Learning to Move on During a Tough Season

Written by: Katherine McCoy

It has been 26 days since I wrote, “So… What happens now?” As I sit here, I’m unsure where to begin. The last 26 days have been filled with anxiety and uncertainty; especially about my future. I’m a person who thrives on providing readers with honesty. Often times, I tend to write about things that make me vulnerable and unfortunately, the last 26 days have left me in a vulnerable position because I want to be honest about what’s been going on behind the scenes. In the post, “So… What happens now,” I made it clear I didn’t want to comment on Crandall University and the situation I’ve been left in with them. However, after taking some time and thinking about it, I think you, the readers, deserve to know the whole story.

I am not embarrassed to say I struggle with mental illness. In fact, I find it makes me relatable because billions of people around the globe are struggling right now with their mental health and are struggling to ask for help — keeping them in prisons of shame.

While there are billions of people who are struggling with their mental health/illness, there are millions more of people of faith who are struggling because they feel as though they cannot be a Christian because they have a mental illness. I’m here to tell you today that Christians struggle with depression too and that’s ok. I believe that some churches tend to have the best of intentions — they do their best to listen to the prayer requests of the congregation, however, when a Christian asks for a prayer request regarding their depression, anxiety, etc. people tend to turn their heads because “Jesus followers are supposed to be happy all the time,” or, “A person who follows Jesus wouldn’t be depressed,” or, “If they’ve dedicated their life to Jesus, how is it possible to be depressed?

When I applied to Crandall University last year, I was so excited. I wanted to be part of a Christian university and be educated by qualified educators. When I arrived in September, my goal was to be a good student. However, as a person who struggles with mental illness, my only regret was neglecting the beginning symptoms of my illness and neglecting to seek treatment when I needed it the most. For the last two years, I have been in recovery and remission; however, when my grandmother died in December of 2016, I neglected to seek proper treatment. In May of 2018, I received surgery to correct a condition in my heart and I should have spoken to someone about my feelings because that surgery was quite traumatic for me. All of these things have been adding up and all I did to “cure” it was bury it all down and hope to God it went away. But it didn’t.

If you read my earlier post, you know that I withdrew from university after Thanksgiving break because I experienced a terrible emotional breakdown.

When I withdrew from the program, I had no problem doing so from the register’s office. My issue with the school didn’t come into play until I spoke with the head of residence department. I wasn’t aware of the circumstances that would arise if I chose to withdraw while living in residence. I sat in that office crying, telling the head of the department I could no longer stay because I was struggling with my depression and anxiety. What a lot of people don’t know, is that I was extremely suicidal, and I was also self-harming to release my emotional pain. The longer I stayed in my dorm room, the more I thought about dying because I felt so lonely and ashamed and unworthy of anything good.

I chose to put my mental health ahead of anything else because that is my legal right.

However, while the university allowed me to move out, they made sure to state that I had to provide them with $12,000.00 to pay for a dorm/meal plan I would no longer be living in. I understand I signed a contract for a full school year. However, like I mentioned above, I was not made aware that this would happen if I chose to withdraw from the university. As a low-income individual [who’s also married,] $12,000.00 is a lot of money. My husband is also a full-time student, working three jobs and that still isn’t enough to pay everything. Again, I understand I signed a contract for a full school year, however, I was there for one month and they want me to give them $12,000.00 for a dorm I’d no longer be living in, in a city I’m no longer living in.

Thankfully, I have a right to appeal this decision. My issue with Crandall University begins with their committee, who’s meeting without me present, and I feel as though I have no voice. When I made the decision to appeal, I was told by the committee that I needed to submit a document stating my diagnoses — which I didn’t feel comfortable providing. I feel small to a big organization. I feel anxious because if the appeal isn’t approved, I will have to pay them that money. I don’t know how I’d make that happen when my husband and I are already financially struggling.

Basically, Crandall [the committee] is saying that they “understand” I have a mental illness. But my choice to leave to ensure my mental illness isn’t good enough. They are saying my judgement with my mental illness isn’t legitimate. That doesn’t sit right with me, and it never will, because that isn’t ok. Again, I feel small to this big organization.

I also want to make it clear that this post is more than the situation of paying them $12,000.00 — I know there are people who are thinking that I should pay them the money and never look back. However, as a person with mental illness, who’s clearly being undermined because I chose to withdraw because of it, it doesn’t seem fair for an organization who claims to be Christian to treat a student like this. Apart of my story, there are countless of other students who have experienced poor guidance from Crandall. This is a school who thrives from donations. Parents and guardians are putting their child into this facility in the hopes of giving them a stable education, when in reality, they are being judged if they show “weakness” regarding their mental health. A student shouldn’t be kicked out of the school because they were suicidal. Or a student shouldn’t have to pay $12,000.00 for a room [and meal plan] that did so BEFORE the deadline because of her mental illness. Or another student shouldn’t be told from someone in a position of authority to reconsider their decision to attend the school because they were “mentally unfit.” This makes me sick.

It really does.

Christians struggle with mental illness, too, Crandall University. It’s possible for a Christian to be depressed because I have been. I have met a lot of people who are Christians and have told me they struggle with mental illness, too. Some of them are still struggling. The Canadian Mental Health Association, states that one in five Canadians will “personally experience a mental illness in their lifetime.” There are students who are personally struggling right now. Depression doesn’t care where you’re from or what job you have or how old you are or what you believe or where you’re studying. Crandall — YOU NEED TO STOP PRETENDING THIS IS SOMETHING THAT’S NOT HAPPENING WITH YOUR STUDENTS! Stop being afraid to talk about it. Open the Bible and read the simple facts — Mental illness is an illness. God DOES NOT punish people by making them mentally ill. There are things in life with no easy “do more” fix. Mental health and mental illness is often one of those things. We aren’t made to operate on our own strength. Jesus also never guarantees happiness — joy is found deeply rooted in the belief that God is sovereign, that He is good and that He will be gloried. Jesus doesn’t call us to be happy, however, He does promise to fill us and overwhelm us with His joy.

The enemy takes pride in knowing he can twist and manipulate the truth of God and make us feel like God isn’t for our good and that life is not living.

Lastly, God does not punish people by giving them a mental illness, therefore, God will not heal an illness if you pray long enough or frequently. The Scriptures describe God as “no respecter or persons,” which means that God does not play favourites. Now, don’t get this confused: This statement is not to deny the possibility or reality of miracles. However, I do not pray so that God will change God’s mind. I pray so that God will change my mind. Psalm 23 reminds us that the promise of God is that God will be with us in the darkest valleys, not that the valleys will disappear. Our God is a God of miracles. But, He’s also the God of stillness, of abundance, of lavish love, and overwhelming peace.

I’m a Christian and I once attempted suicide because my brain has an illness that it no different from heart disease or cancer. I require medication to function as normally as possible. I’m writing this because the stigma surrounding mental illness is, again, keeping people locked in prisons of shame. Please, if you struggling and feel alone, please know there are resources and people that are willing to help YOU!

Psalm 91:14 reads:

The Lord says: I will rescue those who love Me. I will protect those who trust in My Name. When they call on Me, I will answer. I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honour them.