World Mental Health Day

Today is world mental health day. A day which ‘raises public awareness about mental health issues’. it’s a day where my twitter feed has been full of people talking about their experiences of mental health, of the experiences of people they know, of their hopes and dreams for mental health and the future, I’ve flipping loved it!
It’s exciting to see people being open and honest, having frank discussions about mental health. It’s brilliant and I love it, but what I would love even more, is for it to become the norm. I suffer from anxiety, and haven’t experienced any stigma, but I know some people do when they share mental health issues. I also feel like people find it embarrassing or awkward, like they don’t really know what to do or say, so it’s just avoided and never talked about. Why?! If someone has been suffering with a cold, when you saw them you’d ask how they were feeling, so why should it be any different just because it’s a psychiatric disorder? If you don’t want to talk about it, you can just answer with the customary ‘I’m fine’, but if you do feel like you want to, need to, or are happy to talk about it, it gives you a chance. I’m not saying we have to show all our dirty washing to the world and tell everyone everything, but we need to create an environment where it’s ok for it to happen, rather than mental health being a taboo subject.

1 in 4 people with have a mental health problem at some time in their lives. That’s a lot! So why is the subject still so often skirted around? The more people talk about it, the easier it will become. You can’t solve a problem by shying away from it.

Yes, you might not know what to say, you might accidentally offend someone, but so long as you don’t do it out of meanness, they shouldn’t mind too much because we all have to learn. For all I know I could have offend someone with the language or terms used here (sorry if I have) but at least I’m having a go.

I’m excited and passionate (perhaps I didn’t realise how much!) about making it ok not to be ok, to create a place where people feel safe to share their health problems and don’t have to worry about how people will react.

So let’s get talking. If you have mental health problems, tell someone, share it. If you know someone with mental health problems, talk to them about it. Even if you’re none of the above, still talk about it! We need to make it so that there is no stigma or awkwardness around mental health, and so that talking about it is the norm!

So I’ll set you off. I’m Helen, I’m a student, and I have anxiety. You can read a bit about it here, or ask me about it yourself!

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A break from blogging

You may have noticed that over the last few weeks, my blogs have been few a far between so I’ve decided to take a short break from blogging. I’ve got more work to be doing at the moment and so have less time for writing and working out what I want to say. I’ve got a few ideas in the pipeline and I could just post as and when, but I like to have a set time to do it, so I’m gonna break for a bit and come back refreshed and renewed. I’m not too sure when I’ll start again but it shouldn’t be too long hopefully. Thanks for reading and commenting, I’ve loved hearing your thoughts on things 🙂

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Don’t let fear hold you back

So often in life we are held back by fear. Fear stops us doing something, aiming for something, reaching for something. We get worried about all kinds of different things, and that stops us from doing something we think we might like to try.

God sometimes wants to push us in at the deep end, he wants to challenge us to do things that we are a bit worried about, that stretch us outside of our comfort zone, so that we will learn to trust him, and also do something new.

I think the devil hates that, he hates to see us being built up to do something exciting, to step out of our comfort zones, to do something big, or small, but something radical. So he sends fear. He puts those little niggling doubts into the back of our head, that we’re not good enough, that something will go wrong. We get fearful. I think it’s one of the devil’s favourite weapons, because fear can be crippling, it can halt us in our tracks, and put us off doing whatever it was we were going to try.

When we step out of the boat in faith, we have to be prepared for spiritual battles, and keep an eye out for where the devil is trying to trip us up. And one of the ways we do that, is by fixing our eyes on God. I don’t think there’s anything the devil likes less, than seeing someone fixed on God, determined to be unswerving in their aims, determined not to be beaten by anything, and not to be put off by his ploys. We also need to start believing God’s promises. We need to know our bible, and the things God says in it, and what that means for life, and start believing it, because when we have sure founding in God, the devil gets worried. We need to remember that God goes ahead of us, we might be scared, but God is there, leading the way. My mum sent me a card once that said ‘Don’t chicken out, God always keep his promises, he won’t give you more than you can handle.’ God always keeps his promises, and goes with us to guide us.

There is no use in just dodging round our fears, or they’ll always be there, we need to face up to them, confront them head on, and instead of chicken out, instead of telling God how big our fears are, we need to tell our fears how big God is. No matter how big your fears – God is definitely bigger. We need to deal with them head on, by coming to our great big God with them.
I’d love to be the kind of person, that when I wake up, the devil thinks ‘oh no, she’s up again!’ that he fears me and God together when we start the day!

There’s a story in the bible, where Jesus calls Peter to get out of the boat and walk on water. Peter does it, but then fear gets in the way, and it all goes wrong, but by coming back to Jesus again, the fears are dispelled and he manages it. I think the story speaks for itself in this situation, and has probably been used a million times for an analogy like this. But something else that I like about the story, is that Jesus calls Peter to come. Not to go. Jesus is already ahead of Peter, he’s already in the situation where he is calling him. And it’s the same for us.

Basically, I guess what I’m trying to say is, when God calls you to step out the boat, don’t let fear rob you off it, face up to your fears, and beat them and the devil by doing it together with God.

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Student life – for something or nothing?

I’m a student, and so I have quite a lot of spare time on my hands. Especially last year, when I was a fresher, I had 2 full days off a week, and mostly just half days, I think I had about 8 hours lectures a week. It was first year, and so I wasn’t really too fussed about doing extra reading and so instead, just spent most of my spare time chilling out, relaxing, making the most of the time I had. This year I have a few more hours a week and it actually counts so I do need to do a bit more work, I’ve been to the library a few times, I will dedicate a bit of time most days to doing some work.

People I met, especially last year, but also this year, would tell me I was being stupid and wasting my time and I should do something productive and worthwhile, like learn a language or a new skill, or go and do volunteering and get stuck in with things. I never wanted to. They asked me what I did other than studying, and I said nothing, and they thought I was ridiculous.

I guess it raises a question. Is it ok to enjoy doing nothing in your student life, while you have the time, or should you make the most of that opportunity and do something?

I can see where other people are coming from. I don’t want to look back and think I’ve wasted my university years, and wasted opportunities to do something new and exciting which I won’t get the chance for later on in life cos I’ll be busy. I can see that they think it is just lazy not to do anything.

But I guess my thought pattern is kind of that you are going to work hard for the rest of your life, realistically, I’m going to be working for at least 40 years, and I’m never gonna have the opportunity just to prat around again. Everyone knows that your uni days are time just to be lazy and do nothing, and spend time just chilling out (although I accept that isn’t a good reason to do something.)

So yeah, I don’t want to feel like I’ve wasted my chances, but at the same time, in just enjoying my time off, I’m also embracing the chance to do that. What do you think, should you do something, or nothing?

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Hurt or anger?

As I’ve said before, in our church small group we are doing a course on discipleship at the moment. One week recently, we were looking at inner freedom and building up strongholds around us. The lady who does the talk each week (we watch it on a dvd) said something that really struck me in that session. She said ‘Christians have come up with a brilliant idea, that instead of being angry, they get hurt by something’. So Christians don’t say ‘oh I was so angry when they did that’, they’ll say instead ‘oh I was really hurt when they did that.’ We think that being hurt by something is much better than being angry, but actually they’re no different, hurt just sounds more justifiable.

It got me thinking, because when I describe the emotions I feel about things that have happened, or the way people have acted, I would always say I was hurt and upset, but never angry. But am I just angry? I’d have said no. But having listened to the talk, I would maybe have to say yes.

I don’t think it’s angry anger, it don’t get cross with them, but I feel disappointed, and let down, and hurt. And that makes me feel something, which probably is passive anger (I don’t know if that exists, but hopefully you’ll know the kind of feeling I’m talking about!) where actually, if you thought about it hard enough, it probably is anger, just not that you want to act on.

Does it matter whether we call it hurt or anger? I’m not sure really…I think so long as we recognise that actually they’re quite similar, and they are both equally valid, but both equally destructive, I don’t think it matters. So long as we are prepared to admit to it, and be prepared to change.

I think the thing about saying you are hurt, is that it feels more acceptable to hang on to hurt. It’s seen as ok to carry that around with us, to hold onto it for however many years, to mull it over in our minds. If we carried around all that anger, people would say something, but it’s hurt so it’s fine. Either way, I think something should be done about it. It’s not good for us to carry around that much negative emotion, and like everyone says, it’s true, you do yourself more damage than you ever will the other person by holding onto it. I think we (and really I mean me) need to start forgiving more, to truly move on. While you’re carrying around all the hurt, upset, pain, whatever it is, you’re damaging yourself, and real forgiveness is the way to solve that. (I’m not saying it’ll be easy, forgiveness can be one of the hardest things in the world!)

Perhaps you know what I’m talking about, you’ve got negative feelings about things that have happened, but you wouldn’t call them anger. I’d challenge you to look again, and really think about it, you’ll only do yourself a favour in the long run.

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Motives for doing things

At the moment in my church small group, we’re looking at being radical disciples and how to live that in our everyday lives.

One of the weeks was looking at prayer, and we all made a decision to commit to pray more.

It got me thinking about our motives for doing things like reading the bible and praying. Should we do these things just because we feel we ought? Is it better to read the bible or pray if you don’t want to and just go through the motions, or is it better to not bother if you don’t really mean it.

Obviously it’s best to do it and mean it, but in life, that’s not always possible!

To be fair, I don’t think God really minds either way.

I think God values it when we’re honest. When we come and say ‘I just don’t feel like it today’, I think he’s sad we’re not doing it, but he appreciates that we’ve been real, and said it like it is, and at least you’ve said something to him.

But I also think that god loves us to spend time with him, however we feel, and will reward our efforts. If we come to him and spend time with him, even half-heartedly almost, he’ll see that we’re there, he’ll see that we’ve come, and he’ll open our eyes to new things, he’ll stir something in our hearts, he’ll encourage us. And as that happens, we’ll want to do it more, and suddenly, what was once a duty, will eventually become a joy. We’ll long to spend time with him, learning about him and what he wants for our lives.

I think it’s important to do things sometimes when we don’t want to, otherwise we’ll never learn and grow. Of course, even when we do enjoy it and want to do it, we’ll still have off days, where we don’t want to, and I think that’s ok, so long as it doesn’t become a habit not to. But I think if we do keep going and step out in faith, I think we’ll be amazed at what happens and who we come to enjoy these things. We’ll still have bad days, but that’s ok, everyone does.

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Over Christmas we were trying to find something to watch on tv just to fill in a bit of time we had spare and we found the last half of a film called Pollyanna. It’s a film about a girl who can always find something to be glad about. She doesn’t have much in life to be glad about, both of her parents have died and she is sent to live with her strict aunt. But Pollyanna is determined to always see the good in the situation and always find something to be glad about, whatever the situation because things could always be worse.

The game started because before her father died, he was a missionary and they would be sent things from people in other towns. One time, Pollyanna desperately wanted a doll, but instead only a pair of crutches was sent, but her father told her she could be glad that she didn’t need the crutches.

When she moves to her aunt’s village, she meets all kinds of people, who for one reason or another, are all fairly grumpy and miserable.

So what’s the point of me telling you about Pollyanna?

The answer is because it reminds me of my new year’s resolution. Pollyanna tried to see the good in every situation and always tried to be glad about something. In doing that, she made other people happy. An old lady who sat in the dark wearing black opens the curtains and starts wearing some colour. A man who is sad he never had children adopts a little boy who is an orphan. A man who had an argument with the woman he loved and so never married, swallows his pride and goes to see her and eventually they get married. A vicar who is fed up finds how many joyful passages there are in the bible and is encouraged.

In the end, Pollyanna is paralysed from the waist down and is sad and cannot find anything to be glad about. But all the people whose lives she’s changed come to see her, and tell her how she’s improved their lives and help her find something to be glad about.

Pollyanna is a book and a film. If you haven’t see it or read it, I really recommend it, it’s brilliant. If you have, why not refresh your memory?

I guess the key is, that by doing something little, you can make a big difference to someone’s day of life.

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