What Christians and Mental Patients Have in Common

I can never tell, I thought, sitting in a mental ward in Minnesota. I was nineteen.

When I get out I can’t tell friends that I dropped out of college. That I attempted suicide. I can’t tell them how messed up I am. I can’t let them see me like this.

When I got out after forty days, there was only one option (besides suicide, of course). I had to hide.

This year of my life, 2004 to be exact, is the darkest one I can remember. Almost a decade has passed, and there’s hardly anyone I’ve told.

After the mental ward, my social worker set me up in an efficiency apartment that was fully furnished, yet covered in grime. The walls were spotted with grease stains, the floors covered in dirt. Kind of like me.

Only, instead of dirt, I was filthy with lies—and they were rooted deep.

And unlike the dirt that disappeared after one afternoon’s scrubbing, it would take me many, many years to recover from the lies that had saturated my mind for so long.

I can never tell, I thought just today, before finally deciding that maybe someone besides me needed this post.


It’s funny how those lies stay with us. You see, in 2013 my depression and suicidal tendencies are for the most part gone; but today I almost didn’t post this, for fear of looking “crazy” when friends or family read the opening lines.

The good news is, by this point in my twenty-eight years, I know I’m not alone. After repeatedly opening my heart to the Source that “lays bare our innermost thoughts” (Heb. 4:12-13) through prayer, and after training other women to do the same, I’m starting to feel less territorial about the pain I’ve guarded for so many years.

I can never tell. What about all the women and men who have been sexually abused? In The Hidden Half of the Gospel, the book I’m co-writing, we cite a “1 in 3” statistic about girls who have been sexually abused, which blows me away! (Since starting prayer ministry, I’ve also prayed with two women who have admitted to being sexually abused.)

I can never tell. What about the teenage boys and girls struggling with their sexuality—thinking they may be gay but afraid of rejection if they “come out”? I’m reading a memoir right now about a girl, stuck in a mental hospital for three years by her abusive, incompetent parents, who admitted to lying, stealing, cheating, and who lied about having a drug problem, plus an eating disorder, before she would ever admit she had gender confusion. (Still waiting to see how it ends, but the title, The Last Time I Wore a Dress, gives me a good idea.)

I can never tell. What about all the Christians struggling with pornography, drinking, or other “sins”? (In The Hidden Half, Paul and I share the stories of some such Christians.)

I can never tell. What’s the issue for you?

For me currently, this lie is complicating my various writing projects. Just as I did today, just as I did when I published my first magazine article about a suicide attempt . . .

I still sometimes battle that lie, I can never tell.


Maybe that’s why I like to read memoirs like Prozac Nation and other riveting romps through mental illness.

My husband thinks reading these kinds of things is unhealthy. Wonders if I am vicariously milking old, bad feelings through reading these books.

I used to wonder that, too. But these days, I don’t think so.

You see, more and more as I’ve dealt with my bad roots through prayer, I’m uncovering a holy rage about how humans (and Christians especially) cover up their bad roots. As if denying them is dealing with them. Who do we think we’re kidding? Certainly we’re not fooling God.

No, I like to read these memoirs not because they inspire my faith (I read the Bible and Stormie Omartian for that!), but because they inspire my honesty. I read them because they take me to a level of intimacy far below what I get with pretty much everyone else in my life.

Now for those Christians who may disagree with my “uninspiring” reading selections, that’s fine. But if you’re going to knock them, then at least tell me where else I can find such honesty. Sadly, I don’t find it in church, or from my family members, or even from most friends.

But as for me and my writing, we will be honest.

Not because I think we all need to be sharing and airing our garbage. If we did, just think what a stinky world it would be. But come to think of it, this world already stinks quite a bit…so maybe we don’t have much to lose. And if Christians would speak up more, maybe more people would join us, as they see that we’re not too out of touch to deal with the ugly realities that blot all human stories.

In any case, I’ve decided to be honest, in the name of not being fake…or distasteful to others because I can’t relate in any human way…or disgusting to myself because I’ve built my perceived flaws so big that I’ll never get over them. But the most important reason to be honest? Well, gosh darn, if so many people are writing the depressing stories, don’t we need someone to write the un-depressing ones? (This is the plan for the memoir I’m writing—to share how I got un-depressed.)


And so, to conclude my very abridged tale of woe (for today, anyway), at the end of that worst year of my life, I’m happy to tell you, God intervened, introducing me to my husband (in Texas of all places!) and moving me 1,000 miles from that dirty apartment and my broken past. He moved me away physically. Mentally, on the other hand, I had a long way to go! But that’s the subject of many more blogs.

So, though it’s sometimes hard for me to write, and might sometimes be hard for you to read (but I’m sure you can find lots of “fake” blogs to read, if this one makes you uncomfortable), I choose to tell. No matter how often Satan tries to tell me I can’t, with God’s help, I will ever tell.



23 thoughts on “What Christians and Mental Patients Have in Common

  1. Marisa February 11, 2013 / 9:16 pm

    Keep “telling” friend! Your words will surely be an inspiration to many 🙂 So glad we’re buddies!

    • lindseygendke February 15, 2013 / 3:41 pm

      Thank you Marisa! It’s good to know people that understand.

  2. Susan K. holtan February 14, 2013 / 8:01 pm

    God bless you for your humility and courage. Love,Mom.

    • lindseygendke February 15, 2013 / 3:40 pm

      Thank you Mom. I’m glad you’re reading; getting a comment from you warmed my heart!

  3. bethwarstadt April 5, 2013 / 11:07 am

    I am nearly double your age, and it took me many years to work through my issues. First there was denial, then angst, then shame, then a desire to be better for my family and so therapy and medication. In my advancing years, I have come to two conclusions: first, I don’t really care what other people think, I feel what I feel (as do they); and second, like Frodo says, you realize you can’t go back, that some hurts are too deep. Once I got to that point, however, I was able to let it all go and live my life in real joy. You carry the pain but it doesn’t control you. Sharing your story is the best way for others hiding in the dark to see its OK to come out into the light. Most people carry burdens, and we can find our truest comraderie when we share them.

    Thanks for visiting my blog so I could find you.

    • lindseygendke April 5, 2013 / 11:28 am

      Beth, I love hearing the perspective of a similar soul, but from a more experienced stage of life! I am inspired by others who can be honest, and I think you are so right that by sharing, we help one another to come out of the dark and find our “truest camaraderie.” Some would say I’m too serious, need to be more lighthearted…and that is true. But at the same time, I’d say the world as a whole needs to be a little more serious…or maybe the word I want is just “real.” I wish people were just more real. Thanks for reading!

  4. Megan May 20, 2013 / 11:03 pm

    I just found your blog recently, and I’ve been blessed. Thanks for writing, Lindsey. I can relate in so many ways…2004 was a dark year for me too, adult acne, “silly” insecurities, and the power of a loving Savior. Thanks for the commitment to honesty. May Jesus keep working on all of us!

    • lindseygendke May 21, 2013 / 12:18 pm

      Megan, thank you for reading. Connecting with others has been the most rewarding part of this blog. It’s encouraging to find others who understand and relate…blessings to you!

  5. Cameron Lee May 31, 2013 / 12:55 pm

    Hi, Lindsey. Thanks for the like on the Fog Blog. As one who trains Christians to be psychotherapists and family life educators, I greatly appreciate your honesty. Yours, I hope, will be one of the voices to help recognize and unstigmatize depression among believers. Blessings!

    • lindseygendke June 3, 2013 / 2:12 pm

      Thanks so much for the well wishes, Cameron, and your insight from your professional perspective. To “recognize and unstigmatize depression among believers” is a goal I’m shooting for in my memoir in progress…we have some work to do, but it can be done!

      • Cameron Lee June 3, 2013 / 2:17 pm

        Blessings on that work!

  6. letsenjoynow July 11, 2013 / 10:26 am

    Wow! I have been there as well. I distinctly remember ‘hiding’ — doing an about face in the aisle in a grocery store to avoid seeing a dear family friend. I was hiding in my shame and guilt… Thank you for ‘coming out!’ What you share is and will be an answered prayer to many! You’ve encouraged me as well! Thank you! God bless!

    • lindseygendke July 11, 2013 / 10:54 am

      I’m glad you enjoyed this! Probably many more people than we know have these kinds of stories (because most of us hide them, of course!). Though it has been at times uncomfortable to “come out,” the feelings of relief outweigh the discomfort. I find it to be healing, and I hope many more will do the same!

      • letsenjoynow July 11, 2013 / 11:02 am

        Lindsey, I find myself probably where you were when you first started your blog… I’m at the beginning of the “coming out” phase, and it truly is, as you say – healing… I can totally relate with your “light and darkness” themes. I feel the same way. I know that God can take our muck and mire, and turn it into GOLD! It’s a blessing to be able to be open and share our stories with others. One of the most difficult things about going through the darkness, is feeling so alone in it. By sharing our stories – others will not feel so isolated or alone. Keep sharing! I am truly enjoying your blog and I just found it this morning! 🙂

  7. Vernita September 26, 2014 / 3:44 pm

    Good post! We are linking to this great post on our website.
    Keep up the good writing.

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