Today I realized that I silently judge people with stigma against mental health problems. I don’t even know anyone who is wildly discriminating or disrespectful. Yet, I go around stewing in hypocritical judgement of my own misguided brothers and sisters.
Mental illness runs in both sides of my family. Both sides have dealt with pain and challenges because of the negative impacts of a spouse or parent’s disease. As a child, it was easy to think, “This person did a bad thing, so they are a bad person, so I don’t like them.” This kind of thinking is juvenile. It is unacceptable. It is wrong. Good people make bad choices sometimes. This is real life. On an entirely different level, however, sometimes good people make choices that they normally wouldn’t because of an imbalance of chemicals in the brain. As we reach this level of understanding, how do we judge their actions?
The answer is simple: we don’t.
My best friend died two years ago, and last night the community got together to commemorate him. I fought anxiety and PTSD all evening. And for some reason, I don’t know why, I felt a little embarrassed. I was dissapointed with myself. Now, sitting here typing this, it makes me so sad; I was literally surrounded with people who understood my pain, and I still let myself feel inferior. “Maney,” I found myself thinking, “it’s been two years. You’ve mourned. You’re still seeing a counselor so you know you’re in good hands. You’re going to try and get off your meds by summertime. What is wrong with you?”
Today I realized that I, me, Maney, girl of depression/PTSD/anxiety, have stigma against myself. Like, I think that somehow I could magically think my way out of my disease. And I don’t want to be “broken.” And I don’t like this part of myself.
Taking a step back, I want to clarify that I am all for self-improvement. You know, exercise, eat well, laugh, serve, cuddle, pray, learn. All good. But self-improvement should not be a means of running away from yourself. I don’t want to “get over” my mental illnesses if I don’t first learn to completely love myself and others who struggle.
Anxious Maney has her good qualities. She is humble. She is sensitive and kind. She is quiet, thoughtful, observant. She is loyal to her other half, Confident Maney. She is patient, although she craves love and acceptance almost more than she can bear. I’m grateful to have her in my life.
There’s a story I really like in the book of Mark. A man comes to Jesus, asking him to free his son from the possession of a spirit. Jesus tells him, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.” Chapter nine, verse twenty-four says, “And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”
It’s a great story. But the reason I bring it up is this: I’m not perfect. I will probably never love my anxious self as well as I should. I want to love her, though. And so I say with tears in my eyes, on my knees before my Redeemer, “Lord, I love myself; help thou my remaining dislike.”
And for those who need just a little light to call their own, I recommend this beautiful, peaceful song: “Emphasis” by Sleeping At Last.