Tag Archives: Christ

Me, my mental health and God

I’m not one for putting my faith out there too often but in Mental Health Awareness Week with a theme of relationships, for me my relationships with God is one that I cannot miss out.
I think it’s fair to say my mental health has been rather rocky. So has my relationship with God. I was brought up a practising Christian and this has remained constant but as the chemistry within my brain has a pronounced impact on my physical health, so too has it impacted my spiritual health.
For many years, unconsciously, I placed my relationship with food and the troubles I had with my mental health at the centre of my life. Obviously things have been a lot more complicated than that but this meant I was very self centred. It is hard to admit this. Although I had God in my life, I wouldn’t turn to him for help, it was hard to imagine how he could possibly help. I often felt (despite having much support around me) that I had to fight the mental torture on my own.
Having had a powerful spiritual experience as seen in “When my mind broke my body” it occurred to me that since my mental, physical and spiritual health are interlinked and can influence each other negatively, surely, they could influence each other positively too?!
Through research, I came across Helena Wilkinson leading a day on Insight to Eating Disorders at Waverley Abbey – this lead to me attending her week long retreat on Overcoming Eating Disorders at Nicholaston House. With trepidation, thinking I wasn’t actually “ill enough” to be attending I went and it literally changed my life. It was explained that by putting God at the centre of our lives freedom from the all consuming eating disorder could be found.
nicholaston chapel
I found myself in the beautiful circular chapel, on my own, and was overcome by a compulsion to lie flat on the floor – no idea why, but I just had to do it. Looking directly at the ceiling, the simple structure, like the spokes of a wheel demonstrated  to me how simple it was to place God at the centre. This was not going to eradicate my illness but it would be displaced into one of the areas away from the centre.
God’s made himself known in other parts of my life too. Steve wasn’t looking for a divorcee my age who wasn’t sure about children and yet my profile on Christian Connection kept being offered as a possibility. We believe God really knew what he was doing when he brought us together and yet we didn’t ask him to! I also see God in the people around me. Sometimes it’s been a small gesture but it can touch me in a really special way.
When I’ve felt distant from God, I’ve found the parable of the lost sheep helpful. Even if I’m feeling abandoned and disorientated, I know the Good Shepherd will be out searching for me. The idea of God may be intangible so, for me, visual cues are important. I see God in nature etc and during my last hospital stay I put up pictures up to remind me.
lost sheep
You don’t have to be ill to know God. I don’t just turn to God in times of need, I know he carries me when I’m weak but he also celebrates with me when I’m singing and dancing.

Is Christmas just for children?

children-at-christmas
A number of times this year I have heard people say “I’m not feeling Christmassy but Christmas just for children really isn’t it?”. What they are referring to is the excitement that exudes from children regarding the presents they hope to receive, the magic of Santa and the joy they show as they rip open present after present and begin playing with their new toys or latest gadget. And since, as adults, we have been through this process a number of times, the magic of Santa has gone and we generally have fewer requests for Christmas, you can understand that interest wanes. Some parents, perhaps even dread Christmas, all the stress of the preparation, having to make the day perfect, making sure all the food is cooked and on time, making sure that each child feels equally but individually treated. And then there’s the pressure of making sure you see all the family that’s expected, sometimes travelling great distances, trying not to offend anyone.
It saddens me that for so many people Christmas has been reduced to a materialism and trying to “get it right”.
The “Christ” has been taken out of Christmas. Of course, I understand, if you do not believe in Christ then the term Christmas is purely a term used to describe a season when family and friends gather, eat vast quantities and presents are exchanged. Many people can have a perfectly happy day when this is all that matters. But I’m struck every year but people saying they don’t get excited, the day isn’t that great and it can all feel like an anti-climax.
Mental illness can often feel like this – a feeling of emptiness, a sense that something’s missing. When I’ve felt like this, I’m very fortunate that I’ve not had to look too far to know that Jesus is right beside, even when he’s felt far away, I’ve held onto the knowledge that he’s suffering with me, in fact, he’s suffered a great deal more (when he died on the cross for me).
Advent, for me, is all about the anticipation, the active waiting, and the building excitement to celebrate the birth of the Jesus Christ. There is still a little stress, trying to get all the right presents to the right people in time, ordering and buying food to make it extra special and planning the day so it runs smoothly but, I hold central what truly matters is Christ. For me, the midnight service is the highlight! Yes, I love being with family and friends when possible, it’s great to see children excited and exchanging gifts is fun but keeping Christ at the centre and all the other things, as important as they are, matter less.
There are people who will not be surrounded by family or friends, they won’t have any special food and won’t give or receive any physical presents but they will be enveloped by the greatest gift anyone can receive, the knowledge and understanding that God entered the world as a human baby and later died to save us. The mystery and myth of Santa is soon put into perspective when considered against awe and wonder of Christ!
So, yes, Christmas is for children but it’s equally for adults, young, older, old, Christ is for everyone! As my faith and relationship with God deepens my understanding of what Christ’s birth really means is more extraordinary each year. Keep Christ at the centre of Christmas and the mystery will never be lost!
Nativity_tree2011