This is me a year ago and this is me now.
Two years. Two photos. Two seemingly identical photos of the person you know and see but two starkly different stories going on behind the photos.
You see, a year ago, I was in the throws of anxiety. I didn’t know it as anxiety. I knew it as my life but it had become unmanageable. To be honest, it had probably become unmanageable years ago but I ignored the signs and kept struggling along – assuming the constant cycle of fear, worry, expectation, planning, failing, blaming and shame were simply my lot to bear. Assuming that this was normal, expected, ok. Assuming that peace was not to be mine and certainly not for more than a moment.
It wasn’t until the shame for choices made and choices not made became so heavy that I felt unfit for my role as a mother, that I finally cried out for help.
I finally put a name to my struggle. I finally called it out for what it is. I finally decided that I couldn’t carry it any longer and that my attempts to handle it on my own were not enough. I finally decided that the darkness and silence would not win. The photos that could cover the hurt, distress and disgust with myself were not enough but that God was enough and that His path for me was to reach out. To speak up. To seek help.
You see, so often, I think we give ourselves names that can hinder our authenticity and our ability to live full, meaningful, peaceful and freedom-embracing lives.
These are names we carry with pride, or at least I did, but they can lead us straight into darkness where we stand capable on the outside, broken on the inside and feeling alone in our struggle.
Each achievement we celebrate is tainted.
Each peaceful moment is haunted.
Each compliment received feels like a lie exposing our true selves that we dare not share.
The reality is that no one wants to claim the name of ‘one who needs help’ but don’t we all? Haven’t we all recognized our brokenness? Haven’t we all realized our insufficiency? Haven’t we all felt like we couldn’t do it on our own?
From the dawn of time, this has been true and this has been our name but, more than that, if we have become a child of God, we have been given another name. A beautiful name. A redemptive name.
We are called chosen. Seen. Loved and redeemed.
Less than a year ago, I exchanged my capable identity for one of transparent honesty.
I admitted my inability to help myself.
I admitted my weakness.
I laid aside my stubbornness.
I used my intelligence to identify that my mind was not functioning the way that it should.
I persistently told those in positions of help that I was not ok until I received help.
I channeled my resourcefulness by relying on the resources of trusted medical professionals.
I independently chose to not be afraid to bear my weakness.
I pulled my struggle out of my private life and thrust it into the light so that God’s light could shine through my recognition of personal inadequacy.
And, friends, it has been beautiful. I have never been so thankful for my weakness and I have never felt more freed by honesty.
There is no hiding. No pretence. No image of self-made or self-sustained perfection. There is simply me. Chosen. Loved. Imperfect.
Strong in my weakness.
Loved in my brokenness.
Worthy because of His sacrifice.
Forgiven by His grace.
Walking in freedom by His power, and not my own.
God’s Kingdom is a different one. It is not a Kingdom in which the powerful, the capable and the put together rule. It is a Kingdom we are invited in when we acknowledge that we are not worthy to be invited.
In that admission, we are welcomed and, in that declaration, we are given freedom to participate in something so beautiful, so profound and so full of purpose.
So, on this day that recognizes the world’s need to be honest about mental health struggles, I want to tell you that it’s ok to need help. It’s ok to trust that gut feeling that perhaps you’re not ok and perhaps you don’t need to carry it alone.
Your story need not be one of silence, struggle and solitude. Thrust it into the light and surrender it to God. Lean on the wisdom of those in the medical profession who have been helping people find freedom from persistent mental health struggles and do not be ashamed.
You are still loved. Still beautiful. Still chosen and your story can be a light of hope to those still fighting their way to freedom. Share your stories. I commit to continuing to share mine because it tells of my Saviour and it points to a Kingdom where there will be no more sorrow and no more shame.
“The man who articulate the movements of his inner life, who can give names to his varied experiences, need no longer be a victim of himself, but is able slowly and consistently to remove the obstacles that prevent the spirit from entering. He is able to create space for Him who heart is greater than his, whose eyes see more than his, and whose hands can heal more than his.”― Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society