I struggle with talking about mental health
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5 vs 7
(13 October 2018)
So I just realized that I had been talking a little bit about my mental health in my blog posts and it’s mental illness awareness week. It was something that was honestly not planned and I would usually not want to be in any way or form involved in such a thing. And this is why I am writing this blog post. In keeping in line with the beginning of new things and a new mindset, I have to have the boldness to talk about this beyond me just mentioning to try to explain my behavior and maybe thinking processes. I saw the first post about mental health awareness this month on Instagram on @amandarachdoodles and to be honest, beyond admiring her beautiful hand-lettering, I blanked out the topic of the post and moved on to other things. And as I saw other posts after that, I didn’t acknowledge any of them and just chose to ignore it.
You would think that since I had a little experience mental health challenges myself and also since I did psychology in school, I would be more placed to pay attention and support the subject. That was however not the case. It was also not the case when a friend of mine started a blog on mental health awareness a couple years back and asked me if I could contribute. I was already in university when this happened so you have to realize that I knew by then that I wasn’t exactly healthy when it came to my mental health and that I had not been healthy since way back in primary school. I think I was around grade five or six when I had my first experience with what I might guess was depression. But without classifying it, all I can say is that there was definitely something wrong.
However, even knowing this, when my friend asked me to contribute, I felt as if I had nothing to offer. It wasn’t even as if she was asking me to tell my life’s story, she asking even for fiction. She knows I love to write as we used to write together back in the first two years of High School but I couldn’t even contribute that much. I honestly believed I had nothing to say and nothing to add to what she was working on. I would admire what she wrote or what others had written in her blog but I never once even attempted to pen something myself give it to her. Now, to be honest, my failure to have even a fiction story could have been a result of a lot more than my avoidance of the issue of mental health when it came to me personally. It could have been the procrastination or she may have just caught me during one of the numerous moments where I didn’t care about writing or about anything at all really except maybe to keep afloat and survive life.
Either way, whatever the reason, the effect was the same, I did not in any way contribute to her blog. I felt bad about it of course but that only served to make me shy away from her and avoid her for a bit instead of encouraging me to write something. So my track record with avoiding mental health awareness issues is not very good. I remember myself also cringing badly whenever my lecturers would mention that to be a counselor I had to have received a certain number of counseling sessions and that I would have to receive more as time went on. All I could think was if anyone knew the chaos in my mind, it would take forever for me to ever start working. So I tried to convince myself to visit the school counselor even before school ended so that I could get a head start on those counseling sessions but then I never went. I procrastinated so bad that now its 4 years later and I still haven’t gone to any kind of counselor.
I think I have mentioned before in one of the blog posts that I have never been officially diagnosed with anything regarding mental health. That’s not because there was nothing, it was just because I never visited the doctor or counselors to find out what was going on. And this is for a couple of reasons, the first being what I mentioned before that I didn’t want to experience either scenario of either being told that I was unwell or that there was nothing wrong with me. I didn’t want to be told that I am unwell because I just didn’t want to know, I didn’t need anything else to worry about. And I didn’t want to be told that there was nothing wrong with me because that would then mean that I am truly just a lazy person. Nope, neither realities sat well with me. I was willing to stay not knowing and to be honest, I am still comfortable in my ignorance.
The second reason is that I am not only black, but I am also Zimbabwean, we don’t talk about mental health. You either need to just get your act together or maybe there are spirits that afoot somewhere. (And of course, riding on the word I recently received from God, there definitely was a spiritual element to it but I do believe it was worsened by the mental difficulties.) Now sure I am a new generation and all but no one in my family that I know of has ever gone to see a mental health specialist because they were feeling sad or unfulfilled. In fact, I was talking to my cousin just a few weeks ago that our parents have had to make do with some horrific experiences in their lives but they survived it and picked themselves up and went forward. Who is to say they are not going through either depression of anxiety right now but they are still living their lives and taking care of us. That is what they know and that is what they have taught us, maybe not in direct words but in their actions and in times where they implied things without really coming out and saying what they are thinking. I have learnt from them that you don’t stop to try to figure what’s going one, you keep going and figure it out along the way somewhere, it’s not a priority.
And the third reason, which is what they have also taught me is that you pray about these things. I grew up Christian and my dad had a rule about not going to the doctor, that was always last resort. Of course, this is not something that is practiced in a lot of Christian home but definitely was in ours. I never went to the doctor growing up, well in my teens anyway. When you were sick, you were supposed to pray. Now as a grown up I appreciate what he was trying to teach us even if he did go a little extreme sometimes, but it scarred me real bad because right now I don’t really like to go to the doctor’s office for anything and I hate medication. So if I hate medication and visiting a doctor on physical issues, what makes you think that I would want to visit for mental issues? I am going to pray for myself until I am healed. Now since I have admitted that it is part spiritual, prayer is definitely the way to go but I am just using this to explain why I have never gone to the doctor or counselor before.
Plus there is always the off chance that there is nothing wrong with me and the doctor or counselor is going to give me a disapproving look and tell me to get my life together and stop wasting their time. That’s an irrational thought, I know but in my mind its a sure possibility. And yeah, I know that counselors do not talk to clients that way but that irrational voice is louder than the rational one sometimes. So anyway, put all of these things together, I just never committed to getting any professional help. Sure there were moments this year where I was just giving up on God and deciding I might as well go visit a counselor but I never truly committed to it. Now I know some of you might be asking why not do both and that a very good suggestion but you have to realize, I wasn’t raised that way. And sure, I have been taking medication for various things at different moments in the past four years but that’s just because I can’t live for too long with sharp pains in my stomach. I, however, have lived a long time already with mental turmoil so I can live a little longer while I let God’s word work its miracle.
Now I know that that is messed up logic but the whole foundation of it is messed up to begin with. There is a lot to consider when you are saying you are waiting for God’s healing yet you are on the side still believing that you are at fault in this and you need to get your act together. Now I was adding faith struggle on top of mental struggle and it was just a melting pot of misery. I didn’t actually know what was wrong spiritually so maybe there was nothing wrong. I want to say knowing what was going on would have helped me but the last week taught me that that is not in the least bit true. I learned last week that sometimes when God doesn’t tell you something or show something it is because you just aren’t equipped to handle it.
When God spoke to me last week I panicked, I went into a frenzy of trying to figure out what to do to fix a problem that He had just told me He had turned around. No, He didn’t tell me that I needed to turn it around, I just sort of jumped to my own conclusions and went straight into anxiety and experiencing feelings of depression while trying to fix something He has already fixed. It took me four days of anxiety to realize that I was going way off base. Now I admit I have grown a lot in my revelation of the Lord’s love for me in the past month so I just wonder how long that downward spiral would have gone on for if He had shown me the cause before then. In my growth, I can safely say that right now if you told me I had either clinical depression or anxiety, I would be affected yes, but it would not cripple me as it would have done a month ago. I think right now I could go into the doctor’s office and face whatever they tell me and I would survive it and overcome. The Lord Jesus Christ is my victory.
And yeah, I know I am still struggling with some things but the fact that I even writing these blogs at all is a sure sign that things are no longer the same. I am taking strides towards a better future. Now the social anxiety doesn’t seem to have moved yet because I am not willingly attending a party or a wedding anytime soon. I am also not willingly filming a video with my face in it. I know I am fearfully and wonderfully made but it seems my heart just need a moment to get the memo. However, as I believe God for full recovery from it all, I am also asking God for a clear sharp focused mind that does not forget everything. Like I think that has been recently the most frustrating aspect of these mental issues, I seem to forget a lot. I barely remember what I did this year except for the misery and the confusion. I wouldn’t be able to count any 10 happy moments that I remember. This forgetting thing is bad though because sometimes I forget what the Lord would be saying to me.
My cry for July and August was why wasn’t I hearing God’s voice, but in the last week of September, I realized that I actually probably was but I just don’t specifically remember it. And I am very bad at writing things down when they happen so I don’t really have anything to reference. However, I promise to be a good girl and to write things down this time. And this blog is also supposed to help me with that. So I had to apologize to God for misunderstanding Him and for blaming Him for things He had nothing to do with.
I do want to say though that I would never have survived any of this without God. Even when I refused to acknowledge Him as a teenager, He was always there. And as an adult, listening to sermons and listening to Jamie Grace music and other different worship artists always worked to get me out of whatever funk I would have fallen it. So at the end of the day, my solution is taking it to the Lord. This might not be the same solution for someone else though, even if they are Christian, for some other people they might still need to be going for intensive therapy even as they take it to God. As believers, we should stop wanting to fit people into a box and shame them if they realize they need professional help. You need professional help, go get it, my walk with Christ is different from yours. While I might have developed a tradition of meeting Christ in my time of need in worship music and sermons, you might need to pray for God to direct you to the best counselor or therapist of His choice who will help you in your walk towards recovery.
Another avenue to consider is church counseling. More often than not these are not professionals but they are people who can walk the walk with you and encourage you in your journey. Get a spiritual leader to walk with you and pray with you as you wait on the full manifestation of your healing from God, you don’t have to walk it alone. Or if you feel uncomfortable with that then at least see if among your friends if there is anyone you can trust enough to talk to. I know its not all of your friends who are going to understand you or support you but find one who does and they can pray with you.
Now if really don’t have anyone at all, then you need to remember you do have the best of them all anyway, you have Jesus. Go to Him and tell Him how you feel, He is waiting for you to come to Him and talk to Him. Pastor Prince is always saying that even if you are angry at God for something, go and tell Him. He is not going to be shocked, He already knows how you feel anyway. By going to Him and telling Him how you feel, you allow Him the opportunity to touch your life and try your tears. Cast your burdens unto Jesus for He cares for you, even as you seeking help from others around you. As you give it all to Him and rest in Him, He will take care of your problems. (Exodus 14 vs 14)
I think I have pretty much exhausted all I wanted to say about that, though I am not sure if it’s going to make sense to anyone else. This post was prompted by watching Milena Ciciotti’s YouTube video on how to handle anxiety as a Christian. And as I was listening to what she was saying I finally admitted that even in writing my previous post, I had been trying to run away from having to come out and outrightly say that I was probably suffering from anxiety for a long time in my life, and possibly even depression. I would only talk about it because there was no other way around it and it seemed to be the only way to explain what I wanted to say. So I was writing about it by necessity, not by choice. So this is the first blog where I talked about it by choice…and it might be the last…who knows.
I am just going to end this by reminding myself once again the Jesus is my righteousness, I am I AM’s, He’s got me.