Today I wanted to write a post about mental health - specifically mental illness - because it's International Mental Health Day. It's been a hard post to write, and I've deleted and altered and rewritten a number of times. I've also been back and forth about whether I should actually post it.

In the end, here it is.

Mental illness is still considered by many to be a stigmatic subject (although definitely not as much as it used to be). Personally, I often feel silly and embarrassed talking about my anxiety, because it shows a vulnerability with which I'm extremely uncomfortable. Worse, some people just assume you're overreacting, and worse still, some are unable to comprehend how difficult some things might be for you because they've never ever felt the same way. You might feel stupid, like there's something wrong with you, and you begin to wonder if maybe it is all inside your head, that maybe you are being silly and overreacting. Too often, I feel like that. And so let me tell anyone who's listening: YOU ARE NOT SILLY AND YOU ARE NOT OVERREACTING. You are brave. You are strong.

It's unsettling to share your experiences, especially on the Internet, because you're surrounded by judgement. Yet, I think it's important we do. We need to show that mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of.  The more people talk about it, the more we can help each other. That's why I think it's so important that people are given the opportunities and support to be vulnerable, to share their stories, that there's mental health rep in books and films, and that people are believed and supported and valued through their personal struggles.
It's also easy to think that you shouldn't share your story because your anxiety or your mental illness might seem so insignificant compared to someone else's; to the detailed testimony you read online from a blogger or see on Instagram or Twitter. But honestly, I believe that kind of thinking is toxic. It's not a competition. No story is too small. It takes a lot to share your story, and I believe it's important that people realise we are not doing this for attention. You, your experiences, have value. Whether you share them or not is entirely up to you, but it is not something you should ever feel guilty or embarrassed about.

Talking about my anxiety and depression is difficult. It's extremely personal. I have an anxiety disorder and suffer from moderate depression. I over think every little thing and stress to the point of feeling physically sick; my limbs sometimes jerk involuntarily if I'm anxious; and I burst into tears and hyperventilate and get panic attacks when I'm extremely anxious. I worry about the future, I worry about failing at everything I ever do, I worry about writing and blogging and eating and relationships, I worry about my identity and my capabilities, or lack thereof.  There's nothing romantic or idealistic about it. It's scary, it's overwhelming, and often I lack the motivation to climb out of the pit I'm in. It's a twisting, writhing mess inside of me. It's suffocating. I hate feeling helpless, and I hate that feeling of inevitability. I often feel stupid. I hate myself for stressing, for feeling so low, for having a panic attack about something that appears so simple and so easy for other people. I'd give anything to turn it off.

I know that things could be so much worse for me. Of course they could! I am so, so grateful that I'm not facing what some other people are facing. But I think it's important that these experiences are shared, regardless of apparent severity. Because that's what this is about. It's about throwing off the stigma of mental illness.

The wonderful thing about having a Lord Jesus is knowing He's in control. However dark it is inside your head, however overwhelming life and relationships and the world may be, He is there. That doesn't mean I don't worry, that everything is immediately alright, but it does mean I have hope and that I can - with His help - hand my worries over to Him. It is not easy, but it's not impossible. And it makes such a difference when I do. That encourages me.

Below are some particular Bible verses I find comforting. I hope you do too.

Psalm 46:1-3 
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.”

Matthew 11:28-30 
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Psalm 34:17-20 
"The righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken. "

Isaiah 41:10
"Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." 

Getting professional help and taking medication is nothing to be ashamed of. I hope mental illness continues to be talked about, so that people are supported and understood through what they're dealing with. 

Sending love and hugs <3

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