My Perspective on Mental Health Issues #MHAWeek

So it’s Mental Health Awareness week and whilst normally I’d shy away from topics such as this (because I’m careful about commenting on social issues I feel I have no direct experience of), I read a Buzzfeed article recently, titled, “My Best Friend Saved Me When I Attempted Suicide, But I Didn’t Save Her“. I have a few thoughts I’d like to share on it and its relationship to the theme of this week. I suggest you have a quick read of it so that my musings make sense to you. Not to take away from the clinical aspect of mental disorders – which I am less informed about, but I’ll be writing from a more spiritual/psychological/non-chemical angle.

What identity have you chosen for yourself, in your heart?: The first sentence that really struck me in the aforementioned article was “Suicide has been part of my identity ever since puberty — probably when I developed major depressive disorder…“. I actually froze when I read that because knowing what I know about who I am in Christ, I would never allow myself to confess such words over myself. But the reality is that so many are walking around giving themselves names and identities that were never intended to be theirs, re-telling their life’s stories in their hearts with heavy lies from the pit of hell. It’s only a matter of time before you convince yourself of your concocted reality, that you are indeed all these things you have harboured and grown in your heart and mind about who you believe you are. It may have started off with a joke or a carefree statement: I’m so depressed, I am ugly, I never get anything right, Maybe my life was destined to amount nothing – but that alone is an indicator that you are on the slippery slope to giving the enemy a foothold in your mental faculties. The Bible tells us that, “But whatever comes out of the mouth comes from the heart, and this is what makes a man unclean and defiles [him]. For out of the heart come evil thoughts (reasonings and disputings and designs) such as murder, adultery, sexual vice, theft, false witnessing, slander, andirreverent speech.” Matthew 15:18 AMP. Whatever negativity you speak over yourself, even casually, is an indicator of the lies or truths you might be harbouring beneath and my dear friend, what you feed grows.

Whose attention are you seeking and why?: The writer narrated a particular incident of her swallowing 16 tablets of her brother’s prescription medication, writing a short note soaked in tears and bathos, and calling Denise (her now late best friend) to tell her what she was doing. She said of this incident, “There was lots of drama and vomiting and attention, which I believe is exactly what I wanted. This was a cry for help, not a serious suicide attempt…“. Some mental illnesses can and do start off as cries for attention and when it works, we can very well make it our tool of manipulation, allowing the new reality to gradually possess us till it actually becomes a “mental illness”. It seems the writer really wanted the attention and the best way she felt to get it was by almost taking her life. When we want the attention and approval of others so much so that we go to extremes to get it, a line is crossed. The only attention that we need and already have is that of God. Another human being does not have the ability to fill certain voids in us and if we dont realise that, we put ourselves on a loop of potential self destruction. I wish the writer understood she was worth SO much to God if only she turns her focus to Him and lets Him heal her from the inside out.

What are you obsessed with?: The writer in the following paragraph said, “Still, my fascination with suicide never abated. For my college freshman composition research paper, I evaluated different methods of suicide based on simplicity, cost, and success rate. (I got an A but also an office visit with my concerned professor.)“. It went from bad to worse. To me, this goes deeper than being depressed. Dare I say, she was playing God with her own life, testing out if she would really be able to take herself to the very edge of death over and over again. This is why having an idea of one’s purpose is so important. Our ultimate purpose is to do what God created us to do and He shows us glimpses of that but when we allow ourselves to be obsessed with other things that not only have nothing to do with our purpose but can actually cause us to never fulfil our purpose, then we get a case like this. It sounded like she wanted power of some sorts and took the exercising of that power to an extreme over the one person she could truly control – herself.

Do you know how your actions affect those closest to you?: Who we associate with is very key and should not be taken lightly. You’ll find that it’s only a matter of time before people in the same friendship group begin to use the same lingo and take similar actions by virtue of close association. So it was unsurprising that Denise (the now late best friend) resorted to death by pills overdose when she felt life was getting a bit too much. She had perhaps unconsciously embedded her friend’s way of dealing with issues  i.e. by trying to take her own life, and then when Denise felt like life wasn’t going her way, she took the same action. Except, all it took was one suicide attempt and she was gone. Even the writer expressed, “By drawing her into my suicidal ideation, Denise had seen self-harm as a “solution” — but I truly don’t believe she intended it to be permanent.

There’s only one answer: We are all a little bit broken inside and with the right triggers and successive indulgence, mental illness is not far away from any of us. The right amount of work stress, life stress etc. can push any one of us over the edge once our thresholds is reached. But this is where I tell you without a shadow of doubt that Jesus is the answer. It sounds cliche but He truly is. He traded His life so that we don’t have to live lives of captivity enslaved to every thought within us but only to those which are beneficial and edifying to our spirits. So even when your mind (or those voices within) try to tell you anything contrary to the Truth – the truth that Jesus loves you and that with His power you can overcome the most difficult times of your life – you just need to call on the Name that is above every other Name and refuse to believe those lies.

Lastly, let’s not think any of us is immune from developing some form of a mental illness. It can creep in very quietly and build up over time. When I think of the times I have battled the mildest anxiety at work and in some social settings or those thoughts that try to convince me ever so often that I’m not good enough and the next person has got it all together or event he one time I was depressed for two days because I was so upset at the universe for allowing me be stuck in a job I thought was sucking the life out of me and clipping my wings, I know they all pale in comparison to the more severe cases like schizophrenia, dementia and clinical depression but it is not impossible for the little episodes to become full blown psychological monsters that could ultimately drive one to suicide or drug abuse or however else a mental breakdown can manifest.

Let’s be mindful of those around us and not take any odd signs, no matter how normal they seem on the outside, for granted. Make someone feel accepted for the fun of it. Make someone smile, just because. Encourage someone, because you can. Every little helps to keep the lives of those destined for greatness on the right path.

Also, don’t shy away from counselling; therapy and; a good ol’ DMC with someone you trust, for yourself when you feel strained within. Prayer is great but professional help is very key. There is no shame in being a normal human being with “down” days.

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We’re all in this together,

Steph

xoxo

P.s. I really loved this post/interview which is a lovely young lady’s story. Must read!

1 Comment

  1. Elsa Z May 20, 2016 at 10:43 am

    If I could triple like this I would! I must say there is definitely the working of the Spirit! I have been singing this to Sharon Ngang and Fanyeu Kitoko Ngwa!! Especially we need to realise the power of our words in every form of relationship, we don’t know what mental state someone is at and that supposed “joke” or “insult” or said in “anger” might just tip them over! No matter the offence done to us which may even be justifiable, we should cross-check what comes out of our mouth! Mental illness is real and like you said can creep up on the best of us unconsciously and in various forms. Of course thats the one weapon the devil loves to use, before you know it you’re on a downhill spiral questioning everything about yourself! Only God can restore and has the right to give us any identity! Protect and guard your space too!

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