Scrolling through my timeline on various social media platforms this past week, I couldn’t help but notice a myriad of posts shining light on the painful realities of depression and mental health. And I knew then that it would remise of me not to dedicate this week’s blog post to these issues. Issues we all could fall victim to.
Designer Kate Spade; Comedian Robin Williams; Linkin Park’s lead singer Chester Bennington; one of the greatest writers of all time Ernest Hemingway; Fashion Designer Alexander McQueen and now Master Chef and world traveller Anthony Bordain. What do they all have in common besides the obvious, being rich and famous? Sadly, they all ended their own lives.
Once upon a time suicide was only believed to be a taboo committed by people who were either born with mental illnesses (and later hospitalized for it) or suffered from obvious severe depression throughout their lives, which ended by jumping off a bridge in one of our beloved police detective series or the other.
Unfortunately, this is not our reality today. Today, the devil does not appear to have a red face and bloody horns. Today, mental health affects us all.
But what exactly do we mean when we use the term ‘Mental Health?’
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. In other words, it is an innate facet of each of our lives and like anything else, how we treat it, is how it will respond to us.
However, I did not come here to put on my old psychology major hat (dusty old thing, it’s been a while) and divulge into the complexities of mental illnesses. Though, I must add that Abnormal Psychology will always be my favorite course. (Yes, when you get A’s at University you talk about it years later like it matters – it totally doesn’t but – it’s also another rare thing but I digress lol.)
Instead, what today’s post will focus on is something much more common. Something I’d like to call silent battles.
You see, what I’ve observed is when others read the words ‘mental health’ they automatically think ‘illness’ and that leads to the thinking ‘that could never happen to me.’
Sadly, before you read this post and even after, you’re going to pass someone next to you suffering from a silent battle. You’re going to enter rooms of smiles, and scroll through your timeline of likes and bypass hidden battles there too. Or like me, you may even go to bed one night fighting one of your own.
Silent battles are no respecter of persons, which is why I did not find it shocking when I read about the recent celebrity suicides. In fact, what I know is that it takes more strength to face our sadness than it is to physically battle armies at world war. And though I do not condone the act nor may ever be able to completely understand what they (or any previous victim of suicide) face, what I am is empathic to their pain and journey. The pains of dealing with emotions that are often difficult near impossible to put into words.
As a very talkative child turned opinionated adult, even I struggle with finding the words to express what depression does to me. However, what I also know is that most times the problem isn’t talking to someone about the things you’re battling with but more so with believing that you’re worthy enough of overcoming them.
And so I will not add to the already over-saturated posts encouraging others to ‘talk to someone’ or ‘reach out if you’re struggling with mental health’ as though we wake up one morning and label ourselves as such. Not realizing the fact that when you’re depressed or even weary from one thing or the other, the issue lies in your inability to reach at all.
Silent battles can leave you paralyzed on the inside though your exterior is impeccable. You can kick ass by day and writhe with inner pain at night. You can be in a room with loved ones comforting them through their problems without anyone noticing your own. Dealing with silent battles does not mean that you’re lonely, sick or even suicidal. But what it does mean is that all the strength everyone wants you to have is probably already used up loving, caring for, working for or entertaining others, so much so that there’s not enough left for you to go the extra mile on yourself.
And so today I’m writing to your inner weak self. The one that knows more about you than the best friend you vent to or the loved ones you pretend to. Today I’m writing to anyone facing a silent battle, feel weary or can’t find the words to express any inner conflict you’ve ever encountered. Today I’m here to say you that you do not have to face your battles alone. In fact, you don’t have to fight your own battles at all. There is a God far greater than either of us, who has never lost a battle and (if you seek Him), He is not about to begin with you.
A lot of times when you go through silent battles, you try not to offload your problems on others, so that’s why it remains a secret. But the beauty of God is that there is nothing you can hide from Him. As an omniscient God, he already knows how to help you get through it as well. And so today I urge you to give him a try.
Maybe you’ve read a couple of my posts before, and now you’re beginning to think…
“She’s always mentioning God.”
“but I have real problems here, how’s a God I know not how to believe in, going to help me?”
To that I say, just begin to have a conversation with him and watch things change. But you can only do so with an open mind and willing heart. What do you have to lose?
Through my struggles, I seek Him, bowing down before all His power, in complete humility and say, “the battle is not mine but it’s the Lord’s” And together we get on and through the battlefield.
You see I’ve learnt that the only way I can win any battle is by loving myself enough to experience it, without resistance. And so I encourage you to push through and not give up either.
My conversation of battles then, is often one of prayer-and-response.
When broken-heartedness says, “You will never love anyone the way you loved him.” I reply, “I am willing for that to be true.”
When sadness says, “This is the worst thing that could ever happen to you.” Again I reply, “I am willing for that to be true.” Because then it would mean, if I survive this, there will be nothing I can’t overcome again.
Whenever loneliness says, “You have no one. No one loves you like this.” I remember that I need to love myself first in order to show others how I deserved to be loved, and so after a long pause, I reply “I am willing to accept that too.”
Even when defeat says, “This is not the accomplishment for you.” I force myself to remember that God has a bigger plan in store, so I reply. “I am willing for that to be true.”
And when grief says, “You will never hear that person laugh or feel their touch again.” I drop to my knees – and through my sheets of tears, I reply, “I AM WILLING.”
This is the job of living – to be willing to bow down before EVERYTHING that is bigger than you. And almost everything in this world will feel and be bigger than you.
I may not know what you’re struggling with, as nor do you to me. I only know that you are worth living and that our God-given purpose is too big to give up on now. And for that I am willing. I pray after reading this you will be too.
Though you may be smiling while life tears you apart. Be willing. Though you look great on the outside, yet isolated, and hopeless inside. Do not give in. And worst of them all, when you are fooled (by yourself or others) into believing that your life has no purpose, I hope you would remember if nothing else at all, that your God-given purpose on this earth IS bigger than your problems. Don’t throw in the towel. You are here, like us all, for a reason, and it actually is not your place to end that abruptly nor decide on your own that you do not have a purpose. Just remember that God will never put more on you than you can bear.
Yup even ALL that you’re already going through, He knows you can bear it. Though it my not feel like you can. Stick it out long enough to prove yourself wrong.
I recently read a saying, “it takes strength to face our sadness and to grieve and to let our grief and our anger flow in tears when they need to. It takes strength to talk about our feelings and to reach out for help and comfort when we need it.” I’ll add to that and say but we must. Because the thing about battles is that they only end when someone wins. And that someone is going to be YOU.
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