“I made plans to die”
With World Suicide Prevention Day having taken place on 10 September, Dr Cathy Wield describes her own experience of severe depression, and how she is helping churches to understand mental illness
With World Suicide Prevention Day having taken place on 10 September, Dr Cathy Wield describes her own experience of severe depression, and how she is helping churches to gain a better understanding of mental illness
Although I was working as a doctor in A&E, happily married with four delightful children, I was not immune to the depths of despair that major depression threw me into. I would wake in a world of grey, where no sunlight burst in, alone, isolated by constant punitive thoughts telling me that I was a terrible person, a terrible doctor, a terrible Christian.
I soon had to take sick leave as I had no strength or energy. I could not concentrate, I felt so tired but could not sleep; hunger left me and I hardly ate. Then the thoughts became more sinister – Phil my husband would be better off without me and I didn’t deserve to live. In my desperation, I made plans to die.
I managed to share how I felt with a trusted friend and so I came to be admitted to hospital, where for four-and-a-half of the next seven years I was to spend time being treated for severe treatment- resistant depression.
Some of our close friends and family remained in touch. They helped out with the family and were faithful in prayer. Others could not cope and I heard not a word, their silence being interpreted that I was, as I thought, an untouchable. For some I became the object of well-meaning advice. Why didn’t I pray more? If only I was to come closer to God, read my Bible more, confess my sin … then that would be the key to my recovery. After all, true Christians don’t become depressed!
But for others, even those who did not know me well, gifts and cards and prayers came my way. They warmed my heart which felt like stone. They helped me see a little chink of light at the end of a very long and dark tunnel.
I survived my ordeal and suicide attempts, though I live with the consequences. But once again there is much joy in my life.
I wrote my book A Thorn In My Mind as a result of the stigma and rejection of mental illness within our churches, to explain the truth that these conditions are as ancient as history and that biblical characters, as well as many famous Christians, have suffered from depression. I tell my story as I grew spiritually through this illness and provide descriptions and treatments of most of the common disorders which are known as mental illnesses.
Along with my husband (now a counsellor, having trained at the London School of Theology in Theology and Counselling) I run workshops on depression for churches and other organisations.