Today the US remembers our fallen heroes. This, with the tragic shooting at the elementary school in Uvalde, Tx, still heavy on our country’s hearts, I was tempted to discontinue my segment on Mental Health Awareness. I had a friend who lost three family members in the shooting, and my husband’s coworker lost a cousin to it. But maybe more so, we need to hear a message of hope. I can’t imagine what was in the 18-year-old troubled mind as he committed such a senseless, brutal crime. I hope never to know the pain of a parent whose child suffered such violence without protection from officials. Dreams loss. No more snuggles. No more silly giggles, kisses, or hugs from the purest of love one could experience. My heart broke into pieces and kept breaking as pictures and stories rolled in. May our prayers continue for these families. With all this said, I welcome my writer friend, Bethany Cox, who has a few words of hope for Mental Health Awareness Month. Lots of love, -Jessy.
I used to think mental disorders were just labels. I wrongly assumed that mental health was just another way of saying someone struggled with something they could control but chose not to get over. Until I was diagnosed with PTSD, major depressive disorder, and bi-polar disorder.
“I don’t have that.” I told the four different doctors who diagnosed me. Because I didn’t want to be another label, I didn’t want to be just another person who was categorized because life has been hard for me.
Even living with bi-polar disorder, I realize a stigma surrounds it. When I finally broke down about everything I was experiencing through counseling and trauma therapy, my husband and I prayed thoroughly. We decided the best option for me would be to try medication to help my symptoms and quality of life.
I didn’t know what to expect. I assumed, wrongly again, that bi-polar or depression medication would make me a zombie or have a negative effect on me and make me a stranger to myself and my children. I waited a few months while prayerfully asking God if this was the right decision for me or not. I was scared because it was all so new and unknown to me. But I decided to trust God when I felt His prompting toward choosing medication.
It was one of the best decisions I ever made.
God quickly showed me that it’s okay to ask for help from professionals, friends, family, and most importantly, from Him. I know now that it isn’t just a label. It isn’t just something that someone can choose to get over. Or choose at all, really. Panic attacks, depressive episodes, PTSD flashbacks, bi-polar manias, and many other symptoms are very real and a challenge to navigate when not given any educational, or professional guidance. It’s like trying to drive on the highway when you have no control over the brakes or the steering wheel.
God opened my eyes to the world of mental health and the high population of those who assume we can “just get over it.” My father, who has Aspergers and Paranoid Schizophrenia, has struggled almost every day of his adult life. It’s not something he would choose or can wish away. It’s something very real that he must pray about constantly, be consistent with his medication, and seek the Lord in all areas of his life. It’s also something he wishes others were educated about so that they can be more understanding and patient with him.
When we open our eyes and hearts, God can show us how much others need love, understanding, and a supportive community. As believers in Christ, we are to live out the fruits of the spirit, with the first being love. We love because He first loved us. And loving your neighbor, friend, or family might look like watching their kids while they go to a therapy appointment. It could look like making a few meals for someone who has had PTSD flashbacks or crying spells. It might be coming over and holding a friend when they tell you they’re “just fine,” but you know they need to vent or a shoulder to cry on.
God works in amazing ways, and He certainly gave me a heart for those struggling with mental illness when I was diagnosed with a few.
If you’re reading this and you’re struggling, I want you to know that you don’t have to be embarrassed about what you’re going through. You don’t have to walk it alone because there are people who care about you. There is also One who you can turn to Who has all the answers and is holding your hand even as you walk through this season. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or seek help as soon as possible. There’s nothing wrong with you, you are fearfully and wonderfully made. And you are on a journey that will help you to help others.
One of my favorite verses is Genesis 50:20- What the devil means for evil, God will turn for good in order to save many people alive.
Satan wants you to believe that you’re alone in this and that no one will understand what you’re going through. He wants you to feel isolated and like something inside of you is broken and can never be fixed. Because of Jesus, we can rest hoping that God knows what He is doing. He may be opening your eyes. There may be something you’re experiencing to help another who is struggling just like you.
When it feels like wrestling with your mental health is exhausting, God is using it to help you help someone else.
He is here for you, friend. He loves you with a love too big for you to fathom. He is with you in all of this and cares about your mental and spiritual health. Turn to the Lord in prayer and ask Him what you should do moving forward. He may show you that medication is your path, but He may not. Whatever you do, praise Him, and trust that He knows what He is doing. I know it feels like your world is spinning out of control and like it will never stop, but I promise it will get better.
If you are at a low point, then seek professional help. There is no shame in it, and I can tell you it personally changed my life, for the better.
Deuteronomy 31:6 says,
Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you.
He always keeps His promises, and He still is today. He is with you and will never leave you. Turn to Him, turn to help, and embrace the journey He has you on. It won’t be like this forever. You are not just a label, and it will get better, I promise.