In the United States, the month of May is recognized as: mental health awareness month. No one is immune to mental health. Anxiety, depression, anger, sadness… affects us all to some degree or another throughout our lives. I’m not an expert on mental health or anything, I would just like to share my own personal journey with you, in the hopes of spreading some light to the situation.
“But everything exposed by the light becomes visible–and everything that is illuminated becomes a light,” (Ephesians 5:13 NIV).
In high school, I hardly had any friends. I stuck with the same friends throughout those four years. I never really branched out, so I spent high school not really living the normal teenage life. I didn’t go to parties, date boys or get asked to high school dances. None of this affected me but what did affect me was the feeling of anxiety.
During my senior year of high school, I was so consumed with my future. I worried about where I was going to go to school at and how I was going to pay for it. Long story short, I spent the last year of high school extremely stressed out. Before I knew it, that anxiety turned into fear and without realizing it I took that anxiety with me after high school. Long story short, I did not attend the university in XX that I planned on attending. I hurt a lot of people along the way, including myself. I ended up in a small town in XX and enrolled in community college.
During the next few years, God kept showing up in my life. I learned what was important in my life and what was not. I got my heartbroken for the first time, found out some people only want to use me, I lost and gained friends, I learned working was important and so much more. Most importantly, I began to learn that I did not need to spend my life stressed or worried.
With the grace of God, after almost two years of struggling after high school (feeling lost, working a minimum wage job, trying to save money, living on my own, etc.), I got baptized August 23 2015 at a nondenominational church in XX. Slowly but surely, I felt myself giving God more control over my life which resulted in me feeling less stressed/worried. It was as if the less control I had over life and the more I let The One who was ultimately in control lead/guide me… I more I began to feel at peace.
Fast forward to three years later, I can say with confidence I hardly stress anymore. I’ve learned that half of the time I’m stressing over something, it’s over something I can control. For instance, recently I spent almost a whole day stressed and worrying about packing. Literally packing was stressing me out so much that I couldn’t think of anything else. As soon as I had the chance I packed what I needed to and immediately felt the weight lifted off of my shoulders. I’m embarrassed writing that but that’s the thing about stress, it affects us all from the stupidest smallest ways to the big ways. Maybe you don’t stress over such minuscule things such as, packing; maybe you stress about the big stuff such as, moving or selling your house… whatever the case may be the reason is the same. I think when we care about things the enemy sees that we do and if we’re not careful, he’ll cause us to stress. One way I’ve learned to overcome unnecessary stress is to, release it to God right away by telling him how I’m feeling and why. Next I’ll take a deep breath and remind myself that all that stuff is still going to be there, it’s not going anywhere, it’s not life or death and it can wait until I’m ready. It’s important for me to do those steps so I can quickly release those feelings before they become a reality. God sees when we are anxious or stressed and He will always provide us with an alternative: releasing it to Him.
The more I know myself, the more I find out how much easier it is to recognize when I’m starting to slip into depression or sadness. For instance, if I’m in my room too much or even if I just go to my room after work and then let the night pass by without doing anything other than homework.. I’ll feel the enemy at work because I’ll start beating myself up and talking in circles, saying things like: I can’t keep doing this. Why am I so lazy? I need to change. So, I immediately get up and get out of my room! I can’t be alone too much, I have to go out and be around people. Sometimes I’ll drive to Target to look around because I love Target. Other times, I’ll grab my yoga mat and stop at the local park, unroll my mat and do some yoga. Most times however, I’ll release my feelings to God, just like I do when I’m stressed. I find that I have to do something to help me be in the light and remind myself I have the power to be happy. I always remind myself when I start to feel low, that I’m in control of my thoughts and my feelings. I can choose happiness and joy no matter what outside circumstances I may face. One of my favorite verses in the Bible states:
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things,” (Philippians 4:8 ESV).
And it’s so true and powerful because the more we think good thoughts, the happier we become.
Sometimes there are still moments when I’ll feel my mind just completely plagued by thoughts of guilt. I’ll feel guilty for not doing yoga or doing the things I said I would, i.e. waking up at 0430 in the morning. I’ll start asking myself, God what’s wrong with me? I’m a strong believer that when thoughts like this, especially feelings of guilt start to show up, they are not from God. I choose to believe that feelings of guilt don’t come from God. What I mean by that is, I do still think God is going to make me feel guilty when I sin. However, I don’t think Gods going to make me feel guilty for not doing things that are good for me or the things I want to do. So, when I don’t do yoga, the feelings of guilt I feel stem from being too hard on myself and failing the standards I set for myself. I know at the end of this life the only thing that’s truly going to matter is loving God, myself and others. But that doesn’t mean I want to waste my life by not living. The way I overcome guilt for failing the standards I’ve set for myself is really just by meeting those standards I set for myself but also giving myself grace. I know there are going to be days when I perform better then others and days when I perform worse. However, as long as I always keep trying Gods going to see that and He’s going to commend that.
There are times when anger tries to creep in as well. Most recently, I’ll be in my car driving and there will be a person following so closely from behind and I’ll start to feel stressed sometimes even angry. What I’ve learned though is to: focus on what’s in front of me instead of getting caught up in what’s behind me. Road rage is never worth it. We are all traveling somewhere, trying to get somewhere at the same time and it’s important to acknowledge that without putting others in danger or letting other drivers affect us.
Those are some of the struggles I am faced with in this life and I’m sure you are too. I hope my post helped in realizing you are not alone. I hope it gave you some ideas on how to cope with your own mental health battles. There is freedom to be found in sharing our struggles with others. I want you to know I encourage you in sharing your story, I am walking with you and I commend you.
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery,” (Galatians 5:1).
Today and every day I choose freedom from mental health battles. I choose freedom- for my God has set me free. I choose happiness.
With love and kindness,