Every topic under the sun seems to have its own “Day”. This week there was one designated to mental health issues and I read with interest the many posts referencing it. I had thought about adding my own thoughts and experiences but found myself verklempt. It is too personal an issue to be ‘thrown’ out glibly.
I deal with people who struggle with mental health issues every moment of their lives. I have come to admire these folks as real heroes, people of inspiring courage and tenacity. My friends are lovely people and loving people even though they carry the extra weight of this burden they cannot set down!
My own brushes with mental health issues do not compare to those of my friends, yet they too are real. I have long suffered with PTSD. I have found tremendous relief through EMDR therapy and highly recommend it to others. While not quite at the drop of a hat, though certainly at the drop of a dish, I would be shot through with adrenaline. A primitive ‘fight or flight’ reflex would leap unbidden to the fore. Fight or flight has a proper place in human life but in ‘civilized’ society it is an infrequent place. I would have to struggle mightily to remain within the usual norms of behaviour when these surges came. I found myself removing myself from societal interactions in ‘uncontrolled’ situations. I became increasingly anxious in social settings. Where others could be at ease in social situations I rarely felt comfortable letting my guard down. I know such behaviour gets misinterpreted. Some thought I was aloof. Others thought I was angry or antisocial. My challenge then was doubled. I not only had to deal with the invisible battle within but also with feelings of being judged and misjudged.
Thank God most of the previous paragraph is in the past tense. Like the ‘Ghost of Christmas Past’ those experiences may rise today to haunt me, but I no longer live with them as constant unwelcome guests in my life. I do still live with the habits and ruts I created for myself during my years in the PTSD wilderness. Like the ancient Hebrews found it is easier to take the Hebrew out of Egypt than to take Egypt out of the Hebrew. I have may behaviours I am trying to unlearn that were handy coping mechanisms in the past. I must still live with the judgements others formed about me in years past.
I do not write this so anyone will feel sorry for me but rather to point out the challenges those with mental health issues face and the complicity of society as whole in making it yet more painful.
Let us be slower to judge people! We have no idea what they are dealing with. Let us make space to really get to know our brothers and sisters so we can support and encourage them.
One of my ‘hobby horse’ issues is the financial support society provides to those with mental health issues much greater than mine. These folks often receive the minimum welfare payment though they might be among the least able to budget. They are too often forced to live in conditions that, rather than contributing to mental wellness, foster sickness.
I know that scripture says that if we do not contribute we should not eat, and I understand (though I do not agree with) conservatives who rail against a welfare state. The scripture also tells us to care for the widow, orphan, and stranger. We have a societal obligation to care for those who suffer!
I admire my friend who survive society’s careless attitude and even find ways to thrive spiritually. We can all learn much from them. I am grateful that my ‘brush’ with mental illness has given me some insight into this. I am grateful to God for the measure of healing I have found. I long for the day when my friends and I will experience the fullness of the Kingdom when illness is banished and wrongs are made right!