Life With Others
NOTE: This blog article will be the final in a series of articles by our church’s mental health team. Our desire is to initiate conversations about mental health and raise awareness. This week’s article is by Hannah Campbell. Hannah is a fairly recent college graduate. Her burden is to think about mental health in combination with our physical health and how that impacts our spiritual life. Hannah enjoy’s cooking, chilling with her family, and going on walks with her dog Kia.
I do not remember seriously thinking about mental health until I was in college. I knew people struggled with various battles anywhere from anxiety to addiction to schizophrenia; but I never gave those topics much thought until they were staring me in the face.
Mental health, for me, has always been directly tied to physical health.
Back in high-school I started having some health issues related to food allergies. I headed into college still managing those health issues and then everything seemed to snowball as I settled into a different environment with new stressors. Doctor after doctor and finally diagnoses. A chronic illness with multiple co-infections and a side of parasites as the cherry on top. As I navigated my own health problems far from home, my family was dealing with very serious medical issues of their own. Then a friend died suddenly and another close friend received a similar health diagnosis to mine. It was then I realized this was a time of my life that would drastically shape who I am as a person and what I believe to be true of my God. As the weight of my struggles and those of my family settled on my shoulders I started having paralyzing panic attacks. Despair was a companion as I contemplated whether my body would ever function normally again. Shame visited regularly as I saw others happily enjoying good health while my body showed symptoms I would never want others to see.
If you want healing you must let others in.
For a while I kept my struggles to myself. I figured no-one would want to know the mess going on behind the friendly face they saw around campus. I was wrong. As my close friends and others found out what was going on I received the opposite response I had anticipated. God knew and saw my pain but now others did too. There is freedom and healing in letting others see your brokenness. Every single part. Not just what we package up and display as palatable. It is difficult and can be embarrassing to expose brokenness. Admitting to myself and others that my body and mind were in rough shape felt raw, uncomfortable. In my transparency, others found space to share and this is when I realized just how important discussing mental health is. If we do not create space for others to share their struggles we are not wholly embracing what it means to be part of the body of Christ (Gal. 6:2). The kindness of those in my life at that point gave me the freedom to voice what was going on in my mind and soul and that is a gift I will forever be thankful for. During those years of physical pain and mental turmoil I learned a simple but radical truth about who God is to us.
The truth is: Immanuel, God WITH us (Mt. 1:23).
Simple, powerful, and a source of great comfort. God is ever present, ever WITH us. I love how this name of God has no sense of action to it. It involves simply being together and sitting through hardship in each other’s presence. John 1:14 tells of how Christ became human and “dwelt among us”. When you dwell with someone you live life with them. You listen and talk and just be. This was the way Christ lived his life and what better model could we ask for when understanding how to live our lives with others.
Living life with others
I remember the first time I had a conversation with someone specifically related to mental health. I put so much pressure on myself to say the right words, to think of an answer that would make it all better. I wanted to solve their problem right then and there. Then I found myself in their shoes and found the most helpful thing was simply having someone to BE with. Sometimes you need to hear an encouraging word or scripture and other times you need someone to get your groceries or sit with you when you receive bad news. Living life well with people looks a whole lot like Immanuel, God’s presence with us.