The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.Helen Keller
It’s hard to believe that we’ve reached the end of May. We are blown away by the positive feedback we’ve received for our focus on mental health and mental illness. Our Local Groups have been able to have poignant group discussions with each other about depression, anxiety, and feeling like a stranger in your own body. We’ve heard from readers who have spoken out for the first time about their struggles and have sought out the guidance from a therapist or psychologist.
Our goal for this month was to play a part in removing the stigma surrounding mental health, and we pray that we have been able to do just that. No one should feel ashamed to be honest about how they’re feeling, especially when it could be a potentially dangerous feeling that requires outside assistance.
So much of mental health and mental illness revolves around feelings. Were you ever told as a child to “get over it” or “suck it up?” This conditioning has led to men and women who are afraid to admit that something just doesn’t feel “right.” Feelings are our best barometer for what’s going on inside. Rather than stifling feelings, a much better practice would be to listen to them. What are they trying to tell you about yourself?
To kick off our discussion for Mental Health Awareness Month, we were delighted to speak with Dr. Deb Gorton on our Work, Love, Pray podcast. She helped us to see that God’s actually has a plan in mental illness. We also discussed what the church can do to help serve as a support system for anyone struggling with mental illness, rather than ostracize someone or making them feel like “bad Christians” for dealing with depression, anxiety, or any other mental illness.
In her 4word interview this month, Dr. Shannan Crawford helped drive home the message that struggling with mental health is not a reflection of your faith. So many Christians are made to feel that they are failing in their faith if they struggle with being anxious or falling into a deep depression. Instead of seeing mental illness as a lack of faith, Shannan encourages us to view it as a signal of how to draw closer to God.
Anxiety is the most common mental illness, and it seems especially rampant in the workplace. Dr. Deb Gorton returned to the 4word blog to share her advice for not allowing anxiety to become a part of your identity. Her advice: make the conscious choice each day to identify in God’s image of you, and anxiety will stay exactly what it is: a feeling.
“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you; Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”John 14:27
How are you feeling after this month? Resist the temptation to say, “Fine.” Give yourself permission to dig deep and really feel those surges of stress, doubt, sadness, and guilt. Those aren’t emotions you should hide in embarrassment. Those are legit red flags from your body and mind letting you know that something isn’t right and something needs to change.
God wants a peaceful life for all of us. But that doesn’t mean He protects us from feeling the weight of the sinful world in which we exist. With sin comes all the pain that God never wanted us to experience but has equipped us to deal with. You are heir to an everlasting supply of strength and support in God.
If you find yourself dealing with mental illness, do not let it become your label. Instead, use the feelings of grief, loneliness, and lack of self-worth as a catalyst to draw closer to your Heavenly Father and seek out His wisdom for your situation. God may use therapy to help you. He may place a knowledgable psychiatrist with intricate knowledge of medication to help you in your path. He may bring you into a community of others just like you with stories of strength and success that will help guide you on your own journey.
Whatever you’re feeling, feel it. Use your struggle to fuel your journey upward. Do not feel ashamed for being human and dealing with human things. This low point in your journey is not your destination. You can do this, but it will take time and it will take you opening yourself up to others who can help you. You are still on God’s path for your life, so consider this chapter a chance to be a positive example of His healing grace to someone down the road who may need someone just like you.