I am 1 in 4
i.e. I am one of the one in four whose life has been affected by mental illness.
But you’ll know that already if you’ve read my story.
Nowadays I don’t often dwell on my labels. But recently I have been thinking more than usual.
Maybe it’s because May was Mental Health Awareness Month.
Maybe reading others’ stories struck a chord- especially on the Have you seen that girl website. It’s all about raising Maternal Mental Health Awareness ( for there’s STILL no mother & baby unit in NI)
Maybe it was the preacher describing a man admitted to Knockbracken Psychiatric Hospital. His words transported me back instantly-thirteen years in a millisecond!
Even reading the term Postnatal Psychosis in stark black & white unleashed emotions long buried under years of good health.
In my opinion, postnatal psychosis:
*Is a tsunami in the mind that creates chaos in everyday life – the aftermath takes years to settle.
*A happy celebration of new life in the family morphs into a life-altering nightmare.
*Everyday life is distorted beyond recognition.
*Your sleep-starved deluded self exists in a world that makes sense initially but disintegrates as thoughts clash faster & faster.
*The fabric of daily life unravels beneath us into tangles & we’re free falling from the life we love into the abyss of depression & psychosis.
I believe only God can turn our tangled mess into a tapestry for His glory ( though it often looks like a tangle rather than a tapestry from our underside perspective)
God didn’t heal me instantly like the guy in the sermon. But He was there in the middle of my story.
And ‘Faith thanks God in the middle of the story’ (Ann Voskamp)
God meets us in the mess.
He brings His life-giving light to the darkest situations.
He gives Hope to our hopelessness.
And Calm in our chaos.
He ushers in Peace to our troubled souls.
The Good Shepherd carries us:
‘He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.’ (Isaiah 40:11 NLT)
His inexhaustible grace is the balm for our restless minds.
In my experience, personally & working as a doctor for twenty years, there are no quick fixes with mental illness. It takes time- much longer than we expect or allow :
‘For the longest way round is the shortest way home’ (CS Lewis- Mere Christianity)
Yes , it takes time to get truly home- to be clear in your own mind,comfortable in your own skin, present in your own life.
In my case it also took family, friends, psychiatrists, medication, support, faith, reading, running, & writing
I’ve been encouraged by others’ stories & struggles.
Amy Bluel formed Project semi colon as a social media movement in 2013 to bring hope & love to those struggling with depression, suicide ,addiction & self injury. Across the globe semicolon symbols have been tattooed as a visual reminder.
The Oxford Dictionary states ‘The main task of the semicolon is to mark a break that is stronger than a comma but not as final as a full stop’ The semicolon is used by writers to signify that is not the end of a sentence.
When your life or the life of those you love is deeply impacted by mental illness- it is not the end. It is an interruption but not the conclusion. It’s a dark chapter but not the end of the story.
Our struggle is a crucial part of the story. Our semi colon gives more depth to our lives. We wouldn’t choose the punctuation- but we live into it.
‘God’s power is often found when we shift from begging to remove our struggle to listening to Him speak in our trouble’ (Lysa Terkheurst)
‘Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up.’ (Psalm 71:20 NIV)
When we are in life’s deepest pits (often in the depths of our minds) , we are not alone.
‘All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.’ (1 Corinthians 10:13 MSG)
‘But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you. For you have rescued me from death; you have kept my feet from slipping. So now I can walk in your presence, O God, in your life-giving light.’. (Psalms 56:3, 13 NLT)
‘So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace.’
(2 Corinthians 4:16MSG)
In His grace, God is:
Redeeming our lives
Healing our hearts
Protecting our minds
If we are 1 in 4 we can trust Him with our minds when we worry about becoming unwell again:
‘You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD himself, is the Rock eternal.’ (Isaiah 26:3-4 NIV)
Mental illness never just affects individuals. It deeply impacts relationships, families & communities.
Amy Bleuel wrote “For we are all in this together. I ask you stick around with us for this journey. We might surprise you in the end with the outcome.”
Sadly on 23rd March 2017 Amy committed suicide.
Every 90 minutes someone in the UK or Ireland dies by suicide.
There isn’t always a happy ending in this life. As Christians we aren’t immune to the tragedy & heartbreaking travesty of suicide. There are no easy words. We don’t have answers but we do have our Saviour.
The profound truth is that ‘This world is not conclusion’ as Emily Dickinson wrote. Even death itself is not the full stop- but rather another semi-colon
Life is hard.
But God is faithful & always there.
We must trust His promises …
in the hardest of places
‘He will not turn away from your questions or be surprised by your grief. He will not be repulsed by your anger or turn his back on your pain. He understands the darkest moments of human existence and enters them with boundless mercy, unending love, and amazing grace.’ (Paul Tripp-Heart of the matter)
If our own life or the life of someone we love has been interrupted by mental illness, we can bring those deep wounds to God for:
‘He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.’ (Psalm 147:3 NIV)
*If you’re concerned about family or friends – talk to them. They may not have the courage to start the conversation.
*If you’re concerned about how you’re feeling- speak to your GP- we can usually signpost toward the right help.
PS ‘Life Interrupted’ was originally posted @ http://www.blessedme.co.uk