As usual I like to start off with a disclaimer that most all of my blogs are opinion based and not from a professional opinion. I’m almost always speaking from experience I’ve have in life and want to share my experiences with you. That includes my battle, trials and healing from mental illness.
I will not make this an entire article about my struggles with mental health, rather an article about how I think you and I can both depend fully on our heavenly father to guide us, walk with us and eventually heal us of any type of struggle we have.
You may be like me and have bouts of depression and anxiety. Perhaps you were diagnosed with a mental health diagnosis like PTSD, Bi-Polar Disorder, ADHD, ADD or something more like an addiction. All of these are different types of mental health issues and we HAVE to, as Christians, be more aware that people all around us are struggling in all types of ways.
So what does the Bible have to say about mental illness and mental health?
Most versus that you or I would be drawn to share the common theme that God doesn’t want us to be fearful or afraid, anxious, worried, depressed or anything else but full of joy and hope and faith (Jeremiah 29:11, Isaiah 40:31, John 16:33, 2 Timothy 1:7) . The Bible makes the story of Jesus’ ministry all about how he healed everyone from their different afflictions, so we can assume this applies to mental illnesses as well. The Bible also gives us daily affirmations and mantras that we can repeat and pray over and over until we’re blue in the face, but when you’ve struggled with mental illness the way I have, in all honesty that sometimes just doesn’t feel like enough.
So what can be done?
A quick start list for the desperate (trust me we’ve all been there):
- Go for a walk
- Call a friend who always makes you laugh
- Turn on some music that always makes you want to dance a little
- Practice one of your hobbies but make sure it’s something you’re only doing for fun
- Make yourself a really nice meal and then take your time enjoying it
- Get some rest. Could be a nap or could be just allowing yourself a moment to sit down and breath
- Create a vision board of what you’d like to see yourself accomplish in the next 1, 5 or even 10 years or beyond
A more in depth list of what can be done
I know that’s probably the last thing anyone wants to hear as an answer but the truth is, prayer is all we have. Prayer is our most powerful weapon. Prayer is the one thing in this life that no one can take away from us. Prayer is what the Lord responds to over and over again in every story of the Bible.
Now prayer looks different for different people in different circumstances. Some pray out loud, others quietly in their mind, others in a small cry for help like “Lord help me” and other times your prayer may just be you sitting in a room alone and crying. Friend, please pray. However it looks for you, please don’t let the enemy trick you into being silent. Don’t think for a moment that your Father doesn’t hear you and love you.
I’ve lost count of the many restless nights of just crying in bed, asking God to take away my depression. Those nights were my prayer, even if it wasn’t eloquent and full of biblical words. God heard me. And God hears you.
Read the Bible
You HAVE to keep your mind strong by filling it with the right content. Our brains need to be stimulated in order to keep our synapses firing and to keep our brains active. So why not use that as a reason to fill your mind with good instead of the junk that the world tries to push into in. Not saying that all other forms of entertainment or reading are junk, but for a person battling any type of mental health, you NEED that positivity. Keeping focused on God and His word, the living word, keeps you constantly reminded of who God is and all that He has and will do for you.
In addition to keeping focused on God, keeping focused on others helps keep your mind off of you. It sounds weird but the truth is, sometimes when we see other people’s problems it helps make ours so much smaller. I remember the first time one of my best friends told me about HER depression and anxiety and just how low she had gotten. I felt horrible for even saying I had depression. Another example is all the times I’ve served in my churches. There’s something that feels so good about being involved in your church and serving God and other people, and that feeling can help aide in your healing. God made us to be in community with people, and not to do life alone. When we surround ourselves with other believers, we surround ourselves with the Love of Jesus, and that alone can lift anyone’s spirit.
This might be harder than anything else on this list. I denied that I had depression for about 15 years until I couldn’t hide it any longer. I had surrounded myself with people who knew me better than I realized and when they raised concern about some of my behavior, I knew it was time to tell them the truth. THANK GOD that I did. Even talking to my friends, family and a therapist eventually saved my life. The weight that was lifted off of me when I finally told the truth was immense. Friend, find someone, even me if you’d like, to talk to about how you feel. It doesn’t have to be a long drawn out story but it does need to be honest and real. Tell someone, anyone. If you don’t think you have a person that you can be real with in your life, pray that God will send you someone.
List it out
If you’ve followed me for two seconds you probably already know that I have a list for everything. You better believe that means mental health stuff too. This list is one that includes all of my blessings. It use to be something I had to do every single day just to get to the next one. I was so depressed that I couldn’t see ANY good thing in life, so some days my only blessing was something like this:
Thanks for my dog
Thanks for water
These days I don’t have to make a blessings list as often because I include my thankfulness in my daily prayer and I’ve learned to keep my blessings at the forefront of my mind. When I was healed of my depression, it was like my eyes were opened to how beautiful my life was and had always been. Things I never noticed before became things I was the most grateful for.
Start making your list, even if it’s one item a day and I promise your entire mood will shift when you do.
Get Rid of Things
Get rid of the relationships that are the most toxic. Even if that means un-following your so called friend who makes you feel bad about yourself. Even if that means not calling your mom for a month while you heal because she always makes you feel worse. De-clutter your space where you live and keep things around that bring you joy. This is a hard one too, but to be honest it’s one of the more important ones.
Have you ever learned about how gardening works? You have to prune certain plants back in order to help them grow more. You’re literally almost killing them in some cases, so they can bounce back even more plentiful and beautiful. You have to do that with your life too. You have to prune (cut away) all of the things that are holding you back. It’s going to hurt like actual hell in some cases. Then you’ll look back in 1, 5, 10, 15 years and see just how necessary it was to make your life better.
For me it’s been relationships, a church, clothes, social media accounts, books, my hair (long story but basically my pride was wrapped up in my appearance for a long time) and so much more. Now I look back at all of those things and WOW, my life is more glorious than ever before. It hurt me so badly I thought I would die for a few of those things, but obviously it didn’t and now I’m better off than I ever was before because I allowed God to prune out what didn’t need to be there any longer.
Don’t Be Afraid of Medication and Therapy
I’m so glad to say that today we live in a world that more focused on mental health and the stigma of therapy and medication is going away little by little every day. Treatments are covered by most health insurance, medication costs are lower and overall there are more people armed with knowledge of what mental illness looks like in the ones they love. My friend, it’s okay if you need extra help. Like I said in the beginning, there have been times that praying and reading the Bible just haven’t been enough for me. I needed medication and therapy for years to help me get to a place where I was just “okay”. You can find healing even in medication and trust that God can and will use it for your benefit.
If you’ve made it this far, either you’re intrigued or you’re desperate like I have been to find healing. My friend I’m praying for you. Please know that you’re loved and that you WILL be healed, either in this life or in the next.
Reach out to me if you have questions, concerns, want to know more about my mental health story or just want to talk. I’m here but God is here first.