Recent celebrity suicides have once again sparked the conversation on mental health and ending the stigma associated with seeking mental help. Every other post on social media these days is someone saying in some form, “If you’re struggling, reach out to me. It’s okay to ask for help. I’m here for you”. These posts and the conversation is strong for a week or two after another event, but then they fizzle out again. But for those who struggle with mental health, the battle doesn’t end. It’s a daily battle.
I’ve experienced this struggle. I continue to struggle on a daily basis. When I was at my worst I tried to reach out. I was told I could, there was no shame in reaching out for help. But I was shamed. I was shunned and left out, left alone with the fight for my head. No one was there. No one listened to my heart. No one held out a hand to help pull me back out of the pit I had fallen in. The true hearts of those around me were revealed when they went back on their word that they would help me. Instead, I was pushed away and left behind.
The silent battle in my head took me to an extreme before I got anyone’s attention. Now, I was never suicidal. Suicide was never an option, but there were times I began to doubt and question my purpose for being there. However, my faith is strong and I held on, determined to find a way to persevere through the season of darkness. But it was hard, and the doubts continued to wear me down. My conscious mind knew suicide was never an option, but my unconscious mind tried to take advantage of my weakened state. It was waking up in a cold sweat in the middle of a desert climate from a dream, a nightmare, when I was finally able to get the help I needed. I still never had a real conversation with people who cared though. No one truly took the time to listen to my heart. I still struggled throughout my bouncing back. I still have up and down days. Back home, I’m now surrounded by people who love and support me. It’s better, but it’s not perfect. I still daily fight the demons in my head. I have to daily put on my spiritual armor for strength (Ephesians 6:10-20). I will be fighting this battle every day for the rest of my life. I have to daily surrender the fight to God, allowing Him to take care of me. I have to daily be willing to be vulnerable to those around me, opening my heart to allow them to take care of me when I need a helping hand. I need people who are willing to pray for me, to be there for me and listen to my heart, to be a safe place for me to rest. We all need people around us who are listeners, the ones who let you talk without interrupting or interjecting their own story into yours.
We need people who are willing to listen. We need people who are willing to be present. We need people who have open eyes and open ears, keeping an eye out for those who struggle and are too afraid to speak up. Not just when another event happens, but all the time. Every day someone struggles, every day someone is afraid to reach out because they’ve been let down so many times before. We all struggle with something, we all get overwhelmed when life hits us in the gut. When someone comes along and truly listens, allowing us to tell our story in the presence of safety, healing begins to take place. We need to be a present people with open eyes to see the hurting and open ears to listen so they can begin healing.
Today, don’t just say the words, “I’m here. Reach out to me”. Stop and look around for the hurting. They could be in the corner of the room, watching everyone around them, but not participating. They could be the one in the center of attention, putting on a strong front to hide their insecurities, but not being their real selves. Take some time to allow them to speak up, to tell their real story. Be someone who truly is there in times of darkness and struggle.
Fighting the Battle to Enjoy the View,