much from her?”

“Why would I expect too much from her? I just think with a positive attitude, she will feel better. She is just being lazy.”

“I talked to Emma’s psychiatrist today and learned that depression does not work that way. Depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain.”

“Let’s say that that is true. I thought they made medicine for depression. Why is Emma still depressed a year later?”

“Depression is not always easy to treat. And it appears that Emma has not been taking her medicine for the last couple of weeks.”

“Why would she do that?” I still did not believe that depression was chemical but maybe because people take medicine, they think they are better even though there was nothing wrong in the first place.

“Emma’s parents did not die in the accident right away,” my mom said. “They did hold on to life for awhile. From what the psychiatrist and I can gather, we do not believe that the antidepressant was working anyway and that is why she stopped taking it. Emma is going to try something new but it will take several weeks before we begin to see any results.”

“I have a better solution,” I said. “Let’s just send Emma away.”

“Faith! That is not very Christian like. Besides, where would Emma go?”

“Does she not have any friends in New York? Any family there?”

My mom shot me a look. I remembered reading on the internet that people with depression become withdrawn. Emma probably did not have any friends.

Suddenly, I realized that Emma was no longer doing her homework. There was no way she had gotten it all done.

“Emma is gone and she did not finish her homework,” I told my mom.

“She probably went to bed,” my mom said. “Do not worry about her. Homework is going to be too difficult for her to handle right now.”

“Whatever!” I said and stalked off to watch some TV.

 

Chapter 5

 

In the morning before school, we are not allowed to go to our lockers until fifteen minutes before school starts. We are expected to hang out in the cafeteria until then.

When Emma and I arrived at school, she went to a table by herself and just stared into space. I joined Sarah and Margaret at our usual table.

“Is your cousin all right?” Sarah asked with concern.

“Of course not. But I am having trouble convincing my mom to send her away.”

“What is wrong with her?”

“She has depression. She has had problems for awhile. And apparently, she stopped taking her medicine a few weeks ago. It could be awhile before she is functioning.”

“Why do you dislike your cousin so much?” Margaret asked. “Depression is fairly common.”

“Depression is just a fancy label,” I said. “People want an excuse to be unhappy with their life so they made it a mental illness. With a positive attitude, she will be fine.”

“Is that why you said yesterday that God will be unable to help her?”

“Exactly. She is the one that is responsible for her emotions.”

“Do you think Emma is voluntarily choosing to be sad?” Sarah asked seriously.

“Why are you on her side? You are a Christian like me. You know that there is no such thing.”

“Faith, you have never been depressed. You do not understand what Emma is going through.”

“Oh, and you do?” I was getting rather upset with my friends.

“I do not understand depression. I cannot truly understand depression because I have never gone through it. It is the same thing when we tell a person with cancer that we understand what they are going through. We cannot understand what they are going through because we have never had cancer. But that does not mean that we should not be there for them and talk with them if they want to. But we should not try to relate to them or offer advice.”

“Are you telling me that I need to be a friend to Emma? You have seen what she is like. She is withdrawn.”

“Eventually, the medicine is going to start working. Then, she is going to need a friend. Besides, life is tough enough for Emma right now. She could probably benefit by knowing that someone is there for her, whenever she is ready to talk.”

“Then why not be a friend to her yourself? You seem to believe in depression.”

“The least you can do is pray for Emma. Pray that God will help her feel happy.”

“I will think about it,” I said.

“That is at least a start,” Margaret said with a sigh as the bell rang for us to go to our lockers.

 

Chapter 6

 

After school, I had a prom committee meeting. I invited Emma to come along. I figured if I could get her involved, she would be too busy to be depressed. She was not interested though so I went to the meeting by myself.

It was almost dinnertime when I got home. My parents were watching the news and Emma was no where to be found.

On the screen, there were emergency vehicles and people running out of a building.

“What happened?” I asked.

“There was a school shooting,” my dad answered. “A high school student brought a gun and killed twenty students and injured several others.”

I sat down on the couch and began watching.

“Students at Lincoln High say that the gunman was often a loner,” a reporter said. “They also say that he has exhibited signs of mental instability for awhile. The big question is, why was something not done to help the student sooner?”

“If we do not help Emma, she could do the same thing,” I told my parents.

“Faith, there are a lot of misconceptions about mental illness; especially after a mass shooting like this,” my mom said. “The few crazy people that have killed tons of people have given a bad rap for all people suffering from mental illness. Not every person is mentally insane.”

“It is still a possibility,” I said.

“I am not worried about Emma’s actions making world news,” my dad said. “I am more worried about her life.”

“I know you do not like Emma,” my mom said. “But you can at least treat her like a human being.”

“It just is not that easy,” I admitted.

“Let’s pray,” my mom suggested.

We all folded our hands and bowed our heads.

“Lord,” my mom prayed, “I ask for Your healing hand for Emma. She is really going through a lot right now. I also pray for Faith. I ask that You open her heart so that she will be accepting toward Emma. Amen.”

“Amen,” my dad and I repeated.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 7

 

Sunday, we always go to church. My parents let Emma stay home this week but they said she would be expected to go next week.

After a couple songs with the worship band, the pastor came forward to give his sermon.

“Last week, a terrible incident happened at a high school in Connecticut,” he began. “A student brought a gun to school and killed twenty students and injured several others. Since then, there has been a lot of talk on the news that the student was probably mentally unstable. Many people have weighed in with their opinions on how people with mental illnesses should be helped. That is why today, I have decided to talk about how God comes into mental illness.”

I really did not want to listen to a sermon on mental illness. God did not play into mental illness. If anyone should have to listen to this sermon, it was Emma.

“Lord,” I prayed silently, “I do not want to listen to this sermon, but I pray that You will work on my heart so that I will be open to what the pastor has to say. Amen.”

“Did you know that about 500 million people are affected by a mental illness?” the pastor asked. “That is about eight percent of the world population. Some people believe that with a positive attitude, these people would feel better. They say that they chose their emotions and now must live with the consequences.

“How can God play into the mental illness? Some say that mental illnesses didn’t exist in Biblical times. They say this is a modern invention to legitimatize sinful behavior. Others say that mental illness is a consequence of sin.

“Man was made in God’s image. That includes people suffering from a mental illness. Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan once said that people suffering from a mental illness kind of resemble Jesus on the cross. They have experienced scorn, rejection, loneliness, and deprivation.

“Though mental illness has not been mentioned specifically in the Bible, there are verses that may mean many of our Biblical heroes did suffer from depression. Moses, Jonah, David, Job, and Jeremiah all could have possibly been depressed.

“I am not trying to make you believe that mental illness is real. You are free to believe what you want. People suffering though still need to learn about God so that they can be saved. They also need to be treated with respect. They are human and made in God’s image.

“Lord,” he prayed, “I pray for all those suffering from mental illness. I pray that You will heal them and give them the help they need. Amen.”

After the pastor finished speaking, the worship band did a couple more songs but I did not join in. I was thinking about everything that the pastor had said. Maybe I still did not believe in mental illness, but I still needed to act like a Christian towards Emma.

I was still thinking about the sermon when I got home. That is why I decided to look up depression in the Bible online.

Sure enough, it gave me several verses to look up about each of the characters the pastor mentioned. And while it did not mention depression specifically, it did appear that these people were more than just sad.

I never would have thought God’s people would ever be depressed. God was still able to use them though.

Maybe, just maybe, Emma’s depression was not her fault.

 

Chapter 8

 

On Monday, I was still thinking about God and the mental illness. I was starting to think that maybe there was such thing but I could not see why God would let someone deal with such a horrible illness. What could God accomplish in an individual that was suffering?

I was still thinking about mental illness when I went to the prom committee meeting after school. I was not much help during the meeting.

When I got home, I decided I was going to do some more research about mental illness. Maybe I would try to talk to Emma and learn about it firsthand.

It was very quiet when I walked through the door. I wondered where everybody went.

On the table, there was a note.

 

Dear Uncle Kyle, Aunt Rose, and Faith,

 

I thank you for bringing me into your home. Unfortunately, I cannot bear to continue living. My decision has nothing to do with you or anyone else. I am just tired of dealing with a world where I do not belong.

 

Sincerely,

 

Emma

 

Emma had left a suicide note! Somewhere, Emma was either dead or preparing to die.

I had no idea if Emma had decided to die in the house or somewhere else but I took off to search the house.

There was Emma, lying on her bed.

“Please do not let her be dead!” I prayed as I felt for a pulse. It was there, but it was faint.

I quickly dialed 911.

“My cousin just attempted suicide!” I said quickly. “She is still alive but unconscious! Please hurry!” I gave the operator my address.

“Do you know what she did?” the operator asked.

I could see a bottle of pills beside the bed and told the operator.

“Help is on the way,” the operator said.

“Lord, please do not let her die. She does not even know You. Please give her another chance at life. Amen.”

A few minutes later, I could hear sirens so I went to the door to let the paramedics in. As soon as they took Emma to the hospital, I called my parents to let them know what had happened. They said they would meet me at the hospital.

 

Chapter 9

 

“Why are they are not telling us anything?” I asked my parents impatiently in the hospital waiting room. We had been waiting forever.

“That is because they are working on saving Emma,” my dad said. “We will know when she is out of the woods.”

My dad sure had a lot of optimism. But then, he had not seen what I had seen. He had not seen Emma’s unconscious body lying on her bed.

“Lord,” I prayed silently, “please be with Emma and the doctors. Please help them save her. Amen.”

Suddenly, a doctor came out and my parents and I looked at him expectantly.

“She is alive and now conscious,” he said. “We are going to keep her for a couple days and then we want to send her upstairs to the psychiatrist floor.”

“Can we go see her?” my mom asked.

“Go ahead.”

I was nervous as we entered the room. Would Emma be angry that she was still alive? Would she be mad that I had called for help?

“Hi, honey,” my mom said gently. “How are you doing?”

“I have never been better,” Emma said sarcastically.

I felt God encouraging me to speak to Emma.

“Let me try,” I whispered to my parents.

“Be my guest,” my dad whispered back.

“Emma, I imagine that you are angry that your suicide attempt was foiled, but you should be thankful that you were saved. Do you have any idea where you would be spending eternity?”

“Anywhere would be better than this world!” she said bitterly.

“To a Christian, they are as close to hell as they will ever be,” I said, quoting something I had heard before. “To a non-Christian, they are as close to Heaven as they will ever be.”

“Why do you care where I spend eternity, Faith? Ever since I have arrived, you have not been afraid to say where you stand on mental illness.”

“Things changed at church yesterday. The pastor talked about how some of the characters in the Bible might have been depressed at one time. God still did amazing things through them. The pastor also said that all people should be treated like human beings no matter what their mental status.”

“So now you just want to try to understand me? You want to know what is behind the cutting and the suicide?”

“That is for your psychiatrist to find out. I just want to be there for you as a friend.”

“You are in for a long wait then, Faith. I have been depressed for a long time.”

“But you are getting the help you need. And someday, God will heal you. In the meantime, I will tell you about Jesus. He will fill your life with hope and encouragement.”

“Faith, no offense, but I really just want to be left alone right now. I have been through a lot. Maybe you could come back another time.”

I looked at my parents. Was it a good idea to leave Emma alone?

“The staff at the hospital will keep an eye on Emma,” my dad said.

“Then I will come back and see you again,” I said.

Chapter 10

 

The next morning, my parents let me miss school so that I could go see Emma. They said it was very important to tell her about Jesus.

After a quick prayer, I took a deep breath and entered Emma’s hospital room.

“Good morning, Emma,” I said cheerfully.

“Good morning, Faith,” she answered back.

I was glad that she was talking to me. It did not sound like she was upset with me for saving her life.

“How are you doing?” I asked.

“Well, I have been better,” she replied. “But I have also been worse.”

I smiled. It sounded like she was feeling a lot better.

“I am going to the psychiatric floor this afternoon.”

“Are you nervous?”

“No, I have been to the psychiatric hospital before. I know they will help me.”

“Emma, I know I have not been very nice to you ever since you arrived and I want to apologize. I am happy that you survived.”

“Surprisingly, so am I,” Emma said.

“Really?” I was surprised. “Why?”

“I thought about what you said yesterday. You asked me where I would be spending eternity. I did not give it any thought when I was taking the pills. I was just anxious to leave this world. But the thing is, I really do not know where I would be spending eternity. I never really went to church before.”

“The Bible gives us a definite answer about where we will spend eternity. For whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

“You mean all I have to do is believe? I do not have to do anything else? Are you sure God will not kick me out because I have sinned too much?”

“Everyone on this earth is a sinner. God sent His Son, Jesus, to die for all sins. Whoever accepts this forgiveness and surrenders their life to Him will one day spend eternity in Heaven.”

“Wow!” Emma responded.

“I am not sure what God will do through your depression, but He has great plans for you.”

“There are many famous writers and actors that suffer from mental illnesses,” Emma said.

“Seriously?”

“If God can work through depressed characters in the Bible, than He can also work through depressed writers and actors.”

“Are you interested in writing or acting?”

“I am kind of interested in writing. Maybe I can work on that while I am in the psychiatric hospital.”

“Please also think about what I said. You already got a second chance at life. Let it not be in vain.”

“I will,” Emma promised.

“Here is something you take with you to the psychiatric hospital,” I said as I handed her a Bible.

“Thanks, Faith.” She wrapped her arms around me in a tight hug. I knew she was a slightly different person than when she came in. She was still depressed, but something inside of her had changed.

 

Chapter 11

 

A couple days later, Emma called me after school.

“Can you come to the hospital, Faith?” she asked.

“You want me to go to the psychiatric hospital?” I asked nervously.

“You will be fine. Please come, Faith. It is important.”

“Fine, I will be there soon.”

I was nervous as I was buzzed into the psychiatric hospital. Emma was waiting for me though and took me to a small visitor’s lounge.

“What is up?” I asked.

Emma handed me a school notebook. I opened it and saw a page titled God and the Mental Illness.

“What is this?” I asked.

“It is my life story.”

“But you have mentioned God. That would mean that you are a Christian.”

Emma smiled. “I gave my life to Christ two nights ago. A nurse prayed with me. She got me the notebook and I have been writing ever since.”

I hugged Emma. “Congratulations!” I cried.

“I just hope you know that I will still have depression, despite being a Christian.”

“I know. I have come to the realization that nobody would voluntarily choose to be sad. I know that you cannot snap out of depression.”

“Thanks, Faith. That really means a lot to me.”

“Again, I am sorry for everything I said earlier.”

“I probably would have thought the same way if I were you. Depression is difficult to understand if you have not experienced it personally.”

“Maybe you can use your book to tell people like me about depression.”

“The nurse said if it was really good, she would help me find a publisher. She thinks it is important to tell people about mental illnesses and God.”

“And with God’s help, I know you will accomplish great things.”

“Shall we pray?”

I nodded.

“Lord,” Emma prayed, “I thank You for Faith’s family and for giving me a place to stay. I thank You for giving me another chance at life and for Faith, who led me to You. I pray for Your help in accomplishing Your plans for me. Amen.”

“Amen,” I repeated.


© Copyright 2020 Kimberly Adams. All rights reserved.

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