It is odd that as a Christian that I still find it hard to accept my brokenness. After all Jesus was completely broken so that we may be free. After a recent brush with mental ill health I found myself saying things like “if I was stronger” or “I don’t want medication because I should be able to cope.”
Despite considering myself a fairly reflective person I was trapped in the idea that to ask for help or talk about my emotions was to show weakness. My rational self knew this was wrong but I stuck rigidly to the macho script that has been written for me by society. I now see that I was buying into the popular myth that admitting to mental health struggles was to be incomplete. Instead of celebrating my awesome imperfections I criticised myself. I suffered from vicarious trauma because of the work I do (not writing, although that can be traumatic, but my other job) and I didn’t realise what was causing my anxiety and low moods until I was completely in the ditch.
I’m feeling better now because I got help, I am getting help and I’m making permanent positive changes. So what helped me and what’s continuing to be of help?
My faith. Jesus pulled me out of the drain. His rod and staff guided me through darkness as it says in one of my favourite psalms. Jesus brokenness reminded me that I didn’t have to be perfect, that it was OK to not be OK.
My family are my shining light and they encouraged and cuddled. I’ve had so much love and support, I feel blessed to have such strong support around me. I had a good friend who knew me so well that she recognised that I was not quite right. She encouraged and cajoled.
The NHS (albeit after a 7 week wait. Our NHS needs more funding not less by the way, they are brilliant but under staffed). I have also started a daily practice of prayer and Meditation, this has transformed the way I deal with my feelings and how I treat myself and interact with others. I feel like myself for the first time in years. I am learning to like myself and give myself a break.
Russell Brand’s under the skin podcast has kept me company through the tough times, his optimism that love and spirituality can save the world is a message that has given me hope and rekindled my interest in activism.
I have started drawing and have found a new sense of creativity. And finally St Francis of Assisi’s assertion that we must relinquish ourselves to God and be humble is another message of hope that inspires me and reminds me of what my purpose is. He reminds me that the Holy Spirit is with me and it is Gods’ work I do, I am his disciple.
What’s the point in sharing this with you? Well it’s helpful for me as I’m feeling more able to articulate what happened and also talk about it.
This is progress. Also I think in order to break down the guilt that society places around mental health I need to talk about my experiences and say to you it’s OK to not be OK and to encourage you to reach out and get help as it is out there.
On the theme of brokenness I came across this wonderful Japanese tradition called Kintsugi (thank you to my lovely wife). It is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold. It treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to be ashamed of, it embraces flaws and imperfections as part of life. These things form part of who we are, what makes us unique and they should be celebrated along with the successes. I like the idea of highlighting the cracks and repairs, making them beautiful and accepting brokenness as simply an event in the life of an object rather than allowing its service to end at the time of its damage or breakage.