Imagine this: You're about to get up in an assembly with every pupil and staff member in the school to deliver a speech on something you're passionate about. You're not the most confident speaker, but you really want to get your point across.
What do you feel?
Do you feel nervous? Do you have beads of sweat competing in races down your forehead? Are your hands sweaty, your knees weak, arms are heavy? (haha) Do you feel like your heart is racing at a thousand miles an hour in your throat? Is your stomach twisting itself into knots? Do you pause for a little longer then you intended? Are you frozen like a possum in the headlights? Do you still have a voice? Do you feel sick? Can you breathe, or are you breathing so fast you're not actually getting any oxygen? Are you now lightheaded? Is your head screaming at you, but nothing makes sense? Does your mouth get dry? Is your body running on adrenalin? Fight or flight mode in action.
Can you feel it?
Try living like this every day. This, along with many other symptoms, is what it is like to live with ANXIETY.
It is important to understand that anxiety is not just someone being dramatic. It is a very real thing for those of us who suffer from it. It is present all the time, and is ready to strike at ANY TIME. Even if there is no apparent trigger, anxiety can show it's ugly face any time it wants. Try mixing a whole lot of depression in there. You then have a cocktail of conflicting emotion, leaving your body and your mind completely drained. Mental health does not only stop at depression and anxiety either, there are many other conditions that can affect a person. It is also important to remember that this is very real to the person, as there is a physical change in their brain. You can't see it (unless you get an MRI) but the symptoms of it get displayed. It's not just someone playing up behaviour wise.
Mental health needs to be talked about so much more to break the stigma around it. Stigma leading those who are affected to feel shame. THIS IS NOT ON! This can lead to loneliness, isolation, and not talking about what is going on, leading to longer suffering and worsening symptoms. Look at the facts guys - New Zealand has the highest rates of suicide (per capita) IN THE WORLD! I believe that if we break the stigma surrounding mental health in New Zealand then more people will begin seeking help sooner. I do understand that there are many causes of mental health, such as genes, lifestyle choices, poverty, addiction, drugs, and many others. How they got unwell is actually none of your business, unless you intend to do something about it. But it is your business to have an understanding and to treat the person as a person. It's also your business to do your research to find what you can do to help. If someone is having a panic attack, does this person need space? Do they need someone reassuring them? Do they need someone to help remind them to breathe? What if they are depressed? Do they need someone to be around? To make them dinner? To get them out of bed or out of the house? What are their triggers? What can you do? Your job is not to fix the person; you can't. You can't take this away, your job is to be a support.
People who continue with their lives when suffering from anxiety, depression and any other mental health conditions, should be seen as courageous. It is so much easier to hide away from the world.
If you are struggling with some kind of mental health issue, I want you to know you're not alone.
- Tell a trusted person - don't go it alone.
- Make a doctors appointment.
- Get onto it before it gets worse.
- Look at your lifestyle - is there anything you can change to become healither (in a healthy way)
- Create a support team of people who understand, or who have it themselves. Help each other out, be there for each other (you get them, they get you).
- Trust God
Remember, "You is kind, you is smart, you is IMPORTANT".
I love gifts and free stuff. I was at the rugby league in Brisbane yesterday, and I was disappointed not to find someone handing out free stuff. On the other hand, I get really excited to see people giving out free samples at the supermarket. I have never actually bought the product that they are selling, but I appreciate the free sample. What a good time.
Why do I (and probably everyone on earth) enjoy free stuff so much? There is a tonne of things attached to that answer, but the biggest thing is that someone else has done the work for you, and all you have to do is walk up and accept the gift that someone else has prepared for you, which comes at no cost to you. It’s good and wholesome and it’s yours to receive.
Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” You see, our very salvation is a free gift from God. It’s like the free stuff you get in the supermarket. Someone else has done the work for you and is handing it to you for free on a platter. You don’t have to work for your salvation; you can’t!
When we accept God’s salvation for us, we are acknowledging what Jesus did for us when he died on the cross and then rose from death. The Godhead has done the work for us. Imagine how full of pride we could get if were able to work for our salvation?
It would be wrong of me not to point out the key differences between God and the free supermarket handing out person.
God will always be there. The supermarket person won’t.
God is not a one-time-encounter guy. The supermarket person is. Once you choose to accept God’s free gift and follow Him, you and God get to walk together in life, and you get to live by the power of the Holy Spirit. You are wrapped in God’s love - how could you want out of that deal?
God’s gift is eternal. The supermarket person’s isn't.
Accepting God’s gift can cost us. The supermarket person’s gift probably won’t (unless it is very spicy food). Being a Christian can come with its costs. I’ve recently been reading a biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his idea of cheap grace vs costly grace, but I might save that one for next time.
Anyway, whether you identify as a Christian or not, you should choose to follow God. It’s the best thing you will ever do, and in my opinion, the most important choice you can make.