When it comes to the current state of attention paid to the important issues of mental health, abuse and recovery, the phrase “better late than never” comes to mind. That’s because these issues were more or less swept under the rug in the past, causing many people to suffer needlessly long and, sometimes, permanently.
In this article, I will not get bogged down in matters of history, media, psychiatry, psychology or counselling, but rather focus on providing practical tips that I hope and pray will help anyone inching forward along the road to healing.
Much of what I will talk about will be on an earthly plane, but I don’t want to diminish the importance of divine intervention, for only the Lord Jesus Christ, through the ministration of the Holy Spirit, can effectively lead someone out of various forms of grief and depression and toward mental and emotional wellness.
Remember that God can work in many ways. Sometimes, He will provide a solution to a problem through an explicitly supernatural act. At other times, He will work through various earthly resources. And sometimes, He will act through a combination of the two.
When I was invited to contribute this article, I quickly brainstormed about what angle I would take. I soon decided that offering a case study would be helpful. I know someone I will call “K,” who endured a tragic history of molestation and maltreatment. I have always appreciated K’s courage and willingness to divulge portions of these experiences so that others may be helped.
Despite K’s openness, this article will not include specific details or episodes. What matters more are the doors and windows that opened along the way, so that K could see light at the end of the tunnel and actively move toward and reach that light.
Honesty with Oneself
K is quick to stress the importance of honesty and transparency, first of all with oneself. The reality is that if someone battling deep, emotional distress doesn’t admit help from others is necessary, then his or her solo flight will inevitably end up crash landing. K eventually came to terms with the need to consult a professional therapist.
We know that do-it-yourself and self-help schemes work in some areas, such as certain home renovations and repairs. You might be able to pick up a book or watch a YouTube video and have a reasonable chance of successfully completing this kind of project, while saving some money to boot.
There are some projects, however, that are above the head of even the handiest amateur. A gushing leak in a hard-to-get-at pipe, for example, is best left to the expertise of a competent plumber. “Joe Suburbia” would likely punch a big hole in the wall and grapple with wet duct tape if he tried to do the job.
That is also the case with many issues related to mental health, abuse and recovery. In K’s case, the healing process became educational as K realized how extensive and valuable the psychological disciplines are. Those in the psychology profession have poured themselves into mastering an understanding of human emotions and their foundations. Laypeople like us just can’t compete with that level of study and insight.
It’s always best to partner with someone who has a faith-based approach to treatment. Overcoming mental and emotional anguish is virtually impossible without bringing an eternal perspective into the equation — that is, an awareness that there is something more than just this world. Secular therapists, of course, can’t and won’t offer that.
Honesty with Your Therapist
Second, K added that being honest with yourself isn’t enough. You also have to be honest with your therapists. Imagine you’re a witness to a crime. If you withhold some information from investigators, or communicate with them in an unclear manner, they will be unable to piece together available clues, arrive at a proper conclusion and solve the crime.
Psychologists, psychiatrists and counsellors are also investigators. While it admittedly is very difficult to dig up present and past pains, it is nonetheless vital that a therapist have all the information, so the roots of a problem can be discovered and then plucked out for good. Healing cannot occur otherwise.
Honesty with God
Third, K says you have to be honest with God. We know He is compassionate and merciful enough to allow us to vent. David and others did quite a bit of that in the Psalms. Habakkuk also told the Lord he didn’t like the plan to discipline the Jews’ apostasy by exiling them to Babylon. God knows our feelings either way, so let’s lean on Him as our friend and confidant.
The Importance of Exercise
The process of recovery can be aided by any of a number of healthy outlets. For K, it was primarily fitness and athletics. Others may go with writing in a journal or connecting with support groups. All of these are wonderful.
That said, no matter what is chosen as a primary outlet, it is particularly beneficial to schedule at least a little time for regular physical activity. Most likely, there are chemical phenomena unfolding within the body and brain, so engaging in exercise helps tip those scales in a positive direction. Exercise also has the advantage of interweaving nutrition, hygiene and other factors associated with self-care.
Quite often, those who are in the throes of a mental health battle will minimize their sense of worth. If this applies to you, please keep in mind that you are not alone. More importantly, please keep in mind that Jesus has declared your value through the shedding of His blood. All of the money in the world, multiplied by 1,000, doesn’t come close to this.
I could say so much more, as this is a very broad science. But to conclude, may we all prayerfully consider implementing at least some of these elements into our own journeys as we seek to permanently put our pasts behind us and steadfastly approach the glorious destiny that our Lord and Saviour has prepared for us.
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