There are many barriers that prevent us from acknowledging our mental health challenges. In past decades, lack of awareness is likely the most significant barrier. Past generations have been taught the grin-and-bear approach to mental health challenges. Unfortunately, ignoring our problems doesn’t make them go away. Ignoring physical health symptoms causes them to get worse. Ignoring mental health symptoms has the same result.
Throughout our lives, various barriers prevent us from sharing our struggles, such as cultural stigma, unawareness of our symptoms, lack of community support, and lack of emotional reserve due to the busyness of life.
For the first 25 years of my life, these barriers prevented me from acknowledging my mental health challenges. I learned from a young age that I needed to be strong and keep it together. My strong approach worked for the first few decades of my life. However, my unawareness of symptoms, combined with the demands of life, caused a perfect storm, increasing the symptoms of my mental health difficulties. Due to past life experiences and a lack of personal awareness, I’ve spent most of my life trying to cope with anxiety and depression. But difficult circumstances caused these symptoms to skyrocket. In the span of a year, my mom passed away from cancer, and I experienced trauma from a complex work situation, causing severe anxiety. I’m a highly conscientious person, and I care deeply about doing the right thing. What God intends for good, the enemy tries to twist our strengths and make them our weaknesses. In this season, he attacked my conscientiousness, using an abusive work relationship to make me feel like I had done something wrong. When the enemy removes love and nurturing care from a relationship, it creates fear, and fear leads to torment. The enemy seeks to attack us in the weakness of our mental health symptoms to steal, kill, and destroy us.
Thankfully, God is much more powerful than the enemy. Regardless of our mental health symptoms or struggles, God’s power is made perfect in our weakness. Trying to keep it together and be strong makes our mental health symptoms worse. During my season of struggle, I couldn’t sleep and lived in a perpetual state of dread. Thankfully, through the support of loving friends, the internal dam of staying strong broke, and I learned how to journey with God in my mental health challenges.
Although the struggle was intense, my life shifted in this season. I learned that trying to keep it together makes me become weak, but being real and journeying through weakness makes me strong. Since everyone struggles, it’s actually okay not to be okay. Giving myself permission to journey in weakness made me stronger. Instead of ignoring symptoms of anxiety, I’ve learned to see them as dashboard warning signs, like the check engine light on my car. Anxiety symptoms can actually be helpful! As for dashboard warning signs, I can deal with the symptoms when they are small, so things don’t have to get worse. I’ve learned when I’m having a hard time not to fly solo. We are only as strong as our supporting cast. Being strong makes us weak. But embracing weakness makes us strong.
Identify three of the most challenging seasons in your life.
Identify ways that you tried to be strong, and it made things harder.
Identify ways that you embraced weakness and reached out for help, making things easier.