I frequently refer to my mental health issues as demons. And to me, they absolutely are. And while I’ve talked of my faith some, the fact is that the demons of my darkness are getting a lot more screen time than the light of my angels. And as I’ve found myself thinking more about faith and the role it has played for me, the most honest thing I can do is represent that more realistically here.
Yesterday I talked about bad days. The truth is I have had many bad days, especially before I was diagnosed and started getting help. I am only here because of my angels shining a light when I was at my darkest moments. Sometimes the angels have brought people into my life that I needed, other times it was a fateful conversation or encounter.
And the literal light from above is perhaps the strongest saving grace for me. My favorite sight is a sun beam bursting through clouds, a literal image of light coming through the dark. It is when I feel God Himself is sending me a signal saying, keep going, I’ll carry you when the demons get to be too much.
And God absolutely has carried me. I know the poem about the man and God’s footprints is true because I’ve been that man. I’ve looked back and only seen one set of footsteps many times. I have been the man, angry because I thought God had abandoned me, only to realize God was carrying me.
People of faith all too often view mental illness as a weakness of faith. I know that is not true. My pastor gave a sermon a while back talking about the sentiment that God never gives more than you can handle. That, the pastor said, was completely wrong. God never gives us more than HE can handle. A that is certainly true for me.
The point of this post is not only to talk about my faith, not only to correct the misguided notion that mental illness is a failure of faith, but also to talk about what those angels of mine so often bring with them. Hope.
As I’ve said before, and as I’ll say again, faith is deeply personal. If it isn’t for you, that is fine. I can’t be honest about my experience without being honest about my faith, but I’m not going to evangelize anyone. You know what works for you better than I do. But you don’t need faith to see hope.
I see hope in the growing number of people speaking up about their experiences and shining their own light through the darkness. I see hope in the people who are always willing to help. If you are struggling, if your mind is clouded with dark thoughts, I promise you there is hope out there. There is hope in getting help. There is hope in the people at the suicide help line waiting to shine their light through your darkness. Hope is the gift my angels bring, a gift you don’t need faith to see.
I have hope that one day we might find a cure. I have hope that the stigma around mental illness will one day be a thing of the past. I have hope that my own mental health journey will have more good days than bad ahead. I hope because my angels brought me hope, and if you don’t have faith, but are struggling, than I hope I can now give that gift to you. Because with or without faith, I promise that hope is far better than the alternative.