Grace to you and peace!
As I write this reflection this week mental health awareness is being promoted by Bell Let’s Talk Day in an effort help dismantle stigma and promote conversation. We applaud this effort.
In a Thursday morning article on CTVNews.ca the writer reminds us that “this year, more than ever Canadians are reporting anxiety and depression as the second wave of COVID-19 upends normal life. According to a recent survey by Mental Health Research Canada, 22 per cent of surveyed Canadians reported that they had been diagnosed with depression, with another 20 per cent saying they had received an anxiety disorder diagnosis, representing an all-time high.”
80% of us may not currently be diagnosed with a mental illness but I believe all of us have times and seasons when the struggle to maintain mental health becomes really hard. I know that has been my personal experience over the years.
Psalm 42 speaks so powerfully to the struggle to maintain mental health. The psalm names the downcast soul. It highlights the desire, when feeling disconnected, to feel connected to God and community. It highlights the fight to hold onto hope. It names tears, troubling questions, waves and billows crashing over and pushing down on us. It describes mournful walking, adversaries, oppression and restlessness within. The language it uses describes depression and inner pain so well. The psalm also names God, thanksgiving, steadfast love, prayer and hope. It names these hopeful things while implying how hard they are to cling to when the soul is cast down within.
The profound truth that Psalm 42 and other psalms reveal is that people of faith struggle with depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and actions, and other forms of mental illness. It affirms that people of faith need to wrestle at times, as so many do, to maintain mental health and hold onto life and hope. And that truth is not a truth we need to feel shame about or feel judged for. It is a truth we need to name along with the psalmist and so many of God’s people through the ages. It is something we need to talk about!
This week as I was preparing these thoughts I noticed that Sarah Ropp had shared a post on Facebook naming her struggle. Thank you Sarah for “talking” and sharing part of your story and mental health journey. Thank you for allowing us to share it again in this reflection.
“This year marks 6 years since the year that mental health became a daily conversation…
6 years since I had those pills pealed out of my trembling hands…
6 years since I dropped out of university and moved back home…
6 years since I hit rock bottom and was taken to the hospital by my grandparents and admitted to the RVH psych ward for severe anxiety, depression and suicide watch…
6 years since the start of my 2.5 year search for a correct diagnosis… The start of dozens of medications, tests, therapists, psychiatrists, psychotherapists, social workers…
My mental health journey was long and painful. It wasn’t until 3.5 years ago that I finally had my correct diagnosis, after being diagnosed with basically every mental health disorder including bi-polar disorder and ‘medication induced bi-polar disorder’ (what even is that?!) which made me realise something wasn’t right. I quit all my medications cold turkey, without telling Nathan or my doctors… (I definitely do not suggest anyone EVER do that…it was horrible…)
It wasn’t until I was off all medications that we recognized a trend with my menstrual cycle… 2 weeks of every month I was 100% fine… Then 2 weeks of every month I was bi-polar, depressed and suicidal…
After my first meeting with Dr. Manuzzi at the Women’s health concerns clinic at St. Joe’s in Hamilton, I knew I was going to be ok. After dozens of different medications and diagnosis’ I was finally diagnosed with PMDD… And the treatment…. Birth control… That was it. For the past almost 4 years that one little pill has allowed me to live, love and be loved and I am forever grateful
Talking about mental health has always been important to me and on #bellletstalkday, I share my story once again to remind people that, though it is tough, it is a worthwhile journey! You are loved, you are important and you need to be on this earth to see the beauty that your life can and will be ”
As you reflect on Sarah’s story, and you your own mental health journey, I invite you to read the words of Psalm 42.
1 As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and behold the face of God?
3 My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me continually, “Where is your God?”
4 These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I went with the throng, and led them in procession to the house of God, with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival.
5 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help 6 and my God.
My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.
7 Deep calls to deep at the thunder of your cataracts; all your waves and your billows have gone over me.
8 By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.
9 I say to God, my rock, “Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I walk about mournfully because the enemy oppresses me?”
10 As with a deadly wound in my body, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me continually, “Where is your God?”
11 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.
“Talking” about our story can be so important for our own mental health and for the mental health of those around us. If you would like to share part of your story and mental health journey in a future letter, or in our Sunday morning worship gathering, please reach out to us. EZMC, Let’s Talk and share our stories!
One of the new songs in our “Voices Together” Hymnal is “Still my Soul.”
May these words become your prayer and may God still your soul.
Still my soul, calm my roaming mind, Give me peace; may my heart unwind. Let me stay, your beloved guest. Take my fear, make my worry rest. What I hold, let me give to you. Aid my strength when my storms drive through. When my thoughts won’t let me go, I’ll sing to you: oh, still my soul. By Katie Garber