May is Mental Health Awareness month. Many of you know that I have had my own struggles with depression and anxiety. However, I don’t often go into much detail about it. The truth is that I’m afraid if “people see my crazy” they will think I’m incompetent as a person and especially as a pastor. I try and tell myself that isn’t true, that more and more people are becoming compassionate and learning about mental health because so many are admitting to their struggles. But sometimes logic just doesn’t overcome emotions.
I guess that goes along with the irony that I had my first mild panic attack at a Women of Faith conference. I had gone to pick up box lunches for my friend and I and was walking back to our seats. Out of nowhere I felt as though I just couldn’t breathe if I didn’t get out of the crowded hallway. I ducked into the arena and walked the corridor inside where it was quiet and I was able to calm down. I didn’t know it would be the first of many such experiences.
I’m no expert by a long shot but I have learned a few things since that day. 1) Be honest with yourself and those who love you. I don’t know what I would do without a supportive family. If your biological family is not supportive – find people who are, whether they are friends, church family or paid professionals. 2) Talk to your doctor and take medicine if you need it. There is no getting better if you just let your brain chemicals be out of whack. 3) Let yourself have down times or even days, but don’t live there. Learn what helps you recover and do those things. 4) Lean into God. He made you and knows all of it and he loves to help.
I read about an organization called This is My Brave that produces storytelling events to humanize mental health problems by allowing people to talk about them. So this is my brave story today. I declare that no matter how I’m feeling, I know that God is still God and He is always good.
A story I love because it always reminds me of this is in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. It’s when Mr. and Mrs. Beaver first tell Peter, Susan and Lucy about Aslan, who represents Jesus.
“Aslan, a man!” said Mr. Beaver sternly. “Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-beyond-the-Sea…Aslan is a lion – the Lion, the great Lion.”
“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
If you have mental health issues, please talk to your doctor, counselor and family. There are many ways to get help. And I pray you will find the God who is good so you will know the same hope that I do…even on the dark days.
~ Pastor Cindy