The Archbishop of Canterbury’s daughter has described her battle with “unbearable” bouts of depression and challenged the Church of England to “eradicate the stigma” surrounding mental illness.
Katharine Welby, 26, said she often found herself consumed by a “black veil of nothing” and in her darkest moments could see “no hope in the world” and cannot stop herself from crying.
Miss Welby, who works for a Christian charity, wants the Church to accept that life is “not always rosy” and can for many people be “complex and frightening”.
She said that while she knew that “God will stand by me with every step”, it was a “shame that so often his people will not”. Christians who suffer from depression find themselves “suffering quietly and in fear of what their friends would say”, she said.
Miss Welby, whose father the Most Rev Justin Welby was enthroned as Archbishop last month, has drawn hope from the Bible, which is full of “people who screw up, who get miserable, angry, who hurt and who weep” and did not have an “everything is fine” kind of life. “So why do we feel we need to,” she asked.
However, she said that increasingly her despair was tinged with hope. “Recently I have had hope”, she wrote. “I am very low, very sad and yet at the same time very happy. It seem like the chemicals in my brain are at war with my circumstances.
“What does it mean to find hope within an illness that is doing everything possible to rob you of it? I have friends, a nice home, a very supportive family nearby, a good church, a good job, a brilliant doctor, and an incredibly wonderful boyfriend.
“However, previously I have had many of these things and found myself unable to find a way out of despair. So what has changed?”
Miss Welby said she had come to understand that God loves her regardless of her state of mind and circumstances.
She cited the despair felt by Job and by Jesus pleading with God in the garden of Gethsemane as biblical examples of the struggle with depression.
“I go back to Job in the Bible, again an inspiration, a man of despair, who maintained trust and faith, but not in a squeaky clean ‘all is fine’ kind of life. So why do we feel we need to?”