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January 5th, 2013

Cathy Wield Shares Her Experiences of Living with Depression with the Baptist Times

Depression and the church Print
Friday, 21 December 2012 06:45

Cathy Wield has suffered two bouts of major depression, and has felt called by God to speak out about the illness. Statistics suggest there will be sufferers in all our churches – do we stigmatise or are we genuinely ready to reach out and love those who are sick?

On 10 December I was invited to a reception for the launch of the film U Can Copewhich was made for World Suicide Prevention Day. I was one of the three people who had suffered from suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts and recovered, who were filmed to give hope to others. I am sad that they cut out my references to the help God has given me in my recovery from severe depression but I believe it is still a privilege to stand up against the stigma of mental illness.

I have suffered two bouts of major depression; the first lasted for seven years continuously with no break, during which time I received just about every medical treatment available – psychotherapy, drugs, ECT and then when the prognosis was that I would die, brain surgery. That’s when we saw a real miracle. For several months I had been in the psychiatric intensive care unit with a nurse beside me at all times, even when I had a bath or went to the loo! After the surgery this was still the case as it was known that any recovery from the depression is gradual and takes months.

That is until I came along! On the eighth day post op, I suddenly experienced a light switching on in my head and I was instantaneously better; the depression had gone! Within a very short time I was back with my husband and four children, learning to be mum again and within a year I was back at work as a doctor in A&E.

Being an active member of our church I had of course received much prayer, but after this I decided to take God more seriously than I had ever done before. I believe it was then that the Father laid it on my heart to speak out against stigma and before I knew it, a secular publishing company approached me to write a book. Life After Darkness was published in 2006.

I thought since I had been healed in such a way that I would never suffer with depression again so we were surprised and disappointed when I began to have symptoms just at the time that we moved to Aberdeen in Scotland.

cathy-wield-a-thorn-in-my-mind2---cover

Cathy WieldThis time it was more gradual, but eventually the illness became so severe that I was once again suicidal and therefore hospitalised. The church was extremely supportive – they had had teaching on depression and so recognised that this is not something you can snap out of, or that it was the fault of the sufferer or that I was not as spiritual as I should be. They sent cards and presents, visited and prayed. I had to have ECT again and thankfully this time it was successful and my recovery began. It has taken much longer to get better from this bout, but I have learned more and more about  the Lord, including the Fatherhood of God which I hadn’t really understood or made
my own.

Once again I heard from God that I should speak out about my illness and not be afraid. Stigma is still rife and unfortunately still exists within the churches. This time I wrote a book specifically for Christians, A Thorn In My Mind. I had self harmed, attempted suicide, literally walked through the valley of the shadow of death, but I am still the daughter of the king, made righteous through the blood of Jesus. I was ill and now I am well and I have nothing to be ashamed of.

The statistics are worth noting; one in four people will suffer mental illness in their life time. We, the church, like Jesus accept people whatever their condition and that goes for the mentally ill. There will be sufferers in all our individual churches. Keeping it quiet increases the sense of isolation that these illnesses bring and means we can’t pray, bring comfort or practical help.

I felt a tremendous sense of guilt while I was ill and really needed the reassurance that I was not a weak person and that it wasn’t my fault. My doctors provided that for me, but wouldn’t it be great if your church family could do the same thing? We need each other in the body of Christ. Are you ready to reach out and love someone who is sick? There is no condemnation for them in Christ Jesus, there is no condemnation by those He has set free.

We now live in Watford. My husband, who is a counsellor, and I run a workshop on depression, for churches and other organisations. More details are on the website http://www.cathywield.com/ We would love to hear from you if we can be of help.

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