Mental Health

Purposeful Perspective

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[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he times in my life when I have found myself the most depressed and in mental anguish have been when I’ve been drifting without purpose, or feeling like I have failed to achieve a goal that I set myself.

In these times, the best thing I can do is surrender. Surrender is not letting go of your desires, but letting go the belief that you can only be happy once that desire has been fulfilled. I am called to have hopes and dreams and desires, but equally my happiness is not built on things falling into place just where I need them.

My life changed when this became my reality. I look at it this way: I’m not giving away my power of how I live to things that are outside of my control. For example, neither you or I have to kill our desire to get married for example. We can’t just decide that God doesn’t love us and that we cannot be happy until then. Before surrender, I based all of my hope on something external and said, “I will know that God loves me when I find a spouse”, but the problem is that I don’t know when that is going to happen! More than that, if just believe that God wants me to feel unloved until then, I am living in hope deferred — which isn’t the hope God gives us.

For me, it all goes back to “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). It’s easy for me to so often just focus on the “all these other things added to us” bit. We can often forget about the seeking first. That’s the important bit — surrendering to God’s design for this world by seeking him and putting him first brings with it a life brimming with purpose, hope, peace and joy.

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Mental Health

Stepping out of Fear

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“Darling, step onto that plane with courage, believing that you have not been given a spirit of fear, but of power, love and of a sound mind. You might have planned your own journey in life, but He is the One directing your steps.” – My mother

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[dropcap]I[/dropcap] overthink, a lot – not great; but I have improved. My future has always been a ‘big deal’ for me and a couple of years ago I was not sure where I was heading. I had a vague idea – I was in a relationship, I was expecting to go to university and I hoped at some stage to get married. But this relationship ended and with it, all my plans.

I had booked flights to move away from home and embrace this idea of “future”. But as I saw the idea disappear, I was full of doubt. With doubt came overthinking, and with overthinking came an overwhelming fear. I only had 14 days left until I had to jump on that plane, and I had no clue of what to do. “Should I just cancel my flight? And if I go, then what? I haven’t heard back from any university?” I could not sleep at night. Every day till my departure was filled with tears and the emotional pain I was going through seemed greater than any physical pain I had ever felt. I am not going to lie; the pain of heartbreak and the fear of my future was significant enough that thought of ending my life crossed my mind.

I believed there is a God – I knew this to be true even through it all. I believed in Him because I knew there was more to life on this earth and this brought me hope; a hope to live and step out in faith.

The day came, and as I was walking up the airplane steps my mind was just analysing all the possibilities, all things that could go wrong and I found myself AGAIN overthinking, not good – fear crept in. I had to step down and quickly think through things. In that second all I had was my luggage and one hundred pounds; then suddenly, as I remembered what mum had just told me before saying our goodbyes, an unexplainable comfort that could only come from my faith that God was there. That comfort and the hope for the future that came with it helped me get on that plane.

That period of my life was a very daunting time that I hope never to experience again, but looking back on it, I can see God’s grace and hand on my life, and would not change a thing.

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Mental Health

Help Me

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[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he last few years I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression. I’ve always been the sort of person who keeps my feelings to myself, masking them from everyone — even those closest to me. Recently, however, things got to the point where I couldn’t contain the way I felt. I couldn’t hide it anymore. I couldn’t deal with it myself. I had to seek help and admit that I was struggling…

God. The obvious help right? Yet, he felt distant. In the midst of anxiety and depression people can easily feel distant. My relationship with God was no different. In just the same way that I made a conscious decision to reach out to those around me to ask for help, I had to do the same with God. To draw near to him, to be honest with him, and choose to trust him in faith believing that he is good and loves me.

People. God’s given me wonderful people and I’m so thankful for those that love me. I had a choice to make — do I reach out and be honest and vulnerable with them, or do I put on a mask? I was so reluctant to be honest and vulnerable with people. It was a humbling experience. It was a real challenge at first, but then I realised that God had provided these people as tangible expression of his love towards me. They could wipe away my tears, comfort me, and walk through it all with me – it was like he was right there with me.

Circumstances. These have had a large impact on my depression and anxiety. For me, it was so easy to base my identity on what I could and couldn’t do. I found it really difficult to be unable to do all the things I loved and unable to do the things I felt God had called me to do. However, its been eye opening to see how I have wrongly placed my worth and identity in what I can do as opposed to who I am in God’s eyes. Whether I can take on the world or can’t even get out of bed, I’m learning that my worth and identity is fixed in God, not in how I feel or what I can or cannot do.

My anxiety and depression has taught me so much about my need for a Saviour and God’s goodness and love. Though often hard to understand and difficult to deal with I know that I can always look to him for my help.

“We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” 2 Chronicles 20:12b

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Mental Health

Completely Well?

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[dropcap]I[/dropcap] have often struggled with depression and other mental health issues. A lot of people don’t know that – I’ve tried very hard to keep it hidden. Sometimes, even though other people don’t see it, I don’t want to get out of bed in the morning. The world is grey and dreary and even though to everyone else I seem like a happy sort of person, on the inside I often feel miserable and low.

Jesus said that he gives us ‘life to the full’ (John 10:10… I’m paraphrasing a bit, but He did say something about coming to earth as a human so that we could have life and joy in all its fullness). I have often thought about that. What did Jesus mean? Was He saying that we would always be happy if we believed in Him? Does being a Christian make my life straightforward and my health and well-being always perfect?

I can assure you, it doesn’t. I sometimes wonder if it doesn’t make it worse. I feel like I should be perfect. I’m not. I feel as though I should feel ‘joyful’ and ‘happy’ all the time. I don’t.

For me, being a Christian doesn’t mean that I somehow enjoy life less than any other person. It means instead that when I am sad, I am able to be sad without it affecting my identity. I am a person who is loved and treasured by God, and that is enough. My identity is fixed and certain, so it doesn’t change with the ups and downs, rather it remains constant. This means then that ‘life and life to the full’ is not a life without challenges and difficulties, but one in which I am fully known, fully loved and fully rejoiced over by God. This truth has given me the whispers of peace, comfort and hope that I’ve needed in my most tumultuous times.

Mental health is a huge topic. I can’t pretend to know all the answers, but I know Jesus does — the Gospels show us that he has been in the darkest and scariest moments life can bring. He understands, he cares, he is listening, so I’ve called out to him.

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