Spirituality is so important to our mental health. Crucial, in fact. In my own opinion, it is the one thing that can make it or break it. Yet, it is the one topic that is mostly “off limits” for psychologists, psychiatrists, etc. This is for good reason. A person’s individual religious persuasion must be delicately respected and protected from the treatment provider’s own religious leanings. It is kind of like the “separation of church and state”. It is about protection, not a lack of respect for religion or spirituality. Please note: one does not even have to have a particular religion, atheists often have their own type of spirituality. I don’t want anyone to feel left out.
At the age of 13, deeply depressed and despondent, I had a deep connection to the Divine. This is not bragging, I had this connection because I needed it. Yet, for a while, religion brought me little relief. People would often try to say that I was not faithful enough, because I was depressed. I didn’t trust enough, they said. I didn’t read the Bible enough. In other words, in their eyes, I was found lacking.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Anyone who has been through clinical depression knows that it takes an ENORMOUS amount of faith just to get out of bed in the morning. Just to survive.
At 13, when others were distracted by boys, reputation, popularity, clothes, hair, etc; I was attempting to ask and answer deep philosophical questions from a desperate need to make sense of my world. I read the Bible daily. Especially the Book of Job. Because, you see, I felt like Job. I could think of nothing that I had done wrong at the age of 13 to cause me to deserve to suffer from a chemical imbalance, to live without my father at home, to endure the deaths of my beloved Grandaddy and Aunt Kiki within months of each other. So I read the book, looking for answers. I suppose I was supposed to feel comforted by the book. I hope I am not being disrespectful toward God when I tell you that I did not. The whole concept did not make much sense to me, altering Job’s life in order to prove to Satan what a good servant Job was. If he was that good (and he was), why punish him so? Instead of growing close to God, I became terribly, horribly frightened of Him. I am not knocking the Bible. What I am knocking, is trying to make sense of the world through religious materials when you have no guidance from others, don’t know the context, are looking at it from a depressed mindset, and don’t know the whole book. It must be taken as a whole.
So what is my point? Somehow I did find comfort. I found it in the friends who reached out to me with love, whom I am certain God was using as His precious angels. The 15 year old girl who drove me to school every day, shared her struggles with anorexia and bulimia, and gave me a Footprints in the Sand card. I have it to this day, and I will never forget her. My Catholic friend’s mother who took me to church on Sundays, invited me to Bible study, and looked me in the eye and said “God wants you to be happy”. The Jewish counselor who suggested that I be open and honest with God about my confusion surrounding Him, and who suggested that he and God would listen with only love, sans judgement. The guidance counselor who had me in her office daily to check on my well-being and discuss my sad feelings. They were spirituality in action, and I will never forget them.
I have come to a place where I trust my Higher Power immensely. God and Jesus and I, I feel we are tight. It took the struggles and angst and good times and yes, bad times, to arrive at the place of the butterfly: something that has gone through great struggle, and yet can come out beautiful. I can’t take credit for that concept, and I don’t know who can, but God makes beauty from the ashes. Love from the hate. Light from the darkness. Trust from the fear. Healing from the clinical depression. Hope from despair. For God is beauty, love, light, trust, and hope.
If you are going through a little something, grab on to that which sustains you spiritually. Let go of that which is not working for you. And cherish those who are God’s angels, looking out for you, nudging you, helping you, etc. But most of all, when you are feeling better (and you will), return the favor. Yes, you can be one of God’s angels.
Okay, now let’s get to work, shall we?