The one that you have when someone shares with you a struggle they have been going through for months, maybe even years and you had no idea.
I’ve experienced this many times as someone with great courage opens up about their struggle with mental illness.
You see, it takes a bold strength to share about this fight because the stigmas towards people with mental illness are so pervasive and harmful.
Those stigmas seem to be even more prevalent in the space that should be the most safe and loving: The Church.
So I will say what I have said before and I will say many times in the future:
I’m sorry for what we said… or didn’t say.
I’m sorry for the times you had to hear, “that person is crazy” or “that person has lost their mind” or “don’t be OCD, everything doesn’t have to be perfect”.
Even when we weren’t referring to you – I’m sorry if that language shut you down and kept you in silence.
I’m sorry for the phrase, “I hate my life, I want to shoot myself.”
As it casually slips from the lips of someone who is disappointed about a grade, their new supervisor or the cancelation of their favorite TV show. They meant it as a colloquial term, but your actual life and death battle in your mind is minimized so abruptly.
I’m sorry for the pastors who gave a 30 minute sermon about how the Bible tells us not to worry “365 times, once for each day”.
They didn’t mention that their plea for “choosing peace” was not possible for those who battle chronic anxiety and panic attacks. Those whose brain chemistry won’t allow for chemical shifting by sheer will or force.
I’m sorry for the prayer teams who offered prayer over you as you struggle.
I’m not sorry that they prayed.
I believe it makes a difference. But I’m sorry if they made you feel like your lack of faith or prayer was the problem, not your mental illness or brain chemistry.
I’m sorry for what we didn’t say.
I’m sorry that we didn’t say something when we hear people refer to people as “addicts” “schizophrenics” or “bulimics”. I’m sorry we didn’t say something humanizing like, “they aren’t their illness any more than a person fighting cancer. They struggle with addiction… do you see the difference?”
I’m sorry we didn’t say more to end the stigma so you felt like you could share your depression with people who love you.
I’m sorry we didn’t declare our churches as places where everyone is expected to be broken.
I’m sorry we didn’t have the courage to ask the deep questions so you knew we could handle the difficult answers.
I’m sorry we’ve talked so differently about nearly every other type of illness – set up caring bridge sites and meal teams while you or your family felt alone in your care.
I’m sorry for what we said… or didn’t say when it would have made a difference.