A month ago I made a hard decision. What felt like one of the hardest decisions I have made to date. I had to choose to take a break. I am not good at breaks, rest, slowing down. I measure myself by how much I accomplish. I find worth in my grades, my to-do list being checked off, pats on the back, jobs well done, and the fact I stay busy.
I ask God a lot to teach me how to slow down. I ask Him to show my heart the meaning of the words “Be Still.” I ask Him to teach my heart the meaning of my worries being taken care of by Him. But I don’t ever really put this into practice. It seems every time I lay down my worries in front of Him, and every time I ask for my worth to be found in Him and not doing ALL THE THINGS, I still pick my duties back up, find my mind running rapid during quiet time, and I don’t ever actually slow down or find myself in Him.
So as this semester should have been beginning, I found myself on Skype with my thesis committee chair/grad school advisor, in tears. I heard myself utter the words “I advocate for everybody else’s mental health, but I’m not taking care of my own.” As I uttered those words out loud, as this thought occurred to me for the first time, the seriousness of the situation struck me. I asked what the process was for taking a semester break to get my life under control. I heard my brain whispering to my heart that I might not ever find the strength to get myself in order.
I have depression. I have anxiety. They have returned full force in the last few months. I found (still find) myself struggling to get out of bed on so many days. I take my medicine. I do frequently forget (or don’t feel like) exercising. I pray about my mental and emotional health, a lot. I know I dug my way out of this hole more than once in the past, but I don’t know the way out this time. I don’t know where to begin this time. Asking for help seems hard. The solutions that have been offered when I have asked don’t seem right. The harsh answers that have been given seem even harder to swallow.
Yet, even in the midst of all of the struggles, and there have been plenty, I have seen small glimpses of grace.
I also have been, and this will sound different than I mean it to, forcing myself to spend time with God’s Word as I search for His promises of rest. And He’s been teaching me. He’s been whispering to me heart:
Matthew 11: 28- 30
There is a precedent in God’s word for rest. To be still. I’m searching for that. I’ve run. I’ve run hard, in fact. I’ve served (Isaiah 6:8). I’ve prayed and waited. I’ve called upon the Lord. I’ve failed. I’ve trusted. I’ve succeeded. I’ve preserved. I’ve conquered mountains. But, the valley has returned.
My struggles with mental and emotional health are not a sin. They may better me in the long run. But I’m determined they won’t define me. They may bring me down momentarily but I’m determined they won’t keep me in the valley. In trying to understand myself in these dark nights of the soul, im trying to understand the complexity of my human nature, and that of others. I know I have failed in so many way and I will continue to fail. My heart hurts for the wounds I carry from myself and those I’m still trying to find forgiveness for from others. But, Each step I take that seems to have a positive connotation feels like a big deal. Each day that I get up, make it through another day; accomplish tasks set before me, I am doing my best to remind myself that I am enough, and I am loved. As I try to become more gentle with myself to grow through this and heal, I hope I’ll become more gentle with others. And I hope to maybe even learn what it means to be still. Even if it’s for a few moments, that’s more than where we started.