Mental Health


Thursday, September 13, 2018


I want to preface this post by saying that I’m not a trained medical professional - I’ll be speaking from my personal experience with and knowledge of mental health. I’ve used faith-based resources (such as Christian counselors and Celebrate Recovery) and additional resources (such as certified psychologists and psychiatrists). What has been working for me may not work for everyone.

Mental health is a sensitive subject and can be more so in faith communities. I’m not going to tackle every mental health issue in this post, but I’d like to help you understand the basics of how our individual mental health and faith in God go hand-in-hand.

It’s important to remember that mental illnesses can be biological and physiological. It is a disorder of the brain, not a result of lack of faith - that’s why different people need different methods of treatment. For one person, something like depression can be a season in their life where they find peace and restoration through prayer and worship of God alone, and for another, it’s a chemical imbalance outside of their control that requires therapy and/or medication to give them the balance they need.

Long story short: everything that we are is housed in fractions of our brains called lobes. Our parietal, occipital, and temporal lobes help us organize, interpret, and process information. They all talk with our frontal lobe (where our personality is) and, together, make up essentially who we are. The brain is so delicate that any damage or slight chemical imbalance can cause it to receive information incorrectly, making the person [whose brain it is] think and act in ways some might call “abnormal.” I say this because we need to acknowledge that [the concepts of] our soul, relationship with God, and the image of God is created and stored in our brains. The issue with mental health in our faith is that there are many times we are facing a whirlwind of emotions that are out of our control (i.e. depression, anxiety, etc.) and those emotions will distort the image of God in our minds and as a result, it will negatively affect our relationship with God.

Before I got the medical help I needed, I was depressed for years and, on top of that, I had a warped image of God. I thought God was angry at me; that He didn’t see me as someone He could use. That because I couldn’t hear from Him the way everyone else could, He didn’t care about me. My depression was so paralyzing that I couldn’t reach out for help in any capacity. That is until someone noticed I wasn’t doing well and helped me make some appointments.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 tells us: “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.” We may feel tempted to isolate ourselves when we’re dealing with heavy emotions or rough patches in our lives but if we surround ourselves with people who love God and us, they can give us the starting push we need to get back on track.

After regularly seeing a doctor I could talk to about my thoughts and taking medicine to help me function normally, I started attending church regularly again. This progress helped me realize I needed to address my issues on a deeper level, which brought me to Celebrate Recovery. It was there that I learned about God’s true character and my identity in Him, and it was this new understanding of God that transformed my relationship with Him. Not everyone needs to go through all the steps I went through to start renewing my mind, but we all need to make sure we’re doing what we can to care for our bodies and minds - the temples for the Holy Spirit in us.

We are never alone, even in the darkest parts of ourselves. Sometimes the biggest lie is that no one understands what we’re going through, but there’s hope. All it takes is being honest the next time someone asks “how are you?” Having real conversations, knowing how to convey our feelings, and knowing what to look out for can save someone from going further down the rabbit hole. Even if we don’t know how to take someone’s hurt away, talking always helps; it removes the feeling of being alone and unheard. If you can’t tell if someone is having a hard time, ask them; it’s worth the risk of them being offended if it lets them know you care about their spiritual and mental well-being.

 

Author: Gracie E.

 

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