Not Always Okay.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Life ain't perfect, even when it is.

I'd just like to say that first. On the surface, my life is utterly perfect: I have an amazing husband and gorgeous child. We're all healthy. We have a roof over our heads and food in our bellies and more things to occupy our time than we can actually get round to doing.

I don't want you to think I don't appreciate that. I do. I thank God for those things, literally every day, prayers that are almost automatically said but always meant from the heart: thank you Lord, thank you for another day like this.

There is much to be said for being thankful and joyful. For cultivating joy, for lifting praises to heaven.

So what happens when you don't feel okay?

What happens when you actually feel far from okay?

***

I'm feeling low at the moment. I have found it very difficult to admit it to myself or anyone else.

I say 'low', but that doesn't really describe it. It feels a bit like - losing touch with who I really am, forgetting the person that I once was. Complicated emotions and fears build up and build up until I am constantly in fear: what has happened to me? Who am I? How am I ever going to go back to way I used to feel?

I'm not talking about stress. I'm talking about real, mental health: when a dark cloud settles over you and you can barely move or breathe from it.

I've never had this before in my life, ever.

Even in intensely difficult circumstances - even in my lowest moments - I've never felt this panicked or fearful. I've always been able to fix anything that needed to be fixed. Or at least, I've been able to reassure myself. Over the past few years I've been really hot on this: if something needs to be changed, I will take positive action and push through how I feel.

This is different.

This is scary because, at times, it feels utterly out of my control.

I know it's partly hormonal, my body changing over time. I can deal, practically, with that. I know for sure there's a spiritual element to it. Which needs prayer.

But I still can't untangle this knot in my chest, this permanent stress that hums through my day to day life, that makes me feel like I could burst into tears at any moment, or sometimes, that makes me so exhausted that I wouldn't have the energy to cry even if I wanted to.

I want you to know that if you feel this way, it's okay to get help, it's okay to speak about it, it's okay to tell. As a Christian, I am so, so grateful I can lean on God at moments like this, dark nights of the soul. But at the same time, I feel a great sense of guilt - surely I shouldn't be feeling this way? I'm a Christian. I'm not allowed to feel like this. I'm supposed to be rejoicing. I'm not 'living in victory' right now. So I will close my mouth and not speak about it. What about the people that are really suffering? I just need to suck it up and get over myself.

The Holy Spirit never brings that kind of guilt. Did you know that? He might bring conviction, but that's different to pointless guilt. Conviction is a prompt to make a positive change. False guilt is a joy-sucking, life-draining emotion that leads nowhere.

False guilt is hideous.

False guilt is responsible for a lot of time wasting in my life.

God is still with me. Even though sometimes I feel like I can't escape from the stress, I do understand that He's there. The Bible talks about this, I believe, these feelings of despair with no escape. You only have to glance at the Psalms to read David's heart, poured out, bare and plain for all to see: even the ugly bits, the bits that people don't normally bring up in conversation. Passionate words that stir the heart and soul, like Psalm 38:

My guilt overwhelms me—
    it is a burden too heavy to bear.
 My wounds fester and stink
    because of my foolish sins.
 I am bent over and racked with pain.
    All day long I walk around filled with grief.
 A raging fever burns within me,
    and my health is broken.
 I am exhausted and completely crushed.
    My groans come from an anguished heart. (vs 4-8)

The words are almost shockingly naked and raw. This is a man who literally cannot take another moment. A heart in utter despair. Close to breaking point. He is so ashamed of his sinful actions that he can't bear it.

In later Psalms he is in a very different place. He sings for joy. He can't contain it. He dances with it.

I think we can be a Christian and still feel the full, technicolour spectrum of emotion that comes with just being alive. Even when those emotions don't match our situations or our previous experience. And we should be talking about it and praying about it and checking with each other, because anxiety and panic and fear are things that we can help each other with.

Sometimes God leads us through strange, unexpected places in order to get us where we need to be. Maybe, for some people, mental illness is the challenge they have to battle.

Sometimes just hearing someone say 'I feel like that, too', or 'I went through that' really can do wonders for the soul. Moreso than well-meaning but misguided advice, or impatience. I fear I've misunderstood people in the past when they've said they're feeling low or depressed: I didn't get it, so I felt frustrated and impatient with it.

So here I am, declaring it: my life is beautiful, and right now, I am a bit of a mess. I am Not Always Okay. And that's fine. This isn't a plea for help, more a wave hello to those who feel the same way I do right now, or who will in the future: I get it. I feel like that too.

I believe in powerful prayer and powerful action, and I'm taking physical, tangible steps to get myself back to normal. I'm actually feeling a little better already, just from sharing this with my family and friends, just by hearing their encouraging words.

I just wanted to say it. If anyone feels like this, or has done, then feel free to get in touch. I can't offer much in the way of advice but tea and sympathy is something I can do very well. And sometimes that's all we need to get through the tough moments.

2 comments:

  1. I'm so sorry that you have been feeling this way but thank you for sharing. I think as Christians it can be easy to feel like times of depression indicate a lack of faith or trust but as you have shown with the Psalms we are definitely far from alone in feeling that way. I have struggled with depression on and off throughout my adult life and it doesn't always come with the most challenging circumstances. I'm glad that you feel able to seek help and hope that that dark cloud lifts soon x

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    1. Thank you so much for the comment. I was surprised at how hard it was for me to admit that I feel this way. Guilt plays a big factor in that. I sometimes think I should be more like Ned Flanders in my approach to life ;) then I realise that real life is more complicated than that!

      I guess the hardest thing is looking at my beautiful daughter and still not being able to shake the anxiety.

      Sorry to hear you have struggled with it too, but your comment gives me hope. Really hope to be feeling better soon x

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