As I look at this image I see not only the man sat – with head in his hands – but also the dark empty space around him.
And, in truth, I know that darkness, oh how well I know that darkness.
And, in truth, I know that emptiness, oh how well I know that emptiness.
Not always, and not sometimes. But certainly all too often and certainly here and now.
And yet my darkness is far from empty. Other than the immense emptiness that at other times is filled with knowing – with truly knowing – that that Father is there and that He will bring me through this.
No. My darkness is filled with tortured thoughts and voices, statements which are launched from the merest of truths and yet twisted and corrupted and polluted beyond all recognition of that which they once were and that which they should be.
Why? Because that is how some mental illness works – especially when it is psychosis linked. Why now? Because my mental health has descended into yet another chronic episode which it seems – at least within the perception of this distorted reality – seeks to consumes me.
Certainly the internal and seemingly external dialogues – barbed with their poisonous lures and harmful taunts and jeers and self-sabotaging motivated suggestions – would have me harm myself or even meet my end.
And I wonder – as you look at that image, as you consider the me within that inadequate representation – how would you fill that emptiness? What words, what statements, what lifelines of hope would you want to write within the darkness that seeks to consume me?
See I know the scriptures, I know them well. I have repeated them as much as the voices and thoughts have repeated their psychosis-fuelled sieges. And I know the Father’s love.
And likewise I know that He will yet again bring me through all this. But knowing and believing are sometimes two different things aren’t they? See I don’t doubt God, I don’t doubt His unending Father-heart-felt love for me. I don’t doubt His immense power or His immense strength and I don’t doubt that He is much greater, much bigger, than my mental illness.
But in His greatness, in His immensity, and even with the mental illness being so much smaller than that, I am growing smaller by the moment and my resolve grows even smaller and weaker along with me.
And yes, I also know that so much of this is also a spiritual battle. The enemy seeks to strike when we are at our weakest and after all, does he not come to kill, steal, and destroy?
So why am I writing this? Why am I sharing this? Is it a cry for help? Who knows, perhaps it is. But not only for me – all though Lord knows I need it right about now. No, it is for all of us who suffer with mental illness and yes even and especially those of us who are Christians and who also suffer with mental illness. For all too often we are judged the worst and sadly all too often by those who have the least right to do so.
Perhaps it is a way of desperately trying to distract my mind from these harmful thoughts. I admit it – yes that is all part of the motivation behind this post.
But it is certainly not my main motivation. For that lays with a desperate longing for all those with a faith in Christ Jesus to recognise and accept – and to reach out and minister – to the needs which are all too often held within the silence of a the Christian who suffers with mental illness.
The fact is that I am so desperately tired and so desperately weak right now. I am all cried out for one night and I have nothing left to give this night. Nothing left to offer and nothing left to hold onto – save the precious grace of our Lord and the endless love of our heavenly Father.
And whilst I know that They will never fail me, I have no confidence that I will not fail Them. And the truth is that if I don’t write this post now, I don’t know whether I ever will. And yet this is such an important message to get across. If not for me, then for tens of thousands or more like me.
Tens of thousands or more who, just as I do tonight, don’t only need words. Who don’t only need quotes and encouragements. But who need held.
Held from the harmful objects around them, held from the snares that their minds offer up. Held from falling even further.
If we – the individual Christian and the Christian church – truly are to be the hands of Christ, the surely we should be reaching out for and to those who, at times, cannot reach out for themselves.
Addendum (added the next morning):
It is now the next morning and once again the good Lord has brought me through it all. And once again – having managed a couple of hours sleep – my thoughts are a little more rational and there is a little more clarity. (I personally find that in episodes such as this, the mornings are in the main much better and things worsen as the day goes by) And having read through what I wrote last night I feel – in the interest of fairness and honesty – that I need to add and clarify something. And I apologise for not doing so in my original post.
I personally attend a wonderful Christian Church who are so very supportive and so very loving. And there are indeed those within my church who (because I have opened up to them) are aware of my struggles with mental illness and who do go out of their way to love and try to support me through such times as this latest episode.
However, there is so much truth in my statements, “the needs which are all too often held within the silence of a the Christian who suffers with mental illness” and “who, at times, cannot reach out for themselves”.
For as loving as my Church is. And it really is exceptional in the way that those who know approach, understand and love me even with my mental illness. When these deep, dark, psychotic episodes come, it is I who lack the ability to call on them from within that need. Predominantly this because of the way my mind is thinking but also because generally it is the middle of the night and I just can’t bring myself to burden them. And yes I know – in the rational, the rational which seems to have no place within such episodes – that they would say that I would not be burdening them
And that really is the point, isn’t it? Even with the love and support of a good Christian church I struggle and fail to reach out for help when I most need it. So what hope is there for those who do not have this love, this support from their church? Those who feel condemned or criticised as a result of their struggles with mental illness?
I accept that not all those who suffer mental illness experience psychosis as I do. But I would be very surprised if there was a single person – who suffers mental illness – who hasn’t also experienced some level or form of hopelessness. Even within the body of Christ.