Surviving or Thriving: Sarah's Story
Mental health is often talked about widely and generally. The specifics are rarely mentioned unless it’s you suffering, yet when it gets serious, many don’t know what to say or see it as ‘too personal’ to discuss.
I found this difficult when a lot of my university friends either suffered or were close to someone suffering from mental health issues. As a Christian, I found it difficult to be there for them, without seeming to have some ulterior religious-conversion motive.
My housemate was diagnosed with depression just before exams and it was very hard to help because we didn’t talk about it as a house until it had escalated due to exam stress. One night, I was chatting to a church friend and confessed how frustrating I found it to be in the house and not know how to help. My friend recommended “The Stuff of Life” by Dr Rob Waller, which talks about mental health and other pressures faced during the transition into university and adulthood. More importantly, it talks with God and faith running parallel to the scientific and medical jargon, offering multiple avenues on how to discuss issues in the best way for your situation.
When I read the pages on depression and exam stress, I felt an overwhelming sense that God had put this book into my life for me to be able to discuss all these issues with my friends. This book still sits on my bookshelf and has helped me with all sorts of issues, whether for me or my friends. I read the book, prayed, and prayed for my housemate after plucking up the courage to ask.
As well as this book, a particular bible verse has always stuck with me:
“do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2).
It shows how much God is in control of our lives and how secure we should be in that. More importantly, it expresses how we should never compare ourselves to others or to the standards of society, because we are God’s children and we are loved for who we are, not who we think we should be. So many modern pressures affect our mental and physical health, whether that is how we should look or how we should behave and handle our lives.
Friends of mine have expressed concern over my mental health and eating habits. I am easily stressed, anxious and have depressive tendencies surrounding change, the future and disorder. It can be crippling when I can’t control a situation, which affects my faith because God rarely tells you exactly what is going to happen, when and the outcome.
It’s still something I’m working on with God, and probably will be for the rest of my life, but that doesn’t mean I should give up on him or myself.
God wants to be there with us, no matter how we might be feeling towards Him or his plan for our lives. Learning to trust him is not easy (spoiler – no one ever said it would be) and I highly recommend reading Matthew 6:25-34.
Trusting in God is the biggest step that you can make in your journey with him. By trusting God, you are saying that He is bigger than anything that is thrown your way – regardless to whether you think mental illness is biological, chemical or spiritual in its origins. Love conquers all.
Sarah lives and works in London, having grown- up in Hull and studied at the University of Manchester. When she isn’t saying how great the North is, Sarah is playing one of her many instruments (most likely drums) or taking photos of buildings and nature around her.