Mental Illness during the Holidays – How to be Heaven Minded.
As many of you know, I have battled with depression and anxiety for a significant part of my life. I don’t remember a time where my heart didn’t race at the thought of something negative, or when I didn’t have to fight an overwhelming depth of feelings and sometimes darkness. Thank God though, that the last few years have been some of healing and restoration for me, for a lot of different reasons. (counseling,medicine, life style changes, Jesus)
But even with help and healing in this area, it still stays true, that during the holiday season it can all but consume those of us which are already battling and learning how to navigate through something so complex, and sometimes debilitating.
And so, I wanted to write this quick note for you, my friends - to help and maybe equip us a little more- especially during this season. Whether you are fighting in this battle of mental illness with me, or you know someone that is struggling in your community- this is for you.
We’ll start with this - why does mental illness get more complicated, or harder during this season? Here are a few reasons:
For starters, the holiday season at times remind us of hurtful situations. Times that may trigger us. Feelings that overwhelm us- from both the past and the present.
Also, Just a quick FYI- mental illness doesn’t go away overnight, nor does it make us wrong or weak, just complex, like you. Now let’s keep talking.
A few other things that are thrown into the mixing pot are that we aren’t as active with our bodies during this time, and vitamin D may not be shining as bright and as often around our places of living. What about our friends that work arduous hours and have no time to soak up vitamin D? What about those who don’t have the luxury of a life that gives off days and time for margin?
All of that combined becomes a bit of a mess for someone who needs a particular lifestyle to maintain a healthy balance.
(side note -I’m always hesitant when I write about mental illness because it holds such a sensitive and significant part of my life, and of others that I love. But if I don’t write about it, if don’t speak about the things that I know can help – then I'm not doing my part in this. And I believe what the word says about the local church, and us being the ones who continue to pave, walk alongside those, and love on those hurting- which we haven’t done a great job at.)
Click Here to read more about the Church and Mental Illness.
Here are some other things that I know to be true – We aren’t alone even when we feel like we are. If you’re a believer, you are held by a good father who can and will guide us in peace and into decisions that will help better our situations. If you aren’t a believer, I’m so honored that you’re reading this, and can tell you that there is a good God who sent His son Jesus to die for you, who loves you, and is waiting for you to say yes to Him in your life.
And also, if you grew up hearing that you could somehow pray this thing away, or maybe hearing that taking prescription medicine would make you crazy – please forgive those who gave you information based on their ignorance.
Here’s the truth: It is a both/ and for this –
It's praying and seek counsel and help.
It’s take the medicine if you need to, and be wise even in that.
It's walking with God and letting Him guide you into what next steps to take.
It’s bringing in people to walk with you, and not hiding it.
He calls us into wisdom that is active, not complacency. Amen?
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told my husband about my turmoil, how many times I’ve phoned a friend to ask for prayer and guidance, how many times I’ve sought counsel. And it all left me feeling very vulnerable and undone and raw but in the best way.
Friends, we don’t’ have to hide our feelings or mental illness for the sake of being misjudged or looked down on, even in this special holiday season. We don’t need to pretend like it’s all okay because of Thanksgiving, Christmas, or new years.
We do not have to taper our difficulties to make others feel good or better. We are not responsible for keeping those around us happy or comfortable at the expense of our health.
Here’s what I'm saying – If you aren’t feeling great, don’t pretend like you are. Do what you have to do to move forward yes, but don’t dismiss this is or hide it. God didn’t dismiss the women with the bloody condition who called out to Him by touching His robe in the middle of a crowd, did He? ( Go read Luke 8: 40-56)
It was probably a moment of heightened excitement, as people knew that Jesus was on His way to heal a young girl who was dying, and along comes this women with an ailment, who not only stops Him on His way but takes Him “away” from healing the other girl. They had told Jairus the ruler of the synagogue (the girl's father) that it was “too late” and to tell Jesus not to come anymore - the young girl had passed.
Can you imagine the crowd of people? “Unbelievable, how selfish!”, some must of said of her. “How Needy!” “How dare she stop Jesus?"
That would’ve been me. Reaching, pulling, screaming for help from the messiah. It actually is me. Desperate, and needy - but willing. Willing to call out to a God who I am believing will stop for me, the one. Like He did for that women ,too. ( Shocker- Jesus still ends up healing the other young girl. You’ve gotta go read to find out how it all went down.) He doesn’t miss a thing- He just doesn’t. Whether it’s on this side of heaven or not.
Jesus didn’t complain, or become angry or annoyed. He actually stopped walking and called out to her after she touched His robe. He stopped, for the one. And He stops for us, all who are seeking and willing. Can we be like that women with the faith and will of Her mighty God? (Luke 8:40-56)
Actually - let’s be like Jesus, and stop whenever someone calls out to us. And live with the strength that He gave to dwell in us.
God didn’t see her as a waist, or too broken, and he doesn’t see us as too broken because of our illness either. Total depravity happened and made us all equally unqualified and broken.
But the good news- is that Jesus came, and redemption was offered to us all. We were all leveled and put on the same playing field at the foot of the cross.
Now for some practical application –
For us, the ones who are fighting in this – here are just a few things that I know have helped me in the past, and are helping me even now:
· Take time to meditate on the things above – be mindful of what your mind is thinking of- you have the power to choose to dwell or not.
· Get out in the sun – as much as you can. Get out there, get your body, mind, and soul moving. We need it. Do whatever it takes.
· If you need counseling or need to see a doctor- go. (I’ve gone a few times) Click here - great place to start your search.
Although the holiday season is busy, make time for it. ( Click Here to search for counselors in your area) Friend, this is you loving yourself well, being wise, and a good steward.
· Set Realistic Expectations+ BE HONEST- the holidays can push us to strive and do more than we can or need to. Rest in knowing that you don’t have to.
· Set boundaries- both for your heart and time. For a lot of us, boundaries can be hard. We try, and people please to make sure that we are loved and acknowledged, etc. none of which are healthy or right. Set boundaries for your self this season, and actually, for the whole year.
Say no when you know it’s not a good fit. Mental health goes hand in hand with physical rest. If we’re overtired, sleep deprived, etc. this will impact our hormones, it just does.
And friends, often, those of us who choose to show others what this looks like, and how to fight on a daily, will spur others on to do the same. It doesn’t make us weaker, or less than. Actually, in my opinion, I would challenge that and say that it shows just how strong we are.
So what do you do, friends who are walking with us?
· If you have someone in your life that is wrestling and fighting in this season – don’t let go of them.
· Let them know that you are present either way.
· Let them know that you are there and not only thinking of them but praying for them.
· Step in to serve them somehow – speak words of truth, of encouragement, and understanding to them.
· Remind them of the truth, even when they don’t want to hear it.
· You check on them, plain and simple.
Friends, loving ourselves through and loving on those who are fighting is all gift. We have the chance and opportunity to impact and serve in a place that isn’t spoken to often, and I would say- that precisely in this season, we get the chance to show and give out the love of Jesus with open hands and open hearts even more- because hearts are tender right now, and that means that they are more willing.
We can all give an extra smile to those that we don’t know.
We can give them grace when others may not.
We can be tender and understanding and seek to pray before anything.
But this all goes for us for the rest of the year too- being Heaven Minded.
That’s a part of the great love of Christ – it surpasses seasons and days, and time. It’s not only given on special occasions or days. It just is, and can be and should be lived out towards everything and everyone in our lives. It’s the whole abiding bear's good fruit, principle. What is in us overflows.
( John 15:1-8)
You’re loved, your’e seen, you’re forgiven.
For Him & His Glory