Warning: This blog discusses heavy content. If it raises any concerns for you, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.
It is often said “What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger”. This is a phrase that is commonly used to describe difficult situations. But what people may forget is that for some people battling a mental illness, this is a very accurate description.
For some people with mental illness death is a very real and tangible possibility. Your brain is constantly telling you that the best option for you is to end your life. Ending your life means that there will be an escape from the pain that torments your soul. Ending your life means that you would no longer have to wake up and feel that there is absolutely no point to your existence. It means that this battle that rages in your mind will be over. The temptation to end it and stop fighting your mind can become tantalising and irresistible.
Choosing to fight means going to war with your brain. Choosing to fight is saying to the beast called mental illness, I will not let you kill me, but I will let you make me stronger. It means flexing that mental muscle, putting on the armour and getting ready to go round after round in battle with your mind. Your mind will throw all sorts of things at you. It will fill your head with a thousand thoughts screaming at you, that you’re worthless, that you have no point to your life, that no one cares about you, that you have no future, that no one is going to give you a fair go in life, that the world is an unfair place and that no justice will come, and on and on it goes.
Choosing to fight means battling the temptation to self-harm. You know that self-harm will remove these thoughts. You know that self-harm will end the battle fast and quickly, and all those thoughts will go away upon falling into that all satisfying, yet completely wrong pattern of behaviour. You know that self-harm will mean that the pain I feel in my soul would be manifested into physical pain and all these thoughts will go out. But you also know that self-harm could kill you. So you battle the temptation to stop self-harm (or perhaps for some alcohol or drugs, anything that numbs the pain inside the soul) because you know by falling into this temptation you will be filled with remorse and regret. Regret that I gave up the fight and let self-harm rob me of the satisfaction of growing stronger in this battle with the beast called mental illness.
Choosing to fight means that the battle is long and intense. Choosing to fight and not fall into temptation leaves you weary and depleted. Choosing to fight the battle of the mind is solitary, yet God has also given His children means of grace within the battle. He has given the armour of God, and in particular the sword of spirit, which is the Word of God. With the Word of God I can try and combat the lies in my head with the truth of the gospel. I can cry out to God to heal me, give me peace and take away these thoughts, but if not that He would help and give me sustaining grace for the battle ahead. The battle that will probably go on for days and days, until I admit that I need the rest of the army behind me and ask people to pray for me.
The act of humility of once again admitting defeat and asking people to pray for me seems so shameful at the time. I wonder can I be asking for prayer again for the same issues. What must they think of me? Aren’t they sick of this too? I feel weak, but I am weak because of I have been fighting the beast called mental illness. I need Christ and His people to help me through this battle. It wasn’t till I realised that I was loved first and foremost by God and then by the others God has placed in my life that I realised that this battle is worth fighting. I realise that the pain in my soul is real, and justifiably so, and I gave myself permission to weep. To weep to my heavenly Father, and with the tears and my mind acknowledging that the pain I felt was real, the thoughts went away.
This time the battle was won with tears of weakness, because the power of Christ is only made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). It says in James 4:6 that ‘God opposes the proud but gives to the humble’, and I have definitely experienced that. Through my humility of admitting defeat I experienced grace for the battle and was able to claim victory over this latest round without falling back into the nasty habit of self-harm. It teaches me that there really is value in boasting all the more in my weakness, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me (2 Corinthians 12:9). It teaches me that the best way to fight is on my knees, dependant on Him for the strength to keep going.