That evening, at sundown, they brought to him (Jesus) all who were sick or possessed with demons. . . . and he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; Mark 1:32
Demons come in all sizes and shapes. They are alive and well today. Many people suffer from them. We may call them by various names such as depression, anxiety, bi-polar afflictions, and any number of other mental health afflictions.
We no longer hide people in attics or basements as we once did with family members who had mental disorders. We no longer drug people into oblivion in locked and largely hidden mental institutions as we once did. However, we still have a very long way to go in understanding what causes, controls, or cures mental diseases and disorders. As a society we don’t do very well when it comes to helping people with mental health issues – or their families who are often at wit’s end trying to cope.
We still too often harbor shame and assign blame, which is not helpful. We too often blame parents who do the best they can with inadequate knowledge, resources, and finances to really manage situations which often become truly unmanageable. There is no justification for parents abusing children, but there are often mental health issues driving the abuse that have never been adequately identified and treated.
I think most people suffer from bouts of depression at some time in their life. Sometimes these are the unfortunate, but understandable, result of a tragedy of some kind. It might be the loss of a parent, an experience with violence, or the breakup of a relationship we thought was going to lead to marriage and life happily ever after. For too many young people today depression might be the side effect of experiencing bullying at school.
Sometimes the problem is a chemical imbalance. Sometimes it is the result of what we inherited from the generations before us. Sometimes it is the company we keep. Sometimes it is the habits or lack of them that we develop around decent diets, adequate sleep, and sufficient exercise. Sometimes it is the environment in which we live – where the negatives of life are discussed and magnified over and over while the goodness of life is rarely presented.
I am the granddaughter of a man who spent too many years in one of the God-awful mental hospitals where patients were heavily drugged into submission. He missed a good portion of my father’s teen years. I learned about this by accident from my father’s sister. On a visit to her while I was in college she started talking about it, assuming that of course I would know about this. She was wrong. The shame ran so deep that I never once had a conversation with my father about what that was like for him. I had only the briefest of conversations with my mother about it. She agreed to a brief, but awkward and embarrassed conversation when I told her what my aunt had told me.
I have suffered periods of depression. Mercifully those days seem to be in the distant past. I have been in conversations with many others who are experiencing depression – or worrying about a loved one who is. I have relatives who suffer from other forms of mental health disorders. Out of respect for their privacy I won’t go into the details here.
What I’d like to focus on is the fact that demons are alive and well and continue to plague us. We don’t invite them. We often don’t know how to send them away. But we can at least come clean with one another and admit they exist, they torment us still, and sometimes, we need help to deal with them.
That help may come in the form of prayer, healing services, conversations with trained mental health professionals, adjusting our lifestyles, getting more information, trying various medications, or any number of other strategies. The one strategy that will not work is to pretend the problem isn’t a problem and therefore do nothing.
Whenever and however the demons invade our sanity and serenity, we don’t’ need to fight them alone. And we don’t need to be ashamed when they attack. They exist. They always have. I suppose they always will. How about if we get help when they attack us and we apply a little extra tender loving care when they attack someone near to us.