Elijah experienced a major mental health crisis. In 1 Kings 19 we read that he told God to let him die because he had enough. Elijah was public enemy number one, a political agitator King Ahab declared as being the “biggest troublemaker in Israel” (1 Kings 18:17). He survived three years of drought and famine, spent years hiding in the desert and, right before his mental breakdown, killed 450 prophets of Baal. After walking a day in the desert, he laid down under a tree to die. His words say it all; “I have had enough, Lord.” (1 Kings 19:4).
I understand this as I too have experienced a similar breakdown. By God’s grace my days of depression only lasted about a week but it provided insight into what so many people experience for longer periods of time. I had been running hard doing urban ministry in tough government housing neighbourhoods and gone through the murder of a beloved youth who served with me, dealt with a horrible tragedy in which a young child drowned and then went through my own trial in which I broke my neck hoping to walk again. All of this (and there were more) took place within a six month time span and I “had enough”.
I remember waking up one morning crying my eyes out in my dark room unable to summon the energy to get out of bed, to open my blinds to sunlight, to start my day. This continued for six long days of deep depression.
My emotional tank was dry and I was unable to muster any hope for my life and future. It was a dark, dark time.
“I have had enough!” This state of mental breakdown can happen to any of us at any time. Having gone through it myself I cannot help but feel for my brothers and sisters in the midst of this kind of depression. No judging permitted here as it is not a sin to feel depressed. It is the result of life overpowering us to the point where we have had enough and we finally breakdown.
Though we cannot judge those suffering mental health issues we can take preventative measures to help us before a mental breakdown occurs. The first thing we must do is to learn to be self-aware of what is happening in our souls.
Generally speaking, this is very hard for men as we tend to lose touch with our emotional side so we need to practice the art of listening and observing how we are reacting to life. What are your emotions telling you about the state of your soul? Are you losing your patience quicker than usual? Are you easily succumbing to fits of rage? These are two major indicators that reveal much about your emotional health.
A second thing we need to do is to block off at least 15 minutes a day to spend time in contemplative prayer. What happens when we do this type of listening prayer is that the silence tends to reveal what is happening inside of us. As you try to hear God in silence thoughts, fears, worries and stressors reveal themselves to you as obstacles blocking you from hearing God. This is actually a good thing as the Spirit is revealing to you all the things controlling your soul and now you have the opportunity to look them straight in the eye and give them over to God.
Finally, to remain mentally healthy we need others around us. We need to be involved in helping others. When we serve others it truly is medicine to our souls. However, we also need to have good friends who we do life together. By caring for each other and feeling safe to be vulnerable with those we love, we receive grace from our community who lovingly are able to detect troublesome things affecting our wellbeing. Remember, you were never intended to walk the road of life alone. God and others walk with you.