Slideshow image

Al Fast has Dysthymia, which is prolonged and severe depression. He's battled it for the past 16 years, ever since he was first diagnosed. 

"It just doesn't seem to go away," Al said through tears.

It wasn't always this way. He used to be the life of the party, always trying to make others happy. Then he started having anxiety attacks, followed by episodes of uncharacteristic anger. Then, once Al started medication, he started losing chunks of memory, up to six months at a time.

"Right now, there's no hope. There's no peace."

Since the diagnoses, he has seen a psychiatrist once a month and tried more than 30 different medications, looking for the right one. 

Al's family started attending Grant Memorial Church around four years ago. For a while, Al attended services regularly. But after a particularly low point, he started having trouble being in the sanctuary.

"I can't get into the sanctuary. I can't walk in there and worship God, even though I want to," he said. The times he does make it in, he comes in late, stands in the back, and usually weeps the entire time.

"I've been on my knees crying asking God for somebody or for Him to instill just a flash of peace, a flash of love, and it hasn't happened."

"Some Christians have been brutal."

Throughout these struggles, Al and his family have been open about what's happening in his life. Unfortunately, he hasn't seen many people's opinion on the subject change.

"Mental illness is real," Al said. "[But] the stigma hasn't changed."

Some of the greatest hurt he has felt has come from the mouths of Christians. Many have said he has no faith, others have said he has some sin in his life. Others still have told him to snap out of it.

"If I could change it by snapping out of it, don't you think I would have done it? Do you think this is the life I had envisioned for me?"

Often, this combined with his struggles makes him angry at God. He knows God didn't do this to him, but that he did allow it to happen to him. All Al wants to feel is just a bit of peace from God.

"I just want to feel like He hasn't given up on me."

His advice for those who are on the outside looking in?

"I would ask that people just be compassionate."

Outside his family, he doesn't always feel supported. A lot of that is because of the nature of his struggle.

"If I had cancer, you guys would be bringing me meals. I've got depression, and I walk alone."

______________________________________________

#ChurchLetsTalk is a month-long initiative designed to create conversation in the church around mental health.

You can learn more about this initiative by visiting our website. If you are struggling with your own mental health struggles, we encourage you to contact Grant's care ministry.