If you suffer from mental illness, the added anxieties in the age of the Coronavirus are likely very challenging. I totally get it. As someone who was diagnosed with severe OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) in 2006, which significantly revolves around contamination fears, I have been on a gradual road towards recovery and healing. Therapy, medication and faith have been incredibly important in my journey to becoming the functioning husband, father and friend I am today.
Even so, despite all of the healing that has taken place in my life the past decade, the current climate has been incredibly challenging for me. When your mental health has been severely impacted by fears of contamination for most of your life, it’s absolutely devastating when a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic shakes the world. It’s been hell for me, quite honestly. Yet, even in the midst of hell, there are reminders that this is not the end—reminders that we have hope for a better tomorrow.
Here are a few reminders of hope and life I’ve learned in my journey towards healing.
#1 – You made it this far.
It’s easy to dwell upon our past failures and our future fears that we rarely realize the glorious reality that we are still here. What once terrified us did not destroy us. The pain we once suffered that felt overwhelming did not result in our demise. We’re still breathing and we’re still searching for hope, truth and the God who often doesn’t make sense. Despite it all, we’re still here.
Courage often looks like the person who has been through hell, yet they are still pushing forward. If your mental illness has taken you through some very dark years, know that it’s a massive victory that you’ve made it this far. You’ve proven that you can get through the pain and that you are stronger than your disorder wants you to believe. You can win this battle.
#2 – You’re not alone in your suffering.
Being in the company of fellow mental illness sufferers isn’t necessarily “encouraging”, per-se. In fact, it can be quite difficult to realize that other people are suffering in similar ways to you. Yet, even so, there is something therapeutic about knowing that you’re not crazy—that you’re not the only person who “gets it”.
We need one another—even the broken pieces. In fact, the best friendships are often built on broken pieces that are brought into the light of vulnerability and acceptance. It’s in the arms of grace and kindness that true friendships are founded, not the facades of “I’m doing fine”. A true friend has never been made with someone who hid the light and the darkness within. True friendships require vulnerability and brutal honesty.
Knowing that we’re not alone in our mental illness is a reminder of our common frail humanity. Find some friends who care about the real stuff of life. Invest in relationships with people who are on a similar journey towards healing—friends who are willing to talk about the darkness and the light.
#3 – The journey towards mental healing doesn’t stop because of a pandemic.
Moments of crisis can often be paralyzing. We find ourselves in the midst of a very surreal time in history where the entire world is in disarray, so there’s good reason for such a response. Yet, what if we don’t have to pause our mental healing due to crisis? What if we can continue to meet with our therapist virtually? What if we can choose to become a better version of ourselves each day, even if happens to be stuck alone in quarantine? What if we continue to seek God and invest in our friendships through technology?
The choices we make today create the person we become tomorrow. Don’t ever stop the pursuit of recovery, even when it seems like the sky is falling.
#4 – Your value and worth were never determined by your disorder.
I’m a true believer in Jesus and his love for each one of us. Do I understand why He seems to go MIA in the mist of tragedy in this life? No. Yet, for some strange reason, I still trust His heart.
Throughout the Scriptures we see Jesus demonstrating humility, grace, mercy and even sacrifice—dying for the very creation that denied Him. If He could suffer as He did, yet He still trusted in the Father, so will I.
Jesus found His identity in being the Father’s Son, not in His ability to calm the seas, heal the sick, raise the dead, walk on water, change water to wine or any of the other miraculous accomplishments He demonstrated while He walked the earth. If anyone could find their identity in their performance, it was Jesus. And yet, even with such a stellar resume, His was the reputation of being about his Father’s business. Absolutely incredible …
If Jesus’ identity wasn’t in all His amazing accomplishments, what makes us think that our identities are to be found in our failures, our brokenness and our disorders?
As followers of Jesus, we are called sons and daughters of the Father. That’s it. Period. We’re not our disorders, nor are we the things that break us in this life. We are made in the image of our Father. That is who we are and who we will always be, regardless of what happens in this life.
Living in the midst of such great uncertainty and fear in our world is already painful, even without mental illness. I’m not suggesting that the pain will miraculously go away or that your disorder can be turned off with a switch. What I do believe is that you and I can get through this, together. What I do believe is that you still have so much to hope for beyond today.
You made it here, you’re not alone, your healing is not over, and your identity is rooted in something far greater than the disorder that haunts you.
Andrew Voigt is a writer and blogger who engages in conversations about God, brokenness, and what it means to be human. He currently lives in Charlotte, NC and is a self-renowned root beer and coffee enthusiast.