Stories about people suffering from poor mental health dominate our news. Organisations are pouring out support, our government in the UK is underfunding services (sadly) and thousands are struggling every day. The thing about mental illness is, issues such as anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder, can affect absolutely anyone at any given time in any circumstance. I am a teenager and I can raise my hands and say I fit in that category of teenagers who have suffered, and this is my story.
My mental health problems, for me personally and for a lot of people I know, came completely out of the blue. Throughout 2016 and 2017, when I was about 15 & 16 years old I would occasionally feel quite "nervous" (as I defined it) when I was in situations with certain people and I would feel quite "down" in similar experiences or when I thought about certain things. I didn't think much of it to be completely honest until June 2017 when I suddenly became terrified about going back to school. So on June 23rd 2017, my mum took me to the doctors and I explained the situation and I was told I had anxiety and depression.
Now it didn't come as a shock to me - the only dread I felt was how I was going to deal with it. I wanted to have a successful life, I wanted to be successful in school, having "mental illnesses" would be a burden I thought. Well over that summer, I really worked hard on my mental health. The "troubles" were still there but I did begin have a lot of happy times in life. To me, I seemed on the mend and it would all be over soon.
However, in January 2018, I went on a downslope. January 4th, my beloved papa died. At this point in time, I wasn't fully Christian, as I would put it. I believed there was a God, but I wasn't committed to a faith as such. I prayed for my papa, rather hopelessly, and I felt mentally prepared for the worst but when he died, I didn't know how to feel. I did thank God for relieving him of his suffering and reuniting him with his family in Heaven, but I was furious. I kept telling God that it couldn't have been his time, he was meant to be out of hospital in October the previous year, according to the doctors! I kept thinking that if God really loved me and my family, why would He take away the most precious person in our lives?
Despite crippling anxiety and my depression kicking in almost every day after that, I tried to pursue on. I survived my papa's funeral and gave a speech there but I wasn't sure how I'd continue with the rest of life. Soon I felt life began to slide further downhill. School was tough, people I saw as "friends" began to tease me. Most of the time I felt truly alone so school didn't feel like a fun and good place as I once saw it. My anxiety made me assume that my family and everyone else probably hated me. By mid-March 2018, I was almost at rock bottom.
23rd March 2018. That night I sat in my room crying my eyes out and I felt as if I had finally fallen and hit the lowest point. I felt as if no one loved me, no one cared, I wouldn't cope with life if I had to carry on another day. Eventually it reached about 1am on 24th March and I concluded that I'd have to "end it". Cut the cord, jump off the edge, end my life – that would be it.
You know how in the movies, when a character is in a desperate situation, they sometimes throw their hands up to the sky and cry out? Well, I remember just after I made that decision in my head doing exactly that. Through tears, I just looked up and called out these words, that I'll always remember: "God why?! Why did you put me through this? Help me!"
Now, I don't know what happened or how I knew it was God but suddenly I felt this warmth around me. It felt as if the Holy Spirit had just descended on me, but I have no clue what was really happening. Suddenly, my mindset changed and I just thought: "No. This is not the end". It was as if, at that moment, God just washed over me and was saying: "I love you. You've got to stay". That night, I managed to talk myself out of suicide and eventually fell asleep and when I woke up, I'd never been more grateful for life and I woke up a Christian.
Ever since then, I've began to grow as a person. From that March night, lots of good things started happening in my life. My happiness began to improve, and I found new joys in life that I'd never known before. Life and school became amazing, I made better friends and I started going to church. I began to put all my effort into my faith, I began to realise that God had saved me – he was the true reason I was still alive. 2019 has only got better and better and one of my biggest highlights was my baptism in March. My baptism was one of the greatest moments of my life and getting to share it with my church family was the most beautiful aspect. However, it is significant in one other way: my baptism was held on 24th March 2019, exactly a year since the fateful night my life changed completely.
The one verse that I feel I can relate to most with my life will always be Romans 8:18 – "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed within us". We need to keep in mind that the coming glory, the good things God has in store for us, won't be just revealed "to" us but revealed "within" us!
Now, there are many more stories just like this. Many Christians out there are suffering mentally, and many have suffered and came out Christians on the other side. Of course, it's all good and inspiring to stand up and talk about people and their stories to glory with God but the real thing we need to mention is that, the reason so many people are saved from mental health issues through Christianity is because God loves us.
Now what I'm about to say I'm not saying is the main viewpoint in Christianity, because I know it's not, but some Christians have stated that sometimes suffering and mental illness is due to sin – it's like a punishment. Thinking back, I thought it was a punishment.
However, this is not true! Jesus tells us that our suffering is sometimes nothing to do with us. In John 9, Jesus' disciples see the man who was born blind and ask what sin he or his parents committed for him to be born with such condition. Jesus however replies: "Neither this man nor his parents sinned but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him". Firstly, Jesus tells us straight to the face that neither the man or his parents sinned so therefore his suffering was not caused by some specific sin. Secondly, Jesus then goes on to tell us that even this man's blindness was in the plan of God! It was in God's plan so that the works of God could be revealed in him! Any issues we are experiencing God wants to work in and through them.
Thinking back, my experience of almost ending my life almost felt like a lesson from God. It's as if He pushed me all the way to verge, after years where I didn't know Him or follow him, and then right when I needed Him most I called out and welcomed Him in. Almost like a test to see if I was "brave enough" to end it or accept Him into my life. God knew I'd have to welcome Him sometime or I wouldn't be here. And ever since I did, He has shone glory and joy into my life and so many others - some of you may even have the same story. God works through and in our suffering and His blessings and His glory radiates through our lives! It was a lesson - for me - that He'll reach out and He'll grab you with open arms. Because He loves you! N matter what you've done and where you've ended up, He LOVES you. I never believed it until I felt it and once you feel it, it is the best feeling in the world.
To finish, I want to finish with recommending two simple verses from the Bible. To anyone who is suffering out there, reach out! You can't suffer alone because someone out there will help you – believe me. If you ever need any relief from any mental strain you may be feeling, pray and God will listen. And read the Bible, it's got all His words in it and you'll find answers in there. Firstly, I want you to read Philipians 4:6, quite a common verse used to help anxiety. Secondly, I want to finish with Isaiah 35:4. From that verse you can gain the true knowledge that God will save you from any trouble.
"Cast your anxiety on the Lord", it says in 1 Peter 5, "because he cares for you".