Last year, October, November, and December were terrible months for me. I struggled to adjust to our move. I felt lonely. I was diagnosed with anxiety and went on an anti-depressant. It wasn’t a great time in my life, especially since I quit going to church during those months.
Thankfully, things eventually did get better. I returned to church, a painful but necessary ordeal. My panic attacks began to decline and finally stopped for the first time in three years. I’m still on medication but it seems to help keep me in balance. Most of all, I feel whole. I didn’t realize it while it was happening, but a year ago I lived in a painful fog. Most of the time I only felt apathy, sadness, or hopelessness. Now I might have a stressful day at work or a chaotic weekend, but my base mood is contentment. I can go to church again without trying to fight off uncontrollable panic. Best of all, I feel like I can laugh again: Laugh with my family and friends, laugh at what goes on around me, and laugh at myself.
However, while I am better, I am not healed. The anxiety and depression is under control but it still lurks in my mind. The past can haunt me. Sometimes I’m unable to find a good answer to the question, “How was vicarage?” It also scares me that things were so dark without me realizing it. Likewise, the future frightens me. I try not to think about the unknowns, but sometimes the old feeling of panic resurfaces when I think about having to face a new congregation this summer. Then I know that while I’ve momentarily won the battle with anxiety, it still waits to resurface when I’m at my most vulnerable.
Yet I still have hope despite my worries. I know now that even if my worst fears happen, I will survive. I’m starting to formulate a preemptive strike against anxiety by preparing to find a counselor as soon as we know where we are moving. And because now I know that I am not indestructible, my prayer to God is no longer “Lord, You must keep this from happening” but rather, “Lord, keep me faithful in my weakness, because I cannot. Have mercy on me.”
This week I read Blind Devotion: Survival on the Front Lines of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Addiction by Sharlene Prinsen. I had seen this book for sale in local shops for many months, but I was hesitant to buy it because it was written by a local author (so I thought the writing wouldn’t be very good) and I thought it might be overly spiritual. However, I only proved to myself why you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover–Blind Devotion turned out to be a gripping and educational read.
In the book, Ms. Prinsen tells about her experience of living with her veteran husband’s untreated Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). With raw intensity, she describes the uncertainty, fear, and loneliness families can feel when coping with mental illness. She writes about keeping her family together during crisis. She also provides the much needed hope that those struggling with mental illnesses and their families are not alone and that there is help.
Blind Devotion is a great resource for many topics relating to mental health, including:
- Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS)
- Addiction (specifically alcoholism and prescription drugs)
- Caring for a loved one with a mental illness
- Treatment options and support resources
- Preparedness for crisis
If you or anyone you know struggles with a mental illness, please read this book. It will be well worth your time.